Pest Control: A Bird's Eye View

At some time or other, and in some form or other, nearly all of us have had to deal with pests. They can range from frustrating flies buzzing around the sugar bowl to birds endangering airplanes on runways; from wretched weeds that choke your prize petunias to nematodes that can spoil an entire carrot crop; from blood-sucking mosquitoes on an otherwise pleasant evening to rats that chew on expensive cables and wires; and virtually anything from bees in your bonnet to ants in your pants.

Pest Control: The Human Element

All manner of pests thrive in a world where boundaries are clearly marked, and any living thing over-stepping its authority is labeled a pest. Technically, the term pest refers to any kind of living creature whose presence threatens to disrupt commercial operations, poses a real danger to health, or simply doesn't allow us to live in peace. Often it is the type of human activity that causes an animal to be called a pest. Honeybees are a perfect example; while commercially coveted for their pollinating and honey-making capabilities, they are considered pests when they build their homes in high human traffic areas.

Pest Control: Types Of Pests

Pests are broadly classed into Plant Pathogens, Weeds, Insects and Mites, Nematodes, and Vertebrates. They can range from about the size of a virus, to the size of an elephant – literally. The materials used in pest control are as varied as the pests themselves, and are getting more specific by the day. Gone are the days of the broad spectrum chemical that effectively killed pests, as well as anyone else that got in the way. Most chemical and organic pesticides are now so specific that they may not even work on variations of the same species.

Pest control: Methods of Pest Management

Within the broad divisions of lethal and non-lethal pest control mechanisms, there are 3 types – chemical, non-chemical and biological. None of them is any more or less effective than the other, but each is suited to a specific need. When professionals are trying to pick the best approach to a particular pest situation, they will carefully assess relative costs, safety margins, collateral damage, ease of application, alternative options, proximity to human dwellings, and long term implications. Biological solutions are being resorted to more frequently in recent times, with pressure mounting against the use of untested or under-tested chemicals. Non-chemical methods that are lethal are also under fire from animal rights groups and activists.

Pest Control: Elimination And Management

The worst pests are those that cause material damage and monetary loss on a large scale. The treatment of these is best done by professionals, as they will use the quickest method to stem any further losses before applying a method of total elimination. Agriculture is a good place to start when studying conventional methods, as it is here that the use of pest control saw its greatest development. Natural chemical pesticides such as Pyrethrum, derived from Chrysanthemums, and Rotenone were used as far back as the 18th century and continued to be the poisons of choice until synthetic versions such as DDT, or Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, surpassed them. Traps are usually ineffective in dealing with large-scale infestations, but are ideal for homes. Since pests need not always be the million-dollars-worth-of-damage kind, traps may be a worthwhile option. Some pests, like squirrels and gophers are easily caught in traps and can be relocated if the infestation is not too extensive.

Another type of pest is one that poses health threats. Rodents and other mammals like bats can usually carry pathogens that are dangerous to humans. Here too, there are extensive as well as restricted infestations, and the methods used for each may vary between any of several solutions – elimination of breeding grounds, repellents, fumigants, poisons, traps, hunting and natural predators.

Pests that neither cause extensive damage nor pose health risks can still be considered bothersome, and can be dealt with using repellents. Non-biting ants are a perfect example, unless you feel that a few sugar crystals are going to set you back a couple hundred bucks.

Pest Control: Mortal Combat

Even though pest control is a finely honed art form, the constantly changing landscape of pests seems to keep the pest management fraternity on its toes. It's almost like a parody of the cops and robbers game of one-upmanship; every time a perfect solution is found for a particularly challenging strain of infestation, another one seems to pop up right on cue. Neither side seems to be giving up; neither side seems to be winning. In this hallmark struggle for supremacy between man and beast, it's anyone's guess as to who will emerge victorious.

Further Reading:

How to Get Rid of Ants
How to Get Rid of Bats
How to Get Rid of Bedbugs
How to Get Rid of Bees

How to Get Rid of Flies
How to Get Rid of Raccoons
How to Get Rid of Rats
How to Get Rid of Skunks
How to Get Rid of Snakes
How to Get Rid of Squirrels
How to Get Rid of Wasps