The Basics of Pest Control

Pests can damage your property and health. Some carry diseases that can make you and your family sick. Pest control professionals are trained to locate the source of the problem and eliminate it without harming your pets, plants, or children. For more information, click the link provided to proceed.

Natural forces affect pest populations, including climate, natural enemies, available food and shelter, overwintering sites, and the presence of water sources.

A physical or chemical barrier that pests can’t cross is one of the most effective methods for controlling them. For example, a door sweep or caulking can prevent rodents and roaches from entering homes through cracks in the foundation. Another barrier is a pesticide spray that covers surfaces with an unpleasant or poisonous substance. This method is usually used indoors and can eliminate pests such as cockroaches, fleas, ticks, and bedbugs.

Before applying any control methods, it is essential to identify the pests in a given area. This will allow you to develop a strategy that minimizes off-target impacts and is tailored to the situation. It is also important to monitor the pest population in order to determine if it is at a threshold level that warrants treatment.

Pests are organisms that damage or interfere with desirable plants in fields and orchards, gardens, landscapes, and wildlands; impact human health, welfare, and food production; or negatively affect water quality, animal life, or other parts of the ecosystem. They can be weeds, insect-like plants, vertebrates (birds, mammals, and reptiles), invertebrates (insects, mites, and snails), nematodes, or pathogens that cause disease.

There are several nonchemical ways to control pests. These include modifying the habitat, biological control, and cultural practices. Habitat modification involves changing the environment to make it less hospitable to pests. This may include removing or altering their breeding sites, food sources, or resting places. It can also include planting species that compete with or provide food for the desired plant or animal, and introducing predators or parasites.

Biological control is the use of natural enemies to limit the populations of unwanted organisms. This can be accomplished by releasing a predator or parasite, such as a bacteria that kills caterpillars when ingested, or by encouraging the presence of natural enemies by providing habitat features, such as rocks to shelter frogs and snakes, and planting flowers, such as marigolds, that repel nematodes.

Cultural practices are nonchemical strategies to discourage pests and include good sanitation, avoiding overwatering or fertilizing, and using resistant varieties. When a pest problem does occur, monitoring and scouting can help identify the pests and assess their numbers. When pesticides are used, they should be applied according to established guidelines to minimize risks to humans and beneficial organisms.

Often used in conjunction with exclusion methods, pest barriers create a boundary that bugs can’t or won’t cross. They typically involve spraying or laying down substances that repel or kill specific types of bugs, or both. Barriers can work well for a wide variety of pests, including insects, spiders and rodents, such as rats and mice.

However, they are less effective for flies and other flying pests. Because these pests don’t have to crawl across the barrier to get into a home, they need a different treatment. For example, a pest expert might apply a product that can be applied at the roof level, where many flies and other insects tend to rest.

Another common barrier treatment involves putting down a layer of granules that dehydrate the insect’s outer layer, so it dies without absorbing moisture from the soil. This is a simple, inexpensive option that works great for controlling some common pests, such as fleas and grubs.

Physical barriers can also be helpful in some situations, such as putting up fences or netting to prevent pests from entering buildings or gardens. These are generally easy to install and can be made from materials such as hay, bamboo or other plant material.

Cultural practices include things such as removing debris and infested plant material, maintaining good sanitation, and growing competitive plants that discourage pests. They can be effective against most pests, especially if they are repeated often enough to disrupt the insects’ life cycles and habits.

In some cases, biological control agents might be an option. These are organisms that naturally occur in the environment, and some, like the nematode Steinernema carpocapsae, kill roaches, grubs and other harmful insects by injecting them with bacteria that break down their cells.

Other biological control agents include predatory insects, parasitoids and fungi. Predatory insects, such as house centipedes and spiders, eat the pests that gardeners call “nuisances.” Parasites, such as the aphid-eating flies and wasps, lay their eggs in or on the host insect and then consume the larvae or adults. Fungi, such as mycorrhizae, form a symbiotic relationship with the roots of a plant and enhance its health by delivering nutrients to it.

Modern pest control is about more than just eliminating a particular pest. It is about maintaining control over pest populations, reducing chemical use and preventing re-infestations. This is why baits are an important tool in pest control. They are able to target hard-to-reach areas, and allow treatment of sensitive locations without affecting humans and pets in the process.

Baits generally consist of some form of food that has been combined with a toxicant. The toxicant can be a natural or synthetic substance such as a plant material, a bacterium (Bacillus thuringiensis, for example) or a synthetic compound like insecticides such as organophosphates, carbamates and pyrethroids. Some baits are formulated as solid rodent baits (either cereal or grain types), while others are liquid baits designed for application to insects and other invertebrates such as termites. Liquid baits are especially useful for controlling social insect pests like ants, wasps and cockroaches. They work by being passed from foraging insects back to the colony where they contaminate it with the insecticide or Insect Growth Regulator (IGR). This disrupts the development of immature insects within the colony leading to a gradual death over time.

Another advantage of baits is their selective nature. Unlike conventional sprays, which typically are applied in the open air, baits are designed to be used in selective areas and inside concealed bait stations which prevent the effects of the pesticide on non-target organisms. Additionally, baits generally only have to be ingested once by the pest to achieve a lethal dose, as opposed to multiple direct exposures with sprays or powders.

Lastly, because baits can be placed at strategic points of contact around the structure, they are far more effective than traditional sprays or powders. They can also be used in places where sprays cannot, such as behind walls or in attics.

It is important to note that success with any bait program depends on careful selection and placement of the baits, as well as diligent monitoring. It is not as simple as hammering a few bait stations into the ground and walking away, but requires careful planning, skilled installation and regular inspections of the bait locations by a trained technician backed by a professional pest management company.

Trapping is a mechanical control technique that includes physical traps and baits. These are used to monitor pest populations and can help guide decisions for other control methods, such as the release of natural enemies or application of pesticides. The use of physical traps can also be incorporated into other parts of the IPM system, such as home maintenance (removing weeds and debris from fields, keeping gardens clean) and soil solarization tools (using sunlight to reduce pest abundance).

Traps are available in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. For example, plastic pitfall traps are a good choice for monitoring crawling pests in the field or in stored grain bins. They should be placed in a protected location to prevent animals or people from triggering them accidentally. Metal snap traps are also an option for many different pests, especially rodents. For these traps, it is important to note that their jaws may be difficult to open for larger animals such as cats and dogs.

For some species, such as thrips, shelter/refuge traps are an effective method for monitoring the number of individuals in the population. These traps are designed to provide a dark, moist, and cool refuge for the pests to concentrate them so they can be easily observed. These traps should be deployed as directed by the pest management advisor for the crop in question, and it is recommended that they are positioned 2-4 m above ground within the canopy layer. Traps should be collected weekly and sieved for analysis.

Glue traps are another popular trap for monitoring pest populations and can be made from various materials, such as plastic buckets or ice cream containers lined with cardboard or plastic bags. Attractants for these traps can include pheromones, leaves, fruit scraps, or commercial food attractants. It is important to monitor these traps regularly and make adjustments to the attraction as needed.

It is also important to know if the pests being monitored are continuous, migratory, or sporadic. A few wasps visiting a garden are not likely to warrant an action plan, but seeing the same pest activity every day might indicate that it is time for a control decision.