Industry News

Integrated Pest Management and the balance of nature

By Austin M. Frishman, Ph.D.

The earth is continually evolving. Mountains are created by volcanoes and worn down by wind, rain, snow and other elements. Rivers emerge, flow, sink and reappear. So how will pest populations change with our evolving planet? And where does pest management fit into maintaining the balance of nature?

What future changes may alter the nature of our business?

Climate change and human interventions will likely cause an increase in the severity of some pest populations, a decrease in others and the appearance of new species and diseases. Here are a few examples:

  • Ocean levels are rising, putting coastline cities and low-elevation islands at risk of becoming submerged within the life time of today’s teenagers. While subsoil termites will move upward into structures and survive, think about how this will affect the efficacy of the soil treatments you are counting on.
  • Ground-nesting wasps, bees and yellow jackets will move to higher ground, leaving coastline PMPs without this business. However, they will likely be replaced by other pest species.
  • As temperatures rise, mosquitoes that carry tropical diseases will be able to survive in and spread to areas they can’t currently inhabit, increasing demand for control.
  • Thanks to hurricanes, new species can quickly invade areas hundreds to thousands of miles from where they originated. The eye of the hurricane carries birds, insects and spiders to new areas.
  • Humans move species into new countries, and scientists and government agencies release “beneficial insects” into new areas. This can initiate new opportunities for pest management of both invasive and beneficial insects.

So where does pest management fit into maintaining the balance of nature?

As Pest Management Professionals (PMPs), we have a responsibility to prudently select and use pesticides to create our control programs. This is what the term “Integrated Pest Management” (IPM) is all about. IPM approaches minimize adverse effects on the planet while maximizing control of the pests we need to manage. Pest proofing, construction alterations, mechanical barriers (screens) and temperature control all play a role in this approach. As you adjust your IPM approach to fit the needs of your customers, you must also ask yourself: how is your company preparing to meet the demands of a changing planet?

You and your company have the responsibility to help conduct business in a manner best suited for positive results, considering both short- and long-term impacts on our planet.

Remember, the balance of nature is never stagnant; it is not balanced in favor of all species, nor is it a single-answer solution. What we currently think is the best pest management approach today will change with time, and we must all be willing to change as necessary.

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