Habitat Management and Chemical Pest Control

Modern life is hectic enough without pests threatening to damage your home and health. Rodents chew on wires and spread diseases like Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, salmonella, leptospirosis and plague.

Bakersfield Pest Control starts with inspection and monitoring. Threshold-based decision making determines when action is needed. If chemical control is needed, only approved products should be used. Read product labels carefully and dispose of the pesticide and its container correctly.

The first step in pest control is to accurately identify the insect, disease, weed or vertebrate that’s damaging a plant or causing a problem. Proper identification allows you to become familiar with the pest’s life cycle and behavior, habitat requirements, time of occurrence and other factors that favor it. Accurate identification also helps you choose the best control methods.

For example, if you have an unknown pest in your home, use this free Pest Guide to identify the species and determine its level of threat or potential for harm. It provides photos, habits, diet and other important information about ants, termites, flies, bees, hornets, fleas, ticks, rodents and mosquitoes.

In addition, MMPC’s free Pest ID Center can analyze physical specimens or images of mystery pests and provide results and suggestions for treatment. The online service is easy to use and available 24/7. Just upload a picture or submit a physical specimen of the pest or bug that’s troubling you, and our entomologists will do the rest.

Once you know what the pest is, preventative actions should be taken before a problem develops. Scouting or monitoring should be done regularly – daily to weekly depending on the pest and environment. Create a regular route, and be sure to check all areas where the pest is likely to occur – under leaves, along foundations, in trash cans. Block points of entry to homes by using quality sealant around baseboards and pipes; remove scrap wood from the yard or bury it away from the house; clear brush piles, direct surface water flows away from foundations and repair cracks in walls.

If you decide to take action, start with the least-toxic methods (see below) and move up the ladder as your tolerance for exposure increases. If you use chemical controls, follow the label instructions and safety warnings. Pesticides should never be used as a blanket spray, but rather to treat specific sites and areas of the property where the pest is occurring. Avoid injury to beneficial organisms, and always use a minimum amount of chemical needed to achieve your goal.

Habitat Management

Habitat management is an ecologically-based approach to controlling pests that focuses on manipulating non-crop vegetation to improve the impact of natural enemies or directly reduce crop pest densities. These strategies include the planting of non-crop plants, the placement of bare soil, and the use of weeds, mulches, cover crops, native field borders, hedgerows, native insectary plantings, beetle banks, brush piles, and other conservation practices to improve the environment for beneficial insects such as lady beetles, syrphid flies, lacewings, and parasitoids that prey upon crop pests.

Farmers have been using habitat-based techniques for hundreds of years. Gonzales-Chang and colleagues report that, for example, Chinese farmers in the 1800s placed bamboo canes among citrus trees to encourage Oecophylla weaver ants that prey on caterpillar pests. In more recent times, the practice has been embraced in integrated pest management (IPM).

This approach aims to encourage pest predators and parasitoids that can be found naturally in agroecosystems by creating environments that are attractive or at least not detrimental to these organisms. In this way, the aim is to prevent the use of pesticides, which are often highly toxic and have long-lasting effects.

Research to date has shown that, in some cases, habitat manipulation can have a positive impact on biological control, but it is also important to understand why this does not always occur. Natural habitat may fail to enhance natural enemies because of the abiotic environment, agricultural practices, or the spatial distribution of both crop and non-crop vegetation in the landscape. In some cases, natural enemies may be enhanced in a natural habitat but fail to suppress pests in the agroecosystem, which could be due to the plant composition of the natural habitat or the niche requirements of the enemy species itself.

In these situations, crop growers may need to make additional pest-control efforts in the agroecosystem, such as spot applications of pesticides or the treatment of alternating strips within a field to minimize contact with natural enemies and to avoid disrupting their population dynamics. In addition, incentives must be designed to bring private cost and benefit in line with the socially desirable provision of pest predation services by natural enemies.

Mechanical Control

Phytopathogens, nematodes, viruses and bacteria can all cause disease in plants. These organisms may also attack the insects that feed on them. A plant that is infected by a pathogen might have reduced yields, or it might be entirely destroyed. Chemical pest control methods can kill or reduce a pest population, but they are typically used as a last resort and require careful application to prevent damage to people, pets and the environment.

When possible, try to eliminate the causes of a pest problem without using chemicals. Nonchemical methods can be as simple as picking aphids off plants by hand or using a forceful spray of water to knock pests from sturdy plants. Fencing, screens, barriers and traps can be effective in controlling pests as well. Altering the temperature of an area can affect some pests as well. For example, using radiation to change the soil’s chemistry can help kill or prevent some pests.

Mechanical methods destroy or make the environment unsuitable for a pest’s entry, dispersal or survival. Cultivation, grazing, tilling and mowing are common mechanical techniques in weed control. Invasive aquatic species such as water hyacinth can be removed from lakes and rivers with mechanical harvesting vessels.

Physical forces like rain, sunlight and wind can influence the population of some pests. Weather changes might directly kill or suppress a pest population by affecting the growth of its host plants. Other natural factors such as a pest’s natural enemies, the presence of barriers and the availability of shelter might help or hinder its population.

The best way to prevent and manage pests is through integrated pest management (IPM). This includes preventive, nonchemical controls such as planting resistant crops, weeding, mulching and cultural practices. Chemicals such as herbicides, insecticides and fungicides can be used as part of an IPM strategy to kill or control serious infestations, but they are usually applied only after a careful evaluation of the pest problem, including the time of year, location and severity of the infestation. Overuse of pesticides often leads to the emergence of resistant pests, so when you use chemicals, apply them only as needed and in ways that will minimize human and pet exposure and environmental damage.

Chemical Control

Chemical pest control involves using chemicals to kill or control unwanted plants and insects. This includes herbicides (which target weeds), insecticides (which target insects) and fungicides (which target fungus). Chemicals can be delivered in a variety of ways, including spraying, ultra-low volume fogging or fumigation.

When spraying, the pesticide comes into contact with the pest and is absorbed through their skin or inhaled. This allows the toxic chemicals to enter the pest’s body and cause them to die. This method is often the fastest way to eliminate a pest infestation, but it can be hard on the environment as the pesticides can contaminate the air, soil or water. Chemicals can also be dangerous to pets, children and adults if they are ingested.

Depending on the type of pest, biological controls may be an effective alternative to chemical control methods. For example, planting a garden with plants that attract natural predators, such as flies, wasps, sparrows or finches, can help manage pest populations. Also, encouraging natural predators and parasitoids to attack pests can reduce their numbers without the need for chemical intervention.

Another option is to use nematodes, microscopic worms that live in the soil. These nematodes come in different species, some of which are helpful to the garden while others are detrimental. The nematode Steinernema carpocapsae, for example, feeds on grubs, flea beetles and ants. By applying nematodes in the right quantity, a harmful pest population can be reduced significantly.

In addition to reducing the amount of chemicals used, microbial pesticides can be effective at eliminating some types of pests such as aphids. These microbial pesticides are created from naturally occurring bacteria and include strains that target specific kinds of insects such as beetles and flies. These microbial pesticides have several advantages over traditional chemical products, including low toxicity to people and animals, rapid effectiveness and narrow host range. However, they can be less shelf-stable and require more frequent applications than traditional products. In addition, microbial pesticides usually need to be applied to young plants in order to be effective. The use of microbial pesticides is often combined with other preventative measures, such as cultural controls and proper plant selection.