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Types of Pest Control Methods (2024)

Author Icon Written by Brenda Woods Updated 04/05/2024

Are you tired of dealing with pest problems in your home or garden? Whether it’s a swarm of aphids, a cockroach infestation, or a termite colony, pests can be a nuisance and a health hazard. Before you reach for pesticides or call a professional pest control service, it’s important to understand the types of pest control methods available and what each is best suited for.

In this article, we will guide you through the world of pest control and provide an overview of the most common techniques for managing pest populations. Whether you’re a DIYer looking for natural solutions or a homeowner needing professional services, we’ll help you decide on the best way to tackle your pest problem.


Natural Pest Control Methods

If you want an eco-friendly, humane, and sustainable approach to pest control, natural methods are the way to go. The term “natural” pest control refers to a wide variety of methods that don’t use synthetic or even organic pesticides. These options can do wonders to keep an infestation from coming back—and professional exterminators nearly always include prevention in an effective pest control plan.

Since the natural pest control methods below are largely prevention strategies, they’re a great first step in pest control.

Keeping your home clean and tidy is a simple yet effective way to discourage pests from entering and multiplying. Be sure to regularly clean and sanitize your kitchen, dispose of food waste properly, and store food in airtight containers. Large stacks of paper and cardboard should also be disposed of or sealed away. This can help deter common pests, including cockroaches, ants, and rodents, by making your home less hospitable for them. Maintaining a clutter-free environment can also help prevent pests from hiding and breeding in piles of clutter.

Seal any cracks or holes in your walls, floors, and foundation to prevent pests from entering your home. Pay special attention to vents, pipes, window frames, and other penetrations in walls and roofs. For insects, sealing with caulk is often sufficient, but for gnawing pests like rodents, you may need to fill gaps with metal mesh. Repair leaks and remove standing water to avoid attracting mosquitos, roaches, and other water-loving insects.

Encouraging the presence of natural predators in your garden can help control pest populations. For example, ladybugs and praying mantises are natural enemies of aphids and other common garden pests. You can attract these beneficial insects by planting flowers and herbs that provide nectar and pollen.


Biological Pest Control Methods

Biological pest control methods utilize living organisms to control pest populations. These methods rely on introducing either natural enemies or pathogens to the pest population, which can help reduce their numbers.

Predators

As mentioned earlier, the presence of natural enemies in your garden can be an effective way to control pest populations. In a residential context, it’s best to focus on predators native to your area and encourage their presence rather than actively introduce them. Otherwise, you may create a new problem, such as introducing an invasive species.

Below are a few predators that help keep pest populations in check. Next to each one, we have listed examples of its natural prey:

  • Bats: Mosquitos, moths, and other flying insects
  • Birds: Caterpillars, beetles, and other insects
  • Frogs and toads: Flies, mosquitos, and other insects
  • Lacewings: Aphids, whiteflies, mites, and thrips
  • Ladybugs: Aphids, whiteflies, mites, and scale insects
  • Nematodes: Grubs, weevils, and other soil-dwelling pests
  • Parasitic wasps: Caterpillars, beetles, and flies
  • Praying mantises: Flies, mosquitoes, beetles, and caterpillars
  • Snakes: Rodents and other small mammals

Make sure that any snakes you see on your property are of a nonvenomous variety, such as garter snakes and king snakes. The best bird species for insect control include chickadees, bluebirds, goldfinches, sparrows, swallows, titmice, and wrens. Owls, meanwhile, prey on rodents and other small mammals.

Pathogens

Certain microorganisms can be used to control pest populations. The bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is one example. Bt produces a protein that is toxic to certain pest insects, including caterpillars, when ingested. However, Bt generally does not harm humans, mammals, and non-target insects.


Physical Pest Control Methods

Physical pest control methods use traps or physical barriers to exclude or capture pests. These methods are often non-toxic and are typically most effective for small-scale pest problems. Their limitation is that they often capture only adult pests and leave eggs and larvae intact. We’ve listed a few examples below.

Insect and rodent traps can be used to capture and monitor pest populations. For example, sticky traps can be used to capture flies and other flying insects, while pheromone traps can be used to capture moths or other insects attracted to a specific scent. Rodent traps may be lethal or nonlethal, but nonlethal traps must be emptied far away from your property to prevent the problem from returning.
Physical barriers can prevent pests from entering your home or garden. Here are a few barrier types:
  • Copper tape: Place copper tape around the base of garden plants to deter slugs and snails. 
  • Fencing: Use netting or fencing to protect plants from birds or other wildlife that may feed on them.
  • Mesh screens: Install mesh screens on windows and doors to keep flying insects outside.
  • Weatherstripping: Seal gaps around windows and doors with caulk or weatherstripping.
Diatomaceous earth is a powder made from the fossilized remains of small aquatic organisms. It can be sprinkled around the perimeter of your home and garden to act as a physical barrier. It works by dehydrating and damaging the exoskeletons of insects, causing them to die. Food-grade diatomaceous earth is not toxic to humans or pets when used properly. However, it can irritate the lungs if inhaled in large amounts, and it often needs to be reapplied regularly.
Heat treatment can be a highly effective pest control method, particularly for bed bug infestations. This method involves heating the affected area to a temperature that is lethal to pests, usually around 120–140 degrees Fahrenheit. Typically, only pest control professionals have access to the proper equipment to create the necessary temperature.

Chemical Pest Control Methods

Chemical pest control methods involve using synthetic or natural compounds to kill or repel pests. Remember that organic chemicals are still chemicals, and while they are often less toxic to humans, anything that kills a pest is, by definition, toxic. While these methods can be effective, they may also negatively impact the environment and human health. Here are a few examples of chemical pest control methods.

