If this blog is successful at achieving only one thing, let it be a widespread understanding that you almost never need a pest control service. Here is your one stop post for how to tell if you need a service, and what you can do instead.
Every household, business, and workplace will have the occasional insect or spider visiting. Arthropods are masters at finding their way through the tiniest crack, crevice, hole, or other access point, which they hope will lead them to greener pastures, not indoors. They are not out to get you and they are not a sign that you are in for more creatures like them. It is usually a one-time event. Do not panic and dial up an exterminator.
One recent scientific study found that the average home is occupied, at one point in time or another, by somewhere between 30 and 200 species of insects, arachnids, and related arthropods. Still no reason for fear. In fact, the greater the biodiversity the better. It is a sign that your home is not sterile, but running on all natural cylinders. Most insects are so small you do not even notice them anyway.
While most pest control enterprises are ethical and fair, here are some points to consider:
- The technicians that visit your location are usually not entomologists trained to properly identify pests. They are schooled almost exclusively in proper application of insecticides to insure compliance with state and federal regulations.
- It is in the best interest of a pest control company to identify as a pest any insect that concerns you, regardless of whether it is a pest.
- Most pest control companies require a contract that guarantees repeated visits to your premises. Think about that. We expect plumbers and electricians to do the job right the first time.
- When was the last time a "product" or "service" solved anything? In the case of pest species the answer is almost never. The best solution is prevention and attitude adjustment.
There are some situations in which you do need professional help. Those are:
- Bed Bugs are challenging for professionals, let alone do-it-yourselfers, and you will need to find a reputable company to deal with them.
- Structural pests like termites and carpenter ants. Make sure, however, that you are not mistaking an outdoor swarm event for an indoor infestation. A termite inspection is usually a requirement for home sale and purchase. Find an unbiased agent to conduct that inspection. Request an inspection if you suspect a termite or carpenter ant infestation before employing a pest control company.
- Social bee or wasp nest in a troublesome location. Always employ a bee removal service if you find a nest in a location that impedes your day-to-day life. Otherwise, note the location of the nest so you can simply avoid it. In most regions of North America, nests of yellowjackets, paper wasps, and the European Hornet are not perpetual, nor re-used the following year. Feral honey bee hives are perennial.
- Cockroach infestations that have reached extreme population levels. It is important to note that cockroaches have only been implicated in transmission of bacteria, never proven. Prolonged exposure to dense populations of cockroaches, their shed exoskeletons and feces may trigger allergies and asthma in some people, especially children in multi-family dwellings. Insist on a pest control service that uses baits rather than sprays for a longer-lasting, near permanent effect instead of repeated visits to spray insecticides.
Here are some ways to reduce the potential for pest problems in your home:
- Repair worn weatherstripping on doors and repair holes in window screens (or replace them).
- Seal all cracks and crevices, including around places where pipes and electrical conduits enter or leave the home. Pack steel wool into such situations, use caulking elsewhere.
- Inspect all objects coming indoors from outside, especially plants, firewood, toys, gardening tools....Inspect new plants before you leave the nursery or store.
- Do not reach your extremities into locations you cannot see into. Be careful moving items out of long-term storage to avoid spider bites, disturbing a wasp or bee nest, etc.
- Do not leave clothing, gloves, or footwear outdoors overnight, nor in the garage or shed. It never hurts to shake out shoes and clothes anyway.
- Reduce outdoor lighting or employ motion-sensors or bulbs that are less attractive to nocturnal insects. This will also discourage spiders from stringing their webs across your front and back doors.
- Never stack firewood against the side of your home, as this will help termites and carpenter ants to become established. Reconsider wood mulch as groundcover.
- Learn tips for how to avoid bed bugs in your travels and thrift store shopping. Entomologists estimate that soon one out of every four homes will have bed bugs.
Nobody wants to hear the suggestion that maybe they are the source of a problem, but sometimes that can be the case. Please seek professional help if you have phobias of insects (entomophobia), spiders (arachnophobia), or related creatures. It will save you a great deal of money and emotional turmoil to go that route. Otherwise, visit an entomologist for a gentle "attitude adjustment." We can cite example after example of the beneficial qualities of insects and the potentially disastrous effects of continued addiction to chemical pest treatments.
Please feel free to share this post widely. I also welcome comments, even dissenting opinions, as long as they are worded in polite language. Everyone deserves to make a living, and we will always need pest control services for situations where every other alternative has been exhausted.