Sunday, October 28, 2018

Don't Try This (Pest Control Method) At Home

The news is replete with stories of people who have accidentally destroyed their homes, workplaces, and other structures in an attempt to kill a spider or insect. These are the sensational and drastic results of misguided intent, but there are many other negative consequences possible from do-it-yourself pest control. Do not be a sucker, a law-breaker, or the next headline.

A Word About Spiders

At this time of year, spiders venturing indoors is a top complaint of many homeowners. Please understand that if you notice a spider in your home or office it is an indication of....absolutely nothing. It is not out to get you. It is not a sign of an "infestation." It is not a sign that there are more to come. Male spiders of all kinds are on the prowl for females, and even those species that normally spin webs abandon them to look for mates, mostly in autumn. There are also plenty of spiders that never spin webs, like wolf spiders, jumping spiders, and longlegged sac spiders. Both males and females traverse large areas in search of prey. Occasionally, they will find their way indoors. Simply coax one of these spiders into a container and escort it outside to a log, stone wall, brush pile, or other place it can easily find cover. Thank you.


Foggers are also known as "bug bombs," and can live up to that name if you fail to follow the deployment instructions to the letter. Forgetting to extinguish a pilot light on the water heater or furnace before detonating a fogger can result in burning your home to the ground, or blowing it to bricks and splinters. Moreover, as with any general insecticide, you are killing beneficial insects, and spiders and other arachnids, along with whatever pest you were targeting. Yes, those cobweb weavers in the corner are already controlling pests like carpet beetles and fungus gnats, and other household nuisances.

Read the Instructions!

Use a DIY product if you must, but be aware that improper application of that product is a violation of federal law. That is correct: You are subject to prosecution for misusing pest control products and devices. Yes, we do have to make a federal case out of it because the consequences of your ignorance can be far-reaching. This is especially true of lawn and garden chemical treatments. There is a reason that commercial landscape services are required to post those flags and signs after they poison, err, "treat" your lawn.

One of the most common mistakes with over-the-counter products is the assumption that using a greater quantity than prescribed in the label instructions will be more effective. The "more is better" philosophy can compromise the health of yourself, your family members, guests, and pets. Furthermore, some people may be hypersensitive to chemicals in the product, even if they are "inert" ingredients and not active compounds.

Don't Fall for "Harmless" Alternative Products

Say you do have the best interest of the environment at heart. You want the most benign, but still effective, "green" alternative. Good for you, but tune your scam senses to high alert, then. Among the most popular and well-advertised devices are those ultrasonic repellent thingies. They have been scientifically proven time and time again to be essentially worthless. Do not fall for it.

Consult the Proper Authorities

"Bug Eric" is not an expert on pest control. When in doubt, ask unbiased professionals about pest control products and strategies. Look for resources and agencies that do not have an agenda and are unaffiliated with either industry or non-profit organizations. The Environmental Protection Agency has a web page on the Do's and Don'ts of Pest Control that is a good place to start. Use your local branch of the Cooperative Extension Service for recommendations specific to your geographic location. The National Pesticide Information Center, headquartered at Oregon State University, is a wealth of factual information and additional resources. Subscribe to Consumer Reports magazine, a product of an independent product-testing institution that enjoys a stellar reputation in matters of consumer awareness and public safety.

Did I Mention Prevention?

It bears repeating that taking measures to prevent pests from gaining a foothold indoors or on your property, is the best solution. I will continue to post on this subject, but you can do your own research, too. Remember your neighborhood librarian is your best friend, and your library a wealth of information now networked with other public libraries, university libraries, and other resources around the world. Maybe you will begin with books like Tiny Game Hunting or The Humane Gardener.

Be In It For The Long Haul

Above all, understand that pest control never ends. There is no permanent solution. As the authors of Tiny Game Hunting write, "Thinking we can get rid of our pests permanently in one fell swoop is like taking a shower and believing we will be clean for the rest of our lives." Patience, persistence, and vigilance is necessary to keep the upper hand. Altering your mindset, your level of tolerance, and understanding of your insect and arachnid "enemies" is also key. We may need an attitude adjustment before we do anything else.


  1. Eric, this is a great article -- I wish more people would read it! This statement, in particular, is spot on: “One of the most common mistakes with over-the-counter products is the assumption that using a greater quantity than prescribed in the label instructions will be more effective.” Thanks for taking the time to post your insights and wisdom. OC PEST CONTROL

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