Eco-Friendly Pest Management

By Patrick T. Copps, Orkin, Inc. As the demand for multifamily living grows, competition for residents is higher than ever. This trend, coupled with the fact that consumers are required to make tough decisions in the current economic climate, means your property must go beyond standard amenities to attract residents and remain at maximum capacity.  Multifamily properties can’t afford to ignore the growing demand for eco-friendly living environments. Today’s consumers are more likely to spend their “green” on products and services created with sustainability in mind. You’ve likely heard about ways your property can become more environmentally friendly, but you may not know that your pest control program is a great place to make a difference.  With recent scientific advances and some good old-fashioned housekeeping, you can implement a green pest management program that relies less on chemical treatments. Green pest management techniques can be incorporated as part of an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program. IPM uses alternative pest management methods such as sanitation and facility maintenance to eliminate the basic survival elements pests seek: food, water, shelter and comfortable temperatures.  A proactive and holistic pest management approach, IPM employs low-impact chemical treatments as a last resort, and only in targeted applications. Work with your pest management professional to implement an IPM program that incorporates these green pest management techniques at your apartment communities.  Fly lights The food waste and trash that your property produces appeals to flies looking for a meal. Install fly lights to trap flying insects before they access the interior of your buildings. Modern fly lights use ultraviolet light to attract and draw pests to a non-toxic sticky board inside a confined trap unit. You can place these devices throughout interior common areas on your property, but they are particularly useful near entrances to community and trash areas. Replace the sticky boards regularly and the specialized light bulbs at least twice per year for best results.  Sticky boards Often used for cockroach management, sticky boards are one of the most common non-chemical pest control methods. Sticky boards trap unwanted crawling pests, aiding in their ultimate removal, and help monitor pest activity around your property.  Place these traps out of sight in common pest hot spots such as storage areas, and community pool utility rooms, fitness and laundry facilities. If used as a monitoring method, keep a record of the number and type of pests found at each location to determine the pest activity level.   Organic cleaners Consider switching to an organic bio-cleaner product instead of a chemical one when sanitizing around your property. These environmentally friendly products use naturally-occurring bacteria and enzymes to break down grease and grime. Organic cleaners can eradicate breeding areas for drain and fruit flies when used in and around drains, sinks and garbage cans.  Pheromone trapsWith the help of modern science, pest management professionals can now use pests’ biology against them by using synthetic copies of chemicals involved in pest reproduction and growth. Insects use secreted natural chemicals called pheromones to communicate with pests of the same species.Pheromone traps incorporate synthetically replicated versions of an insect’s pheromones to lure the target pest to a sticky trap. Most often used as a technique to manage flying insects, pheromone traps can help identify and monitor pest populations in communal storage areas so you’ll know when to take corrective action. Insect Growth Regulators (IGRs)Like pheromone traps, IGRs use synthetic replications of insect hormones to disrupt pest life cycles and prevent them from reaching full maturity. This prevents reproduction and limits the pest population. Insect baitAn effective alternative to traditional spray pesticides, insect baits use chemical formulations in small stations or in gels, allowing you to apply them in a targeted and contained manner. Low-volatile baits will most often be applied to cracks and crevices, or as a small bait puck with the chemical secreted inside a protective casing.Pest management professionals will often use bait pucks in damp, dark areas to control cockroaches. In many cases, insects will consume the bait and take it back to their nest, which can help eliminate entire colonies. Since these baits do include chemicals, your trained and licensed pest management professional will need to handle applications of these products.  Repellents and desiccants Small amounts of repellent dust help keep pests from hiding in hard-to-reach cracks and crevices in and around your property. Commonly used to treat crawling insects such as ants and roaches, repellents use a combination of pyrethrins (a product derived from chrysanthemums) and desiccants (like silica gel) to damage insects’ exoskeletons and cause their bodies to lose moisture and dry out. Repellents and desiccants are most effective when used in small openings around the exterior of a building. Sealing these voids with caulk after treatment will help reduce the pests’ hiding spots and the chance of future infestations.    As you know, implementing effective pest management can be challenging in multifamily housing environments due to the large number of residents with different lifestyles and sanitation habits. You simply can’t control everything that goes on in your residents’ individual units. You can, however, encourage your residents to become part of your property’s environmentally friendly pest management efforts. Residents can get on board by alerting you to pest problems in their individual units before they become larger property-wide issues and taking simple sanitation steps to make their homes less inviting to pests. Even the smallest improvement in your residents’ day-to-day behavior can go a long way toward preventing pests and reducing your property’s reliance on chemical control methods. Ask your pest management professional to provide tip sheets and reminders on how residents can assist in your green pest management efforts to include in your monthly newsletters.     Implement green pest management techniques today, and make your property more attractive to current and potential residents who are committed to sustaining the environment.Patrick Copps is technical services manager for Orkin’s Pacific Division. A Board Certified Entomologist in urban and industrial entomology, he has more than 30 years experience in the industry.