Contributors: J. R. Baker, Extension Entomologist; M.A. Powell, Extension Horticulture Specialist

Human beings have been contending with insects and mites since prehistoric times. Various types of substances and schemes have been tried for insect control with ever increasing efficacy (and sometimes with increased risk to humans and to the environment). The pesticide revolution began in the 1940's with the development of the chlorinated hydrocarbons and organophosphates. Pesticides have now been developed that are active at very low rates and tend to have specific modes of action. Because of their efficacy and relatively cheap initial cost (in comparison to some alternative methods of control), the synthetic organic chemicals are widely used as a quick fix for insect and mite suppression.

Dependence on chemicals as an exclusive control measure, however, has created pest populations that have adapted or developed resistance to the effects of certain chemicals. Even when pesticides are effective in eradicating the majority of pests in a population, some individuals may be unaffected by a particular chemical. Repeated use of chemicals having the same mode of action leads to an increase in the population of unaffected individuals. Over time, a pesticide which is used repeatedly will become ineffective against the resistant pest population.

Although pesticides control undesirable pests, they also increase the mortality rate of desirable organisms or natural enemies within the habitat. These problems, in addition to environmental and cost factors, have stimulated the search for alternative strategies for control of insect and mite pests.

Natural Control Cultural Control Biological Control
Alternative Chemicals Suppliers of Beneficial Insects

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Last Modified: 07/10/96