Monitoring, Prevention, and Suppression of Pests

Pest control is the management of unwanted organisms, such as insects, birds, weeds, and disease agents, that damage crops or other plants, landscape ornamentals, or residential and commercial buildings. Pest control strategies range from natural methods to chemicals. The goal is to prevent pest populations from increasing to unacceptable levels. This is often accomplished by using monitoring, prevention, and suppression. Preventing and controlling pests is less expensive and more environmentally sound than control after an infestation has occurred.

Pests are influenced by natural forces such as weather, natural enemies, food and water sources, and shelter. Populations of plant-eating pests rise and fall with the growth and development of their host plants. Unusual weather conditions can influence pest numbers, causing outbreaks or suppressing them.

When monitoring Herrin IL Pest Control indicates that a pest problem exists, the next step is usually to determine how many pests are present and their level of damage. This can be done by trapping, scouting, or visual inspection. Monitoring for insect, insect-like, mollusk, and vertebrate pests may also include checking for egg masses, caterpillars, larvae, or adults. Monitoring for weeds may involve observing for emergence and/or looking at samples for characteristic symptoms.

Once the pest problem is assessed, a decision must be made about what action to take. Keeping pest numbers below the threshold level at all times is generally preferred, but this is not always possible or practical. In some situations, eradication is the objective, especially when a new pest threatens a crop or landscape ornamental value. This is a difficult objective to achieve in outdoor areas, where the pests live and move freely. In enclosed environments such as dwellings, offices, and food processing and preparation facilities, eradication is more likely to be feasible.

Control methods can be divided into preventive, restorative, and curative categories. Preventive actions reduce the need for control by eliminating conducive conditions. For example, removing or sealing garbage cans, regularly emptying compost bins, and destroying weeds that provide cover for rodents help keep pest numbers low. Thoroughly cleaning kitchen benches before preparing food and storing foodstuffs in airtight containers can discourage ants, flies, fruit flies, and mosquitoes.

Practicing good sanitation and regularly cleaning up can also reduce the need for chemical controls. For example, putting out a shallow dish of pyrethrins (an ingredient in fly spray) near windows and doors helps repel flies. Other preventive measures include removing debris that can harbor rodents and other pests, sealing or removing cardboard boxes, and washing pets frequently to reduce fleas.

When pesticides are used, the most environmentally sound strategy is to apply them only when necessary and to use the least amount possible. Selecting and using the right product for the job is important, as is following label instructions exactly. In addition, choosing a non-chemical method of control when it is available will decrease the risks to human health and the environment. UC Pest Notes, available at UC Cooperative Extension offices and on the Web site, are good sources of information on selecting effective and least toxic methods and products for specific pests.