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Introduction to Integrated Pest Management

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an environmentally friendly, common sense approach to controlling pests. The IPM principles and benefits described below apply to any type of structure and landscaping.

On this page:

Principles of IPM

Traditional pest control involves the routine application of pesticides. IPM, in contrast:

  • Focuses on pest prevention.
  • Uses pesticides only as needed.

This provides a more effective, environmentally sensitive approach.

IPM programs take advantage of all appropriate pest management strategies, including the judicious use of pesticides. Preventive pesticide application is limited because the risk of pesticide exposure may outweigh the benefits of control, especially when non-chemical methods provide the same results.

IPM is not a single pest control method but rather involves integrating multiple control methods based on site information obtained through:

  • inspection;
  • monitoring; and
  • reports.

Consequently, every IPM program is designed based on the pest prevention goals and eradication needs of the situation. Successful IPM programs use this four-tiered implementation approach:

Identify Pests and Monitor Progress

Correct pest identification is required to:

  • Determine the best preventive measures.
  • Reduce the unnecessary use of pesticides.

Additionally, correct identification will prevent the elimination of beneficial organisms. When monitoring for pests:

  • Maintain records for each building detailing:
    • monitoring techniques;
    • location; and
    • inspection schedule.
  • Record monitoring results and inspection findings, including recommendations.

Many monitoring techniques are available and often vary according to the pest. Successful IPM programs routinely monitor:

  • pest populations;
  • areas vulnerable to pests; and
  • the efficacy of prevention and control methods.

IPM plans should be updated in response to monitoring results.

Set Action Thresholds

An action threshold is the pest population level at which the pest's presence is a:

  • nuisance;
  • health hazard; or
  • economic threat.

Setting an action threshold is critical to guiding pest control decisions. A defined threshold will focus the size, scope, and intensity of an IPM plan.

Prevent Pests

IPM focuses on prevention by removing conditions that attract pests, such as food, water, and shelter. Preventive actions include:

  • Reducing clutter.
  • Sealing areas where pests enter the building (weatherization).
  • Removing trash and overgrown vegetation.
  • Maintaining clean dining and food storage areas.
  • Installing pest barriers.
  • Removing standing water.
  • Educating building occupants on IPM.

Control Pests

Pest control is required if action thresholds are exceeded. IPM programs use the most effective, lowest risk options considering the risks to the applicator, building occupants, and environment. Control methods include:

  • Pest trapping.
  • Heat/cold treatment.
  • Physical removal.
  • Pesticide application.

Documenting pest control actions is critical in evaluating success and should include:

  • An on-site record of each pest control service, including all pesticide applications, in a searchable, organized system.
  • Evidence that non-chemical control methods were considered and implemented.
  • Recommendations for preventing future pest problems.

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Protecting the health of children is one of EPA’s top priorities. Pollution Prevention, known as P2, has been a cornerstone at EPA for implementing programs that protect children’s health and the environment. 

EPA recommends that schools use integrated pest management (IPM) - a Smart, Sensible and Sustainable approach to pest control:

  • Smart because IPM creates a safer and healthier learning environment by managing pests and reducing children’s exposure to pests and pesticides.
  • Sensible since practical strategies are used to reduce sources of food, water and shelter for pests in school buildings and grounds.
  • Sustainable because the emphasis is on prevention, which makes it an economically advantageous approach.

IPM is an effective and environmentally-sensitive approach that offers a wide variety of tools to reduce contact with pests and exposure to pesticides. The website focuses on providing vital information in the school setting to parents, school administrators, staff and pest management professionals. Knowledgeable, proactive stakeholders can enable a community to prevent or significantly reduce pollution from unnecessary pesticide use.

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Benefits of Integrated Pest Management

IPM offers several benefits. It helps to:

  • Reduce the number of pests.
  • Reduce the number of pesticide applications.
  • Save money while protecting human health.

Did you know that children in the United States continue to face serious risks arising from pests and the use of pesticides in certain cases? 

Children may:

  • Continue to contract diseases carried by biting insects.
  • Suffer respiratory attacks from exposure to asthma triggers and allergens attributed to cockroach and rodent infestations.
  • Be exposed unnecessarily to pesticides that have been over-applied or misused in settings they frequent, such as schools.

In the United States, more than 53 million children and 6 million adults spend a significant portion of their days in more than 120,000 public and private schools. IPM provides an opportunity to create a safer learning environment – to reduce children’s exposure to pesticides as well as eliminate pests.

A school IPM program prescribes common sense strategies to reduce sources of food, water and shelter for pests in school buildings and grounds. Put simply, IPM is a safer and usually less costly option for effective pest management in the school community.

Health Benefits

Adopting IPM reduces exposure to both pests and pesticides. Two health concerns faced throughout the country by children and adults are:

  • Allergies.
  • Asthma.

Rodents, cockroaches, and dust mites are often present in buildings and can cause or inflame serious allergic reactions and asthma attacks. Studies in New York City 

  • revealed a significant association between the prevalence of asthma among children and adults, and the incidence of pests, allergens (high cockroach and mouse allergen levels) and pesticides found in public housing; and
  • demonstrated the effectiveness of IPM in controlling these allergens.

Read an article about the IPM intervention, with citations of studies about allergens from pests.

While pesticides can play a key role in IPM programs, by their very nature most pesticides pose some risk. They are powerful tools for controlling pests but need to be used carefully and judiciously.

Find information on specific chemicals.

Economic Considerations

There are cost savings associated with using IPM. IPM may be more labor intensive than conventional pest control and may require more up front resources. However, costs are generally lower over time because the underlying cause of the pest problem has been addressed. IPM practices also provide financial benefits unrelated to pests. For example, weatherization of buildings not only excludes pests but also saves energy and reduces moisture problems.

Saving Dollars and Making Sense: Keeping Bugs Out of the Classroom

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