Ipm inside and out

IPM, Integrated Pest Management, has been around since the 1950’s, mainly for agriculture. Synthetic pesticides were coming into their own after World warII and this approach was developed to replace ‘calendar’ use of applications to more of a monitoring and action once thresholds were exceeded approach. Very smart. This allowed pesticides to be applied to pest specific and site specific areas (fields) rather than a whole region just because it was the season. Resistance was then lessened as a result. Since some insects (weeds, fungi etc.) were left untreated they could not build up a resistance thus their genes, passed on to future insects did not have this built in defense. Again smart.

There was much more to early IPM like preventative cultural practices, monitoring, biological and mechanical controls. It was all “integrated” so I guess the name fits.

By the early 1970’s IPM was developed into a national policy and steps were being taken to ensure it’s use in all areas of pesticide application, including, the pest control service provided to homes and businesses across the land.

Integrated pest management is a phrase, a philosophy, an approach that seems to be most widely accepted by the pest control industry. It is a standard that the most learned (entomologists etc.) promote and what most pest control operators (that I know of anyway) are trying to follow.

To me this is smart, makes sense and is a sustainable way to go. But a problem occurs right off the bat because there is NO ONE set definition. Oh sure, the right University so & so says such and such or the big conglomerate pest company with its multi million dollar ad campaign claims that they’re the standard…. but if this is true then why isn’t there one set of rules? One protocol?

Case In Point

Recently a tech on an online forum thread claimed that IPM was the absence of ALL chemicals. That was his definition and what he claimed we ALL needed to abide by. Others quickly chimed in with their definitions of course but in the end….NONE, not one of them aligned with each other- close I grant you but enough of a difference in them that it was still a point of contention. The other point of this friction fraught discussion on the thread was the mere mention of words like ‘spray’. Surely words are important and words have meaning…  but in some offices words like this were taboo (so said the commenters) and the opinion of some, including the afore mentioned tech…. “these words should never be uttered by those in the pest control industry.”

Wow- I absolutely detest politically correct approaches and this is a classic reason why..it starts with good intentions sure, but soon dictates actions and from actions to words and speech and from there even “thoughts” will be on trial…. sorry, not something that’s for me.

The odd thing to me was that this tech works for a company who ‘power sprays’ around each customers home as part of their REGULAR service. Power spray? Ironic use of words don’t you think? I mean not only does his company spray, it add’s the word ‘power’ which sort of implies a forceful and plentiful amount of pesticide, but I digress. The type of ‘spray’ described here I’m well familiar with. It’s either a powered rig (15, 25, 100 gallon) & 8 to 10 gallons of chemical mix are ‘sprayed’ through a 300 foot hose with a ‘spray gun’ at the end of it. Heavy spray goes around the perimeter at the base of the home but some even put this thick stream of product along the eaves and around the windows and doors. THIS IS FOR REGULAR SERVICE VISITS!!. Or, at the least a powered back pack where I understand the amount on each svc is about 3-5 gallons. That still seems like an awful lot to me. Within label limits? I imagine so, and please, don’t get me wrong but I’d say that this service is kind of a ‘hosing’ down of the home wouldn’t you?  To boot, this person was on record saying (and many agreed with this amount if not more) that he’d do 15 stops or so per day. That’s a ton of stops, and please just tell me. Just where is the integral part of IPM on “inspections, monitoring or determining the thresholds and circumstances etc. with that amount of stops? Even BEFORE you whip out the spray? My contention, it’s not there. Can’t be with that type of work load, at least not in any meaningful kind of way. The mere fact that you don’t go inside to treat doesn’t make you green and is not proof that you’re applying pesticides responsibly or not. This approach to me is just as screwy as the “baseboard jockey” or “spray and pray” approach that’s been so maligned all these years but I hardly ever find it criticized.

As an aside, imo…..I don’t believe this or even “exterior only” approaches are strictly due to the fact that said company is looking out solely for your wellbeing and safety. I said “imo”….. The fact is that scheduling inside service is one of the more difficult tasks in running a pest control business. Endless phone calls and skips or reschedules are so common place just to name the top few problems. Eliminating interior service has proved to be a HUGE BOON to many companies that have adopted such an approach and they’re not shy about saying so… Suddenly 15 to 20 stops a day is very achievable and wiping out all the man hours it takes to call these folks makes for more ‘productive’ time doing other things. So I believe it is just as much if not more a financial or business decision as it is an opportunity to be more environmentally friendly.  Did I mention imo? (in my opinion)

