In the field of, pest control we often hear the phrases extermination and eradication. People talk of pest extermination and pest eradication. These two central phrases in pest control talk actually have slightly different meanings, which are valuable to know about.
Extermination comes from the Latin, “exterminare,” and means to drive out, expel. It is a compound word derived from “ex” “terminus.” Ex means out of, and “terminus” in Latin means boundary or end. In Roman history, the word is related to the deity Terminus who presided over boundaries. Looking back into ancient history we find the word “tar” in Sanskrit, which meant the boundary or edge. It is related to the ancient Greek word “terma,” meaning a “goal,” and “termon,” meaning a border, “trans,” across or over, and “intro, “enter into.
Pest extermination, in the classical sense, therefore means to drive the pests out of the boundaries of the house. One famous example of pest extermination is the Pied Piper of Hamlin. Using his magic pipe the piper lured rat pests out of the town and over a cliff.
Eradicate, comes from the Latin “eradicare,” meaning to root out. Specifically the word breaks down into “ex” plus “radix.” “ex” means out and “radix,” meaning root, together the compound word means to root out.
Based on this quick etymological history we see that both pest control related words connote processes related to getting rid of pests. If exterminate, means to drive pests out of the borders of the home, then eradicate means to bring their breeding spots, the places where the infestation has, so to speak, taken root, to light, and to uproot it. In this sense, eradication would only be the first step of pest control, as once the pests have been uprooted, they must still be exterminated.
It is possible to better understand the difference between these two words, by examining the different forms of pest control. If mice invade a home, they can be exterminated by killing the visible mice and boarding up entrance ways. On the other hand, certain types of mice poison create a thirst in mice, and actually drive them out of their hidden nests in search of water. This treatment uproots them from their nests, and then subsequently exterminates them as it drives them across the boundaries of the home, where they run, in search of water. Boric acid makes roaches sterile. A boric acid spray, which reaches down into roach breeding crevices, will stop roach breeding in the home. Although it doesn’t drive the roaches out of the home, it uproots them from their breeding holes by stopping their breeding.
At first glance, animal trapping can be likened to a form of extermination in that live wild animals are forcibly removed from the boundaries of the home The process is also like eradication in the sense that hidden animal breeding nests, in attics, garages, etc are broken up and brought to light during the extermination process. Snakes come indoors seeking mice. When the pest control technician sets down sticky paper to trap the snake this is both extermination and eradication The technician is rooting out the hidden snake. Subsequently when he takes the snake off the property he is exterminating it.
Ant control is most similar to eradication in that most ant poisons are meant to be taken back to the colony, where the colony members eat it and die. It is similar to extermination in that some ant treatments target areas of ant ingress, in an effort to prevent ants from entering the home. T
Termite control is most like extermination in that the areas surrounding the house are treated to present termites from entering the house. It is similar to eradication in that areas of active termite infestation in the home are treated to wipe out termite nests. BCOntrolling bed bugs might seem, at first glance most like eradication. The pest control technician must walk around and inspect every little crevice where the bugs hide and breed, and spray inside to root them out. And yet, in modern pest parlance we talk about bed bug extermination This term refers to the actual killing process, more than the initial process of ferreting out the hiding places. Flea control is similar to extermination in that the house and all areas where active breeding fleas are located is treated with pesticide. While fleas do not require pets to enter the home, treatment of pets for flea infestation is a bit like extermination and eradication. It is like extermination in that it blocks fleas from ingression via pets, it is like eradication in that fleas actually live and breed on pets, and have taken root there.
In most cases, we see that successful control of pests involves a combination of eradication and extermination. Only if pests are rooted out, and exposed is it possible to completely exterminate them.
Why, one might ask, are entomologists called exterminators and very infrequently eradicators. This might be because in the classical sense, rooting out an infestation, exposing it to light is only the first step in the process. Exterminating the pests, getting them out of the home is the final solution. Think of a pest infestation as some ubiquitous process that takes root in the home, taking advantage of some weakness in the house or home structure. Then the infestation grows until it becomes visible, like a tree emerging from the ground. Extermination refers to getting rid of the visible process, eradication refers to getting rid of hidden roots of the infestation and its attachment to the home.
Although coming from different sources, and having different shades of meaning, in modern American parlance, the two words exterminate and eradicate are used almost interchangeably. Extermination is defined online as “killing in mass.” Eradicate is defined, online as “get rid of, tear up by the roots, kill in large numbers. The modern definition of exterminate may derive from the Holocaust in German. Germany wanted to exterminate the Jews, which was taken to mean kill them in large numbers. In fact, during the earliest actions against the Jews, in 1933, Germans attacked Jewish stores and homes, and as they beat the Jews they said, “You have been in German long enough.” Originally the goal was to drive the Jews out of Germany It was only after the Palestinian leaders told Hitler they didn’t want the Jews coming to Israel, that the Germans adopted the final solution and began to equate extermination with mass killing in the death camps. This extreme political process many have been responsible for changing the modern meaning of the word exterminate.
Regardless of all this history, in pest control, at least, everyone knows what the two words imply. If someone has ants crawling all over her kitchen and calls an “exterminator,” she knows that she will be paying him to get rid of the ants, No More Ants. If someone has rodents and calls a pest control specialist and asks him to eradicate the mice in her home, she knows she will be paying him to get rid of the mice, – No More Mice. Whether the specialist brings their hidden breeding places to light, kills them or drives them out, it doesn’t matter, as long as she, the homeowner will not have to look at them again.