Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Why I Don't Give Pest Control Advice

Casual visitors to my blog often seek pest control advice in the comments of posts about insects or spiders they themselves have encountered. There are several reasons why I do not discuss pest control, and it is probably high time I outlined them here.

Liability

Commercial insecticide manufacturers and pest control companies ("exterminators") have entire teams of lawyers to prevent, fight, and settle litigation filed against them when customers misuse or fail to fully understand their products or services. Indeed, the public regularly misapplies over-the-counter products resulting in poisoning of family members or pets or, in the case of foggers ("bug bombs"), fail to extinguish a pilot light and set fire to their property or blow their house up. Besides the injuries and/or damage, misapplication of insecticides is a federal offense.

Meanwhile, there are also the pest control equivalents of snake oil salesmen who promise "organic" controls that are ineffective at best, or outright fraudulent at worst. Products such as ultrasonic repellent devices are known by entomologists to be useless; and "bug zappers" kill far more beneficial insects with next to no impact on mosquitoes.

As a writer who is essentially a sole proprietor volunteering factual information, there is no way I can possibly absorb the financial impact of a lawsuit should someone misinterpret pest control advice or product endorsement.

My mission is Teaching Tolerance of Arthropods

Those who follow this blog know and understand that the entire purpose of the content here is to educate the public and foster an appreciation and tolerance of insects, spiders, and other arthropods. Focusing only on the negative impacts some species sometimes have on humanity would not accomplish that goal. There is enough misinformation and media sensationalism already. It is a tide I can barely swim against. Some people I will never "convert" or even reach, but I like the idea that I can provide ammunition for others to argue the overwhelming benefits of arthropod diversity and healthy ecosystems, be they natural, agricultural, or urban or suburban.

"I got you a gig at Al's Produce and a world tour with Union Carbide"

I Do Preach Prevention

Those rare posts I devote to household and garden pests usually include tips for preventing pest issues. Pests are largely our own creation. We provide them with their favorite foods. We give them shelter. We collectively import them accidentally or intentionally from other parts of the world in commerce, including nursery stock (plants). We apply pesticides to which they develop resistance. We compromise native habitats and ecosystems through use of non-native plants in landscaping, overuse of herbicides that destroy food plants for beneficial insects, and insist on large areas of sterile lawns.

It is only by altering our own mindset, or at least our behaviors, that we can coexist with other organisms, and discourage visits by species that can cause us harm. Prevention is the act of executing those proactive, low-cost or no-cost strategies, in contrast to being reactive, at a high financial and emotional cost, when a population of insects or arachnids gets out of control.

There Are Other Sources for Pest Control Information

The smart consumer looks to unbiased sources of information for pest control, as they do when purchasing any product or service. Online, you should be consulting ".edu" websites that originate at colleges and universities. They have no stake in the stock of a company, and because they are educational institutions, they are mandated to provide information to the public. The Cooperative Extension Service has long been a leader in urban and agricultural pest management, but has fallen on hard times with funding cutbacks from the government. Still, pursue that option. There is usually an extension agent office located in whatever town serves as your county seat.

Remember the public health department is a valuable resource for control of insects that affect public health, such as mosquitoes, other biting insects, filth flies, and cockroaches. Contact them, and take them a specimen of the organism that is problematic for you.

Pest control technicians are the last people you should trust for making an accurate identification of a troublesome insect. I cut them a little slack because their first, and often only, priority is to comply with state and federal regulations in chemical pesticide application. Few technicians are properly schooled in entomology, and that is a disservice to the consumer.

#$%!* termites!

Social media outlets vary widely (and wildly) in terms of legitimate, educated advice and identification of insects and spiders. Some Facebook groups are better moderated than others.

Use the "Forum" Tab on This Page

You are certainly welcome to click on the "forum" tab at the top of this page and ask questions and upload images of your mystery "bugs." I'll do the best I can to identify your creature, and direct you to additional informative resources. Thank you.

2 comments:

  1. We often ignore the detrimental effect of pesticides on non-targeted species. Overuse of pesticides help farmers make a quick buck int the short run but would make insects resistant to chemicals after sometime.

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