Penn State publication gives solutions to roaches, bed bugs and other pests


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Are you being bugged by bugs? Are mice or rats chewing on your last nerve? Maybe you could use some good advice about how to deal with them.

A new publication from Penn State Extension, Common Urban Pests: Identification, Prevention and Control, encourages homeowners to use integrated pest management, or IPM, techniques to control pest-related problems.

“Over the last few years, we have seen different species starting to enter homes more often, and people may not be handling the situations safely or effectively,” said Steve Jacobs, senior extension associate and urban entomologist.

“They may not read the label on a pesticide, or they might use it improperly,” he said. “Or, the pesticide they have chosen or have on hand may not be designed to kill the pest that’s causing their problems.”


The fact sheet, developed by experts in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, includes photographs and information about 20 different insects and rodents and offers tips to manage pests in a safer and more effective manner.

For multifamily units, roaches, mice and increasingly bed bugs are the ‘most pesty,’ explained Jacobs.

The health issue most commonly connected to pests and pesticide use in urban settings is asthma. Pesticides and pest dander and droppings could irritate the lungs of some individuals. Children are most vulnerable, and asthma has become the most common chronic childhood disease.

“Protecting yourself from the diseases pests may carry is really about being proactive and working to prevent coming in contact with the pest in the first place,” he said.

Jacobs noted the first step in IPM practices is to properly identify the pest and figure out how and why they are coming inside.

“You then need to fix those issues,” he said. “Eliminate access to food, water and shelter by keeping food in sealed containers, fixing dripping pipes and faucets, and sealing cracks and crevices.

“If a pesticide is warranted, it should be the least hazardous product that will accomplish the job. Minimize exposure to the chemical, and target only the pest causing the problem,” he said.

Safer pesticides

Diatomaceous earth and boric acid are less hazardous than broad-spectrum pesticides. Both can be injected into cracks, crevices and wall voids. However, they should be used with caution as they can cause irritation to humans. Keep them out of reach of children and pets.

By keeping floor drains covered, repairing screens and caulking cracks, you can keep many bugs out of your house, including roaches.

The publication is aimed at showing homeowners that prevention tactics often take care of most pest problems. It focuses on pests found in urban settings but also is relevant to suburban and rural locations that may have the same types of pests.

Large pests

However, the fact sheet does not contain information on larger pests such as deer, birds, groundhogs and so forth, which may be prevalent in suburban or rural surroundings but not as common in urban settings.

Most pest-control companies use IPM tactics to manage pests, according to Jacobs.

“IPM services should include inspection, monitoring, recommendations for preventing pest problems and treating problems with traps, baits or the least toxic but effective materials,” he said.

“The technician should communicate with you about the problem and provide service reports of the actions taken and the products used.”

IPM methods may appear to take longer and cost more up front than conventional pest management, but they are the better option, Jacobs stressed.

“Continuing IPM practices leads to more effective, longer-lasting control and a decrease in cost for pest management,” he said. “By using these methods, you’re keeping yourself, your family and your pets safe from unnecessary exposure to insecticides.”

How to get one

Single copies of the Common Urban Pests: Identification, Prevention and Control, can be obtained free of charge by Pennsylvania residents through county Penn State Extension offices, or by contacting the College of Agricultural Sciences Publications Distribution Center at 814-865-6713 or by e-mail at

For cost information on out-of-state or bulk orders, contact the Publications Distribution Center.


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