We are just starting to understand that many people become ill when exposed, or over-exposed to pesticides. Yes, pesticides do work and do provide a high level of service. But some homeowners see pesticides as a health threat to themselves and their children.

According to the federal government, the threat is real. Thousands of children are poisoned or improperly exposed to household pesticides each year. These are run of the mill products such as wasp sprays, roach poisons, and flea and tick shampoos. Since you probably have some of these items in your home, it pays to ensure they are being used and stored properly.

According to the EPA, almost half of the homes with children under age five have at least one pesticide that is stored in an unlocked cabinet that is less than four feet off the ground. Not good! And the number grows to 75% when you consider households without children. That is an important figure because 13% of child poisonings occur outside of the victim's home. Even if you do not have small children, they may visit your home and you need to be careful.

Fortunately, there are non-toxic alternatives to traditional chemical pesticides. Non-toxic pest control companies are beginning to set up shop throughout the United States. One national company, Pestmaster Home Services, advertises "In many cases, we can manage household pests efficiently without spraying pesticides." Other well respected companies often provide customers with non-toxic alternatives.

One company that specializes in natural pest management is Nature's Choice, located in Medford, Oregon. The company was founded in 1982 by Don Jackson. Its website is found at www.hiredbugs.com.

Nature's Control sells beneficial insects that kill pests in lieu of traditional chemical pesticides. Instead of fighting fire with fire, Don and other companies in this emerging business fight bugs with other bugs.

The good bugs, which are the bugs that you buy, are called "beneficial insects." Don also calls them hired bugs. The bad bugs are called "insect pests." In this war between good bugs and bad, Don must be a king of sorts. When he started in 1982, most people were not concerned about the toxicity of chemical pesticides.

Nature's Control's customers often suffer from spider mites, thrips, aphids, whiteflies, and mealybugs. There are beneficial insects available for sale to address each of these insect pests. The good bugs are sold by overnight mail or by two day delivery. To insure that the beneficial insects arrive in a healthy state, they are packaged in special insulated containers.

To succeed, the good critters must breed and settle into their new environment so that one delivery can yield successive generations of pest controlling insects. While one might think that the goal is to completely eliminate the offending insects , that is not necessarily the case. Don advises that the "ideal" is usually a smaller population of pests, with an even smaller population of beneficial insects. In other words, natural pest control operates on a balance theory rather than one of obliteration.

Natural pest control was first introduced for use by commercial farmers. Since traditional chemical pesticides sometimes lose their effectiveness as pests become resistant to them, professional growers were inclined to explore effective alternatives. Not only are these natural approaches effective, they are also safe. Don states that many commercial growers prefer to use natural pest control techniques because agricultural workers feel safer when they are in use.

Home gardeners and garden stores also use these products. "For the home gardeners and garden stores we deal with, I think most of our customers are glad to have an alternative to pesticides...If it's their own homes, or the food they're raising for themselves, many people simply don't want to use pesticides of any sort unless it's absolutely necessary."

Nature's Choice has prepared a color booklet called "What's Eating My Plants," which is sent with every order. They will also send you a copy if you call the company at 541-245-6033. Pictures of the matching good and bad guys can also be found on the company's web site.

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