Chemical Pesticides

Chemical pesticides are one of the most common forms of pest control. They may take the form of aerosol sprays, dusts, baits, or gels. They work by targeting specific pests and disrupting their nervous systems, killing them or preventing them from reproducing. Depending on the chemical, they may be effective against a broad range of pests or only certain species. They are regulated by the EPA and usually not directly harmful to humans. However, some pesticides can also harm beneficial insects and contaminate water runoff or other parts of the environment.

Fumigation

Fumigation involves sealing off an area and releasing a toxic gas to kill pests. This method is often used to control termite infestations, but it can be used to control other pests in homes and buildings. Fumigation can be dangerous if not done properly, and it may also leave behind harmful residues.

Rodenticides

Rodenticides are chemicals used to kill rodents, such as rats and mice. These chemicals can be highly toxic and can harm other animals if not used properly. They can also pose a risk to human health if ingested or inhaled.


In addition to those outlined above, several other pest control methods can be effective for specific pests or situations. Here are some examples.

Repellents are substances that are applied to surfaces or clothing to repel pests. They work by creating an unpleasant odor, taste, or sensation for the pest, which in turn causes them to avoid the treated area. There are a variety of repellents available for different pests, from essential oils such as peppermint and citronella to synthetic repellents such as DEET. Note, however, that repelling pests from one area might not get rid of an infestation.

Trap cropping involves planting a sacrificial crop that attracts pests away from the main crop. For example, you might plant marigolds around a vegetable garden to attract aphids away from the vegetables.

Cultural control involves modifying the environment or human practices to prevent pests from infesting crops or homes. For instance, you can choose pest-resistant plant varieties to reduce the need for other pest control measures and use soil-management techniques to reduce the risk of soil-borne pests.

Mechanical devices range from fly swatters to ultrasonic devices, bug zappers, and electronic repellents. Despite how they are often advertised, these devices vary substantially in effectiveness. For example, ultrasonic pest repellents have not been found to work. Vacuuming can also be used as a form of mechanical pest control to remove pests from carpets and furniture.

Herbicides are chemicals used to kill weeds. While they are not typically used for pest control, they can help indirectly by eliminating the weeds that provide a habitat for pests.


DIY vs. Professional Pest Control

You have two main pest control options: DIY or professional. While DIY methods can be effective for prevention and smaller, less urgent pest problems, larger infestations may require the help of a professional pest control service. There are benefits and drawbacks to each approach, as DIY pest control is typically more affordable whereas professional pest control is quicker and more effective.

Professional Methods

Hiring a professional pest control company such as Terminix or Orkin offers several advantages. Experienced exterminators have the training to identify the type of pest problem, locate the source of the infestation, and determine the most effective treatment method. They also have access to powerful, professional-grade products unavailable to the average homeowner. 

Most professional pest control companies use an integrated pest management approach that combines multiple methods to address the root cause of the pest problem and prevent future infestations. They may also guarantee their work, providing peace of mind.

However, there are some downsides to using professional services, including the cost and potential chemical exposure. Professional pest control costs significantly more than DIY methods, particularly if your situation requires ongoing treatment. Additionally, some pest control companies use products that may pose risks to human health, pets, or the environment if not used properly.

QUICK Tip
Chemical treatments, including fumigation, should only be used by trained professionals. Heat treatments are also best left to the professionals.

DIY Methods

DIY pest control methods can be effective for smaller pest problems and are generally more affordable than professional services. DIY approaches allow you to take action on your own schedule without having to wait for an appointment. Because DIY pest control solutions are meant to be used by regular homeowners—many of whom have pets and children—they tend to be safer and simpler than professional methods.

However, DIY pest control is not without its drawbacks. DIY methods may not be effective for large or persistent problems, and they may only provide temporary relief. Some DIY pest control methods may risk human health or the environment if used improperly.

Traps, physical barriers, and good hygiene are the best options for DIYers. Nontoxic repellents and diatomaceous earth can also work well.


Our Conclusion

Pest control is a critical aspect of maintaining a healthy and safe home environment. Natural and biological pest control methods use less-toxic, environmentally friendly means to prevent and control pests. Physical and chemical methods involve using physical barriers or chemical products to eliminate pests. Other methods, such as repellents, can also be effective.

Remember, some infestations require the help of a reputable pest control service. If DIY methods do not seem to be working, it’s time to call in a professional. We recommend researching and gathering quotes from at least three companies before deciding which to hire.


FAQ About Pest Control Methods

What is the best method for pest control?

The best method for pest control is typically integrated pest management (IPM), which combines various physical, biological, and chemical methods for a tailored approach. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), IPM involves the following:

  • Monitoring and identifying pests
  • Taking control measures as needed
  • Preventing pest problems
  • Regularly evaluating the effectiveness

What are the three basic ways to control pests?

The three basic ways to control pests are through chemical, physical, or biological solutions. Here are a few examples of each method:

  • Biological: Natural predators and pathogens
  • Chemical: Pesticides, fumigation, and rodenticides
  • Physical: Barriers, traps, diatomaceous earth, and heat treatment

What is the most common pest control method?

Chemical pest control is often cited as the most common pest control method due to the widespread use of pesticides. However, the use of traps, repellents, and physical barriers is also common.


Our Rating Methodology

The This Old House Reviews Team backs up our pest control recommendations with a detailed rating methodology that we use to objectively score each provider. We review pest control plans, navigate the provider website, speak with customer service representatives by phone and online chat (if available), request quotes, and analyze customer reviews for each provider. We then score the provider against our review standards for plans and services, reputation and customer responses, customer service offerings, workmanship guarantees, financing, and availability to arrive at a final score on a 5-point rating scale.

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