A Guide to Pesticides: grouped by Modes of Action (MoA)

This page gives information plant protection/pest control agents grouped as:

  • Fungicides
  • Herbicides
  • Insecticides, Acaricides, Nematicides, etc.
  • Molluscicides
  • PlPhasmohabditis hermaphroditaant Growth Modifiers
  • Rodenticides
  • Spray oils and Adjuvants

v. 24 November 2009


The term “fungicide” is also used for substances active against Oomycetes (e.gPhytophthora spp.) that are no longer classified as fungi. MoA groups that include compounds active against oomycetes are marked with §O.

Multiple site of action (M): often protectant
MoA groupChemistryexample(s)
Multi-site M1Copper fungicides §O
Bordeaux mixture consists of equal parts of ~sulphate and lime (calcium hydroxide)
Copper: ~ammonium carbonate, ~hydroxide, ~oxide, ~oxychloride, ~sulphate, etc.
M3Dithiocarbamates §Oferbam, maneb, mancozeb, metam (also herbicide & nematicide), thiram, zineb, ziram (also a vertebrate repellent)
M4Pthalimidescaptan, captafol, folpet
M6Sulphamidesdichlofluanid, tolylfluanid
Systemic – curative
MoA groupChemistryexample(s)
ADisruption of fungal nucleic acid synthesis:
A1: RNA polymerase (oomycete fungicides)

Four MoA groups

Phenylamides §O

benalaxyl, metalaxyl (resolved metalaxyl-M is mefenoxam)
 A2Hydroxy-pyrimidinesbuprimate, dimethirimol
 A3-A4: DNA inhibitionA3 Heteroaromatics §O
A4 Carboxylic acids
hymexazole, octhilinone
oxolinic acid
BInhibition of mitosis and cell division 
 B1-B3: Inhibition of beta-tubulin assemblyB1: Benzamidazoles
B2: N-phenyl carbamates
B3: Benzamides §O
benomyl, carbendazim, fuberidazole
 B4-B5: cell divisionB4: Phenylurea
B5: Benzamide §O
CRespiration inhibitors – large group including: 
 C2: succinate dehydrogenaseCarboxamides: 6 classes including Oxathiinsboscalid
flutolanil, oxycarboxin
 C3: QoI – Quinone Outside (cytochrome) InhibitorsStrobilurins etc.:
8 chemical classes
broad spectum incl. §O
azoxystrobin, pyraclostrobin, fluoxastrobin, trifloxystrobin
 C4: QiI – Quinone Inside Inhibitors2 chemical classes §Ocyazofamid, amisulbrom (newer a.i. for Phytophthora etc.)
 C5: uncouplers of oxidative phosphorylation3 chemical classes including dinitrophenyl crotonatesbinapacryl (was also acaricide), dinocap
 C6: inhibitors of ATP synthaseOrgano-tin compoundsfentin acetate
 C1, C72 chemical classes 
DOther mechanisms that inhibit protein synthesisD1: Anilinopyrimidinescyprodinil
 D2-D54 classes of antibioticskasugamicin
ESignal transduction inhibitorsQuinolines, Phenylpyrroles, Dicarboximidesiprodione
FLipid synthesis: cell membranes and walls 
 F2: Inhibits phospholipid synthesis in membrane
(esp. Pyricularia oryzae)
edifenphos, iprobenfos (IBP)
 F3: lipid peroxidationAH fungicides (aromatic hydrocarbons) §Otolclofos-methyl, etridiazole
 F4: cell membrane permabilityCarbamates §Opropamocarb hydrochloride, prothiocarb
 F5: cell wall depositionCarboxylic Acid Amides (CAA) §O
– 3 chemical groups
dimethomorph (cinnamic acid amide), iprovalicarb, fluazinam
GDisruption of membrane function: sterol biosynthesis inhibitors (SBI) 
 G1: De-Methylation Inhibitor (DMI) fungicidesPyridines, Pyrimidines
and Triazoles
pyrifenox, fenarimol
imazalil, procloraz
bitertanol, cyproconazole, difenoconazole, fluquinconazole, hexaconazole, myclobutanil, propriconazole, prothioconazole, tebuconazole, triadimefon, triadimenol
 G2-G4Morpholines and
6 other chemical classes
tridemorph, fenpropimorph fenhexamid, spiroxamine
HGlucan synthesis antibiotic2 classes of antibioticsvalidamycin A (for Rhizoctonia solani)
IMelanin synthesis in cell wall6 chemical classestricyclazole (for Pyricularia oryzae)
Host plant defence induction (P) and other (sometimes unknown) mechanisms
PSalicylic acid pathway‘Plant activators’acibenzolar
UOther elicitors of Systemic Acquired Resistance (SAR)phosphonate fungicides §Ofosetyl aluminium; potassium phosphonate
 microtubule disruption (poss.)U5: thiazole carboxamide §Oethaboxam
XUnknown MoA cymoxanil, triazoxide
 Hyper-parasitesmycofungicideAmpelomyces quisqualis
 Typically antagonistsviralmosaic virus mild strains
 bacterialBacillus subtilis
 fungal §OTrichoderma: many spp
Spray oils and Adjuvants

