Multi-colored Asian
Lady Bird Beetles

Integrated pest management is an approach to pest management that uses a variety of control methods to keep pests at tolerable levels. Commercial growers of many types of crops are using this approach to protect their crops while reducing use of chemical pesticides. Homeowners, too, can use an IPM approach to deal with pests in and around the home.

IPM is an information-driven process. It begins when you notice a pest or signs of pests. The first step is to find out what pests you have, how many are present and whether they are doing any damage. If you can't identify the pest yourself, you can contact your Extension office for assistance and information on the habits and biology of the pest. This will help you determine whether it's a seasonal invader -- such as ladybugs or boxelder beetles coming inside in the fall -- or a year-round resident -- such as cockroaches or house mice.

A pest that comes into the home looking for winter shelter and doesn't get into human food or pet food, doesn't bother people or pets, and doesn't damage goods or materials in the home may be a nuisance but certainly is no cause for alarm. Chances are you can deal with it with a flyswatter or a hand-held vacuum.

An infestation of house mice, rats or cockroaches, on the other hand, can cause health problems and should not be tolerated. These pests may require a concerted effort to eliminate. Such an effort will involve a total approach: caulking, repairing screens and closing up external openings that pests could use to enter; cleaning to eliminate food sources; removing clutter that provides hiding places; repairing plumbing leaks that provide water and cause structural damage that can allow pests such as carpenter ants to become established; and using traps, pesticides and other controls to eliminate the existing population.

Eliminating food, water and hiding places will make control methods more effective. baits for mice, cockroaches and ants, for instance, are more likely to be effective if the pests have no other alternative food sources. Likewise, traps are more likely to work if clutter has been removed so that hiding places and travel runs are limited.

If pesticides are needed, be sure to use only products labeled for use indoors, and follow the directions on the label. Store and use pesticides where children and pets can not get into them. A key thing to remember is that pesticides are designed to kill living things and careless or improper use can unnecessarily expose your family to these toxic chemicals.

A key step in IPM is evaluation -- checking to see how controls are working and then changing methods, if necessary. Once an infestation appears to be under control, continued monitoring enables the homeowner to take quick action at the first signs of a new problem.

One final step is education. All family members can come to understand that a bug in the house is not a crisis and maybe not even a problem, that reaching for the bug spray may not be an appropriate response, and that they each can do their part in taking food, water and hiding places away from pests.

This article was written by Don Janssen, Extension Educator and appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper Sunday edition.It was reviewed and updated by Soni Cochran, Extension Associate November 2015. For information on reproducing this article or using any photographs or graphics, read the Terms of Use statement)

Nebraska Extension in Lancaster County is your on-line yard and garden educational resource. The information on this Web site is valid for residents of southeastern Nebraska. It may or may not apply in your area. If you live outside southeastern Nebraska, visit your local Extension office