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Painless Pest Control

By Becky Karush

  • There are many inexpensive measures you can take to prevent household pest infestations, but sometimes calling in the pros can be more effective and can pay for itself.

    Changing seasons can bring unwelcome guests into your home — ants, spiders and rodents, to name a few. It's never too early to start thinking about how best to protect your family from these critters, and whether you might need help encouraging them to leave. Here are four ways to help you decide if regular home pest control is worth the expense.

    Try basic prevention first. The Environmental Protection Agency offers a comprehensive guide to controlling household pests, including ants, mosquitoes, ticks and rodents, which are among the most common culprits across the U.S. If a problem occurs despite these steps, you may need a professional to assess the situation, suggest further prevention methods and apply pesticides safely as needed over time.

    Identify the problem pest. If you can pinpoint the species, you'll have a better chance of eradicating it yourself. Search the "Pest Control" section of the National Pesticide Information Center website or call your local extension service to help identify the critter and determine the appropriate actions. Note that if you need to use pesticides, always apply and store them safely to prevent injury to children and pets.

    If identification proves difficult, a professional can help determine the problem. "In some cases, a professional will be able to identify damage before a homeowner sees the pest itself," says Jim Fredericks, director of technical services for the nonprofit National Pest Management Association. "This is particularly true with carpenter ants, often found in the Northern U.S., and termites, typically found in the South."

    In addition, you might consider paying for regular home visits if your property includes woods, water and/or vegetable gardens or fruit trees. In such a diverse environment, a professional can help you implement and maintain a technique known as integrated pest management. This approach uses information about pest life cycles and interactions with their environment to figure out the best combination of prevention methods and pesticides for the problem.

    Learn about pest health risks. Once you know which household invader you're dealing with, you can research the threat it poses to you and your family. Cockroaches, for example, have been found to trigger asthma. Recurring infestations may warrant regular professional attention.

    Find out if one-time pest control will prevent future infestations. If you are losing the battle against returning intruders, it may be worth hiring professional help for year-round service. "Mice are a good example," says Fredericks. "They start to come into the house in the summer, when doors and windows tend to be open more. They go undetected for some time, then you really notice them in the fall when they move in full-time." A pest control professional can help maintain preventive steps so your house is protected against infestations as the seasons change.

    If you have put basic household pest-prevention measures in place and the ants (or mice) still come marching in, it may be worth it to schedule regular pest control visits. That way, you and your family can enjoy your home — without uninvited guests.