Definition of Pest Control Terms, Common Used Phrases in the Pest Control Industry

Definition of Terms

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Action Thresholds

An action threshold is the point at which an IPM technician takes action to reduce a pest’s numbers. Below the designated pest level, control action isn’t normally taken.



Applying a product to manage pests.



A condition, often allergic in origin, that is marked by continuous labored breathing, wheezing, a tightening of the chest and attacks of coughing and gasping.


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Bacteria are single-celled microorganisms.



A product manufactured with food or other material that pests consume. They often contain an active ingredient that kills the pests.  Other baits may not contain an active ingredient and are used for monitoring purposes. 


Bait gel

Gel baits are baits in a gel formulation.  They often are placed in cracks and crevices for pests such as cockroaches and ants.


Bait stations

Bait stations are containers used to house bait for pests such as ants, cockroaches or rodents.  Stations vary in appearance depending on type and model.Typically placed near harborage areas, a bait station should allow for easy monitoring of bait levels. Its tight-quartered construction fools targeted pests, making them feel they’re in a safe harborage/feeding area.



A form of food poisoning caused by the ingestion of a toxin stemming from improper storage of food or beverages.


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Rodents are commensal in nature, which means to “share one’s table.”  These rodents are able to thrive in human environments.  The main three commensal rodents are Norway rats, roof rats, and house mice.



The inflammation of the mucous membrane that lines the inner surface of the eyelids in addition to the forepart of the eyeball.



Any substance thatfound in or on a surface or material it was not intended.


Critical control point

The point in a food process where lack of control may cause, allow or contribute to adulteration of the final product or any raw materials used in the manufacturing of the product.



An infectious disease that is caused by a fungus Cryptococcus neoformans and is characterized by the development of nodular lesions or abscesses in the lungs, subcutaneous tissues, joints and especially the brain.


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A finely ground, dry mixture containing a small amount of pesticide and an inert carrier, such as talc or clay.



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Inflammation of the brain.


Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

United States federal agency responsible for establishing, overseeing and enforcing pesticide regulations.


Escherichia coli (E. coli)

Bacteria capable of causing infections and illness.  Most E. coli illness is caused by eating contaminated, undercooked meats.



Keeping insects, flies, rodents and birds from entering a building.


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Food chain

A way of describing how all animals depend on each other for food. It is the link between producers, herbivores and predators.  


Food contact surface

Any surface on which food or food preparatory utensils may come in contact.


Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Federal regulatory agency which regulate non-meat producing facilities that generate products such as food, cosmetics and drugs.  


Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA)

Law that enables action to be taken against a food-related entity if insects, rodents or other potential sources of contamination are found by an authorized inspector in or near equipment, ingredients or products, even if evidence of contamination was not found in the finished product.


Food poisoning

An acute gastrointestinal illness caused by bacteria or their toxic products or by chemical residues in food.


Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA)

Passed in 1996 with the intent of addressing the problem of resistance trends in pathogenic bacteria and the multitude of new and more deadly pathogens.


Food safety program

A planned and systematic procedure for all actions necessary to ensure that food is free of conditions that may cause product contamination.



A group of microorganisms that includes molds and yeast.


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Inflammation of the membrane lining of the stomach and intestines.


Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP)

These guidelines determine the legal criteria under which food can be processed.


Granules (or pellets)

A formulation of dry, ready-to-use, low-concentrate pesticides plus an inert carrier. The particles are larger than those making up a dust.


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Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Point (HACCP)

HACCP has rapidly become a standard throughout the food processing industry. The HACCP system was first introduced in 1959 for use by NASA and Pillsbury and guaranteed the safety of food taken into space.

The general principles of HACCP include identifying and controlling hazards, then monitoring the effectiveness of the implemented controls.



A respiratory disease with symptoms like those of influenza that is caused by a fungus (Histoplasma capsulatum).


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Insect Growth Regulators (IGR)

A group of compounds which can disrupt a number of normal processes in the growth and development of insects.


Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

IPM is an approach to managing pests that relies more on a combination of non-pesticide alternatives such as aggressive sanitation, pest exclusion, traps and surveillance techniques that are effective, as well  product application as needed. IPM is designed to place stress on a pest population maintenance through a series of processes that reduce nesting and breeding areas and pest entry points.


