What is a pest?


Mouse eating in basement

The animal kingdom is full of weird and wonderful creatures. Some live peacefully in their own habitat, barely coming in contact with humans, whilst others thrive off human interaction living near populated areas. It is the latter in which some animals are regarded as being pests, but what makes an organism a pest?

What is a pest?

Not all animals, and in particular insects, are pests.

The characteristics of a pest is widely discussed amongst pest experts. Although some definitions differ, they all contain similar characteristics in their explanations. To become a pest an organism must possess:

  • An existing suitability to the habitat it has become a pest in.
  • A sufficiently high population and/or breeding rate to expand into the habitat.
  • An opportunity to cause a disturbance to man.

An Existing Suitability to the Habitat it has Become a Pest in

This characteristic refers to a pest’s living habits. For an animal to survive it needs a sustainable food source, shelter, and a suitable breeding ground. These characteristics need to clash with those of human kind for an animal to become a pest. For example Bed Bugs live off human blood, so a home, and in particular a bedroom, provides them with a stable habitat in which to thrive.

A Sufficiently high population and/or breeding rate to expand into the habitat.

A close up of TermitesFor an animal to become a pest it must have a high population and/or breeding rate in order to disturb humans.For example a termite colony consists of a huge population, as well as a rapid breeding rate. One termite alone could not cause a huge amount of damage, but thousands of termites have the ability to destroy a home.

An Opportunity to cause some form of injury to man.

The underlining factor which contributes to an animal being referred to as a pest is the potential to affect humanity in a negative way. It could be plant pests damaging crops, or mosquitoes biting human’s and spreading diseases.

Pest Categories

Pests come in all different shapes and sizes. It is suggested that pests can be divided up into 3 different categories based on the effect they have towards mankind.

  • Medical: Medical refers to pests which harm humans and other animals such as bedbugs and fleas to name a few.
  • Urban: Urban pests are organisms which infest our homes and other commonly used areas inhabited by humans. Pigeons, cockroaches and mice are all seen has urban pests.
  • Agricultural: Agricultural reflects pest whom pose a threat to crops.

Although there are 3 main pest categories, there is quite a lot of overlap between them. Some pests can divided into more than one category. For example rats can be seen as both urban and medical. They exist in urban areas populated by humans but also cause a major risk to our health via the potential diseases they can carry.

Not Every Species is a PestHorse Fly

Although we do consider certain insects and animals as pests, it is important to note that not all organisms within that category are pests. I.e. although we regard termites as pests on the whole, not every species of termite is a pest.

Some species of insects and animals contribute to the ecosystem in a manner which excludes them from being a pest. Some even contribute to the controlling of pests. For example parasitoid wasps live off the caterpillars, which inhabit an agricultural setting, living off crops and other vegetation.

Another point to note: just like the 3 categories of pests, an insect and/or animal that is seen as a pest can also provide an important part to our ecosystem. Take bees for instance, known to be a pest due to their stinging nature, are a crucial part to our ecosystem. When it comes to pest control services for bees, the process involves relocating them to a safe place rather than the usual methods used in pest control.

Knowing the difference between a pest and a harmless organism is a vital part to pest control. As previously stated some pest’s contribute greatly towards our ecosystem so having the knowledge to not only identify the pest correctly but also how to manage the problem in a suitable manner is a crucial part in pest control.


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