Management of Pest Insects
in and Around the Home
An Introduction. When pesticide use is included as part of a pest management action plan it is important to select the most appropriate formulation for the desired outcome. When considering chemical options for managing pests, selection of the appropriate formulation is as important as selection of the proper active ingredient. The following formulation types are commonly used by and accessible to homeowners in the over-the-counter market. Back to Top
Figure 10. Baits kill pests only after being consumed by the pest, such as this smokybrown cockroach consuming a gel bait.
are pesticide products that are effective only after being eaten by the pest (Figure 10). They are formulated with the active ingredient incorporated into a food source that is palatable and preferred by the target pest species. Baits are generally designed to be specific to only one or a few types of pests, are often sold in ready-to-use containers, and are to be placed, according to the label, in specific areas. Bait formulations are therefore considered more environmentally-sensitive than other pesticide formulations. Over-the-counter bait products are generally limited to ant, cockroach, rat, and mouse control, and can typically be used both inside and outside the home. In the over-the-counter market baits may be available in the form of gels, pastes, liquids, pellets, granules, or blocks and are ready-to-use, according to label instructions, when purchased. Granular formulations are comprised of small granules (irregular sized and up to one eighth inch diameter) of inert material impregnated or coated with an active ingredient. Granular products are labeled only for application outdoors, and are used to control a wide variety of crawling pests by application to places where the pests live or travel—i.e., mulch, leaf litter, lawns, etc. Back to Top
Figure 11. The advantage of granular formulations is that they penetrate thick vegetation, mulch, and grass (such as this ivy) to reach harborage sites where pests live.
products are most often packaged in large bags or small jugs with shaker-type tops. They are ready-to-use when purchased. It is important to note that pests do not eat products formulated as granulars. Granular formulations must be ‘activated’ (i.e., the active ingredient released from the granule) before this type of contact insecticide can be effective. The active ingredient is typically activated by a follow-up application of water in the form of irrigation or rain. Because of this, granular formulations may be less effective when applied during periods of drought. Granular products exhibit one distinct advantage over other formulation types—their weight. The weight of the granule allows the chemical to reach deep into the substrate being treated. Granular insecticide formulations are usually applied to areas like turf, mulch, ground covers, high grass, thatch, etc. (Figure 11). Back to Top
commonly known as bug spray, are a ready-to-use formulation packaged in a pressurized metal can. Aerosol formulations are comprised of an active ingredient(s) in a liquid solvent combined with a compressed gas propellant. The contents of aerosol cans are held under pressure. Some aerosol cans shoot their contents in a directed stream and are a good choice when there is a need to treat pests from a distance (e.g., paperwasps). Total-release aerosols, or bug bombs, involve an insecticide-solvent mixture that,under pressure, passes through a valve and is broken into very small droplets. The solvent evaporates quickly, leaving the lightweight droplets suspended and floating in the air. Caution should be observed when using aerosols to avoid breathing the insecticide. Although aerosols may be effective for short-term relief from pests by killing a few exposed insects, they should not be relied upon as the sole means of pest management in and around the home. Under field conditions total release aerosols have been shown to be ineffective at controlling both bed bugs and German cockroaches while leaving substantial pesticide residue on exposed surfaces. Back to Top
sprays are available as both concentrates (products which must be mixed with water before use) and as ready-to-use products (products which are usable without further dilutionand are often sold in 1 gallon jugs). Liquid formulations are comprised of an active ingredient that is suspended in water, and therefore applied using a hand-held pump sprayer. Liquid formulations of insecticides are intended to act as contact insecticides so they should be applied directly to the pest or to areas where pests might congregate (harborage sites) or travel. Unfortunately, research has shown that liquid formulations applied outdoors provide, under most circumstances, only temporary relief (<30 days) from invading pests. The main human safety hazard with liquid spray insecticides is that they may be absorbed into the body through accidental contact with the eyes or skin. The personal protection equipment section of the pesticide label on any liquid formulation should be read and followed to reduce the risk of unnecessary exposure during mixing and/or application. Back to Top
applications are rarely needed indoors, and are therefore discouraged, because a majority of the insect pests in the urban habitat live and breed outdoors. Liquid insecticide sprays perform best when applied to the exterior landscape and exterior of homes by application of spot treatments. Spot treatments are chemical interventions using a liquid formulation applied, according to label instructions, to small areas (spots) where pests are found or suspected to be harboring, breeding or entering a building. When conducting a spot treatment, it is important to apply the liquid around and to those areas where pests might enter the structure. Examples would include areas around doors (especially the threshold) and windows, inside weep holes, around crawlspace vents, and around wall penetrations where gas, plumbing, and any wire or pipe enters the building.
