Pest management beats the bugs
Bugs, say pest control experts, can make us very sick. Cockroaches spread germs associated with a host of illnesses from gastroenteritis and conjunctivitis to urinary tract infections, wound infections and meningitis. Rat fleas can transmit bubonic plague. Mosquitoes spread dengue fever and Japanese encephalitis. Bedbugs cause welts, swelling and sometimes allergic reactions. Rats also spread a host of deadly diseases, including haemorrhagic fever.
The process of prevention, eradication and control in the home is called integrated pest management (IPM), according to Stuart Morton, manager of technology and entomology at BioCycle (HK). The end result of IPM is not always extermination but keeping pests out of living areas with minimal use of toxic chemicals and harm to the environment.
Preventative steps include good hygiene, reducing moisture, fixing leaks, repairing and filling cracks and crevices, putting screens on doors and windows and making sure there are no gaps at the bottoms of entrance doors.
'So long as the infestation is small and accessible,' Mr Morton said, it was possible to get rid of them on your own. 'Commercial [off-the-shelf] products are not designed to carry out full home treatments.'
However, if your problem is large or the pests are in a place you cannot reach, it is time to call in the professionals. Protect your investment by following these preventative steps to ensure the pests do not return.
Telltale signs: They eat wood from the inside out so you may not know you have them. One sign, however, is when wooden flooring or skirting boards begin to swell and become buckled or distorted. Termites also like paper, cloth and carpets. If you have this problem, hold on to your wallet. Termites are the most expensive to exterminate. While prices for control of other pests will range from HK$300 to HK$1,000, prices for termite treatment can range from HK$3,000 to more than HK$30,000, depending on the service required. Termite management is a highly specialised service and requires an in-depth knowledge of the insect's biology and behaviour, and knowledge of building construction methods and practices, according to Mr Morton. 'It is a separate field altogether in the industry and not all companies undertake such work,' he said.
Jackson Chan, honorary president of the Hong Kong Pest Management Association and honorary president and executive director of the Federation of Asia & Oceania Pest Managers Associations, said: 'Some companies claim that they are termite control specialists but they are not.'
First, the surveyor will ascertain the level of infestation and the origin of it, then recommend an appropriate treatment programme. This may involve the use of either a liquid chemical or a termite baiting system.
Professional pest managers will spray a liquid residual insecticide around your home's internal and external perimeter areas, and in and around cabinets. This also includes the treatment of drainage openings, according to Walter Ng, managing director of pest management company Christian Environmental Health. Most residual insecticides are the synthetic pyrethroid type, one of the least toxic groups of insecticides for people. This means you will not necessarily need to leave the house or clean up after spraying.
Choose a company that has ISO9001 certification. Three to four treatments over the course of a year are part of a good home maintenance plan. This type of plan normally has a warranty which means no additional charges for call-backs should additional services be required.
Rats and mice
One poster on a local expat website advises a homeowner with rats to simply get a pet snake. Problem solved. Professionals, however, favour a more humane and cheaper type of do-it-yourself pest control. Simply chase the offending rat out the door. Otherwise, sticky rat traps and poison baiting stations from the supermarket will also do the trick. Mr Ng said: 'Covered baiting boxes are suggested to avoid feeding by non-targeted animals, such as dogs.'
Flies and mosquitoes
A pest management company will find the source of the fly or mosquito infestation and spray or fog a 'knock-down insecticide'. For mosquitoes, a larvacide is applied to the origin of the infestation, such as stagnant water ponds and drains.
Mr Morton said: 'Bedbugs deserve a special mention because there is a global epidemic occurring. They were thought to be long banished, however, we are seeing a huge comeback.' Although even the cleanest homes and hotels can have bedbugs, regular house cleaning, including vacuuming your mattress can help prevent infestation and also reduce the number of places bedbugs can hide. If you discover bedbugs, Mr Morton suggests you put all your exposed linen in the hottest water possible and then in a hot dryer for 20 minutes. You should also treat mattresses with a non-staining water-based insecticide such as BioKill Universal, or similar product in the supermarket.
He said if the problem was not eliminated in less than a week, seek professional assistance immediately. When buying used furniture or clothes inspect them for bedbugs.