When insect pest control is necessary, try the safest alternatives first. Removing insects by hand or pruning infested plant parts are often the simplest and safest ways to prevent the buildup of pest populations and their damage.
Other alternatives to chemical control, such as sanitation measures and exclusion techniques, can be effective depending on the insect pest you are targeting. Removing materials that provide shelter or moisture for an insect pest can be an effective way to reduce its presence.
Another option to reduce pest numbers is the use of biological controls. Biological controls rely on other organisms, such as any living thing that attacks the pest, to minimize pest problems. Designing and managing gardens to attract and conserve these natural pest enemies is generally a simple and cost effective way for the home gardener to stay in control.
If native enemies need assistance, many types of biological controls can be purchased commercially. However, the success of this approach depends on the targeted pest and the type of biological control used.
For some insect pests, non-chemical and biological control strategies do not exist or are ineffective. In such cases, the use of an insecticide may be necessary.
Insecticides may be less effective during certain stages of the insect life cycle, or resistance to certain insecticide ingredients can develop in the pest population with repeated use over time. Avoiding unnecessary insecticide applications and choosing insecticides that are considered low impact can reduce any possible harm to beneficial organisms and the environment.
By Daniel Frank – former WVU Extension Specialist