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CUES from Mother Nature

What is Integrated Pest Management?

Most insects are not pests. Many bugs help in the natural processes of decomposition and pollination, while others prey on the insects that attack your plants. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) works by restoring balance to your yard using a variety of nature's control methods. IPM is also kinder to wildlife, soil, and water quality.

How to use Integrated Pest Management

Check to see if you have a problem

Search your plants or use insect traps to evaluate the number and types of pests you have.

Ignore what won't hurt your plants

Some problems, such as these red galls caused by mites on this maple leaf, will not hurt the plant. Don't use a pesticide when it will not help the health of the plant.

Time your actions

When deciding how to care for your plants, always consider the life cycle of the pest. Insecticides won't eradicate the scales on this branch. This pest is only manageable when its larvae (the tiny white areas) hatch and start crawling.

Bug vs. Bug: Biological Control

An important way to control unwanted bugs is by welcoming their natural enemies into your garden. Use a variety of plants in your yard so you can attract the "good bugs." Let the insects fight it out themselves rather than using chemicals.

Hornworm caterpillar

This hornworm caterpillar can ruin your tomato garden.

This wasp is your friend. It lays its eggs in hornworms and destroys them.

From the white cocoons, the next generation of wasps will emerge.

Chemical controls

Sunspray When you need to use a chemical method, first try environmentally friendly products like horticultural oils and soaps, which break down quickly.

As a last resort, use the least toxic chemical insecticides in spot applications. Wear protective clothing. Only mix as much as you need, so you can avoid the problem of chemical disposal. Following these principles will promote a rich and beautiful sustainable landscape, teeming with life, and with little adverse effect on the environment. A landscape we can all enjoy. Remember, landscapes aren't perfect in nature, and we can't expect perfection in our urban landscapes. If we learn to accept and tolerate a few problems, and prudently manage those we cannot, the return will be a healthy, sustainable environment that reaches well beyond our own backyards.

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Last modified on March 06, 2013