What is IPM?
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) relies on (1) locating and identifying pests, (2) getting rid of pests using traps, vacuuming, or other physical or mechanical means, (3) keeping pests out by blocking entry points such as cracks and holes, and (4) when necessary, using eco-friendly pesticides such as cockroach gel baits.
Finding a Pest Control Company that Uses IPM
Most pest control companies recognize that IPM solves pest problems more permanently than repeated spraying, because IPM emphasizes keeping pests out of buildings and working with residents on prevention. It’s still very important, though, to ask specifically for IPM services when you interview or hire a pest management company, or discuss services with your regular provider. In California, three programs certify and list pest control companies that provide IPM services.
- EcoWise Certified, based in California, administers a rigorous test to make sure licensed pest management professionals understand and can provide prevention-based pest control practices. They certify both companies and individuals.
- GreenPro, a program of the National Pest Management Association, certifies companies and IPM services that are “reduced risk, comprehensive, and effective.”
- Green Shield Certified, operated by the nonprofit IPM Institute of North America, certifies companies and services.
Even when you call a certified business, insist on IPM! Many certified companies offer both conventional spray programs and IPM services. Many companies that aren’t certified have their own green service options.
Questions to Ask a Pest Control Company
- Is your company certified by EcoWise, Green Pro, or Green Shield?
- Can I count on you to deliver IPM services?
- Will you send a person who specializes in IPM?
- Do you try other steps before using a pesticide?
- Will the services you provide keep pests from coming back?
- Can I see a typical service ticket? Make sure the ticket shows specific kinds of pests and where they were found on your property; structural conditions that should be corrected to keep pests away; and the recommended length of time before the next visit.
What’s Wrong with Routine Spraying?
Conventional pest control often relies on routine spraying of pesticides inside and around buildings, and along walkways. This may give temporary relief from visible pests, but pests that are hiding behind appliances or in wall spaces will survive and keep breeding. Pests can also become resistant to the pesticides. This means the non-IPM service provider will have to come back and spray again—treating the symptoms of a pest infestation, but not curing the problem. You may be both paying for services that are less effective than IPM, and living with pests.
What to Expect from IPM Services
The first visit will usually include inspection of your home or building, inside and out, to find out what kinds of pests are there; where they find food, water, and shelter; and how they get inside. The service person may leave sticky traps behind to confirm you have pests and learn where they’re hiding. The technician should give you a list of structural issues with the building that may provide places for pests to live and breed. IPM companies will often make simple structural repairs (“pest exclusion repairs”) as a service. You and the service provider should make an agreement about who is going to fix what, and when. The service person may suggest that you clear up clutter so that pests have fewer hiding places and are easy to spot. Don’t take it personally! IPM is a team effort. With clutter reduced and pest exclusion repairs complete, future IPM services are likely to be brief and limited to monitoring for pests (checking sticky traps). But if you see pests, be sure to call the IPM service company!
Does it Cost More?
IPM may cost more than conventional spray treatments at first, because of the time it takes to make a thorough inspection and the cost of repairs to keep pests out. Over time, IPM services should happen less often, take less time, and cost less. Studies show that IPM saves money in the long run.
The City of Goleta along with the Cities of Buellton, Carpinteria, Solvang, Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, and the County of Santa Barbara have partnered with the OWOW organization to promote the use of less-toxic products in an effort to reduce pesticide pollution in our communities. By reducing pesticide use and the use of less-toxic products around the home, you can help reduce pesticides and other pollutants such as herbicides and fertilizers from being picked up while watering or when it rains and transported to the nearest storm drain inlet and into our waterways. The OWOW website is a great resource for finding less-toxic products to use around your home or garden.