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The Practices of Pest Control

Pests like rodents, ants and bees can damage your property and spread diseases. Some also carry harmful bacteria that can contaminate food and surfaces in your home, or deteriorate plants.

Columbia MO Pest Control professionals work to minimize pest populations to acceptable levels through scouting, monitoring, suppression and eradication. Whenever possible, they use non-toxic treatments.

The first step in pest control is to prevent the pests from entering your establishment. This can include closing doors, windows and screens. This can also mean inspecting food shipments and preventing rodents from chewing through them. It may involve removing clinging or sticky materials that attract pests like fruit, sweets or discarded pet food. This can also include securing or blocking openings through which pests enter buildings such as holes, cracks and crevices.

Preventing Pests is usually easier than controlling them once they become a problem. Continuous pests are fairly predictable if you know their environmental requirements. Sporadic and potential pests, however, are not always as easy to predict.

Prevention is the most cost effective method of pest control. It includes scouting and monitoring, with correct identification to determine whether pest populations have reached an unacceptable level. This can be done by regular inspections of fields, landscapes, forests, structures and buildings. It can also include regular scouting of residential and commercial outdoor areas by personnel responsible for groundskeeping and maintenance.

Once a pest infestation has been detected, the choice of the most appropriate control method depends on the extent of the problem and how quickly it must be dealt with. Some pests, such as a few wasps at your picnic table, might not require any action and can be tolerated, while an infestation of cockroaches in a restaurant kitchen might necessitate immediate control.

Whenever possible, you should try to avoid pesticides in sensitive areas such as homes or restaurants. If pesticides must be used, they should be applied sparingly and only as needed. This helps to reduce risks to humans, beneficial insects and other organisms that can be affected by the pesticides. If you are applying pesticides yourself, be sure to follow all safety instructions carefully.

In addition, when using pesticides in a home or office building, it is important to cover or remove any foods, toys, children’s items, pets and other valuables. This will protect them from any chemical odors that may be present after treatment and help to ensure they are not exposed to any residual chemicals. Ventilation of the area should be good after treatment to disperse any remaining odors.


If preventive measures fail, or eradication is not possible due to the threat to human health and/or property, suppression is often the goal. Suppression involves reducing pest populations to an acceptable level through chemical, biological and mechanical means.

Threshold-based decision making is the best approach to determining when action is needed. For example, noticing a few wasps around the house or yard does not necessitate pest control, but seeing them every day and in large numbers probably indicates that their presence is becoming a problem.

The natural forces that influence all organisms also affect pest populations, causing them to rise and fall. These factors include weather, environmental conditions, natural enemies, available food and water supplies and other resources.

Natural enemies — predators, parasites, pathogens and competitors — injure or consume pests to limit their population sizes. This form of pest control is the foundation of biological controls, which include the use of beneficial insects (e.g., lady beetles and lacewings), nematodes and plant disease pathogens.

Cultural practices can also significantly reduce the ability of pests to reproduce, disperse and survive in a treated environment. This category includes such tactics as changing irrigation methods, cropping techniques, fertilization regimes and modifying tillage practices.

Mechanical and physical controls include such tools as traps, pheromone lures, barriers, diversionary plantings, weed barriers and herbicides. Chemical controls typically include a broad range of products, from organic insecticides to synthetic chemicals. The most common chemicals are insect growth regulators, fungicides and herbicides.

Some species of insects, nematodes and plants are naturally invasive and can have negative effects on surrounding habitats and ecosystems. They can disrupt native plant communities, displace desirable plants and negatively impact soil quality, moisture availability and fire events. These organisms are considered pests when they adversely affect humans, their properties or the natural environment. In some cases, a pest will become so problematic that it is considered a significant nuisance to the local community. In this case, local governments may implement a regulatory control program to eradicate the problem. This type of control can be more costly and time-consuming than prevention or suppression, but it may be necessary in some situations.


When eradication of pests is not possible, control methods aim to keep the problem below a tolerable level. Usually, this means prevention or suppression. However, eradication can be a viable goal in indoor situations where certain pests, such as cockroaches or mice, can pose health threats. For example, rodents can spread pathogens like hantavirus and e-coli through their droppings and urine, while flies can transmit Shigella bacteria.


Traps, netting and decoys are physical pest control solutions that prevent pests from entering your property in the first place. They can include repellents, which act as a deterrent to pests (e.g., spiders, earwigs, silverfish, house centipedes) or insecticides that kill pests, such as ant baits, termite gels, sprays and powders. Physical controls can be messy to use, and some may require you to handle a trap or decoy, but they are an effective, economical way to deal with certain pests.


Many people prefer natural pest control methods over chemical treatments because they are generally less toxic to humans and pets. These methods are also often more environmentally friendly. For example, a vinegar solution can repel mosquitoes; sprinkle cinnamon on ants’ trails to destroy their nest; put out a bowl of water with slices of cucumber and melon to attract and drown gnats; or plant chrysanthemums near your home to discourage spiders.

Another effective option is microbial pesticides, which use naturally occurring soil bacteria to destroy pests (e.g., Bacillus thuringiensis for beetles and flies). Some of these solutions can be applied without any handling, but others must be handled to work properly.

Regular yard maintenance is another important step to take to avoid pest problems. Remove weeds and tall grass and trim back branches to reduce places for pests to hide. Don’t leave out pet food or water for extended periods, and keep garbage cans tightly closed. Don’t store firewood or other materials against your house, as they can be a magnet for pests looking for shelter.


Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is the best way to keep pests under control without resorting to toxic chemicals. IPM programs focus on prevention and suppression by reducing sources of food, water and shelter for pests. When control methods are needed, they are used judiciously and with the least possible risk to people, pets, plants and the environment.

IPM techniques involve monitoring the pest population and environmental conditions on a regular basis to determine if action is needed. Using inspection checklists, sticky traps and other tools, you can develop a pest identification system to accurately diagnose problems.

When a problem is detected, an effective treatment strategy may involve nonchemical strategies such as growing plants that are well adapted to the site and climate, improving soil quality, adjusting irrigation and fertilizer levels or caulking cracks in buildings to prevent insect or rodent access. When necessary, a chemical control may be added. The goal is to keep the pest population below economic injury level, which varies by crop type and season.

The first step in an IPM program is to set action thresholds, which are the points at which pests will become a nuisance or health threat. For example, a juniper with many chewed needles is at the point of needing a control, but a single aphid on a kale plant is not. The thresholds are based on a combination of the pest’s behavior, appearance and damage to the plant or its surroundings.

An important aspect of IPM is the use of natural enemies, which are predators and parasitoids that kill or disrupt the pest’s life cycle. These organisms are often released intentionally to manage pest populations. It is critical to research any predator or parasitoid species before releasing them in your garden. You must find a reliable source, learn how and where to release them, and choose organisms that target the specific pest you’re trying to manage.

IPM programs also encourage the use of mechanical controls, such as hand picking, barriers, tillage or traps to reduce pest numbers. All of these tactics are less expensive and safer than pesticides, which pose some risk to humans and beneficial insects.