What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the term “pest management”? I imagine many of you conjure up images of spraying a product or sprinkling granules over an unhealthy plant or lawn. For those of you familiar with term “integrated pest management” or IPM, hopefully you imagined yourself utilizing preventative measures such as proper plant selection and placement, appropriate irrigation and fertilization, regular scouting for pests, encouraging beneficial insects, using clean pruners, providing air circulation for plants, etc.
Integrated pest management is a comprehensive approach that utilizes cultural, physical, and chemical controls to prevent, minimize, and treat pests starting with the least toxic method. A healthy, thriving plant can fend off pests more easily than a sickly one.
In addition to proper cultural methods, plants will benefit from regular scouting, or monitoring, for pests. This enables you to catch pests early on before they have a chance to spread. Common pests in our Florida landscape include scales, mealybugs, aphids, thrips, whiteflies, mites, caterpillars and chinch bugs. When scouting, observe for beneficial insects that prey on pests for natural pest control. Common beneficial insects include lacewings and their larvae, ladybugs and larvae, spiders, assassin bugs, parasitic flies (syrphid and tachinid flies) and parasitic wasps.
When you discover a pest problem, the first course of action should be to remove the insect or affected part of the plant and put in the trash (not compost bin). If the issue is large enough to warrant use of a pesticide, start with the least toxic products, such as horticultural oils, insecticidal soaps, or microbials. Spot treat the affected area rather than broadcasting to the entire landscape. Be sure to read and follow the instructions carefully and remember that the label is the law. Use only on plants the product is labeled for.
Overwatering, overfertilizing and overhead irrigation are your plants worst nightmare! Avoid overhead irrigation as much as possible (other than lawn).
For a more comprehensive exploration of natural pest management methods, refer to the publication Natural Products for Managing Landscape and Garden Pests in Florida: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/IN/IN19700.pdf.
References:Integrated Pest Management: https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/care/pests-and-diseases/pests/management/integrated-pest-management.html