The Basics of Pest Management

Pest management involves monitoring and controlling pests to protect plants, animals, people and the environment. Control methods include preventing pests from becoming problems, suppression (reducing their numbers), and eradication (destroying them).

Prevention includes denying pests food, water, shelter and space. It also means avoiding clutter where they can hide. Contact Armis Pest Management now!

Pests are unwanted organisms (insects, diseases, weeds, nematodes, vertebrate animals or plants) that degrade and damage human or natural products or resources, including agricultural crops, food stores, lawns, gardens, homes and buildings. They can also displace and cause significant economic damage to wildlife and disrupt terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.

The first step in pest management is prevention. It is generally less costly and environmentally responsible than suppression or eradication. It involves preventing pests from entering a facility through regularly cleaning and sanitizing areas where they are likely to settle, avoiding conditions that promote their growth and development, and implementing cultural, biological or physical controls.

A well-established preventive program enables plant and QA managers to slash pesticide costs while staying in compliance with the Food Safety Modernization Act, or FSMA. Rather than a knee-jerk reaction to spraying pests, prevention programs empower technicians to work smarter by using the most effective methods possible, such as IPM.

IPM incorporates all aspects of the pest control process: trend analysis, risk assessment, exclusion, sanitation and cleaning, maintenance and cultural practices. By prioritizing prevention, technicians can avoid the need for chemical interventions and keep customers satisfied by reducing pest populations before they grow out of control.

Taking advantage of IPM can reduce pest control costs by one-third, while slashing pest complaints by 90 percent. Integrated pest management is not a quick fix; it requires vigilance and dedication, but the results are well worth the effort.

Preventive measures include keeping kitchen and bathroom areas scrupulously clean, sealing any cracks or openings that pests could use to gain access, locating trash cans away from entrances, trimming bushes and vegetation and fixing leaky water pipes. In a commercial setting, it means regularly cleaning equipment and materials and sanitizing storage facilities.

Observing environmental factors that contribute to pest problems, such as soil conditions, crop conditions and timing, will help identify the best controls to implement. Understanding pest life cycles and knowing their favored habitats will also help when selecting the proper controls. Considering the type of pest and the size of the infestation will also dictate the type of control needed.


The goal of suppression is to reduce pests to levels below those that cause unacceptable damage, whether to crops or property. This is often a matter of setting an action threshold, where any pests must be controlled before they can cause unacceptable injury. Thresholds may be based on esthetic or health considerations, and they can also be influenced by economic factors.

There are several different methods for suppressing pests, depending on the type of pest and the problem. Some pests are naturally controlled by predatory birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians; parasitic insects or plants; grazing animals; pathogens; or other natural enemies. Increasing the abundance of these natural enemies can help reduce pest populations, and biological control is an important area of research in pest management.

Some crops, trees, structures, and types of soil are resistant to certain pests, and use of these varieties can help prevent pest problems from occurring in the first place. Sanitation practices, such as improving sanitation in food handling areas and removing food sources and places of shelter, can also prevent pests from becoming a nuisance.

Chemical controls, such as using resistant crop varieties, can also help prevent pest infestations by making conditions less favorable for them to survive and thrive. The application of pheromones, such as the artificial release of female insect pheromones to confuse males and prevent mating, can also reduce pest numbers. Juvenile hormones can also be used to keep pest populations below damaging levels by preventing them from maturing into normal, reproducing adults.

Phytosanitary measures, such as weeding and removing spoiled crops, can also be useful in reducing the number of pests. In addition, some plant disease organisms are able to infect only certain kinds of host plants under specific conditions, and so can be kept to a minimum by limiting the types of hosts.

Devices, machines, or other physical controls can be used to alter the environment and condition of cultivated plants in order to prevent or suppress an infestation of unwanted organisms. These include traps, screens, barriers, fences, radiation, and other physical means of altering the environment in which a pest normally exists.


Insects, plants and other organisms are regarded as pests when they cause damage that is economically or ecologically undesirable. Eradication methods reduce the pest population to levels where harm is not unacceptable. This is usually accomplished by using preventive and suppression methods, with chemical control as the last resort in a comprehensive integrated pest management plan.

Preventive measures help prevent pest invasions and infestations from developing by frequently cleaning areas where the pest is likely to live, planting crops that discourage host selection, avoiding wasteful cultivation practices and other cultural activities. Suppression measures inhibit pest activity and population growth by quickly implementing control measures when pests are first detected. Chemical pest control methods may be used in a variety of situations, including crop protection and household pest control.

Eradication is the most challenging to accomplish, as it involves destroying all specimens of the pest. This can be extremely difficult and expensive, as is evidenced by the difficulty of eradicating smallpox and rinderpest. The word itself derives from the Latin eradicare, meaning “to pull up by the roots.”

The goal of eradication is to destroy all of a pest species at localities where it is causing economic or environmental harm. In addition to the physical destruction of all pests, this also includes eradicating the pathogen that causes the pest’s disease. Unfortunately, this level of accomplishment is often unobtainable.

Many pesticide failures result from incorrect identification or application. Sometimes the wrong type of pesticide is applied to a problem site or at the time when the pest is most active. Other times, the pest has evolved resistance to the chemical or has escaped the pesticide.

Regional cooperative pest management is essential for eradicating large, widespread infestations. Monitoring at several locations reveals the speed and direction of pest movements and makes it easier to respond by applying preventive, suppression and eradication methods at the right times and in the right places. Regional pest management programs also encourage people to pool resources, information and efforts, which improves individual motivation and the effectiveness of the overall effort.

Biological Management

Biological management involves the conscious use of living organisms to control unwanted insects, mites, weeds, or diseases. These organisms, called natural enemies, are generally non-toxic to humans and can be a vital part of an integrated pest management (IPM) program. Natural enemies can include predators, parasitoids, pathogens, nematodes and other microorganisms. While biological control does not eliminate all pests, it can reduce the need for pesticides and help prevent development of resistance to pesticides.

The goal of biological control is to introduce and establish self-sustaining populations of natural enemies that suppress a pest population at low levels with minimal disturbance. This approach, known as conservation, augmentation or classical biological control, requires extensive research to find natural enemies that are suitable for the particular pest and environment, rigorous testing to ensure that introduced species will not negatively impact non-target native plants, and careful planning for the release of the enemy.

Some fungi, bacteria, viruses, and other microscopic organisms that attack and kill their hosts are available for purchase and use as biological or microbial pesticides. These products, such as Bacillus thuringiensis, entomopathogenic nematodes, and granulosis viruses, are usually sold as a replacement for synthetic chemical pesticides.

In the early 1960’s, a growing awareness of the risks and environmental drawbacks of some pesticides led to the publication of Rachel Carson’s seminal work, Silent Spring. Subsequently, growers and homeowners have searched for alternatives to synthetic chemicals. Pesticides are still important tools in crop protection, but they need to be used wisely and only when monitoring indicates that they are needed.

Modern, reduced-risk pesticides are less persistent in the environment and pose fewer risks to human health, beneficial insects and other organisms, and nontarget plants than past insecticides. However, there are still many concerns about the environmental effects of pesticides.

Integrated pest management (IPM) is an ecosystem-based strategy that uses habitat manipulation, crop rotation, cover crops and other practices to manage pests without the use of synthetic chemicals. IPM is often more effective than the use of conventional chemical sprays. IPM also helps prevent the development of pesticide resistance.