Pest control is an industry that touches almost every part of the average person’s life. From the food we eat to the items we buy, each step along the process chain is protected in some way by pest control services. So what will happen in an event or breakdown scenario? Will all those Pest Control Operators (PCO’s) unselfishly leave their families to report to work along with the truck drivers and grocery store clerks?
The answer is “no”, of course not. That is why we prepare our supplies now. The coming dangers and breakdowns will effect so many aspects of what we take for granted, and that leaves us with the situation of protecting these supplies ourselves.
The label is the law when it comes to pesticides. Follow each label exactly. Supplement any product you buy with the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet), which is always available from the manufacturer for free and normally easy to find online in printable versions. The old school idea that “more is better” is not true in any way. In fact, with most of today’s modern products, over application can often lead to a less effective treatment. Always keep the appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment) on hand and follow the label directions on its use when mixing and applying these products.
In any pest control program, you can break it down into two categories– chemical and non-chemical control methods. Let’s begin with the non-chemical options. Don’t underestimate the value of sealing up your storage areas to deny access to uninvited pests. Rodents, like mice, can fit through a hole the size of a dime, and rats need only a 1/2” space to squeeze into a structure. Ants and many species of roaches invade from the outside in search of food, moisture, and protection. Begin by making sure all doors and windows close and seal properly. Use caulk to seal around gaps and seams. Hardware cloth or metal screen can be used to cover larger openings, like foundation vents and roof-line areas. You will need to look at your structure from a perspective of a small pest’s eyes and make it as difficult as possible to get inside the building. The next step is to reduce all of the conducive conditions that pests like to be around. Organic clutter, like leaves, high grass against the foundation, and a buildup of mulch or landscaping material, makes it very attractive for pests. Reduce the clutter around the outside. Stacked wood along the outside wall can be a great hiding place for spiders, scorpions, and many other problematic insects. Old tires, flower pots, and children’s toys can hold water after a rain and if left for several days might produce thousands of mosquitoes to prey on your family. Think in terms of making a battlefield clearing between you and the pests. Trim back all bushes and shrubs at least 18” from your home structure, and cut back overhanging tree branches. Even your gutters, if left uncleaned, will hold moisture and is an often overlooked source of heavy insect infestations. Once you have the basic maintenance completed, let’s look at non-chemical control measures that are simple and effective for any infestation.
Sanitation – Any food source can feed an infestation and attract pests. Just the crumbs left behind after a quick lunch, or the grease left on the side of the stove, is enough to feed many insects for weeks and months. Make sure your cleaning regiment kicks into high gear.
Physical Removal – A vacuum can be the best tool you have right now to control these pests. Many PCO’s have special vacuums designed to wear like a backpack with long extension cords, but a home vacuum or shop vac can be just as effective. If you have access to power, get the vacuum going and suck up the pests. Physically removing as many of the insects means that there will be even fewer to breed and feed. Make sure you dump the bag or contents well away from your home immediately afterward to prevent the live pests from sneaking back out and into your home. This method works well for everything from spiders to centipedes and most any insect. It can even become a game for some of your younger household occupants. Sweeping them up can be almost as effective if power is not available.
Monitoring – This method includes a glue board with a very sticky substance for catching the pest. They should be placed where the pests are most common– corners of the room, by door openings, and even behind appliances or by the stored supplies themselves. There are larger ones for rodents that can be effective especially on mice. These devices will catch anything that crawls across them. The biggest benefit of this part of the program is to identify what pests are active. Then, you can better target that specific pest in your treatment. A quick helpful hint: If you or a pet gets stuck to the glue board, a simple way to remove it is too slowly rub vegetable oil where it is stuck; even pet hair will release easily.
Now it is time to start looking at chemical options. There are many myths surrounding pesticides and the effects they have on our environment and ourselves. Without getting too far down that road, let’s agree that each person must make an informed decision for their safety. Most of the products the professionals use are available to purchase by the consumer. Almost all the products used today in the residential pest control industry fall under the “General Use” category and are listed for use in food handling establishments, daycares, schools, kennels, and even hospitals.
