When's a pest not a pest? (AKA: Family drama)
I was dealing with a situation the other day. It was loud, it was eating a lot of food, and doing some structural damage. Above all, it was just annoying. I wanted to get rid of it. What was this pest and how was I, a professional in the field of pest control handling it? My little sister, and I was not handling it all that well.
Google the word “pest” and the definition that comes back is “a destructive insect or other animal that attacks crops, food, livestock, etc.” This particular pest was definitely attacking my food. Another definition that pops up in science is something “out of time or out of place.” My sister was definitely out of place and should have been at her own house. When we talk about pest control, we often talk about protecting people’s health, structures, and food from pests. From that we can take a pest is something destructive to health, structures, and/or foods. My little sister was definitely affecting my mental health, had dropped a glass and broke it, and was eating my food!
Pests come in all shapes and sizes. Most people enjoy seeing a beautiful swallowtail butterfly. Most people hate when the caterpillars are chewing their parsley plants down to a little nub. So is a swallowtail a pest? As an adult, of course not. They are harmlessly feeding on nectar, they are good pollinators, and everyone likes a pretty butterfly. As that little caterpillar that’s eating someone’s herb garden and now they can’t make their famous pesto… yep, definitely a pest. Whether something is a pest or not can often depend on where it is, when it is. When my little sister is at her own house and not eating my entire back of Cheetos and leaving orange fingerprints all over my kitchen, she’s not much of a pest. If she is at my house causing mayhem and destruction…. Yep, definitely a pest. What is and is not a pest is often just someone’s perception.
Another great example of this is snakes. I think snakes are great. They are extremely beneficial (eat lots of small mammals like rats and mice), are usually out of the way in a dark secluded area, and they are often beautifully patterned and colored. Many people argue with me that snakes are gross and scary and “dangerous”. (Saving the “dangerous” thing for one of my soapbox blogs, do not get me started right now!) I get it that if a snake is in your structure, that’s not a good thing and it definitely needs to be removed. If that snake is outside, providing you with free pest control then, to me, it’s not a pest. To the snakes, the big scary human coming at it with a shovel is the pest! Likewise, I can’t go after my sister with a shovel, and I’m sure that in some cases (very rarely) I am the pest to her*.
Like my little sister, getting rid of pests can be challenging. They are coming after our food, our structures, and the water we provide or is in the area. The first step is to keep them out. If I had just locked my front door, she would never have been able to get in. Most of the pest
we deal with are a lot smaller than my sister, but this still applies. Sealing all openings can reduce what gets in. And keep the doors shut! It’s a lot easier for pests to get in when you leave them that open door and welcome mat. The second thing to consider is that all pests have to have a food source. If I hadn’t just gone grocery shopping, all I would have had was a couple wilted pieces of celery, a jar of olives, and some stale bread. None of that appeals to my sister so she probably would have gone elsewhere. If flies don’t have the open garbage bin with a buildup of wet trash that has leaked out of the trash bags, they will go elsewhere to find food and lay their eggs.
So how to get rid of my little sister pests? Sanitation (removing the food), exclusion (keeping them out), and calling a professional (I called my mom in the case of my sister). Having a well designed pest management plan that addresses the type of pests common to your area and your particular site means you can target those pests quickly with the best resources. Each pest has their own needs and preferences so a one-sized fits all plan is not going to be successful. I have to deal with my little sister differently than I have to deal with my annoying neighbor who keeps telling people pesticides are evil and mosquitoes only live for a day. Do you know if your pest management plan is covering you for the pests you have and could potentially have? Contact me for more information on pests, reviewing plants, and troubleshooting current issues!**
*I really doubt it though, I’m awesome.
** Little sisters not included.