The balanced use of all available pest control methods is called Integrated Pest Management, usually abbreviated as IPM. The idea is simple. All available prevention and control methods are used to keep pests from reaching damaging levels. Pesticides are only used when necessary. The goal is to maintain acceptable quality and productivity while minimizing costs and any adverse effects which pesticides may have on the environment.
IPM in Municipal Settings
North Carolina's municipalities are growing very rapidly. Landscapes associated with urban areas, public parks and gardens, golf courses, and many home lawns and ornamentals, have traditionally been managed intensively using chemical pest control. Frequent pesticide use in a highly populated municipalities increases the risk and probability of pesticide exposures. On a per acre basis, the urban population uses ten times more chemical pesticides than do farmers. Pesticides are also frequently used to control insects in homes and public buildings, increasing the potential for exposure to pesticides in places where people live, work, and play.
The implementation of IPM programs for pest control in municipalities would reduce the amount of pesticide introduced into the environment. IPM programs have been implemented successfully in municipal areas in California, Maryland, and Florida. These communities have experienced a reduction in chemical pest control and maintenance costs and have resulted in the improved appearance of community landscapes. However, information regarding alternative methods of pest control in the urban environment is frequently difficult to find.
As practiced in agriculture, a sound IPM program is based on the acceptance and tolerance of pests at levels which do not significantly reduce the acceptability of the crop. Control steps are not usually taken until careful monitoring of pest populations indicates that economic losses could exceed costs of control. In municipal landscapes, it may be more difficult to determine acceptable injury levels since damage may be aesthetic rather than economic. Deciding that damage has reached an action threshold will vary with individual preference, visibility of the area and local policies.