Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
Nothing is more psychologically "filthy-feeling" than seeing a plethora of insects or vermin crawling over every inch of space within your home. Our first instinctual reaction is to grab the can of poison and laugh maniacally as the Agent Orange stops them in their tracks. But think twice before you act! There are more environmentally-friendly approaches.
treat The source
Though our first reaction may be to kill anything that moves, the reality is much like modern medicine; you're only affecting the symptoms, not the cause. Most insects will only retaliate in stronger reinforcements, or relocate elsewhere in your home, because you haven't done anything to their nest, their queen, or their other bases. Unfortunately, pests are very intelligent. Also, spraying them down with pesticides adds more chemicals and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to our atmosphere and goes into our bodies when we surround ourselves around the vapor.
Try non-toxic, traditional methods such as: non-toxic bait n' trap, dusting crevices with cayenne or boric acid powder, scrubbing the affected areas with insecticidal soap (pets need to be separated from the area for a while, however), sweeping up nests if you see them, or the ye olde fly swatter. Worst case scenario, if you have to use pesticides, look for toxicity level IV (the lowest on the scale); avoid ones with carcinogens, neurotoxins, and endocrine disrupters; and only spray as directed on the bottle in a spot-spray fashion, instead of the whole house.
Integrated Pest management
Integrated pest management (IPM) is a term used in farming, parks and gardens, and homes and buildings. It represents critically thought out actions to eliminate pests and prevent them from invasion using various environmental methods and techniques. For example, IPM teaches us that insects can enter any space through exposed cracks and crevices, especially larger than a 1/4" gap and spiders love dark nooks and crannies, so seal them up and clean up! Adult rats can squeeze through holes the size of a quarter, so plug them! Caulk bathroom and kitchen cracks, replace ripped door and window screens, and plug holes with metal or cement; vermin can chew through plastic, rubber, vinyl, and wood. This needs to be done regardless if you have a pest invasion or not, to prevent it from ever happening!
Once you've prevented access into your home, the next step in IPM is to remove what they want; food, water, shelter. Clean up messes as they occur, take out your trash frequently, sweep and vacuum often and wash your dishes. Replace rotting wooden floor boards to prevent termites and ants, and remove cardboard and newspaper in your garage or basement to prevent rats from chewing them up into nests. As fruit ripens, store them in the refrigerator and keep leftovers covered. Clean your pet's litter boxes weekly, as well as cages and aquariums for little critters. Repair faucet or piping leaks to prevent moist environments occurring. And always educate yourself on the common pests found in your region to know what to look for and how to prevent them from entering your sacred space.
Click the grey box below for some ideas on natural deterrents and IPM to avoid some common household pests.
When all else fails, leave it to the professionals; this is what they're trained for and do for a living. However, when shopping for an exterminator, ask for a few things first:
Are they licensed in your state?
Do they have a list of references?
Can they provide a written record of treatments and costs?
Do they offer a written guarantee of service?
Can they provide detailed explanations on the causes of your pest infestation, as well as recommended remedies?
Can they provide long-term treatments and strategies to prevent future problems?
Will they schedule follow-ups to evaluate the success of treatment and IPM?
Are they certified by environmental programs like EcoWise, GreenPro, or Greenshield?