Part I: Introduction
Despite our best efforts to keep our premises clean, pests still manage to get into our homes infesting the spaces. In such times, we often turn to DIY (Do-It-Yourself) pest control as they are the most convenient and the cheapest. Some of these are passed-down natural remedies from generations and relatives. For example, using lemongrass to repel mosquitoes or pandan leaves to deter cockroaches. Others might be commercial pest repellents such as bug sprays to spray onto the offending pest or setting traps around pest hotspots to catch them.
DIY methods might be quick-fix solutions that allow us to tackle the pest problem immediately. However, that does not mean that they can get rid of pests in the long-term. As such, this article will be a comprehensive guide to evaluating the effectiveness of DIY remedies. Furthermore, it provides information on long-term solutions to getting rid of pests.
Part II: The Effectiveness of DIY Pest Control
2.1. Common DIY Pest Control Methods
In general, DIY pest management methods can be classified into two categories. The first refers to natural remedies that make use of common household products such as food and essential oils. The second category mainly consists of pest repellents developed for commercial use – bug spray, baits, and traps. Subsequently, this section will be split into the various types of DIY remedies, discuss why they repel pests and evaluate their efficacy.
Essential oils are compounds extracted from plants that supposedly capture the plants’ scent or ‘essence’. Due to their pleasing scent, they are often used for aromatherapy. In addition, they may also be a component in bug sprays to disguise the strong smell of the chemicals used. There are some essential oils that have been found to repel pests. Examples include citronella (lemongrass), peppermint, eucalyptus, tea tree, neem, and lavender amongst others. They are either diffused throughout the room or used in a mixture of vinegar and soap water to wipe down surfaces. Essential oils are most often used to repel flying pests such as flies and mosquitoes. They have also been known to deter crawling pests including cockroaches, ants and rats.
The reason why they repel pests is that the strong scent interferes with the insects’ sense of smell. Many pests have a keen sense of smell (which is their chemical signals) that they use to navigate towards food sources. For example, mosquitoes have an olfactory receptor that specifically detects the components in human sweat. On the other hand, ants lay down pheromones to food sources that other ants detect using their sense of smell. The scent of essential oils can be disorienting and confuse pests, thus repelling them away from our premises. Other essential oils (such as citronella and eucalyptus) mask the scents that pests are attracted to. That is why mosquito patches often contain citronella essential oil as it has shown effects in preventing mosquitoes from landing on humans.
Does essential oil works in getting rid of pests?
However, in most studies evaluating the effectiveness of essential oils, it was found that they could only repel pests for a maximum of 2 hours. After which, the pests are likely to return. Thus, essential oils can only get rid of pests for a short while. Moreover, many essential oils can be toxic for pets as they can interfere with their body chemistry. This includes popular oils for pest eradication such as eucalyptus, peppermint, and tea tree. In summary, essential oils may be a pleasant-smelling pest control method, but they are short-term solutions that do not eliminate the root source of the pest infestation.
Limiting food sources in the open is one of the most-repeated pest prevention tips. However, some food choices may turn pests away, thus making them perfect as a DIY pest control method. Foods such as basil leaves, pandan leaves, orange peels, garlic, and onions are often placed at entry points. They act as repellents ward off pests like cockroaches, ants, rodents, and lizards. In addition, consuming certain food items has also been said to increase the likelihood of repelling pests that feast on human blood such as mosquitoes and bed bugs. Garlic has allicin, onions and tomatoes have thiamine, and citrus fruits have nootkatone – all of which have been observed to repel pests.
Food items work on the same principle as essential oils in that their strong smells often interfere with the pests’ sense of smell and may confuse them. However, placing food items around your premises is dangerous, as once they dry up or rot, they are no longer effective and may even become another food source that attracts pests! In addition, pests such as cockroaches favour decomposed or decayed matter, making them a perfect food choice for cockroach infestation. If you have small children and/or pets, placing such food items is not good either as they may consume them. Much like essential oils, food items only get rid of pests in the short-term.
Overall, using food items as a pest control solution has more disadvantages than advantages. It is best to just clean up food spills and keep food items in sealed containers so that pests do not have access to them.
The two most common natural chemicals that are used in natural pest control remedies are boric acid, and Diatomaceous earth (DE).
