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Managing Pests

Smart Choices About Pesticides

Pesticides are designed to kill or repel undesired pests, but many will also harm beneficial insects, birds, reptiles, pets and even humans. Pesticides also wash off lawn and gardens, ending up in our oceans, and possibly our water supply.
Pest Fact Sheets:                    
Ants pdf symbol
Fleas pdf symbol
Roaches pdf symbol
Yellowjackets pdf symbol
Garden Pest Fact Sheets:
Healthy Gardens pdf symbol
Aphids pdf symbol
Lawn Care pdf symbol
Snails & Slugs pdf symbol
Roses pdf symbol
Weeds pdf symbol
There may be times when you need to use a chemical to control a pest in your home, garden or on your pet. If you do, please follow label instructions exactly for proper dilution and application. The label will also list important precautions such as eye and skin protection, and proper ventilation. Pesticide labels are required to post warning language that alert consumers to the degree of hazard posed by the active ingredients.

To make a smart choice about toxics, choose products reading "Caution" over "Warning," "Danger" or "Poison" on their labels. Buy the smallest quantity needed to get the job done. Avoid buying in bulk.
  • Indoor Pests:
    Preventing Access: Patch holes in screens, screen stove vents, install weather stripping, and seal all other cracks with paint or caulking. Don't Feed the Pests: Store food items in tight fitting jars or plastic containers. Put pet food dishes in a larger dish of soapy water. Empty trash each night. While baits containing pesticides are extremely effective means of chemical control, the pests still prefer human food.
  • Ants:
    Exclusion: follow ant trails inside or outside your home and seal off entry points using tape, putty, or caulk. Wipe up the ants in your house using soapy water. Baits: The ants in your home represent just the tip of the iceberg. To kill the ant colony, choose baits containing boric acid or and insect growth regulator (plastic disks) and outdoors (stakes).
  • Cockroaches:
    Boric acid is the least toxic poison available, and next to a thorough cleaning, is the most effective tool for long-term cockroach control. Boric acid powder should be placed in cracks, crevices, and in the secluded areas where cockroaches hide. The powder will be picked up by the roach and ingested during grooming. Remember-boric acid is a poison, use it carefully and do not breathe the dust.
  • Aphids:
    Methods of Control:Physical: A strong jet of water can knock aphids off of plants onto the ground where they are eaten by spiders and other insects. Prune heavily infested branches and submerse in soapy water to kill the aphids before composting or disposal. Biological: Many insects in your garden, including lacewings and ladybugs, feed on aphids. Flowering plants that bloom in the Spring when aphid levels are highest will encourage these "beneficial" visitors. Aphids are happiest on plants rich in nitrogen--so choose appropriate fertilizer. Chemical: Commercial brands of insecticidal soaps and horticultural oils are effective.
  • Snails:
    Methods of Control:Physical: Hand pick snails at night and kill them by submerging in soapy water. Design traps using over-turned flower pots, a raised board, or a pie tin filled with beer buried to be even with the soil surface. Be sure to check traps daily. Barriers using diatomaceous earth or copper sheeting make and effective deterrent. Ask your nursery professional for help selecting the best product for your needs. Biological: Many animals including chickens, box turtles, and some toads enjoy a meal of snails. In Southern California, predatory decollate snails are often sold in nurseries. Choose plants that snails tend to avoid. Chemical: Snails are becoming resistant to chemical baits, so these products should be used only as a last resort.
  • Fleas:
    Long-term control means attacking the flea at all stages in its life cycle. Vacuuming is the most effective means of controlling adults, eggs, and the dried blood which serves as the food source for the larvae. Vacuuming everyday, especially where the pet sleeps, is critical to successful flea control during the height of the fleas season. Insect growth regulators (IGRs), new chemicals that act to prevent larvae from becoming adults, are now available in spray form (look for methoprene). IGRs can also be given directly to animals in a pill form. Consult your veterinarian for more information. Flea Traps that use green blinking lights as an attractant are available to control adult fleas in a contained area. Ask your pet supply store or pest control company for details. Pyrethrins (naturally derived chemicals) and synthetic pyrethrum are less toxic than traditional pesticides, but still must be used with caution. Because these chemicals are toxic to fish, avoid washing off products containing pyrethrins (i.e. flea shampoo, outdoor sprays) into gutters and storm drains. Exterior Control: Frequent mowing of grass exposes eggs and larvae to more sunlight, killing them. Regular irrigation of areas where your pet tends to rest will also kill eggs and larvae.

Additional Information:

Alternative Products:
City of Santa Monica (310) 458-2213

Technical Pesticide Applications:
County Agricultural Commissioner (626) 443-6652

Last updated: Wednesday, 10/16/2013

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Santa Monica Office of Sustainability and the Environment
1685 Main St., Santa Monica, CA 90401 · (310) 458-2213 · TTY (310) 917-6626