As a homeowner, you can encounter different kinds of pests that will lurk around your house. It may be an infestation of rats, spiders or even cockroaches. Your pets may be inhabited by ticks and mites. You may encounter an infestation wherever you are. Therefore, it is important that you know how to deal with these infestations with the right tools. Just because you see the word pesticide on the can does not mean you can kill any pests that comes around your house. More importantly, chemicals in each type of pesticide can affect species differently.
If natural extermination methods are not working for you, then consider getting the commercially available pesticides. The number one rule when dealing with pesticides is to read the label. But reading the label is useless if you do not understand half of the words written on it. So equip yourself with the right knowledge on this subject.
Rodenticides are more commonly known as rat poison but it is not only used for rats. Rodenticides are pest control chemicals that are manufactured to kill rodents. So what can be considered rodents in your house? The most common would be rats and mice which would be abundant in urban areas. In more suburban areas, there would be squirrels, beavers, chipmunks and even porcupines. Rats and mice are generally destructive in our houses but some rodents such as beavers play an important role in the ecology. It is therefore important to remember that pest control is only crucial when there is an obvious threat to the health and safety of your family and area. One neighborhood squirrel is not enough for you to go running to the supermarket to buy a rodenticide.
So how do you really know if you are being infested by rodents? First, check your house for any obvious nesting. Beavers would be building their dams in rivers which may cost flooding to your area. Rats and mice would be building their nests behind your cabinets, inside storage boxes, or under your bed. Rodent nests are usually made of shredded paper, twigs, and other soft or warm materials. Second, check if there are evident damage to your gardens and yards. There will be droppings and urine mostly in corners where the rodents rest. There can also be gnaw marks especially by rats or squirrels in your furniture and garden. Rodents are a huge fan of wood and would gnaw on them regularly. Your electric wires may also be a gnawing target. Some rodents give out a distinctive, musky odor when inhabiting a place. If you have a pet, you might catch them in an agitated state whenever the rodents are gnawing, digging, or running. Lastly, these rodents are scavengers who will cause holes in your food boxes and bags. They can nibble on mostly anything including those cereal and soap boxes.
Types of Rodenticides
Rodenticides are used when bait traps are no longer enough to control the infestation. Since rodents are scavengers, they tend to eat a small amount of food to see if it is safe to eat. Effective pesticides have delayed effect to counteract the rodent’s eating habits. There are different kinds of rodenticides based on how they work. The active ingredients of rodenticides vary based on how they would kill the rodents.
The most common rodenticide act as anticoagulants. Anticoagulants would stop normal blood clotting of the rodents. The effects of this kind of rodenticide would take around one to two weeks upon ingestion. It will initially cause damage to the rodent’s tiny blood vessels before causing internal bleeding. Anticoagulants stops the liver enzyme necessary to recycle Vitamin K for blood clotting. The rodent will die once it goes into circulatory shock or severe anemia. Some people consider this method inhumane as it can be a slow and painful death for the rodents. Anticoagulants would either require single or multiple feeding to get rid of the pests. Those with warfarin, chlorophacinone, and diphacinone requires multiple dose. On the other hand, those with bromadiolone, difethialone, and bromethalin would only require a single toxic dose. Warfarin was the first ever registered anticoagulant rodenticide. It was registered back in 1950 and soon rodents became resistant to it leading to development of new rodenticides.
If you are looking for a faster acting rodenticide, then you can try metal phosphides. Metal Phosphides would kill rodents in just one to three days upon ingestion. This method is considered single bait compared to anticoagulants that are known to be either single or multiple baits. Single bait means the rodent would need to ingest the rodenticide once to be exterminated. The bait would consist of food and a phosphide. The most common phosphide used would be zinc phosphide. The rodent’s digestive system produces acid that has a chemical reaction to phosphide. Combination of the acid and phosphide would result to toxic phosphine gas that will kill the rodent. Zinc phosphide would block the body’s cells from making energy which eventually leads to the cell’s death. This method causes severe damage to the heart, kidney, liver, and brain. Metal phosphide is most commonly used against rats and field mice in large infestations. Large infestations tend to be resistant to anticoagulants and therefore require a more severe method of extermination.
Rodenticides are considered the last resort in rodent extermination due to a high possibility of secondary poisoning. Secondary poisoning is when pets and children are affected by the poison intended for the rodents. For example, your pet may feed on the poisoned rodent if not disposed immediately. This will cause a transfer of the poison from the rodent to your pet. Effects of secondary poisoning include inhibited liver function and blood-clotting. Children exposed to rodenticides may unconsciously feed themselves with the poison. Side effects of anticoagulant secondary poisoning may manifest in a few days, depending on the level of exposure. Watch out for increased bruising, blood in urine and feces, bloody gums, fatigue, nausea, and nosebleeds.