Boric acid is a naturally occurring state of the chemical boron in rocks, water, and plants. It has many industrial and commercial uses and comes in the form of pellets, tablets, or powder. Many used boric acid for pest control, as it is highly abrasive to the exoskeletons of insects. Therefore, people either place the powder or create a mixture of boric acid and water to place them near pest entry points. The boric acid either sticks to the pests or consumed – slowly tearing away at their exoskeletons and eliminating them. For cockroaches that feast on their dead, consuming dead cockroaches that contain boric acid can also kill them. Read on the FAQ of essential information you need to know about cockroaches.
However, boric acid is highly irritating when it comes in contact with skin and eyes and has to be handled carefully. Ingestion by humans can cause vomiting and nausea. Moreover, boric acid does not work on rodents or lizards.
DE is a type of sand that contains fossilised silica remains of algae known as diatoms and works similarly to boric acid. DE’s abrasive properties can pierce the shells of insects’ exoskeletons, slowly dehydrating and killing them. As they are non-irritating and non-toxic to humans, they are a safer alternative to boric acid.
Compared to essential oils and food items, natural chemicals are more effective. They can eliminate pests rather than deter them away from premises. However, as pest colonies can be huge, they may not be completely eradicated. Consequently, using natural chemicals only works if you have a small number of pests and is not effective in controlling pest infestations.
Baits, Traps, and Insect Repellents
Insect repellents, the ones you spray on your skin are typically formulated with three chemicals – DEET (diethyltoluamide), picaridin, or oil of eucalyptus. They mask our scent and interfere with pests’ smell receptors so that they are not attracted to us. They are typically more effective than essential oils as they are more lasting but they would still need constant reapplication to remain effective.
Bug sprays – those that you spray on pests like cockroaches, ants, and mosquitoes are formulated with pyrethroids and carbamates. Both of them work to inhibit the nervous systems of the insects, thus paralysing them and slowly killing them. That is why bug sprays are more effective than natural remedies at getting rid of pests as they actually serve as a “contact kill”, rather than just deter them from entering your premises.
However, insect repellents have limitations in their effectiveness as they only target the pests that you can see. Moreover, some pests develop resistance against chemicals over time, further reducing their effectiveness in getting rid of them. In addition, it eliminates the physical presence of pests rather than resolving the root source or breeding sites. Besides, the chemicals used are also toxic to humans especially when using a large amount, particularly when attempting to chase after fast-moving pests such as cockroaches that possess various strengths and capabilities in avoiding their predators.
Innovative pest control solutions
There are many types of baits and traps available for commercial use. Most of them operate on a similar principle – luring the pest using bait and trapping them to eliminate them or keep them in one place. The baits may vary from light sources to food. Baits and traps may be more effective than bug sprays as they can trap hard-to-catch pests like rodents and are typically less harmful unless using poison as a form of elimination.
Recent innovations in pest control have also seen traps incorporate sensing technology so that they can monitor and control pest activity more effectively! However, it is important to note that their effectiveness relies on strategic placement. This ensures that pests do not end up avoiding the traps and continue infesting the premises. Thus, it helps to engage professional pest control companies. They possess the knowledge and technical expertise to identify key risk areas to target at pest activities effectively.
Cleaning should be the first line of defence against pest infestations. Hygienic conditions reduce the attraction of pests to your premises. This does not only refer to keeping the premises clean, but also cleaning bed linens, rugs, carpets and even sinks or food preparation areas including kitchen top as they attract pests.
In particular, vacuuming and steaming are also common DIY pest control methods for bed bugs. Vacuuming the sofa and mattress can suck up any bed bugs while steaming bed linen can eliminate them. As bed bugs are sensitive to sunlight, ‘sunning’ mattresses and sofa seats will expose them to high temperatures. However, bed bug elimination requires very high temperature settings, integrated with bed bug control programmes using special active ingredients. In addition, there are many other places bed bugs can hide other than the bed. As such, keeping your bed clean does not necessarily guarantee that you are completely rid of bed bugs. Professional bed bug specialists have the ability to detect and identify bed bugs, and recommend suitable bed bug treatments to resolve your pest problem.
Nevertheless, it is still crucial to maintain a level of hygiene at all times. The infographic below contains a few simple tips that you can follow.
