Spiders suddenly dropping from the ceiling. The scratching of rats in the rafters. Roaches scuttling in formation across the floors. Such things are the stuff of nightmares. But if you’re a property manager, they are real-life threats powerful enough to penetrate all the way to your wallet.
Creepy, crawly invaders such as rodents, insects and even birds can cause untold damage to buildings and their contents. Some carry disease or inflict painful bites and stings. All of them, however, can do considerable damage to the reputation and budget of a business.
Pest control is clearly not optional if you want to manage a building responsibly. But at the same time, pesticides are poisons no matter how you slice it. Routine spraying is easy, but these days many people are concerned about reducing the amount of toxic chemicals in their environment.
Greener pest control? Try these environmentally responsible solutions
1. Pest-proof your property: Depending on the species, it may be easier to keep pests out of your building than to eradicate them once they’re inside. Learning about the species in question will help you anticipate where and when they are likely to come in. Then you can take steps to prevent the invasion.
Physical measures such as installing screens on vents and sealing up cracks and penetrations in foundations and eaves can be highly effective. Keep in mind that even tiny cracks can provide entry for many species; for instance, a small mouse can squeeze through a hole the diameter of a pencil.
While filling gaps may seem like a tedious task, it can be well worth it if you consider that the job can do double duty—standard air-sealing procedures like caulking and spray foaming are often sufficient to keep out the majority of pests, and they can reduce your heating and cooling expenses significantly.
2. Remove the incentives: Some pests are simply attracted to the shelter your building provides. But others are after a free lunch. Inspect your property regularly to identify any potential feeding grounds for pests. Kitchens and trash storage areas are obvious targets; however, many other areas can support pests as well, such as sewers, flower beds and even potted plants.
Remember that pests need water, too. Identify and eliminate any damp areas, including plumbing leaks and standing water in basements or alleys. Once you’ve identified areas that are attractive to critters, pay special attention to sanitizing and pest-proofing these spots.
3. Educate your tenants: Keep your tenants informed of your pest-control measures and enlist their help. Let them know what types of pest infestations you are working to prevent. Inform them of those species’ habits and any management techniques they can use to help you control them. For instance, if mice are a problem, your tenants should be discouraged from storing any food outside of designated mouse-proof areas.
4. Try trapping: Depending on the species, you may be able to trap your pests effectively with little or no chemical use. Many insect pests, such as roaches, respond to pheromone traps. Birds and small mammals may be captured in live traps. And the old-fashioned snap traps are actually a more humane way to dispatch mice than poisons.
5. Use natural and low-risk pesticides: While it’s not always possible to eliminate chemicals altogether, they can sometimes be replaced with less-toxic options. Try the following natural pest-control solutions:
• Boric acid is highly toxic to insects but relatively safe for humans and pets. Dust it along cracks to combat roaches, ants and silverfish. It is also available in tablet form (combined with a lure) to avoid the mess.
• Diatomaceous earth (DE) is a natural, nontoxic desiccant that dehydrates insects to death. It’s effective for fleas, bedbugs, cockroaches, ants, earwigs and other crawling insects. Be sure to use “food grade” or “insect control” DE, and not the kind for swimming pools, which can be hazardous to inhale.
• Natural repellents and deterrents containing ingredients such as citrus, cedar, citronella and mint oil are often effective at keeping insect pests away.
Outsmarting your unwanted visitors
Green pest control does require more thought than conventional routine spraying. You’ll need to learn about the pests and devise specific strategies for keeping them under control. Regular inspection of your premises and tracking of any potential pest activities will allow you to take swift action to stop pests that appear before they get out of hand. But when implemented consistently, these greener solutions can be just as effective.
Anne Michelsen is a freelance writer with expertise in areas including construction, small business management and sustainability (www.thegreeninkwell.com).
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