Pest control is the process of managing the presence and impact of unwanted organisms. It involves balancing the need to protect our food, property and health against the harm some organisms can cause, especially when they invade human spaces. It also considers the role that these organisms play in wider habitat and food chains. Control strategies include prevention, suppression and eradication. Prevention is the most desirable goal, as it allows us to prevent pests from becoming a problem in the first place. Suppression is the reduction of pest numbers to an acceptable level, while eradication is the destruction of a pest population entirely.
Many pest problems can be prevented by denying them the food, water or shelter they need to survive and reproduce. This is called Integrated Pest Management (IPM). IPM starts with regular searches for, identification and assessment of pests and their damage. This can be done by scouting (regular searching for and monitoring of pests) and by inspection of structures more information such as homes for signs of infestation.
IPM also tries to make sure that there are adequate natural enemies of the pests present. If these are not available, biological control is sometimes used. To be successful, biological control requires a thorough understanding of the pest’s biology, potential native enemy species, their ecology and life cycles. This information is then used to search for, collect and release suitable natural enemies into the landscape. This can be expensive and time consuming. It can also have unintended consequences such as disrupting the natural enemies’ own populations or other ecosystems.
Physical control of pests is another option, and can be very effective in some situations. This includes repairing or replacing damaged items in the home before they become a source of food for pests, such as rotted floorboards and tree stumps which could attract wood-eating insects. Regular removal of weeds and other debris from garden areas, and keeping rubbish bins and compost heaps tightly closed can deprive pests of their hiding places.
Finally, mechanical pest control is sometimes used. This can include picking or scraping off pests, such as cockroaches and ants, or spraying them with insecticides. It is important that any pest control methods are carefully chosen and applied, so as not to upset the balance of nature or to cause unnecessary harm to humans or their pets.
Many pesticides are now available that have low risks when used correctly, and are designed to be as environmentally friendly as possible. Before using any pesticides, it is important to read and follow the label’s instructions and safety warnings. If you are unsure how to apply a pesticide safely, consult your local, State or Federal Government agencies that regulate structural pest control.