More on Insecticides. Additional information about insecticides, including definitions, formulations, information about how to interpret product labels and material safety data sheets (including principles of toxicity), safety, and insecticide mode of action (i.e., how insecticides work) can be found in University of Georgia Extension bulletin #1352, Insecticide Basics for the Pest Management Professional, and circular #998, Pesticide Safety for the Homeowner, at caes.uga.edu/publications. Back to Top
Homeowner Responsibilities When Applying Pesticides. Insecticides purchased by homeowners in the over-the-counter market can be harmful to the environment and non-target organisms if overused or used in a manner not dictated by the product’s label. For instance, some insecticides are extremely toxic to fish and other aquatic life. It is therefore imperative that homeowners be familiar with a product’s label—not only to assure that the product is being used in the most efficacious manner possible, but to assure that its use is safe, legal, and environmentally responsible. Most pesticide products used by homeowners must be registered with and granted a label by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. A product label is a legally-binding document, as described by Federal Law (the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act - FIFRA), on how to safely use (or not use) that pesticide product.
Figure 12. Homeowners must be responsible about the use of pesticides on their property. The irresponsible use of pesticides on private property can result in (A) and (B). See text for details.
Any person using a pesticide must comply with the directions for use on the product’s label. Never apply more product than allowed by the label instructions. Over-application or application in a manner not consistent with the manufacturer’s directions for use on the label can harm nontarget organisms, the environment, or the person applying the product. Misuse, including overuse, is a violation of the product’s label, and thus the law.
When conducting pesticide interventions outdoors, never apply a product, especially liquid spray and granular formulations, where water runoff might carry the pesticide into a body of water—creeks, streams, lakes, ponds, and rivers (Figure 12). The irresponsible use of pesticides on private property can result in (A) runoff into storm drains (yellow arrow) that eventually end up in (B) environmentally-sensitive creeks, streams, lakes, ponds, and rivers. Always read and follow label instructions when applying any pesticide product. Moreover, never apply a pesticide during rain or when rain is imminent. When applying granular formulations, always sweep granules from hard surfaces (e.g., patios, walkways, and driveways) onto grassy areas so they cannot be washed into waterways. Likewise, liquid spray formulations should not be applied to surfaces or areas where rain might wash the pesticide into storm drains.Back to Top
Ultrasonic Pest Management Devices (UPMD). All studies of UPMDs published in peerreviewed scientific journals have demonstrated that these devices do not kill or repel insect pests. Studies with cockroaches, fleas, ticks, ants, and mosquitoes conducted by independent laboratories at major research universities have never provided evidence that product claims are accurate. No UPMD has ever worked when tested by rigorous, scientific evaluation.Back to Top
Services for Termites & Bed Bugs. Homeowners should not attempt to treat their home or premises for an existing termite or bed bug infestation. The tools and training needed to conduct a proper inspection, as well as access to the products and equipment required to rid a home of termites or bed bugs, are uniquely available to certified, registered pest management professionals. The most important challenge when attempting to rid a premise of termites or bed bugs is locating and properly intervening, with pesticidal and non-pesticidal interventions as appropriate, the area(s) where these insects are found and in following up after the intervention(s). These goals can best be accomplished by a professional. To learn more about subterranean termites see University of Georgia Extension bulletin #1241, Termite Control Services: Information for the Georgia Property Owner and bulletin #1209, Biology of Subterranean Termites in the Eastern United States, at caes.uga.edu/publications. For additional information on bed bugs, visit epa.gov/bedbugs. Back to Top
Food, Shelter, Man Made Harborages, Exterior Vegetation, Water
Other Proactive Pest Management Practices
Crickets (Order Orthoptera)
Cockroaches (Order Blattaria)
Termites (Order Isoptera)
True Bugs (Order Hemiptera)
Beetles (Order Coleoptera)
Moths (Order Lepidoptera)
Flies (Order Diptera)
Ants, Bees, and Wasps (Order Hymenoptera)
Minor Orders of Insects – Occasional Pests
About this Publication
University of Georgia publication Management of Pest Insects in and Around the Home
This article is part of the publication, "Management of
Pest Insects in and Around the Home" is a guide to
quick identification of 75 pests, including more than
120 color photos.
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Daniel R. Suiter
Brian T. Forschler
Lisa M. Ames
E. Richard Hoebeke