Exterminators have dozens of chemicals at their disposal, both synthetic and natural. Synthetic chemicals were created when certain pests became immune to the effects of natural chemicals. Also, the properties of some synthetic chemicals allow for different approaches to kill pests. If you are curious as to what the three types of chemicals an exterminator uses, and just what those chemicals do, now is your chance to learn.
Probably the most accessible and most understood chemical, nerve agents attack the pest's nervous system. It arrests the functions of all of the nerves in the targeted pest's body, killing it almost immediately. It is the bug equivalent to human nerve gas or mustard gas. Abamectin and avermectins are examples of nerve agents.
Metabolic inhibitors decrease a pest's ability to consume and digest enough food or water to live. Essentially the pest starves or dehydrates to death. Another form of metabolic inhibitor involves one insect transporting the pesticide back to a hive or nest and passing along to the rest of the population, killing more than just one pest at a time. This type of chemical is most effective at controlling ants, wasps and roaches. A common example of a metabolic inhibitor, and one which is very safe to use around children and pets, is boric acid.
Insect Growth Regulators
Similar to metabolic inhibitors, these toxins are taken back to the home nest or hive by one or more workers or drones. Unlike metabolic inhibitors, insect growth regulators attack all stages of a pest's life--eggs, larvae, pupae and adults. This type of chemical is often slow-acting so it can spread and attack as many pests as it can. When you have dozens of insects tracking this back to the nest or hive, it quickly kills several generations of pests in a matter of days. Hydramethylnon is a common insect growth inhibitor found in flea and tick control products.
Why an Exterminator Might Use One Chemical Type Over Another
Some exterminators prefer one type of chemical over the other two to accomplish their work. Other exterminators may use all three types, but choose one over another depending on the type of pest and the prolific life cycle. For example, if your house is overrun with roaches (ew!), you will want them destroyed as quickly as possible and eliminate them all. To accomplish this, your exterminator will probably reach for a growth regulator to kill several generations of roaches all at once. Depending on the severity of your roach problem, the exterminator may have to apply the growth regulator more than once.