When you see a roach or some other pest scurrying across your kitchen floor, your knee-jerk reaction is probably to give grab a can of bug spray and give them the good old Chemical Ali treatment. Seeing that roach squirm in agony before finally shriveling and curling up into an exoskeletal corpse, legs up in the air, can be oddly satisfying. However, you might want to think twice about using pesticides; a CDC study estimates that Americans have an average of 43 different pesticides in their bloodstreams, and for sure they are a catalyst for many different health conditions. Children, who are less resilient, are even more susceptible compared to adults.
Health concerns aside, pesticides aren’t always that effective because they don’t kill off pests at every stage of their life cycles. For example, most conventional flea treatments only target full grown fleas. What about those those flea eggs and pupae that are hidden from sight in your carpets or curtains? Those will eventually evolve into full grown fleas that will continue pestering you to no end. There’s this really good guide on how to get rid of fleas that you can check out though. For general pesticides, if used against an ant colony and they don’t kill them off, it can backfire and spur a division of the colony into multiple colonies with increased production. In general, insects often develop pesticide resistance fairly quickly. Fortunately, there are often safer and non-chemical methods that you can use instead. A method known as IPM which stands for Integrated Pets Management, focuses on prevention first and pesticides as an absolute last resort. This makes it both environmentally friendly and budget friendly as well. Let’s see how IPM works.
Step 1: Seal Everything Up
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Prevent pests from entering your house in the first place. Ripped door screen or window? Repair it? Cracks in your bathroom and kitchen? Seal it up with silicone caulk. For the rest of your house, pay attention to openings that are bigger than a quarter of an inch wide. Plug it up with steel wool (don’t use plastic or wood, vermin can chew through those).
Step 2: Hygiene
Now that your house is a fort, it’s time to starve out any remaining ones. Make sure they don’t have the food, water, and shelter they need to survive. Holes in your floorboards? Replace immediately before they get infested by ants or termites. Got stacks of old newspapers piled up somewhere like an episode of hoarders? Recycle them before they become material for rats to build their nests. And for god’s sake, be more diligent with your housekeeping! Mop, sweep, and vacuum regularly (once a month is not regularly). Take the garbage out daily, and keep the trash cans clean from any food residue. Don’t leave leftovers uncovered and keep your ripe fruit in the fridge. Clean your pet’s bedding once a week. And one last thing people overlook: fix leaky pipes and faucets as they create damp spots which are ideal breeding grounds for household pests.
Step 3: Kill Them with Your Green Thumb
Time to go old school. Reach for the flyswatter; sweep up bugs and their nests into sealed vacuum bags which will cut off their air supply. Use non-toxic bait. Boric acid is fine; a slow acting poison to insects but is fairly harmless to humans (definitely less harmless than pesticides). Spread boric acid in your cracks and crevices. You can also use insecticidal soaps to wash affected areas of your home (while less toxic than pesticides, it can be harmful if accidentally ingested).
Step 4: Pesticides, the Last Resort Big Guns
If your other methods fail, you can use pesticides but IPM recommends using them sparingly, as spot treatments instead of broad scale dispersal. Try to use pesticides with the lowest toxicity rating (they will be labelled IV on a scale of I to IV). Never ever exceed the application quantity stated on the label and make sure to wear gloves and masks. If your home is clean and sealed, careful and responsible pesticide use should end the infestation once and for all.
Step 5: The Final Solution, the Professionals
If all else has failed then you have no choice but to call in the professionals. Just make sure that any service you call meets the following criteria:
- Licensed in your state
- Certified by programs such as Green Shield, GreenPro, and EcoWise
- Comes with a list of references
- Written guarantee of service
- Carefully explains in detail the causes and solutions to your pest problems
- Provides a detailed written report of findings, costs, and recommended treatments
- Gives you a long-term sustainable strategy for preventing further infestations
- Schedules a follow-up visit
There you have it; Integrated Pest Management in a nutshell. If you are facing pest problems but are iffy about using strong, almost industrial-grade chemicals, why not give IPM a shot?