Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, is a pest control practice in which two or more methods are utilized in order to achieve the desired control of a target pest or pests. In general, IPM provides effective control of the target pest(s) through monitoring of pest levels in which a threshold level has been established in order to determine the necessary measures in which to reduce or limit the population levels.
There are many important aspects to the Integrated Pest Management process. The first step is a thorough inspection to determine the location and extent of an infestation, the conditions present that are promoting the infestation and to establish potential damage caused by the pest. Identifying potential harborage areas, potential points of entry or sources of the infestation and any limiting factors in the control of the target pest are all extremely important as well. Depending on the pest, the inspection may need to include all levels of the structure including crawlspaces on both the interior and exterior.
Proper identification of the pest to be controlled is of the upmost importance. Although pests may look similar, their behaviors and potential for harm may vary greatly. For example, certain species of cockroaches prefer cool areas where as others prefer warm locations. This knowledge is vital in both the monitoring and treatment phases of the process. Knowing what measures to use as well as when and where to use them are key factors in the control process. In urban settings, thresholds are commonly determined based on three factors: levels of pest tolerance by the customer, any legal restrictions on pest infestations and any health risk associated with the target pest. Based on these factors, it is possible for an established threshold to be zero, although it may be higher as well.
Control strategies include habitat modification, changes in human behavior, pesticide applications, monitoring (including the use of traps) and pest exclusion. Typically, the first measure employed in the control of a target pest is sanitation. The elimination of harborage areas and removal of food and water sources requires cooperation from the customer as they are frequently responsible for a majority of these procedures. Once any sanitation issues have been addressed, additional mechanisms can be utilized to obtain the desired level of control. Physical control methods such as exclusion or traps are often used to prevent pest entry or establishment within an undesired location. Habitat or environmental modifications focus on methods to prevent a pest from becoming established or spreading. Often this requires changes in behavior from the customers such as restricting food consumption or preparation areas in order to remove potential food sources. Biological control uses predators, parasites or pathogens to control pests. These control measures may include nematodes, fungus, parasitic wasps or in many cases the use of Insect Growth Regulators (IGR’s). Chemical control including the application of pesticides is, in some cases needed as the first method of control due to the need for immediate reduction or elimination of a pest problem. In other cases, pesticide application may only be utilized in conjunction with other forms of control. Pest professionals often employ multiple control methods at each location they visit. Evaluating the effectiveness is the final step in an Integrated Pest Management plan. Follow-up visits and inspections are often necessary to determine if additional actions are needed in order to manage or control a pest population.