Hmmm. In my little business we don’t go so far overboard on definitions, in other words, we don’t wear them on our sleeves but I think we’re actually more of a ‘green’, IPM, less is better type firm than what is so often said to be the standard. While this companies approach is indeed “nothing inside” for fear of exposing people pets and things to “deadly pesticides.” (his words not mine)  They pull up to the house, fire up the rig and ‘spray’ gallons upon gallons all around the home. Hmmm, birds are watching, dog comes by to sniff what you’ve done, the drift even on a calm day is gonna land off target and maybe even over to the neighbors house. (that’s ok-maybe they’re under this green companies contract too)

Meanwhile me, or others like me do go inside as part of our regular service. We might carry in a ‘spray can’ aka B&G–gasp*, I said it!!! And/or a duster, some sticky pads, bait guns or just what have you. All carried in with an “IPM” bag or maybe a service belt. We judiciously treat cracks and crevices or spots as allowed by the label, as is/has been industry standard for years and then head outside once done. Here, some use that same B&G to treat cracks and crevices on the exterior, some (like me) use a hand powered backpack. Perhaps we see wasps nest, a trail of ants or just the need for a good “targeted” insecticide barrier to keep any of these unwanted pests away for the 2 or 3 months we’re guaranteeing our work. We can do this because we’re relying our knowledge, our inspection results and…… our pesticides residual!!!!  Oh my, such sacrilege. I apologize for the language. Is that not good sound practice? Does this sound like an unprofessional approach? I think not.

Ipm Confusion

The confusion on definitions is really no ones fault. The days of just ‘one handbook’ that we all go by took a back seat to the internet. Well, actually way before that but it’s definitely todays standard of pseudo research. With a simple click of the mouse we can find so much more information faster than ever before. The problem with that as I see it is that your top hits are almost all because of a popularity contest–not simply based on facts or true information. Get more clicks and you’re on page one. When you’re on page one it’s more likely your comment or article is viewed as true-or the standard you were looking for. Why? Simply because it’s on page one and quite frankly, simply because many are to eager to give up searching and/or finding out the truth. Hardly a scientific or factual way to come to a conclusion…I’d say it represents more of a consensus…and a consensus does NOT represent anything other than a popularity contest at best. So, do we want our industry based on feel good contest or something rooted in fact? You decide I guess.

If you google (there I go with that pseudo research) IPM definitions you will get at least 15 different variations in just the first page. There’s even a web site devoted entirely to the definition.Who by the way admit that there is no ONE set definition and that indeed the topic is confusing. All however seem well thought out and so many are so close to the others. The basic premise is there I agree and seems to be agreed upon which is good. The problem however is that with no one set protocol there is no one set standard. Bar none. And while your company touts the virtue of IPM that you practice yet decry’s the firm across town just because their approach is different, just how can you say your set of rules is right and theirs is not?

Did you know?

The ESA, (Entomological Society Association) along with the Weed Science Society of America (WSSA), the American Phytopathological Society (APS) Associations had an interesting take of the definition of IPM. They, warned of the dangers of “last resort” and “least toxic” approach and how this really may not be the smartest move in all cases. I linked to it- not my words, theirs. However, that really didn’t go over so well and to find it, you kind of have to dig. It seems like any negative critique of the “zero pesticide” at all costs mantra isn’t being received so well these days. (I suppose this article may get some of that) However, these are well respected entities, one simply can’t deny their presence in the pest control industry nor deny their great ‘thinkers’ who’ve stewed over the issue just like so many others have. Can we?

The real problem as I see it is that the philosophy & flexibility of Ipm doesn’t seem to be what mainstream industry folks perceive as what’s right or acceptable. It seems that its either my way or the highway mentality and this is prevalent in magazines, online and or at every meeting you go to. Hardly seems like there’s any other option when obviously there is. AND!! That option is not illegal, not immoral, not a cheap way out and has been part of the industry standards since the beginning. To me this rigid approach seems more like it’s heading down a one way path and in my opinion may be something we regret once we find out just what a slippery slope we’ve planted our feet on, the waters pretty deep once we go over the edge.  It’s a cause for division and lends to the idea one half of the industry is smarter or more reasoned than another, which only leads to more strife and more forced division. Instead of reasoned debate one side is either called a tree hugger or the other side a baseboard jockey… it’s time to just stop.

I think we can do better than that.



About The Bug Doctor

Jerry Schappert is a certified pest control operator and Associate Certified Entomologist with over two and a half decades of experience from birds to termites and everything in between. He started as a route technician and worked his way up to commercial/national accounts representative. Always learning in his craft he is familiar with rural pest services and big city control techniques. Jerry has owned and operated a successful pest control company since 1993 in Ocala,Florida. While his knowledge and practical application has benefitted his community Jerry wanted to impart his wisdom on a broader scale to help many more. Pestcemetery.com was born from that idea in 2007 and has been well received. It is the goal of this site to inform you with his keen insights and safely guide you through your pest control treatment needs.

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