We recently moved into a gorgeous 112-year-old house in the historic district of our town. We are renting long-term with an option to buy. We have an awesome landlord who has let us really make this our home and he’s very easy to work with. He and his wife had contracted the local affiliate of a national pest control service. They have offered us the benefit for free, which is generous. However, I’ve owned several old houses and I’ve never used chemical pest control methods.
I’m not particularly good with insects, but I know they are a vital part of our eco-system. I have spent a lot of time and energy over the years working on making peace with the insect world and finding ways to co-exist. Don’t get me wrong, I REALLY don’t like ants in my kitchen, spiders in the bedroom or other various multi-legged critters terrorizing us inside the house. When I find a misguided critter in the house, I do my best NOT to freak out and put them back outside with a stern lecture on staying OUTSIDE.
I’m the one with the scrappy lawn because I refuse to use chemical fertilizers on it. I’m sensitive to chemicals and just know too much about the negative effects of many chemicals not only on our bodies, but in our environment as well. There are many studies showing how our bodies are being overburdened by toxins and how babies are now being born pre-polluted – yikes! Environmental Working Group has done a lot of homework for us and offers tons of resources for research on commonly used chemicals, toxins and their effects on our health and their environmental impact.
So, one morning the nice pest control man knocks on the door unexpectedly. I’m sure he figured he’d just let me know he would be spraying the outside of the house and he didn’t expect me to start questioning him about the type of chemicals they use and what exactly they are for – killing v. deterring. I said, “Thanks, but let me do some research and I’ll get back to you.” He looked genuinely baffled, but he eventually gave up and wandered back to his truck.
I had my intern do some research and the pest control company stonewalled her. I gave it a try, and they weren’t any better with me. Their website doesn’t divulge ANY information about the types of chemicals they use. OK – one can only surmise, whatever they use must be toxic or they wouldn’t work so hard to keep the information from you! Luckily for me, my landlord is interested in helping the environment and was ok with my doing some homework and considering some possible alternatives.
It is important to realize that in an environment where humans and man-made structures do not exist, insects play a vital role in the eco-system. We consider insects pests when they appear to be invading our space. Termites for instance can do severe damage to a wood dwelling, but in nature, their role is key to help the decomposition process of dead trees. While I don’t think I’ve got arachnophobia, I’m not happy when I see spiders in the house. They are icky, but generally harmless to humans. I LOVE that they eat other insects, so they are among those that are carefully escorted outside with the standard lecture to keep it outside.
Next: Non-toxic alternatives for household pests