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Eco-Friendly Pest Control Alternatives

By Chris Williams on October 28, 2010.

The pest management industry is responding to consumer demands and creating “green” and eco-friendly methods to prevent and control harmful insects and other pests. People with small children or pets are always worried about toxic pesticides being consumed accidentally, but there are many tools and techniques to control pests that have reduced or insignificant risks to humans and animals.

Non-Toxic Traps – Many of the concerns of pesticides arise when they are used inside the home. Non-toxic traps are harmless to humans and animals and can still trap annoying pests. A wide range of traps are available that can capture cockroaches, flies, wasps, moths, bed bugs, rats, mice, and other household pests. Some of these traps are very effective. There are also “live-traps” to capture and remove wildlife, such as squirrels and raccoons, that have found there way inside the home.

Vacuums — Powerful vacuums designed for pest control can be used to help control many pests and are ideally suited to “green” pest control service. In fact, vacuuming is the quickest way to knock down populations of clustering pests such as cockroaches, boxelder bugs, cluster flies, bed bugs, millipedes, even yellowjackets. An added benefit is that vacuuming also eliminates insect parts, droppings, egg capsules and other insect allergens.

Heat and Cold — Many materials infested with pests can be disinfested with steam, heat treatments, and cold. Steamers  are commonly used against bed bugs. Heat treatment can be as simple as through infested materials in a dryer, or may involve heat treatment in chambers. Cold treatment includes placing materials in a freezer or using special equipment that applies a freezing snow of CO2 to kill pests in cracks, crevices, and voids.

Plant-Based Oils (botanical pesticides) – Many plants produce chemicals that are used to defend themselves from against plant-eating animals. There are a wide range of reduced-risk plant oil products available today to control insects.

Natural Dusts – Made from natural minerals such as borate and silica, or from ground up plants such as the chrysanthemum flower, natural dusts are a good eco-friendly alternative. They can be used indoors or in very dry outdoor conditions; they work great on crevice treatments for bed bugs, cockroaches, ants, and other crawling pests. Borate dust is also used against wood-destroying pests such as termites, carpenter ants, and powderpost beetles.

Insecticidal Soap – Made from the fatty acids of plant or animal oils, insecticidal soap is a low toxicity alternative to traditional insecticides. It can be used in the garden or on house plants for thrips, aphids, scale insect crawlers, and spider mites. It is basically a highly refined ordinary soap which is why it presents little risk to people or animals.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) – IPM is a complete process that focuses on environmental responsibility, and incorporates many of the tools discussed above. It is a pest management strategy that aims to better control pests while reducing health risks and environmental impacts. The major components of IPM include the following:

  1. Accurate information about pests, pest management tactics, pest prevention, and identification of who is responsible for various actions.
  2. Thorough inspections and monitoring to identify pest problems and conditions that might be contributing to pest problems.
  3. Preventive actions such as pest proofing and trash management to keep pests from becoming a problem.
  4. Physical pest management tools and tactics such as trapping, vacuuming, and using heat or cold to control pests.
  5. Low impact use of pesticides (a “green” approach).
  6. Follow-up and evaluation of pest management actions.

For the homeowner, the most environmentally friendly method of pest control is prevention. Simply sealing up all of your cracks on the exterior of your house, fixing your plumbing, keeping your landscaping groomed, and making sure to repair all tears in your screens and gaps in your doors will help prevent any serious insect issues from occurring inside your home.

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