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How to Battle Bugs in the Home

Bugs aren't exactly pleasant to think about, so most homeowners don't ponder what to do about pests until there's a problem. Unfortunately, by the time pests start proliferating, it's harder to give them the boot. Instead of fighting skirmishes with a can of spray or a rolled up magazine, it's much easier to beat bugs at their own game by planning ahead. The technical term is pest management.

Here's a six-step plan for fighting the bug wars effectively. Even if you hire a professional pest control operator, you'll need to know these basics to evaluate whether your PCO is doing a good job:

1 - Identify Your Enemy
A cockroach is a cockroach, right? Wrong. Do you know a German cockroach from an Oriental cockroach? Identifying the pest is the critical first step to fighting it. Different species have distinct biologies and behaviors that lend themselves to different pest control strategies. Knowing your enemy helps you to know when, where and how to look for the pest.

2 - Search Now, Destroy Later
Periodic and thorough pest inspections help to pinpoint the presence of pests as well as conditions that are favorable to pest infestations. A detailed visual inspection is done with a flashlight, covering all areas that may provide food, warmth, moisture, or shelter. Rodents and certain insects (e.g., cockroaches, silverfish, and carpenter ants) are only active at night, so that's when you should be looking for them.

3 - Keep It Clean
Eliminate conditions that attract pests, and you'll almost eliminate the chances of an infestation, or greatly reduce an established pest problem. We're talking about controlling sources of food, water, and shelter. Proper sanitation involves proper storage of garbage; keeping sinks and food handling areas clean and dry; eliminating leaking plumbing; and controlling clutter in attics, garages and basements.

4 - Batten Down the Hatches
A major part of the battle is keeping pests out in the first place. Seal up the entrances that pests use to get into your home. Any opening larger than 1/4 inch is large enough for a mouse to get through. Anything smaller could be a doorway for insects. Caulk cracks and crevices and seal thresholds and chimneys. Keep the roof in good repair and add screens to openings.

5 - Trap the Buggers
Traps can be used for small-scale infestations of certain pests. For traps to be effective, they must be placed where pests are active. Be sure to use a sufficient number of traps-for mice, three or four snap traps should be placed where mice are active. Other examples include sticky boards for cockroaches, yellow jacket sugar traps, and sticky fly strips. Remember that traps are not the easy answer to a major, established infestation.

6 - Don't Spray the Human or Spray Too Much
The pesticide label directions provide important safety precautions, so pay attention to the label. Steps 1 through 5 are necessary components of pest management, of which pesticides are only one element. Before reaching for the spray or rat poison, it's a good idea to address the sources of food, water and shelter that attract pests in the first place. Once you have properly identified the pest, and selected the proper pesticide for the individual critter (certain products are designed for indoor use, certain others are for outdoors), then make sure you follow label directions carefully.

Sources used to create this article include Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service.

Copyright © 2001, AHA, the American Homeowners Association, Stamford, Connecticut, USA All Rights Reserved.