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Pest Control

Understanding Pest Control: An Overview 

Pest Control

Treasure Valley Pest Control prevents unwanted organisms from harming plants, crops or animals. Action thresholds – a level at which an unacceptable amount of damage occurs – determine when to take action.

Environmental factors restrict pest populations, such as topography or climate. Biological controls use natural enemies to reduce pest numbers, such as releasing ladybugs to eat aphids.

When pests are encountered, it is important to correctly identify them. This information can help determine if control is necessary, appropriate, and effective, and also helps select the most suitable control method. Proper pest identification involves examining the organism’s characteristics and habitat, habits, damage symptoms, and threats.

In general, a pest is any living or nonliving thing that causes economic or other physical damage to the plant or animal it infests, or interferes with the normal use of the site where it occurs. This includes, but is not limited to, disease agents, mites, weeds, insects, birds, mammals, and vertebrates.

To help in pest identification, the USDA’s National Plant Protection Institute has an excellent insect photo library. This enables the rapid, accurate, and reliable identification of many insect species by a computerized comparison to images of similar specimens. It can be accessed by visiting the link above. This is an alternative to a traditional morphological examination of physical specimens, which can take days or weeks, and is only available at USDA labs that have the required equipment.

Some pests can be identified on their own by using simple keys or resources, while others require that a sample be carefully collected and sent to an expert for identification. If in doubt, contact your local Cooperative Extension office or the state IPM program for assistance.

Once the pest is identified, you can develop an Integrated Pest Management plan to eliminate or reduce the population, without the use of chemical controls unless they are necessary. Considerations include removing the infested plant and replacing it with a more disease-resistant cultivar, modifying cultural practices (e.g., pruning, watering, and soil management) to minimize the likelihood of pest problems, and providing beneficial insects with an alternative host or habitat.

In addition, it may be possible to introduce natural enemies of the pest into the area, if they are present. Finally, least-toxic control methods should always be considered before introducing any chemicals into the environment. This is especially true in urban and residential areas, where other living and nonliving things share the same habitat as the pests.

Prevention

Pests can cause a lot of damage to our homes and businesses. In addition to the obvious health issues, such as food contamination and allergic reactions, they can also cause structural damage to our buildings and infrastructure. Rodents, for example, gnaw through electrical wiring, potentially leading to fires. Taking a preventive approach to pest control can minimize the risks of these damaging pests.

Pest management involves three broad categories: prevention, suppression and eradication. Prevention is a goal of most pest control strategies and involves keeping a pest from becoming a problem in the first place. This can be accomplished by inspections and applying sanitation practices. It can also include physical methods, such as sealing and caulking cracks and holes to block pest entryways, or chemical methods, such as ultra-low volume (ULV) fogging.

Preventing pest infestations is not always easy, but it is possible with good hygiene and regular inspections by a trained professional. For example, woodpiles should be kept away from the house, eaves should be regularly cleaned and gutters should be free of debris that might attract pests. Inside the home, keeping garbage cans tightly closed, washing out empty food containers and removing clutter can help prevent pest problems. Regular exterior inspections should be done as well, to look for places that insects can enter the building, such as cracks in the foundation, loose siding or open vents.

Many pests cannot be completely eliminated from the environment because they play an important role in nature and natural food chains. The goal of pest control is to manage them so that they cause acceptable levels of harm, while causing as little harm to other organisms and the environment as possible.

A number of natural forces affect pest populations, including climate, natural enemies, and the availability of food and shelter. Climate, such as temperature, humidity and rainfall, can directly affect a pest’s ability to reproduce and to thrive. Natural enemies, such as predators, parasites and pathogens, can reduce the size of a pest population. The availability of food and water can also influence pests, as can the presence of natural barriers, such as mountains or bodies of water.

Suppression

A pest control objective is to reduce a population below a level at which it causes economic damage. This is usually accomplished by a combination of methods. Prevention and suppression are often viewed together in the context of integrated pest management (IPM).

A key to successfully managing pests is to know when to intervene. This involves monitoring the pests for signs of a problem, including numbers and damage, as well as environmental conditions such as temperature and relative humidity. Monitoring can be done by trapping, scouting or inspecting crops and by checking weeds, vertebrates and invertebrates for damage.

Suppression can be achieved by using cultural practices to deprive the pests of food or shelter. For example, plowed soils provide little shelter for insects; crop rotation, proper sanitation of greenhouse and field equipment, and clean seeds or transplants can reduce the carryover of some insect pests from one planting to the next; and properly timed irrigation can avoid periods of wet, high relative humidity that encourage disease pests.

Another approach to suppression is the use of natural enemies to reduce pest populations to subeconomic levels. These are organisms that naturally occur in the environment and attack or parasitize specific pest species. Examples include tachinid flies that parasitize mites in orchards, trichogramma wasps that attack the eggs and larvae of fruit rot diseases and encarsia formosa, a wasp that attacks greenhouse whitefly.

Biological control can also be augmented by purchasing and releasing more natural enemies to overwhelm existing populations of the pests or to introduce new ones not previously present in the area. This is called augmentation biological control and is a component of IPM. Examples of augmentation include the release of sterile males to interrupt the reproduction of the pest or the use of pheromones that interfere with normal mating.

Other suppression tactics include the use of chemical controls to kill or repel the pests. Pesticides that are registered as IPM pest control products include repellents, fungicides, herbicides and insect growth regulators. These are usually applied to the leaves, stems or fruit of plants to kill or repel the target pest.

Treatment

Pests are organisms that interfere in human environments, damaging or spoiling possessions and/or posing a health risk. They include bacteria (food borne), fungus, weeds, rodents, insects and birds. Pest control involves reducing the pest population to a level that is acceptable in a particular environment. This can be achieved through prevention, suppression or eradication.

The most effective way to prevent pests is to create unfavourable conditions for them. This can be done by blocking points of entry with quality sealants and fitting wire mesh on drains and pipes, storing food in sealed containers, removing trash on a regular basis, keeping kitchen benches sanitised and cleaning food sensitive items such as chopping boards, cutleries and drinking cups. It is also advisable to leave out baits and traps only in areas that are not frequented by people or pets, such as along skirting boards. The use of surface sprays should be limited to the outside and away from food preparation areas.

Prevention can be a continuous activity, performed fortnightly or monthly in low pest infestation situations. This can be supplemented by treatment during certain periods of the year, depending on environmental and situational factors such as weather, mosquito clusters or construction works that force pests to relocate.

Suppression is the more common goal in outdoor pest situations, reducing pest numbers to an acceptable level and preventing their return to unacceptable levels. Suppression is often combined with prevention in order to reduce the frequency of treatments and the amount of pesticide used.

Eradication is rarely a goal in outdoor pest situations, however in enclosed environments such as houses and offices it is possible to achieve. This can be accomplished by introducing resistant varieties of plants, animals and woods that are less attractive to pests or harder to damage by them.

It is important to note that the use of pesticides must always be carried out according to the product label. Using pesticides incorrectly can increase resistance, cause damage and harm to the environment and also pose a serious threat to human and animal health. It is advisable to seek professional advice before purchasing and applying any pesticide.