Various oils are known to have acaricidal, fungicidal, insecticidal, herbicidal and spray adjuvant properties in their own right or may enhance.  Examples include:

  • “dormant oils” or  “winter washes” are usually petroleum-based which are acaricides, insecticides and ovicides
  • fatty acid emulsions are used as broad spectrum contact insecticides
  • banana spray oil (BSO) is fungicidal for sigatoka disease (Mycosphaerella spp)
  • In N. America brush may sprayed with a herbicide in diesel oil as a carrier; many herbicide activators are emulsifiable light oils containing variable amounts of surfactants to emulsify the oil and penetrate waxy weed leaves.
  • a number of emulsified oils are used as spray adjuvants which are not very pesticidal themselves, but when added to the tank mixture, improve the performance of the pesticide. Major functions are products that (examples of product names are for illustration and not necessarily recommendations) affect:
Adjuvant functionExamples
1. Formulation and tank mix
  Compatibility agents, Defoaming agents, thickeners, etc.
  Buffers (or pH modifiers)Often containing phosphoric acid or a salt of phosphoric acid
2. Atomisation and drift
  a. droplet size spectrum
b. evaporation
(humectants affect droplet survival and
deposit after contact)
Certain compounds can increase the viscosity and surface tension causing and increase in spray VMD and decrease the proportion of small droplets.
3. Retention and Deposit Modification on Plant surfaces
  Surfactants (wetting/spreading agents)Alkyl-Aryl-Poly-Oxy-Ethylenates, ‘Activator’, ‘Agral’
  Stickers (sometimes called extenders) to
increase ‘rain-fastness’, etc.
Often polymers and organosilicones such as ‘Silwet’
4. Plant cuticle penetrants
(Often also enhance retention, as above)
emulsified oils (typically <5% emulsifier), ‘Codacide’, ‘Natur’l oil’
Plant Growth Modifiers (or ~ Regulators)
A number of non- pesticidal substances are frequently procured and stored together with pest control agents.  Since the term “pesticide” has become controversial, a number of products have been marketed as “plant tonics” or similar – that may have various modes of action and include mixtures containing micronutrients etc.
  •  Various chemicals encourage fruit set including: abscisic acid (ABA), gibberellic acid and carbaryl (which is also an insecticide).  1-napthylacetic acid and 4-indol 3-YL butyric acid are members of a group of synthetic auxins (and more active molecules are herbicidal) which prevents premature flower and fruit drop and stimulates root formation in cuttings.
  •  Foliar nutrient products may contain plant fertilizers such as N,P,K, minor nutrients such as Sulfur and Zinc, and a variety of trace elements such as Boron. They may also contain a relatively small amount of surfactant.
  •   Plant growth regulators (PGR) include 2-chloroethylphosphonic acid (CEPA or ethephon): which penetrates into plant tissues and decomposes into ethylene which affects various growth processes, including: ripening in fruits, latex flow in rubber, flowering and lateral branching in ornamentals.  Compounds such as chlormequat chloride regulate growth by inhibiting giberellin synthesis, thus shortening stems and producing more compact, sturdier plamts.  Paclobutrazol is a triazole which inhibits sterol as well as giberellin biosynthesis so it also has some fugicidal activity (against mildews and rusts). Another PGR, daminozide (‘Alar’) was withdrawn in 1989, when it was withdrawn by the manufacturer in response to public fears over safety.
  •   Some molecules exhibit different effects at different concentrations.  For example, nonanoic acid is used for blossom thinning in apples and pears, but is herbicidal at higher dosages.


