Angie's List Report: Eco-friendly pest control

Summer is typically the height of pesky insect season, but if the thought of heavy pesticide is "bugging" you, you'll be happy to know more pest control companies are adopting more environmentally friendly practices.

If you have unwelcome visitors in your home, like ants, termites or cockroaches, the sooner you take action to get rid of the pests, the better.

"If you do find you have pests the most important thing is going to find what is causing them. Is there an area of your house that is allowing them to come in? You really need to fix the root cause. Having someone just come out and treat for the pest without fixing the root cause is just going to cause the problem to come back,” says Angie Hicks, consumer expert.

If you're concerned about safer alternatives to pest control, there are companies who can solve pest problems without the use of chemicals.

In many cases, pests are in your home because of conditions of the property, and some of these pest problems can be solved without the use of pesticides.

"If you're looking to hire a pest control company there are options these days for eco-friendly opportunities. Instead of using traditional pesticides, you can ask about non-toxic traps. This is really important for consumers especially if they have pets and children they want to have their home be a much safer environment,” says Hicks.

With more eco-friendly and safer products available, costs for these products are coming down and are now comparable to traditional methods.

However, homeowners need to understand that natural products take longer to work, and the effectiveness diminishes more rapidly than chemical pesticides.

It’s important homeowners interested in green pest control to ask the pest control agent about the ingredients being used in products.

Companies handling chemicals should be licensed by the state, if required by the state.

To keep bugs out, there are also common sense things you can do, like maintain your home, keep your yard mowed and weeded, and repair plumbing leaks. Seal cracks in your exterior to keep pests like ants, spiders and cockroaches from getting inside. Be sure all doors and windows are properly sealed with tight-fitting screens and weather stripping. Most importantly, don’t leave food sitting out. For dog and cat owners, don't allow pet food to sit out overnight, inside or outside.

Here are some other green alternatives to pest control:

  • Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices, which are endorsed by the Environmental Protection Agency. IPM programs use information on the life cycles of pests and their interaction with the environment in combination with available pest control methods to manage pest damage with the least possible hazard to people, property and the environment.

  • Many pest control problems don't require chemicals at all. Some companies tell Angie's List they use outdoor baits to attract pests away from the home; or seal off areas, like underneath porches and decks, with wiring.

  • With more eco-friendly and safer products available, costs for these products are coming down and are now comparable to traditional methods. However, homeowners need to understand that natural products take longer to work and the effectiveness diminishes more rapidly than chemical pesticides.

  • Its important homeowners interested in green pest control alternatives ask the pest control agent about the ingredients being used in products. Companies handling chemicals should be licensed by the state, if required by the state to do so. Homeowners handling any pest control products should still follow all safety guidelines and always wash their hands with soap and water after handling.

Angie's List tips for hiring a pest control company:

  • Do your homework: Check Angie's List for reviews on local pest control companies. Ask how long they have been in business and if they are members of any pest management associations. It's a good idea to get three estimates.
  • Check licensing: Ask to see licensing and other credentials before hiring. Federal law requires that contractors who apply restricted pesticides be certified. In most states, the regulatory agency for pest control companies is the State Department of Agriculture.

  • Ask about pest control methods: Make sure you understand the problem, what pests you have, and the way the exterminator/pest control professional is planning to get rid of the pest.

  • Understand the contract: Before you sign on the dotted line, be sure you understand all the details include the extent of the problem and the method the company will use to treat the issue.

  • Make sure you understand the guarantee/warranty offered: How long it lasts, whether it includes follow-up visits from the contractor, as well as what ongoing prevention you, as the homeowner, will have to do.

Pest control prevention tips:

  • Maintain your home: There are also easy ways homeowners can avoid a pest or insect problem, by simply keeping up on basic maintenance, like keeping your yard mowed and weeded, and repairing plumbing leaks.

  • Seal it up: Seal cracks in your exterior to keep pests like ants, spiders and cockroaches from getting inside. Be sure all doors and windows are properly sealed with tight-fitting screens and weather stripping.

  • Remove standing water outside the home: An area with standing water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

  • Keep it dry: Basements, crawl spaces and attics should be well ventilated and dry.

  • Remove any structural damage, such as moisture-damaged wood, from your home: Weak spots can quickly turn into entry points for insects and animals.

  • Do not leave food out: Don't leave food sitting out and don't allow pet food to sit out overnight, inside or outside.

  • Remove any piles of debris, brick, wood, stone, etc., from around your home: They serve as harborage for pests, especially rodents.


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