Your pets may have increased heart rates and pale gums. Not all exposed pets and children show symptoms of secondary poisoning since it is mainly internal bleeding. Treating secondary poisoning due to anticoagulants is not difficult if diagnosed immediately. Treatment would involve doses of Vitamin K1 to improve the inhibited blood clotting. There is lesser chance of metal phosphide secondary poisoning as phosphides do not have the tendency to build up in rat tissue. If secondary poisoning does occur, symptoms would include tightness in chest and difficulty in breathing. There can also be yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes.
Make sure you follow the label instructions and avoid too much exposure. Dispose of your rodenticide properly to ensure no further contact with your children and pets. Identify if the rodenticide in your home are hazardous or non-regulated waste to find out how to dispose of it properly. When storing rodenticides, keep them in a cool, dry place inaccessible to children and pets.
Rodenticide for Consumers
Due to the high risk of poisoning by rodenticides, the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States have implemented rules in purchasing rat poison. For example, only farmers, livestock owners, and certified pest control technicians are allowed to purchase rodenticides in bulk. Loose pellets are no longer available for home purchase to avoid secondary poisoning especially for pets. It is therefore suggested that you get certified rodent control services to avoid causing severe harm to your family.
Insecticides address another common pest infestation – insects! Insecticides are not the same in formula as it can address specific insect infestations happening in your house. They may be designed to kill or repel insects. Some insecticides would do both actions. Insecticides would also
Common Insect Infestation
There are many common house insects that can lead to infestation. Here are some of the common pests:
a. Wasps: Wasps can build their nests in your fences, cardboard boxes and even attics. They are known for their powerful stings and can be very territorial once in their re-population stage. When not controlled, wasps can take up your entire attic. You can also find their paper nests within sheltered areas or eaves of your house. They can also build their nests in open pipes and old clotheslines.
b. Cockroaches: Cockroaches are a common site in urban areas. They are known to be quite resilient and believed to withstand even a nuclear explosion. They are known to transmit diseases. There are cockroaches that can cause structural damage to your home. Cockroaches usually appear in places with poor hygiene.
c. Ants: Ants infestation is difficult to control once they’ve entered a home. They will keep returning to food supply within your house unless you have removed their trail or destroyed the ant moulds.
d. Fleas: Fleas are a pet’s worst nightmare. Not only can the fleas severely damage your furry friend’s skin but they can also lead to anemia. Flea bites are also not good for humans. These pests host on warm-blooded creatures and can hibernate for several months until hosts appear. Majority of the flea population in your house are in egg and larva stage rather than adult fleas.
e. Bed Bugs: Most people would confuse flea bites with bed bug bites due to their similar nature. They both require a host to feed and can hibernate for months.
f. Flies: It’s easy to swat an irritating fly during an outside picnic. However, fly infestation can lead to bacterial infection. Flies feed on decaying matter which carries all kinds of bacteria.
Classifications of Insecticides
There is a variety of insects that can be targeted for extermination. One way of classifying insecticides is based on their mode of entry or administration to target pests. For this classification, there are five known types. The first one would be stomach insecticides. Stomach insecticides are administered to the food of the insects wherein they can ingest it. This is similar to the concept of rat poison. Another type would be contact insecticides. This may be one of the most common types of insecticide. The insecticide is directly administered to the pests whether they are the chewing or sucking type. The third type would be the systemic insecticides. Systematic insecticides work by administering it to the plant which will later be absorbed and be part of the plant. The insect will ingest the insecticide once they feed on the treated plant. The fourth type of insecticide are translaminar. Translaminar insecticides are also applied to plants but will treat the lamina of the leaf. This proves to be effective for sucking insects that can damage crops. The last type are fumigant insecticides. It is the most used type against indoor insects as it enters the insect’s system in gaseous form.
Another way to classify insecticides is based on their mode of action. There are more types based on this classification. They are mainly based on what chemical class is included in the insecticide as this determines how the insect will be repelled or killed. Here are the most common ones:
a. Carbamate and Organophosphate: These chemicals terminates the nerve impulse transmission of insects causing the insects to be disabled or killed. Multiple exposure to this type of chemical will increase it toxicity.
b. Glycoside: Similar to carbamate, glycoside affects the central nervous system by targeting the gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA) dependent chloride ion channels.
c. Insect Growth Regulators (IGR): IGR inhibits the exoskeleton, known as chitin, growth in insects. This is used for insects such as fleas where the early stages must be exterminated to avoid adult pests. One chemical class known to be an IGR is Triazine.
d. Pyrethroid and Organochloride: The most famous organochloride is DDT introduced back in 1944. This chemical targets the sodium channels of an insect’s nerve cells. Pyrethroid are less toxic than carbamates and organophosphate.
e. Botanical: Botanical insecticides usually acts as insect repellents and feeding deterrents. Some also affects the insect’s nervous system similar to other types but are not usually fatal.
