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When DIY Pest Control Won't Cut It

Five signs it's time to call in a pro

As a homeowner, you know there are some home projects you can take on yourself (painting the guest room) and some that are better left to the professionals (installing electrical wiring in the basement). The same logic goes for pest control. In some cases, do-it-yourself measures are fine but in others, it is best to call in a pest professional to ensure the job is done correctly and safely.

So how do you know which pest scenarios are DIY-approved and which are pro-worthy?

In most cases, the answer depends on the several factors, including the type of pest, its threats to your family's health, the potential for property damage and the size of the infestation. For example, one lone yellow jacket that found its way into your home is no cause for alarm. But a nest of yellow jackets near your front porch? Time to call in the pros.

Specifically, here are a few pests that you should leave to the pros:


Termites are especially destructive pests that cause more than $5 billion in property damage every year. These wood-eating insects use their scissor-like jaws to chew through walls, floors and ceilings 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This means that a termite infestation can cause serious property damage and compromise the structural stability of your home in a relatively short amount of time. What's worse, damage from wood-boring insects like termites is not typically covered by homeowners' insurance policies. Pest professionals are trained to understand the unique biology and behaviors of termites. They can perform routine inspections to spot early signs of a problem, and if necessary, have the tools and know-how to effectively treat an infestation.

Other Wood-boring Insects

Like termites, other wood-boring insects such as carpenter ants, carpenter bees and powder post beetles should be taken seriously. Carpenter ants, for example, excavate wood in order to build their nests. Their excavation results in smooth tunnels inside the wood. Carpenter bees, on the other hand, bore through soft woods to lay eggs and protect their larvae as they develop. Powderpost beetles can be equally as destructive. These beetles create tunnels in unfinished wood during their larvae stage, reducing it to a fine, flour-like powder. Once the powderpost beetles reach adulthood - as much as a year to five years later - they emerge and lay eggs on the wood, continuing the cycle. Given time, wood-boring pests can damage important support beams in your home, resulting in expensive repairs.

Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are certainly not a pest that should be handled on your own. For one, they are notoriously elusive, often hiding out in hard to detect places like behind electrical switches and under wallpaper. A trained pest professional will know where bed bugs are likely to hide in your home and can develop a treatment plan to target the pests while ensuring the safety of your family and pets.

To effectively treat a bed bug infestation all stages of the bed bug life cycle must be treated, including bed bug eggs, nymphs (babies) and adult bed bugs. Unfortunately, DIY pest control methods are often ineffective against bed bug nymphs and eggs. Attempts to control a bed bug infestation on your own may only exacerbate the problem and give the infestation time to grow. And bed bugs reproduce quickly - one female bed bug can lay one to five eggs in a day and more than 500 in their lifetime, meaning that a small infestation can quickly grow out of control.

In addition, homeowners that attempt to control a bed bug infestation on their own often spend more money in the long run on failed treatments. Some residents with bed bug infestations unnecessarily throw out furniture, clothing and other personal property in an attempt to control an infestation. In extreme cases, homeowners have seriously damaged their homes or sickened their families by misusing pest control products.

Stinging Insects

Infestations of any type of stinging insect - such as wasps, yellow jackets or fire ants - should always be left up to the professionals. Stinging insects pose serious health risks. In fact, they send half a million people to the emergency room every year. A single colony of stinging insects can contain anywhere from a few hundred to 80,000 members, which can attack if their nest is threatened. Those with allergies to insect stings are especially at risk, but if a large nest of stinging insects attacks, it can be life threatening to anyone.

Reoccurring or Heavy infestations

No matter the type of pest, if you have an infestation that keeps coming back no matter what you try, it's time to contract a professional. Reoccurring pest infestations are a sign that your home is just too enticing for pests. Perhaps a small access point (such as a tear in a window screen or a crack in the foundation) is providing easy access indoors for ants. Or perhaps a drip under the bathroom sink is creating the perfect conditions for cockroaches. Whatever it is, a trained pest professional will inspect your home, determine the infestation and help you resolve it once and for all.

DIY methods are also no match for heavy pest infestations. Because many pests pose serious health and property threats, a sizable pest infestation should be left up to the professionals to handle, before it can grow any larger.

As a homeowner, there are a lot of DIY steps you can take to help prevent pests from finding their way into your home, but even these are most effective when completed in partnership with a pest professional. And, if you suspect you have an infestation, your first step should always be to call a licensed and trained pest professional. They will be able to properly identify your pest problem and recommend an appropriate course of treatment.

- National Pest Management Association



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