"Integrated Pest Management" means using observation and creativity, instead of chemicals.
You’ve likely heard the term “Integrated Pest Management,” often called simply “IPM,” which includes a huge variety of methods and techniques, including cultural, biological and structural strategies to control a multitude of pest problems, without using any sorts of chemicals.
IPM can be understood (and achieved) through this handy acronym, which has the same 3 letters
Strategies for integrating your pest management into your whole-system design
This section by Kelda Lorax, excerpted from the Animals, Birds and Bees module of the Permaculture Women's Guild double-certificate design course.
No creature fits neatly into a category of always bad (a varmint!) or always good (a cute critter.) As we watch the parade of wild species through an ecosystem, and seek to carve out space to feed ourselves, it’s helpful to think of ourselves as encouraging beneficial or much-loved wildlife closer to us, while discouraging undesirable activities. It’s of little use to blame the animal for being itself.
Here are some strategies to help create homes for a healthy balance of creatures:
Consider how you can offer habitat for the wildlife in the landscape around you. Water sources like bird baths or ponds are strong invites. Changing aesthetics to let old plants linger through the winter provides homes for spiders, who are very important predators that keep your garden insects in check. Places in a landscape where plants can be thick and undisturbed are often the pathways and wildlife corridors by which animals come and go.
These are often scary-looking bugs like wasps, assassin bugs, praying mantis, ladybugs (don’t laugh, many a gardener has hated and killed their larvae mistakenly), lacewing, etc. They’re great news because they’ll scare and eat your garden pests, which often look fat, grubby, or have lovely disguises like cabbage moths. We want the ones that look like dragons to balance it out.
Encourage (Some) Parasites.
Yes, really! Certain adult insects won’t eat your garden pests, but their children will! These are predators but more gnarly. If you see something like the following image (tomato hornworm pest being parasitized by wasp cocoons), you might want to say a prayer for the hornworm, but be happy for your tomatoes.
This goes way beyond honeybees to native bees, flies, bats, beetles, hummingbirds, and more. Pollinators perform essential services in all terrestrial ecologies, and the protection of habitat that allows them to thrive is essential to life on this planet. Yes, read that sentence twice and take a moment to contemplate it. In the bibliography below there are resources from Xerces Society, a premier conservation non-profit working on invertebrates. They outline four simple steps to protect pollinators, that subsequently protect a lot of different kinds of critters too.
These steps are:
This will be a mix of attracting an animal or activity to a different place, and scaring them slightly into going. It could mean making a varmint’s food prize just too annoying to access (think polycultures, thorny plants, scarecrows). It could be the smell of humans, or the barking of dogs, that make them uncomfortable. Plan your wildlife corridor to direct animals away from precious gardens and plants, and have it full of its own fecundity. Animals do not intentionally set out to damage something you love. They might just need some direction.
Here are some examples:
How will you integrate pest management into your system? Go outside and walk around your site. Look for as many different kinds of insects, pollinators, predators, and whatever other creatures you can find. Learn about them. Learn what they are, what they eat, and what eats them. Then devise ways to create a balanced community.
Try creating a mason bee house! They can be created in two general ways:
1. By drilling into a block of wood or making non-toxic paper tubes. They are solitary bees which overwinter in holes packed up with mud. They are excellent native bee pollinators appropriate for any garden. As you assess what tools and materials you have available, know that the drilled holes or tubes need to be 6” long and just wide enough to fit a #2 pencil. Materials should be non-toxic (no treated woods or dyed paper), and the whole structure should be sheltered from rain, stable enough to survive heavy winds, and somewhere eastern-facing or sunny (though not too sunny in hot climates.)
A good overview of the block method here.
(you can also use parts of downed trees or thick branches)
2. Or try the straw method here.
(you can also use hollow plants like elderberry or reeds)
Photo by Knox Cellars Native Pollinators
Relevant Links and Resources
and we always want to know if something on the site isn't working. Thanks for filling out this quick form. If you would like to give more extensive feedback and/or a testimonial, go here instead.