When in Florida, Use Integrated Pest Management

As part of the Office of Pesticide Programs’ annual tour of South Central Florida agriculture, several coworkers and I recently visited several farms and beekeeping facilities. We also observed pest control efforts. While every stop taught me something new about agriculture, food production, and pest management, I found myself most intrigued by the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques used by farmers and local governments.

Integrated Pest Management can be used in any situation where pest control is needed – from growing crops to controlling bedbugs. Simply put, IPM is an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on a combination of common-sense practices.

How are Floridians using IPM?  Here are some examples from our trip:

  • Barn owls control rodents: The University of Florida Everglades Research and Education Center
    A University of Florida Everglades Research and Education Center owl box ready to be stationed at a farm.

    A University of Florida Everglades Research and Education Center owl box ready to be stationed at a farm.

    encourages the use of barn owls to control rodent populations in farm fields.  By constructing owl boxes near farms, owls move in to feed on the rodents that frequent farms.  This effort has allowed farmers to reduce the use of rodenticides.

  • Release of grass carp to control invasive plants.  Photo courtesy of the Lee County Hyacinth Control District

    Release of grass carp to control invasive plants. Photo courtesy of the Lee County Hyacinth Control District

    Fish to control weeds: The Lee County Hyacinth Control District’s biological program utilizes grass carp in some of the county’s storm water canals and ponds in a controlled fashion to deal with invasive aquatic vegetation. The carp are used in conjunction with chemical and mechanical techniques to keep excessive plant growth from taking over public waterways, disrupting the ecosystem and making boat navigation difficult.

  • The pesky mosquito: The Lee County Mosquito Control District uses a variety of techniques to control mosquito populations and prevent the spread of disease. Community outreach and education programs are an important part of LCMCD’s work.  By teaching the community simple ways to make their homes and yards less mosquito-friendly, the county as a whole is taking part in IPM.  LCMCD’s tips include: irrigate lawns to prevent standing water, stock ornamental ponds with fish so they can eat mosquito eggs, and change outdoor pet water bowls regularly to prevent mosquitos from laying eggs.

Prior to visiting these sites, I was most familiar with IPM when it came to schools, thanks to our IPM in Schools webinar series.  But, as you can see, IPM opportunities are everywhere, from farms to waterways.  It’s likely that your community, and mine, are benefiting from common sense IPM approaches to pest management, whether we realize it or not!

About the author: Colleen Keltz is new to the world of pesticides at EPA, but not new to EPA.  After spending some time working on the 3R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle), she’s now focused on increasing her pesticide knowledge as part of the Office of Pesticide Programs’ communications team.

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