GAINESVILLE — There are a variety of reasons people may apply pesticides inside or outside their homes, but University of Florida experts want to remind people that the health and safety of their families and pets are critical considerations.
We asked two of those experts to address some household application questions.
First up is Emily Kraus, a UF/IFAS Extension scientist with the Pesticide Information Office.
Q. What do homeowners need to know before hiring a pest control company?
Kraus: Homeowners should know there is a certification process for pest control companies in the state of Florida. Applicators who are working in and around their homes should be certified or should be working under the direct supervision of a certified applicator. Certified applicators will have a certificate and those working under them will have ID cards. Ensure any business you hire has their certification up to date and that their applicators are ID card holders.
If you do have any questions or concerns about application methods, be aware that it is required by law that the applicator provides anyone receiving their services with the following information: The name of the certificate holder (themselves or their direct supervisor), the ID card number of the applicator, the common name of the pesticide and active ingredient, and safety information pertaining to that product. If a homeowner is refused this basic information they can file a complaint with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for an investigation.
Q. How many times a year should you have your house treated?
Kraus: This really depends on the needs of the homeowner. For example, my home is never treated. I have a cement block house with little chance of termite infestation and use preventative and cultural methods to deter pests. If the homeowner minimizes the habitat for pests, they may never need a treatment.
Q. What are some steps homeowners can take to deter pests?
KRaus: Put up a barrier to make it harder to enter the home. Ensure doors are properly sealed and that there are thresholds under the doors. Adding things like weather stripping and screens will further prevent pests from entering the home.
Another thing to keep in mind is food sources. If there is not a food source, the insects will not stick around or come in the first place.
Preventative methods include:
• Keeping a tidy house.
• Ensuring pet food is not continuously available or it may attract ants.
• Keeping any food in sealed containers.
• Frequently taking out the trash.
• Rinsing recyclables before throwing them in an indoor bin.
• Keeping up with the dishes.
Sometimes the pests are outside, like mosquitoes. The UF/IFAS Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory has a lot of great tips for reducing mosquitoes in your yard.
Q. When can you DIY vs needing a pro?
Kraus: There are a couple of things to consider when determining if you can handle the situation on your own. First, implement those preventative maintenance strategies above. If all preventative strategies have been implemented, a homeowner may consider purchasing a product; there is useful UF/IFAS Extension peer-reviewed information, for example, on nonbiting flies, fleas and lice to help a homeowner facing these situations.
There are other situations that we as homeowners are just not equipped for. If an infestation of pests is at a very high level, it may be beyond our ability to safely and cost-effectively manage the situation. In these cases, consider a professional.
Aside from very bad infestations, there are additionally some pests that homeowners are unlikely to be able to manage on their own. It may even be dangerous to delay seeking a professional, in some cases. This includes termites, which can cause damage to homes and lead to further costly repairs, as well as insects that are health concerns like bed bugs. Bed bugs are notoriously difficult to manage, potentially costing homeowners hundreds of dollars only to find the insects were not completely eliminated.
Dr. Amy Stone, a clinical associate professor at the UF College of Veterinary Medicine, says there are additional considerations for pet owners.
Q. How can I keep my pets safe when pesticide application is needed?
Stone: It is good to remove all pets and pet-related items (bowls, toys, bedding, etc.) before using a pesticide in any area, indoor or outdoor. Pets must be kept away from treated areas until the pesticide is completely dry and the area has been well-ventilated. Make sure that you have read and understand the label directions before applying any pesticide or bait. The products will often have information about pet safety.
Pesticide baits are often prepared with ingredients that can be attractive to pets. If you use baits, place them in locations where your pet cannot reach them. Also keep in mind that if a pet eats or attacks a pest that has eaten poison, the pet may also be poisoned. It is advised to select a bait with lower potential for secondary poisoning.
If you hire a pest control company for your home or lawn, talk to them about using products that are safe for your pets to be around. If your pet consumes or comes in contact with a pesticide or prey that has consumed a bait, contact your veterinarian or veterinary emergency room right away.