By Rich Kozlovich
Originally published Saturday, March 5, 2011 updated March 8, 2016
The pillars that hold up the structure of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in structural pest control are arrogance, deceit, deception, ideology, lies, ignorance, scare tactics and its foundation is the Precautionary Principle; the bulwark of junk science.
What is IPM?
What actually is Integrated Pest Management? That is a constant bone of contention in the structural pest control industry, the universities and the anti-pesticide movement.
IPM started out as an agricultural concept which was first outlined in an obscure agricultural magazine called Hilgardia in 1959. In agriculture there's no problem defining IPM. They knew they couldn’t eradicate all of the pests in fields no matter how many times the fields were treated. Therefore, instead of over spraying and only getting marginally better results - which didn’t justify the added costs - it was decided to develop threshold limits that would apply before making pesticide applications. Therefore the logical foundation for IPM is based on threshold limits. A certain about of pests do a certain amount of damage. Once the threshold for damage occurs it will become economically practical to apply pesticides. That is a simple, logical, and scientific foundation for IPM in agriculture, which I am told isn’t really practiced in agriculture because of the cost of determining what the threshold limit actually is.
The way it works is this. Fields are divided into grids; so you measure down so many feet and shake off all the bugs into a container and then count them. Then you repeat this process over and over again. Usually it is some poor graduate student who is doing this hot, sweaty, rotten job. To have real workers doing it is expensive throughout a growing season. That is the logical foundation for the whole concept in agriculture; threshold limits based on economics.
Let me say this unequivocally, emphatically and absolutely. There is no logical or scientific foundation for such thing as IPM in structural pest control. What is the threshold limit for brown recluse spiders in someone’s home? Is it 10, 20 or maybe it's 100? I would be willing to bet the owner thinks it's zero.
In the 1960’s a minor government bureaucrat (in an attempt to categorize what we do) applied the term IPM to the structural pest control industry and it stuck. Based on the definitions by various government agencies it basically states the applicator has the right to use his judgment as to what to use and when. If that really is the case, then who has the right to determine what constitutes IPM otherwise?
IPM as the greenies would have it is an ethereal concept that is indefinable - or if you prefer - it is unendingly definable and re-definable according to your point of view, ideology or by just whimsically saying, “I don’t buy it” therefore it isn’t IPM. They advocate such mystical concepts as "Real IPM", or "Deep IPM" and “least toxic”. That may sound reasonable, but what constitutes real, deep or least toxic?
If we use the most efficacious product available to us one time to rid a home of pests - would that be considered "least toxic" versus use of a less efficacious product two, three, four or even ten times? Which would be "least toxic", and to whom? Who decides that?
Since they also want pesticides to be used as a last resort, the logical question should be - In the meanwhile what should be done? Should I have to use less effective measures? And if I do, for how long should I continue failing my customers with those methods? One day, one week, one month, one year? Who decides? Who’s going to pay for it? What about the customers needs and wants? Shouldn't they have the most effective treatment available for the health and saftey of their families or employees? If I have to make unnecessary trips to document that these pre-pesticide methods aren’t working, should the customer have to pay these extra unncessary charges in order for activists and bureaucrats to feel good about themselves? If I already know that a pesticide is what I am ultimately going to have to use to rid a property of vermin, why should that be my last choice? I will address the issues about health concerns later.
In reality the problem with IPM definitions by the greenies is similar to their “nebulous” definition of the Precautionary Principle (PP). This can make practical application nebulous. This in turn allows for arbitrary and capricious charges of misapplication, which is exactly what they want. Because of pressure from the EPA many states have had to create their own definitions therefore establishing the idea that IPM is real in our industry. No matter the science, if the state says it exists - it exists! At least on paper, and must be dealt with.
I had the privilege of being a part of that activity in Ohio, but make no mistake about this - IPM does not exist in structural pest control. It exists only because the government says it exists. Why? Why do they insist on the existence of something that has no simple, clear, logical or scientific foundation? I will address that later.
For a long time I kept hearing the phrase, “We need to get ahead of this and define IPM ourselves!" Baloney! Our goal should not have been to help define IPM in structural pest control - we should have worked unendingly to remove this agricultural term from the lexicon of structural pest control terms. To accept IPM as a valid structural pest control term is saying that this is a valid procedure that's something different, better, safer and more enlightened than traditional pest control. There is no way of getting ahead of this Trojan horse, and IPM is a Trojan horse to the pest control industry. And please remember - it was the Trojan’s, not the Greeks, who dragged that horse into Troy to their destruction. That account may be mythical, but we are facing that reality in our industry by dragging IPM into the pest control community. What will the result be?
IPM is an ideology, not a methodology, but before we further explore all the aspects of IPM we need to define what pest control is. Pest control isn’t a methodology either; it is a practice, much like medicine.
In medicine the doctor (practitioner) examines the patient. In pest control the technician (practitioner) inspects the property. In medicine the practitioner makes a diagnosis. In pest control the practitioner identifies the pest. In medicine the practitioner determines the treatment that will give the quickest most efficacious relief possible. In pest control the practitioner determines the treatment that will give the quickest most efficacious relief possible. In medicine the practitioner outlines a program of preventative health care. In pest control the practitioner outlines a program of preventative applications.
Here is the rub. Does the doctor go through a list of techniques or products before he prescribes the one that will work the best? NO! Does the doctor start his treatment process by “bleeding” his patients or sticking leeches on their bodies before moving on to more effective methods? NO! Yet those promoting IPM continue to demand that a whole host of hoops be jumped through before a pesticide application is made, insisting that pesticides are to be used only as a last resort. Even the EPA doesn't officially define IPM in that fashion. Are we to first resort to old techniques that became passé when pesticides were developed? If those techniques were so great why did they abandon them for modern pest control in the first place?
Why should an experienced practitioner have to follow a circuitous plan outlined by people who will do or say anything to eliminate pesticides? People who aren’t practitioners of pest control and aren’t responsible for the outcome! Do we really believe activists and their acolytes in government know how to treat a structure better than those in pest control? Do we really believe that all the theoretical health claims made by these people are true? Do we believe that everything we have been doing since the advent of DDT for over seventy years ago has been wrong?
What chemicals and techniques used in our industry constitute IPM? All of them! What happens when the baits stop working? The bulb dusters, the mechanical aerosols, aerosol cans, and liquid pesticides all start coming out of the truck. Those are all IPM tools. The techniques for their use are all IPM techniques also. So why is IPM different than what's commonly referred to as conventional pest control? A few years ago I was informed the number one and two products sold in this country are liquid pesticides. Someone out there must be spraying something!
Are we getting the message here?
IPM is pest control and needs no other term to define it. Unless there are hidden goals that are leading to something else by those with hidden agendas.
Let’s try to keep this in mind.
Every concept, every scientific advancement, every social issue, every economic activity has to have some logical foundation to justify its existence or it fails because without a logical foundation it can't grow into something that bears fruit.
If there is no logical foundation for a concept, it doesn’t exist.
There is no such logical foundation for IPM in structural pest control and it doesn't exist!
Part III will soon follow!
The Pillars of IPM, Part I