While I talk about this topic quite a bit within posts, I don’t often focus on it. It makes people uncomfortable, sometimes you can see them squirm. Some people immediately get mad while others start to get defensive. So let’s dive into it.
Let’s say some dirty words.
Pesticide. There, I’ve said it. Though some people certainly think it is. The definition of a pesticide (per the EPA) is anything that claims to kill, control, repel, or mitigate a pest. This includes insecticides, rodenticides, fungicides, and sometimes even ‘cides for sterilizing products (FIFRA). That’s pretty broad and since we are in the pest control field, I’m obviously going to focus on the first two.
Pesticides are often designed to kill. Not many people want a bunch of cockroaches infesting their favorite restaurant. They want them gone and gone fast. It is PART of an integrated program. It shouldn’t be the ONLY thing that is used on a pest problem. Aside from the fact that’s just poor practice, it’s typically ineffective in solving the problem.
Imagine this scenario: you have a pest feeding on your favorite chocolates. You can put down a barrier treatment* and force that pest away for a bit. But if you don’t lock the door leading to the chocolates, your pest (significant other) will keep coming in and getting to them. Lock the door and you have kept the chocolate safe and the pest out.
It’s not the size, it’s how you use it.
There are many types of pesticides from liquids to solids to gases. What you use should be targeted to the pest. Often, you need very little treatment. We have fabulous baits that allow people to use tiny amounts to very effectively and quickly deal with pests. When it gets really bad, we can do treatments that cover an entire structure. What gets people (rightly) riled up is when large amounts of a ‘cide is used when it’s not necessarily needed.
Back to my favorite chocolates. Maybe I have just a few (one) pests that are attacking my chocolate. I can put out some jelly beans closer to where it is living (sitting). Now, the pest has a source close to it and it won’t invade my space with my snacks. I don’t have to put out jelly beans all over the house, I can put just one bowl nearby. Same with pesticides. Why spray everywhere when a pest is just coming in underneath a door? Why place baits all over a structure when the pests are only really on one side? Using the pests' feeding preferences and habitat requirements lets us be very targeted and use very little.
It’s not me, it’s you.
This one’s a bit controversial, I know. Most pesticide misuse (for the urban market, excluding agriculture for now) is by the public. People can go to their local big-box store or go online and buy almost anything that a professional can. They aren’t regulated so if they decide to blatantly ignore that rodenticide label that states they must use that rodent bait in a locked and secured bait station and just throw it out all over their backyard… there’s really nothing anyone can do. They can consistently treat bed bugs with those “bug bombs” making that population resistant because they keep using the same product.
Knowing I have a pest attacking my chocolate, I can certainly buy a fumigant (because I am licensed) and use it on my house. If I perform that treatment and violate any of the instructions on the label, I can be fined, jailed, and/or have my license revoked. Plus, as a professional, I don’t need to go to that level of treatment for the relatively small problem I’m having**.
But I don’t want that nastiness in MY house!
Or as you may hear: I only want all natural/green/organic products used. We do have some pesticide products that are comprised of things like essential oils or other extracts. Sometimes those products work okay, particularly on very small pest issues. That doesn’t mean they are safe for the environment and non-target organisms. They often have to be applied in greater quantities and more often than your “regular” pesticides.
For my chocolate, I can spray a bunch of “green” product all around my office where my chocolate is and keep my pest out. But that could impact my non-target animals (friend) that I don’t want to harm because aren’t after my chocolate^.F
You know you want it.
Many people are fine with not using any products to control pests. Until their house is infested with termites or the plague is spreading because rodent populations are out of control. Then everyone wants the pests dead and dead yesterday. People will advocate banning pesticides until their cereal comes with extra visitors because the food plants can’t control them. They are great with the cute little Mickeys and Remy’s until they are running through their favorite restaurants passing around E. coli and salmonella.
My pest problem needs to be solved NOW before I lose all my chocolate. I don’t want to wait until there is nothing left but wrappers. Sure, I am still going to implement physical controls (keeping pests locked out), sanitation (not leaving my chocolate sitting around open), maybe some traps, and pesticides to stop the problem as quickly as possible and prevent it from returning. I think an environmentally sensitive pest control program means the judicious use of pesticides when they are needed, targeted to where they need to be, and used according to their label.
If you have questions on pesticides^^ or are ready to upgrade your team’s training, contact me. I do that so you don’t have to.
*No significant others were harmed in the making of this post.
** And as far as I’m aware there are no pesticides currently labeled for my pest.
^ They know better than to risk it.
^^ Except in treating for significant others and friends.