Home Pest Control
Bugged by Bugs?
Hire a Professional or Doi it Yourself?
Let’s face it. We want to spend our money on things that we actually enjoy. If it’s something that can improve our status or make friends a little jealous, we’ll go ahead and drop a little extra cash (this is certainly how I function). We all want to be happy and if spoiling ourselves can help, I’m all in.
But what do we do when issues arise? If your home is flooded, you don’t want to have to pay for restoration. If your car breaks down, you’ll call around or if you’re a gearhead, you’ll fix it yourself. This is fine, and I certainly don’t want to discourage you from saving some money, but how many times has a project ended up costing more because you skimped on quality in the first place? This happens all the time in pest control, so I want to give you some information to help you in the long run.
To begin with, imagine that you’ve decided to take on your pest issues yourself. You walk into your local home and hardware store and find the garden section. There you see a shelf with all sorts of weed killers and insecticides. Focus on the labels for the insecticides and they will say things like “Controls For Up To A Year” or “Kills On Contact!”
I’ll give it to them, these products might have something that an in-depth lab test could detect a year after application (the results of the test would also find insects laughing hysterically). They might even kill on contact, and kill good- yippee! This is great, right?
This is really where the features of professional pest management begin to separate themselves. We’ll go through this one step at a time.
Claims that over-the-counter products control pests for a year are absurd.
Many of the active ingredients that professionals use are the same as OTC products- but the concentration is higher. For these products to be effective, Pest Management Professionals (PMP) will often use multiple gallons of a liquid product on a single home, depending on its size. Let me repeat something important: this is with much higher concentrations!
If PMPs need to apply this much more, how will you get control with a little gallon jug? Additionally, the EPA mandates that products break down in a certain period of time, so the product you put down is not going to be as potent, even if it is still there a year later.
Contact killers are effective at treating symptoms, not problems
There is a product with a four letter name that begins with R. When I talk to pest control customers, I hear about this product quite frequently. The conversation always goes the same way, sounding something like, “I just went to the store and bought a can of R— and it did a waaaaay better job than you guys did.” This is usually within days of an initial treatment, and in terms of immediacy, they are correct. However, pest control is not about instant kill; it is about management.
Now I will admit, sometimes there is a failure to educate customers on this point. More often, though, customers have an expectation of PMPs showing up like John Goodman on Arachnophobia and nuking their place until it’s glowing. This is simply not the case. Instead, pest control applications are quite boring. They take some time to work as they are often formulated to be passed from insect to insect. More importantly, products used by PMPs have residual effects, unlike contact killers which allow pests to move right back in after application. Plus, this is a much safer alternative to breathing in aerosol fumes.
Pest control is not just about spraying
A lot of people think that all PMPs do is dump chemicals on houses- something that is feared by some and desired by others. The truth about pest control application lies somewhere in between these two extremes. Pesticide application is actually highly regulated, so PMPs don’t just apply chemicals- they look for long term solutions.
For instance, your pests are coming from somewhere. Much of a PMP’s work is to locate pest sources and determine the best ways to get rid of them. If a pile of old wood or a half-collapsed shed are to blame for your issues, he might recommend you eliminate them instead of or in addition to treatment.
This all-of-the-above approach is called Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and is a far cry from the John Goodman style of extermination mentioned earlier. Instead, it is promoted by the EPA and is utilized to be effective and environmentally friendly. Steps for IPM include:
Setting Action Thresholds
Monitoring and Identifying Pests
By setting limits and looking for long term solutions, pests are not only removed from your home, but are also prevented in the future. Even if a PMP were to show up and empty everything he has on a place, without practicing IPM, pests would eventually find their way back. This leads me to my next point–
There is no such thing as an effective one-time treatment
This part is really simple- pest control products are mandated to break down at some point, including OTC products. Because they break down, they will eventually become ineffective. Therefore, when people ask for a one-time treatment, they are really throwing their money away. Instead, a regular preventive maintenance program is truly the only way to get things under control and keep issues from arising in the future.
Now imagine yourself back in the same home and hardware store from the beginning of this article. Knowing what you now know, is DIY pest control really something you want to take on? There is a chance you’ve got a small, isolated infestation. However, it could be a much bigger issue that you’ll only stir up if you treat it yourself (which chemicals will sometimes do). Instead, I would recommend you weigh the value of professional pest control with regard to your current situation. No, it’s not glamorous. No, your friends probably won’t be impressed. But the value of getting things right from the get-go could make a difference of hundreds or even thousands of dollars, depending on your location and the pests involved. So swallow hard if hiring a professional looks painful- you’ll be glad you did in the future.