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Building a common-sense solution with IPM and IRM

By Nicky Gallagher, Ph.D., technical services manager for Syngenta

Defining integrated pest management (IPM) can be complex. IPM emerged in the agroecosystem sector, rather than being developed for structural pest control. Therefore, it’s not surprising that some pest control industry professionals may have developed their own interpretations.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines IPM as “an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on a combination of common-sense practices. IPM programs use current, comprehensive information on the life cycles of pests and their interaction with the environment. This information, in combination with available pest control methods, is used to manage pest damage by the most economical means, and with the least possible hazard to people, property, and the environment. IPM takes advantage of all appropriate pest management options including, but not limited to, the judicious use of pesticides."1

Within the agroecosystem, pest status is tied to an economic injury level, and control measures help keep a pest population below a critical threshold level. Essentially, a certain amount of damage to a crop is allowed before intervening. Translating this philosophy to structural pest control is challenging. How many homeowners or businesses have a threshold above zero for pest presence and/or structural damage? How much wood would you allow a termite colony to consume before you protect your house?

While IPM has its roots in the agroecosystem, it plays an important role in urban pest control. It’s about generating sound solutions based on a common-sense approach and tailoring those solutions to each unique situation. Ideally, the goal is to eradicate a pest rather than suppress it, prevent current/future structural damage and reduce the risk of pest-related health issues. While IPM does emphasize the judicious use of insecticides, the objective in urban pest control is usually to eradicate pests. With effective, targeted applications, insecticides remain a key part of IPM.

As with many aspects of pest control, it starts with education. Determine what IPM means to your client and how it may be defined within any contracts. They may have an inappropriate IPM terminology, or a lack of product education. We must educate our clients that IPM still includes insecticides and is required for successfully treating many urban pests. Insecticides, when layered with other components of IPM, are usually the most successful, especially in tough-to-control cockroach infestations. IPM includes, but is not limited to:

  • Inspection and monitoring
  • Communication and education
  • Prevention and exclusion
  • Habitat modification
  • Biological control
  • Insecticides/pesticides
  • Evaluation and follow-up

The goal of this article is not to define or debate IPM. IPM plans vary depending on the site (e.g. school IPM and varied state laws), pest and situation, so it’s not possible to mention them all. However, education is key and there are many resources, such as these, available to learn more about IPM, pest biology and control:

Insect resistance management (IRM)

Another important component of IPM is insecticide resistance management (IRM).

Resistance may be defined as "a heritable change in the sensitivity of a pest population that is reflected in the repeated failure of a product to achieve the expected level of control when used according to the label recommendation for that pest species."2

The objective of IRM is to prevent or delay resistance to insecticides, or to help regain susceptibility in populations in which resistance has already arisen.1 Effective IRM is, thus, an important element in maintaining insecticide efficacy, and when combined with IPM, provides a long-term management strategy to ensure our methods work while also considering the environment.

IRM is important when we can’t eradicate the entire population or can’t prevent pests from migrating in. If a population of insects is removed, there are no longer individuals with potential resistant genes to build back the population. If you eradicate a population, long-term IRM becomes less important. However, if you can only reduce a population by 80%, the remaining population might be physiologically or behaviorally resistant to your chemicals and formulations.

To prevent the remaining population from rebounding and becoming highly resistant, the use of alternative forms of chemistry, non-chemical options and proper pest control (read the label!) are all important. A non-chemical option, like sanitation, can help remove competing food sources, and encourage pests like cockroaches to feed on bait (applying appropriate amounts of bait and following up are also important). No cockroaches have ever shown resistance to vacuuming, either.

Modes of action (MOA)

To effectively rotate chemistry, we must understand the mode of action (MOA) of insecticides. This is a classification system of our chemical classes — or, simply, how the insecticide works and how the molecule disrupts the pests’ physiological function. Each chemical class is assigned a number by the Insecticide Resistance Action Committee (IRAC). All chemical classes with the same number have the same MOA. Rotating to a chemical class with a different number will help prevent the development of an insecticide-resistant population.

For example, the below table shows Advion® Evolution cockroach gel bait and Optigard® Cockroach gel bait insecticides are good rotational partners with different IRAC numbers.

Active IngredientGroup/ClassPrimary site of action (MOA)IRAC numberProduct example
IndoxacarbOxadiazineVoltage-dependent sodium channel blocker22AAdvion Evolution cockroach gel bait
Emamectin benzoate AvermectinGlutamate-gated chloride channel (GluCl) allosteric modulators6Optigard Cockroach gel bait

Below are two excellent MOA resources:

What do we need to know?

It all comes down to a common-sense approach. IPM is about using the tools, knowledge and skills available to best meet customers’ needs. IRM is now part of IPM, and we must be knowledgeable about MOAs and document the history and success of insecticide use at accounts.

To learn more and explore the broad portfolio of Syngenta products that can help develop your IPM and IRM plans, please visit or contact your local Syngenta territory manager.

1 Environmental Protection Agency


Syngenta hereby disclaims any liability for third Party websites referenced herein.

© 2021 Syngenta. Important: Always read and follow label instructions. Some products may not be registered for sale or use in all states or counties and/or may have state-specific use requirements. Please check with your local extension service to ensure registration and proper use. Advion®, For Life Uninterrupted™, Optigard® and the Syngenta logo are trademarks of a Syngenta Group Company. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. Syngenta Customer Center: 1-866-SYNGENT(A) (796-4368).

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© Syngenta. Important: Always read and follow label instructions. Some products may not be registered for sale or use in all states or counties and/or may have state-specific use requirements. Please check with your local extension service to ensure registration and proper use. The trademarks displayed or otherwise used herein are trademarks or service marks of a Syngenta Group Company or third parties. Syngenta Customer Center: 1-866-SYNGENT(A) (796-4368).