2.2. DIY Remedies versus Professional Pest Control – The Pros & Cons
Despite possessing some level of knowledge in pest management, including the efficacy and efficiency in eliminating pests, many still rely on DIY remedies until today. For example, some individuals burn neem leaves to repel biting insects, and many are extensively using lemongrass as a form of mosquito prevention. Even as we observe more improved research and technology in pest control techniques, many homeowners still applying DIY remedies are. Why is that so? Essentially, it is because of the following reasons:
Food items and essential oils are featured in nearly every household and do not take much preparation time. Especially for those used for aromatics including basil, vinegar and cloves, retrieved from convenience and proximity means. However, there is a misperception that engaging pest control company is a hassle, time consuming, costly and only meant for severe infestation cases. Read more on what to expect on pest control services in Singapore.
It is no surprise that DIY remedies are often a lot cheaper than professional pest control services. It is often a preferred choice for individuals to opt for cheaper measures or have a budget constraint to consider. This is another common misconception that pest solutions are costly, and unable to determine the long-term cost versus the implications and consequences when dealing with a heavy infestation because of delay in seeking professional rectification. Several factors can determine the price of pest control. They include type of pest treated, the severity, number of treatments required and choice of active ingredients used.
Short term relief
As more DIY remedies are targeting at deterring pest presence, trap or contact kill, they can provide some form of short term relief. These remedies eliminate their visibility for a short while. However, most usually, they merely eliminate the existing pests while relocating them to another area. Hence, most homeowners will tend to experience recurring pest activities as their breeding source is still active.
The Cons of DIY Pest Control
Unfortunately, DIY remedies are only as effective as short-term solutions. What’s more, some remedies are even toxic to humans. Ultimately, one of the biggest cons of DIY remedies is that they do not offer much long-term protection. This is especially crucial for cross-infestation pests such as bed bugs and termites. This is because they can easily spread from one place to another.
Another con is that DIY remedies have varying effects on different types of pests. For example, did you know that three different species of termites infest properties in Singapore? As they are growing underground and within structures with limited reach, they require specific termite treatments that have specific ingredients to get rid of them effectively. As such, DIY remedies might be convenient and cheap. However, they are not targeted treatments that will ensure long-term pest control.
As a result, a huge advantage of hiring a professional pest control company is the expertise that they offer. They have specialists who are knowledgeable in identifying pest species and understanding how they operate. Furthermore, they have experience in selecting and administering the best pest treatments. Moreover, they also offer long-term treatment plans such as Rentokil’s In2Care – an innovative product that utilises the behaviour of adult female mosquitoes to deliver larvicide that eliminates both adult mosquitoes and larvae.
Part III: Ensuring a Pest-Free Environment
3.1. The Implications of Inadequate Pest Control
While DIY remedies do help to a certain extent, they are unable to tackle the root cause of the issue. Thus, it results in inadequate pest control. When it comes to pest infestations, this causes consequences including:
Recurring pest problem
Most remedies usually deter pests for a short while and pests often return once the remedy has worn out. For instance, the scent of essential oils will eventually dissipate, and baits only work on a small number of pests or light infestation condition. Not only does it not eliminate the root source, i, causing growth in pest population and spread of pests.
Moving pests to other areas
DIY remedies that work as deterrents, such as essential oils and food items, may just cause pests to move to a different location in the same area. This is not good as they may go on to infest previously uninfected areas. Now, instead of being located in one region, it results in cross infestation and moving over a large area, thus worsening the pest problem. This, in turn, may lead to more damage to health and safety.
Damage to health and safety
Pests carry and spread harmful diseases such as Salmonella, E.Coli, dengue fever, and Zika. As they are a carrier of bacteria, pathogens and microorganisms, they can transfer and spread diseases. This can happen on contact surfaces and during food preparation period. Particularly, pests related to poor hygiene and sanitation includes cockroaches and rats. They lurk in drains and waste bins, and cause food contamination symptoms.
Pest can present safety issues as well when they cause extensive structural damage to the property. This is typically the case for a termite or rodent infestation. Termites burrow and eat through wooden structures, thus chewing off foundations and weaken stability of the property. While rodents, such as rats and mice, gnaw on electronics and through weak points in walls. Not only do they create an unsafe environment for humans, but they also result in extra financial costs from hiring professionals to treat the infestations, repair damaged structures or recover from an incident such as fire. Essentially, it will be beneficial to hire a professional pest control company once you spot signs of infestation so that you can ensure the safety and health of the occupants on the premises.
