They seem to come out of nowhere: if insects appear in your home, you should act quickly before they spread too much. Experts explain what you can do without harming yourself.
Ants, moths, cockroaches or bedbugs – anyone who has such animal roommates is often accused of poor hygiene. Insects and other crawling animals such as spiders usually come into the house to protect them from the cold. Or looking for food. They are magically attracted to a fruit bowl on the table or the bin with organic waste. If they find good conditions, they like to nest for a long time.
Many people feel uneasy when the small four, six or eight-legged friends are in the house. The urge to get rid of them very quickly is great and it is not uncommon for it to be quite violent. They are tackled with fly swatters, adhesive tape, insect spray, traps and baits.
The result: Individual specimens are dead, but the next will surely come if they are not denied access.
“It can also happen that not only pests are caught, but also harmless specimens or even beneficial ones that are actually desired,” says Kerstin Effers from the North Rhine-Westphalia consumer center. Like ladybugs, for example, which eat annoying aphids on plants. But even small spiders are useful to destroy real pests.
She advises first determining what type of crawling animal it is. A list from the Federal Environment Agency, which lists many typical pests, nuisances and beneficials that occur in our country, is helpful here. It contains instructions on how to combat them if necessary.
The trade offers many means to combat pests in the house. The palette ranges from sprays, sprays, baits to electric vaporizers, strips, scattering agents and light traps.
“Caution is required when using them, because some of these agents pose significant health risks,” says Kerstin Effers. “Most bug sprays contain pyrethroids as active ingredients. These substances can lead to severe symptoms of poisoning in cats, including death. In humans, they can act as a neurotoxin.”
But there are gentler methods than the chemical club to drive away the pests. “For example, pheromone traps are well suited as a supportive measure for containing pest infestation,” says Effers. Pheromones are synthetic attractants that attract males, who then stick to the trap. This interrupts the reproductive cycle and the pests can no longer multiply.
Ecology is also becoming more and more important to professional pest controllers. “Many environmentally friendly agents have been known for a long time and are now becoming more and more important to companies,” says Markus Puschmann from the Association for the Promotion of Ecological Pest Control in Essen: “Almost any pest infestation can be combated without a great deal of chemicals.”
For example silverfish. “They love the humid climate in the bathroom and kitchen,” says the expert. It is practically impossible to prevent them from coming into the apartment. Many people hardly notice them because they live very hidden and seek darkness. Or they don’t perceive them as pests at all because they are supposedly harmless. But they can cause considerable damage to books and wallpaper.
“In the event of a massive infestation, you should do something about it,” advises Puschmann. Instead of insect spray, which often contains toxic chemicals that can also harm people in the air, he recommends bait cans. “The insects take in the deadly active ingredient from them with their food without it getting into the room.”
What is new for many of those affected is the visit of wood cockroaches in the home. They resemble conventional cockroaches to which they are related. But the all-clear is given: “They can fly and only come into the house by chance when they are attracted to the light,” says Markus Puschmann. There is no need to be afraid of an infestation, since wood cockroaches cannot reproduce indoors.
During the cold season, spiders like to seek warmth in apartments, much to the dismay of many people. Rather than beating them to death, they should be captured and transported outside alive. Or you make arrangements with them. Because they are useful animals that eat insects such as flies and mosquitoes and thus even clean the house of vermin.
A big topic are bed bugs – blood-sucking insects that bite people. Markus Puschmann: “They are often brought into apartments from outside or travel as stowaways in their luggage from vacations.” Anyone who has a bed bug problem should not hesitate to hire a professional pest control agent as soon as possible. Successful control is difficult and requires good knowledge of the biology of the animals.
However, the search for a suitable pest controller harbors pitfalls. Kerstin Effers knows from experience in the day-to-day advice of the consumer advice center that there are many providers on the Internet who work unprofessionally and write overpriced invoices.
It is important that the commissioned company has the certificate of competence “Certified pest controller”. Kerstin Effers advises that customers should also insist on the use of pesticides that are as harmless as possible: “For example, bait cans, gels and traps instead of sprays and nebulizers.”
It is often impossible to prevent insects and other crawling creatures from coming into the house. But you can make it difficult for them, for example with fly screens on doors and windows. Ants are blocked by closing their entrance and providing an alternative source of sugar.
“Food pests such as moths are often brought along with purchases,” says Kerstin Effers. She advises checking newly purchased food for a possible infestation and then transferring flawless goods to sealable containers.
Sometimes pests come into the house in more unusual ways. “Be careful with used items. The bargain from the flea market or the discovery in the bulky waste can definitely be infested with bed bugs and other insects,” says Markus Puschmann: “You should take a good look at what you are bringing into the apartment.”