Pesticides not the first line of defense, pest-management professionals say

Pesticides are just one tool that can be used against pests, with many of the most effective centering around exclusion.

Integrated pest-management practices are techniques used by pest-management professionals to reduce the likelihood of a pest infestation or eliminate an existing one, and they are the most potent weapon a hotel can employ against invaders. Tim Husen, technical services manager at Orkin, said the greatest misconception he encounters when performing pest management in hotels is the belief that pesticides solve all problems, when in reality there is no all-purpose solution.

“I frequently hear people say that they did everything they could for exclusion, and they still found insects in their drop ceiling,” Husen said. “We simply can’t apply pesticides everywhere—or see every crack in your property, for that matter—and just be done with it.”

Angela Tucker, manager, technical services with Terminix, doesn’t recommend pesticides against fall invaders in particular because once the pests are inside the chemicals are ineffective.

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“I’m often asked what the best insecticide or pesticide is, and it always comes back to the pest,” Tucker said. “How you control a rodent invader is completely different from what you will do for a multicolored Asian lady beetle, for instance.”

Door sweeps are effective for keeping out rodents and other pests, but many need frequent upkeep.

Once again, biology is the key. Patricia Hottel, technical director at pest-management company McCloud Services, said insects are sensitive to light and see more in the blue/violet light spectrum. In contrast, they have a poor ability to pick up on the red, yellow or orange light spectrum.

Knowing this, hotels can invest in sodium vapor lighting—which is orange—to be used around the exterior of their property, while mercury vapor lighting—which is in the blue color spectrum—can be used in parking lots or other locations away from where guests are walking or eating. This draws them away from high-traffic areas while still keeping them lit—the perfect example of an integrated pest-management strategy that keeps aesthetics in mind. Another example Hottel gave for low-tech IPM strategies is to use vase-shaped pots for exterior plants as opposed to pots that expand at the top because those are optimal for hiding rodents and are difficult to clean or inspect for trash.

“Insects aren’t always at the top of considerations when it comes to lighting decisions, but LEDs are also less attractive to insects because they produce less heat and attract fewer insects outside,” Hottel said.