The Basics of Pest Control

Pests cause damage to crops, gardens, homes and other structures. They also contaminate food and daily-use items.

Pest problems can be obvious, such as mice scurrying in the attic or termites eating wood beams. Or, they can be less apparent — unexplained noises in the middle of the night or odd smells in the pantry. Click to know more.

Pest control is a necessary part of hygiene management and prevents or reduces the impact of harmful pests in the environment. Rodents and insects can damage properties or buildings, contaminate food and other daily-use items and cause or make worse existing health problems such as allergies or asthma.

There are a range of physical pest control methods that can be used in the home, workplace or garden. These include blocking holes in walls or doors, temperature control techniques, removing food sources and destroying breeding sites. Often these methods are best for small infestations and can be combined with more targeted treatment approaches.

Chemical pest control includes the use of sprays, gases, baits and other substances that poison and kill targeted pests. Only qualified and licensed pest control technicians should be allowed to use chemical pesticides, as they are often toxic if ingested or come into contact with humans or animals. Over treating and prolonged use of chemicals can lead to pesticide resistance, which makes it harder to achieve satisfactory results in the future.

Prevention is one of the most important forms of pest control and should always be a primary focus when dealing with any pest infestation. Keeping the environment as uninviting as possible to pests is the key to effective and sustainable pest control. This means ensuring that all rubbish is regularly removed from the property, sealing cracks and crevices in the home, keeping garbage bins tightly closed, fixing leaky pipes and regularly cleaning outdoor areas of the home to remove rotting food sources and nesting spots.

It is also important to understand that a pest’s environment can impact how they respond to treatments and how quickly they develop an ability to adapt to the treatments. For example, cockroaches are known to fly in through open windows and gaps under doors, into laundry tubs and up drains. As such, a homeowner should not be alarmed if they see an increase in pest activity after an initial treatment.

Prevention is easier and less expensive than eradicating an established pest infestation, so don’t give up! Ask your pest control technician about how you can help to minimise the likelihood of pests coming into your home or workplace.


Pests are a major problem for homes and businesses alike, not only because they can cause damage but also because they can carry pathogens that threaten human health. These include rodents (which can chew through wires causing fires) and insects, which can bite or sting people, as well as contaminate food and other items.

Preventing a pest infestation is the main aim of any pest control strategy. This involves taking measures to prevent pests from being able to access food, water and shelter on the premises. It includes keeping the workplace clean and removing clutter, which can provide places for pests to breed or hide, as well as closing off spaces where they can enter. It also includes fixing leaky pipes and addressing any issues with ventilation.

Suppression is often the second stage of pest control, and involves using chemical or biological methods to kill existing pests and deter new ones from entering. This can include spraying insecticides or fungicides around the premises, or baiting pests with food like peanut butter, which will lure them into traps where they will be killed. It can also involve using parasitic nematodes, which work in a similar way to pesticides but are natural and not harmful to humans.

Biological pest control involves the use of other organisms to reduce pest numbers, and is generally considered to be more sustainable than simply using chemicals. This can include introducing predators to an environment to take out pests, or encouraging natural pest-control organisms such as nematodes to live in the soil, where they will naturally reduce pest populations.

Other forms of pest control can include physical trapping and killing, or putting up barriers to stop them from entering a building in the first place. This can include putting up bird nets to prevent the entry of pigeons or seagulls, and it may also involve using predatory animals such as cats to keep mice and rats away from fields and houses.

It is important to remember that pest control can only be effective if preventive measures are taken as well, and this should always be the priority. Professionals who deal with pest control are well-versed in the different methods of dealing with infestations, and they can advise clients on the best course of action to take.


The goal of eradication is to eliminate pests from an area to the point where they cannot recolonize. This is a difficult and costly proposition, and it is generally only undertaken for pests that pose serious health and economic problems, such as the screwworm, gypsy moth, or polio. Successful eradication programs usually involve vaccination rather than chemical control, since the former is a more straightforward endeavor.

The word eradicate came into English in the 16th century from the Latin verb eradicare, meaning to uproot or remove something completely. The term is a metaphor for yanking out an undesirable plant by its roots, and it is used to describe the elimination of pests that damage property or food production. Eradication is a rare goal in outdoor pest situations, but it is occasionally attempted.

Suppression and prevention are often joint goals for indoor pests, particularly those that are found in buildings. Insecticides and other chemicals are commonly used for this purpose, but other methods are also available. For example, displacement of air with inert gases such as carbon dioxide or nitrogen can reduce insect populations by depriving them of oxygen and thus killing them. This method is often impractical for use in buildings, however.

Other methods include monitoring and detection, using traps, and using physical controls such as nets or barriers to prevent pests from entering a particular area. The use of natural substances to control pests can also be effective. For instance, pheromones and juvenile hormones can be used to control insects that are at the larval stage of their life cycle.

In order to be considered effective, any type of pest control strategy must consider the impact on people and the environment as well as the costs and benefits. Careful planning and use of the right techniques are essential for success. A multifaceted approach is often necessary, and it is important to follow local, state, and federal laws that apply to pest control. Regardless of the strategy chosen, it is always wise to obtain independent advice by specialists in order to avoid unnecessary treatment and to ensure that it is carried out correctly and in accordance with the law.

Biological Control

Biological control is the use of living organisms (either natural enemies or predators) to suppress pest populations below damaging or intolerable levels. Farmers practice biological control in three ways: they import, augment or conserve and encourage natural enemies. Importation involves bringing in natural enemies from other areas, typically by rearing them. This requires extensive research into the biology of a given pest and its potential natural enemies, plus a quarantine stage to ensure that a new species won’t introduce pathogens or parasites to local ecosystems.

Augmentation involves increasing the number or effectiveness of natural enemies in a given area. It is the most common form of biological control in gardens, greenhouses and some fruit and vegetable fields. For example, if stink bugs are causing severe damage to lychee flowers and fruits in an orchard, the introduction of more of the wasps that prey on these insects, from a supplier, could help reduce pest damage below an economic threshold.

Some types of biocontrol agents are effective against more than one type of pest. For example, a variety of bacteria produce antimicrobial compounds that can kill the caterpillars of several different butterfly species. Other types of biocontrol agents target diseases caused by viruses or fungi.

Conservation biological control is when people preserve the population of natural enemies that naturally exist in or near their field. This strategy is often used to control invasive plants, such as purple loosestrife. For example, landowners may conserve the populations of predatory mites that prey on this plant and use them to control other invasive species in nearby fields. Induced resistance is another form of biocontrol, where a crop’s intrinsic defenses are mobilized by the presence of certain microorganisms, such as the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis. This bacterium can release chemical compounds that induce the plant to produce its own defensive compounds to fend off disease-causing pathogens. However, these mechanisms are not widely used for crop protection. For more information, visit the MU Extension’s Integrated Pest Management webpages. Also, check out MU’s Pest Control Resources webpages for links to publications and videos.