Having a lovely home that you can be proud of is something that everyone has. People want to be able to come home after a long day at work, kick off their shoes, and relax.
What they don’t want to do is come home and find mouse excrement around the baseboards of their kitchen or find fruit flies hovering around their drains. These pests have a way of turning any home into something you would want to avoid at all costs.
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With that said, when you are proactive and do regular pest control, you can easily avoid a situation reminiscent of the 1996 film, Joe’s Apartment (trust us, if cockroaches gross you out, don’t check it out).
As simple as pest control can be, people think that because they don’t see evidence of pests in or around their home, they are in the clear. In fact, it’s a good idea to practice preventive pest control so that you can rest assured by knowing that your home will be pest free.
In this guide, we are going to discuss the different kinds of pests that can run rampant in your home, how to get rid of them, and what kind of preventive measures you’ll want to take to make sure those invasive critters don’t come back.
What Is Considered A ‘Pest’?
A pest isn’t just that annoying acquaintance that shows up at the most inopportune times and makes your life difficult. Pests are insects, animals, and even plants that will cause harm to people, their food sources, and their living conditions. The Department of Health explains what kind of damage a pest can do:
They can carry micro-organisms and parasites that could cause diseases in humans, plants, and animals. For example, a mosquito bite can cause the West Nile Virus, Zika Virus, Malaria, Yellow Fever and other horrible diseases.
Have been known to deplete entire vegetable or grain crops.
Rats And Mices
Rats and Mice can damage stored food, such as grain in silos, rice or bread in your cabinet (or even on the store shelves), and they could even contaminate food indirectly by coming in contact with food preparation surfaces or equipment, thanks to their feces or urine.
Wild animals like foxes, feral dogs, or feral cats can kill and eat livestock. Feral dogs have been known to go after sheep or goats, foxes, and feral cats will kill chickens, lambs, and other wildlife in the area.
Silverfish (a small, wingless bug) can eat holes in your favorite articles of clothing.
Flies and Bed Bugs
Flies, mosquitos, bed bugs and other pests can bite people and be hard or expensive to control. Plus, they can carry diseases, as we already mentioned.
Pests aren’t just insects, rodents, or feral cats and dogs. In fact, there are numerous small animals and rodents that are considered pests.
- Foxes can cause a lot of damage if you have chickens. Not only will they kill the bird, but they’ll eat the eggs. Another problem common with foxes is that they can carry rabies, which is dangerous to people, but especially if your pet has been bitten by an infected fox.
- Moles can ruin your perfectly manicured lawn by pushing up on the soil and causing unsightly ridges and molehills.
- Gophers can cause a lot of problems if you are farming, as they could ruin your crops.
- Badgers can do damage to your crops, but they also like to go after your chickens, too.
- Raccoons are known to carry rabies and pick in your trash, but they also have a habit of getting inside your home through the chimney and even in your attics. They are also known to create an eerie noise that’s quite unsettling. One small word of warning, if you see a raccoon, who are naturally nocturnal, during the day, avoid it at all costs, as it could have rabies.
- Groundhogs will eat everything and anything that you may try growing in your garden. You might think you can keep these pests from making your garden into their very own salad bar by putting up a fence. If you want it to work, you’ll probably have to bury a chicken wire fence 12 inches into the ground.
- Minks will hunt domesticated fowl and can be an unwelcome critter around your farm.
- Skunks have the tendency to dig under the foundation of your home or other structures and cause damage. They also have been known to carry rabies, and we don’t even have to remind you about that pleasant odor they release when they feel threatened.
Most Common Pests You May Encounter
Being clean and keeping your home and yard tidy may seem like a logical step toward pest control, and you’re right, it is. However, if you are living in an urbanized area, you can only do so much to safeguard against unwelcome “guests” because you can’t control outside factors like your neighbors and their housekeeping routines. Because of this, you will probably encounter at least a few common pests.
Here are the most common pests you may see and where they are most likely to breed:
- Flies will gravitate toward trash, food scraps, open sewers, and septic tanks, under eaves, animal feces, and dirty tables and benches.
- Cockroaches tend to hide out behind stoves and refrigerators, under the floorboards of older houses, in cabinets in the kitchen or bathroom, around trash and food scraps.
