Pests are one of nature’s most annoying creatures. Whether they’re crawling through your home, on your kids or pets, or causing damage to your lawn, these tiny creatures can make even the most well-meaning of us feel like we need to swat them away.

Fortunately, there are many safer and more humane ways to control pests. These methods often involve preventing the infestation in the first place, rather than trying to kill the pests.

Pest Identification

Identification of pests is critical in developing a management program. This includes choosing the best pesticides for a specific crop or season.

Identifying a pest species requires knowledge of morphological features such as the structure of mouthparts, wings, legs, or antennae. Some of these are easy to recognize and others may require special equipment.

A simple key or a collection of photos can help you identify most pests. A sweep net and forceps are helpful for collecting samples.

The two-spotted spider mite is a common pest of greenhouse crops. It has eight rather than six legs and is a soft-bodied, oval-shaped insect with a pair of dark spots on each side.

Leafminers are flies about the size of fruit flies and are a pest of many ornamental plants. They mine plant tissue and often leave twisting mines on the leaves. The most common species of leafminers in the Southeast is the serpentine leafminer. It can damage a variety of ornamental plants and spread diseases.

Pest Prevention

Pest prevention is the process of preventing insect damage to crops, plants and other natural resources. It involves a combination of physical, cultural and biological techniques.

The most important pest prevention measure is to keep your house and garden clean. Empty your trash regularly, keep pet food and other food securely stored in containers, and use a vacuum cleaner to get rid of dust and cobwebs that can attract insects.

Another effective pest prevention technique is to plant species that are not desirable to insects and aphids. Some plant varieties are poisonous or have special trichomes (plant hairs) that trap or deter pests from eating them.

Some beneficial insects also help control pest populations by removing them from the landscape or killing the infested organisms. These pest control methods are called “biological control.”


Pesticides are chemicals that can be used to kill or control a pest. They can also be used in combination with other management tactics, such as eliminating the conditions that pests thrive in or creating barriers that exclude them.

Although many people think of insect repellents and disinfectants when they hear the word pesticide, there are many other products that can be regarded as pesticides under state and federal law.

Insecticides are the most toxic to humans, but herbicides and fungicides can be just as harmful. Long term, low-level exposures can cause cancer, birth defects and other chronic health problems.

When using pesticides, follow the directions on the label and wear appropriate protective equipment. Clean up any spills immediately and dispose of them properly.