Pests in buildings
- Contract language
Safe and effective pest management is more than a matter of choosing the right product. Because long-term health risks of pesticides are poorly understood, they should only be considered a last resort.
The best reduced-risk pest management is pest prevention. Remove the pest's:
- 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. Avoid birdbaths and fountains if pest problems persist.
- 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. Learn How to Bug Proof Your Home from the University of Arizona. See Pest Prevention by Design for tips like finding the right door sweep to prevent rodents.
Also see the Handbook for Tenants and Building Managers by San Francisco Department of Public Health in English, Spanish and Chinese for bedbugs, cockroaches, fleas, flies, lice, mold, mosquitoes, pigeons and wild birds, scabies, rodents.
Structural pest control companies control pests in and around buildings and must be licensed under California law.
Try companies certified by independent, third-party organizations. They require extensive documentation of adherence to IPM principles. Call California companies certified by EcoWise. Or try nationwide Green Shield or GreenPro companies (ask for their GreenPro service, which is different from their regular service).
- Does the company try alternative approaches before turning to pesticides?
- If they want to apply a pesticide (insecticide, fungicide, or herbicide) can they explain why in an understandable way?
- If they have to use pesticides, how do they select least toxic products?
- Do they use regular chemical treatments to prevent problems or treat only when disease or insect threshold levels are exceeded?
- Do they assess underlying conditions that may cause the pest problems?
- Can they explain what will happen if the pesticide is not applied?
Try all tips above. And when going out to bid, use a Request for Proposal. Don't do a low-cost bid because it gives contractors more incentive to schedule frequent on-site visits to manage pests instead of preventing them. Use the EcoWise Toolkit for IPM Contracting and SF's Request for Proposals for IPM Services to City Properties (2007). San Francisco recently completed an ambitious contract:
- It was costed by the square foot, not hourly since there will be more hours up front with IPM but fewer hours in the long term.
- SFE currently does not have cost comparisons on IPM versus non-IPM structural pest control because there are so many factors involved:
- Long term vs. short term costs.
- How to account for maintenance repair/pest prevention costs recommended by the contractor that should have been done with or without an IPM contractor.
- Comparing what did happen with what could have happened.
- Start an IPM Program in Apartment Buildings (video), Boston Housing Authority.
- Use San Francisco’s award-winning IPM Program: Reduced Risk Pesticide List and Compliance Checklist for City Properties or how to create a Reduced-Risk Pesticide List for your organization.
- Meet US Green Building Council LEED-EB Operations and Maintenance Requirements to use least-hazardous pesticides.