What is IPM?
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on a combination of common-sense practices. IPM programs use current, comprehensive information on the life cycles of pests and their interaction with the environment. This information, in combination with available pest control methods, is used to manage pest damage by the most economical means, and with the least possible hazard to people, property, and the environment.
The IPM approach can be applied to both agricultural and non-agricultural settings, such as the home, garden, and workplace. IPM takes advantage of all appropriate pest management options including, but not limited to, the judicious use of pesticides. In contrast, organic food production applies many of the same concepts as IPM but limits the use of pesticides to those that are produced from natural sources, as opposed to synthetic chemicals.
How do IPM programs work?
IPM is not a single pest control method, but rather a series of pest management evaluations, decisions, and controls. In practicing IPM, pest companies follow a four-tiered approach. The four steps include:
- Set Action Thresholds-Before taking any pest control action, IPM first sets an action threshold, a point at which pest populations or environmental conditions indicate that pest control action must be taken. Sighting a single pest does not always mean control is needed. The level at which pests will either become a threat is critical to guide future pest control decisions.
- Monitor and Identify Pests-Not all insects, weeds, and other living organisms require control. Many organisms are innocuous, and some are even beneficial. IPM programs work to monitor for pests and identify them accurately, so that appropriate control decisions can be made in conjunction with action thresholds. This monitoring and identification removes the possibility that pesticides will be used when they are not really needed or that the wrong kind of pesticide will be used.
- Prevention-As a first line of pest control, IPM programs work to manage the crop, lawn, or indoor space to prevent pests from becoming a threat. Pest control methods taken can be very effective and cost-efficient, presenting little to no risk to the people or the environment.
- Control-Once monitoring, identification, and action thresholds indicate that pest control is required, and preventative methods are no longer effective or available, IPM programs then evaluate the proper control method for both effectiveness and risk. Effective, less risky pest control methods are chosen first, including highly-targeted chemicals, such as pheromones to disrupt pest mating, or mechanical control, such as trapping. If further monitoring, identifications and action thresholds indicate that less risky controls are not working, then additional pest control methods would be employed, such as targeted spraying of pesticides. Broadcast spraying of non-specific pesticides is a last resort.
Benefits of IPM
Adopting IPM reduces exposure to both pests and pesticides. Two health concerns faced throughout the country by children and adults are:
IPM offers several other benefits. It helps to:
- Reduce the number of pests.
- Reduce the number of pesticide applications.
- Save money while protecting human health.
Did you know that children in the United States continue to face serious risks arising from pests and the use of pesticides in certain cases?
- Continue to contract diseases carried by biting insects.
- Suffer respiratory attacks from exposure to asthma triggers and allergens attributed to cockroach and rodent infestations.
- Be exposed unnecessarily to pesticides that have been overapplied or misused in settings they frequent, such as schools.
In the United States, more than 53 million children and 6 million adults spend a significant portion of their days in more than 120,000 public and private schools. IPM provides an opportunity to create a safer learning environment – to reduce children’s exposure to pesticides as well as eliminate pests. A school IPM program prescribes common sense strategies to reduce sources of food, water and shelter for pests in school buildings and grounds. Put simply, IPM is a safer and usually less costly option for effective pest management in the school community.