Grab the bug spray…. or not?

“What all purpose bug sprays should we be routinely using around the house?”

My answer? “None.”

I was asked this question recently by a man who brought a spider into our office for identification. It isn’t the first time – we get asked about routine pesticide use quite often.

In our extension office, we recommend an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach. By following the principles of IPM, you don’t need to routinely spray pesticides around your home. By using an IPM approach, you’ll save time, money and reduce your exposure to unnecessary pesticides.

Caulking windows - photo by V. Jedlicka UNL Extension in Lancaster County

Caulking around windows helps save energy and keeps pests out

Honestly, this isn’t something I tell people just because it is a university recommendation. It’s something I believe in and practice around my own home because it works. I feel better not exposing myself, my family or the environment to the unnecessary use of pesticides. I’ve even saved money on heating/cooling bills because when you seal pests out of your home, you’re also sealing up cracks and gaps leaking energy. I will use pesticides if I have to, but it depends on the pest and the situation. There’s no need to use pesticides if it isn’t absolutely necessary.

This is where the basic principles of IPM come into play. What you can do…

  • Identify your pest. Your local extension office is a terrific resource to help you identify and learn about pests found in your area.
  • Keep Pests Outside. Look for openings around your home. Use caulk, weatherstripping, hardware cloth. Keep your home in good repair will also help to keep pests out.
  • Keep Yards Mowed & Landscape/Trees Trimmed. Don’t give pests easy access to your home.
  • Keep the Inside of Your Home Clean & Uncluttered. Even tidy homes can have unexpected pests but by keeping your home clean and uncluttered, you’ll have a better chance taking care of a pest problem.
  • Use Pest Traps to Monitor. Sticky pest traps do a great job monitoring for potential pest problems in a home.

Wolf Spider - photo by J. Kalisch, UNL Entomology

No need to grab the bug spray! This is a wolf spider – an accidental invader. Photo by J. Kalisch, UNL Entomology

I know it will be tough for some folks, but the next time a big wolf spider crawls across the living room, resist the urge to reach for a can of bug spray and please don’t set off a bug bomb or fogger. The wolf spider is an accidental invader meaning it wandered into your home by accident and can’t live in the house for very long even if you do nothing. Capture it if you want it identified or release it outdoors. Can’t do it? Step on it – no need to spray it. Inspect your home to to see how it might have gotten inside and correct the problem.

If you have a pest problem and want to work with a pest control company, ask them about their philosophy on treating a pest problem before hiring them. Do they use IPM techniques? Some pests need the expertise of a pest control professional including bed bugs, termites, some ants, severe cockroach infestations, brown recluse spiders – even a raccoon trapped in an attic – all good examples of when you need to contact a professional.

Be sure to contact your local extension office, they are a terrific resource in our communities and an unbiased source for information.

For more information:


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