The Basics of Pest Control

The purpose of pest control is to protect people, property, and the environment from the harmful effects of pests. Control methods include prevention, suppression, and eradication.

Remove food sources to prevent pests from breeding. Clutter provides places for pests to hide. Seal cracks and crevices where they might enter your home. Contact Pest Control Kansas City now!

Identification of pests is a critical first step in any successful pest control program. Pest identification can help you understand a pest’s biology, life cycle and behavior so that you can discover and act on weaknesses in their defenses. For example, pests that eat leaves and stems are vulnerable to herbicides that work by killing them from the inside out; a precise identification of your leafminer (Liriomyza trifolii) can enable you to select effective chemical controls.

Proper pest identification also lets you evaluate the benefits and risks of different control tactics, including a pesticide application. For example, an improper application of a pesticide may not only kill the targeted pest but also harm other organisms such as beneficial insects, plants and animals in the environment.

A correct identification can help you choose an integrated pest management (IPM) strategy that minimizes damage to other organisms, the environment and human health. IPM emphasizes preventing pest problems rather than treating for them after they occur. Scouting and monitoring are important tools in this effort, and they require accurate pest identification. For instance, a regular schedule of scouting and checking can identify the sites where mosquitoes lay their eggs and other places where pests are most likely to be found — under a leaf, along a foundation, in a rodent burrow.

An accurate, quick and inexpensive pest identification can save money by avoiding unnecessary treatments. For example, generalized identifications of insect damage to a crop, such as “brown blotches” on squash, can be costly in terms of both labor and chemicals. On the other hand, a precise diagnosis of a specific pest such as chrysanthemum leafminer can enable you to apply the appropriate control measures, such as targeted insecticides or cultural practices.

To ensure that you are identifying the correct pest, consult multiple sources for guidance. For example, contact your commodity or industry organization, a Cooperative Extension agent, or a State land grant university. Also, check a variety of online resources for pest images. If you still are not sure about your identification, consider contacting a pest control professional for assistance.


A pesticide is any chemical used to control insects, weeds or diseases. The wide variety of pesticides in use reflects the many ways in which organisms may be killed or damaged by chemicals, as well as differences in biochemical and physiological characteristics among target species. The effectiveness of pesticides is usually measured by their ability to rapidly reduce populations at the target level.

The vast majority of pesticides are synthetic chemicals, but there are also natural and biological (plant-derived) pesticides. Natural and organic pesticides are typically derived from microbes, plant extracts or other naturally occurring substances. Biological pesticides are generally considered to be less harmful than synthetic pesticides, although they are not without their own risks.

Insecticides kill insect pests by attacking their nervous systems, causing them to twitch and ultimately die. Some of the most common pesticides include organophosphates and carbamates. Fungicides, on the other hand, kill fungi that cause diseases in plants. They are often used in conjunction with herbicides to control weeds in vegetable gardens and on lawns.

Regardless of the type of pesticide, it is important to understand how these chemicals travel through soil and waterways. A number of factors can influence the movement and fate of pesticides, including application rate and time, rainfall patterns, soil conditions and environmental persistence. In some cases, pesticides can be transported far from the point of application, affecting surrounding wildlife and human populations.

Chemicals can also move from the land surface into waterways via stormwater runoff, leakage or leachate. In aquatic systems, high concentrations of pesticides can result in lethal and sub-lethal effects on fish and other organisms. In addition, agricultural and silvicultural activities, urbanization and industrial sites are major sources of high concentrations of pesticides in streams and rivers.

When using pesticides around the home, it is important to follow all label instructions. Always wear proper protective equipment, including long pants and a hat, as well as chemical-resistant gloves. Ensure that children and pets are not in the area during and immediately after treatment. When applying granular products, it is usually recommended that the product be watered into the soil to dissolve any remaining granules.

Biological Control

Biological control involves using living organisms, often predators or parasitoids, to reduce the numbers of unwanted insects in crop production. The goal is to limit pest population levels to a level that cannot cause damage, enabling growers to avoid or delay the use of chemical controls. In integrated pest management (IPM) programs, biological control is usually one component of a combination of tactics that includes cultural, mechanical, and chemical controls.

Unlike other pest control methods, which kill or damage targeted organisms, biological control agents suppress insects by attacking the organisms’ eggs, larvae, or adults. Successful biological control requires close monitoring of pest and natural enemy populations. It also depends on the availability of a sufficient food supply for both the pest and the biological control agent. Biological control is best used in conjunction with other pest management practices, especially when the target organism is resistant to chemicals.

Importation of effective natural enemies, or classical biological control, is a common strategy in IPM programs to address exotic invasive pests. The process begins with exploration in the native country of the pest to find promising natural enemies. These are then brought into the United States under a permit to be evaluated and mass-reared for subsequent release.

Fortuitous or adventive biological control, in which native natural enemies that occur naturally on the exotic pest are introduced by chance and take over the role of controlling its population, is another form of biological control. Native natural enemies may become more common in the presence of an invasive species, or they may change their behavior to exploit the new host.

Conserving the existing natural enemies of a particular pest is the most common and least expensive biological control option. This is often the first step in an IPM program, and can involve a simple observation of pest-predator activity in the field or a backyard garden. The conservation of natural enemies can be enhanced by modifying pesticide application practices, such as eliminating the use of broad-spectrum herbicides that destroy the habitats of natural enemies. This practice can be further accelerated by the mass rearing and periodic release of natural enemies in agro-ecosystems where they can more effectively control targeted pests.


Some pests are more than just a nuisance, they can cause serious health and property damage. Rodents chew wires, causing electrical problems and fires; rodent droppings spread diseases like salmonellosis; and insect bites can cause allergic reactions. In a home, ants and termites can cause costly structural damage; while in commercial buildings, cockroaches, flies, and mosquitoes can pose a health risk to customers or employees.

Pests can also introduce a variety of materials into the environment that are harmful to plants or animals, such as toxic substances in soil and air. Chemicals used in pest control are meant to reduce the amount of harmful material introduced to the environment, and they can also help protect people, pets and property from the damage that pests cause.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) combines preventative measures and reduced-risk treatment methods to minimize the need for chemicals. IPM starts with scouting and monitoring, so that when a pest problem is detected it can be quickly addressed. For example, noticing a few wasps around the house doesn’t need immediate action; but seeing them more often could warrant a trap crop of zinnias to attract them and allow for easy extermination.

Preventative measures include removing sources of food, water and shelter. This includes keeping outdoor areas free of woodpiles, ensuring garbage cans are tightly covered and regularly removed, and reducing clutter in indoor spaces. It also includes modifying entry points into the home or business, such as by using screens in windows and fixing cracks in walls or around utility lines. Regular inspections can also reveal potential entryways for pests, such as a loose foundation or woodpecker holes in the siding.

A professional pest control technician will be able to spot things that the average person may not notice, such as a leaky window or a crack under a porch. They will have the training, equipment and expertise to quickly determine a pest infestation and implement controls that are effective and safe for people, pets and the environment. Preventative treatments are often less invasive than reactive ones, because they are targeted and focused; they can also use fewer chemicals than treatments for an infestation, which are usually more widespread and high-risk.