5 Common Pest Control Mistakes

A hand holding a cockroach by an antenna.

Pests. They invoke fear, anxiety, and screams from the throats of grown men. My otherwise gentle and peace-loving wife tried to have me resort to the utmost violence when she nearly placed her hands on a giant wolf spider that had trapped itself in our bathroom sink. No, I didn’t smash it. It was way too big, so I’m afraid it would have won that fight. Instead, I trapped it and let it go in a field across the street.

What is it about these little creatures that disturbs us so? I don’t have the slightest idea. I just know that when we see spiders—or their terrifying cockroach friends—we want them gone. All of them. With the incredible amount of passion behind each tactical response to pests, you’d think we’d have already won this war. Yet, we battle on. Where do we fail, and how can we better approach our pest infestations?

Consider the following five common mistakes people make with their pest control.

1. Unsafe Practices

Many pesticides, baits, and repellents are harmful to pets, children, adults, and the environment when touched, ingested, or mishandled. Use safe handling and application procedures whether using toxic substances or a natural pest control strategy.

2. Proceeding Without Addressing the Cause

caulking window

Before you treat the infestation, do your best to discover its cause. Spraying ants with ant killer will kill the ants that you see, but you need to ask why you’ve got ants in the first place. If you live in a house, find out if you have unsealed gaps around your foundation, windows, doors, and other seams. If you have gaps, seal them. After you’ve eliminated the entry points, bait the insect with a product that specifically targets your invader. Get one that will kill the queen (if applicable).

If you live in an apartment/condo community, consider persuading your neighbors to focus on the problem with you because the pests might originate from someone else’s house. You’ll need to address the cause at the same time (or before) you address the infestation itself. It might not be a bad idea to get your property management involved if the pest problem is severe. It would be very unfortunate to be successful at ridding your entire apartment of cockroaches, only for them to come back with a vengeance a few weeks later because they are thriving in your neighbor’s kitchen.

Also, remember to avoid leaving doors and windows open without an adequate screen cover. That practically invites pests in.

3. Not Cleaning the House and Yard

outdoor log pile

Pests view your living space as a great place to take shelter and find food. To minimize the likelihood that pests will call your place home, clean your house regularly and thoroughly. In the kitchen, never leave crumbs on the counters and floors, wash and dry the dishes daily, and empty the trash every single day. You should also vacuum any and all carpet several times per week, clean out your sinks and shower drains, and regularly recycle old paper products such as newspaper and cardboard boxes. Keeping a clean house is one of the best ways to have a pest-free home (and it just feels nice).

You should also look to the condition of your yard. Messy and unkempt yards invite pests into your property, which puts them that much closer to your house. Eliminate the following from your property: standing water, trash, decaying food, and dead animals (birds, rodents, etc.).

Also, remember that if you use firewood, it's a good idea to avoid piling it up next to the foundation of your house. Shoot for a good 30 to 35 feet away from the house if you can.

4. Bad Baiting Practices

ants walking in row

In short, don’t put bait where the pest won’t often go. For instance, you normally wouldn’t want to place bait in the center of your living room if you’re trying to get rid of mice. Instead, place the bait in their path. Mice tend to scamper close to the wall, in dark corners, behind appliances (stove, fridge), or right near a place they might enter/exit a room. Put the bait in those places.

You’ll also need to understand a bit about the life cycle of insects and rodents. If you kill the adults and immediately stop addressing the infestation, some of the young might grow up and have offspring of their own. To avoid this, consider baiting for a few weeks after you’ve killed off the adult generation just to make sure the infestation is under control.

5. Failing to Research the Pest

If you buy bait manufactured to kill a specific pest, but you didn’t correctly identify the creature you’re dealing with, will the bait work? Sometimes it will; sometimes it won’t. Take care to make sure you correctly identify the pest before you buy bait or traps. If you don’t know what pest you’re dealing with, you won’t know the best way to control the problem.

While it is true that it can be tough to identify some pests, you can look to guides to help you, such as this pest guide.


cardboard boxes piled up

After my wife and I had our "near death" experience with the freakishly large spider in our bathroom, we thought long and hard about how that thing got inside in the first place. We came to the conclusion that it had stowed away on a wooden pallet that we had recently scooted inside our house when we were installing a heavy door. So, consider this a bonus tip: inspect things like pallets, boxes brought in from storage, cardboard boxes of fruit bought from the store, luggage after visiting a distant tourist attraction, and any other containers before bringing them inside your house. They could be housing pests.

What pest control mistakes have you made in your personal battles, and what lessons have you learned along the way?