Biological Approaches to Pest Control

Pests are organisms that spoil crops, damage buildings and contaminate food. Control methods aim to reduce their numbers to an acceptable level. They should cause least harm to people and non-target plants and animals.

Preventing and suppressing pests involves denying them shelter, food and water. Physical controls include traps, baits, screens, barriers and fences. Changes in climate and natural enemies of pests also help control them. Contact Pest Control Garland TX now!

Pest identification is the first step in any pest control program. Whether you are spraying an area with a pesticide or trying to keep pests from damaging your crops, it is important to know what the problem is. It is also important to understand that not all organisms are pests. In fact, many organisms that you see may be beneficial to your garden or environment. For example, bats and birds eat insects and can help control insect populations.

Incorrect pest identification can result in unnecessary or ineffective pesticide applications. It can also result in damage to non-target organisms (plants or animals that are not the intended target of an application). If you are not sure what the pest is, consult a guide or ask your local Extension agent for assistance.

Integrated pest management (IPM) emphasizes field scouting, which is the practice of regularly searching for and identifying pest problems and assessing their severity. Accurate pest identification is critical to IPM, because appropriate management strategies vary dramatically depending on the specific weed, insect, or disease that needs controlling.

A pest’s appearance can change depending on its stage in life or time of year, and this information is helpful for determining when to treat it. IPM treatments are most effective when they are based on knowledge of the pest’s biology and life cycle, which includes its preferred food sources, habitats, and stages in its development.

You can find a wealth of information about the physical characteristics of most common pests, such as their size, shape, color, and number of legs or wings, by using online resources. Many of these websites have images that allow you to compare the pest to others with similar features. This can help you identify the pest more quickly and accurately.

You can reduce the need for pesticides by removing the food, water or shelter that attracts them. Remove rotting fruits or vegetables from the ground; keep compost piles well away from your garden; and clean up fallen leaves or debris where pests might hide. Also, take steps to eliminate attracting conditions, such as by tightening window screens and sealing cracks, where possible.


A pesticide is any substance used to kill a pest, or prevent and reduce the damage that a pest can cause. It may be natural or man-made, and can be organic, inorganic or synthetic. It can be a solid, liquid, powder or spray. It can take the form of an insecticide (bug killer), herbicide, fungicide or rodenticide. It can also be a lure or bait intended to draw and kill the pest, or it could be a plant growth regulator or desiccant.

It is important to consider the effect that a pesticide will have on non-target plants, animals and people when using it. The ideal pesticide will destroy the target pest while having few, if any, negative effects on humans or the environment. Pesticides are not perfect and can have serious side effects, so they should be used sparingly and always according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

The chemical composition of a pesticide determines its risk. There are many different types of pesticides; some are very toxic and others have only a slight toxicity level. A product’s ingredients are listed on the pesticide label. The label will include a number called the hazard rating or “schedule” that indicates how toxic the product is. It will also list any signal words that alert users to special hazards such as “fatal at very low doses”, “corrosive” or “may cause eye or skin irritation”.

A product’s inert ingredients are the other components that make up a pesticide, and are used as a carrier or to help it adhere to the surface being treated. Inert ingredients often contribute to the toxicity of a pesticide more than the active ingredient. Manufacturers often choose to keep information on inert ingredients secret as they are trade secrets.

The use of pesticides can harm pollinators, decrease biodiversity and degrade the environment by accumulating in soil and water. They can also cause pollution by injuring or killing non-targeted living things and contaminating the food we eat. It is important to try non-chemical methods of pest control first, but if you decide to use a pesticide, be sure to read and follow the product’s instructions carefully.


The foundation of Integrated Pest Management, an approach that minimizes chemical usage, exclusion techniques work to make structures as unappealing as possible to pests. By closing off the avenues pests use to enter structures, and protecting food, water and shelter, humans can make their properties unsuitable for pests to infest.

Exclusion is one of the most effective forms of pest control, and it can be practiced by home or business owners themselves. However, a professional pest technician is uniquely qualified to find the openings that can provide entry points for rodents and other pests. And when done correctly, a home or commercial building can be protected for years.

Practicing exclusion is a key to pest protection that will save homeowners money in living costs and repairs. A professional can help identify the gaps, routes and entrance areas that are allowing pests into a structure and seal them with materials such as spray foam, caulk, silicone, and hardware cloth. They can also install gable and attic vent covers, chimney caps, and plumbing and air vent screens to prevent critters from entering.

Another important element of exclusion is to reduce the amount of clutter in a structure. A cluttered environment provides more hiding places and easy access to food, water and shelter for pests. This can be as simple as regularly removing garbage from rooms and cleaning up yard debris. It can also involve trimming back bushes, trees and shrubs that are touching or in close proximity to a structure to eliminate bridges that offer pests easy access to the building.

It is generally agreed that it is better to perform exclusion at the same time as population reduction, rather than after. The latter can lead to trapping rodents inside buildings, which can damage them and cause new problems.

While many people think of rodent exclusion when they hear the term “pest control,” pest exclusion can be used to protect against any type of nuisance wildlife or insect infestation. And implementing exclusion early can prevent problems before they begin, such as overwintering pests like cluster flies and ladybugs at windows and light fixtures.

Biological Control

The most promising approach to pest control involves the use of living biological agents. Natural enemies are predators, parasites, or diseases that directly suppress pests. They may be imported from their native regions or they can be produced in the greenhouse and then released into the field. The three basic approaches to biological control are importation, augmentation, and conservation. (See box below)

Importation, or classical biological control, is usually used when the pest of interest is of exotic origin. This can occur either accidentally or intentionally; for example, alligator weed flea beetles were introduced to Florida to control the invasive plant. In the case of an accidental introduction, a search can be undertaken in the pest’s native region for potential predatory or parasitic organisms that might suppress the new species. The best candidates are then brought to the United States for evaluation and, if suitable, for release into the field. Such introductions must be made under strict governmental controls to ensure that no unwanted species are introduced along with the desired organism.

Augmentation, or biocontrol, is the most common form of biological control in greenhouses. Lady beetles and lacewings are routinely purchased and released to control aphids and caterpillars in many crops. In a similar manner, the predatory mite Amblysieus swirskii is used for control of thrips, whiteflies, and broad mites in vegetables, and the entomopathogenic nematode Trichogramma can be released to great effect into vegetable fields at rates of 5,000 to 200,000 per acre weekly to effectively control soil-dwelling insect pests. This practice is also known as “inundative release.”

Biological control is most effective when the organisms are introduced to a crop at the very beginning of its life cycle, before the pest population has had an opportunity to establish itself. This requires careful planning and knowledge of the pest’s life history. In addition, the habitat of the biological control agent must be provided to ensure that it can survive and thrive in the cropping system.

Unlike chemical sprays, which are relatively permanent, biological controls are dynamic organisms that need to be continually monitored and refined. In general, a successful biological control program will require six to ten generations for the organism to have an impact on the targeted pest. Moreover, it is important to remember that any mechanism that does not specifically target the pest or pathogen and does not involve living control agents cannot be considered to be biological control. Examples include watering wilted plants, which restores health and does not control pest damage, and applying non-selective herbicides to the landscape.