A Matter of Ethics?

Monday August 20, 2012


Mr Pest Control


I have been wondered whether pesticides applied in one might redirect bugs to another yard. For example, if ants are trailing along the lower part of a home and they are simply sprayed, but their home is in a nearby bush or a fence line, would you feel it is irresponsible to spray and cause the ants to move next door or elsewhere? I think it's an ethical issue and that the cost of pest control is based on protecting a structure from invasion, not killing all bugs on the property that then have the potential to spread to the neighborhood. But, would you consider this repel-them-away example unethical? I have had quite a few customers who seem to have bugs coming from an area I am not legally permitted to spray, sometimes only from a few feet away. I strongly believe in treating people respectfully and I am curious about whether or not the repel-em-and-leave-them approach is something I would want done to myself if I was that client's neighbor. Would you propose that the most simple thing is to try to eliminate the ants through trail-following? This would take more time and thus would need to cost more.

Christopher, FL

Mr Pest Control


Well, this is an interesting question, and obviously my response is going to be entirely an opinion, but hopefully I can base that opinion on some worthwhile reasons. Lets compare your concern with the ants with some other pests, and even bring up the topic of low-impact or Green pest management. We are offered many kinds of animal repellents, whether it is for birds, rodents, snakes, etc., and in fact the world is full of the totally ineffective ultrasonic repelling devices that are touted as so environmentally friendly because all they do is cause pests to leave the home and stay outside. Now, even if this did work in that manner, which they do not, the result for the pest would be to lose its home and its food resources and to have to find new ones someplace outside that residence. If we repel gophers from a yard where do we think they go? Next door of course. When we repel birds from a roof they simply find another structure to infest. If we use repellent insecticides that cause ants to avoid entering one home it stands to reason that they may forage in some other place, and a neighbor's yard could be one of those places. 

So, does all of this mean that your goal as an ethical PMP should be either to kill all of the bugs on a property or to do nothing at all? No, of course not. I believe that we should NOT have the goal of killing all living creatures on a property, but only the goal of keeping them out of the structures, or in the case of plant pests to kill them as needed to protect those plants. Part of successful management of ants and other highly active pests is to attack them at their source, and this does mean seeking out that nest so that it can be treated directly. For ants we may be enjoying the ability to kill the entire colony with the use of one of the highly effective non-repellent products that has a transfer effect from ant to ant, so that helps us to eliminate the colony without actually locating it. 

But, should you feel responsible if a neighbor believes that the bugs on their property are coming from your customer's property for one reason or another. Absolutely not. It is not your fault if the ants nesting on one property decide to forage to the west instead of the east, or if the gopher that leaves your customer's yard wanders underground and into the neighboring yard. You are not responsible for the behavior of insects. Of course, this is not going to stop all neighborhood squabbles about this, as people who are annoyed by something will always look around to see who they can blame. If that neighbor suddenly has ants invading, regardless of who is "to blame", they have every right to undertake control measures themselves or to just ignore it. 

Now, I say all this but we have to recognize the difference between the simple problem of pests like ants choosing to forage in the yard next door versus a pest problem CREATED on your customer's property that is also bothering the neighbors. For example, if your customer has 4 big dogs and a big flea problem outside, those fleas might well find their way next door to bother the neighbor who has no dogs. Or, if all the poop is not picked up there is going to be a fly problem, and the neighbors will be affected by this as well as a matter not of their doing. In these cases your customer should have an obligation to fix the contributing conditions that are leading to this unnecessary pest problem. 

Mr. Pest Control

Register now for PestWeb to get instant access to all of Mr. Pest Control's in-depth answers!

Register Now Ask a Question Add to My Favorite Questions

Please note, Mr. Pest Control is answering questions supplied by PMP customers across North America. His answers are generated from industry and manufacturer-provided information. The answer may not be specific to the laws and regulations for your State, Province, Territory or Country. In addition, products mentioned may not be registered and or available in all areas. Always check with your local Univar office for specific information to your area. Always read and follow label directions.