Your home should be a place where you feel safe and secure. But finding insects and other pests in your home can feel like an unwelcome intrusion or an uncontrolled invasion.
There are several different types of pest groups that can be found in the home, including those that are just looking for a protected place to pass the winter (lady bugs and cluster flies), those foraging or feeding on other insects (spiders and centipedes), ones that feed on products within the home (cockroaches and carpet beetles), pests that feed on us or our pets (bed bugs and fleas), or even ones that feed directly on our homes (termites and powderpost beetles).
Pest infestations or the waste they leave behind in the home can also trigger allergic reactions for some occupants. While many people would prefer not to use an insecticide in or around their homes, they may be willing to make an exception when their home is under attack.
Pesticides, along with other tactics, can be used to effectively manage pests in the home when used correctly. However, pesticide use can present its own set of risks and hazards when used improperly. Here is a list of advisory steps to ensure pesticides are used safely in and around the home.
- Be sure you use the proper pesticide for the problem. Have the pest properly identified; this can be done through your local Extension office. You may also want to check with your county Extension agent to determine if a pesticide is actually needed. If one is suggested, then make sure it is approved for use with the type of location where it will be used and that the pest needing to be controlled is on the label. If the location is not on the label, it may not be safe (or legal) to use the pesticide in that situation, and if the pest is not on the label, it may not help to control the problem.
- Read the label carefully. The label is the law and you must follow the label directions. By following the label directions, you can feel assured that they product has been thoroughly tested and is approved for that specific use.
- Follow all label directions. This includes using the correct rate or dosage, preparing the necessary dilution, and observing any use restrictions. Many pesticide labels have restrictions that state “Only for professional use” or “Not for use in residential areas.” Restricted Use Pesticides (RUPs) can be used only by certified applicators and are not to be used around the home.
- Do not use household items to measure, mix, or apply pesticides. Only use items that are only for pesticide use and marked properly so that they are not used for other purposes around the home. Only mix up the amount of pesticide that you intend to apply that day and apply all of the pesticide you mixed up according to the directions on the label. Never dispose of pesticides down a drain.
- Think about your own safety when using pesticides, including what you are wearing. The label will list required minimum personal protective equipment (PPE), but if nothing is listed, I would suggest plastic gloves, shoes and socks, long pants, and a long-sleeved shirt as minimum work clothes when handling or applying pesticides.
- Keep other people, children, and pests out of the area when applying pesticides. Check the label to see when it is safe to have people and pets return. If the label doesn’t address this, a good rule of thumb is to wait at least until sprays have thoroughly dried. All pesticide labels state “Keep out of reach of children.”
- When you are done, you need to clean up. If you are using any reusable personal protective equipment like gloves or goggles, these need to be washed in soap and water and rinsed. At a minimum, wash your hands and face with soap and water as well. Do this before eating, drinking, or smoking. Wash your clothes separately from those of your family.
- Store your pesticides in a safe location where others, particularly children and pets, don’t have access to them. The last section of the label will outline the storage requirements for the particular pesticides (for example, avoid extreme temperatures or store above 40°F).
Only by carefully reading and following the label directions can we be assured that the pesticide we are using has been properly studied and the use approved.
By Ric Bessin, Entomology Extension Specialist