Green is good: Environmentally sound pest control

Pest management can be challenging in long-term care environments. Not only is it crucial to keep your facility free of disease-carrying rodents and insects, but the pest management techniques used must not put residents at risk. To ensure residents’ safety, consider turning to environmentally friendly pest management techniques.

Thanks to new technologies, environmentally friendly, or “green,” pest management methods effectively eliminate pests without threatening the environment and human health. Unlike traditional materials, these techniques combat the specific behaviors of target pests. Green pest management methods are most effective when employed as part of an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program. A good IPM program will enhance all other aspects of pest management—sanitation, housekeeping, and facility maintenance efforts.

Green Pest Control Options

Current technologies offer long-term care owners and operators a long list of practices and environmentally friendly chemicals to keep pests at bay. Review the following green pest control techniques to determine if they are a fit for your facility.

Install fly lights.The food and trash waste your facility produces attracts flies, particularly in foodservice and waste management areas. Install fly lights near entrances to trap flying insects before they infest the building. Modern fly lights use ultraviolet light to attract and draw the pests to a sticky board inside the nontoxic unit. These devices can be placed throughout the facility, but will be particularly useful in food preparation areas, near entrances to waste disposal zones, and near loading and receiving docks. Replace the sticky boards regularly and don’t forget that most lightbulbs will need to be replaced every few months.

Stick it to the pests.Often used for cockroach management, sticky boards are one of the most common nonchemical pest control methods. Sticky boards can trap unwanted crawling or flying pests, aiding in their ultimate removal, and help monitor pest activity in your facility. Place these traps in “hot spots” such as storage areas, kitchens, laundry rooms, and under appliances. Keep them away from residents and staff members. If using these devices as a monitoring method to determine the level of pest activity in the area, keep a record of the number of pests found at each location.

Repel and seal out pests.Repellants are designed to move pests to areas where it is easier to control them. They contain pyrethrins, com-pounds extracted from pyrethrum flowers, and silica gel, an inorganic compound that damages insects’ exoskeletons. When pests, such as ants, come into contact with this combination, they immediately retreat and may be killed through desiccation, where the pest’s body dries out. Repellants and desiccants are most effective when used in cracks and crevices around the exterior of a building and in small openings in the facility’s facade. Caulking these openings after treatment will help close the door to pests.

Make pests their own worst enemies.With the help of modern science, pest management professionals can now use pests’ biology against them. Pheromone traps and Insect Growth Regulators (IGRs) are two techniques that use synthetic copies of chemicals involved in pest reproduction and growth.

  • Pheromone traps. Pests use pheromones, which are secreted chemicals, to communicate with another pest of the same species. Pheromone traps incorporate synthetically replicated versions of an insect’s pheromones to lure the pest to a sticky trap. Most often used as a technique to manage flying insects, pheromone traps can help identify and monitor pest populations.

  • IGRs. These prevent target insects from reaching full maturity by using man-made versions of their hormones to disrupt their life cycle. Once a pest is unable to mature, and thus reproduce, the population stops increasing.

It’s important to note that pheromone traps and IGRs will only be effective when used to target specific pests.

Use environmentally friendly insect bait.As an alternative to traditional spray pesticides, nonvolatile baits use chemical formulations that do not become airborne when applied. Nonvolatile baits will most often be used as gels and applied to cracks and crevices, or as a small bait puck with the chemical secreted inside a protective casing. Pest management professionals often use bait pucks in damp, dark areas or under shelving in the kitchen to control cockroaches. Since these baits do include chemicals, your certified pest management professional will apply them in areas that will not put residents at risk.

Go organic.Consider switching to an organic cleaner instead of a harsh chemical cleaner in the kitchen. These environmentally friendly sanitizers use naturally occurring bacteria and enzymes—the same biotechnology employed to clean up oil tanker spills—to break down grease and grime. Organic cleaners can eradicate breeding areas for drain and fruit flies when used in and around drains, sinks, and garbage disposals.


Before implementing any of these treatments, it’s important to accurately identify the specific problem pest. The green pest management techniques discussed above will be most effective when selected to target a particular pest. Make sure your pest management professional is properly trained in pest identification and biology. And remember that all of your pest management efforts are futile without the help and support of your staff. Ask your pest management professional to conduct a training session to equip your employees with the tools and knowledge they need to monitor and report pest activity.

With so many green options available, it’s best to work with a reputable pest management professional to choose the best methods for your facility. A strong IPM program and a variety of management methods can help you to keep residents and the environment safe from pests and harmful chemicals.

Patrick T. Copps, MS, BCE, is Technical Services Manager for Orkin’s Pacific Division. A board-certified entomologist in urban and industrial entomology, Copps has more than 30 years’ experience in the industry.

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Topics: Articles , Facility management , Operations , Risk Management