Integrated Pest Management

Glenn Compton
As the rainy season approaches, ManaSota-88 suggests the following ways for citizens to practice integrated pest management:

1. Avoid mosquito breeding sites by emptying water standing in cans, tires, and birdbaths (empty every five days). Repair gutters so they empty properly. Do not allow yard trimmings to be placed in the street where they may interfere with stormwater drainage. Report any water that remains for more than five days in areas that are normally dry.  
2. Bromeliads can be a source for mosquito larvae. Treat with Bacillus thuringiensis israeli or flush bromeliads with a hose about every five days to remove larvae. These mosquitoes, which are similar to tree hole mosquitoes, will bite in the daytime and can carry human diseases like the Nile virus and dengue fever.
3. Scout plants for pests every few days. Hand-picking insects often will remove a few pests, or a water spray will remove some pests.   Early treatment with soap sprays, oil sprays, or Bacillus thuringiensis, before the infestation is overwhelming, will be less harmful than using broad-killing pesticides. Early identification of pests and appropriate treatment will make it unnecessary to use more toxic chemicals. Learn the common plant pests and determine whether there is enough damage to begin controls.
4. Learn to distinguish beneficial insects which are destroyed when using pesticides. Beneficial insects include ladybird beetles, lacewings, praying mantids, ant lions, hover flies, assassin bugs, predator wasps, and dragonflies. Birds, spiders, and frogs will also help in controlling pests, but pesticides harm the beneficial insects and these helpers.  
5. Lawns with St. Augustine can suffer from chinch bugs. A drenching of the area with water in a cylinder made from a coffee can with both ends cut off will prove the presence of chinch bugs. Rather than using pesticides, mulching of the area may change the soil and later let the turf grow.  
The Larra plant acts as a host providing nectar for a predator wasp that will kill mole crickets, a common pest of athletic fields. Larra flowers are available at the Sarasota County Extension Office located at 6700 Clark Road.
6. Other insect problems: In the southern United States, imported fire ants are of great concern.  Pests have become resistant and many of the home remedies only encourage the colony to move, but never very far.  Some people develop severe allergies to the venom and must keep epinephrine available. Everyone gets a blister from the venom, usually, in two days, it can get infected with excessive scratching. Lip balm can be applied to the bite to prevent the blister and is convenient to carry when outdoors. The phorid fly may decrease the number of fire ant colonies and is a more natural control.     
7. Indoor pests thrive when food and dirty dishes are left out, almost like baits for cockroaches and ants.  In schools and offices where snacks are allowed, there is an increased tendency for pest infestation.  Damp and dark areas are preferred by roaches.  Baits in childproof plastic containers for roaches and ants may provide control. 

Maintaining a food-free area will be the first line of defense.  Fresh baits should be added about every 3 months in most situations.  In homes with small children, routine spraying of the home and yard is not a safe idea but is often the resort when diligence of house care is not done.
Baits to attract insects are used for ants (borax) as well as termites. Some of these social insects prefer sweetened baits and others like oil baits.   The bait is then carried to the nest and may poison the main part of the colony and queen.
8. Weeds should be mechanically removed before they take over the garden.  Exotic plants should be avoided in the yard.  Many exotic plants have no enemies, and they will spread rapidly.  Exotic plants often displace our native plants that are more suitable for our own wildlife.  Mulch can be a way to manage weeds, especially to separate the lawn from beds. Using herbicides may accumulate poisons in the soil making favored plants difficult to grow.  
9. Pest problems for pets. Prevent fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes on pets with products such as "Frontline", "Top Spot” or "K9 Advantix" monthly. The fleas and ticks can be shared with the pet's family in the home.  Some products will prevent heartworm, ear mites, and mange by using a tablet every month. Heartworm develops in pets exposed to mosquito populations.  
10. Ponds should have fish or tadpoles for mosquito control.  A healthy pond may benefit from a population of copepods, copepods are tiny crustaceans that feed on insect larva.  Some plants in the pond will give shelter for these tiny animals, but avoid cattails, sea lettuce, or water hyacinths since they will encourage mosquitoes.  
11. The popular mosquito zapper traps that attract with carbon dioxide and then kill insects, are not considered effective to control mosquitoes. Zappers kill many of the beneficial predators of mosquitoes.  Additional information on zappers is available from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Glenn Compton is the Chairman of ManaSota 88, a non-profit organization that has spent over 30 years fighting to protect the environment of Manatee and Sarasota counties.