Insect and plant pests are best controlled by an integrated pest management approach. Integrated pest management is a decision-making process that coordinates pest biology, site management goals, environmental conditions, consensus building, tools, technology and methods to prevent unacceptable levels of pest damage while minimizing risk to people, property, and the environment, including pollinators.

How does integrated pest management benefit people and pollinators?  

Integrated pest management can: 

  • Decrease pesticide use and reduce risk to pollinators, the environment, and people. 
  • Save time and money using a sustainable approach to manage pests. 
  • Decrease pest resistance from repetitive pesticide use.

When implementing integrated pest management, it’s helpful to:

  • Describe the pest problem: How is the pest impacting the site? 
  • Monitor the pest: How many are there? What is the destruction? How are they getting to the crop or other resource?  
  • Scout for pollinators: Determine where pollinators are and what plants they are using in your agricultural landscape. 
  • Know your site and its ecology: For example, soil and habitat type. Know your insect pests and their natural enemies (predators and competitors). Understand the biological and physical conditions (water, food, shelter, temperature, and light) that support natural enemies, and how to make your site more attractive to beneficial insects. 
  • Determine if plant damage from insect pests is at an unacceptable level: Establish an action threshold, which is the level of damage or number of pests at which a management strategy will be implemented to reduce the pest population.
  • Identify methods to control the pest: Implement the lowest risk, most effective methods and tools. 
  • Build consensus: Work with neighbors, such as beekeepers and natural resource managers, who may be affected by the pest and/or the management actions.
  • Keep records: Include your actions, the pest numbers, and level of damage, and evaluate your results. Determine if objectives have been achieved and if not, modify the strategy. 
  • Consult the services of local experts: Like certified crop advisors or your local extension office to help implement an integrated pest management program. Master Gardeners are available through many local extension offices to answer questions. 

What integrated pest management methods can you use?

  • Take no action (expect and accept some pest damage). 
  • Mechanical control, like machine tilling, aerating, cutting, digging. 
  • Cultural control, like plant trap crops and/or pest-resistant crops, implement crop rotation, use cover crops, water crops based on need, use clean weed- and insect-free mulch and other soil amendments, create beneficial insect habitat, choose plants that have not been treated with pesticides and ask if the plants you are purchasing are pesticide free. 
  • Biological control, like encouraging native predators. 
  • Pesticide control, like treat with pesticides such as insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, nematicides and rodenticides. 

If pesticide treatment is needed: 

  • Always read the label. Label information has safe usage, best management practices, application rates and application methods, as well as pollinator protection statements.  
  • Minimize the use of pesticides in and around nesting and forage sites. Nesting sites can be pithy stems, twigs, leaf duff, trees, shrubs, forbs, well-drained bare ground and crevices. Insecticides and fungicides can directly harm some pollinators if they are exposed. Herbicides can harm the plants that pollinators need for food and shelter. 
  • Avoid off-site movement of pesticides into pollinator habitat from your crops.  
  • Use the lowest possible boom height and coarse versus fine droplets. Apply pesticides when wind speeds are between three and nine miles per hour to reduce drift and temperatures are less than 85 degrees Fahrenheit to reduce volatilization. 
  • If possible, use precision application technology to focus the pesticide application directly on the target pest. 
  • Use the lowest effective pesticide application rate to control the target pest. 
  • Avoid scheduled or “calendar” sprays. Spray based on pest thresholds and monitoring.  
  • Apply pesticides when pollinators are least likely to be present, such as before or after blooming, or in late afternoon and evenings. For example, pollinators such as Normia bees rest in crop fields overnight and may be harmed by nighttime application of pesticides. 
  • Use liquid sprays and granules instead of dusts. Clean up spilled granules. Avoid use of micro-encapsulated pesticides that are similar in size to pollen and can be collected by pollinators and mistaken as food. 
  • Use vegetative buffer zones (grass or hedgerow of shrubs) between areas of pesticide application and pollinator habitats to reduce pesticide drift. 
  • Avoid the use of pesticides, especially insecticides, when and where there are flowers blooming. 
  • Consider products such as fatty acids or insecticidal soaps for soft-bodied insect pests such as aphids, mealy bugs, and mites, and for powdery mildew. You can also make your own diluted dish detergent or a vegetable oil/water/dish-detergent solution for use on these pests. Pheromone bait traps and attractants may be used for some pests such as Japanese beetles. 
  • Consult with your local extension agents and lawn-care professionals. 

If you are considering using treated crop seeds:

  • Before planting, determine if non-treated seed is adequate for use. 
  • Reduce drift at planting by use of a seed lubricant and incorporate the seeds immediately. 
  • Consider adding a vegetative buffer strip between the planted seed area and adjacent lands to aid in soil and surface water runoff reduction. 

Where can you find more information?