GreenCAP: Integrated Pest Management
Pest Control the IPM* Way
A pest control professional shares his stories.
The IPM Way. Instead of automatically using pesticides, IPM experts ask:
What is the pest? What conditions attract or nourish the pest? Where are the pests getting in? breeding? What changes will eliminate the pests' access, food, water and hiding places? What structural repairs or improvements in sanitation and hygiene are needed? Who needs to be educated about IPM?
In the fall of 1995 and 1996 there was a major invasion of lady bird beetles into structures looking for shelter from the coming cold season. Warm days followed by cool evenings caused this instinctive behavior. The beetles would hide under siding and in cracks around windows and enter any place not sealed from the outside. They appeared indoors in large numbers. This problem was so common and widespread that it was reported in news stories all over Southern New England. Many customers called in a panic asking for a pesticide treatment seeking relief. However, pesticides were not the solution.
Lady bird beetles do no damage or harm to people, plants or property, so the public's alarm was unjustified. The solution was simply to remove the beetles by using a broom or a vacuum cleaner to sweep them up. We advised callers to release them back outdoors so the beetles could find other more suitable shelter over the winter or to store them in brown craft paper bags in an unheated area for release in the spring where they would begin to feed on aphids, caterpillars and other plant-eating insects. We also advised callers to inspect the structure and look for cracks and crevices to caulk and seal to avoid the beetles getting inside next season.
A woman called to sheepishly ask how to treat her adult daughter's case of body lice. She had received conflicting advice from two different sources. One source said to treat the dwelling with pesticides and the other said it was not necessary--which was the correct advice. Body lice are a medical condition known as pediculosis and are treated with prescription shampoos or lotions. Lice are "obligatory parasites" and cannot survive off the warm-blooded host for more than a few hours. In this case, the mother was considering discarding linens, mattress, box spring, bed frames, and even articles of clothing. All unnecessary! Also, the use of pesticide sprays or powders would have no impact on the problem. (People often mistakenly believe that pesticides have antiseptic or sanitizing qualities which they do not possess. ) Body lice are spread by close, intimate contact. The daughter's boyfriend was not infested so the source of the problem was most likely her close contact with children who were living in a short-term care facility where she was a social worker. In this case, the mother was greatly relieved that no clothing or belongings needed to be discarded.
(For more information to avoid the "entirely unwarranted" use of lice pesticide sprays on personal belongings or furnishings, call the National Pediculosis Association, (617) 449-NITS.)
In the winter of 1996, more western cone nose bugs were invading homes and other buildings than they had in many years. They were entering through cracks and other openings around doors and windows. These large unattractive insects feed on green pine cones and will not eat or reproduce indoors. If ignored, they will simply dehydrate and die. The winter of 1995 was very cold with record snows. These conditions caused a bumper crop of pine cones in Southern New England which caused the cone nose bug population to explode during the summer of 1996. Seasonally cold weather drove them indoors to look for shelter. Normally somewhat cold tolerant, they remained active throughout the mild winter of 1996. Sealing cracks and crevices around a building and making sure doors and windows are closed tightly will stop the invasion. Simply sweep up Cone Nose Bugs and discard them outdoors. No chemical treatment is necessary.
Over the winter of 1996 a residential customer was seeing Tachinid flies. It was the first time he had had the problem in the many years he had lived in the home. The homeowner asked for an insecticide application inside the house and inside the walls. We resisted his request because it would not solve the problem. We knew that the flies would dehydrate and die on their own. Tachinid flies do not eat or reproduce indoors. The first step was to find where they were entering or hiding and then to seal them out. A lighted glue trap in the attic caught no flies. Lighted traps were set up in the living areas of the home. One was placed inside an unused fireplace behind a fine mesh fireplace screen. The trap inside the dining room caught no flies, but the trap in the fireplace caught many even though the fireplace flue was closed. This prompted more questions.
We learned that this was the first winter in many that the home owner had not used the fireplace. The flies had obviously invaded the fireplace in the fall and survived because a roaring fire would have burned or smoked them out. The flue was not air tight and allowed the flies to find ways to enter the home. The homeowner solved the problem by lighting one good fire which ended the fly invasion. An insecticide application would have knocked the adult flies down but new flies would soon have reappeared. Treating the symptoms, even with repeated chemical applications, would not have solved the fly problem and certainly would not have satisfied the customer.
*IPM is Integrated Pest Management, a proactive problem-solving approach to weed, insect and rodent control that reduces or eliminates the need for pesticides. IPM relies on outsmarting the pests to prevent and remedy conditions that attract pests and allow them to thrive. IPM provides effective long-term control of pests and protects the health and safety of your family, the environment and the community.
If you would like to learn more about Integrated Pest Management, call the Green Decade's Committee for Alternatives to Pesticides, (617) 965-1995.