The Importance of Pest Identification and Control

There are times when pest problems are obvious — rats scurrying through the basement or termites chewing on baseboards. But sometimes pests are more subtle, such as an odd odor or unexplained damage.

pest control

Knowing what kind of pest you’re dealing with can help you decide whether it can be tolerated or if control methods are needed. Scouting and monitoring also aid this decision-making. Visit Our Website to learn more.

As a general rule, pest identification should be the first step in any pest control program. It helps determine basic information about the pest, such as its life cycle and the time when it is most susceptible to being controlled. This in turn, allows a more targeted approach to pest control and avoids injury to non-target organisms.

The correct identification of a pest may require consulting an expert or using a field guide, such as one found in a library or Cooperative Extension office. Many of these guides include photographs and information about the pest’s life cycle, feeding habits, environmental and harborage requirements, as well as procedures for its prevention or control.

Once a pest has been identified, it can be determined whether its presence in a property is unacceptable. This decision will depend on the pest, its role in an ecosystem and what harm it causes. For example, some insects are parasites and others destroy or eat crops. In these cases, the need for pest control may be obvious.

However, in other cases, pests simply cause nuisances or minor damage and it may be possible to live with them. For example, an infestation of cockroaches can be controlled by sanitizing the house and using roach baits. Other pests, such as boxelder bugs, can be controlled by sealing windows and screening vents.

An important factor in deciding when it is necessary to employ pest control is locating and eliminating the breeding site. This might be a mouse or squirrel nest in the attic or chimney, pet feces in the yard, or a moist compost pile where mosquitoes lay their eggs.

A routine inspection should be conducted on a daily or weekly basis, depending on the pest and environment. A good inspection includes looking under leaves, along foundations, at bait stations and other places where the pest might be hiding. Also, a tour of the property should be taken to check for signs of a pest problem such as droppings or damaged plants. A trained eye can often spot problems that are otherwise hidden.

Pest Prevention

Whether pests are present in a home, business or other facility, preventive methods can reduce the need for pest control. These methods can include food storage in sealed containers, disposing of garbage regularly, removing clutter from the outside of the building and sealing off cracks where pests may enter. In addition, maintaining the landscaping to limit insect pathways and moisture attracting weeds can also help.

Prevention methods also may involve the use of baits, traps, and physical management, including removing sources of food, water or shelter. Clutter provides places for pests to breed and hide and a variety of materials can invite pests into a space, such as stacks of old newspapers or cardboard. Maintaining landscaping to eliminate rodent pathways is important, as well as repairing leaky pipes and eliminating standing water. In addition, trash receptacles should be securely covered and emptied frequently to avoid attractants such as flies, mice and rats.

Monitoring is essential to determine if a problem exists and to understand the scope of it. This can include inspections, sampling, and surveys to identify the pests that are present and their damage. Monitoring also helps the pest control specialist select the best management strategy. For example, knowledge of the pest’s biology and environment helps the technician decide whether a pest should be tolerated or controlled.

Suppression is usually not a goal in outdoor pest situations, but in enclosed environments such as homes, schools, and offices, it is more common. Suppression means reducing the population of pests to a level that is acceptable and then taking steps to keep it that way.

Some pest infestations are more difficult to control than others, and this is when pest controls that can be used to eradicate the problem may be needed. These may include biological, physical and chemical methods, or a combination of these. Biological pest control relies on natural enemies to reduce the population of targeted pests through predation, parasitism, herbivory, and pathogenism. The organisms that provide this control are typically bred in the laboratory and then released into an environment. This method reduces the need for chemicals and may be used in conjunction with other control methods.


A pesticide is any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any pest (plant disease vectors, unwanted species of animals, organisms that damage crops or other plants, or diseases carried by mosquitoes and ticks). It includes chemicals used to kill insect pests and rodents. Herbicides (weed killers) and fungicides are also pesticides, as are some antimicrobial agents that kill bacterial diseases such as anthrax spores.

All pesticides are toxic to some extent, and all have the potential to cause adverse effects on human health, other living things (including beneficial insects), or the environment. Some have short-term impacts, such as headaches and nausea, while others have long-term or chronic impacts, such as cancer, reproductive harm, and neurodevelopmental disorders. The key to minimizing risk is proper pesticide use, which includes using only the amount needed and applying it only where and when it is effective.

Choosing the right pesticide means reading and following the product label directions precisely. It is also important to understand how and why a pesticide works, including its potential side effects.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a useful pesticide fact sheet that provides an overview of pesticide types and their effects on humans, other organisms, and the environment. The agency also has a database of registered pesticides and their active ingredients.

Some common pesticides include organophosphates, carbamates, pyrethroids and synthetic pyrethrins. These are often used to control insects, and may act by disrupting nerve-impulse transmission or by interacting with the enzyme that regulates acetylcholine in nerve cells. These pesticides are generally less persistent in soil, food and feed for animals than the organochlorine pesticides (which are being phased out).

Many organic farmers choose to use nontoxic insecticides and fungicides, which are safer for people, pets, and the environment. These are more expensive than conventional pesticides, but they are a sustainable option that helps reduce risks to the environment and human health.

Threshold-based decision-making involves observing and monitoring pest populations to determine whether they are damaging the crop or posing a health threat. For example, a few wasps in the garden don’t warrant pest control; but if you see them consistently and in increasing numbers, it is time to take action.

Pest Control Companies

Pest control companies are essential to protect people, animals and property from pest infestations. They identify and treat infestations before they become a serious problem. They are also trained to handle hazardous chemicals and can provide a more thorough treatment than homeowners could do on their own.

Professionals use a combination of traps, baits, exclusion and chemical treatments to get rid of pests. They can also perform regular inspections and maintenance to prevent a recurrence of pests. Pest control companies are licensed by state departments of agriculture and should have a good reputation in the industry. Check the Better Business Bureau, online reviews and other databases to determine the legitimacy of a company.

When hiring a pest control company, consider their credentials, years of experience and cost of services. Look for a company that offers a free inspection and estimates (to help you decide whether or not their service fits your budget). It is also helpful to find out what kind of guarantee the company offers. Many of the larger pest control companies, such as Orkin and Terminix, offer money back guarantees for their services.

The best pest control companies will be members of the National Pest Management Association or similar trade organizations. This shows that they are committed to a code of ethics and follow best practices in their work. You can also ask a potential pest control company what kind of equipment and supplies they have for treating your home. Some of these tools are hazardous, so it is important to choose a company that uses personal protective equipment for their technicians.

Some pests, such as wasps and hornets, can sting humans multiple times if they are not handled properly. A professional will know how to safely remove these hives and prevent further injury.

In addition to licensing and pesticide applicator certifications, a pest control company should be able to show you a copy of the pesticide labels for each product used in your home. The label will indicate how and where the product should be applied. If a pest control company cannot provide you with this information, it is probably best to hire someone else.