How to beat back biting bugs

Learn how to protect your family from pests with integrated pest management

Spiders, mice and mosquitos. Oh my!

Whatever pest problem you have, the most effective and least toxic pest control strategy is integrated pest management (IPM). IPM is a way to control pests that helps keep the environment safe and healthy. It reduces exposure to potentially harmful chemicals.

IPM works like this:

  • Identify the pest(s) to understand how to manage them. WSU Extension’s IPM and IPM in Schools websites are excellent resources to help identify and learn how to control pests. Search by indoor or outdoor pests.
  • Decide if you have a problem: Pests are often just a nuisance, but some can cause serious health problems or damage your property. For example, did you know that most spiders in WA state are harmless?
  • Apply IPM techniques suited to the pest(s) and monitor results. IPM may include the use of the least toxic pesticide(s) in the overall strategy. Having a pest control company apply pesticides on a routine schedule is not IPM. Pesticide use is only one possible step of multiple actions done together to control pests. Use depends on pest presence and evaluating what is working. There are pest control professionals who use IPM. Ask about their pest control approach.

Prevent pests before they become a problem. Some simple steps for prevention include:

  • Remove water sources. Fix drippy faucets and remove standing water.
  • Limit access to food. Take food trash outside and away from the building. Secure pet food, bird seed, and other potential edibles in sealed containers.
  • Block their path. Create physical barriers by covering holes in crawl spaces and attics, and around pipes and vents that lead into the home.

Insecticides, herbicides and other pesticides

Pesticides for purchase at home improvement and grocery stores are accessible with labels that promise quick results for pest problems. Read the fine print. Spraying or fogging insecticides (pesticides for insects) often won’t kill hidden bugs. Weed killers or herbicides are also pesticides. Herbicides can harm humans as well as unwanted plants.

Illness from Pesticides

Pest infestations can disrupt sleep, increase stress, and be costly to fix. But be cautious: misuse of pesticides can make you or others in your home sick. They can cause sudden illness. Headaches, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting are common symptoms. People at higher risk of more severe illness from pesticide exposure include but are not limited to:

  • Children.
  • People with asthma.
  • People with other conditions that affect their breathing.

Our Pesticide Illness Prevention Program investigates over 200 reports of acute pesticide-related illness (APRI) a year. We determine whether the exposure and illness are associated with the chemicals in the pesticide(s) involved. We examine what happened and identify causes. We use the data we collect to identify trends and guide policy and prevention education.

There are many reasons people are exposed to — and get sick from — pesticides. To keep yourself and your family safe, follow these tips:

  • Read and follow the instructions on the pesticide label.
  • Use proper protective equipment. See pesticide label for requirements or guidance, such as wearing goggles or safety glasses to protect your eyes.
  • Store pesticides away from children.
  • Get clean air flow in the area after a pesticide application.
  • Find out pest control policies for indoor environments, such as multi-family housing and schools. Know where information is posted about pest control.
  • Follow label instructions. Using more pesticide than indicated is ineffective and can harm humans and the environment.
  • Take note of nearby agriculture: pesticides drift from target crops, such as apple and other fruit orchards. As a result, people living, working, and going to school nearby are often exposed to pesticides. Report suspected pesticide drifts from agricultural applications to the Washington State Department of Agriculture, 1–844–388–2020.

Gotta catch ’em all!

Learn more about what to do about pests by reading our other recent blogs and websites:

More Information

Information in this blog changes rapidly. Sign up to be notified whenever we post new articles. For more information from the Washington State Department of Health, visit doh.wa.gov.

Questions about COVID-19? Visit our COVID-19 website to learn more about vaccines and booster doses, testing, WA Notify, and more. You can also contact the Department of Health call center at 1–800–525–0127 and press # from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday, and 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday — Sunday and observed state holidays. Language assistance is available.

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Washington State Department of Health

Washington State Department of Health

Protecting and improving the health of people in Washington State.