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What is Integrated Pest Management (IPM)?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Integrated Pest Management or IPM is a much used term in discussing the managemnt of weeds, bugs and other pests in agriculture, cosmetic landscape management etc. It is worthy of note that IPM can mean many different things to as many different people. The following article is designed to clear up the confusion.

What is Integrated Pest Management (IPM)?
(Courtesy Mike Christie & Beyond Pesticides -

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a program of prevention, monitoring, and control which offers the opportunity to eliminate or drastically reduce the use of pesticides, and to minimize the toxicity of and exposure to any products which are used. IPM does this by utilizing a variety of methods and techniques, including cultural, biological and structural strategies to control a multitude of pest problems.

IPM is a term that is used loosely with many different definitions and methods of implementation. IPM can mean virtually anything the practitioner wants it to mean. Beware of chemical dependent programs masquerading as IPM.

Those who argue that IPM requires the ability to spray pesticides immediately after identifying a pest problem are not describing IPM. Conventional pest control tends to ignore the causes of pest infestations and instead rely on routine, scheduled pesticide applications. Pesticides are often temporary fixes, ineffective over the long term.

Non-toxic and least toxic control products are a major growth area and new materials and devices are increasingly available in the marketplace.

The Six IPM Program Essentials

Monitoring. This includes regular site inspections and trapping to determine the types and infestation levels of pests at each site.

Record-Keeping. A record-keeping system is essential to establish trends and patterns in pest outbreaks. Information recorded at every inspection or treatment should include pest identification, population size, distribution, recommendations for future prevention, and complete information on the treatment action.

Action Levels. Pests are virtually never eradicated. An action level is the population size which requires remedial action for human health, economic, or aesthetic reasons.

Prevention. Preventive measures must be incorporated into the existing structures and designs for new structures. Prevention is and should be the primary means of pest control in an IPM program.

Tactics Criteria. Under IPM, chemicals should be used only as a last resort only, but when used, the least-toxic materials should be chosen, and applied to minimize exposure to humans and all non-target organisms.

Evaluation. A regular evaluation program is essential to determine the success of the pest management strategies.

Integrated Pest Management
(as defined by Beyond Pesticides/NCAMP)

IPM is a managed pest management system that:
  1. eliminates or mitigates economic and health damage caused by pests;
  2. minimizes the use of pesticides and the risk to human health and the environment associated with pesticide applications; and,
  3. uses integrated methods, site or pest inspections, pest population monitoring, an evaluation of the need for pest control, and one or more pest control methods, including sanitation, structural repairs, mechanical and living biological controls, other non-chemical methods, and, if nontoxic options are unreasonable and have been exhausted, least toxic pesticides.

Least Toxic Pesticides
(as defined by Beyond Pesticides/NCAMP)

Least toxic pesticides include:
  1. boric acid and disodium octobrate tetrahydrate,
  2. silica gels,
  3. diatomaceous earth,
  4. nonvolatile insect and rodent baits in tamper resistant containers or for crack and crevice treatment only,
  5. microbe-based pesticides,
  6. pesticides made with essential oils (not including pyrethrums) without toxic synergists; and,
  7. materials for which the inert ingredients are nontoxic and disclosed.
The term 'least toxic pesticides' does not include a pesticide that is
  • determined by EPA to be a possible, probable, or known carcinogen, mutagen, teratogen, reproductive toxin, developmental neurotoxin, endocrine disruptor, or immune system toxin;
  • a pesticide in EPA's toxicity category I or II; and,
  • any application of the pesticide using a broadcast spray, dust, tenting, fogging, or baseboard spray application. ..