Typical household insects include roaches, ants, silverfish, earwigs, bed bugs, and spiders. The strategy for managing these pests used to be limited to one tactic: applying synthetic pesticides. Now, both homeowners and pest control professionals prefer to use potentially harmful chemicals more judiciously, favoring a more comprehensive approach. In addition to the targeted application of synthetic pesticides, professionals also use natural pesticides, set traps, eliminate habitats that may harbor pests, and make repairs that prevent pests from entering the home at all.
This comprehensive approach to pest management is safer for the health of homeowners, children, pets, and the environment. It is also effective; however, the effectiveness may be long or short term, depending upon the kind of treatment applied. Homeowners can ensure long-term protection with a pest control service contract, or they can ask a professional for a one-time solution to a specific problem.
A multi-pronged approach—chemical as well as various nonchemical treatments—is also effective against outdoor pests like mosquitoes, fleas, and insects that attack plants or crawl indoors. Treatments are usually applied around the perimeter of the home, to areas of standing water, and to dense undergrowth that can harbor insects. A pest management professional will likely recommend nonchemical, preventative measures that homeowners should take themselves, including dumping rainwater from flowerpots and other containers, caulking foundation cracks, and filling open tree holes with sand.
When it comes to bees and wasps, treatments with widely applied insecticides are generally discouraged; because of their role as pollinators, bees and wasps should be regarded as beneficial insects. A well-trained pest control professional will be able to eliminate the swarm without harming the insects in addition to removing the hive or nest the right way—safely, humanely, and with minimal impact on the ecosystem.
Squirrels. Seeking warm, safe nesting locations, squirrels sometimes invade unprotected attics. They may enter through a small, existing hole or chew through wood to gain access. Solving the problem usually involves trapping the offending squirrel, relocating the animal so that it will not return to the nest, sanitizing the nest area, and repairing or closing entryways to the attic. Problems with squirrels and other animals should be addressed as quickly as possible. Animals can get settled and cause significant damage in a relatively short period of time, so it’s important to have them removed before the problems escalate.
Mice and rats. Mice and rats commonly live in groups. If you see one of these rodents, it is likely that you have many more. They may look cute in photographs, but mice and rats can be the cause of significant structural damage to a home. They also carry and spread germs, bacteria, and diseases that can be harmful to humans. Watch for signs that rodents have taken up residence. If you hear scratching sounds in the walls or see droppings, rub marks, or evidence of a nest, call a professional.
Ridding your house of mice and rats usually involves baiting and trapping them, removing or disposing of them, and then preventing their reentry. The exclusion method, which involves finding and sealing up all gaps larger than a dime, is the best way to prevent rodent access. As a bonus, you may even save money on power bills by sealing up these holes and gaps that were allowing warm air to escape. It is a good idea to get into the habit of inspecting the home periodically since time, weather, and persistent pests can eventually create new holes and gaps. If such points of entry are caught and sealed up quickly, you will be less likely to have recurring problems with rodents and other unwanted pests.
Stinging insects. Due to their painful stings, yellow jackets, hornets, bees, wasps, and the like can be a problem for many homeowners. Carpenter bees, in particular, can cause damage to a building’s structure by drilling holes into wood. The poisonous sting of a yellow jacket can be very painful to humans, so if they are found in or around a home, they must be removed. Yellow jackets can take up residence in attics or soffits and will defend their colonies if they feel the colony has come under attack. Homeowners should not attempt to remove a stinging insect nest themselves; call a professional pest control company instead.
Homeowners living in areas of the country with high temperatures and humidity levels are at an increased risk for termite infestation, but termites can strike almost anywhere. Most residential termite damage is the result of infestations of subterranean termites. Subterranean termites live in the ground and build mud tubes to help them travel from their colony to a food source. Since termites eat wood, unprotected homes are an easy target.
Deter termites by removing firewood and moving landscaping elements such as mulch and sod at least six to eight inches from the foundation of the house. Termites also require moisture to breed efficiently, so repairing leaks, sealing structural breaches, and keeping gutters clean (to prevent water from spilling onto the ground near the base of the house) are of paramount importance.
Most homeowners’ insurance policies do not cover termite damage, so even if you have not yet encountered termites in your home, consider seeking out a company that performs documented termite inspections. Many pest control companies sell either a “Termite Re-treatment” bond or a “Termite Re-treatment and Repair” bond. The “Termite Re-treatment” bond promises repeat treatments if termites come back but does not offer compensation for any termite damage that might have occurred. A “Termite Re-treatment and Repair” bond provides both treatment and compensation for termite damage. Termite bonds typically require a large first-year treatment fee for the inspection and initial treatment and a much smaller annual maintenance fee for ongoing annual inspections and liability.
Intrusions from wildlife and insects can quickly turn your home and yard into an uncomfortable and unsafe place. A good pest control company will help ensure that your home is protected from both the occasional pest and recurring nuisances.
Because of the chemicals used, the pest control industry is highly regulated. Individual service representatives must be registered in order to use pesticides. You can do your part in pest prevention by securely storing food inside the home and promptly removing trash and debris.