Pest Control
Learn all about the different kinds of pests that can infest your home and all the best ways to deal with them.

All You Need to Know About Pest Control

Pest control refers to the regulation, management, or elimination of species defined as a pest, which is any organism that causes harmful damage to humans, their resources, or the environment. There are many different types of household, outdoor, and agricultural pests that can invade homes and properties. When dealing with pest issues, homeowners have several options available:

  • Prevention: This is the first line of defense against pests for every homeowner. Removing food sources, water, habitats, and points of entry that allow pests to gain access and thrive is essential for keeping them out in the first place. Sealing cracks, installing weather stripping, clearing clutter, and maintaining cleanliness help deter pests.
  • Physical Removal: For minor infestations or lone invader pests like mice or snakes that find their way inside, physical capture and removal may be possible. Traps, glue boards, and manually catching and releasing pests outside can work for light pest pressures.
  • Chemical Control: Pesticides and insecticides in spray, bait, granules, and other formulations can be purchased at big box stores, hardware stores, supermarkets, and more for DIY pest control. When applied correctly, these chemical solutions can effectively eliminate some pest populations.

For severe, established pest infestations, the most effective way to eliminate the problem is typically by hiring a professional pest control company. Licensed pros have the proper training, equipment, and industrial-strength products to fully eradicate heavy pest pressures.

Pest Control Regulations

Pest control is a very regulated industry, with laws and licensing requirements varying by state. It is important for both pest management professionals and homeowners utilizing pesticides to understand their state's specific regulations regarding training, certification, registration of chemicals, application, and disposal.

Each state has its own laws covering aspects of pest control such as practitioner licensing, allowable chemicals and formulations, required record keeping, signage and notification of chemical use, and safe disposal. Some states require advanced training and certification to apply commercial-grade pesticides. Homeowners may also be limited in which chemicals they can purchase and how they can be applied, such as bans on aerial spraying. Failure to adhere to state regulations can result in fines, loss of business license, or other penalties. Researching your specific state laws ensures pest control activities by both homeowners and professionals remain compliant and help protect health, property, and the environment.

Use the tool below to find out what pest control regulations your state currently has:

To find a link to your state's Department of Agriculture website, select your state from the dropdown menu below.

Product & Service Reviews

Choosing the right pest control products and services is key to effectively managing and eliminating pest infestations. There are many over-the-counter sprays, baits, traps and other solutions available for DIY pest control. However, severe infestations often require the expertise of professional exterminators who have the proper equipment, training and solutions to fully eradicate pests.

When buying pest control products, look for EPA-registered chemical solutions that specify they are for the type of pest you want to target. Research the active ingredients to ensure they are safe for use in the appropriate environment if you have children or pets. Consult reviews to find pest control services that use humane, effective solutions and offer guarantees for their work. Having a pest management professional assess the infestation and create a customized treatment plan often provides the best results.

Choosing the Right Pest Control Company

When selecting a pest control company, you want to look for one that is licensed, insured, has a good reputation, and uses effective yet safe products and methods. The best companies will provide a free inspection and estimate, offer guaranteed treatments, and employ certified technicians who can identify pests and develop customized solutions. Look for a company that is transparent about their products and methods and provides detailed reports after services. Choose a provider that specializes in your type of pest problem and has extensive experience dealing with those pests in your area. Read online reviews and ask for referrals from neighbors. Make sure the company is responsive and professional. The right pest control provider will solve your problem effectively while putting safety first. The following video should give a good overview of what to look for:

Outdoor Pests

Outdoor pests can cause damage to your home’s exterior, garden plants, and yard. Common nuisance outdoor pests include insects like ants, flies, and beetles, as well as animals like squirrels, raccoons, and mice. Protect your home’s perimeter by sealing cracks, installing door sweeps, and pruning back vegetation that gives pests a path inside. Use pesticides designed for outdoor use on lawns, gardens, and landscaping. Traps and repellents also help limit outdoor pest activity and damage. Removing food sources like fallen fruit, standing water, and unsecured trash cans also helps deter outdoor pests.

Mosquitoes breed in standing water and bite to feed on blood. They are nuisance pests and can transmit diseases like Zika, West Nile, and malaria. Eliminate breeding environments by draining standing water sources. Use window/door screens to prevent indoor entry. While outdoors, wear bug spray containing DEET, picaridin, or other repellents, and light citronella candles to deter mosquitoes. Traps and mosquito dunks also help reduce populations. Professional mosquito control sprays large areas for community mosquito prevention.

Ticks live in wooded, brushy areas and bite humans and animals to feed on blood. They can transmit Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and other illnesses. Avoid tick habitats when possible. Use insect repellent and wear long sleeves and pants when visiting tick-infested areas. Check for and safely remove attached ticks promptly. Control ticks in yards by clearing tall grass and brush. Professional tick pest control sprays targeted insecticides and installs tick tubes containing permethrin-treated cotton. These control ticks on mice which helps limit the spread of Lyme disease.