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An illness that originates from consumption of unpasteurized milk or products made with raw milk.


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Newcastle disease

A destructive virus, contracted from birds and especially domestic fowl that is caused by a paramyxovirus. Primary symptoms are respiratory disease and central nervous system irregularities.


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In the case of food-borne illness, an outbreak is an incident in which two or more people experience the same illness after eating the same food.


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Any of a group of viruses that contain RNA and are similar to, but larger and more variable in size than the related myxovirus (any of a group of RNA-containing viruses, including those that cause influenza). The paramyxoviruses include the Sendai virus, the parainfluenza viruses, and the viruses that cause measles and mumps.


An organism that lives on or in another organism. Parasites take food and shelter from the host, and can release toxins or other substances that are harmful to the host.



Disease-causing agents. Foodborne illness results from consuming food contaminated with pathogens.



A product or material that usually kills pests.


A pesticide that will kill fungi that cause plant diseases, molds or mildew.
A pesticide that will kill a variety of plant species.
A pesticide that will kill a variety of insect species.
A pesticide that lasts several hours or longer and is applied as a general, spot, or crack and crevice treatment.
A pesticide that does not kill beyond the initial application. Typically used to “flush” pests out of areas that are difficult to reach. The pesticide will lose its toxicity within a few hours of application, although most nonresidual pesticides are acute poisons (quick-kill).
A pesticide formulated to kill mice and rats.
A pesticide that will cause death after a single feeding.
Multiple feeding
A pesticide that can cause death when consumed in lesser amounts over a period of several days.
A pesticide that draws moisture (liquid) from a plant causing it to wither and die.
A pesticide that lasts a short time (a few weeks or less) after being applied and breaks down rapidly in the environment.
A pesticide that will control a wide range of pests.


Pesticide Amendment of 1954

This amended the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) and gave the FDA the authority to establish pesticide tolerances for agricultural commodities.



An infectious disease of animals and humans caused by a bacterium named Yersinia pestis. It is spread from rats to humans via rat fleas. Plague killed 25 million people in Europe during the fourteenth century. Modern antibiotics are effective against plague, but the disease is likely to cause illness or death if an infected person is not treated promptly.



A disease of the lungs caused by infection or irritants.


Product zone

Any area of a food processing plant or equipment in which ingredients, finished products, or processing equipment are exposed to overhead or airborne contaminants, including direct contact areas, such as conveyors, internal equipment, etc.


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Quality Control

A set of checking procedures whose purpose is to ensure that raw ingredients and finished products are being produced within the foreign materials and physical, chemical and bacterial specifications for each product.


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Rat-bite fever

Rat-bite fever is caused by the bacterium Streptobacillis monoiliformis.



A recall of a product by the manufacturer or government agency.  

Recalls are assigned a numerical designation (I, III, III) by the FDA to indicate the relative degree of health hazard presented by the product being recalled.

All recalls must have a planned, specific course of action to be taken, which addresses the depth of the recall, the needs for public warnings and the extent of effectiveness checks for the recall.


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This bacteria can be transmitted through undercooked or raw poultry and eggs or undercooked or raw products containing eggs (i.e., mayonnaise).

Salmonella bacteria are commonly spread through food contaminated with rodent feces.



Treatment of surfaces by a process that is effective in destroying vegetative cells of microorganisms of public health significance and in substantially reducing numbers of other microorganisms. Treatment must not adversely affect the product and be safe for the consumer.



An infectious disease caused by a group of bacteria called Shigella.



A term applied to species of wild animals such as insects, rodents and birds that exhibit a preference to live in human settlements.


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A behavior exhibited by cockroaches in which they prefer the side or top of their bodies touching other objects.



The second or middle region — between the head and the abdomen — in insects bearing true legs and wings.



The infection of birds, humans, other mammals with a toxoplasma (Toxoplasma gondii).



A disease caused by eating inadequately cooked pork containing Trichinea.


Murine typhus is transmitted from infected rats to people by fleas.


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A submicroscopic pathogen that invades living cells.


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