Integrated pest management or IPM is an approach to managing pest problems while at the same time minimizing risk and effect on the environment. IPM is a long-term management plan that will prevent pest problems and minimize damage by using a combination of control techniques. Techniques like biological controls, manipulation of habitats, use of resistant varieties and modifications of cultural practices and, if needed, chemical controls. Methods of pest management are chosen that minimize risk to human health, beneficial and non-target organisms and the environment.
So what is a pest? A pest is an organism that damages or interferes with the life cycle of plants we desire in our orchards, gardens, landscape, homes or wild areas you may be enjoying. Pests include organisms that impact animal or human health. The pest itself may be a nuisance or may be a vector that transmits disease or causes damage to the water quality, animal life or any part of the ecosystem.
Those who practice IPM are taking action to keep the pests from becoming an issue in the first place. IPM is not an instant technique to eradicate pests but instead looking for a wide variety of methods to ensure the pest is causing minimal damage. There are a number of accepted steps to IPM but bear in mind that each pest problem is individual in nature.
1. Monitoring or scouting: it is essential to know what is happening in your home and garden if you are going to be successful at IPM. A regular, methodical inspection of the landscape to detect the presence, concentration and type of pests is necessary.
2. Pest identification: correct identification of the pest causing the problem is half way to the solution. An understanding of the life cycle, the stages of the life of the pest that cause damage as well as good knowledge of the plants affected is needed.
3. Assessment: using information from scouting and identification, as well as understanding the level of acceptable damage will determine the course of action.
4. Implementation: once a management strategy has been selected, it should be employed in a timely manner. This will keep problems to a minimum, and will ensure the right strategy will be used at the right time, in the right amount at the right place.
5. Evaluation: review what worked well and what didn’t to ensure best practices are followed.
Ideally, IPM will be: least disruptive of natural controls; least hazardous to human health; least toxic to non-target organisms; least damaging to the environment; most likely to produce permanent reduction of the pest; easiest to carry out effectively; and cost-effective in the short and long term.
Let’s look at an example of IPM that may resonate with you. The dreaded tent caterpillar is a regular pest we deal with often. When they are a problem, most of us do not notice there was a problem until the worms were huge and causing major damage. Entire areas of trees are stripped of leaves. The caterpillars pupated and we saw huge populations of little brown moths, the adult form of the larvae or caterpillar that causes the damage to the landscape. These moths lay eggs on their choice trees and the eggs will overwinter and hatch out next spring. Once eggs are laid, the moth will die. Using an IPM strategy you may consider a number of solutions which most likely involve the damaging stage of the life cycle of the pest (the caterpillar) prior to huge amounts of damage has been done to the tree.
Send along your comments on what you are dealing with for pests in your garden and landscape and I will attempt to address these issues in future columns.