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Last updated: 05.05.22

What are the 3 Methods of Pest Control?

It might make your skin crawl to think about, but pests in food preparation or serving environments is a problem that can quickly become out of control. Whilst legislation and strict hygiene guidance mean that the majority of businesses rarely have issues with pests, infestations are still something that you need to keep an eye out for and implement preventative measures to keep under control.

Pest control is done by qualified professionals who have experience dealing with all kinds of pests and know the best methods to effectively remove them. In this article, we explain the three main types of pest control methods, along with their advantages and disadvantages.

What is Pest Control?

Pest control is a process used in hygiene management that looks to manage the existence and presence of different types of pests to minimise their impact on the environment they inhabit. Whilst many pests pose a risk to human health when they are present in places such as homes and retail or food preparation environments, it is also important to consider their place in wider food chains and habitats, which is why some pest populations are ‘controlled’ instead of just eliminated.

Pest control technicians are professionals that are tasked with finding and implementing the best solutions for removing or controlling pest populations to make a range of environments safe. Because of the potential harm that the improper use of pest control methods can cause, the professional is regulated by best practice codes and the equipment or products needed for pest control are only available to those with appropriate qualifications and experience.

There are a variety of pieces of legislation connected with pest control that impacts what needs to be done and the appropriate ways to go about dealing with infestations of different kinds of pests. One of the most important of these is the ‘The Prevention of Damage by Pest Act’ (1949) which gives authorities the right to inspect any premises and requires property owners to keep their buildings free of pests.

The Food Safety Act’ (1990) is another key piece of legislation that holds food and catering businesses accountable for ensuring that the products they sell and serve are safe to consume. Under this law, business owners are required to source appropriate pest control forces to deal with infestations that pose a risk to food safety.

Finally, ‘The Public Health Act’ (1961) gives local authorities the power to issue a notice for immediate action to be taken if a premise is considered to be infested with vermin.

Types of Pest

There are a wide variety of different types of pest that require official pest control measures, but all of these can be roughly divided into the following three categories.

Insects

Insect infestations are perhaps the most common pest control issues in both domestic and commercial premises, especially as most species are so small that it takes a while to notice when a serious infestation has taken place. Common insect pests include ants, cockroaches, bedbugs, fleas, and wasps or bees.

Rodents

Rodents tend to be what people first think of when it comes to pests. Whilst rats are one of the most common pests, mice are also a problem that pest control is sometimes called out to deal with, especially in food or catering businesses.

Birds and Others

Birds and other kinds of animals are the least common pests, but can still cause issues and pose a threat to the health and safety of a business and its customers. Pigeons and seagulls are common bird pests, whilst creatures like foxes and squirrels can also cause serious problems in large numbers.

3 Types of Pest Control Methods

Pest control services use a variety of approaches to deal with infestations, but these can be sorted into three main types of pest management, which we will explain in detail below.

Physical

Physical pest control involves the trapping and killing or removal of pests to remove them from an environment. It may also involve putting up physical barriers and ‘pest proofing’ premises to stop pests from returning or entering in the first place.

Common examples of physical pest control include removing or destroying nests, blocking holes, windows or doorways, temperature control methods to kill pests, or setting traps to catch pests and then remove them from the area. In farming, methods such as field burning and trap cropping are also common physical control methods.

Advantages

  • The biggest advantage of this kind of pest control method is that it doesn’t involve any kind of dangerous chemicals that can have an impact on the environment or an individual that accidentally comes into contact with a substance used for pest control
  • These methods are also usually environmentally friendly
  • Physical pest management is also a method that pests cannot develop any kind of resistance to, which means its an approach that will always be as effective as possible

Disadvantages

  • A key disadvantage of physical pest control that involves trapping is that many people believe that it is inhumane to trap animals and remove them from their natural habitat, even if this is done with health and safety in mind
  • Physical pest control that involves killing pests is also considered to be inhumane, particularly when they are rodents or larger creatures
  • On a practical level, if you have a large infestation then physically removing all of the pests will be a very tricky and time-consuming task, so its effectiveness is not as high as other methods
  • This method isn’t also a very reliable approach to stopping pests from returning to their original infestation site

Chemical

Chemical pest control methods are the most widely used approach to pest control. They are also commonly used to control weed infestations and diseases in crops.

