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Controlling Pests Inside Buildings

Learn more about indoor pest control options from our Technical Product Support experts. They have compiled the following tips to help you get rid of indoor pests like flies, fleas and cockroaches.

Click the links below for more information on indoor pest control.


1. Why Insect Pests Develop in Buildings
2. Reducing Flies
3. Controlling Fleas
4. Combating Cockroaches
5. Do's and Don'ts of Controlling Pests Inside Buildings


Why Insect Pests Develop in Buildings

Insect pests that develop in or find their way into buildings are a nuisance that may affect the health of both people and animals. However, there are some simple steps you can take to keep them out of your structures – and most of these do not involve the use of pesticides.

Pests are able to survive if three things are available: food, water and shelter. Food that is spilled, not adequately disposed of, or improperly stored may lead to the development of insects. Leaky plumbing and poor roof maintenance may produce an indoor water source that pests can locate inside buildings. Pests may also find shelter in buildings with poor design, construction or maintenance. For example, insects can easily find their way into your home through holes in screens, gaps around pipe entries and foundation cracks.

Overall, proper building maintenance is a key element for making any structural IPM program work.

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Reducing Flies

Insect pests that find their way inside your home or other buildings are not only a nuisance, they can also affect the health of people and animals, and even cause structural damage. Certain precautions need to be taken so that insects, such as flies, fleas and cockroaches do not become a constant misery.

Flies may develop in an assortment of places including garbage, animal feces, kitchen drains, grass clippings, and soil mixed with garbage. Flies carry bacteria that may contaminate food, utensils, and other surfaces.

Fly populations may be controlled inside your home by following these steps:
  • Make sure all food waste is stored in plastic bags and is disposed of in a sealed container.
  • Remove food waste located under sinks, refrigerators and other appliances.
  • Fix leaky drains or garbage disposals.
  • Rinse all cans, bottles and other containers before recycling or disposing of them.
  • Use an old-fashioned fly swatter to kill flies that wander into your home. Normally, stiff plastic swatters are better than ones made of nylon mesh.
Flies may also breed outside and eventually make their way inside your home or other structures. You can prevent that from happening by:
  • Making sure no garbage or animal waste is on the ground.
  • Keeping garbage in a tightly sealed container.
  • Regularly cleaning your garbage cans with soap and water.
  • Installing screens over windows and doors.
  • Using flypaper and fly traps near primary breeding areas.

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Controlling Fleas

Fleas normally get inside your home after they jump onto house pets that roam the outdoors. Fleas may lay up to 50 eggs per day on the animal and, eventually, the eggs fall to the floor and hatch in carpets, within furniture cushions and in other places where the animal sleeps or spends the most time. Flea bites can lead to intense itching and skin irritation and, in some cases, result in allergic reactions.

Vacuuming is one of the more effective ways of removing eggs, larvae and pupae that develop from fleas. It is important to vacuum in areas where pets rest or sleep; beneath furniture, cushions, beds and throw rugs; and along baseboards, behind doors, and in other areas where eggs may be protected from foot traffic. Discard the vacuum bag in an outdoor trash container when finished.

There are some insecticides derived from natural products that may be used to stop fleas. For example, pyrethrins, which are extracted from chrysanthemums, kill fleas by attacking their nervous systems.

Boric acid is an odorless powder that can kill flea larvae in carpets, furniture, under cushions or in crevices. When used according to directions, boric acid is safe for pets, children and the environment.

Insect growth regulators stunt the growth of juvenile fleas so they do not grow into egg-laying adults. These products may be safely used around people and animals.

When using any chemical or substance to treat fleas, always read the label's directions first. Contact your veterinarian if you are not sure if the product will be safe around house pets.

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Combating Cockroaches

The cockroach is perhaps the biggest pest for most people. If roaches get inside your home, they may contaminate food and eating utensils, destroy fabrics and paper, and leave behind undesirable odors. Some breeds also carry diseases that may cause food poisoning, hepatitis and other viruses.

If you have a problem with cockroaches, you can monitor the problem by placing traps along edges of floors and walls, behind the refrigerator and stove, in cabinets, and in dimly lit areas where roaches may find shelter. Check the traps daily to determine where roaches are most prevalent.

Follow these steps to keep roaches away from your buildings:
  • Always store food in glass jars and sealed plastic containers.
  • Put all garbage and recyclables in a tightly sealed container.
  • Fix leaky plumbing and increase ventilation in areas where there might be condensation.
  • Vacuum all cracks and crevices so they are free of food and other debris that cockroaches may find attractive. Immediately clean up all spilled food and beverages.
  • Make sure shrubs and other plants near buildings are trimmed to increase light.
  • Do not store firewood or lumber near buildings. These could make good hiding places for cockroaches.
  • Seal cracks on the inside and outside that could serve as passageways for cockroaches.

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Do's and Don'ts of Controlling Pests Inside Buildings



Keep food stored in tightly sealed containers so insects can't get to it.

Don't forget to remove garbage from inside and outside. Keeping your house and other structures clean will reduce insect pests.

Thoroughly vacuum your home to reduce fleas.

Don't neglect the maintenance needs of your home, such as cracks and crevices in the foundation and leaky plumbing that could result in pest problems.

Monitor cockroach activity by setting traps inside.

Don't allow shrubs and plants outside your buildings to become too high. Trimming them will increase sunlight and keep roaches away.

NOTE: This tip sheet is for general guidance only. Contact your local extension agent, land grant university or state department of natural resources for more specific information on controlling pests inside buildings.

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