Oct 27, 2012 – Is IPM Worth It?


First, can you help me find ancient or even Biblical references to pest management chemicals and concepts? I have read of some, but perhaps you have others. Second question, do routine barrier sprays actually do more unnecessary kills of insects than good kills, such as carpenter ants or roaches trying to trail up the side of a house? I understand the need to stop ants/roaches from crawling into the home, but the Pyrethroids restriction of only "3 ft up" is kind of a bummer. I'd prefer the worded it instead like "a barrier no taller than 3 ft", to imply that it could begin at 3 ft high and stop at 6 ft up the wall if the PMP wanted. My third question regards servicing using IPM, and I have actually read and found through personal experience that customers expect chemical to be sprayed, even with no pests there. I think the idea of hiring a PMP to come on a routine basis and having him do only an inspection and leave seems like it wouldn't be as worthwhile to the customer as if he came, did a nice maintenance spray, maybe some bait, and left. I generally don't do a dedicated inspection of the property first and have been doing routine sprays in and out. I think NOT spraying would just raise the odds of pests being there next time. I am skeptical of the value of a technician doing only spot applications around thresholds or behind equipment. Do big companies really send a guy out, charge a standard fee, and maybe not even offer a guaranteed perimeter-type spray? I feel like the IPM stories in the magazines allude to a world where PMPs are more into fixing doors, trimming bushes, handy man type tasks, and sometimes use chemical. Imagine you are a homeowner who noticed a few roaches inside, called a pest control company, got a quote for a start-up, and hired someone to come out. He talked to you, walked around the place, and only sprayed C&C inside areas, pointed out an air gap in the door, and offered to fix it for an EXTRA fee. Would you really be satisfied paying as much as most companies charge plus the door-fix fee? I feel like IPM encourages fixing seals and outside conditions but not much in the realm of preventive CHEMICAL treatments, like hitting it with a 2-month routine spray even if nothing's there at the time, and I think that's what most of my customers expect they are paying for. Leaving them with a note that they didn't have any bugs and that they should hire someone to fix that front door gap does not really, in my opinion, justify the price. I do believe in being reasonably respectful of Nature, but I believe there is almost zero demand for a true IPM service in my area. What are your thoughts on these things? A final question. Are Masterline Bifenthrin 7.9% and the original Talstar going to provide the same results? I know both brands contain 7.9% bifenthrin, but are the other inert ingredients important in the end residual properties?


Your question is a very interesting one, and I hope it was OK to reword it a bit to reduce the length, and hope the meaning is still intact. First, I think you should expect MasterLine Bifenthrin and Talstar liquid concentrate to provide pretty much the same results. All things considered, once everything dries following the application what you are left with on the surface is the bifenthrin, and this is what will kill the pest insect. Second, on the new restrictions for pyrethroids outdoors, we probably should be happy for now with the ability to treat up to 3 feet above grade (California has reduced this to 2 feet). The issue of pyrethroids moving off site and into natural waterways is a hot one, and we probably have not seen the end of the challenges from anti-pesticide groups who would prefer pyrethroids were not used at all. We can accept that most PMPs could be given the ability to make their own decisions, but every industry has its, shall we say, bad apples, and there would be those who would take that ability to do as they wish and misuse the products. 

On historical references to pest management, I am no authority on The Bible, so I cannot help you there. But, of course, The Bible does mention the "10 Plagues" that include lice, flies, and locusts, so pest problems certainly were in their thoughts. Historical references to pest control and chemicals are abundant. In 1200 B.C. the ancient Egyptians used hemlock and aconite to control unwanted bugs. In 1000 B.C. the Greeks used burning sulfur to "fumigate" homes to kill bugs. In the first century A.D. Pliny The Elder recorded the pest control practices of the previous 3 centuries, including using "gall" from a lizard to protect apples from bugs and rot. Early Romans used another plant called Hellebore to kill rats and insects. Ninth century Chinese used arsenic to kill insects and in the 1300's Marco Polo referenced the use of mineral oil to kill lice on camels. The toxic qualities of pyrethrum, rotenone, and boric acid (borax) have been known for many centuries, so ancient peoples were able to use natural insecticides to help better their lives. 

Your thoughts on IPM are the most important here, and in the interest of space I guess I'll need to keep my reply down a bit. First, I agree that there is that percentage of homeowners who still want toxic chemicals applied to their home every time you come, and who believe that if you did not "spray something" they did not get their money's worth. I believe this is very, very old thinking on their part and it needs to change, and the only way it is going to change is for our industry to educate them to understand better what the nature of pesticides is and what our role should be. We should not be attempting to kill all living creatures on a property, and even when a customer DEMANDS that you kill the frogs or lizards or praying mantids or ladybugs, because they just get the creeps with these things, it is important for us to make every effort NOT to do so. Maybe we even should walk away from some customers who demand that we harm the environment in their belief that it makes them happier. 

I think that IPM clearly offers the best long term pest management, even for the customers who currently think that pesticides are the answer to everything. A much better approach to simply spraying the same things onto the same surfaces on every visit, regardless of whether or not there is actually something to kill, would be to evaluate the property to determine what conditions exist that are inviting pests to be there and then supporting their existence on that property. Doesn't it make more sense to close that gap under the door that the roaches, earwigs, spiders, and mice are using to get inside than to have to spray toxic substances inside to kill them now that they made it in? Does it make more sense to trim branches away from the roof and exterior walls so that bugs cannot use them for pathways in, than to have to spray those branches on every visit in an effort to keep the bugs from trailing on them? I believe that IPM addresses these issues and is very important for us to embrace. 

What the customer really is paying for is relief from unwanted pests, and too many of them still cling to the idea that the only way to accomplish this is to spray often enough that a constant layer of active insecticide exists around their home and everywhere inside. Perhaps this made more sense when the older active ingredients first came into use and could last for several months, but this constant use is also a wonderful way to encourage resistance to the active ingredients as well as to pose the opportunity for the wrong living creatures to be exposed to the material. Rather than hoping that a layer of insecticide will intercept crawling ants and roaches before they make it into the house, we should remove the harborage outside that they hide in, remove the food resources that they rely on, and close permanently the openings they need to get inside. 

Our industry's leaders and experts and consultants all agree that the non-chemical steps of exclusion, sanitation, habitat modification, and other handy-man tasks are just as important in pest management as is the use of pesticides. We must address these "contributing conditions" or we will have a constant presence of the pests outside that are putting constant pressure on the inside. Talking with the customer, helping them understand the benefit of IPM, and helping to reduce our reliance on pesticides are good things. In addition, if WE don't lead the way on this it will be forced upon us. We really do need to be the leaders in protecting the environment. It is the way things are going with your customer base too, and you will find more and more of them who would prefer knowing that they are not having their homes sprayed constantly. We really don't want to be the pill-pushers who prefer to hold a problem at bay with chemicals when we could take a different approach and correct the root causes of the disease. 

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