I remember the day my roommate spotted the first cockroach in our apartment. I also remember the day she spotted a second cockroach and the day after that when I spotted the third and fourth. My roommate, who unlike me, is terrified by bugs was willing to do anything to make the roaches go away, so we called a local extermination service for a consultation. The exterminator told us that based on our description of the roaches look and their size that they were most likely coming in from outside and he suggested we get door lining to prevent the roaches from coming into our house and would do a light spraying for good measure. I wasn’t very happy about the spraying but my roommate really wanted it done. Could there be a better way to have handled the situation without spraying chemicals in my apartment? Yes there is, and it’s called Integrated Pest Management or IPM for short.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency IPM is “an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on a combination of common-sense practices. IPM programs use current, comprehensive information on the life cycles of pests and their interaction with the environment. This information, in combination with available pest control methods, is used to manage pest damage by the most economical means, and with the least possible hazard to people, property, and the environment.”
The EPA divides IPM into four major components:
1. Setting Action Thresholds
Sighting a single pest does not necessarily mean pest control actions need to be taken. Before taking action it is important to first decide upon action thresholds, the point at which pest populations or environmental conditions indicate actions are needed due to economic of health threat.
2. Monitor and Identify Pests
Monitoring and identification of pests provides the information needed to follow the predetermined action thresholds. One type of pest management action might not be appropriate appropriate for all pests in all situations, so it is important to correctly identify the pest and the magnitude of infestation.
Prevention is the first line of defense against infestation whether in your home, lawn, or garden. Prevention tactics can be culturally based or structurally based. Some easy examples of prevention measures for the home include keeping food sealed and regularly talking out the garbage.
Control measures should be taken if monitoring, identification, and action thresholds indicate that pest control is required. Targeted, less risky, control measures should be tried first. If the targeted control measures seem not to be working and action thresholds continue to be met targeted spraying of pesticides could be tried. Non-specific pesticides should only be used as last resort.
A recent study published in the Journal of Integrated Pest Management found that there were significant benefits to implementing IPM. The study began in 2003, when the University of Florida’s Department of Housing and Residence Education implemented an IPM program in campus residence halls, and lasted through 2008. Results of the study found the use of active pesticide ingredients were reduced by over 90 percent.
If I could take it back I would not have let the exterminators spray my apartment. Instead I should have put out some sticky traps in order to see if we really did have an infestation worthy of pesticides. Pesticides are known to have detrimental effects not only to the environment but also on human health. The use of IPM strategies gives people control over their pest situation while at the same time reduces the risks caused by pesticide use.
For more information on Household practice of IPM: http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/controlling/index.htm
Screaming Lady image via jayforde.com
Funny Roach image via Shutterstock