By Erin Golden
They’re the tenants you don’t want anywhere near your building. They eat through your siding, live in your walls and invade your kitchen.
From ants to termites to the critters in the chimney, pest control should be a top priority for property managers and building owners. To effectively control pests, managers should focus not only on eradication, but also on ways to proactively prevent pests from entering a building in the first place. Just as important, you want to take care of the pests without creating any new hazards to your tenants.
This holistic approach is part of an integrated pest management plan (IPM). This plan considers factors beyond eradication and looks at the whole pest picture. An IPM program will tell you where certain pests are coming from, why they are in your building and what you can do to keep them out—beyond simply spraying a chemical or setting a trap.
The first step in implementing an IPM is to seek out professional advice, says Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for the National Pest Management Association, a group that has members in Canada and the United States.
She suggests talking to other property managers in your area to better understand which pest management companies have good reputations and how their services differ. It’s important to get bids from several firms and to find out key details, including the work the service provider guarantees and the length of that guarantee, as well as steps you can take to ensure effective pest prevention on an ongoing basis.
"Keep in mind that choosing a pest professional is a health and safety decision," Henriksen says. "The value of the service should outweigh all other factors."
Some property managers might have no choice but to hire a professional if they plan to apply chemicals, says Daniel Mackie, technical services director for GreenLeaf Pest Control, which has offices in Toronto and Bradford, Ont. In Ontario, for example, landlords cannot spray for pests in tenant spaces unless they’re a licensed exterminator.
"In today’s litigious world, I don’t think it’s prudent for property managers to open themselves up to liability issues when handling pesticides," Mackie says.
Your three-pronged plan of attack for an IPM program includes inspection, identification and treatment. First, you must identify the origin of the pests. You might have windows that are not sealed tightly, decaying wood on the outside of the building or rotted shingles.
After you find out where they’re coming from, you should look into why your building might be attracting pests. It’s helpful to think about pests wanting many of the same things we do, Mackie says.
"It’s what we call the triple constraints: food, water and shelter," he says. "Just like humans, they’re the necessities of life. And by modifying or changing some of those constraints, you can greatly reduce or control the population."
The third part of the three-step IPM approach is taking simple steps to reduce the likelihood of attracting pests, including:
"Through good sanitation, you can control most of the pests and be proactive," Mackie says. "What happens many times, especially in a residential setting, is people are reactive. They let things get into a certain degree of infestation, and they get into panic mode, spraying chemicals and doing all sorts of extreme methods that then impact their health."
Regardless of how much front-end work you do to discourage pests from entering your building, you likely will have to eradicate at some point using chemical applications or other methods. There is a range of products available, and Mackie says more and more customers are interested in products with low toxicity and more natural ingredients.
For example, a popular ant killer is a hockey-puck-shaped bait that has boric acid. Ants pick up the pesticide and hand it off to one another, eventually killing the entire colony. You can use this product in place of more traditional spray-application pesticides that can irritate your eyes and lead to skin rashes, Mackie says. Another increasingly popular product is a bedbug eradicator that contains crushed seashells, resulting in a powder that dehydrates the bugs.
"Some of the harshest chemicals have been taken off the market in Canada, and they’ve been replaced with a growing number of human- and environmentally friendly products," Mackie says.