We all want our homes, lawns and gardens to be attractive, safe and pest-free environments. But because all living things seek food, water and shelter, sometimes we find unwanted "guests" in our midst, also known as "pests". A pest can be anything from ants in the kitchen, weeds in the lawn, a fungus on the trees to a deer in the garden.
An IPM approach to pest management provides the most effective way of suppressing pests for good, while assuring the safety of pets, kids and yourself. While pesticides (bug sprays, weed killers, etc.) can be used as part of an IPM program, it is a good idea to limit their use and thereby, your exposure.
Pesticides should be used only as a last resort and carefully chosen, carefully used, carefully stored and carefully disposed of. Seek information on the least-toxic, most effective alternatives from your County Extension office, Master Gardeners or other trusted sources. Sales clerks at stores are generally not able to provide accurate, unbiased information on pests or pesticide products.
Using copper mesh to plug up holes around pipes in the flooring of a bathroom.
We don't want to share our homes with common household pests, whether they be fruit flies, ants, roaches, mice, or wasps.
Remember, these pests are there because something is attracting them (find, dispose of and/or fix it) and they are getting in somehow (caulk, plug, screen, or block it). Here are some IPM tips for preventing pests in the home:
- Prevent their entrance. Keep pests from entering your living areas by sealing openings and cracks with wire mesh, caulking, door sweeps, netting, and screens.
- Be clean & tidy. Keep your home clean by wiping up spills, removing clutter that could provide pests a place to breed, and don't allow pet food to be exposed for long periods.
- Prevent access to food. Store all food, including pet food & birdseed, in tightly covered containers; plastic bags don't always exclude pests. Remove pest attractants, such as sweet and greasy foods (which attract ants).
- Eliminate water sources. Fix leaky pipes and faucets and promote ventilation, as insects often seek wet areas.
For more pest specific information, see our House Pest Problem Solver
Home-Safe-Home Guide. A room-by-room assessment of how to protect you and your children's health from chemicals commonly used by consumers.
Help Yourself to a Healthy Home: Protect Your Children's Health is another publication that explains how most of the serious health problems for children may start at home. The booklet explains some of these health concerns and what you can do about them.
DEP Household Hazardous Waste Program - Household Hazardous Wastes (HHW) are those wastes produced in our households that are hazardous in nature, but are not regulated as hazardous waste, under federal and state laws. This website tells you how manage HHW in your area.
Proper choice of grass and plant species for your site and your conditions is the most important key to a healthy landscape. In turn, keeping the lawn and landscape healthy is the best defense against pests such as weeds, insects or diseases.
No time to do it yourself? If you decide to hire a lawn care company, you should be aware of the practices and products they are using on your grounds, why and when. After all, you are paying them AND you and your family will be running around on that lawn.
Note: Do not be tempted to spread broad-spectrum insecticides over your lawn on a calendar basis as "insurance" against all bugs. "Big Sale" ads in spring and fall have more to do with store inventory and spring fever than with real pest problems. Broad spectrum insecticides will kill far more "good bugs" in your lawn that are working overtime keeping pest species in check while you sleep! You will create more pest problems than you solve by this approach, contribute to contamination of surface water runoff and kill non-target organisms. Target only the pest you know you have, when you have it.
IPM Tips for the Home Lawn & Landscape
- Grow pest-resistant varieties of plants, shrubs, and trees. Choices should also be well suited to soil and climate.
- Grow healthy plants. Pay attention to organic matter, watering, and other conditions for healthy plants.
- Avoid injury to tree trunks (from mowers, weed whackers) that enable pests to gain footholds; lay mulch at tree bases.
- To combat weeds, maintain an adequately fertilized lawn; hand dig weeds; spot-treat.
- Use selective pesticides. These will kill only your target pest while leaving non-target species unharmed.
- Encourage beneficial insects--which kill pests--by growing large, showy composite flowers for them to land on and feed (Queen Anne's lace, daisies, fennel, dill) and by limiting pesticide applications.
- Clean up plant debris at the season's end and destroy diseased plant materials.