Permethrin is a chemical pesticide created for agricultural use. Similarly to Bifenthrin, it comes from the pyrethroid family, a man-made chemical compound that mimics extracts products by chrysanthemums.

It kills adult insects, eggs, and larvae, with effects that last 12 weeks after application. It can be used to fight pests on a number of crops from fruits to vegetables.

The EPA has certain restrictions on Permethrin, and different states will also have restrictions on its use.

How Does It Work?

Permethrin works by attacking a pest’s nervous system, and eventually kills them when it’s finally ingested. Permethrin is used mainly as an agricultural pesticide on cotton, wheat, corn, grain, and alfalfa crops. It’s used to kill and can even sometimes repel:

Rodents will often take cotton and other crops that have been treated with permethrin back to nests, which then overexposes them to the chemical.

In insects, it can kill adults, eggs, and larvae for up to 12 weeks. Controversially, it may increase mite population by killing off predators.

Although it’s generally used in agricultural or industrial settings, studies have shown over 70% of permethrin is used in non-agricultural settings. Of that fraction, 55% is used by professional exterminators and 41% is used by homeowners.

Permethrin applied to plants may stay on leaves for up to 3 weeks, and trace amounts can be found on edible parts of plants up to 4 months after planting, but less than 1% of tested samples had detectable levels of exposure to permethrin.

Is It Safe For Humans?

People can become overexposed to permethrin by directly ingesting by accidently eating it, touching it, or getting it on your skin and eyes.

Always read and follow the label of any product you’re using, use caution when first applying, and wash hands before and after using. Keep out of range of children and pets, as they are more susceptible to adverse effects of these products. Permethrin is not considered a carcinogen.

People who have become overexposed to permethrin have experienced:

  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Irritation
  • Muscle weakness
  • Excessive drooling
  • Trouble breathing
  • Seizures

If you begin to experience any of these symptoms after being exposed to permethrin, wash hands immediately, and call a healthcare professional. 

If you’re consuming fruits and vegetables that have been treated with permethrin, make sure you wash them thoroughly in apple cider vinegar, natural liquid soap, and water.

Permethrin does not evaporate easily, and as mentioned, small traces can still be left on your food.

Is It Safe For Animals and Other Wildlife?

Lots of retail pet pest-control products use permethrin as an active ingredient in their formula. Use caution when first applying and look out for adverse reactions such as:

  • Tremors
  • Twitching
  • Seizures
  • Excessive drooling
  • Incoordination
  • Fever
  • Dilated pupils

Cats are generally more susceptible to adverse effects to permethrin. Always read and follow the label of any product you’re using on your pet, and do not expose your pet to pest-control products that are not formulated for pets. If your pet is experiencing any adverse effects to permethrin, call your vet immediately.

Permethrin is controversial because it is incredibly harmful to beneficial insects and essential pollinators like bees. There are lots of natural remedies to ward off pests in your garden if you need a pest solution for your garden. 

Permethrin does not mix well with water and sticks to soil, making it hard to contaminate groundwater. However, it is toxic to aquatic life, and needs to be disposed of properly. Always read and follow the label of the permethrin products you’re using on how to dispose of them.

If you have any questions on safe disposal, or use of permethrin, call your local exterminator at (833) 431-0401 to see what other solutions they recommend.

Products that Contain Permethrin

Permethrin has restrictions on what can be sold at the retail level. They generally have a lower concentration, and must have a warning on the label. Different states have different regulations on what can be sold at a retail level.

Retail permethrin products can be bought in various forms:

  • Liquids
  • Powders
  • Dusts
  • Aerosols
  • Sprays
  • Creams
  • Lotions
  • Treated clothing 

Permethrin can also be used as an active ingredient in flea collars and ear tags for cattle and pets. There are lice products that contain permethrin, however, some are not FDA approved.

Always read and follow the label of any product you’re using, and check to make sure any topical products you’re using are FDA approved.

Permethrin vs. Other Products

There are lots of products out there to help you ward off pests. Let’s look at some other products that compare to permethrin.

Permethrin vs. Bifenthrin

This ingredient also works by attacking the nervous system, and targets similar pests to abamectin. It comes from the same chemical compound family as permethrin. Bifenthrin also has limitations on what can be sold in retail stores.

Permethrin vs. Fipronil

This chemical works similarly to permethrin by targeting the insect’s nervous system. It works on a lot of the same insects, but is commonly used to fight against fleas. This ingredient can be found in flea collars, so it’s safe to use around pets and wildlife.

If you have an issue with fleas on your pet, a fipronil product may be a better solution. If you’re unsure if permethrin products are the right solution to protect against pests, try checking out some natural products that can help repel and even kill pests, or call a local exterminator at (833) 431-0401 to see what other solutions they recommend.