- Mosquitos can be found wherever it is cool, dark, and there is a source of sitting water, such as a water drain, old tires, garbage cans, septic tanks, natural bodies of water like a pond or puddle.
- Fleas typically thrive in a sandy area until an animal or a human comes by. They will jump onto the animal/person and feed off its blood. If your pets go outside, you have an increased chance of fleas coming inside, and that can be a huge problem because a flea infestation can happen really quickly.
- Rats/Mice will gravitate to any place where they can access food, be it the garbage or in cabinets. They can also be found in sewage pipes, insulation in your walls, under buildings, and outside.
- Bed Bugs are sneaky little devils, as they will hide in cracks or in crevices of luggage or in your bed during the day. Because these bugs tend to hide, they can be brought into your home without your even knowing.
What Type Of Pest Control Is Used In Getting Rid Of Insects?
Pest control is more complex than one may think, as there are different approaches available that can help you get rid of any insects that can wreak havoc on your home and your gardens/crops. Choosing which method is the best pest control for your needs, you first have assessed your particular pest problem.
You don’t want to have to call a professional pest control company to handle a problem that you could easily remedy on your own, nor do you want to get suckered into an ineffective pest control service that doesn’t get to the root of your pest problem.
We are going to talk about the different pest control methods and the situation that could benefit the best from that particular method.
A cultural control method is a modified version of standard farm practices. These modifications are designed to make the environment less desirable for the insects to thrive. These type of cultural controls include:
- Crop Rotation – Crops that are susceptible to pests are replaced with a crop that isn’t as susceptible. These rotations are done every one to two years. An example of this is a corn crop is replaced with soybeans or oats after two years. When the rootworm larvae, who loves corn, is starved out because of the new crop, you can then replant the corn.
- Sanitation – Keeping the areas clean of any plants, soil, fertilizer, or tools that may have come in contact with pests. This means you should regularly keep the floor of the greenhouse clean, weed your crops, and even remove dead or rotting vegetation. You may want to opt to a different fertilizer than manure, as it is a breeding ground for flies.
- Polyculture – This is a practice where you plant several crops close to one another. This method of planting crops makes it difficult for insects to find their “favorite” crop. It also promotes a more favorable habitat that encourages natural enemies for these pests.
- Strip Cropping – This is a practice where field crops are planted in long rows that are parallel to one another. This creates a habitat that is diverse and more desired for natural control.
- Trap Cropping – With this, you are laying a trap for the insects. You are placing their “favorite” food near the crop. This protection draws the bugs to the decoy crop, and your real crops are protected.
Host resistance, or also known as plant resistance, is a reliable pest control method that has been used for many years because it effectively is able to reduce the impact that pests have on crops.
There are some plants that have a natural pest control that makes the plant capable of repelling, killing, or at the very least tolerate any pests that may come its way. It isn’t uncommon for plant breeders to try and capture these characteristics and use them to create new crops that have these characteristics. There are some crops that have undergone these changes, corn, rice, alfalfa, and wheat are just a few examples.
As the name suggests, these methods of pest control use a device or mechanism to prevent insects from becoming a problem. Examples of a physical control are:
Barriers – These items include a screened in the window to prevent pests from getting inside the greenhouse or building. Another example is a floating row cover which typically is used for crops. A plant collar is often used to keep cutworms from getting to your tomatoes.
Traps – These are generally used inside and are used to control an insect problem. An example of traps includes ant traps, cockroach traps, bottle with apple cider vinegar with small holes poked in for fruit flies, and even cardboard bands wrapped around trees can be used to trap larvae.
These types of traps take a direct hand in removing or killing the pest. With these methods of controlling a small pest problem, you can expect a rapid and effective results. These methods are best used for homeowners and gardeners since their pest problem rarely reaches the point where you’d need advanced pest control.
Mechanical controls have very little impact on other creatures that you aren’t intending to get rid of and are ideal for being combined with biological pest control methods. Examples where these are combined include:
Mechanical Control of Pests
- Cultivation – When you expose insects by tilling the ground, they will either be killed or eaten by predatory birds.
- Hand-Picking – This method is useful if you spot insects like a potato beetle, a bean beetle, or a tomato horn worm on your produce. Simply pluck the pest off your plants and kill it.
