Healthy ways to keep out critters and bugs

by Julia Gerke

Let’s face it: Most people hate pesky invaders in their home. But that seldom stops critters and bugs to find a way in.

When temperatures drop, a natural response is to seek warmer and cozier surroundings -- not just for people but for all kinds of creatures. Most homeowners are aware and on the lookout for signs that critters and insects try to invade their buildings and living spaces.

Pest management is an important part of home ownership and building maintenance. But while many people may turn towards chemical-laden pesticides as a control measure, experts have been calling for a more environmentally friendly and prevention-based way to control bugs and critters: Integrated pest management.

What are pests?

We may call annoying family members or co-workers a pest sometimes, but pests are defined as animals or plants with harmful effects on humans, food or living conditions.

These include

  • Mosquitoes (they can spread diseases)
  • Mice
  • Rats
  • Silverfish (they may damage clothing)
  • Termites (they may damage the building)
  • Bedbugs
  • Cockroaches
  • Flies
  • Lice
  • Fleas
  • Mites
  • Spiders

spider in webSeeing the occasional spider or mosquito inside a home is nothing to fret about, since they occasionally enter the home through open doors or windows. But many pests carry diseases and contribute to bad air quality, so preventing infestations is key.

What to do about pests

Integrated pest management is all about prevention, monitoring and control. It includes regular inspections of the home or building, keeping records of the findings and pinpointing trends in outbreaks.

Most experts will tell you that you can never fully get rid of pests - you can only control their population and make sure they are not turning into an all-out infestation.

It’s nevertheless possible to control pests with proper cleaning and maintenance, structural repairs, mechanical and living biological controls, non-chemical methods, and the least toxic pesticides - if, and only if, all other methods of control have been exhausted.

According to Beyond Pesticides, the least toxic pesticides include boric acid, desiccant dusts (diatomaceous earth and silica gel), microbe-based pesticides and pesticides made with certain essential oils.

Examples of IPM measures:

  1. Inspect a home and identify points of entry for pests such as mice. Even tiny holes above ground level can allow mice to squeeze through. Use caulk to seal cracks.
  2. Install screens on doors and windows.
  3. Store food properly and keep the kitchen free of dirt, grease and crumbs.

How toxic pesticides affect your health

Toxic pesticides are quite dangerous and should only be used when needed and according to the instructions. Government websites in North America feature long lists of possible health effects linked to pesticide use.

Mild poisoning: Effects include irritation to eyes, nose and throat, headaches, nausea, insomnia and many more

Moderate poisoning is characterized by vomiting, coughing, rapid pulse, weakness and mental confusion, among many other symptoms

Severe poisoning includes symptoms such as inability to breathe, muscle twitching, chemical burns and even death. See the complete list here

Children are most susceptible to pesticides and they should be protected as much as possible. Pesticides are made with complex chemicals, many of which are known to affect the neurological system or lead to the development of cancer. Traces of them can build up in human bodies and lead to health effects over time.

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Julia Gerke
Julia Gerke

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