The HRAC system differs somewhat from that of the
Weed Science Society of America (WSSA)

Contact, desiccant
MoA groupChemistryexample(s)
DPhotosystem I (electron transport): contact & desiccant actionBipyridyliumdiquat, paraquat
MCell membrane disruption, contact actionDinitrophenolDNOC
Z.Unknown mechanisms, contact actionOrganoarsenicalMSMA (methyl arsonic acid)
 Multi-site soil sterilants
(also nematodes, fungi)
Variousdazomet, metam (methyl-dithiocarbamic acid): also ~ammonium, ~Na & K salts
 Desiccants etc.Inorganicsodium chlorate, sulphuric acid
MoA groupChemistryexample(s)
AInhibits fatty acid synthesis (ACCase inhibitors)3 chemical classes:
‘FOP’ hebicides‘DIM’ herbicides‘DEN’ herbicides
clodinafop-propargyl, diclofop-methyl, fenoxaprop-P-ethyl, fluazifop-P-butyl
clethodim, cycloxydim, sethoxydim, tralkoxydim
BInhibits plant amino acid synthesis: acetolactate synthase (ALS)Imidazolinones Sulfonylureas
+ 3 classes
imazapyr, imazethapyr,
amidosulfuron, bensulfuron- methyl, iodosulfuron-methyl-sodium, mesosulfuron-methyl, metsulforon-methyl, pyriftalid, propoxycarbazone-sodium, trifloxysulfuron-sodium
CInhibits photosynthesis (photosystem II) 
+ 3 classes
ametryne, atrazine, simazine
hexazinone, metamitron, metribuzin
desmedipham, phenmedipham
 C2substituted ureasdiuron, isoproturon, linuron, propanil, tebuthiuron
 C3nitriles + 2 classesbromoxynil, ioxynil (also octanoate ester & Na+ salt)
EInhibits protoporphyrinogen oxidase, leading to irreversible cell membrane damageDiphenylethers +
8 other classes of often selective herbicides with contact action and only limited translocation
FBleaching: inhibition of carotenoid biosynthesis 
 F1:at the phytoene desaturase step (PDS)Pyridazinones + other classesnorflurazon,
diflufenican, flurtamone
 F2:of 4-hydroxyphenyl-pyruvate-dioxygenase
triketones + 3 classesmesotrione (for broad-leaved weeds in Maize)
 F3: inhibition of lycopene cyclase and unknown targettriazole
+ 3 other classes
GInhibition of essential
aromatic amino acid synthesis (EPSPS) in chlororplasts
Organophosphate glyceneglyphosate: ~trimesium ~isopropylammonium, sulfosate
HGlutamine synthetase inhibitor: accumulates ammonium ions, inhibits photosynthesisPhosphinic acidglufosinate-ammonium
IInhibition of dihydropterate synthase causing slow chlorosisCarbamateasulam
KInhibition of mitosis and cell divisionCIPC etc. often used as potato sprouting inhibitors
 K1Dintroanilinespendimethalin, trifluralin
 K2Carbamatechlorpropham (CIPC)