- Shaking Plants – Shaking your plants will loosen any bugs that may be on the branches. An example of this is using a padded stick and banging on the branches of an apple tree. You’ll then want to collect the fallen weevils on a sheet as they fall.
- Spraying Water – Spray the plants with water to get aphids and mites off of your plants.
Biological control is when you use an organism that will control the pests. Microbial control is the use of viruses, bacteria, and fungi that are harmful to the insects.
This is the use of some form of insecticide that will kill them immediately or will stop the insect from feeding, mating, or other life-sustaining activities. These chemical controls can be natural products or synthesized products that are designed to mimic a natural product.
Repellants/Confusant/Irritant – These aren’t necessarily toxic for the pest, but they inhibit the insect's natural behavior. This, in turn, prevents the bugs from causing any damage to you or your plants.
Insecticides/Miticides – These are commercially available chemicals that will kill pests and mites. These chemicals can either be natural or synthesized.
Integrated Pest Management
This is a blend of all the pest control options. People who use this method understand that it is nearly impossible to rid yourself and your garden of pests, so they use practices that aren’t invasive such as plant resistance, biological control, and even plucking pests from plants.
What Type Of Pest Control Is Used In Getting Rid Of Small Animals?
It can be incredibly frustrating trying to grow a garden or have a lovely flower bed, but the fruits of your labor wind up as a delicious meal for small animals. You don’t want to keep feeding the wildlife, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you want to kill them too. There are a few responsible pest control options that don't require breaking out the rifle.
1. Identify what critter is doing the damage. Way before you even start thinking about your pest control options you have, you want to consider what kind of animal is using your garden as a private buffet. By knowing what animal is doing the damage, you can learn their habits and come up with an effective solution to your pest problem.
2. Make your garden less appealing to small animals. It isn’t as hard as it most likely sounds, trust us. You might be wondering how you can make a garden less appealing and think that you have to have an ugly garden. That isn’t the case. What you have to do is get rid of any areas where the animals can hide or create a nest—this includes removing brush piles and cutting tall grass.
You’ll also want to seal off the empty space under your deck or steps. If you have a compost pile, consider covering it with a tarp so that animals won’t be able to get in and forage for food.
3. Consider the various control methods. There are several ways you can control your small animal problem:
- Eradication- With this option, you are actually shooting or killing the animal. Either you use a BB Gun, a rifle, trap, or poison. Before you decide one of these methods are your best bet, you’ll have to check the zoning restrictions for your area. Of course, we recommend that you take a less gruesome approach.
- Repellents - You’ve heard the old wives tales where you can sprinkle cayenne pepper, hot sauce, or even use garlic cloves or mothballs in your garden to deter animals from coming near your garden. These actually work! You can also use castor oil or even predator urine to scare the animal away. Of course, we should mention that you can also use visual or auditory devices that will scare pests away.1
- Pets: You might think that it is counter-productive to have pets near your garden, but they can help keep other critters away. Cats are great little hunters if you have a rodent problem and dogs are good at deterring larger animals like rabbits or raccoons.
- Live Traps - These traps are used to capture the animal, then you release them into the wild. These traps don’t kill the animal, and they are perfect if you don’t have an infestation of small animals. We should mention that there are some states that have laws against relocating captured wildlife, so you might want to consult your state laws first.
- Fences - Perhaps the most effective and least harmful way of keeping small animals from getting to your garden is by using a fence around the perimeter. These can be permanent structures, or temporary, depending on your garden.
How To Know If You Need A Pest Control Professional?
If you’ve already tried the pest control methods we’ve discussed in this article with less than desirable results, you might want to consider calling a professional. Most pest control contractors will use modern pest control devices and chemicals that are safe to be used around children and pets. These professionals will know how to keep the unwelcome animals or bugs from returning to your home for the long haul.
What people may not realize about hiring a professional is that they are trained in this sort of thing. They are familiar with techniques for eliminating all sorts of pests in the most effective way at an affordable price. These professionals understand the pests’ life cycle, their habits, what works and what doesn’t.
Because professional pest control personnel are highly trained, people hesitate to call for help because they are afraid of the cost of the service. What’s nice about hiring a professional is that most instances, the pro will come to your home and offer a free estimate.
