What is Integrated Pest Management?
As defined by the UN's Food and Agriculture "the careful consideration of all available pest control techniques and subsequent integration of appropriate measures that discourage the development of pest populations and keep pesticides and other interventions to levels that are economically justified and reduce or minimize risks to human health and the environment. IPM emphasizes the growth of a healthy crop with the least possible disruption to agro-ecosystems and encourages natural pest control mechanisms."
Integrated pest management for insect control is based around the combination of several key management strategies. For many farming operations this begins and ends with a combination of cultural and traditional chemical strategies. However, a truly integrated approach considers the intentional use and cultivation of natural insect predators, as well as chemical and cultural methods. This holds true for almost all insect control management plans.
IPM management of insect populations starts with careful observation of pest activity and assessment of damage in your environment. Being aware of what is causing your problems is the first and most important step to addressing it. Selecting an appropriate solution to your problem is the next step, often times this is a combination of well-timed insecticide applications and careful use of beneficial insects. It is also important to be aware of any effect your insecticide and other chemical applications may have on your beneficial insect population. Always consult a professional Pest Control Adviser for commercial applications. Home garden management benefits from careful consultation of available resources as well. However, some organic solutions offer little to no risk, such as Thyme Guard, which helps by directly targeting insects of the piercing and sucking variety without posing a risk to beneficials.
*For more information and guides, please refer to our Resources page for helpful links. Or use the Ask A Question page to consult directly with one of our experts. Know that there is no 100% success rate for any method of pest population control, but with proper management and control solutions, you can maintain your operation for the long term.*
Example: Here you can see Rodolia Cardinalis, more commonly known as vedalia beetle, eggs present on an adult cottony cushion scale. The vedalia beetle is an example of an excellent specialist predator, and just a few can provide complete control of cottony cushion scale in a season. However, they are very sensitive to some pesticides, particularly insect growth regulators.
Organic Spray Solutions
Organic chemicals for insect control can feel limited in comparison to the traditional methods and chemicals favored by many traditional farming operations. However, it is important to consider the risk versus reward, as well as the ever increasing inability of traditional methods to address pest problems. Many organic solutions offer the benefit of not generating pesticide resistance which many traditional methods produce. Pesticide resistance is hugely problematic, and can leave you high and dry with a chemical suddenly failing to provide the solution it did the year before. Additionally, many of the traditional broad spectrum insecticides and pesticides have unintended fallout, killing off beneficial species and posing a health risk to workers and family at home.
Example: Damage to a navel orange from citrus thrip (visible as scarring near the calyx). This scarring will later make the fruit less marketable as the fruit develops and the damage becomes more obvious. Thrips feed in their immature stages around the top of the fruit. In this instance, the thrip population has developed partial resistance to almost all commercially available pesticides. Organic Thyme Guard helps to control thrip populations by blocking their feeding implement.
Beneficial insects come in all shapes and sizes. It is important to understand their role in preventing and controlling problematic insect populations. There are numerous naturally occurring predators that interrupt negative insect activity by feeding on various life stages of problematic insects.
Some common important generalist predators:
Lady beetles: there are numerous species of lady beetles, or "ladybugs" and the majority of them are beneficial predators in both their immature and mature life stages. Some of them have specific ranges of prey, while others are excellent general predators.
Lacewing: both green (common) and brown (less common) lacewing groups contain species that are effective generalist predators, preying on a wide variety of small insects.
Predatory Wasps: have numerous different species that provide a wide range of predation, with some species laying their young in problematic scale insects, various larvae and eggs, as well as some that prey on adult insects. Trichogramma is a family in which all species are predators, preying on the eggs of hundreds of species of problem insects, especially moths, butterflies, and sawflies.