What is IPM?

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an approach to pest control that utilizes regular monitoring and record keeping to determine if and when treatments are needed and employs a combination of strategies and tactics to prevent unacceptable damage or annoyance. Biological, cultural, physical, mechanical, educational, and chemical methods are used in site-specific combinations to solve the pest problem. Chemical controls are used only when needed and in the least-toxic formulation that is effective against the pest. Educational strategies are used to enhance pest prevention and to build support for the IPM program.

Why use IPM in schools?

Although pesticides often have a role to play in IPM programs for schools, their use should be approached with caution. The risk of harm from exposure to pesticides is relatively higher for infants and children than for adults exposed at the same levels. By using the least-toxic product effective against the pest and applying it as a spot treatment in combination with non-chemical methods such as pest-proofing and improved sanitation, risks from pesticide exposure can be minimized. The term "least-toxic" refers to pesticides that have low or no acute or chronic toxicity to humans, affect a narrow range of species, and are formulated to be applied in a manner that limits or eliminates exposure of humans and other non-target organisms. Fortunately, there are an increasing number of pesticides that fit within this "least-toxic" definition. Examples include products formulated as baits, pastes, or gels that do not volatilize in the air and that use very small amounts of the active ingredient pesticide and microbial pesticides formulated from fungi, bacteria, or viruses that are only toxic to specific pest species but harmless to humans.

Components of IPM

One of the characteristics of an IPM approach that makes it so effective is that the basic decision-making process is the same for any pest problem in any location. The strategies and tactics may change, but the steps taken to decide if and when treatment is needed, and which methods to use, are the same each time. Thus, the pest manager does not need to try to remember reams of pest control "recipes" for specific pests. Instead, it is an understanding of the components of an IPM program that must be mastered. An IPM program is built around the following components:

  • monitoring the pest population and other relevant factors (e.g. damage levels)
  • accurate identification of the pest
  • determining injury and action levels in the trigger treatments
  • selecting the least disruptive tactics
  • timing treatments to the best advantage
  • spot treating the pest (to minimize human and other non-target organism exposure to pesticides and to contain costs)
  • evaluating the effectiveness of treatments to fine-tune future actions
  • educating all people involved with the pest problem

Each of these components is disussed in detail in Integrated Pest Management in Sensitive Environments: A How To Guide.

Learn About IPM Decision Making

University of Nebraska - Lincoln Extension asks school officials to identify how the IPM in Schools Team can best help them and invites their participation in applying principles to their schools. Read more about getting started and making decisions about IPM.