To obtain these professional level products, a local do-it-yourself pest control store is probably not far away, or multiple online sources are available. Again, make sure you read and follow the label directions to get the best results. There will be a simple list of recommended products at the end of this section for your reference.
Treatments – When approaching a treatment, it is best to think in terms of layers or zones. A good exterior barrier treatment around the outside will help prevent insects from entering the structure. Then a targeted treatment of cracks and crevices inside the structure, making sure to get the plumbing and wiring access areas. Spot treatments around windows and doors or known high traffic areas can be an added benefit in prevention. These treatments are best accomplished with a hand pumped sprayer and the properly mixed product. Make sure to mix up only the amount needed to avoid having excess material left over sitting around unused. Please avoid “baseboard” spraying as was common many years ago. It is not effective and many products do not allow for that type of application per the label.
Once you have a basic barrier in place you can begin to make specific treatment decisions. Baits are a great way to control or prevent some of the most common interior infestations. Roaches and ants are by far the most common interior infestations in the U.S., and there are some quality baits designed specifically for these insects. Focus on the food and water sources, and find those cracks and crevices where they like to enter and hide. Do not use spray applications in the same areas as the baits, as it will make it ineffective.
Other products that can be a great help in treating are granules that are formulated for the exterior on the ground, soil, and grass. Use aerosols with a straw applicator for getting back into the nooks and crannies for the hard-to-reach areas and dusts for larger voids and longer-term control.
There are a few pests that deserve specific attention and details:
German Cockroach – This roach is an indoor breeder and is the one most commonly seen in large numbers in a structure. Vacuuming, baits, and spot residual pesticide treatments will be most effective for this but must be kept up regularly once an infestation gets established. This roach also drops an egg capsule and the baby’s (nymphs) will continue to hatch even after the adult is dead or removed, resulting in reinfestation and difficulties in getting quick control. Sanitation is critical to prevention and control.
Fleas, ticks, and chiggers – These biting insects can be prevented with a good quality granule treatment of the yard and exterior areas. Once inside, they can be controlled with general surface treatments of infested areas. Keeping pets outside would be suggested.
Rodents – Trapping is the most effective treatment. Rodenticides (poisons) might be recommended for exterior use or for larger infestations, but you run the risk of dead rodents ending up in wall voids and inaccessible areas. The standard spring snap traps are inexpensive and when set with a good bait, like peanut butter or bacon pieces, will work well. Proper trap placement is absolutely critical. Pathways and food sources are good options. Mice have a small range and may not go more than ten feet, so traps set in large numbers or placed in known activity areas will increase success.
Ants – Colonies can reach into the hundreds of thousands in number and are extremely mobile. Some species can pick up and move the entire colony in less than 24 hours. Baits work best for long-term control. For quick results in an emergency and to keep them out of an area you want protected, the best approach is a repellent pesticide application around the room or items you want to protect.
Stored product pests – Examples of these pests include the Indian Meal Moth and Saw Toothed Grain Beetles. Remove all contaminated food and any food items not completely sealed. Thoroughly clean the area of any food residue. Physically remove any live insects, and do a complete crack and crevice treatment with a residual aerosol and straw tip applicator. This will break the feeding and breeding cycle and should get control in just a matter of days.
Stinging insects – For wasps, yellow jackets, hornets, and bees, the nests will need to be eliminated to gain control. Physically removing them is an option. Also, treating them with dusts or aerosols will be effective. If the nest is hidden and isn’t accessible, multiple dust treatments into the entrance will be the most effective way to eliminate them.
Spiders – These are a difficult pest to control as they have a body structure that is designed to avoid many of the common applications of pesticides. Knocking down the webs, removing the spiders themselves, and reducing the other insects they use as food will be a good starting point.
Bedbugs – Of all the biting insects, this insect causes the most emotional reaction from modern Americans. At the time of this writing, bedbugs are not known to be disease vectors, meaning they don’t transmit any diseases to humans. Most of the products that were used in the 1930’s-50’s to get rid of bedbugs in the U.S. are no longer available to consumers or professionals. The current methods are a combination of pesticide applications, heat/steam treatments, and mattress encasements. Physical removal in a SHTF event will help keep them under control, as bedbugs are slow reproducers, sometimes laying as few as a dozen eggs each cycle. Unfortunately, once you get them, you will probably not completely eradicate them until such time as professional services are restored.