Stinging wasps like yellow-jackets, hornets, and paper wasps build nests on homes and are aggressive when defending nests. Allergic reactions to stings can be life-threatening. Professional power washing or foaming of nests after dark is safest for removal. Traps containing fruit juice or pheromones attract wasps away from homes. Residual sprays applied by pest control technicians to eaves, soffits, and overhangs help discourage nesting. Inspect homes in spring for early nesting activity and remove nests before populations grow large. Taking precautions like wearing protective clothing and avoiding prodded nests helps prevent stings.

Household Pests

Household pests invade our homes looking for food, water, and shelter. Cockroaches, ants, flies, spiders, and rodents are common household pests. Eliminate entry points like cracks and install door sweeps to block pests. Store food in secure containers, eliminate standing water, and thoroughly clean to remove food sources. Traps and baits can also control household pests. For severe infestations, fumigation tents and professional pest control may be required. Take action at the first signs of household pests before populations multiply.

There are over 700 ant species in the United States, many of which can infest homes. Common household ant species include carpenter, pharaoh, pavement, odorous, and Argentine ants. Ants enter through cracks and follow pheromone trails to food sources. Borax and boric acid powders, granules, and baits effectively control ants indoors and outdoors. Seal entry points, store food in containers, and eliminate standing water to discourage ants. For severe infestations, seek professional ant pest control, which may employ liquid insecticide treatments or ant-killing dust.

Bed bugs are small parasitic insects that feed on human blood, often biting at night. They infest mattresses, bed frames, furniture, and even electronics near sleeping areas. Bed bug bites appear as itchy red welts. Heat treatments by professional exterminators kill bed bugs and eggs on contact. Traps, steamers, and chemical sprays are also used to eradicate bed bugs. Thoroughly inspecting for signs of bed bugs when traveling can help prevent bringing them home. Isolate infested items in sealed bags until proper treatment.

Rodents like mice, rats, and squirrels damage homes by chewing on electrical wires, insulation, and wood. They contaminate food sources and can spread diseases. Indoor traps, baits, and poisons help control rodents, while sealing entry points like holes and gaps helps prevent access. Messy outdoor spaces attract rodents looking for food and shelter. Pruning vegetation, cleaning up fallen fruit, and securing garbage in lidded cans discourage outdoor rodents. For major rodent issues, professional exterminators may employ bait stations or rodenticides.

Cockroaches multiply quickly and contaminate food and surfaces with bacteria. They squeeze into homes through small cracks seeking water and food scraps. Roach baits, gels and growth regulators help control infestations indoors, while outdoor spraying targets entry points and breeding sites. Eliminate moisture and food sources roaches require and use boric acid powder in wall voids. Stopping an infestation early improves roach control success before populations grow. Fumigation by pest control pros reaches spaces that harbor roaches.

Fleas live on pets and wildlife and bite humans and animals. They infest yards, homes, beds and furniture. Fleas spread diseases and cause itching and discomfort from bites. Oral and topical flea medications treat infested pets, while flea collars, shampoos and sprays provide additional protection. Indoors, thoroughly wash bedding on hot cycles and vacuum thoroughly to remove eggs and larvae. Professional exterminators can treat severe home flea infestations. Outdoor flea control concentrates on treating lawns, landscaping beds and under porches where fleas breed and hang out.

Gnats and flies enter homes through open windows or doors, looking for food and moisture. They breed rapidly in drains, compost piles, fallen fruit and animal waste. Screens, fly paper, and electric bug zappers prevent indoor entry. Pour boiling water down drains weekly and clean trash cans to eliminate breeding sites. Traps containing vinegar or wine tempt gnats and fruit flies. Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (BTI) is a biological larvicide that kills gnats and flies in outdoor breeding sources. Professional pest control applies high-volume spraying to control severe fly infestations outdoors.

Termites cause serious property damage by eating the cellulose in wood foundations and structures. Telltale signs include mud tubes, sawdust piles and wood that sounds hollow when tapped. Professional termite control involves liquid soil treatments, termite baits, or foam applications. Fumigation tents may be required for whole-structure treatment. Preventative termite control includes using treated wood, installing termite shields, grading soil, and using barrier sprays around foundations. Routine professional inspections help detect infestations early before major damage occurs.

Common household spiders like brown recluses, black widows, and hobo spiders deliver toxic, painful bites. Sticky traps monitor for venomous spiders indoors. Shake out and inspect clothing and shoes stored in garages and basements where spiders nest. Seal cracks in foundations that give spiders entry. Messy piles of wood, debris, and clutter outdoors attract spiders by harboring insect prey. Using pesticidal dust in home voids and power washing or spraying eaves outdoors helps reduce spider populations. Hiring a professional exterminator may be required for severe infestations of venomous spiders like black widows.

Beetles damage homes by boring holes and tunneling through wood. Common household beetle pests include carpet beetles, cigarette beetles, and old house borers. Discard infested furniture, fabrics, and pantry products. Use pheromone traps to monitor and control beetles. Application of borate powder in wall voids deters beetles. Freezing small items for a few days kills all life stages. Fumigation by professionals may be the best solution for major structural beetle damage and large-scale infestations. Prevent beetles by keeping homes dry and well-ventilated, reducing clutter, and promptly fixing leaks and moisture issues.

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