Did you know that your local Extension office can help with the identification of and treatment for common pests? Recently we have had an influx of insect-related questions, so this week, I’d like to share some information about proactive household pest management with you.
Insects compose more than 75% of all known animal species and come in a large diversity of species and life cycles. Insects in the home can cause damage to the house and possessions, cause injury, disease, or allergies, or simply be a nuisance. Most of the time, a pest infestation occurs due to conditions that meet life support requirements – favorable temperatures, abundant food and water, and available shelter. If a home is comfortable for you and your family, it is most likely comfortable for pests as well. To help reduce the favorable conditions that preclude pest infestations, it’s important to limit access to food, water, and shelter around the home. Like any pest management strategy, the first step is identification of the pest itself. Each insect will have it’s own life cycle, food source, and shelter, so once you identify the issue, you can develop an effective action plan to reduce or eliminate it in the home.
Food is one of the most common attractants of unwanted pests. Be sure to follow good cleanliness practices during food preparation, storage, and disposal. Keep foods stored in tightly sealed containers, and if you won’t use a pantry staple in 1-2 months, consider transferring it into a more permanent container than it’s original cardboard or bag. Be sure to clean up spills and soiled dishes the same day they are generated, and clean your garbage disposal once per week. Empty your indoor garbage at least weekly and store outdoor garbage well away from your home and in a sealed container.
Shelter can be another attractant of pests, with the most common shelter sources being protected from air movement and predators. Shelter may also include areas where food and water is abundant, and temperatures are stable. Pretty much anything can be a shelter- from natural landscape items (mulch, deadfall), to manmade additions (potted plants, landscape timbers), home attributes (attics, crawl spaces), vegetation, and simply clutter in the house. It is unlikely that you’ll ever rid your home of all shelter for pests, but if you have a specific pest problem, identifying and removing it’s preferred shelter may help you control the infestation.
The most important condition that influences pest infestations is excessive and persistent water, which also contributes to the growth of mold, fungi, and other microorganisms. Moisture problems in the home may occur due to leaking faucets or water lines, condensation, roof leaks, poor drainage around the yard, gaps around windows, clogged gutters, and downspouts that empty too close to the home. Correcting these issues can help reduce pest infestations.
Other practices that can prevent or reduce pest issues in the home include exclusion and lighting. Physical barriers to pest entry such as door sweeps, window screens, and ensuring all possible entry points are covered can reduce risk of pest infestation. Be aware of how lighting affects pest interest in your home, since some pests are light-attracted. Using yellow, red, or sodium vapor lights can reduce pests, or simply reducing the amount of time exterior lights are on can help. Join us next week for reactive pest management of household insects.

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