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The Economics of Pest Control: Cost-Effective Strategies for Homeowners

The pest control industry offers a wide variety of treatment options. These include natural, biological, cultural, mechanical, and regulatory controls.

For example, mulching around plants can help keep them healthy and less attractive to pests. Regular trash removal with lids can reduce the likelihood of pests raiding your open bin. And reducing clutter eliminates places for pests to hide. Contact Pest Control O’fallon MO now!

Insects are generally considered to be pests when they injure or destroy crops, vegetables or fruits. But insects can also be beneficial from a human viewpoint. They pollinate plants, act as scavengers and control other pest insects. Their body parts and droppings enrich soil.

Most of the 1 million known insect species do not damage humans, buildings or crops. Some, such as honeybees and other pollinators, are considered important to our food supply. Others, like fleas, ticks and mites, cause discomfort for humans by feeding on them or spreading disease.

Pests may be controlled by destroying eggs or larvae before they mature, as well as spraying adults with insecticidal soaps, horticultural oils and neem oil, making sure that the entire surface is covered. In addition, row covers and reflective mulch can help prevent pests from entering a planting.

It takes time for most insecticides to reach full efficacy. Therefore, it is especially important to spray a pest when its population is low. This can be accomplished by examining egg clusters to determine when the bugs are about to hatch or by monitoring adults closely for signs of infestation.

Parasites kill other insects, and predators attack and consume them. The number of parasites and predators depends on the size of a pest’s population, as does the rate at which it grows. Therefore, it is very difficult to eradicate an insect infestation completely.

Nevertheless, a careful application of natural enemy organisms can significantly reduce the need for pesticides. The goal should be to keep pest numbers at a sustainable level through careful management of crops and landscapes.

Many commercially available “organic” pesticides are derived from extracts of plants or animals and do not contain synthetic chemicals. However, these products do not always provide effective control, and can be more hazardous to the environment, pets and people than conventional pesticides. In addition, they can require longer intervals between applications than do traditional insecticides. If organic insecticides are used, they must be applied as recommended in the label’s directions.


Rodents are small mammals that make up the family Muridae, which includes rats, mice and squirrels. While rodents are important members of many ecosystems, they often become pests when they invade people’s living spaces and eat food, contaminate water, chew through wires and damage property. They also transmit diseases and act as hosts for fleas, which in turn spread rodent-borne diseases such as plague, hantavirus pulmonary syndrome and salmonella. In addition, they damage crops and landscapes by digging up and eating plant roots.

Rodent infestations are a common problem for homeowners and can occur due to easy access to food, water and shelter inside buildings. Rats and mice easily crawl through openings in vents, drainage pipes and sewer lines to get indoors, where they can find more food and nesting materials. They may also chew through wires, which is a major fire risk in the home. In fact, it’s estimated that 25 percent of all house fires attributed to unknown causes are actually started by rodent gnawing on wiring.

A typical large city receives tens of thousands of rodent complaints and performs tens of thousands of inspections and baiting services each year. The most common residential species of rodent are the Norway rat, the black rat and the house mouse. These are known as “commensal” rodents, meaning that they have adapted to share the same habitat with humans, using structures for food and shelter and feeding on the same seeds and grains used in human foodstuffs.

Rodents can cause significant problems in homes, including structural damage from gnawing and burrowing. They also contaminate food with their fur and urine, destroying it, and they can transmit disease, such as the bubonic plague that killed 25 million people in Europe in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

Rodents are difficult to control because of their adaptability and prolific reproduction. They are also leery of new things in their environment and can quickly learn to avoid traps. Taking measures to reduce the attractiveness of baits and rodent droppings, such as removing them promptly and thoroughly cleaning surfaces, can help prevent them from becoming wary of traps and other controls. It is also advisable to place traps in pairs or groups, and to use several different types of traps.

Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are a major problem in hotels, motels, apartments and homes. They require a constant supply of blood to grow and reproduce, which they get from sleeping people. Although they feed at night, the pests are active during the day as well, searching for a host. Their presence usually causes itchy welts and other symptoms in humans. These critters are notoriously difficult to eradicate. Their small size allows them to hide in a wide range of places, from seams and folds of mattresses to cracks in walls, bed frames and furniture. They also reside in drawers and cabinets, on door and window frames, in wood paneling and behind pictures.

Many household products, including bleach, alcohol, cigarette lighters and “bug bombs” (foggers), are ineffective against them and can actually be dangerous. Professional heat treatments are the most effective option; they destroy all stages of a bed bug and eliminate their eggs. The process is expensive and takes several hours to complete, but the results are permanent.

Cooperation by occupants during treatment is essential to a successful outcome. Bed bug treatment requires thorough inspection of rooms and adjacent areas for these mobile pests, which are often found in the crevices of beds, dressers, bedside tables and chair backs, closets, wallboards and wood framing, under loose wallpaper and in crowded rooms. Excess clutter should be removed, as this affords more hiding spots for the insects. Items that are heavily infested should be bagged or wrapped in plastic to prevent dislodging the pests on en route to a trash can or dumpster and to limit their spread.

Insecticides are generally used by professionals to manage a bed bug infestation; they are available in liquids, sprays and aerosols. The EPA’s product search tool can help you find one that is suitable for your home. Many of these products have specific instructions for use and require multiple applications to be effective, so it is important to follow the directions carefully.

Preventive measures include sealing cracks and crevices in which the pests can hide, checking luggage and clothing upon returning from a site where bed bugs may be present and washing all clothes and linens at the destination before bringing them home, and educating staff to inspect sleeping and seating areas. Some people suggest a mattress cover that keeps the pests from escaping during washing, while others advise putting shoes in an outside closet after leaving an infested hotel or hostel and decontaminating suitcases on arrival at home.

Other Pests

Other pests include those that damage crops or infest homes and other structures. Some of these pests transmit disease to people, pets or livestock. Diseases such as West Nile virus spread by mosquitoes and Lyme disease spread by ticks can be serious or even fatal. Others, like roaches and ants, cause itchy and frustrating infestations that can be difficult to get rid of without the help of an Ehrlich specialist.

There are many different ways to classify organisms as being pests, but one common approach is based on their impact on human activities. Pests interrupt normal processes such as growing, harvesting or eating and they can interfere with the function of ecosystems by disrupting the balance of populations of other organisms. Pests also pose a threat to health by spreading pathogens that can infect humans and animals with serious diseases.

Pests can be separated into groups according to their feeding habits. Defoliators that strip plants bare are one group, and caterpillars that consume entire leaves or plant parts are another. Leafminers dig tunnels into leaves and tell-tale signs of their presence include the creation of leaf galls. Another group includes gall makers that insert all or part of their bodies into plant tissue to form swollen areas, such as the alfalfa weevil and spruce gall aphid.

The Hymenoptera order contains insects that are social and live in colonies, such as honey bees, hornets, yellowjackets and wasps. Some species, however, are solitary and act as predators or parasites of other insect pests. These include parasitic bees and wasps, leafcutting bees, digger bees and stem sawflies (Borer et al, 1989). The Homoptera order includes the most important pest insects of agricultural crops such as aphids, scale insects, mealybugs, adelgids and psyllids, and the largest insects of all, the cicada.

Some solitary predatory and parasitic species are important natural enemies of crop pests. These natural enemies can be conserved to maintain their population levels or introduced in large numbers to suppress pests and reduce the need for chemical control. This is called biological control. Successful biological control involves the mass rearing of predators and parasitoids and periodic releases to the field, either on a seasonal basis or inundatively.