The Importance of Pest Control

Pests are organisms that damage or spoil crops, livestock and human food supplies. They can also spread diseases.

Pest control focuses on prevention, suppression and identification. Eradication is rarely a goal in outdoor pest situations. Click the to learn more.

Biotic controls such as predators, pathogens and parasites can be used to keep pest populations below damaging levels. Pheromones and juvenile hormones can also be used to manipulate pest numbers.

Pests can cause many problems to people, animals and the environment. They can destroy crops, contaminate food, eat into building materials, create health problems for human and animal occupants or simply be a nuisance. The best way to deal with pests is to prevent them from entering the property in the first place. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approaches to pest control emphasize prevention, suppression and eradication.

Preventing pests involves modifying the environment or changing their behavior. This may include keeping doors and windows closed, using screens on windows and doors, and removing woodpiles and other materials from the yard. Preventing pests can also involve using mechanical controls such as traps, barriers and nets. Changes in the environment such as temperature, day length and humidity can alter pest activity.

In addition, the weather can directly affect plant growth and insect reproduction by killing or suppressing their hosts. This can result in reduced pest populations and reduced damage to plants.

Some pests are sporadic, while others are continuous and require regular control. Monitoring helps to predict pest populations and the conditions that favor them. This information can be used to manage the pests and their damage, especially in continuous pest situations such as in greenhouses and food processing facilities.

Indoors, it is important to keep kitchen benches and other surfaces clean to reduce the attraction of flies, mice, ants and beetles. It is also important to store food in airtight containers and to move trash to an outside dumpster as soon as possible to avoid attracting pests. Finally, it is important to regularly inspect and clean areas where crumbs are stored like kitchens, pantries, cupboards, etc.

Pest infestations occur when pests gain access to a home or commercial building. While regular cleaning and inspections can help, it is important to use IPM techniques to limit pests as much as possible. This includes identifying pests and understanding their habits so that targeted treatments can be used without causing off-target damage. It is particularly important to correctly identify pests when using pesticides, as some pesticides can be dangerous to pets and humans.


Pests are organisms that disrupt natural or human activities by damaging or spoiling crops, animals, or other materials. They also often cause annoyance or discomfort and may carry diseases or parasites that threaten human health. Pest control methods seek to reduce or eliminate pest populations using exclusion, repulsion, physical removal, or chemical intervention. Eradication is rarely an objective in outdoor settings, but it is often the goal in enclosed environments such as dwellings; schools, hospitals, and food processing plants; and greenhouses.

In addition to eradication, some pests can be controlled by preventing their reproduction. Restricting seed dispersal by removing nests or blocking breeding areas can be an effective strategy for some species. The use of resistant cultivars or other forms of plant material can also help manage some pests.

Other methods attempt to manipulate the environment or change the behavior of pests to reduce their numbers. Changing the amount of water or light available to pests can limit their growth or alter their development rate. Insecticidal traps, netting, pheromones, fungicides, radiation, and heat can also be used to control pests.

A few ants or bees in the garden don’t need to be controlled, but more than that could signal an infestation and require treatment. Threshold-based decision making involves scouting and monitoring to determine how often, where, and when to treat. For example, if you see Japanese beetles in your garden every day and in increasing numbers, it’s time to take action.

Devices that kill a pest directly or block the pests from reaching their targets are called mechanical controls. Traps and screens are common examples, but other devices such as weed mowers and steam sterilization of soil can be considered to be mechanical controls.

Biological pest control employs the use of pathogens, predators, and other organisms to suppress or destroy pests. In the early days of this discipline, research was aimed at finding new natural enemies that would provide dramatic suppression similar to that achieved by the vedalia beetle against cottony-cushion scale.

More recently, nematodes, microscopic worms that feed on the roots of plants, have been developed to control certain pests in crop fields. They are applied to the soil and kill or slow down the growth of a targeted pest without damaging the plant. Like other biological pest controls, nematodes are best used in combination with other IPM tactics.


Identifying pests is the first step in any pest control strategy. It helps to determine the nature and extent of the pest problem and the most effective ways to manage it. Identification also allows you to assess the safety of different methods of control and avoids the need for unnecessary application of chemicals that may harm beneficial organisms, people or property.

Whether you are a do-it-yourselfer or a pest management professional, the best way to identify pests is to inspect and observe them. Most pests leave visible evidence, such as droppings or greasy marks, that can be found on surfaces or in corners and cracks. Some insects have a distinctive smell, such as that of bed bugs or cockroaches. Others are abrasive or produce a sticky residue, such as termites or ants. Others have a grotesque or frightening appearance, such as spiders and silverfish. And some, like wasps and hornets, bite or sting (real or perceived).

Other indicators of a pest infestation include the presence of droppings near food sources, chewed or gnawed leaves and fruits, holes in the woodwork, damaged or discolored garden areas and unusual sounds, such as scratching or chewing noises. You should also keep an eye out for larger droppings, such as those produced by birds or squirrels, and signs of scurrying along walls, such as grease marks.

A pest’s physical appearance can change depending on its life stage or time of year. It may also change with weather conditions. For example, a weed seedling can look very different from the mature plant and a house centipede will look quite different in winter than it does in summer.

For the food industry, identification is critical to managing pests in processing environments. Food manufacturers should maintain a pest sighting register to record and track pests in the facility, and work with their pest management companies to ensure that they are identifying and treating all relevant pests. In addition, food companies should use non-chemical strategies to minimize the need for pesticides. These include sealing cracks and crevices, replacing worn-out weatherstripping, repairing screens and securing doors and windows.


Monitoring is a vital component of an integrated pest management program (IPM) regardless of the specific control tactics utilized. It allows a pest manager to identify problems quickly and efficiently and evaluate how effective the control tactic has been. Monitoring provides the information necessary to decide when treatment is needed and determine which control methods will be most successful in the future.

In addition to identifying and evaluating pest infestations, pest monitoring can help identify pest conducive conditions that contribute to their presence, such as the weather or food and harborage availability. The data can then be used to predict future pest outbreaks and develop control strategies to prevent them.

Pest monitoring may include scouting for pest activity or checking traps and other devices for evidence of a problem. It can also be as simple as recording the results of a pheromone trap or bait station on a grid or map. Ideally, a pest infestation should be caught before it becomes damaging to the crop. For example, a sudden influx of first instar German cockroaches is a good indication that they are within striking distance of their harborage source (such as a food facility).

Monitoring can be used to determine the threshold at which pest control must be initiated. Thresholds are pest-specific and must take into account both internal and external pest populations. They are most useful in helping to establish appropriate scouting and treatment intervals, and to determine when pest control is required for unacceptable levels of damage or injury.

Regular pest monitors should be placed in the most important areas of a facility such as inside equipment, in voids, behind walls and in shaded or protected locations. They should be inspected and rebaited periodically to ensure that they remain a valuable part of your pest control program. For example, stored product pest monitors should be emptied and the bait replaced on a regular basis so that they continue to be effective. If the bait has been sitting in a monitor for six months it will likely be long past its expiration date and is no longer attractive to rodents.