In this article we are going to discuss Effective Pest Control Methods. A home pest is any species that causes damage or is otherwise unwanted in the home. Home pests include many different types of creatures: indigenous insects, rodents, and mammals native to an area, as well as nonindigenous species that were originally imported for constructive purposes.
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There are three types of damage that home pests cause inside and outside a home: physical, medical, and economic.
Physical, or aesthetic, damage occurs when a pest harms the structure or appearance of your home, furnishings, possessions, or lawn and garden. For example:
- Aphids and carpenter bees can leave a sticky yellow waste that can discolor the sides of a home or leave a sap-like resin on the paint of your car.
- Mice can leave droppings in cupboards, indicating an infestation of mice who are nesting and feeding.
Some animal species are vectors, or potential carriers of disease. Mosquitoes and rats (and the fleas they carry) can be vectors. Mice can be vectors for a plethora of infectious diseases, parasites, and bacteria. Medical issues related to pest infestations include:
- Allergic reactions: The dander that mice leave behind, the feces that dust mites leave in your carpet, and the toxins that mosquitoes, wasps, bees, ticks, and bedbugs can inject into skin can all cause allergic reactions ranging from a slight sniffle to a total shutdown of the respiratory system (also known as anaphylactic shock).
- Viral infections: West Nile virus, hantavirus, encephalitis, and certain types of viral meningitis have been attributed to mosquitoes, ticks, mice, and rats.
- Bacterial infections: Bacterial meningitis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, salmonella, and E. coli have been traced to mice, flies, fruit flies, and other pests that tend to invade pantries and kitchens.
- Parasites: Tapeworms, hookworms, and roundworms are all associated, though indirectly, with mice and other small indoor mammals. Recent studies show that field mice that wander indoors can spread deer ticks, which are the primary vector for Lyme disease.
Economic damage from pests encompasses anything from the destruction of a particular crop to the complete loss of a house’s structural integrity. For example:
- Termite damage often goes unnoticed until small holes appear in ceiling beams or in baseboards. Superficial damage usually indicates more extensive structural damage to support beams, which may or may not be visible during a casual inspection.
- Structural damage due to carpenter ants is usually less severe than damage due to termites, but it may become extensive enough to warrant a renovation if the infestation is not cleared within a few years.
- The presence of rats can cause indirect economic damage to a business, as rats can bring on medical damage via the spread of salmonella and other bacteria to dishes, foods, and surfaces. In addition, the nesting habits of rats can cause structural damage.
Pest Control Methods
There are two major methods of pest control: nonchemical and chemical.
Nonchemical Pest Control
Nonchemical pest control methods should be your first line of defense, since many chemicals used to control pests can be hazardous to your health. Methods of nonchemical pest control include exclusion, sanitation, habitat modification, and mechanical control.
Keeping pests out simply by keeping doors, windows, porches, and screens sealed and fitted properly is an easy but often overlooked method of pest control. You can exclude pests in a number of ways:
- Seal holes or cracks in window frames and door frames with polyurethane caulk. Smooth out the leftover caulk with a wet finger.
- Inspect screened-in porches carefully for even the smallest tears. If you find a tear, you can mend it temporarily with duct tape or acetone-based glue.
- Smaller mesh fencing buried at least two feet into the ground is often the best exclusionary tactic for keeping moles and other burrowing rodents out of your garden or yard.
One of the most common causes of a home pest infestation is that the pest in question is looking for food. Cleaning up after yourself often solves indoor pest problems outright. To stave off pests:
- Keep countertops, shelves, and floors clean by brushing away debris and wiping the surfaces down regularly with bleach.
- Buy a trash can that’s sealed or that has a spring-loaded door. This will keep flies and other pests away from refuse in your kitchen.
- Replace flimsy plastic bags and tins with sealable Rubbermaid® tubs. Doing so will block pests’ access to stored foods and prevent odors from attracting ants, bees, cockroaches, mice, and other scavenging pests.
To prevent indoor and outdoor pests from finding a welcome habitat in your home, do the following:
- Keep your lawn healthy and trimmed.
- Keep brush and weeds away from the sides of your house.
- Line the perimeter of your home with a couple feet of dry rocks or gravel.
If you have a pest already in your home, and there’s no other option but to end the critter’s life, mechanical control is still preferable to the use of chemicals.
- A vacuum cleaner is the perfect way to capture stray wasps, bees, and spiders.
- Mousetraps and rat traps are the most effective means of controlling small infestations of these rodents.
- Sticky mousetraps set behind cupboards and furniture are a good way to capture spiders, cockroaches, and other bugs looking for places to hide.
Chemical Pest Control
Chemical pest control involves the use of chemicals, or pesticides, to kill invasive pests. To use home pesticides as safely as possible, you must do the following.
Choose the Correct Pesticide
The key to choosing the right pesticide is identifying the pest correctly. Once you’ve identified the pest, it’s simply a matter of finding the pesticide labeled for use against it.
Read the Labels Carefully
Remember that any pesticides that you bring into your home may eventually find their way into your body. What kinds of chemicals are you using? Are these chemicals known to be carcinogenic (cancer-causing)? Read the labels carefully and be wary of the following active ingredients:
- Permethrin: Permethrin, and chemicals similar to it, are used in everything from wasp killer to flea and tick dips. Though permethrin biodegrades quickly and does not easily penetrate the skin, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified it as a potential carcinogen because studies have observed an increased lung tumor rate in mice that were exposed to permethrin compounds.
- Arsenic: Arsenic (arsenic acid) is found in a number of insecticides and herbicides and, most notably, in rat and mouse poison. It is a known carcinogen in humans and does not biodegrade quickly. Recent studies suggest that arsenic levels in public drinking water are on the rise nationwide.
- Carbaryl (Sevin®): Carbaryl—better known by the brand name Sevin—is a relatively common pesticide that’s used to kill many insect pest species. It’s a known carcinogen to humans and other mammals.
Pesticides are poisons, and a full list of carcinogenic or potentially carcinogenic chemicals is too long to include here. For more information about pesticide toxicity, visit www.pesticideinfo.org.
Boric acid, or borax, is one of the few popular, nontoxic pesticides that pest control companies use. It’s the active ingredient in Terro® Liquid Ant Baits, for example. Borax is inexpensive and can be used to kill most insect pests.
Follow the Directions
Never pretend that you’re a professional and assume that you know how to use a pesticide product correctly. Read the instructions printed on the product’s label and follow them carefully.
Dispose of the Pesticide Properly
Many pesticides take a long time to biodegrade and therefore stay active in the environment for years. Read the directions on the package to ensure proper disposal, and make an effort to buy products that are not only recyclable but whose contents are biodegradable as well, such as Raid® Earth Options™ insecticides.