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This is a very interesting article about what we do or don't know about pest control in and around our homes.

What you need to know about pesticides

There are too many of us they do not realize that household pesticides can cause us harm if not used appropriately. They have become commonplace in the home to control pests such as cockroaches, mosquitoes and fleas or rodents like rats and mice. It is important to remember that pesticides are poisonous and are especially dangerous for children, the elderly, pregnant and nursing women and your pets including birds and fish.

You also may not realize that the large variety of canned sprays actually kill the pests by attacking their nervous system which causes them to die of asphyxiation.  Whilst the chemicals are very powerful, they are safe enough to use as directed.  Although household pesticides may readily available in the supermarkets, this does not mean they are harmless. They are a toxic chemical and if used recklessly there is a high likelihood that they may not only affect the health of the user, but  their family, pets or the environment. Always select pesticides that are designed for the pest you wish to treat, follow the label instructions carefully and only use the least amount possible.

Choose pesticides wisely

Suggestions include;

  • Is it realistic to expect your property to be completely pest-free. There is the possibility that the repeated use of pesticides may in actual fact be more dangerous in the long term than the pests themselves.
  • Give some consideration to a non-chemical approach to pest control measures and concentrate more on not attracting them in the first place or, if they have already arrived, using deterrants. See the Alternatives to pesticides at the end of this article.
  • Before you go out to buy a pesticide, be certain to identify the pest beforehand.  It could well be that what you assume you are hearing is rats in your roof but it could be possums. If you are having trouble identifying the pest, make some enquiries but a recommended alternative is to contact a licensed pest control operator who is trained in the identification and management of pests.
  • Always look for the least toxic (or lowest schedule) household pesticide available.
  • And only use the least amount of pesticide possible to significantly lower any risk of causing harm to others.

You may need professional help

pesticde professionalsIt is sometimes the case that you might have a pest problem that you are finding difficult to manage yourself and it seems to be getting worse and not better. This is the time to call in a professional licensed pest control operator who will resolve your problems quickly and may even be cheaper than what you would do yourself. 

Due to the potential risks involved in handling pesticides, anyone who uses pesticides as part of a pest control business must have a pest control operator license which are issued by the appropriate authorities. Always ensure that the company you are dealing with is licensed for pest control services.

Although pesticides are toxic and there are certain risks associated with the use of pesticides, the licensed pest control operators are trained to handle, store and adequately apply these substances safely. Once the necessary precautions are used to minimise the exposure to pesticides, the risk to our health and our families are greatly reduced.

General pesticide safety tips

  • Don’t stock up on pesticides. Only buy as much as you need.
  • Do not mix pesticides. You risk an unexpected and potentially dangerous chemical reaction.
  • Store the pesticide in its original container with the lid firmly sealed and keep out of the reach of children.
  • Under no circumstances should you transfer pesticides into containers that children (or adults) may mistake for food or drink.
  • Be careful not to set traps or place bait in areas that are accessible to children, pets or native animals.
  • If the manufacturer has suggested wearing protective clothing, do so! Failing to wera things like rubber gloves or a mask when it is recommended to do so is inviting problems for yourself.
  • Avoid eating, drinking or smoking while using pesticides because even if you don’t drip a bit on your hands, the vapours will be absorbed and go down your throat and straight into your system.
  • And of course, the vital rule – Always wash your hands after use.

Safety suggestions – pesticides for indoor use

  • Cover or remove bird cages and fish tanks and relocate other pets before using aerosol (spray) pesticides. Many pesticides are extremely toxic to birds and fish.
  • Remove (or cover) food, cooking utensils and other personal items from the area to be treated. Thoroughly clean kitchen benches before preparing food.
  • Do not apply surface sprays to areas commonly touched by family members, such as furniture. Only use surface sprays in out-of-the-way areas like along skirting boards.
  • Leave the room while the pesticide (such as fly spray) is taking effect. When you come back, open the windows to clear the air.
  • Ensure pesticides are used in the right place. For example, mice tend to run along skirting boards and under floors. If you put traps or baits out in the open, they may fail to attract the pest and may pose a health risk to family members or pets.
  • Clear up any food debris or scraps if you use baits to ensure that the pest is drawn only to the bait. This means you will need less bait.

Safety suggestions – pesticides for outdoor use

  • Ensure all doors and windows are closed before using the pesticide.
  • Do not use pesticide outdoors on rainy or windy days. The weather can influence the effectiveness of the pesticide and cause damage to other animals, people and the environment.
  • Cover fish ponds, barbeques and vegetable gardens before using the pesticide. Relocate pets and remove their bedding, food and water bowls.
  • Do not water your garden after using a pesticide. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for a guide to how long you should wait.
  • Observe plants and birds for a few days afterwards to make sure that the pesticide isn’t causing unwanted harm.
  • Advise your neighbours if you use any external pesticide treatments.
  • If you have a rain water tank, take care to prevent overspray onto guttering and the roof area. If there is any risk of pesticide residue washing into the tank, the collection pipe should be diverted away from the rainwater tank until after the next rainfall.

Pesticide toxicity

Schedules are used to classify pesticides and to control the availability of a product to the general public. They take into account things like how toxic a substance is, how it will be used and what form it takes (whether it’s liquid or spray etc).

Pesticides are either unscheduled or they fall under schedules 5, 6 or 7. Each schedule has a warning, which appears in large contrasting lettering on the label.

Scheduled poison

Label warning

Toxicity level


Some may display 
‘Keep out of reach of children’

(readily available)

Schedule 5



Schedule 6



Schedule 7

Dangerous poison

(even for small doses)

NB: Household pesticide products should not be schedule 7.

Alternatives to pesticides

It is important to consider alternative control methods to pesticide use. The key is to make your house and garden unattractive to pests. Some suggestions include:

Rodents – don’t put food scraps in the garden for birds or possums. Throw out food left in dog or cat bowls. If you have an aviary, keep birdseed in rodent-proof dispensers. Pick up and dispose of fallen fruit from any fruit trees. Regularly trim plants such as creepers. Keep potential nesting places, such as wood and rubbish piles, off the ground. Consider using traps, but do not lay traps in areas where children, pets or native fauna could be harmed.

Flies – keep a tight lid on outdoor rubbish bins. Put garden compost in a well-sealed container. Flies don’t like pyrethrum, which is a common ingredient in fly spray. Consider planting pyrethrum daisies near your front and back doors to repel flies and other insects. Hang flytraps or fly paper outside in areas where flies tend to gather.

Fleas – wash pets, their blankets and other bedding regularly. See your veterinarian for treatment options for your pet.

Cockroaches – remove any sources of water such as in the base of the shower, in sinks or in dishes left in the kitchen. Cockroaches need a daily source of water to survive. Don’t leave food scraps on benches or in pet bowls. Keep rubbish in a bin with the lid on tightly. Don’t keep piles of wood chips or mulch near the house. Seal cracks and crevices where cockroaches may get into your home.

Mosquitoes – drain any collected puddles of water, as this is where mosquitoes breed. Change the water in birdbaths at least once a week. Run your swimming pool filter for a few hours each day. Regularly clear your gutters of leaves and other debris that may collect water. Keep larvae-eating fish in ornamental ponds – see an aquarium dealer for suggestions on appropriate fish.