Pest Control and the Environment

Talking to people about pest control services is something I do quite a lot and these conversations usually include “I don’t care what you do, just get rid of them” and “what will this cost me”. However, increasingly our clients are asking me about the environmental issues which surround pest control and what can and is being done to improve our environmental impact.

You can understand why no one likes to have pests in their business or home; however, it is fantastic that clients are now really focusing on the important environmental issues which face businesses on a daily basis.

I’ve spent the best part of the last 16 years teaching my kids about consequences and how the decisions and actions we make today can either have a positive or a negative affect on the world around us.

When you are running a pest control organisation it’s no different. We need to ensure that the actions we take and the decisions we make on a daily basis in removing pests from our homes and workplaces has a minimal impact on the environment. The ideal scenario would obviously be no impact at all; however, I don’t think that’s achievable just yet.

As a professional there are a few questions that I keep asking myself, my colleagues and our suppliers.

Q. What are we doing now that has a negative environmental impact?

The answer is quite simple. Everything we do has a negative environmental impact and although we may never get to a point where we have no environmental impact, it is vitally important that we continuously strive to be greener in everything we do.

Q. Is there anything we can do now to help reduce our environmental impact while ensuring that our services are still going to be effective?

Again the answer is quite simply yes. Like many modern businesses we have already made several changes in the way we carry out our business activities.

In our offices we are constantly striving to use more environmentally friendly products and systems of work wherever possible. For example, we use recycled paper and plastics, we ensure that all correspondence with our clients is sent electronically.

Where possible, we only use vehicles in central London for delivering stock. Our Technicians in Central London now use public transport and Mopeds to get around every day which drastically reduces our carbon footprint. We also ensure that when our company vans need to be replaced we invest in greener vehicles.

Like all service organisations, Pest Control Companies are only as good as the operatives on the front line who carry out the service. These experienced technicians are given extensive training in all aspects of pest management including the use of greener products. There are several plant based products available which are effective against some insects; however, we do need to strike a balance between what is better for the environment and what actually works.

In an ideal world it would be so much easier to be environmentally friendly if our customers understood that in most cases natural plant based products can and often do take longer to work than conventional synthetic pesticides.

However, the expectation will always be that their pest problems are eradicated as soon as possible and anything that doesn’t work fast enough is therefore not good enough.

Subsequently, the use of synthetic pesticides will always have a very important role to play in modern pest control techniques; however, we can certainly limit the amount of these that we use.

For example when treating for mice it is important that only a small amount of rodenticide is applied inside each bait box. Mice will feed 15 to 20 times per day and will only ever consume a small amount of food (100 to 200 milligrams) in a given sitting regardless of the amount of food available. They will then look for another food source and again only eat a small amount of food and so on. Laying too much rodenticide in a bait station is a waste of product and is not good for the environment because this additional bait will then need to be disposed of when it becomes unpalatable.

In addition, the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) have put a proposal in place called “the 35 day rule”. This is not currently written in Law and is only advisory at this stage, however, it is recognised that external bait stations for the treatment of rodents outdoors should not contain poisons where there is no evidence of current rodent activity.

In response to this advice and to help prevent secondary poisoning, we have instructed our technicians to ensure that all external baits should contain a non toxic formulation.

This allows the servicing technician to monitor for rodents without affecting any non target species such as foraging field and wood mice, which in turn affect predators such as wild birds when they consume the poisoned mice. When evidence of rodents are then noted, a rodenticide can be placed in the perimeter baits stations for a targeted short period of time and removed when no further pest activity has been noted.

So through effective training of our staff we can and do control the amount of rodenticide and insecticide we use and therefore we are continually working to reduce the amount of waste we produce.

Pest Control Services should always be proactive in its approach to managing the potential pest issues which could affect our client’s premises. This is achieved through Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which is an environmentally sensitive yet highly effective strategy for pest management on both a commercial and residential level. In essence the service is highly proactive in its approach with the obvious need for reactive emergency visits from time to time.

By understanding pests, their life cycles, their needs and how they interact with our environment we can better determine which available pest control methods we use to manage pest damage by the most economical means, and with the least possible hazard to people, property, and the environment. IPM programs take advantage of every pest management option possible including, but not limited to, the judicious use of pesticides.

Understanding pest needs is essential to implementing IPM effectively. Pests seek habitats that provide basic needs such as air, moisture, food, and shelter. Pest populations can be prevented or controlled by creating inhospitable environments, by removing some of the basic elements pests need to survive, or by simply blocking their access into buildings. Pests may also be managed by other methods such as traps, or pesticides. An understanding of what pests need in order to survive is essential before action is taken.

A Pest Control Service will always be judged on its ability to eradicate pest issues; however, to have a positive impact on the environment the pest control service should always be proactive in its approach by spending the majority of its resources on pest prevention.

So although we haven’t reached the stage where we can simply stop using synthetic pesticides, we are definitely making strides in the right direction.