Negative business implications
Pest infestations in commercial spaces may incur negative implications. This is especially so for industries that have a zero-pest tolerance policy. This includes the hospitality and food retail industries. A severe pest issue results in financial losses as the premises close to carry out investigation and re-treatment. In addition, product recall for food retail industries may happen if pests end up inside food packages. Furthermore, a negative brand image as people associate pests with poor hygiene and safety standards. It is imperative for businesses to hire a credible and expert pest control service that offers effective and quality pest management. They should cover effective treatments and preventative measures. The initial investment will be worth it in the long-run in comparison with the rectification costs and financial consequences in the long term.
3.2. A Checklist to Ensure a Pest-Free Environment
Now that you understand the problems of inadequate pest management, you may be wondering how an expert pest control company can ensure a pest-free environment. Here is a checklist of five essential things that a good pest control company will follow to ensure effective pest elimination.
Detection and inspection
Firstly, detection and inspection of the premises is the first thing that they will do. While seeing the actual pest is the clearest indication of a pest issue, the pest control specialist will also look out for other signs. Examples include droppings, discarded wings (for termites), physical damage to structures, and indications of nesting (for rodents). Secondly, the specialist will determine the species of the pest, the location of the infestation, and the severity of the damage. Thirdly, they will be able to uncover the root cause of the pest problem. This is crucial for selecting the right treatment. Fourthly, they will analyse the environment condition and risk assessment of the premise. Some pest control companies offer routine inspections as part of their pest management packages for premises that face challenging pest problems. This ensures that they can tackle the issue preventatively.
Certain environmental factors trigger pest infestations. Examples include poor hygiene, sanitation condition, inadequate waste management, neighbouring premises experiencing an infestation or surrounding construction work. This includes assessing premises residing in dengue clusters, or weather changes where heavy rain is more likely to drive pests indoors or hot weather allows mosquitoes to thrive better. By evaluating the risk factors, pest control specialists can determine what kind of treatment needed to ensure effective and sustainable protection. Additional recommendations will also be given in areas of proofing, housekeeping and diligent checks.
Choosing the pest control service
With a deep understanding of premise condition, environment risk and infestation level, the pest control specialist will have a clear picture of your pest problem. They will recommend relevant treatments that can resolve the problem. Some may just need a one-off treatment. Others may require a more long-term treatment plan and some may require a mix of different treatments. Additional evaluation includes specific needs such as 24/7 monitoring where digitised pest control is available, green and safe solutions, or energy savings technology while ensuring optimal efficacy.
Monitoring and tracking
It is important to monitor and track the progress of the pest population and efficacy of the treatment. This ensures that it is working as intended and adjustments made accordingly if it does not meet control expectations. This includes monitoring pest ‘hotspots’ to minimise a sudden surge in pests and that they do not get a chance to spread to other areas. Besides, pest population through pest trending analysis helps to measure the population level, especially for critical business sectors. Pest activities and movements are also monitored like Rentokil’s Digital Rodent Control where it uses technology to monitor rodent activity so that specialists can tackle a problem immediately.
Both pest control provider and premise owner must integrate and engage in the pest management programme to ensure optimal efficacy. Firstly, efficacy is dependent on hygienic standards such as grease, food debris or wastes presence that attract pests. Secondly, ongoing maintenance in the form of regular housekeeping, diligent user habits, and proofing (using insect screens, filling up cracks and crevices, etc) will ensure that pest infestations are kept at bay. In addition, diligent user habits include cleaning up any food and water spills on surfaces, confining eating to kitchens and pantries, and regularly disposing of garbage. Thirdly, proofing refers to using insect screens on windows, filling up cracks and crevices that pests use as entry points, and limiting clutter. Fourthly, routine inspections and regular monitoring by pest control specialists are part of ongoing maintenance.
Finally, you can consult for professional expertise and recommendations that may include useful pest prevention tips and simple pest identification, for example the difference between termites and ants.
Part IV: Conclusion
There are pro’s and con’s in seeking professional services versus DIY pest remedies. While some bring cost effectiveness or time convenience, we should weigh and consider factors. These include health risks, safety, property damages and financial implications. Avoid delay and take rectification actions early as pests multiply and spread easily. More importantly, have your home checked for pest risks early.
Rentokil Singapore offers a range of pest control services for various industries types! Call us at 6347 8138 for a pest control solution today.