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Exterior Pest Control: How Landscaping Can Repel Pests

March 1, 2006
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It can be your first line of defense against spring's downside by Frank Meek, BCE
BY FRANK MEEK, BCE Exterior pest control: How landscaping can repel pests
Remove pests from your outdoor environment-not the elements that add beauty to your facility*
Lush gardens, flowing fountains, and verdant trees and shrubbery make long-term care facilities more appealing to residents and guests. Unfortunately, these elements also make them more appealing to pests.

Pests can thrive in landscaping elements, which often provide safe harbor and moisture. And the more pests you have around your facility, the more likely they'll find their way indoors, where they can threaten residents' health and safety. Ridding a sensitive long-term care environment of pests is much harder than preventing an infestation in the first place, so take steps now to stop pests from making their homes around your facility. One of the best ways to do this is to address the elements that attract pests, starting with exterior landscaping elements that may be creating unnecessary pest pressure.

Spring is the perfect time to reevaluate your landscaping plan, as you review this year's landscape design and get ready for summer-and the pests that come with it. Take a walking tour of the grounds with your landscaper and a pest-management professional, who will be able to identify any existing problems, point out vulnerable areas, and help you and your landscaper choose landscaping options that will deter pests.

As you review your landscaping design, keep the following in mind:

Don't let vegetation touch the building. Many pests, including ants, cockroaches, earwigs, and crickets, gain access to your building by way of vegetation that touches the exterior. To prevent this, all vegetation should be pruned back two to three feet from the fatade. Also consider installing a 36-inch-wide gravel strip around the perimeter of your facility to discourage pests from coming too close. This gravel strip can act as a deterrent to rodents, which have an aversion to being out in the open, and small, crawling insects, for which the gravel can pose a rocky obstacle.

Choose mulch carefully. Mulch helps plants and flowers grow, but it also provides shelter and sustenance for many pests. While your landscaper might recommend organic mulch for your garden, your pest-management professional will most likely recommend another variety. Pencil cedar mulch is an alternative to popular organic mulch, which attracts rats because it provides significantly more moisture than other varieties. Cedar mulch holds much less moisture and also has been proven to repel Argentine ants. Regardless of the mulch you choose, the bed should be no more than two inches deep.

Beware of water features. Mosquitoes can breed in any amount of standing water, which means birdbaths, fountains, ornamental ponds, and even swimming pools can be potential breeding sites. To prevent breeding, it's important to change water in birdbaths, reflecting pools, and other features with standing water at least once a week. Running water thwarts mosquitoes from depositing eggs on the water's surface, so make sure that water in your swimming pool is circulated regularly and fountains run properly. Decorative ponds also can be stocked with mosquito-eating fish, which can eat between 100 and 500 mosquito larvae per day.

Place decorative statues or stones away from the building. Stones and statues trap moisture and offer cool, damp hideaways for many pests. Some ant species-such as pavement ants-even build their colonies under these objects. Ask your landscaper to place decorative stones away from the building. If these stones abut your building, ants that dwell underneath may emerge and make their way indoors, leading to infestations and threatening your residents.

Modifying your landscaping is a simple yet often overlooked way to prevent pests from entering your facility. Landscaping modification does not mean removal, but rather the careful selection, placement, and upkeep of landscaping elements. By working with your landscaper and pest-management professional as a team, you can devise a blueprint that beautifies your environment without fostering pests.



Frank Meek, BCE, is Technical Director for Orkin, Inc. As a board-certified entomologist and a 19-year industry veteran, he is an acknowledged leader in the field of pest management. For more information, call (800) 675-4699 or visit www.orkin.com/commercial to schedule a free inspection. To send your comments to the author and editors, e-mail meek0306@nursinghomesmagazine.com. *This is the latest in a series of seasonal pest-management articles offered by Orkin Commercial Services in Nursing Homes/Long Term Care Management.
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