How to Create an Integrated Pest Management Program at Your Home
The best pest control does not have to wait until you realize you have a full infestation. It doesn’t need to wait until you require an emergency exterminator to get rid of bugs or rodents fast. Instead, the more effective pest control starts now, perhaps before you have seen a pest, or maybe when you have noticed more pests active outdoors.
Implementing a pest control plan at this time can help keep the outdoor pest activity from moving indoors, can prevent your home from becoming a seasonal escape for pests, and can reduce the likelihood that you ever have to deal with pest infestations – or the damage and disease that many bugs and rodents can cause.
Applying pesticides around your home will help keep some bugs away. But a strategy that is often considered more effective is to use a practice called Integrated Pest Management, or IPM.
IPM is the method that reputable pest control companies use to manage pests. It helps decrease pest activity inside and out, ensures your property is less attractive to pests, and is designed for more effective interior and exterior pest management.
Pest professionals, like ExtermPRO in the Gainesville, Haymarket, and Bristow area, use IPM as their pest control strategy to protect your property. But there are many steps of IPM that you can implement on your own. In fact, there are likely many that you already do. By adding a few additional tasks to your household chores, you can get additional protection from pests.
For the true DIYers, you can implement a full scale IPM plan of your own to help keep out ants, cockroaches, spiders, flies, mice, rats, or whatever other seasonal pest might be local to your area and putting your home at risk, and while it is still beneficial to hire a pest control company, IPM can provide you with some of the pest management that you need to stay protected.
What is IPM?
Integrated Pest Management is the most recommended solution for dealing with pests today. It is a holistic method that can find several different strategies rather than relying solely on pesticides.
Pesticides can still, and often are, used in conjunction with an Integrated Pest Management plan. But they are not the only approach. This is markedly different from historic strategies that relied almost entirely on wide scale use of pesticides. This led to problems like overexposure to harmful chemicals and bugs that became resistant to the chemicals used to kill them. It also is limited, since pesticides do not protect against all pests.
When doing DIY pest control, these problems with chemical treatments are significant, as many of the most common store bought insect treatments are the ones that pests are more likely to be resistant to. People who are not trained in the correct application could potentially make an infestation worse by causing it to spread or relocate.
By using pesticides to manage pests only when necessary – and in conjunction with methods that make a home a less likely location for pests or physically keep pests out – you will both increase your chances of preventing pests as well as make your pest control safer and more eco-friendly. When you effectively implement Integrated Pest Management, you will be able to keep pest populations at a level that is manageable for your home.
The process is an ongoing one, so if you are undertaking this on your own, you can expect a couple of hours of work every few weeks as well as a few more intensive tasks on a monthly or quarterly basis. As pest activity changes by season, so will the tasks and the amount of work that is necessary.
Methods to Use in Integrated Pest Management
As a comprehensive approach, IPM involves separate strategies that you can combine as needed. The four strategies are habitat management, mechanical control, biological control, and chemical control. How you implement them depends largely on the type of pests that are present and the risk factors at your property.
These are the basics of each of these methods as well as some general ideas for how to implement them, which you can then adjust to meet more specific needs.
Habitat Management for Bugs and Rodents
The reason that pest control is so often necessary is that the majority of homes and yards provide the perfect habitat for bugs. Many bugs have learned to thrive alongside humans, and the same things that make your house comfortable to you often make your home comfortable to bugs as well. Your kitchen has ample food. Bathrooms, kitchens, crawlspaces, and leaking pipes can provide water for pests to drink. Your house is warm and free of predators.
It All Starts Outdoors
Bugs are an important part of the environment. We do not want to eliminate bugs. We just want to manage them, and that all starts outdoors.
Your landscaping offers many attractive hiding places during the spring, summer, and fall. Depending on how long the warm season is in your area, this will involve different work outside to make your yard less of a habitat for bugs. The alterations that will be most helpful to your yard in preventing and managing pests include:
- Keeping Up On Landscaping – Overgrown lawns, trees, bushes, and other plants in your yard are a perfect place to hide for bugs like mosquitoes, roaches, and spiders, as well as mice and rats. They offer a shady, often humid spot, protected from the elements and predators. Trimming trees that have grown over long and regularly mowing your lawn will reduce potential living spaces for bugs in your yard. This also includes pulling weeds and keeping plants thinned out.
- Plan Your Landscaping – Certain landscaping features are bound to attract more pests. Mulch around the foundation of your home, plants and trees that grow touching your siding, water features, and garden beds for fruit and vegetables all come with risks. As you plan out landscaping, leave a border around your home and plan to put any features that might be hotspots for pests, such as water features, gardens, and firewood piles, further away from your home.
