Integrated Pest Management

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Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an environmentally sensitive yet highly effective strategy for pest management on both a commercial and residential level. It aims at recognizing the needs of plants to be able to naturally combat pests and uses Pesticides in a much more selective manner. The ultimate goal of IPM is "to produce the optimum crop yield of high quality at minimum cost" after taking into consideration the difference between ecosystems and regional crop-producing capabilities (#Smith and Calvert, 1976).

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on IPM:
"IPM is an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on a combination of commonsense practices. IPM programs use current, comprehensive information on the life cycles of pests and their interactions 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. IPM programs take advantage of all pest management options possibly including, but not limited to, the judicious use of pesticides.

Understanding pest needs is essential to implementing IPM effectively. Pests seek habitats that provide basic needs such as air, moisture, food, and shelter. Pest populations can be prevented or controlled by creating inhospitable environments, by removing some of the basic elements pests need to survive, or by simply blocking their access into buildings. Pests may also be managed by other methods such as traps, vacuums, or pesticides. An understanding of what pests need in order to survive is essential before action is taken." (#EPA)


IPM Triangle

The IPM system arose from the aftermath of the environmental movement borne out of Rachel Carson's 1962 book Silent Spring highlighting the evils associated with ubiquitous pesticide application.

Though the outline of IPM has been set out recently, entomologists for more than a century have realized that pest control must have an ecological basis (#Smith and Calvert, 1976).

Additionally, a large number of pesticide applied are untested. See The Perils of Pesticide Use by Stephen Tvedten.


Core principles of IPM are the ability to recognize which pests are problematic and then assess whether there is a need to manage the pest threat. IPM is not a single method but rather a combination of "common-sense approaches" (#EPA). All IPM systems incorporate differing degrees of four systems or ideas that led to economical and environmentally friendly pest management results:

1. Set Action Thresholds
The existence of a limited number of insects is not an epidemic and should not be handled with egregious use of chemical applications. It is therefore necessary to set an action threshold, defined by the EPA as "a point at which pest populations or environmental conditions indicate that pest control action must be taken" (#EPA).

2. Monitor and Identify Pests
This step is necessary to ensure that only those pests that are truly detrimental to the plant are targeted. Often times, Pesticides do great harm to certain insects that either do no harm or actually aide the development of the plant. This step removes the possibility of widespread use of pesticide when it is not needed and saves money by narrowing the focus so as to not use the wrong pesticide (#EPA).

3. Prevention
The best pest management technique focuses on the culture of the plants and allowing for the plant to naturally control its own environment. The best way to provide this is through careful plant selection relating to where and when the plant will be grown, watering, fertility, mulching, and pruning (#Cloyd et al, 2004).

4. Control
The EPA's summation of the controlling of aspect of IPM:
"Once monitoring, identification, and action thresholds indicate that pest control is required, and preventive methods are no longer effective or available, IPM programs then evaluate the proper control method both for effectiveness and risk. Effective, less risky pest controls are chosen first, including highly targeted chemicals, such as pheromones to disrupt pest mating, or mechanical control, such as trapping or weeding. If further monitoring, identifications and action thresholds indicate that less risky controls are not working, then additional pest control methods would be employed, such as targeted spraying of Pesticides. Broadcast spraying of non-specific Pesticides is a last resort" (#EPA).

These above strategies work in concert with one another to provide a social, environmental, and economical strategy that effectively manages pests. Pesticides General are used in a selective manner only when their use is economically and ecologically justified (#Smith and Calvert, 1976).

Environmental Effects

Because IPM treats the use of Pesticides as only a part of and in concert with other techniques, as opposed to a panacea for all pest management problems, the effect on the environment of a sound IPM is severely lesser than the alternative of pervasive and arbitrary pesticide application.

Integrated Pest Management Education Project

The Integrated Pest Management Education Project (IPMEP) was originally conceived by the Regional Pesticide Coordinating Committee (RPCC), a committee of private, nonprofit, and public sector representatives in King County focused on Pesticide reduction. The Washington Toxics Coalition is facilitating the creation of this project with their partner Toxipedia, thanks to their well respected website that provides accurate toxicology information from the most current sources, studies and experts.

The IPMEP will use a wiki model and a review board of experts to create a website that will provide the best information available on IPM strategies for a broad set of stakeholders in Washington state looking for better information. If you want to get involved, contact Michael Grenetz at Washington Toxics Coalition at

Economics of Pesticide Reduction

The farmers and home gardeners of the United States spend nearly $10 billion a year on Pesticides to save around $40 billion on crop loss. These numbers are based on only economic valuations and neglect to include the social costs (health risks from contamination, cancer, etc) or the environmental costs (loss of species, additional Pesticides due to pesticide resistant bugs, honey bee deaths, etc). IPM strategies aim to use Pesticides as a sort of last resort. These costs severely effect the economic effectiveness of pesticide use, negating the net gain to society by nearly one half of the $40 billion. This hesitancy to engage in universal pesticide application severely reduces the environmental and social costs and could actually make more economic sense than ubiquitous pesticide exposure by minimizing the negative effects of such use.

Please see the report Economics of Pesticide Usage for a full citation of sources.

Alternatives to Current Practices

  • The Ideal Pesticide - Stephen Tvedten's report on Safe Solutions, Inc which produces environmentally friendly, non-toxic pesticides.


Cloyd, Raymond A., Philip L. Nixon, and Nancy R. Pataky. IPM for Gardeners: A Guide to Integrated Pest Management. Timber Press (Portland, 2004).

US EPA Site on IPM. Accessed on 1-31-06.

Flint, Mary Louise and Robert van den Bosch. Introduction to Integrated Pest Management. Springer 1981.

Higley, Leon G and Larry P. Pedigo eds. Economic Thresholds for Integrated Pest Management: Our Susatinable Future. University of Nebraska Press, 1997.

Koul, Opender, Gurmail S. Dhaliwal, and Garret W. Cuperus, eds. Integrated Pest Management: Potential, Constraints and Challenges. CABI Publishing, 2004.

Smith, Ray F., and Donald J. Calvert. "Health-Related Aspects of Integrated Pest Management." Environmental Health Perspectives 14, p185-191, 1976.
Picture References
IPM Triangle retreived from Sustainable Lands and Buildings in North Carolina. Accessed on 1-31-07.

Physical Management picture retreived from The Natural Resources Conservation Service. Accessed on 1-31-07.

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