Since there are literally millions of insects, there is no way to cover them all. A basic rule of thumb is to break the breeding cycle, remove the conducive conditions, and keep sanitation at the best level possible.
Below are several choices of name brand, professional-grade products available online that have a broad variety of insects they will help control, per the label directions. The prices listed are approximate and don’t include shipping fees you may encounter.
- A good broad-spectrum, residual pesticide that can be mixed with water for use with a hand sprayer: (Use for exterior barrier and spot treatments. These are concentrated and each container will make dozens of gallons of finished product.)
Tempo SC Ultra (Bayer)  – 8oz bottle: Approx. price $40.00
Onslaught Microencapsulated Insecticide (MGK)  – 16oz bottle: Approx. Price $50.00
Suspend SC (Bayer)  – 16oz bottle: Approx. price $40.00
- Aerosols: (Great for on-contact or crack and crevice treatments.)
Cykick CS Aerosol (Whitmire Micro Gen)  Residual Treatment. 1 can: Approx. Price $25.00
565 Plus XLO Aerosol (Whitmire Micro Gen)  This is an on-contact insecticide with no residual. 1 can Approx. Price $25.00
Wasp freeze Aerosol (Whitmire Micro Gen)  – This is “the gold standard” for stinging insects and the nests. 1 can Approx. Price $15.00
- Dusts: (Make sure to have a bellows or bulb duster  for proper application to voids and inaccessible areas.
Delta Dust (Bayer)  1 pound container Approx. Price $20.00
- Granules: (Best used on exterior ground areas; they can give months of protection.)
Talstar PL (FMC)  25 pound bag: Approx. Price $30.00
Delta Guard (Bayer)  20 pound bag: Approx. Price $35.00
- Baits: (Store these products away from the other pesticides, as they can become contaminated and lose their effectiveness.)
Make sure the following equipment is dedicated solely for pest control use and do not use for other products for your garden or agricultural treatments:
- Hand pump sprayer  – A cheap plastic version may suffice for short-erm use, but a quality professional stainless steel tank with brass fittings and nozzle will last you a lifetime, with proper care and maintenance.
- Bulb or bellows duster  – These make dust applications very easy and are very low cost
- Hand spreader  – You can use the same style as you would use for broadcasting seed but keep a dedicated pest control one labeled so there is no mix up.
- Mixing measuring cup  – Plastic is fine to use but make sure it can measure small amounts of liquids.
- Rat  and mouse traps  – Twenty of each should suffice, for most situations.
- Glue boards  – A case or two will last months, under normal conditions.
For a basic professional pest control set up, including equipment and product, you will be well under $400.00 in cost. If you compare that to the thousands of dollars you have in supplies that might be ruined by an infestation, the cost becomes minor and the ability to protect those valuables from four-, six-, and eight-legged predators is going to make a difference in your future.
The very last thing you will ever want to see is your supplies, which you have worked hard to set aside to save your family and friends, destroyed by an unplanned invasion of pests. Millions of pounds of food and supplies are destroyed every year due to these infestations. Also, contamination can lead to illness and death, and this is going on right now when health services are up and running. Anyone who has visited a third-world country knows the level of damage that pests can have on people’s daily lives. Just a little reading and a small investment in time and money can make this threat manageable.
**The author has over 15 years of experience in the pest control industry, is a licensed commercial trapper, and is currently a vice president of one of the Top 100 pest control companies in the U.S. The author has no financial interest in any of the above-listed companies or their products.
Reference materials and resources you might want to research:
- Truman’s Scientific Guide  – This is the pest control industry’s very best resource and is a wealth of knowledge. Many of the states’ required tests for professionals draw information from this book.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture  – This Department publishes some of the best free reference materials on pest control topics.
- Your state’s Department of Agriculture – A specific state’s agency will have a wealth of knowledge available for the most common pests and their control for your area.