Pest Control

Starting Strong: Essential Basics for Effective Pest Control

Pests are organisms that damage or interfere with desirable plants in our fields and orchards, landscapes, and homes or that harm human or animal health. Pests can be weeds, vertebrates (birds and rodents), invertebrates (insects, nematodes, or pathogens), or other unwanted organisms. Contact Killian Pest Control now!

pest control

Pest control is the process of reducing pest numbers to an acceptable level. It includes prevention, suppression, and eradication.

Pest control is most effective when it is undertaken before a pest problem arises. This is generally referred to as preventative pest control. Prevention includes such activities as monitoring, scouting and trapping. It may also include soil testing, irrigation, and plant nutrition management.

Physical controls kill or block pests by making the environment unsuitable for them. Traps for rodents and netting for mosquitoes are examples of physical controls. Chemicals such as herbicides, fungicides and insecticides are used to kill or control plant diseases, insects, and weeds. Often, these substances are applied to the soil or to the leaves of the affected plants.

The ability of pests to survive, grow and reproduce can be limited by destroying their roosts or food sources, or by blocking access to water. Natural features such as mountains and large bodies of water can limit the spread of many pests. The availability of shelter and the ability to escape from predators can also affect pest populations.

Some pests can be controlled without the use of chemicals. Good sanitation practices can reduce pest numbers and their impact. Sanitation can include cleaning equipment, sanitizing tools and storage areas, removing trash regularly and improving the design of buildings and structures. Sanitation also can include sanitizing compost and manure piles to reduce the spread of pests, and proper garbage handling to minimize carryover of pests from one site to another.

Other forms of pest control are usually aimed at altering the environment in which the pests live. This might be achieved through planting of resistant varieties, habitat manipulation, crop rotation, and modification of cultural practices.

A good pest management plan takes into account the actions of all organisms in an ecosystem. It also considers the effects of those organisms on their host, weeds, other pests and beneficial organisms, the surrounding environment, and human health. The plan is designed to achieve pest control with as little harm as possible to non-target organisms. The plans are based on three basic objectives: prevention, suppression and eradication. The aim is to reduce pest populations to an acceptable level with the least amount of harm or cost.

Pests can cause damage to buildings and the environment as well as causing health problems such as allergic reactions and asthma. The aim of pest control is to stop them from reaching a level that causes unacceptable harm, using various methods such as prevention and suppression.

Pest control includes a wide range of techniques, from changing environmental conditions that favor pests to introducing natural enemies of the pests to killing them directly. The use of chemicals is also a way to kill and repel pests, and can be a part of a wider approach known as Integrated Pest Management (IPM).

The key to effective pest control is knowing what kind of pest you are dealing with. Identifying the pest correctly can save time and money and reduce off-target effects, such as killing beneficial insects. Insects that look like pests can be difficult to distinguish from non-target insects, especially when they are attracted to light. A few spiders or house centipede sightings may be a sign that other insect pests are under control, for example by eating the pests.

There are two broad types of pests: continuous pests, such as cockroaches and termites; and sporadic pests, such as beetles, caterpillars, flies, mosquitoes and weeds. Continuous pests need regular monitoring to establish when their numbers reach threshold levels that require control measures. Sporadic pests need less frequent monitoring but must be controlled regularly, usually when their numbers build up to unacceptable levels.

Chemical methods of controlling pests include spraying the pests with poisonous gases, as well as more targeted treatments such as baits and traps. The type of chemical used depends on the type of pest and the environment in which it is found. In homes, the most common pest control method is spraying rooms with a pesticide to get rid of pests such as ants, cockroaches and bed bugs.

Some plants, animals, and building materials resist pests better than others. Choosing resistant varieties or materials can help keep pest numbers below harmful levels by making it harder for them to thrive in the environment. This can be as simple as planting a garden with a mixture of hardy and delicate flowers to discourage insects, or as complicated as boosting the numbers of nematodes in soil to help control plant pathogens.

The goal of eradication is to eliminate a pest from an area to the point where recolonization is not possible. This usually involves an intensive and expensive control program. Because of the difficulty and expense associated with eradicating pests, this option should be considered only when it is the best alternative for protecting crops, pets or public health.

Eradication can be difficult to accomplish because of the number of eggs a pest produces and the length of its life cycle. Also, there may be a time lag between the appearance of a pest and its first impact on crops. Therefore, if a pest is found, it should be controlled immediately to prevent a more severe problem.

In addition to using traps and sticky cards to monitor pest populations, a variety of physical barriers can be used to exclude pests from an area, including fences, nets and mulch. The physical removal of the pest or its harborage can also be accomplished by hand picking, digging or spraying. In some cases, it is necessary to destroy the organism by chemical means in order to prevent re-invasion or to protect human health and the environment.

Certain species of plants and animals are considered pests because they interfere with humans’ use of the land. The presence of these organisms reduces the availability, quality, or value of a resource and often has negative environmental or economic impacts. For example, some plant species that are not native to Florida can be considered pests because they damage crops and create competition with native plants. Some animal species, such as rodents and insects, can also be considered pests when they invade homes or offices, spoil food in restaurants or otherwise disrupt human activities.

Eradication is the first goal of regulatory agencies when new invasive pests are discovered in Florida. For instance, the Mediterranean fruit fly was eradicated because it threatened many of Florida’s citrus crops. The success of eradication depends on the time of year, when and where the pest occurs, its life cycle, and how it spreads in relation to human activity. When a threshold level is reached, it’s important to select an insecticide that kills only the pest, not beneficial insects, and to apply it when conditions are right for its effectiveness.

Biological control is the use of natural enemies (predators, parasitoids, or nematodes) to reduce pest populations and their damage to plants. This form of pest control is environmentally sound and has a very high cost-benefit ratio, often more favorable than chemical controls. It is especially important in organic agriculture, but also in conventional crops where a sustainable approach to agriculture should be promoted.

Unlike chemical insecticides, which can be toxic to the beneficial insects and mites that help protect our crops, the natural enemies used in biological control are usually very specific. In addition, the biological control agent may require a certain time to become established in the agroecosystem, and it may need to be repeated to obtain adequate control (see below).

The use of natural enemies is ancient; for example, the Chinese augmented the population of predatory ants that preyed on citrus pests by transporting them from their native habitats. Modern biological control consists of three main strategies:

Classical biological control, where natural enemies are imported from the pest’s country of origin and released in their new environment (e.g. the destruction of cottony cushion scale I. purchasi on California citrus crops by the parasitic ant Coccophagus gurneyi and the dipteran parasitoid Cryptochaetum iceryae); augmentation, where existing natural enemies are augmented by the introduction of other species (e.g. a nematode introduced from Australia to control root knotweed Nemosporium oryzae in Japan); and conservation biology, where native natural enemies are conserved to provide an agroecosystem with the natural enemy it needs to sustain itself (e.g. the preservation of predatory ants in orchards by judicious use of acaricides).

In practice, the most difficult problem in biological control is to obtain sufficient numbers of natural enemies of the target pest, and this requires good monitoring. For this reason, it is important to maintain a good relationship with pest specialists and other natural enemies, as well as with plant breeders. Judicious selection of crop plants for cultivation, careful management of the agroecosystem to facilitate the establishment of natural enemies, and the use of nonpersistent pesticides that do not harm beneficial organisms are also essential.