+ 4 other classes

acetochlor, alachlor, dimethanamid, butachlor, pretilachlor, metolachlor, etc
LInhibition of cell wall synthesis4 classesdichlobenil, isoxaben
NInhibition of lipid synthesis (not A)Thiocarbamates
+ 2 classes
ethofumesate, molinate, thiobencarb (benthiocarb)
dalapon (acid & sodium salt)
OSynthetic auxins
(also plant growth modifiers)
Phenoxy-carboxylic-acids2,4-D (acid & various salts: commonly ~amine & ~isopropyl ester), 2,4,5-T*, MCPA, MCPB, mecoprop-P (MCPP)
  *: withdrawn due to dioxin (TCDD) contaminants
  Pyridine carboxylic acidsaminopyralid, clopyralid, fluroxypyr, picloram, triclopyr
  + 3 other classesdicamba
PInhibits auxin transportPhthalamatenaptalam
 Herbicide safeners are admixed in order to selectively protect crop plants from herbicide damage without reducing activity in target weeds, and are usually used commercially to improve herbicide selectivity between crop and weed species.  They may also be applied as seed dressings.cloquintocet-mexyl, cyometrinil, dichlormid, fenclorim, fluxofenim, flurazole, furilazole, oxabetrinil, naphthalic anhydride (NA)
e.g. specific to Northern joint vetch: Aeschnomene virginicaColletotrichum gloeosporioides f.p. aeschnomene
Insecticides, Acaricides, Nematicides, etc.
MoA groupChemistryexample(s)
1Acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitors
Because the AChE mechanism in insect synapses are similar to that of mammals, group 1 compounds are often Extremely or Highly Hazardous although there are exceptions such as temephos).
This group contains a number of systemic compounds (e.g. carbofuran, carbosulfan, dimethoate, monocrotophos).
 1ACarbamatesaldicarb, bendiocarb, carbaryl, carbofuran (not GR), carbosulfan, dioxacarb, ethiofencarb, fenobucarb (BPMC), isoprocarb (MIPC), methiocarb (also a molluscicide), methomyl, metolcarb (MTMC), oxamyl, pirimicarb, promecarb, propoxur, thiodicarb (molluscicide), thiofanox
 1BOrganophosphates:acephate, azinphos (usu. ~methyl), cadusafos, chlorfenvinphos, chlorpyrifos (usu. ~ethyl), chlorpyrifos-methyl, demeton-s-methyl, diazinon, dichlorvos (DDVP), dicrotophos, dimethoate, disulfoton, ethoprophos, fenitrothion, fenthion, fosthiazate (nematicide), heptenophos, malathion, methamidophos, methidathion, mevinphos, monocrotophos, naled, omethoate, oxydemeton-methyl, parathion (usu. ~methyl), phenthoate, phorate, phosalone, phosmet, phosphamidon, phoxim, pirimiphos (usu. ~methyl), profenofos, quinalphos, temephos, thiometon, triazophos, trichlorfon, vamidothion
2GABA-gated chloride channel antagonists 
 Cyclodienes and other organo-chlorines (OCs)HCH (lindane, gamma BHC), aldrin, dieldrin, chlordane, endosulfan
 Phenylpyrazoles (Fiproles)fipronil
3Sodium channel modulatorsOCDDT
 pyrethrum & pyrethrinsbioallethrin, bioresmethrin, pyrethrum, resmethrin, tetramethrin
 pyrethroidsbifenthrin, beta-cyfluthrin, cyhalothrin (unresolved), lambda-cyhalothrin, cypermethrin (and resolved alpha~), deltamethrin, esfenvalerate, etofenprox, fenpropathrin, fenvalerate, flucythrinate, silafluofen, tau-fluvalinate, permethrin, tefluthrin, metofluthrin
4Acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) agonists 
 4ANeonicotinoidsacetamiprid, clothianidin, imidacloprid, nitenpyram, thiacloprid, thiamethoxam
5nAChR agonists: Allosteric (not group 4)Macrocyclic lactones (Spinosyns)spinosad
6Chloride channel activators (insecticides & acaricides)Avermectins, Milbemycinsabamectin, emamectin benzoate
14nAChR channel blockersNereistoxin analoguescartap, thiosultap (various anions), thiocyclam
22Voltage dependent sodium channel blockerOxadiazineindoxacarb
25Neuroactive acaricide (unknown mode of action) bifenazate
Group 11 etc.Microbial or derived disruptors of insect midgut membranes
 Toxins produced by the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt): Bt sprays and Cry proteins expressed in transgenic Bt crop varieties (specific cross-resistance sub-groups)
11A1For Diptera

Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. israelensis

11A2For mosquito larvaeBacillus sphaericus
11B1Lepidoptera esp. NoctuidaeBacillus thuringiensis subsp. aizawai
11B2Esp. Lepidoptera: e.g. PlutellaBacillus thuringiensis subsp. kurstaki
11CFor Coleoptera

Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. tenebrionis

Other MicrobialEntomoPathogenic Fungi (EPF), nematodes (EPN) and viruses (EPV)
EPFBeauveria bassiana, Metarhizium anisopliae, Paecilomyces fumosoroseus
EPNHeterorhabditis megidis, Steinernema spp.
EPVVarious nuclear poly-hedrosis viruses (NPV) and granulo-viruses (GV): often highly specific, especially used against Lepidoptera
e.g. Spodoptera exigua nuclear polyhedrosis virus
Cuticle Synthesis, Moulting & Metamorphosis
MoA groupChemistryexample(s)
7Juvenile hormone mimics and analogues fenoxycarb, methoprene, pyriproxyfen
Groups 15-17: Inhibitors of chitin biosynthesis
(insect growth regulators or IGRs)
15for Lepidoptera,
Isoptera, etc. 
 Benzoylureasbistrifluron, flucycloxuron, noviflumuron, diflubenzuron, teflubenzuron, chlorfluazuron, flufenoxuron, lufenuron, hexaflumaron, novaluron, triflumuron
16for Hemiptera buprofezin
17for Diptera cyromazine
18Ecdysone agonist / molting disruptors

