Is Pest Management that Important to my Property?
Quite simply put, pests cause problems, and they are often more complex than people realize. On the surface, poorly managed pest problems can impact the aesthetic of a property. Spider webs, old wasp and hornet nests, and live or dead insects inside can immediately diminish a property's appearance, or even signal to a prospective tenant that the property is not well-maintained. Some prospective tenants may even interpret these sightings as a threat to their well-being. Not only can some pests cause physical damage to a structure, but many pests may carry disease-causing pathogens. For example, exterior populations of mosquitoes have the potential to transmit disease causing pathogens that may carry West Nile Virus, termites cryptically eat away at the structural integrity of a building, mice and rats chew through wiring and conduits, and cockroaches contaminate surfaces with disease-causing microbes.
Who is Responsible for Pest Management?
The responsibility for managing integrated pest management (IPM) in a multi-unit, multi-family community falls on the shoulders of the property managers. Typically, property managers work with key stakeholders, including maintenance staff, housing managers, and the residents themselves, to address pest-conducive conditions that are out of the pest management professional's (PMP's) control. This team works with the PMP to implement and revise the IPM plan through collaborative communication and teamwork. The right PMP will educate property managers and work with them to ensure that the IPM program is not only economically sound, but also meets the needs of the property as a whole.
Property Manager Responsibility
There are several key elements that property managers should be aware of when establishing best practices and crafting an IPM program with their PMP. As a minimum (and far from an all-inclusive list), all programs should account for the following:
- Routine Pest Sighting Reporting. This is the backbone of a truly integrated pest management program. Residents, maintenance personnel and other staff members should be actively looking for pests and pest-conducive conditions. A pest reporting process should be established and communicated within the multi-family community.
- Pest (Rodent or Insect) Exclusions and Denial of Needed Resources. A property manager's best defense against pests is to go on the offensive and identify and resolve conditions that may be conducive to pest activity. Pests require the same elements to survive as humans - food, water, and adequate shelter. Suffice it to say that most, if not all of these resources, are readily available within a multi-family community. Maintenance staff should be working in tandem with the PMP to learn what conditions to look for that could signal a present or future pest threat, and eliminate them.
- Trash Management. Along the same lines as denial of resources, proper trash management can immediately have an impact on a property's attractiveness to pests. Trash management could include things such as encouraging residents to wash recyclable containers prior to disposal, and providing an adequate amount of receptacles to collect refuse and avoid overflow.
- Community Engagement. Impactful IPM in multi-family communities requires cooperation, often from residents themselves. Property managers should consider offering community wide IPM training and education for their community members. Residents are typically unaware of their role in the IPM program, and how they can impact and change outcomes in their community.
Putting together an IPM program can seem daunting, but partnering with a qualified and trained PMP can help property managers turn a mountain into a molehill. The PMP's role includes, but is not limited to: providing the contractually agreed upon service; offering technical assistance and support; identifying and reporting problems; and working quickly to engage stakeholders in resolving pest problems.
A PMP will follow a sequential process to determine the cause of pest problems, and possible solutions based on the pest and complexity of the problem. The basic framework for IPM includes:
Routine Inspection and Identification
- Identify the pest(s)!
- Determine potential locations of pest entry
- Determine food and water sources
- Identify potential pest harborages
- Inspect for pest evidence, i.e., droppings, cast skins, etc.
Monitoring and Action Thresholds
- Monitoring is the continuous, ongoing estimation of relative pest populations.
- Information from monitoring is evaluated to determine if control measures are required, and when and where they should occur.
- Action thresholds define the point above which specific pests cannot be tolerated, initiating additional action.
Developing the Control and Choosing the control Method(s)
- Habitat modification
- Denial of food and water sources
- Reducing clutter
- Proper trash management
- Physical and mechanical controls
- Chemical controls
Record Keeping and Evaluation
- Documenting pesticide use
- Documenting conducive conditions
- Making recommendations
Property managers should never assume that because “a" program worked in one building, that the same methods will be compatible in other. Managing pests in multi-unit communities is about being situationally aware, and crafting programs that are unique to the community. The IPM program must consider that the decision to use a pesticide is based on need as identified by the PMP, but also accounts for the opinion of residents with perhaps varying perceptions, preferences, and tolerances for both pests and pesticides.