There is evident risk when using insecticides in your house. Since most insecticides are sprayed on the plants, other creatures feeding on the plants may be poisoned. If you are pregnant, there is a higher risk when using insecticides. Any insecticide poisoning can cause congenital defects or brain impairment in the fetus.
Make sure you are using non-toxic pesticides when protecting your commercial crops. Edible crops such as corn, wheat, and vegetables must not be treated like ordinary house plants. There are special insecticides for edible crops to avoid secondary poisoning. Insecticides can also affect your water supply. Make sure you do not have any nearby water supply when using insecticides. It can be contaminated and drank by your family or pets. For example, longer exposure to insecticides can cause fishes to die in aquariums or nearby rivers. The wrong insecticide can also affect your plants. It can destroy the insects feeding on your plants or crops but it can also stunt the plant’s growth and germination. Leaf color may also be affected if insecticides are not chosen properly. Just because it can kill the pesky insects does not mean it can save your plants. Similarly, some insecticides can be harmless to certain pets but can cause severe reaction to other pets. For example, cat flea sprays are different from dog flea sprays. The two kinds should not be interchanged as cats can be allergic to certain chemicals that are non-toxic to dogs. Again, always read the label before purchasing.
Knowing Pesticides Facts
In general, the term pesticide can refer to rodenticide or insecticide or anything designed to kill creatures considered as “pests”. It can either attract, destroy, or repel pests. Pests are any plant or animal that proves to be harmful to humans or human activities. Aside from insecticides and rodenticides, there are also herbicides, termiticides, bactericides, predacides, disinfectant, and antimicrobial. The type of pesticide are usually based on the target pest group. The most common pesticide would be those used to protect plants especially farms and greenhouses. Theses would protect the plants from any disease, insect, or weeds.
What are other example of pests? We have the invertebrate pests such as insects, parasites, and snails. We also have plant pests which includes weeds and other invasive plant species. Others would be familiar with vertebrate pests such as mice, rats, beavers, and moles. Birds can also be pests such as pigeons, goose, woodpeckers, sparrows, and crows. Larger animals such as groundhogs, foxes, raccoons, bears and mountain lions are also considered as pests. All these have corresponding control methods which usually includes pesticides.
Pesticides would include a variety of chemicals or products that can be used in your house and may pose health hazards to your family. A study by Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants showed that 9 out of 12 of the most dangerous organic chemicals are pesticides.
The health hazards of any pesticide have been advised in all labels. There are three levels of pesticide poisoning. The first level would be mild poisoning. Symptoms of mild poisoning may include headache, dizziness, nausea, sweating, fatigue, insomnia, or irritation of the nose, eyes, or skin. The next level would be moderate poisoning in which the victim would have any of the mild symptoms coupled with vomiting, excessive salivation, coughing, abdominal cramps, blurring vision, mental confusion, rapid pulse, or profound weakness. The fatal level is when one reaches severe poisoning. The victim may have mild or moderate symptoms worsen by inability to breathe, small or pinpoint pupils, loss of reflexes, uncontrollable muscular twitching, unconsciousness, and eventual death. Pesticides can enter the human body through the skin, the lungs, or the mouth. The most common poisoning would be through the skin. Mixing or applying the pesticide can lead to even a splash or mist that will have contact with the human skin. Inhalation of the insecticide occurs when vapor or powder insecticides are used. Ingestion is the least common in humans but can be quite common for pets. Washing hands after using insecticides is important to keep yourself safe from ingestion.
Each person would have a different reaction to pesticides. Some may be more allergic than others. However, it is important to remember that the concentration and duration of exposure greatly affects the severity of poisoning.
Despite the high risk of pesticides, why are they still commercially available in the market? Pesticides may be toxic but they can control and exterminate organisms that are threats to humans. For example, pesticides can prevent transmission of diseases from an infected plant or animal. It can also kill any creature or plant that would cause environmental damage. It also saves our structures such as houses from being destroyed. Imagine not having insecticides when termites attack your walls and ceilings. Pesticides also protect or increase the economic value of crops especially during dry season when pests would infest fields. Farmers can attest that pesticides are investments on their crops with a return profit four times the cost of the pesticides.
The Environmental Protection Agency regulates the production and distribution of pesticides in the United States. Some pesticides are only allowed to be purchased by those in the agricultural business. Homeowners do not have access to all available pesticides in the market. Registered pest control services are the safest bet when dealing with pests at home. They know the best pesticide and are trained to handle to chemicals in the safest way possible. It may cost higher than purchasing the pesticides yourself but the risk and health hazard is much lower. Most countries require pesticides to be approved and used by a government agency before being on the market shelves.
Nowadays, there are more natural pest control methods available in the market. Pesticides are recommended for the worst times. It is still recommended you protect your house and crops from pests before any infestation starts. Watch out for the earliest signs and address the problem quickly to avoid using pesticides. There are more studies being conducted about the toxicity and hazard of pesticides. All these pointing out that prevention would still be the most effective method against pests.