A. Diacylhydrazines

B. Azadirachtin

chromafenozide,methoxyfenozide, tebufenozide
Disruptors of Various other Metabolic Processes
Many groups acting on a wide range of metabolic processes including:
MoA groupChemistryexample(s)
12Inhibitors of oxidative phosphorylation, disruptors of ATP formation (inhibitors of ATP synthase)Diafenthiuron
Organotin acaricidesothers
fenbutatin oxide
propargite, tetradifon
13Uncouplers of oxidative phosphorylation via disruption of proton gradientchlorfenapyr, DNOC
19Octopaminergic (nervous system) agonist acaricide & insecticide (probably loss of feeding and adhesion)amitraz
20Mitochondrial complex III electron transport inhibitorsvarioushydramethylnon, acequinocyl, fluacrypyrim
21Mitochondrial complex I electron transport inhibitorsRotenone,
METI acaricides
fenpyroximate, tebufenpyrad
23Inhibitors of lipid synthesisTetronic acid derivativesspirodiclofen, spiromesifen, spirotetramat
24Mitochondrial complex IV electron transport inhibitorsPrecursors of fumigant:
phosphine (PH3)
(see also: rodenticides)
aluminium phosphide, magnesium phosphide,
28Ryanodine receptor modulators: sustained contraction of insect muscleDiamidesflubendiamide
Non-specific, Unknown and Miscellaneous MoA
MoA groupChemistryexample(s)
8Inorganic fumigants with non-specific MoAsee also: group 24methyl bromide, chloropicrin, sulfuryl fluoride
9Various compounds of non-specific mode of action
(selective feeding blockers)
cryolite, pymetrozine, flonicamid.
10acaricidal growth inhibitorsvariousclofentezine, hexythiazox, etoxazole
27A: P450-dependent mono-oxygenase inhibitors
 piperonyl butoxide
 27B: Esterase inhibitors tribufos (DEF)
unUnknown mode of actionvariousdicofol, pyridalyl
Repellents, attractants and other modifiers of insect behaviour
Insect repellents DEET, citronella oil
PheromonesMany, specific
Baiting attractants methyl eugenol
Bird/rodent repellentalso a fungicide (FRAC M)ziram


RHS guide to slug control

MoAChemical Groupexample(s)
Destruction of mucus cells: slugs secrete slime copiously and desiccatetetramer of acetaldehydemetaldehyde (contact and stomach action)
Neurotoxic (also insecticides)carbamatesthiodicarb, methiocarb
Respiration inhibitor: probably oxygen uptake, and carbohydrate metabolismclonitralid-olamine (Germany)niclosamide (rice golden apple snail and WHO approved for vectors of schistosomiasis)
Pathological changes to slug digestive systeminorganicferric-III-phosphate
(with power of search)
pathogenic nematodePhasmohabditis hermaphrodita


MoA groupChemistry/typeexample(s)
The older, acute toxicants rapidly became ineffective due to ‘bait shyness’: where rats learned to associate the food bait with the poison. Earlier chronic poisons (e.g. warfarin) have been replaced with a number of ‘second generation’ anti-coagulants that only require a single feed by the pest and have a delayed action; this reduces the problem of bait shyness. For obvious reasons, chemical rodenticides are highly toxic by nature, hence the interest in developing biological alternatives.
Acute toxinreacts with stomach acids to produce phosphine
(see also: fumigants)
zinc phosphide,
magnesium phosphide
Hypercalcemia etc.organic:
single dose
cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3)
Anti-coagulants1st generationchlorophacinone, pindone, coumatetralyl, warfarin
 2nd generation
(single dose)
brodifacoum, difenacoum, bromadiolone, flocoumafen

Sarcocystis singaporensis: specific to Rattus Bandicota spp

Barn owls

NOTE: these pages are for guidance only and no responsibility can be taken for any errors that may be present.  Likewise, inclusion of compounds or products does not imply recommendation or otherwise.


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