Pest management starts on the outside

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Patrick T. Copps
Patrick T. Copps

The calendar may say spring, but for many areas of the country, Old Man Winter continues to put up a fight. With this in mind, your spring landscaping plan may just be getting put together as the temperatures slowly begin to rise.

As the temperatures rise, so do pest pressures. And those pressures often start outside your facility.

Landscaping around your property shouldn't only be about keeping up appearances. Different trees, flowers, grasses and bushes can attract and harbor pests, which emerge from overwintering and start actively looking for sources of food, water and shelter. Remember, certain aspects of your landscaping plan can give them an open door to your facility.

Your landscaping practices should be part of a broader Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program, which focuses on proactive facility maintenance and sanitation throughout your campus to help stop pest problems before they start.

These practices can work against pests like ants, flies and cockroaches, which Association for the Healthcare Environment members listed in a 2013 survey as the most difficult to control pests in healthcare facilities. Try incorporating these practices into your landscaping plan this spring:

1. Plant fewer flowering plants

Flowers grow into full bloom this time of year, and they can be dazzling to look at. But these beautiful blossoms can attract unwanted pests to your facility as well. Fragrant and brightly colored flowers in bloom attract bees and other flying and stinging pests, so consider planting fewer of these to help decrease the risk of pest infestation.

2. Create some separation

Bushes and tree limbs that brush up against your facility can give crawling pests an expressway inside. A vegetation-free buffer can help close the road. Trim back bushes, trees and plants to create at least a two-foot buffer. Instead of mulch, which can harbor pests, consider installing a 30-inch gravel strip around your facility's perimeter. The uneven gravel obstructs pests like ants and cockroaches from approaching and also discourages rodents, which generally avoid open spaces.

3. Cover up cracks and gaps

Even with the best of buffers around your facility, some pests can still climb walls, roofs and windows looking for a way in. Keep an eye out for any cracks that may develop in your building's rooflines and exterior walls, and seal them with a weather-resistant sealant and metal mesh. Install weather stripping around doors and windows and change the stripping regularly to close any gaps that may develop.

4.     Protect the pavement, too

While parking lots and sidewalks aren't technically landscaping issues, keeping them clean and clear can make your facility less attractive to pests. Inspect sidewalks and parking areas regularly to ensure that they are clean of any trash or standing water. Keep an eye on vegetation islands that you may have in your parking lots, as they are often home to pests and should be inspected regularly.

5.     Check the roof

Spring is the time to take a look at any flat roofs and gutters to ensure that pools of water or wind-blown debris like tree branches are not present since these are both conditions that may attract pests. You may need to trim any tree limbs that overhang the roof. Keep in mind that overhanging branches and foliage may not be visible from ground level.

Try focusing on these areas around your facility. If you start managing pests on the outside now, you will make it harder for them to work their way inside all year.

Patrick Copps is Technical Services Manager for Orkin's Pacific Division. A Board Certified Entomologist in urban and industrial entomology, Mr. Copps has more than 35 years experience in the industry. For more information, email Mr. Copps at or visit

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