There is no way—or even a reason—to eliminate all pests in gardens. Instead of eliminating pests, monitoring and managing pest levels can help preserve the environment, cut costs, protect health, and maintain beneficial organisms such as birds, bees, butterflies, predators, and other pollinators. An integrated pest management (IPM) approach relies on a combination of knowledge of pests and their life cycles, cultural practices, nonchemical methods, and pesticides to manage pest problems. Chapters that focus on specific plants provide more information about IPM. “Organic Gardening” examines non-chemical pest control measures. “Wildlife” discusses managing birds and mammals.
Integrated Pest Management
Modern pesticides were widely used when they were first developed. Pests which were susceptible to a pesticide were quickly killed, leaving the resistant ones to breed and multiply. It became clear that pesticides alone were not going to solve all pest problems. Instead, pesticides were overused, which resulted in the development of resistant pests. Scientists began to develop a new approach to pest control. A new pest control strategy was developed called integrated pest management (IPM), which means that every control measure is considered and used as appropriate (mechanical, cultural, biological, and chemical). An IPM plan allows some level of pests in the environment, but pests are less likely to survive a program that uses various methods to reduce their populations. An integrated pest management program consists of multiple methods that reduce pest populations much more effectively.
- Determine the types and populations of insects by monitoring and scouting.
- Make an accurate distinction between the pest and the host.
- A threshold is the point at which action should be taken as a result of an economic or aesthetic injury.
- Use a mechanical, cultural, biological, or chemical treatment strategy, or a combination of these measures.
- Treatment effectiveness should be evaluated.
Aside from insects, IPM has expanded to include weeds, disease organisms, and mammals as pest populations. Integrated pest management regulates pests by using a variety of control measures, such as mechanical, cultural, biological, and chemical methods. The goal is management, not eradication.
A comprehensive IPM plan begins with a careful analysis of each pest infestation. Only then can one decide what tactics are necessary to control pest activity. Before implementing a control plan, it is important to take into account the pest’s life cycle, potential damage, natural enemies, and weather effects.
As an example, weeds such as Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota) or London rocket (Sisymbrium irio) can be harbored by beneficial insects such as lacewings or lady beetles, which assist in preventing the growth of aphids and other pests. The clover plant in a lawn may seem like an unwanted weed, but it synthesizes nitrogen for the soil and provides nectar to honey bees and other pollinators.
The IPM plan may tolerate some weeds, so we can enjoy the beautiful Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly. Caterpillars may eat the leaves of a plant, but if they are identified as Eastern tiger swallowtail butterflies, their damage may be tolerated.
As a woodpecker drills holes in a peach tree’s trunk, it also feeds on insect larvae that may cause more damage. Read “Weeds,” chapter 6; “Insects,” chapter 4; and “Wildlife,” chapter 20 for more information.
The formulations of pesticides can be inexpensive, easy to use, and provide quick results, which may make them appealing to homeowners. In addition to negatively affecting beneficial insects and other non-targeted organisms, IPM is slower to show results and can take more effort than spraying a chemical, but it can be worth it for the reduced environmental impact. By becoming more knowledgeable about biological and ecological processes, gardeners will be able to formulate and implement IPM plans that are more imaginative.