Identifying Pests and Their Habitat

Monitoring pests and their habitat helps you determine whether they can be tolerated or need control. Correct identification also allows you to select management techniques that pose the least hazard to people and pets.

Many pests can be controlled with traps, baits or homemade solutions. These methods are less hazardous than chemicals when they are used correctly and in small amounts. To learn more about the pest control methods, visit this website at

Pest Identification

pest control

Identifying pests is the first step in integrated pest management (IPM). IPM programs focus on monitoring and assessing whether or not pest control is necessary, and if so, how much treatment will be needed. IPM programs avoid unnecessary pesticide use, which minimizes risks to human health, beneficial organisms and the environment. Correct identification is also important for choosing the right type of pesticide and application method to use.

Pest identification involves observing and examining the physical traits of a plant pest or vertebrate animal. This includes studying the shape, size and color of the pest. Then, comparing these traits to images in a pest guide or other reference material. This will help you find the most similar pests and determine their species.

Insects, weeds, diseases, or other organisms that damage plants may not be present in a particular area at all times, and are often difficult to detect unless specific monitoring activities are done on a regular basis. This information is very useful to help managers decide if and when to take IPM action, such as spraying or collecting.

IPM identifies and responds to pest problems using non-chemical methods that are compatible with environmental, economic, and social values. Pests may be controlled through habitat manipulation, modification of cultural practices, the use of resistant varieties, and/or other biological or physical controls. Pesticides are used only after monitoring indicates they are needed and are applied with the goal of removing only the target organism and not affecting other plants or beneficial organisms.

It is extremely important to know the exact species of each pest, so that the best suited control option can be chosen. This step in the pest control process is usually performed by a professional entomologist or other qualified expert.

MMPC’s free Pest ID Center can analyze a physical specimen or pictures of a mystery pest, and provide a detailed identification.


Pesticides are chemicals designed to kill or control unwanted plants, animals or microorganisms. They are used in agriculture, public health, industry, businesses and households. They are formulated into liquid, solid or gaseous forms and can be applied to land, water, air or the body of an animal. They are also added to food, clothing and other products. There are over 800 registered pesticides in Canada.

Some are biodegradable, while others are persistent (stick around in the environment for a long time). Insecticides attack an insect’s brain and nervous system. They interfere with nerve-impulse transmission by increasing sodium ions into the axon, which causes paralysis. Herbicides kill or control weeds. They are often more toxic than insecticides and may also affect humans. RoundUp and atrazine are two of the most commonly used herbicides in the world. Fungicides kill fungus and can be used on plants or in homes, businesses and offices.

Many pesticides are absorbed through the skin or lungs. The most toxic ones are organophosphates, neonicotinoid and pyrethroid insecticides; carbamate and amide herbicides; and fungicides.

All pesticides can harm wildlife and disrupt the natural ecosystem by killing or harming non-target organisms, damaging habitats and pollination or through indirect effects. The widespread use of pesticides threatens the health of wild plants and animals, is a significant contributor to pollinator decline and destroys ecosystems.

Pesticide residues can linger in soil, water and air, causing damage to the whole ecosystem. They also contribute to climate change by altering the carbon cycle and reducing biodiversity.

People most at risk for exposure to unsafe levels of pesticide are workers who apply pesticides and anyone else in the area during or shortly after application. Everyone should follow the instructions on a product label, and use only the amount of pesticide needed for the problem.

Pesticides can be used on forests, rangelands, agricultural lands, aquatic habitats, roadsides and urban turf and gardens. The federal, provincial and municipal governments set bylaws that regulate the use of pesticides on municipal and private lands, including residential gardens. Some bylaws limit the use of cosmetic pesticides (those used mainly to make gardens and lawns look attractive) and/or restrict the types of pesticides that can be sold.


As the name suggests, exclusion is a method of pest control that prevents pests and nuisance wildlife from entering a structure or building. This integrated pest management tactic is much more effective (and safer for the environment) than trying to root out an infestation once it has taken hold, and it can be used for any type of pest.

A quality provider of pest control services will look for ways to exclude pests before they become a problem and then make interior and exterior repairs that keep them out permanently. This can include adding door sweeps, sealing gaps around utility lines, installing chimney caps and other protective measures. In addition, it involves removing food, water and shelter sources that attract pests or nuisance wildlife to the property. For example, reducing ground cover by cutting back low-growing bushes and trimming or pruning trees that might provide pests with access to the building or its roof.

Another key aspect of exclusion is identifying and marking the entry points rodents use to gain access to the building, and then taking steps to close them up. This can involve examining the foundation for cracks, and inspecting the outside of the structure for signs of rodent activity and repairing them. It can also involve minimizing possible traffic routes for rodents and insects by keeping windows shut, ensuring screens are secure and maintaining proper ventilation.

In addition to preventing pests from getting inside, the best exclusion techniques also deter them from returning once they’ve already invaded. That means removing food sources, such as compost piles, trash containers, fallen leaves and berries, and eliminating places where rodents and insects nest. It also means reducing moisture, which can lead to mold and mildew problems, by fixing leaky pipes or repairing roofs and gutters.

Using exclusion to prevent pests before they become a problem saves time and money by requiring less maintenance, reduces chemical usage and is more environmentally friendly than relying on powerful chemicals to kill existing infestations. Taking the proactive approach to exclusion is one of the most important things that any business or facility owner can do for their pest management program.

Biological Control

The beneficial action of natural enemies (predators, parasitoids, pathogens, competitors and herbivores) can reduce pest numbers and damage. Insects are the most commonly controlled by biological control, but weeds, plant diseases and nematodes can also be managed by this tactic. Conservation, augmentation and classical biological control are the three broad categories of tactics for harnessing natural enemies’ benefits.

Unlike chemicals, which can harm natural enemies as well as the targeted pest, biological agents are generally considered safe to use and have few side effects. Biological control is an important component of integrated pest management and can help reduce the need for chemical controls.

The most common method of biological control is augmentation, which is used to boost populations of naturally occurring predators and parasitoids. For example, lady beetles and lacewings can be released in large numbers to quickly control pest insect populations (inundative release). Entomopathogenic nematodes are often introduced into field crops at rates of millions and even billions per acre to rapidly reduce the number of soil-dwelling insects that damage crop roots. Another form of augmentation is habitat or environmental manipulation, which is designed to provide the necessary food and shelter for natural enemies. For example, channels may be dug in a saltmarsh to connect pools of water where the naturally-occurring mosquito predator fish can swim.

Classical biological control is more involved, requiring a much longer time frame to evaluate its effectiveness. It begins with determining the origin of an imported pest to find a natural enemy from its native habitat that can attack it. That native enemy is then screened to ensure that it does not carry unwanted organisms (diseases, hyperparasitoids) before being reared and released in the field. A similar process is followed for a weed or plant disease that is being introduced to the United States.

To help foster natural enemies, growers should avoid the unnecessary use of broad-spectrum, persistent pesticides. For example, carbamates and organophosphates kill natural enemies that are present at the time of spraying, and their residues can continue to poison them for days or weeks afterward. The use of less-persistent pesticides can be more effective because their residues usually disappear faster.