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Controlling Pests

Pest management is a bit more complex than weed management. That’s because control methods vary with each type of pest.

As I pointed out in my last blog, there are only two methods of weed control – pull them out or spray them. If you select spraying, there are both organic and inorganic nonselective herbicides. Such is not the case with insects, however.

Today, insect control is targeted at specific insects. Some formulations are effective against a number of insects while others are specific to one insect or one genus of insect. Bacillus thuriengensis (Bt), for example, is used widely against a number of pests, but they are all in the Lepidoptera genus. This genus includes almost all butterflies and moths. Using this bacteria-based product against any other insect, or group of insects, is a waste of money because it won’t harm them at all. Besides, it is illegal to use an insecticide for anything other than the target pests on the label.

In addition to chemical control, you can control some pests by mechanical methods. Some insects can be removed by hand if you have the time and patience. There are tree bands that effectively trap insects that climb up trees. Some mammals, such as deer and rabbits, can be deterred to some extent with fencing. Making sure that snow or mulch are not piled up against trees can also deter small mammals like mice.

Some use pheromone traps, such as the purple emerald ash borer traps or yellow Japanese beetle traps, as control measures. These traps are not intended to control the target pests. They were developed for scientists to determine population levels. They provide scientists with a sufficient sample to calculate the population in an area, but they don’t trap enough to achieve control.

For the do-it-yourself pesticide applicator, I can’t stress too strongly to read the label and follow the label instructions to the letter. Misapplication is the biggest pesticide problem. I just cringe when someone opens their shed and shows me all the bottles of “stuff” on the shelves. Trial and error pesticide application is not good for you, for the environment, or even for the non-targeted insects (including beneficial insects). There is a reason why the state licenses commercial pesticide applicators and requires them to take continuing education to maintain their licenses.

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