Fumigation vs. General Pest Control - Western Fumigation
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Fumigation vs. General Pest Control

Both fumigation and general pest control have their place in this world, but they are very different. You just have to know when each tactic makes the most sense to make sure you’re going in the correct direction with your pest issue.

First, definitions.

Fumigation is a method of pest elimination that completely fills an area with gaseous materials – or fumigants– to suffocate or eradicate the pests within. It’s used to eliminate pests that harbor in inaccessible voids, have caused significant infestations, or are multiplying too quickly to keep up with using conventional methods. Fumigation products will permeate all spaces in the treatment, reaching pests that inhabit the physical structure such as wood boring beetles and drywood termites. It’s typically not the first go-to method, but fumigation will get you down to a clean slate. It is truly for the momentshouse being tented for fumigation when general pest control just can’t resolve the problem or reach the pests.

General Pest Control is more about day-to-day maintenance or for infrequent infestations. General pest control can be used as a preventative method to keep pests out in the first place. It can also be used when you see a pest – not when you see 100. Standard pest control additionally uses deterrents or other non-chemical methods that don’t even use pesticides. However, it has its limitations. When pests are inaccessible (e.g., inside a beam of wood) or infestations are significant, general pest control may not be able to manage the problem.

Fogging is a treatment method that may be used as part of a general pest control program. We’ll discuss the difference between fogging and fumigation in another blog post, but it is important to note that fumigation and fogging are not the same thing at all.

Now that we have the differences in definition, we can explore a few different scenarios and see what the correct tactic would be – fumigation or general pest control.


You saw a mouse in the basement. No matter where you live, these rodents can find a way to make your home theirs. After all, you have the food, water, and shelter they need. If you see one, you may very likely have many more in hidden spaces throughout your home. Mice can breed rather quickly and often! General pest control is often the first line of defense; using exclusion and sanitation methods to reduce the attraction of your home to mice and preventing their entry. If a few do get inside, general pest control can often use some control tactics to get rid of them successfully. What about when a home has a severe infestation or a problem that needs to be resolved very quickly – like within a day? That’s where fumigation would be the answer. Fumigating will eliminate all rodents in a structure and do so in just one treatment. It will also eliminate those that are well hidden in wall voids or other inaccessible spaces so that a re-emergence of mice from within will not happen. However, no matter what you use to remove an existing problem, seal up the cracks and crevices to prevent another invasion down the road.

I’ve seen bed bugs. Whether you’ve seen bed bugs at your home, at a rental you own, or at a hotel you recently stayed in, they can be a scary pest. Bed bugs are very difficult to get rid of once they have established an infestation. Who you call to take care of them really depends on the situation. If you saw them at a rental you own, you should know they can travel from room to room without any human aid. If you have a building where you need all your rooms treated at once, fumigation may be the best way to get down to a clean slate. An option where fumigation and general pest control work together is when you find bed bugs at a rental you own, you can have your resident’s possessions put into a separate pod chamber and fumigated while a general pest control treatment is conducted. This will ensure that bed bugs in their possessions won’t be brought back in to start the cycle all over again. If you saw them in a hotel you recently stayed in, then you very well could have brought some home in your luggage, on your pant leg, or both! That’s when calling a general pest control company is the right move. They can come in to do a professional inspection. Even better if they bring in trained bed bug-sniffing dogs to catch even just one of these bugs. So, fumigation is a great tool for a significant infestation of these pests, while general pest control works great to see if you were unlucky enough to invite one or two home with you. They are both good options for dealing with bed bugs and sometimes work together. But the sooner you call the better.

What just flew out of my sweaters? When you got your wool sweaters out of storage as the weather started to get cool, did you notice anything fly out? Fluttery little moths maybe? Clothes moths, most likely, and boy can they chomp through a cold-weather wardrobe. Clothes moths feed on fabrics that are made from animal products such as wool or down feathers (not plant fabrics like cotton). Once you see those moths, it’s likely they have laid eggs and those eggs are going to hatch into caterpillars that will use your cashmere cardigan as a meal. General pest control will often use pheromone traps to determine if it is a clothes moth or not, and there are some treatments they will use to try to eliminate them. However, clothes moths are very difficult to control. Often, you may need to have a fumigation company come in and either fumigate your whole home or just those items found to be infested inside pod containers. That’s the great thing about fumigation – it doesn’t have to be a whole house in all situations, where you have to leave for a few days. They can actually just fumigate the problem containers as long as they are portable. So, in this situation it’s time to bring in a fumigator to discuss the best options.

What are all these holes in my wood siding or trim? Oh boy. If you are seeing a bunch of holes in a doghouse, your shed, or your own home’s support beams in the basement, this could be a serious powderpost beetle problem or possibly another wood-boring insect. If you do have these pests, it’s possible they could end up destroying things like your structural beams, wood paneling, crown molding, kitchen cabinets, window and door frames, and/or hardwood floors. They are very small and hard to detect, but if you do see holes, general pest control is not likely your best path! Fumigation will actually penetrate into the molecular structure of the wood to take care of every life stage of the pests. If you contact a pest control company for this, any one of them worth their salt should direct you to a fumigation company for this type of pest.

Hoarder homes. Hoarder homes can come with their fair share of issues – just one being pests. If a house is stacked with newspapers and other clutter, cockroaches and rats could have made them their homes. If there are grocery bags filled with who knows what that have been sitting around for who knows how long, flies, cockroaches, rats, mice, and any other pest could be in there. And even though bed bugs have nothing to do with cleanliness, all those items provide a multitude of handy hiding spots for a multitude of bed bugs. Not only will fumigation take care of any and all pests that could be hiding in that home, but with the limited prep work associated, you may not have to move anything. Don’t forget though, remove all the clutter after fumigation so you’re sure you don’t end up back where things started. Fumigation is the best bet with this one – general pest control can’t reach all the spaces it needs to in all that clutter.

What kind of termites are those? Your first call should be to a general pest control professional in order to determine technician checking for signs of termites around foundationwhat type of termite you have. Misidentifying termites can be very costly. If they are correctly identified as Eastern Subterranean Termites, a professional general pest control company can do termiticide treatments and place baits around the property to eliminate the colonies. But – if they are drywood termites, that’s a different situation completely. Only fumigation can penetrate into wood to deal with these destructive pests. So, regarding termite problems, it depends on the species to determine the best course of action – and that will depend on the company you bring in and whether (or not) they have a Board Certified Entomologist that can correctly identify them. So, be careful who you call.

Finally, final thoughts.

There are times when general pest control should be your first call. Then, there are the moments when it’s time to fumigate. And still, and better yet, there are plenty of times when general pest control AND fumigation can work in tandem to balance needs with costs. Fumigation is often more expensive, but the results are fast, final, and complete. Because of that, fumigation could end up being the most cost-effective and/or timely way to eliminate an infestation. General pest control is smart to have year-round since it relies on preventative measures to keep pests out. Pests are crafty, so they will often find a way of getting in, and when they do, it’s important to know what options are available in order to make informed decisions. We would also recommend that should you have to fumigate, you call in a general pest control company to monitor your home going forward after the fumigation so that potential future pest issues are caught early.

Whatever you do, call in a trusted professional. Do your research and make sure you are choosing a quality company with experience and guarantees. Pest control should only be done by technicians that are fully trained and certified. And due to fumigation being such a highly regulated industry, you need to hire the right fumigator. Your safety is the most important thing here; choose a company that thinks so, too. This is not the time to skimp.

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