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From the February 2013 Conservationist for Kids

A bee on some pink and white flower blossoms

Managing Pests

By Gina Jack

Pests are living things that harm people or the environment or simply bother us. They may spread disease, trigger allergies, damage plants in the garden or cause other problems. How people manage pests and take care of the land in a watershed or basin affects the health of the water and the creatures that depend upon it. Many organisms we call pests have helpful roles in the ecosystem. As environmental stewards, we consider the roles of other living things before deciding whether they truly are pests.

If an organism is a pest, we must choose wisely whether and how to treat it. Think like an environmental steward when deciding how best to handle pests without harming the environment.

Assess The Organism

  1. Identify the living thing. What is it? Is it a nuisance, or is it harmful?
  2. Does the organism benefit the environment? How? (See "Pest or Pal" section.) Can you live with it (tolerate having it around)? If you can, you don't need to do anything. If you can't, you must find a suitable way to help manage the pest.
A green grasshopper by a screen window

Manage The Pest

  • Are there barriers you can use to prevent the pest from affecting you?
    Window screens keep insects outdoors.
  • A raccoon pulls trash from a container
    Can you limit the pest's numbers by removing the things that are attracting it?
    Pests need food, water and shelter to survive. Getting rid of these things can help control them. Start by removing possible food sources.
  • If you need to remove a pest from your surroundings, can you do so by hand? Can anyone do it or just adults?
    Children can pull dandelions, but only adults should remove poison ivy.
  • Only adults may use pesticides to control a pest.
    They should consider the possible side effects to people and the environment and choose the least harmful option to do the job. It's important adults read labels and understand the proper use of pesticides.