- Securing Trash – Trash is a feast for many pests and the smell alone can attract all kinds of bugs and rodents to your yard. You should make sure that any access to trash is limited. This includes your trash cans by keeping lids closed and locating them in a place where pests cannot easily get to them. In addition, you should also avoid leaving trash in other areas of your yard unsecured. Household trash or clutter that collects can be everything from food to shelter for pests.
- Remove Clutter – Cleaning is essential in IPM and this includes for your yard. Take some time each year to get rid of any items in your yard you may no longer need or may be out there for storage. Throughout the year, pick up things that get left out, such as children’s toys, gardening tools, and pet food bowls and dog toys and put them in storage or bring them inside.
All of these strategies help reduce pests populations outside, and keep those pests further away from your property.
Tasks to Do Inside
Outside tasks start the process. But a lot of pest control also takes place inside:
- Limiting Food Sources
- Limiting Water
Kitchens are a great spot for bugs to find food where dirty dishes, spills and crumbs, food left out on countertops, and open items in pantries are all food sources to pests. Sweeping and mopping and wiping down surfaces, as well as correct food storage should be a frequent occurrence, potentially every day if you are currently dealing with increased pest activity.
Also pay attention to any areas of your home outside such as dining rooms, living rooms, or bedrooms where people may be eating. If pests are a significant concern, try to discourage eating in bedrooms and similar spaces or clean these rooms as often as you clean your kitchen.
Removing clutter is another useful step. Although some pests will prefer to live in wall voids, attics, crawl spaces, and in the backs of cabinets, others will stay out in your living spaces. But they still need spaces to hide and clutter can provide those spaces.
It helps to avoid storing items on the floor and family members should pick up any items, such as clothing, boxes, and toys, regularly so that bugs will have fewer places to hide once they are inside. While this does not necessarily prevent bugs from getting in, it will make them easier for you to spot and take faster action to start getting rid of them.
After food and shelter, moisture is the final thing that bugs require, and insects like roaches and centipedes actually require an ample water supply to survive. Anywhere that has excess water in your home will be attractive to bugs so you will want to fix issues like leaking pipes or dripping faucets as soon as you find them. Taking steps to reduce indoor humidity, such as improving ventilation, can help deter pests that thrive in humidity.
Unfortunately, many pests are resilient enough to find food, shelter, and water despite your best cleaning efforts. This is why it is often impossible to clean your way to a pest-free home, and why Integrated Pest Management relies on additional methods to control pests.
Mechanical Control to Manage Pests
Mechanical control physically prevents insects and rodents from getting into an area. It primarily relies on “exclusion,” which is a process that involves closing off the holes around in the exterior of a home that will typically develop over time or may be leftover from the original construction. These can be small gaps that are only a fraction of an inch wide yet provide enough space for rodents, spiders, roaches, and smaller pests to squeeze through.
Going through the exclusion process once a year can be effective in eliminating pests. The process relies on an inspection, primarily of exterior spaces, for any holes that may be present. Particularly, you should look around the foundation, roofline, siding, doors, and windows. Where you find gaps, seal them with caulk, expanding foam, screens, or wire mesh. This is an addition to making any repairs around your home that could permit bugs to get in.
Another form of mechanical control is solutions like snap traps with rodents or glue traps or sticky traps for both rodents and bugs. These provide mechanical control since they are a chemical free solution.
You can have mechanical traps in place before pests become a problem and use them as a monitoring tool so that you know to take more aggressive action if your traps start to catch pests. You can also use these mechanical means after detecting pests to start controlling or reducing their numbers.
One thing to keep in mind with mechanical traps is that they can be dangerous if you have pets or children around that could come into contact with a trap. As with chemical control, this makes it necessary to be conscious of where you are placing traps.
Biological Control Options with IPM
This is one of the more difficult IPM strategies, but also one of the most eco-friendly if you can correctly implement it. It involves using insects’ natural threats, such as predators or disease, to help you control a pest.
For instance, spiders feed on a variety of different insects, including flies, ants, cockroaches, and several others. While flies and roaches are sources of disease, spiders – as long as they are not black widows or brown recluses – are harmless. If you leave the spiders alive, they can help manage the bugs in your home.
Similarly, aphids create honeydew, or aphid milk, a sweet substance they leave behind on plants. This honeydew can be sustenance for ants which may then stay outside to eat honeydew rather than coming into your home to look for food. As long as you do not mind aphids on a few plants in your garden, you can use this biological control method to help keep ants out of your home.
