What Is Integrated Pest Management (IPM)?

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is “an effective and environmentally-sensitive approach to pest management that relies on a combination of common-sense practices.”

In other words, IPM is an effective, eco-friendly, and prevention-based pest control method to protect your home, building, or commercial property from pest infestations even before they happen.

In this article, we’ll cover what IPM means and how it works, including:

Intro to Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

Integrated Pest Management works by identifying and addressing the underlying causes of pest infestation using strategies such as fixing leaks, sealing holes, and managing garbage.

Traditional pest control typically involves the use of pesticides in the application process while IPM only uses EPA-approved pesticides when absolutely necessary, and only in targeted areas where pests are active.

The IPM approach is based on four key principles: monitoring, thresholds, prevention, and control.

1. Monitoring

  • Successful IPM programs routinely monitor pest populations, areas vulnerable to pests, and efficacy of prevention and control methods. 
  • Identifying the type of pests you’re dealing with makes it easier to come with appropriate preventative measures and avoid the unnecessary use of pesticides.
  • You can monitor pest population levels in your building by checking and replacing glue traps regularly and noting down the number of pests caught on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.

2. Thresholds

  • Action thresholds refer to the level that a pest population must reach before it is considered a nuisance, health hazard, or economic threat.
  • Action thresholds are typically used in commercial or agricultural settings when you need to control pests across a large area. This helps focus the size, scope, and intensity of the overall IPM plan.
  • For people at home, seeing even a single cockroach in your apartment may exceed your action threshold, prompting a call to your landlord or exterminator.

3. Prevention

  • One of the primary goals of IPM is prevention, which can be achieved by reducing and removing conditions that attract pests or allow them to thrive, such as access to food, water, and shelter.
  • For homes and buildings, pest exclusion is an important preventative. Exclusion means proactively sealing entry points to prevent insects and vermin from getting indoors.
  • Other examples of preventative actions include reducing clutter, removing trash, removing standing water, installing pest barriers, and educating building occupants on IPM.

4. Control

  • To control existing pest issues, IPM focuses on the use of scientifically proven pest control methods that pose minimal risks to occupants, the applicator, and the environment.
  • Examples of pest control methods used in IPM include physical removal, trapping, heat/cold treatment, and finely-targeted applications of EPA-approved pesticides.

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Why Is IPM Better Than Traditional Pest Control?

IPM programs are proven to be an effective form of long-term pest control while reducing the risks associated with use of pesticides, both for the environment and for your health.

Health Benefits

Improper usage or over-usage of pesticides to control pest infestations can be harmful to people and pets. When pesticides are used in a living space, particularly when applied by someone who isn’t trained or licensed, it may inadvertently create health problems for residents or aggravate preexisting health conditions.  

IPM reduces potential health risks for residents by minimizing the need for pesticides. 

Non-pesticide methods such addressing building conditions and pest exclusion are implemented first. Pesticides are used if other methods are not producing the expected results, and they are only applied in specifically-targeted areas where pests are most active.

Environmental Benefits

Cutting back on pesticides isn’t just for people’s health — it’s also good for the environment.

Reducing the use of pesticides lowers the risk of harming plants, animals, and beneficial insects like pollinators and pest predators. It also reduces the risk of air and ground water contamination. 

Economic Benefits

According to the EPA, while IPM can be more expensive and labor-intensive than traditional pest control, the long-term costs and labor are much lower because the underlying root of the pest problem has been addressed. 

A good IPM plan invests time and money up-front in order to save money down the road. For example, sealing cracks, fixing window screens, and putting grates over vents stop pests from getting in, thereby reducing or even eliminating the need for regular exterminator visits. 

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Integrated Pest Management Methods

So how does Integrated Pest Management actually work? IPM methods are grouped into four main categories:

Biological Controls

Biological control takes advantage of natural enemies like predators, parasites, pathogens, and competitors to control pests.

This is more commonly used in agricultural pest control — for example, lady beetles are employed to protect crops and plants from destructive insects — rather than in residential environments.

Some might consider getting a house cat to scare mice away to be a form of biological control, although in our experience this is rarely as effective as people think.  

Cultural Controls

Cultural control means changing people’s behaviors to avoid practices that attract pests or allow them to survive, reproduce, and spread. 

An example of an effective cultural control is educating building residents to manage garbage appropriately — e.g. not overstuffing chutes, leaving garbage bags on the floor in compactor rooms, or leaving garbage out on the curb overnight. 

Mechanical and Physical Controls

These involve using tools and physical methods to directly kill pests, seal them out, and/or make the environment unsuitable for them.

Snap traps and glue traps are a common example of mechanical controls, which allow you to capture and remove pests without the use of poisons or chemicals.

Examples of physical controls include sealing pest entry points, removing nests and burrows, and managing weeds and vegetation. 

Chemical Controls

IPM treats the application of pesticides as a last resort, using them only when needed and usually in combination with other non-chemical methods.

Pesticides must be EPA-approved, which means they have been rigorously tested and proven to pose minimal risk to the environment when used according to the label.

Instead of large-scale applications of pesticides, such as spraying entire rooms, IPM involves the careful and efficient use of chemicals in strategic areas, such as inside cracks and wall cavities where pests set up nests.

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How to Implement IPM at Home

There are many benefits to adopting Integrated Pest Management — not only the environment, but also for your health and your wallet.

While developing a complete IPM plan typically requires professional training and pest management expertise, you can still apply its underlying principles to help protect your home from pests.

Here are some simple steps you can take to keep pests out of your house or apartment:

  • Inspect for and monitor signs of pests
  • Clean up and reduce clutter
  • Keep food sealed and stored properly
  • Use metal garbage cans with tight-fitting lids
  • Remove standing water and fix leaks quickly
  • Seal cracks and holes along walls and baseboards
  • Install window screens and door sweeps

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Eco-Friendly Pest Control in New York City

Looking for effective and environmentally-friendly pest control? MMPC was one of the first pest control companies in New York to adopt IPM as our primary approach to pest control services. We work closely with clients to create customized solutions for your specific needs. 

If you have questions about Integrated Pest Management, or need help with pests in New York City and the surrounding areas, give MMPC a call today!