Pesticides are the name used to describe chemical pest control substances, which usually poison and kill the pest that consumes or is exposed to them. These may be used in combination with physical traps or just be left out in places where pests are known to be. Only qualified pest control technicians can and should have access to chemical pesticides, as these substances are toxic and can be incredibly harmful if ingested by a human.

Another chemical pest control method is ultra-low volume (ULV) fogging, which is used to combat insect infestations and spreads small amounts of insecticide. On the opposite end of the scale, fumigation is an extreme chemical pest control method that involves sealing a building and filling it with pesticide to annihilate any pest on the premises.

Advantages

  • The main advantage of chemical pest control is that it is very effective and yields relatively fast results when it comes to removing pests
  • Pesticides are also quite a cheap method of pest management, with very weak substances available to purchase for people without pest control qualifications
  • Chemical pest control methods are also pretty quick and simple to use

Disadvantages

  • Almost all chemical pesticides are highly toxic and can cause serious issues if ingested by things that aren't pests, such as household pets and even people
  • Frequent and heavy use of chemical pesticides can contaminate groundwater or leave residue on plants which can lead to health issues
  • It is possible for pests to develop resistance to chemical pesticides, which can cause major issues when it comes to trying to control this new resistant species

Biological

The last of the 3 methods of pest control is biological methods which is one of the oldest forms of pest management. This consists of using other natural organisms to reduce or remove a species of pest, which usually involves introducing their natural predator to the same environment to manage the pest population. It’s not commonly used as a method of dealing with pests in a health and safety context, but may be used to control larger populations of pests which could pose a risk to those who live in the same area.

Natural predators are one form of biological pest control method, but another that tends to be used on plants is the introduction of microorganisms that protect their host species by deterring any pests. 

Advantages

  • Biological pest control is generally the most environmentally-friendly method you can use, as it doesn’t involve any kind of synthetic substance or the killing or removal of a species by humans
  • It’s also a long-term solution which means that pest control is usually only needed once
  • Introducing a natural predator as a way of controlling pests also doesn’t require much cost or effort after the initial introduction, so it’s a method that essentially looks after itself

Disadvantages

  • Biological pest control is not a particularly reliable method because you cannot dictate how a predatory species is going to act when introduced into a new area
  • It’s not a very fast process so isn’t suitable for instances where a pest infestation needs to be quickly dealt with, nor does it totally wipe out a pest population
  • In some cases, introducing a new species into an environment can disrupt the natural balance and established food chain and lead to another infestation of the predatory creature, which will then need to be reduced or removed

FAQs

How often should pest control be done?

The frequency that pest control will need to take place depends on the kind of infestation. For example, if you have a one-off problem with pests then pest control measures will probably only be needed a handful of times in a short period at most, whilst seasonal infestations will need regular pest control to manage. Regular pest control may also be needed if initial measures aren’t successful and the pests come back, which may require a different approach.

What is a good way of deterring pests?

When it comes to hygiene both in retail or hospitality businesses or at home, the best way to deter pests is to ensure that food is kept in sealed containers in locations that aren’t easily accessible to any kinds of pests. It’s often the scent of food products that attract pests in the first place, so it’s important to make sure that everything is sealed away so that no smells escape.

You can also deter rodents in particular by blocking any holes into the building with a material that is resistant to gnawing, as well as fitting pest screens over any doors and windows that are regularly left open.

Why is physical pest control preferable to chemical poisons?

Chemical pest controls and poisons may be an effective method of pest control, but they are also the worst method when it comes to environmental impact. Whilst physical pest control can take longer to effectively complete, it doesn’t have a lasting impact on the environment where it takes place and also doesn’t pose a threat to any other living creature, which chemical pest control methods can do.

Summary

The majority of food and catering businesses should never have to deal with serious pest problems, particularly if you ensure that you’re following appropriate health and safety guidelines to keep your premises as clean as possible. But if you do develop a problem with pests, acting quickly and working with a qualified pest control technician is the best way to deal with the problem effectively by using one of the methods mentioned above.

If you’d like to learn more about pest control and its importance in food health and safety, this topic is covered in all of our Level 3 Food Safety and Hygiene courses for Supervisors, Manufacturing, Retail and Catering.

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