Integrated Pest Management – what is it?

Updated December 11, 2019
Integrated Pest Management – what is it?

We’ve all had those pesky pests that infiltrate our homes, gardens and landscapes. Often, we use pesticides or fertilizers to reduce those pest populations. Sometimes overuse of these chemicals if used overwhelmingly or not at the right time, can cause environmental harm because of the potential of them ending up untreated in our water ways. This is where Integrated Pest Management (IPM) comes in.

What is IPM?

IPM is a science-based method of managing pests using a step-by-step approach. This approach always takes into consideration the impact any method might have on the natural cycles of nature. IPM focuses on long-term solutions and techniques and only uses pesticides when no other method is effective at managing pests.

How can you adopt IPM in your own home?

When considering removing pests, consider these options:

  • Monitor pests: Check plants, garden, home and buildings for pest activity. Identify possible pests and the damage they may or may not be doing. If insects are seen but are not doing any damage, you might not need to control them. Example: If spiders, lady bugs or praying mantids (good bugs) are only on a plant outside the home, let them feed on insects (the bad bugs) instead of removing them. You can identify insects, good and bad using this website.

  • Biological controls: The use of natural enemies. Example: Lizards that eat snails, owls eat gophers and rats, opossums eat ticks, spiders eat flies and other insects, and everyone knows lady bugs eat an enormous number of aphids. We need to protect our natural predators that help us manage pests.

  • Cultural controls: These methods are very important to managing pests and diseases. Watering improperly can lead to the loss of trees, shrubs and lawns and can create conditions for weeds or diseases to flourish. Choosing the right plant for the right location is critical to having a healthy landscape and garden. These cultural factors are usually under your control and can be modified or improved.

  • Mechanical and physical controls: Physical controls are vitally important to IPM. Mulching helps control weeds and improve soil, window screens keep flies and mosquitoes out of the house and door sweeps keep rodents from entering under doorways. Mechanical methods like vacuuming up spiders and webs inside the house can avoid having to use pesticides. Snap traps for capturing rodents is also a form of mechanical control.

  • Chemical control: This is the use of a pesticide to control weeds, insects, diseases or rodents. Using IPM, pesticides are used only when needed and in combination with all the above methods used first to manage pests. So, pesticides should always be your last resort management tool – not the first.

    • If you do choose a pesticide, be sure the target pest is on the label and only use the amount prescribed on the label. Treat only the target pest and spot spray - do not broadcast pesticides.

    • There are many eco-friendly, effective pesticides that are available so use these products first.

    • Over application of pesticides is common and destructive to water, beneficial insects, animals and desirable plants. Realize that chemical and pesticide runoff in urban areas is the leading cause of water pollution in stormwater, creeks and rivers.
For more information

These methods listed above, when used together, are powerful tools in the IPM toolbox. For more information, visit University of California IPM program website.