Insecticides are substances used to kill insects. They include ovicides and larvicides used against insect eggs and larvae, respectively. Insecticides are used in agriculture, medicine, industry and by consumers. Insecticides are claimed to be a major factor behind the increase in the 20th-century's agricultural productivity. Nearly all insecticides have the potential to significantly alter ecosystems; many are toxic to humans and/or animals; some become concentrated as they spread along the food chain.
Insecticides can be classified into two major groups: systemic insecticides, which have residual or long term activity; and contact insecticides, which have no residual activity.
Furthermore, one can distinguish three types of insecticide. 1. Natural insecticides, such as nicotine, pyrethrum and neem extracts, made by plants as defenses against insects. 2. Inorganic insecticides, which are metals. 3. Organic insecticides, which are organic chemical compounds, mostly working by contact.
The mode of action describes how the pesticide kills or inactivates a pest. It provides another way of classifying insecticides. Mode of action is important in understanding whether an insecticide will be toxic to unrelated species, such as fish, birds and mammals.