Jay Turner, owner of Laguna Pest Control and former Pest Manager of the Year, takes an in-depth look at IPM.
As pest managers, we all know what Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is, and we even occasionally use the term to impress some of our customers. But how many of us actually fully embrace IPM and really try to integrate it into every job we do? At a guess, I would say not many! Because let’s face it, using pesticides is quicker, easier and a lot more effective than the alternatives. However whether you like it or not, the concept of managing pests without applying pesticides is something all of us need to embrace. And the sooner the better.
Interestingly, managing pests without applying pesticides is actually one of the three minimum competency units required to get a pest management license in most states or territories in Australia. Yet most trainees don’t really understand the purpose of this unit let alone put any of the elements into practice as they move forward in their career.
I personally believe part of this has to do with the way the competency or licensing units are written up. CPPUPM3005 Manage Pests Without Applying Pesticides and CPPUPM3006 Manage Pests by Applying Pesticides are written up as two separate units and are often delivered separately, therefore implying that they are two separate or alternative types of treatment. I preferred the old unit CPPPMT 3005A Modify Environment to Manage Pests, at least that implied “in conjunction with applying pesticides”.
So it’s not surprising that many pest managers view non-chemical control methods as an alternative or substitute for pesticide application and very rarely incorporate these methods into their business model. Most view it as a painful methodology restricted to those high end commercial contracts.
However due to current and likely further legislation changes and pressure from our consumers, the demand for IPM strategies is growing fast. And if the international pest management industries are anything to go by, if you’re a pest management company that isn’t applying IPM to every job, then you will soon be left behind and will struggle to survive in this forever evolving industry.
So what is IPM? There are lots of long-winded definitions on Google, but basically it’s the use of both chemical and non-chemical control methods together to minimise the reliance on pesticides to manage pests. The chemical part of this concept we all know and understand well, so much so that if a treatment doesn’t work, we typically tend to blame the pesticide, or whenever we are faced with a new pest, the first question a lot of us ask is “which pesticide should I use?” But it’s the non-chemical part of this that most of us struggle with.
Non-chemical control methods can be broken into three basic categories: biological, physical and cultural. Biological control methods, such as predatory insects or the use of viruses, is rarely used in urban pest management. Cultural control methods such as hygiene and housekeeping strategies are always a struggle to engage the client with, but physical control methods are something that can be applied to virtually every single job. Physical control methods are not just about population control strategies such as snap and glue board trapping, vacuuming, or heat. But it also includes proofing points of entry, to stop pests from entering (such as sealing gaps along windows, pictured above). And removal of likely harbourage areas, to give pests nowhere to hide. The list soon becomes very long when you start compiling all the possible options under these last categories.
Effective IPM also relies on a very good knowledge of the pests biology, in particular those factors which favour its development. And as your knowledge of each pests behaviour grows, so will your ability to identify potential IPM methods you can incorporate to manage each of those pests. Having a very sound knowledge about individual pest species also helps when you are communicating with your client to help them understand the importance of cultural control methods.
So stop thinking of IPM as an alternative to applying pesticides, instead think of it as an extra control method to add to your pest management treatments. It doesn’t matter whether you implement them or the client implements them, simply making the recommendation is going to make you and your treatments look better.
Think of IPM as one of your points of differences or think of it as an upsell or an added service you can provide. It is never too late to start practicing IPM. The more you practice it the better you will get at it.
As you can probably tell, IPM is something I am very passionate about. It is where I really get to use my knowledge of pest biology and think about what it is I can do to solve a pest problem. And there is no reason why IPM can not be incorporated into every pest treatment, including annual household pest treatments. Adding any form of IPM will help your treatments work better and last longer.
Jay Turner, Owner, Laguna Pest Control