One of the main drawbacks to biological control is that the insects you are using to help your pest control can become pests themselves. A couple of spiders is not a problem, but hundreds in your house might be, and this could potentially leave you with two or more infestations.
You should also avoid introducing new pests to your home and carefully monitor all insects. Biological control should often be used alongside IPM strategies like habitat management and exclusion to avoid any pest population turning into an infestation.
You will also need to know specifically what is a threat to the pest you are dealing with. This can require some research on your part to identify specific species and implement biological control in the right way.
Eliminating Pests with Chemical Control
The final component of Integrated Pest Management is the chemical solutions that you can implement. These are any products specifically meant for pest control as well as items that you might adapt for that purpose, such as household cleaning supplies.
There are a wide range of options available to you, from insecticides available at your local hardware store to DIY recipes that you make yourself to calling on a licensed pest control company with access to commercial-grade treatments. All of these will have different effects and rates of success, both as a result of the product itself and the method with which you apply it.
As with using biological pest control it is helpful to know which type of pest you have and what specifically will work against them. The best solutions will exterminate pests to return the population to a inconsequential level, and many are long lasting to continue working against pests after application.
Understanding how to apply treatments safely and effectively, or leaving the application process to trained pest professionals, will make it possible to manage pests while only requiring a minimal amount of insecticide use at your home.
Steps to an Integrated Pest Management Plan at Your Home
Many of the steps involved in Integrated Pest Management will be going on all the time at your home. But the difference between keeping a clean house and taking a more active role against bugs with an IPM is predominantly in the application. This includes:
- Knowing Pest Threats – The types of pests vary by location, home type, season, and other factors Integrated Pest Management starts with doing your research to better understand what pests you have, when pests are active, and where you should look for pests, whether outdoors or indoors.
- Monitor Pest Populations – Once you begin IPM, start by monitoring what the pest situation is currently like, utilizing your research to determine what pests are active in your home. This will let you know where to focus your IPM strategies and how to specifically customize your approach.
- Set the Action Threshold – At the average home, there is always going to be at least a few bugs present outdoors and most likely indoors as well. Determining how many bugs you are comfortable with, as well as how many are acceptable before damage or health risks occur will help you determine when to act and implement your IPM pest control techniques to start removing bugs. This should not only take into account how many bugs are present but also how long it will likely take pest treatments, whether mechanical, chemical, or both, to work and knowing that pest populations will continue to multiply in the meantime. The action threshold is highly specific to each home and each pest type and treatment plan.
- Implementation – When you know what pests you were dealing with and what strategies you will use against them, implementation is the next step. Start with habitat management techniques before moving into mechanical solutions, biological solutions, and finally chemical treatments.
- Monitor Your Results – IPM is not an instant solution and rarely has immediate results. But unlike pest control that relies purely on extermination and will simply allow pets to come back as soon as treatments fade, IPM can begin to keep bugs away long term. After you have applied different solutions, you will want to watch over the coming days to see how they work and make any adjustments necessary to help them function more effectively or to implement these solutions in other areas of your home.
IPM is highly effective, but it is not necessarily easy and requires a great deal of knowledge and some time to implement. But the results of IPM make this the best way to protect your home from damage, your family from health problems associated with pests, and eliminate the general annoyance of pests.
Knowing the key tenants of IPM discussed here or implementing them where possible can start to help you reduce pest problems.
If you want to put an IPM solution in place at your home without having to do the work and research yourself, you can also work with an IPM pest control company. This gives you all the different knowledge you need to start managing pests as a local pest control company should have extensive experience with the types of bugs and rodents in your area. Your pest professional can also handle any challenges associated with chemical control, giving you access to the top solutions and ensuring the proper application.
ExtermPRO is a pest control company in Northern Virginia serving Gainesville, Bristow, Haymarket, Centreville, and other cities in the area. We specialize in Integrated Pest Management and eco-friendly pest control to control and prevent insects and rodents in local homes.
We use an ongoing management program with our pest protection plans that rely on regular visits, either by bi-monthly or quarterly. During these visits, we are able to handle the monitoring and implementation steps of IPM by examining pest activity and applying preventive treatments around the exterior of your home. We can also provide additional advice on the steps you can take on your own to augment our solutions.
By working together with us as your partner in IPM, we can help you keep an entirely pest free home all year long. Learn more about IPM and the solutions we offer at ExtermPRO. Contact us today to get started.