Integrated Pest Management
Reduce the exposure of pesticides to wildlife, pets and people.
The ability to identify specific pest or disease problems and treat them effectively is key to maintaining a healthy and sustainable landscape. Pesticides, such as insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides, are toxic and pollute groundwater and nearby waterways while harming wildlife, pets and human health. Along with a risk to pollinators, songbirds, amphibians and other wildlife, the use of pesticides pose a risk to other benign and beneficial flower visitors, such as beneficial insects, that prey upon plant or crop pests, recycle organic matter, feed other wildlife such as songbirds, or simply contribute to a more beautiful and interesting world.
By choosing to implement integrated pest management practices (IPM), the amount of pesticides applied on landscapes can be eliminated or drastically reduced. By using these practices, a landscape will be safer and healthier for all living things to enjoy. Once you’ve seen the benefits of IPM, you may potentially choose to venture into organic gardening, which entails refraining from any synthetic fertilizer and pesticide use.
Integrated Pest Management
IPM is an ecological approach to suppressing pest populations in which all available necessary techniques are utilized and implemented, so that pests are kept at acceptable levels in effective, economical and environmentally safe ways. Because pest problems are often symptomatic of ecological imbalances, the goal of IPM is to attempt to plan and manage ecosystems to prevent organisms from becoming pests.
IPM uses biological, cultural, physical and chemical practices to manage pest problems in a way that minimizes chemical use that can pose risks to human health and the environment. Through IPM, the use of chemicals is a last resort, taking care to adopt cultural, biological and physical controls first.
- Biological Control is the use of naturally occurring predators, parasites and pathogens to manage pests. This is one of the hallmarks of IPM, namely the control of pest insects by encouraging other creatures to eat them. Those animals that form this control are often termed ‘beneficial’, and the focus includes insects and other arthropods (spiders), birds, frogs, toads, lizards and snakes that feed on these pests. Pesticides also kill beneficials, so chemicals cannot be heavily or indiscriminately used if they are desired in the landscape.
- Cultural Control involves selecting pest-resistant plants, growing plants in the proper site conditions and maintaining plants through proper irrigation and pruning practices. A healthy plant is more resistant to insect and disease attack in much the same way that a healthy person is more resistant to illness.
- Physical (or Mechanical) Control is the physical removal by hand picking, spraying with water, traps or barriers, to reduce pest problems.
- Chemical Control is the use of commercially available pesticides to protect plant material. For clarification, IPM does not eliminate the use of synthetic chemicals, but it does use them with discretion and only when absolutely necessary.
Choosing the Path of Least Harm
IPM encourages gardeners to make responsible, informed decisions on managing pests in the landscape by using sound gardening practices. By closely monitoring the landscape and knowing what to look for and when, pests can be managed effectively before they become a problem.
Ultimately, the goal of IPM is to reduce the need for pesticides and use them only as a ‘last resort’ when controlling pests. Instead, less harmful, low-impact practices are used which protect beneficial organisms in the landscape. These proactive practices include:
Select the right plants for the right location.
Select the right plants for the right site conditions, so they are not stressed.
Select disease-resistant healthy plants (regionally appropriate native plants are optimum).
Inspect plants before purchasing to ensure that they are pest and disease free.
Keep plants healthy.
Take care to correctly plant and establish a plant.
Water only the amount that a plant needs.
Water plants at the base of the plant and roots (wet leaves are more susceptible to disease).
Accept that some plant damage is normal and even a good thing (e.g. beneficial insects need pests to eat).
Prune if and when necessary.
Use organic mulches that are appropriate for the site and plant condition.
Manage for beneficial organisms and other natural enemies.
Encourage beneficial organisms including, but not limited to spiders, lacewings, lady beetles, parasitic wasps, soldier beetles, syrphid flies, assassin bugs, ground beetles, mantids, ants, earwigs, dragonflies and damselflies.
Grow a diverse variety of regionally appropriate native plants in the landscape to provide food sources for a variety of beneficial insects.
Eliminate the use of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. Use non-toxic alternatives to synthetic pesticides to control pests. This helps maintain the population of beneficial organisms in both the soil and plants.
Don’t allow pests to become established.
Inspect and monitor plants regularly in order to detect problems early.
Identify the cause of any potential problems. Early identification can eliminate the costs and hazards of using chemical pesticides.
Learn to tell the difference between beneficial and pests in all life stages.
Handpick pests and eggs from plants.
Remove individual leaves or branches when pests, their eggs and debris are heavily concentrated on one or several plant parts.
Use water sprays to control small, soft-bodied insect pests. For example, aphids can be easily removed by spraying them with water from a garden hose
Hand pull weeds.
Suppress weeds with mulch.
Use chemicals as a last resort.
(Only after these methods have failed to manage problems should chemicals be considered.)
Apply pesticides directly on target to minimize drift and runoff.
Apply pesticides only on windless or slightly breezy days to avoid drift into habitat areas or into neighborhoods.
Apply pesticides when most pollinators are not active, such as before dawn or at sundown.
Create wide buffer zones to protect adjacent habitat and communities.
Do not apply pesticides near standing or running water.
Do not apply prior to or during precipitation.
When cleaning equipment, do not allow runoff onto paved surfaces or storm drains.