Every year, people around the world spend hundreds of millions of dollars on pest control. This includes expenses on mosquito nets, insecticides, bug sprays, termite sprays, mouse traps, rat glues, wires and fences to keep away bigger animals. Pests are not only troublesome; they can cause a lot of harm to our health and properties. Every year, thousands of people are killed by diseases carried by mosquitoes, houseflies, mice and rats around the world. Furniture, walls, floors and roofs of homes are spoiled by ants and termites. Crops in fields are stolen by marauding birds like sparrows, crows and parrots. Kitchens and garbage bins are raided by raccoons, foxes and monkeys, and are a threat to children and domestic animals.
Ants, termites, rats, mice, foxes, opossums, rabbits, feral pigs and feral cats are some of the pests encountered in Australia. Many of the pests were aliens to the continent and were transported either deliberately or came as stowaways on ships brought by European migrants. These include rats, mice, foxes, rabbits, dingoes, feral cats and cane toads. These aliens quickly adapted to the Australian climate, and made niches for themselves. They are a significant threat to native animals and plants, and also to human lives and properties. Despite many years of efforts by the government, these pests continue to thrive.
Traditional methods of pest control such as trapping, hunting, poisoning, burning and spraying poisonous insecticides have not been successful in solving the problem. Past experiences have shown that the use of toxic insecticides can cause more harm to humans, plants and the ecosystem than to the insects. In the case of larger mammals, the outdated practices of poisoning, trapping and hunting are considered crude and inhumane from today’s humanitarian viewpoint. Native mammals including possums are protected by the law, and it is illegal to poison, trap or kill them.
Since the damages caused by all the pests add up to more than half a billion dollars every year, there is a need to implement an integrated pest management system that is focussed on a lasting solution to the problem. This entails confining the pests to their home range, limiting their number by removing their food and shelter, killing them by employing non-toxic pesticides, and preventing the incursion of new pests. This calls for advanced pest control procedures and trained professionals. It also calls for educating the public about pests, as a lot of people have very little knowledge of or have misconceptions about them. For example, many people have no idea which animals are protected by law and which are not.
Considering how quickly pests can return, pest control should not be a short-term project every time pests appear, as this is the usual practice. It should be a lasting approach that involves risk assessment, early discovery, monitoring of infected areas, targeting of particular pests, and preventing future occurrence. This is a job for trained professionals. When infestation occurs in a neighbourhood, such as a significant number of termites, it should be a collective effort rather than an individual effort. Local or municipal governments should also provide assistance when widespread infestation puts people’s lives and properties at significant risk.
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