The Business Case for Integrated Pest Management
Article by Joseph Salvatore Knipper
As a business owner or manager in New York City, have you ever wondered why businesses seem to spend so much time and money on pest control? That’s because pest control traditionally tends to treat the symptoms of a pest infestation, rather than the cause. That’s where integrated pest management comes in.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a proven, more economical method for pest control that everyone can benefit from. Unlike traditional pest control, integrated pest management places more emphasis on finding long-term, eco-friendly, preventative solutions to keep pests away. IPM is better for the environment, better for your customers, and most importantly, better for your business.
Why isn’t IPM practiced more often? Often the reason is that people who are unfamiliar with the IPM approach are put off by the higher upfront cost and time required. But in reality, implementing integrated pest management is a smart investment that will save you a lot more money in the long run.
What is Integrated Pest Management?
The University of California defines Integrated Pest Management as “an ecosystem-based strategy that focuses on long-term prevention of pests or their damage through a combination of techniques such as biological control, habitat manipulation, modification of cultural practices, and use of resistant varieties.”
In other words, it is a minimally-invasive, environmentally-friendly means of preventing pest problems before they happen and using pesticides only when necessary. As the EPA says, “IPM is not a single pest control method but rather involves integrating multiple control methods based on site information. “
Integrated Pest management has four aspects: monitoring, thresholds, prevention, and control.
Monitoring involves the use of monitor traps to detect the presence of pests. Training your employees on how to recognize the signs of a pest infestation, from bed bugs to roaches to rodents, is also an important part of this step.
Setting action thresholds means deciding when the presence of a pest is a “nuisance, health hazard, or economic threat.” For instance, a few flies in a grain silo expected, but a few flies in a restaurant could result in bad reviews and loss of customers.
This aspect is often more relevant to agricultural businesses. For most businesses in New York City, the tolerance threshold for pests is usually zero.
This is where IPM really shines as a long-term investment. Prevention means modifying the environment so that your business is not appealing to pests in the first place.
This could mean storing trash in rodent-proof containers, fixing leaks to cut off pets’ water supplies, installing door sweeps on all the doors, trimming vegetation around the outside of the building, sealing cracks, etc. It also involves training your employees in what behaviors attract pests; for instance, you’ll want to start washing your recycling before putting it in bins to avoid attracting rodents and flies.
Control is the last resort of IPM. When pests are found, and when their population exceeds the action threshold, IPM finds the least disruptive and most environmentally sustainable way to eliminate the pests.
IPM prefers mechanical measures to pesticides, such as boric acid to kill cockroaches, heat to kill bed bugs, or vinegar traps for flies. Traps may be placed in such a way as to target the alpha rat of a group, or species-specific bait can be used to wipe out an entire colony of cockroaches. The use of eco-friendly botanically-based pesticides, such as those used by MMPC, may be called for as a final resort.
Why is Integrated Pest Management Better for Businesses than Traditional Pest Control?
There are four reasons Integrated Pest Management is better for businesses than traditional pest control: image, economics, health, and environment.
#1. Image: It keeps pest complaints down before they start.
One of the main goals of integrated pest management is to prevent pest problems before they start by controlling the environment. As you can imagine, this means customers see fewer pests.
For instance, one residential building in Ohio implemented an IPM system in 2010. According to the National Center for Healthy Housing:
“During the five months before the IPM program there was an average of 8.8 units inspected and treated per month. After the onset of IPM, there was an average of 3.4 suites reporting pests each month[…]Only three units found with pests in 2008 had infestations in 2010. In 2008 there were 12 units with non-cockroach pests, in 2010 there were only five.”
In other words, thanks to IPM, residents were seeing fewer pests in the first place. Traditional pest management may get rid of pests once your customers notice them, but why should you wait for mice to infest your Yelp reviews?
#2. Economics: It saves money
On a related note, because IPM relies on limited exterminator intervention, it actually saves money in the long run. According to the EPA:
“There are cost savings associated with using IPM. IPM may be more labor intensive than conventional pest control and may require more up front resources. However, costs are generally lower over time because the underlying cause of the pest problem has been addressed.”
In traditional pest control, a business hires an exterminator to come by regularly to treat the building, whether or not it needs it. IPM spends the time and money up-front, saving money down the road. Fixing window screens, putting grates over vents, sealing baseboards, etc. reduces the need for a regular exterminator. Regular inspections are recommended as part of IPM, but not regular extermination.
#3. Health: It protects the health of your employees and customers
According to the EPA, there is a “significant association between the prevalence of asthma among children and adults, and the incidence of pests, allergens (high cockroach and mouse allergen levels) and pesticides found in public housing.”
If you drastically reduce the pests and drastically reduce the pesticides with IPM, you reduce the chances of irritating your customers’ asthma and allergies.
#4. Environment: It’s good for your business to be good to the environment
In it’s judicious use of pesticides and minimal intervention, IPM is a part of going green as a business. Going green results in employee retention. According to one study of schools that went green, “estimated a 5% decrease in teacher turnover.” Also, customers are becoming more aware of how companies interact with the environment, and are using this in their purchasing decisions.
There you have it; the business case for switching to Integrated Pest Management. IPM is safe and effective. It saves money in the long run, improves your business’s reputation, and protects your customer’s health.
In short, Integrated Pest Management is fiscally, morally, socially, and scientifically superior to traditional pest control.
You don’t have to do it all yourself though. Here at MMPC, we are IPM superstars. You can read how we bed bug-proofed a nursing home, saved an antique from beetles, and cracked a mite mystery here. We did all this using our own unique brand of award-winning eco-friendly IPM.
Give us a call today, and we can give you an idea of what an Integrated Pest Management Plan would look like for your business. Integrated Pest Management is a secret we are only too happy to share.