Pest control is the regulation or management of a species defined as a pest (organism), a member of the animal kingdom that impacts adversely on human activities. The human response depends on the importance of the damage done, and will range from tolerance, through deterrence and management, to attempts to completely eradicate the pest. Pest control measures may be performed as part of an integrated pest management strategy.
In agriculture, pests are kept at bay by tillage, pesticide and biological pest control means. Ploughing and cultivation of the soil before sowing reduces the pest burden and there is a modern trend to limit the use of pesticides as far as possible. This can be achieved by monitoring the crop, only applying insecticides when necessary, and by growing varieties and crops which are resistant to pests. Where possible, biological means are used, encouraging the Natural selection#Competition of the pests and introducing suitable Predation or Parasitism.
In homes and urban environments, the pests are the rodents, birds, insects and other organisms that share the habitat with humans, and that feed on and spoil possessions. Control of these pests is attempted through exclusion, repulsion, physical removal or chemical means. Alternatively, various methods of biological control can be used including sterilisation programmes.
Pest control is at least as old as agriculture, as there has always been a need to keep crops free from pests. As long ago as 3000 BC in Egypt, cats were used to control pests of grain stores such as rodents.Taylor, D., [https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Cc5BM_aPegkC&pg=PA9&dq=pest+cat+rats&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CD8Q6AEwBDgUahUKEwixhYr7qojGAhUQF9sKHbHbABE#v=onepage&q=pest%20cat%20rats&f=false ''The Complete Contented Cat: Your Ultimate Guide to Feline Fulfilment''], David & Charles, 2011, p.9.Beadle, M., [https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=tnjgqpNKYksC&pg=PA96&dq=pest+cat+rats&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CC4Q6AEwATgKahUKEwiUtsG7qojGAhUMStsKHampAA8#v=onepage&q=pest%20cat%20rats&f=false ''Cat''], Simon and Schuster, 1979, pp. 93–96. Ferrets were domesticated by 500 AD in Europe for use as mousers. Mongooses were introduced into homes to control rodents and snakes, probably by the ancient Egyptians.Sherman, D.M., [https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=J6oxHWOnRgoC&pg=PA45&dq=pest+snakes+cats&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CFEQ6AEwCWoVChMIkobkua-IxgIV45nbCh0jmACr#v=onepage&q=pest%20snakes%20cats&f=false ''Tending Animals in the Global Village: A Guide to International Veterinary Medicine'', John Wiley & Sons, 2007, p. 45.]
The conventional approach was probably the first to be employed, since it is comparatively easy to destroy weeds by burning them or ploughing them under, and to kill larger competing herbivores. Techniques such as crop rotation, companion planting (also known as intercropping or mixed cropping), and the selective breeding of pest-resistant cultivars have a long history.
Chemical pesticides were first used around 2500 BC, when the Sumerians used sulphur compounds as insecticides. Modern pest control was stimulated by the spread across the United States of the Colorado potato beetle. After much discussion, Paris green compounds were used to control the beetle and the predicted poisoning of the human population did not occur. This led the way to a widespread acceptance of insecticides across the continent.
Mechanical pest control is the use of hands-on techniques as well as simple equipment and devices, that provides a Termite barrier between plants and insects. This is referred to as tillage and is one of the oldest methods of weed control as well as being useful for pest control; wireworms, the larvae of the Agriotes sputator, are very destructive pests of newly ploughed grassland, and repeated cultivation exposes them to the birds and other predators that feed on them.
Crop rotation can help to control pests by depriving them of their Host (biology). It is a major tactic in the control of Diabrotica, and has reduced early season incidence of Colorado potato beetle by as much as 95%.
Poisoned Bait (luring substance) is a common method for controlling rats, mice, birds, slugs, snails, ants, cockroaches and other pests. The basic granules, or other formulation, contains a food attractant for the target species and a suitable poison. For ants, a slow-acting toxin is needed so that the workers have time to carry the substance back to the colony, and for flies, a quick-acting substance to prevent further egg-laying and nuisance.<ref name=O'conner40/> Baits for slugs and snails often contain the molluscide metaldehyde, dangerous to children and household pets.
Laboratory studies conducted with U-5897 (3-chloro-1,2-propanediol) were attempted in the early 1970s for rat control, although these proved unsuccessful. People sometimes attempt to limit rodent damage using repellents. Balsam fir oil from the tree ''Abies balsamea'' is an EPA approved non-toxic rodent repellent.[http://www.epa.gov/opp00001/biopesticides/ingredients/factsheets/factsheet_129035.htm Balsam fir oil (129035) Fact Sheet root emits chemical compounds that repel animals including rats.[http://www.plantzafrica.com/plantab/acaciapoly.htm PlantzAfrica][http://www.worldagroforestrycentre.org/sea/Products/AFDbases/af/asp/SpeciesInfo.asp?SpID=99 World AgroForestry Centre]
Insect pests including the Mediterranean flour moth, the Indian mealmoth, the cigarette beetle, the drugstore beetle, the confused flour beetle, the red flour beetle, the merchant grain beetle, the sawtoothed grain beetle, the wheat weevil, the maize weevil and the rice weevil infest stored dry foods such as flour, cereals and pasta.
In the home, foodstuffs found to be infested are usually discarded, and storing such products in sealed containers should prevent the problem from reoccurring. The eggs of these insects are likely to go unnoticed, with the larvae being the destructive life stage, and the adult the most noticeable stage.
Evidence of attack may be found in the form of tiny piles of book-dust and specks of frass. Damage may be concentrated in the spine, the projecting edges of pages and the cover. Prevention of attack relies on keeping books in cool, clean, dry positions with low humidity, and occasional inspections should be made. Treatment can be by freezing for lengthy periods, but some insect eggs are very resistant and can survive for long periods at low temperatures.
Various beetles in the Bostrichoidea superfamily attack the dry, seasoned wood used as structural timber in houses and to make furniture. In most cases, it is the larvae that do the damage; these are invisible from the outside of the timber, but are chewing away at the wood in the interior of the item. Examples of these are the powderpost beetles, which attack the sapwood of hardwoods, and the furniture beetles, which attacks softwoods, including plywood. The damage has already been done by the time the adult beetles bore their way out, leaving neat round holes behind them. The first that a householder knows about the beetle damage is often when a chair leg breaks off or a piece of structural timber caves in. Prevention is through chemical treatment of the timber prior to its use in construction or in furniture manufacture.