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Animals and Their Importance in Pest Control

Pest Control Bakersfield CA includes preventing and removing unwanted organisms. This can be achieved with physical barriers and pest-proofing, such as traps and netting.

Cultural methods change the environment, reducing food and shelter for pests, such as draining swamps or eliminating standing water. Biological control uses natural enemies to manage pests, such as releasing mosquito-eating fish or nematodes that prey on soil insects.

Insects are the most abundant and important group of animals on land. They occupy every microhabitat, acting as predators or prey, parasites or hosts, herbivores or decomposers. They are a valuable part of any natural environment, serving as pollinators and adding nutrients to the soil.

An insect’s mouthparts determine how it feeds. Some insects chew their food, while others use piercing and sucking mouthparts. Some insect jaws are adapted to extract seeds, while others are able to break down tough cell walls to get at plant juices or blood. The eyes of an insect are its most important sensory organs, but it also has a pair of antennae that can detect sounds, vibrations and other environmental conditions.

In addition to visual recognition, insects communicate with one another by emitting chemicals, odors or sounds. They may arouse mates with a special pheromone, advertise for territory or seek out a mate by releasing a sexual attractant. Some insects are attracted to light, while others hide during the day and emerge at night to hunt.

Less than 1 percent of insects are pests, but they can do expensive damage. Insects can injure plants by chewing leaves, stems or roots, dispersing diseases and transmitting disease agents. They can also interrupt photosynthesis, block moisture, contaminate soil and cause other problems.

When considering insect control, it is important to know the type of insect and its life cycle. Incomplete metamorphosis means that an insect develops through three stages — egg, nymph and adult (Figure VI-2). The immature stage, the nymph, is similar to the adult in appearance and feeding habits. This stage is most vulnerable to insecticides, so it is important that the timing of insecticide applications be accurate.

Insecticides should be used sparingly, when necessary and according to label directions. Sprays are most effective when applied to dry, wilted foliage in the cool of the morning or late afternoon. Dusts should be applied when the wind is calm and plants are dry. Proper crop rotation can help reduce infestations of a particular pest by preventing it from returning to the same field year after year.


Rodents are second only to humans as the most successful mammals on the planet, populating every continent except Antarctica, New Zealand and some isolated islands. There are more than 1,500 species of rodents ranging in size from the tiny house mouse to the pig-sized capybara, and they can be found in almost every habitat on Earth, including rainforests, deserts, tundra, swamps, coniferous forests and grasslands. Many rodents, like squirrels, beavers, hamsters and gerbils are herbivorous while others, such as the Norway rat and roof rat, are omnivores. Some, such as the plague and murine typhus, are significant pests, while others are reservoirs for more than 35 diseases, such as plague, leptospirosis, rat-bite fever, cholera and tularemia.

Rodents cause a host of problems, from structural damage to fires, and can also pose health hazards through their urine, droppings and feces. They chew through electrical wires, which can cause power outages and other inconveniences, and they gnaw holes into buildings that result in costly repairs. Rodents also contaminate food with their saliva and feces, which can spread bacteria and other pathogens, such as Salmonella, in a matter of days.

Rats and mice are able to enter homes and other structures through openings as small as 1/4 inch (6 mm). They can burrow in soil, and also build nests in hollow walls, floors and ceilings. They can also gnaw through plumbing pipes and wires, causing expensive repair bills. Their constant gnawing can weaken the structure of a building and lead to its collapse.

The best way to minimize rodent problems is to eliminate the food, shelter and water they need. This includes removing overgrown vegetation, reducing trash and clutter, repairing leaky plumbing, and sealing gaps larger than 8 mm.

Providing public education is another important element of pest control programs, as well as setting up and publicizing a rodent hotline. This can help reduce the number of calls that staff in other city departments have to answer, which can save time and resources. In addition, a hotline can also consolidate inquiries, and ensure that all questions are answered by people familiar with all aspects of the program.


Birds are often considered a nuisance because they can damage crop plants and property, and they also carry pathogens that can spread disease. However, birds provide valuable ecosystem services (any positive benefit that wildlife provides) such as seed dispersal and pest regulation. They are natural predators of many insect pests, and their presence decreases the need for farmers to use chemical pesticides.

In addition, integrating crop fields with hedgerows, woodlots and streamside habitat can attract native bird species to the area and encourage them to consume unwanted insects. In fact, one study found that birds regulate pest populations and enhance product quality and yield in low intensity agricultural systems.

But the role of birds in pest control can be complex, and they may not always be effective. Some pesticides are extremely toxic to birds and can even kill them in large enough doses. The most common avian poisons include organochlorines, such as DDT and 4,4’-DDE, and organophosphates, including diazinon, phorate, carbaryl and monocrotophos. Neonicotinoids, which are the most popular insecticides used in agriculture, are supposedly less harmful to avian life stages than older chemicals, but growing evidence of adverse effects on farmland bird species raises concerns about their safety.

Some birds are also exposed to pesticides through direct ingestion, such as ingesting seeds coated with pesticides, or by consuming insects that have consumed pesticides and then passed them on to the bird. The pesticides can bioaccumulate in the bird’s body, causing health and developmental problems.

As the population of migratory birds declines, their beneficial effects on ecosystems will likely fade as well. Without birds around, crop-destroying pests have a free pass to munch on our crops. This has led to increased concern of bird-driven food shortages and higher prices for produce.

In order to determine the extent to which birds control pests, researchers place dummy “prey” made of plasticine into the field and monitor the bird’s behavior. They can measure predation rates and identify the target species to a taxonomic level by observing attack marks on the plasticine. In addition, the presence of birds can be assessed by recording the number and size of ant and spider webs in an area.

Other Animals

Some vertebrates that feed on insects are important in pest control. These include birds, amphibians and reptiles that prey on many species of insect. Mammals such as deer and rodents also feed on a variety of insects, but may be more focused on consuming pest species.

Other organisms, such as bacteria, fungi and protozoa, infect insects with diseases that reduce their rate of feeding, slow or stop their reproduction or even kill them. These pathogens can be introduced by humankind into the environment, or they may naturally occur.

Biological control is the intentional introduction of natural enemies into a crop or garden to increase their populations and prevent damage from insect pests. These natural enemies may be predators or parasitoids that attack a pest directly, or they may be pathogens that reduce the ability of the insect to reproduce or survive.

This is a complex process, and requires extensive research into the biology of both the pest and the potential natural enemy. It also involves selecting suitable natural enemies, collecting them carefully from the wild or from other locations where they are abundant, and releasing them in a site where their population will grow and thrive. In annual crops or in other highly disturbed systems, the natural enemy must be reintroduced on a regular basis to maintain populations at levels that suppress pests.