In some cases, these professionals may even have a few referrals for contractors that can make repairs to any damage that may have incurred because of the pest. This is especially helpful if termites or carpenter ants caused any structural damage to your home, shed, or even garage.
What To Keep In Mind When Choosing a Pest Control Company?
After you’ve looked at your home and realized that your pest problem is more than you can control, you’re probably going to start looking into hiring a pest control professional. However, there are so many different companies available, do you know what how to choose the company that can best suit your particular needs?
Just like with other services, you want to hire the company that provides excellent quality for the value. The cost and the competency are important when choosing a pest control service, but they shouldn’t be the only factors that you pay attention to. For example, if the company isn’t competent, they could use pesticides that could be harmful to you, your children, and your pets.
Before you settle down and choose which company is a right fit for you, The EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) suggests that you keep these tips in mind:
Take your time and research the company you are interested in hiring. Although you may want your pest problem gone immediately, you don’t want to be too hasty in making a choice because it could cost you a small fortune—not just the pest control service itself, but any potential damage if they aren’t a reputable company.
Get some information from the company:
- How many years has the company been operational, if it isn’t a nation-wide or well-known company?
- A list of references.
- Whether the person is performing the service is certified and licensed in applying the pesticide, or if they are a licensed technician.
- If they are willing to provide you with a copy of labels of the pesticides being used, as well as the pest control license and their rates.
Avoid These Companies
Things to watch out for when looking for a pest control company:
Common Mistakes When Hiring Pest Control Company
- Do not hire someone who is willing to do a package deal, such as a home repair, tree removal, or even a price reduction if the job is done immediately.
- Their phone number isn’t listed, or it doesn’t work.
- If you are elderly or disabled and you live alone, do not entertain any offers from “professionals” that offer their services door-to-door. Many times these people are scam artists and are looking to take advantage of you. Always check their credentials and their identification.
- Be wary of any professional that shows up to your door unannounced with bugs that they claim to have found at a neighbor’s house. They will try to tell you it is a neighborhood infestation, but there is no telling where those bugs really came from!
- If they offer you a per-gallon price quote, do not accept their service. Why? Some instances pest control, such as termites, for example, will require several hundred gallons of diluted insecticide. See how that low per-gallon price can quickly skyrocket?
- If they try to pressure you into signing a contract that you do not have a chance to read right away. Some tactics they may use to get you to sign a contract may include a rotting tree that could fall on your roof or car, or they may say things that your house’s structure isn’t safe, and it could collapse if the bug infestation goes untreated.
- Do not do business with anyone that claims to have extra pesticides from another job and will severely discount their services as long as you act right away.
- Be wary of professionals that claim to be backed by the USDA, the EPA, or another government agency. The government doesn’t endorse any specific companies or products. Don’t fall for it!
Active Pest Control Can Eliminate Future Headaches
Being proactive with your pest control is something that every homeowner should consider—especially if you have a garden or a flower bed that you are proud of. All sorts of insects and small animals (even birds!) can take all of your hard work and ruin it in no time, and we don’t have to tell you how disheartening it can be to see all that time and effort be wasted.
There are many methods of pest control that you could choose from. Most of the time, people take precautions against vermin without needing to call in the professionals. Each time you clear away the weeds and other debris from your garden, you’re eliminating nesting grounds and hiding spots for small animals that could move in and call these places home.
When you put up a fence or erect a scarecrow, you’re keeping the small animals out of the garden area altogether.
For bugs, it isn’t always so easy to keep them at bay. Sure, you can use ant and cockroach traps, flycatchers and fly swatters, but sometimes that isn’t going to be enough. You might choose to use pesticides that you find at your local hardware store, and that can work for a little bit. However, in the instances where you have a serious infestation, you may have to call in the professionals.
It is important that we take care of our homes and ensure that they are free from small animals and insects. These pests can carry diseases like rabies, Malaria, Zika Virus for example, that could make your pets and loved ones very ill. With proper prevention and control, you can eliminate the chances of getting sick.
When you do realize that you have a pest problem, before you do go out and purchase pest control supplies, you want to pinpoint what kind of pest problem you have, and whether it will be easy enough for you to manage, or if you have to call a licensed and certified professional. Either way, once you get your pest problem handled, you’ll be able to sleep better at night!