What Is Integrated Pest Management?

1382ps_02333.jpg
1382ps_02333.jpg (Photo credit: IRRI Images)

If you are reading this, you are either currently experiencing a pest problem, have dealt with one in the past, for some reason enjoy learning about random niche industries, or are banging on your keyboard yelling at the Google for misdirecting you. The term “pest” is the official term used to describe organisms detrimental to human activities and the unofficial term you once used to describe your little brother during the two hours after nap time. No one enjoys pests having free reign in their home anymore than you enjoyed having to sprint full speed after Justin through the middle of the grocery store during rush hour. But alas, pest control is an issue many homeowner must face at some point or another.

So what do you know about pest control? Other than the infinite catch-phrase puns and insect caricature logos, what actually goes into a pest control service? In many cases, pest control boils down to a couple dudes buying some really toxic materials and spraying them all over your house and property. Yippie! That sounds like fun! Good thing you don’t have any kids or pets… oh you do? There are laws in place to protect you on some capacity from irresponsible pesticide application, but ultimately, it is up to the consumer to do his or her due diligence when hiring a pest control company.

Despite the negative examples, there are, of course, some good guys in this industry. Shortly after World War II, scientists began developing what is known as Integrated Pest Management (IPM). This system takes a broad look at pest control and seeks to “integrate” a wide range of tactics, techniques, and research into controlling each species of pest, striving to achieve a “happy” balance of economic efficiency and environmental responsibility. To put that in terms that I can understand, IPM is all about killing bugs as efficiently as possible while taking into account peripheral effects on the surrounding environment. IPM is centered around six basic ideas.

1) Acceptable Pest Levels

Because IPM is a comprehensive strategy rather than an event-specific attack, it works to establish an “acceptable pest level” in any given context. Complete extermination is often impossible, so instead of living in denial and burning our home down with a flamethrower, we want to know how much of a given pest we can afford to allow in any given situation. Once this threshold is crossed, we then employ the most efficient techniques for returning the population to acceptable levels.

2) Preventative Cultural Practices

This one is pretty simple. It means we take an intelligent look at our surroundings and act accordingly. So if my home/farm/bat cave is located in the middle of a high-functioning, watermelon-destroying weed resort, I’m going to go ahead and refrain from planting an acre’s worth of watermelons. Or if I’ve already planted my watermelons, I’m going to have my farm designed in such a way that I can quickly isolate and quarantine an outbreak after some idiot flies overhead, dropping a new strain of watermelon-eating bacteria into my perfectly rounded delights. The keyword here is “preventative.”

Fort Custer Integrated Pest Management
Fort Custer Integrated Pest Management (Photo credit: U.S. Army Environmental Command)

3) Monitoring

I doubt I need to explain the term “monitoring” to you. However, you should know that this isn’t kindergarten-teacher-watching-you-pretend-to-sleep monitoring. This is science-nerd-in-high-school-chemistry-class monitoring. Records are kept. Eyes are strained. Complaints to management are made. Diligent monitoring is the cornerstone of IPM.

4) Mechanical Controls

When pests multiply beyond their acceptable limit, IPM uses giant robots to murder them with lasers. Well… that actually might be a slight exaggeration. What does happen is that simple techniques including hand-removal, barriers, vacuuming, or tilling are employed to break up the pests’ nonstop baby-making and put the population levels on decline.

5) Biological Controls

What’s the only thing cooler than laser-wielding, bug-killing robots? The answer, of course, is biologically engineered super-carnivores! What!? There aren’t any of those either!? Boring! Actually, this step is simply introducing natural predators of the targeted pest into the environment. This is a very calculated process, requiring significant research to ensure that more islands aren’t completely taken over by brown tree snakes. I’m looking at you Guam.

6) Responsible Pesticide Use

Remember at the beginning when we said IPM is all about killing bugs as efficiently as possible? This is the grand finale to that goal. If the only answer for addressing a bug problem is dirty, toxic, high-powered pesticide, than by golly, bring out the poison guns. To be fair, it’s a lot less gung-ho than the previous statement might lead you to believe, but I desperately needed to use the phrase “poison guns” in a professional article.

There you have it. I totally answered the question asked in the title, which is probably the first article you’ve read today where that is the case… so no complaining. If you got disillusioned at the end, check out Green Pest Management. It’s basically the same thing as IPM, but they use boring organic pesticides at the end instead of poison guns. Lame!

 

Author Bio
Tiffany Olson is an enthusiastic blogger who writes for small companies so that they may increase their online presence. This article was written on behalf of the good people over at Killroy.com and their work with pest control in Union City.

 

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