Managing Pests at Home and in Buildings

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Don't Take the Bait! campaign

The San Francisco Department of the Environment is asking City retailers and consumers to avoid buying or selling certain kinds of common rat & mouse baits, which the US Environmental Protection Agency has determined pose an “unreasonable risk” to children, pets, and the environment. See the campaign website or view a new video on the subject by our friends at "Raptors Are The Solution," an East Bay group promoting safer rodent control practices.

Prevention strategies

Safe and effective pest management is more than a matter of choosing the right product. Because their long-term health risks are poorly understood, pesticides should only be considered a last resort.

The focus of reduced-risk pest management is pest prevention. Making smart decisions during building design or retrofits can reduce pesticide use and pest problems for the life of the building.  Our Department has recently published the nation's first set of peer-reviewed guidelines on the subject, the Pest Prevention By Design Guidelines.

To effectively prevent pest problems, the key words to remember are food, water, shelter, and access. Removing some or all of these will prevent pests from getting established in the first place. 

Food : Do not leave food out to attract pests. Routinely clean up all crumbs and spills. Seal all food in plastic, glass, or metal containers (many pests can chew through paper, cardboard, and thin plastic such as baggies). Rinse all food and beverage containers before placing in recycling bins, and routinely rinse out garbage and recycling bins. Clean up plant debris such as droppings from fruit trees and vegetable gardens.

Water: Fix leaky pipes, clean out drains and rain gutters, drain or treat pools, turn off all hoses when not in use, and make sure soil drains completely after watering.

Shelter: Clean up clutter. Remove cardboard boxes, crates, used tires, piles of wood, and overgrown plant material. Seal all cracks and crevices that could lead inside

Access : Seal up all entryways into buildings to keep pests outside. Sealing out pests, or exclusion, can be accomplished through caulking and installing door sweeps, screens, and other barriers. For more information visit, "How to Bug Proof Your Home" published by the University of Arizona.

Finding pest control companies (for homeowners or small businesses)

All structural pest control companies (that is, controlling pests in and around buildings) must be licensed under California law, but it isn't always easy to determine which companies practice a prevention-based, least toxic approach to managing pests. The best option is to find a certified company.  If none are available in your area, try reviewing the company surveys below to help you choose.  Whoever you choose, make sure to ask the right questions before hiring them. 

Select a Certified Company

Review company surveys

Ask the Right Questions

  1. Does the company try alternative approaches before turning to pesticides?
  2. If they want to apply a pesticide (insecticide, fungicide, or herbicide) can they explain their reasons in an understandable way?
  3. If they have to use pesticides, how do they select least toxic products?
  4. Do they use regular chemical treatments to prevent problems or treat only when disease or insect threshold levels are exceeded?
  5. Do they assess underlying conditions that may cause the pest problems?
  6. Can they explain what will happen if the pesticide is not applied?

Starting a safer pest control program for your building