The Importance of Proper Identification in Pest Control

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Biological pest control leverages natural predatory insects or nematodes to reduce populations of unwanted insects. For example, releasing parasitic nematodes that feed on cockroaches can help keep their numbers below acceptable levels. Click Here to learn more.

Whenever possible, pest control should focus on prevention rather than suppression and eradication. A variety of factors influence the success of pests, including their food supply, water sources, shelter, climate and other natural and man-made conditions. Natural features such as mountains and bodies of water restrict the movement of some pests, while weather conditions, especially temperature, day length and humidity affect how active a population is. Natural predators and parasites can also reduce the number of pests.

Some pests can be kept at bay with regular inspections by a trained pest control professional. He or she can identify entry points and nesting areas and recommend environmental modifications that will keep pests away. Preventive maintenance can also include a cleaning schedule that eliminates food residue and other attractants, such as open trash containers and old milk jugs. Keeping waste receptacles sealed and upgrading to plastic or metal garbage cans can discourage flies, mosquitoes, rodents, spiders and other common pests from entering the home.

When it comes to lawns and gardens, removing any logs or other debris that can provide pests with shelter or a place to hide, can help prevent infestations. Raking leaves and disposing of garden rubbish on a regular basis can also keep pests at bay.

Indoor pests can cause many problems, including damage to property and health issues like asthma and allergies. Some pests, such as roaches and mice, can also spread diseases, such as hantavirus and leptospirosis. In addition, their droppings can contaminate food and make surfaces slippery, leading to falls.

In general, residents are responsible for reporting building maintenance problems to their owners or managers and keeping living spaces clean to discourage pests. They should avoid using general-purpose household cleaners that can also act as pesticides and read and follow all product labels. Foggers and other spray devices should only be used if absolutely necessary, and only when a trained pest control professional is on hand to supervise. It is important to note that even “natural” pesticides can be dangerous, as they can be ingested or inhaled by people and pets.


Pest control is the use of biological, physical and chemical techniques to reduce pest numbers below damaging levels. Suppression tactics vary with the type of pest and acceptable population levels. Eradication is rarely attempted in outdoor pest situations, but it can be the goal in indoor situations such as in food processing and storage areas, health care facilities and homes.

Prevention includes preventing pests from entering a property or building through cracks, crevices and holes. Sealing the outside of buildings with quality caulk or knitted copper mesh can prevent entry of many pests. Inside, keeping garbage cans tightly closed and removing trash on a regular basis helps eliminate pest hiding places. Sanitation practices, such as keeping food in sealed containers, can also help prevent pests from gaining access to food sources.

Threshold-based decision making relates to scouting and monitoring pest populations to determine when action is needed. For example, noticing one wasp nest each week may not warrant action, but seeing many more in the same area over time is cause for concern.

The majority of pests are not controlled by eradication methods and require suppression techniques, which can be accomplished with cultural, physical or biological controls. Biological control refers to the introduction of natural enemies of the pest, such as parasites, predators, pathogens and pheromones. This method usually takes longer to produce results because there is a lag between the arrival of new natural enemies and their impact on the pest population.

Physical barriers are useful in a variety of pest control situations, from netting over small fruit trees to prevent insects from destroying crops to mulch that inhibits weed growth beneath plants. In greenhouses, screen doors and other devices can block the entrance of insects that damage crops; a barrier such as a fence can discourage rodents from entering buildings; and a combination of netting, grid wire and spikes can deter birds that destroy fruit.

The fungus Mycoplasma genus is an effective pathogen for controlling greenhouse whitefly and other insect pests. Fungi spread through the air as spores that germinate on the pest’s cuticle and penetrate into the body, killing it from the inside. This technique is often used as a supplement to other pest control methods.


Accurate pest identification is the cornerstone of integrated pest management (IPM). It allows practitioners to select appropriate control methods that manage pests without harming beneficial organisms. It also provides vital information on the pest’s biology, including its life cycle, habitat, and natural enemies. Proper identification also permits the use of less toxic control options, such as soaps and oils that coat and smother insects; microbial insecticides based on Bacillus thuringiensis; and naturally-derived botanical insecticides such as azadiractin.

Pest identification requires careful observation, knowledge of pest biology and ecology, and the ability to recognize specific characteristics. For example, many bug species undergo significant changes in appearance during their development from eggs to immature forms to adulthood. Recognizing these traits allows managers to predict how a pest will develop and behave, allowing them to anticipate problems and take preventive actions.

IPM relies on a preventive approach that targets pests at the most vulnerable stage of their life cycle. This strategy reduces costs and environmental impact, and it is a fundamental aspect of IPM. Scouting and monitoring for pests is a regular part of most landscape maintenance programs. It involves creating a route for daily or weekly inspections, looking under leaves and along foundations for signs of pests. Insects that damage plants by sucking (such as aphids, mites and thrips) or chewing (leaf miners) are most easily controlled when they are young and at the bottom of the plant.

For more difficult pests, like nematodes and fungi, identifying them often requires special laboratory tests or consultation with specialists. This can be expensive and time-consuming, especially if specimens are mailed to laboratories. In addition, mailed samples frequently deteriorate during transit and are unsuitable for diagnosis.

Using digital images, or “pictures of bugs”, is one way to speed up the process of pest identification. This technology allows practitioners to capture a picture of the pest with or without the aid of a microscope, then transmit it for analysis. This can help identify pests faster and more accurately than traditional methods that require the collection of a physical sample for analysis.


Even when a building’s maintenance crew takes great care, pests can still be present in numbers that disrupt normal operations and cause property damage or have health implications for buildings’ occupants. Pests are not simply a nuisance, but may also destroy plants, cause fires and contaminate food.

Physical pest control involves eliminating the pests’ access to food, water and shelter, and removing their breeding grounds. This includes clearing away weeds and other debris from outside the building, caulking cracks and sealing windows. It also includes storing food in tightly-sealed containers, removing garbage regularly and fixing leaky pipes.

Chemical pest control uses poisons to kill the pests, but this approach does not always work and often does harm to other organisms and the environment. It can also be very expensive. Biological pest control relies on natural organisms to reduce the population of unwanted pests by predation, parasitism and herbivory. This approach is usually combined with other methods and requires a great deal of research into the pest’s biology, its potential natural enemies and their ecology. Suitable natural enemies are then collected, tested for pathogens and carefully released into the field with attention to the timing of enemy and pest life cycles.

Eradication is a rare goal in outdoor pest situations, and is only attempted when a specific pest has been identified as having a severe impact on human wellbeing. For example, eradication programs have been in place to control the Mediterranean fruit fly, gypsy moth and fire ants.

Prevention is the most effective technique for controlling pests, and should be the primary focus of all pest control efforts. This includes educating customers on what they can do to make their premises less attractive to pests, such as keeping surfaces clear of clutter and repairing cracks and crevices. It is also important to identify the type of pest when planning a control method so that off-target impacts can be minimized. This is known as Integrated Pest Management (IPM). This approach combines preventative techniques with monitoring and inspection, and the use of chemicals only when they are needed according to established guidelines.