Pest Control

The Basics of Pest Control

Many pests can be managed without the use of pesticides. However, to be effective, pesticides must be selected carefully and applied correctly.

The first step is to remove sources of food, water, and shelter for the pests. Next, barriers and exclusion methods should be employed. Finally, monitoring and trapping should be implemented to reduce the number of pests. Contact Olathe Pest Control now!

Pest identification is a critical first step in any pest management plan. Not only does correct identification help you differentiate a pest from beneficial organisms and determine whether or not control is needed and enables you to apply the most effective treatment. Misidentification can be costly. For example, immature beetles and caterpillars look similar and can be mistaken for one another. In addition, some pests have specific weak points or “windows of opportunity” during their life cycles that are easier to target with control tactics.

Pests include rodents, birds, insects, and other organisms that damage or spoil crops, livestock, gardens, homes, or landscaped areas or threaten human health. Pests are controlled through a combination of prevention, suppression and eradication. Prevention is the most cost-effective and environmentally sound method of controlling pests. It involves inspecting your property regularly, looking for signs of pests, and implementing management strategies that can prevent them from damaging or spoiling plants and structures.

To identify pests, you must be familiar with their biology and ecology. Your county extension office can help you with this. They can provide scouting and monitoring guides, pest fact sheets, weed identification manuals and field guides. They can also provide pest identification services and may charge a small fee for this service.

You can also learn more about pests by checking with online resources, though information posted on the web is often inaccurate. You can also find helpful identification resources at university libraries, in books, and in printed publications available at your local library or Cooperative Extension office.

Once you know how to identify a pest, you can use this knowledge to create an integrated pest management (IPM) plan. An IPM approach emphasizes using less-toxic control methods, such as sanitation and removing the pest’s food source or shelter. It also stresses preventing the pest from gaining access to the area or structures where it is unwanted, such as with tight screens, proper trash removal and storing firewood away from buildings. Proper insect scouting and monitoring, sanitation, moisture management and dehumidification, proper firewood storage, and the use of baits can all contribute to successful pest control.


Prevention is the first stage of pest management. Ideally, it is accomplished by reducing the factors that promote pest occurrence and abundance. This can be done through physical and environmental controls that alter the environment to make it less hospitable. These include proper sanitation and exclusion techniques to reduce pest access to food, water, and shelter. These controls include storing food in sealed containers, disposing of garbage in sealed bins, and keeping lawns and garden areas free of debris where pests may hide.

Monitoring means checking the environment on a regular basis (daily or weekly, depending on the situation) to identify and track pests. This is important because it enables us to know when a pest problem has reached or exceeded a threshold level that warrants control activities. Scouting and monitoring also gives us information about the biology of the pest, its damage potential, and its life cycle, all of which help in deciding whether or not a pest can be tolerated or must be controlled.

Pests can cause a variety of problems in the field, on farms, and in homes and businesses. They can interfere with crop production by competing for the same resources, or they can carry disease-causing agents that could contaminate crops or people. For example, a flea can spread tapeworms and ticks can transmit Lyme disease.

The most effective way to prevent pests is through Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices. IPM is a method that emphasizes monitoring, identifying and correcting the conditions that lead to pest occurrence, and choosing the most appropriate chemical or non-chemical control methods for each pest. It also includes utilizing preventive tactics such as baits, traps, and habitat alteration to manage pests.

When chemical pesticides are used, it is very important that the label instructions are followed. This is especially true when children are present, as they can be harmed by even small amounts of some pesticides. It is also important that only trained and qualified specialists handle and apply pesticides. Finally, it is important to purchase and store pesticides in their original, properly labeled container. This ensures that the product is not misused or contaminated in other ways and can be stored safely out of reach of children.


Pest control is one of several essential services provided by nature and other organisms that keep pest numbers low enough to prevent serious damage to crops, trees, or wildlife. Insects, other insects-like species, and many birds, reptiles, and mammals are natural predators that can suppress pest populations. Fungi and other microorganisms also suppress some insect pests.

Monitoring pests can help determine when to take action. Typically, this involves looking at the number of pests or their damage, but it can also include checking weather conditions such as temperature and moisture levels. The growth rate of a crop can affect how quickly pests build up. For example, if a plant grows rapidly, it is less likely to be seriously damaged by pests than a slower-growing crop.

In addition to natural enemies, some pests can be controlled through cultural, mechanical, and sanitation methods. Cultural practices that reduce the number of places where pests can hide or find food, such as eliminating debris piles and maintaining clean fields, may help. Sanitation techniques such as cleaning equipment, avoiding carryover of pests from one field to the next, and disposing of manure properly may also help.

The natural landscape in which a field is located can influence the availability of natural enemy species and their ability to suppress pests. Complex landscapes that contain a high proportion of uncultivated land often provide abundant habitat for natural enemies. In contrast, simplified landscapes with a large proportion of cultivated land may limit the abundance and diversity of natural enemy species.

It is important to use all control tactics available when trying to reduce a pest population. However, it is important to consider the cost of these controls, as well as their effect on esthetic, human health, and environmental quality. It is also important to understand that pesticides can fail. The failure of a pesticide to control a pest can be caused by pest resistance, choosing the wrong pesticide, applying the pesticide incorrectly, or other factors. It is also important to know when a control tactic has failed so that it can be replaced with another.


In a broad sense, any species that reduces the availability, quality or value of a resource used by humans can be considered a pest. Thus, the term eradication refers to a process that aims at eliminating or severely curtailing a pest population. In most cases, however, eradication is not possible – and even where it has been accomplished, it is often not fully realized as a “success” since the organism may be present in other areas that are not under control (e.g., in the case of smallpox, Guinea worm and polio).

Attempts at eradication are usually based on a combination of strategies. These can include a range of physical traps and barriers, as well as chemical pesticides. The latter are usually only available to licensed pest control technicians, who are trained in their safe use and handling. Some people are hesitant to let their service providers use pesticides because of concerns about health risks, but most companies take steps to limit exposure and minimize the risk.

Another strategy is to introduce natural enemies of the pest, such as parasites, predators and pathogens. This can be supplemented by genetically altering the pest so that it produces sterile males or is affected by hormones such as pheromones. Eradication campaigns in man-made habitats and in (semi)natural habitats invaded by species that escaped from cultivation are usually more successful than those targeting species that invade via other pathways, but it is difficult to establish whether this difference is primarily because of the level of effort and commitment put into eradication efforts or because of the specific characteristics of the targeted pests.

The likelihood of eradication success has been shown to vary with the size of an infested area and with how quickly the eradication campaign is initiated. In the latter case, starting the campaign within 11 months of the first indication of the pest increased the chance of eradication threefold over reacting to it after this period had passed (Terminal Node 2). Other factors that were important for success included sanitary control and, at the very least, the presence of a buffer zone to keep the invading pest isolated from the rest of the environment.