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Myth-busting Integrated Pest Management for Extension Master Gardeners



Authors as Published

Authored by Stephanie Blevins Wycoff, Extension Associate, Virginia Tech Pesticide Programs and Daniel Frank, Director Virginia Tech Pesticide Programs; Edited by Dana Beegle, Publications Manager, Virginia Tech Pesticide Programs


Integrated pest management (IPM) is a strategy commonly used by pest management professionals, but is often misunderstood by the general public and others. Extension Master Gardener volunteers, for example, have an overall basic understanding of IPM but also have a few misconceptions. Based on a recent survey (March 2020) of Extension Master Gardeners in Virginia, a handful of IPM myths were identified and will be debunked in this publication.

What Is IPM?

IPM is a holistic, ecological approach to controlling pests. In an IPM program, the pest situation is assessed before taking action. The first step is to identify the pest to determine biological information, such as the pest’s habitat and life cycle. Once this information is gathered and evaluated, it can be used to develop a pest management plan. IPM uses an assortment of control methods and employs the best practices available to protect people, animals, and the environment.

Figure 1. Graphic shows the components of an IPM program, which are as follows: identify the pest; monitor populations and damage; determine thresholds; attempt to prevent pest issues; use control methods; and assess performance of tactics.

Figure 1. The components of an IPM program.

Myth: IPM Does Not Include Chemical Controls

Fact: IPM Includes Chemical Controls

An IPM program may include chemical controls when necessary. In an IPM program, chemical controls are generally a last resort — when other control methods have failed or cannot regulate the problem alone. If you decide to use a pesticide, always choose the least toxic option. When selecting a product, consider the type of pesticide needed (insecticide, herbicide, fungicide, etc.) and the target site (i.e., the intended application site). Always read the label before you purchase, use, store, or dispose of a pesticide product.

Myth: IPM Focuses on Chemical Controls

Fact: IPM Focuses on Nonchemical Controls

Although some people view IPM as a nonchemical strategy, others view it as a chemically focused strategy. Keep in mind that chemical controls are an option, but nonchemical controls are a primary focus of IPM. Nonchemical control methods include host- plant resistance (e.g., using plant varieties with disease resistance), biological control (e.g., using natural enemies such as lady beetles or lacewings), cultural control (e.g., moisture management or crop rotation), and mechanical and physical control (e.g., screens or netting for pest exclusion). Nonchemical controls should be implemented before chemical controls in an IPM program.

Figure 2. Graphic displays the nonchemical and chemical control methods included in an IPM program.

Figure 2. IPM programs include nonchemical and chemical control methods.

Myth: IPM and Organic Are the Same

Fact: IPM and Organic Are Not the Same

IPM and organic production are similar in their practices, but the terms should not be used interchangeably. IPM and organic production use many of the same nonchemical controls for pest management. However, the main difference lies in the type of chemical controls that can be utilized. Although both IPM and organic production incorporate pesticides when needed, in organic systems the use of conventional (or synthetic) pesticides is not allowed. Instead, only pesticides derived from naturally occurring sources and approved by the U. S. Department of Agriculture for use in organic production can be applied. In an IPM program, you are free to choose the type of pesticide needed for control whether it is synthetic or organic.

Myth: IPM Is Only for Gardens or Landscapes

Fact: IPM Is for Any Pest Situation

Naturally, many Extension Master Gardeners may find themselves reflecting on their own home lawn or garden when thinking about IPM. However, it is

important to remember that IPM can be used to deal with any pest situation. From greenhouse and farm operations, to urban housing and beyond, IPM can help tackle the most difficult of pests.


An IPM program is only as effective as the person managing it, so take time to familiarize yourself with its principles. Understanding the facts associated with IPM is just as important as knowing the myths, and will better prepare you when educating others or making your own pest management decisions. If implemented correctly, an IPM program can provide practical, environmentally sound solutions for controlling pests.

Additional Information

To learn more about IPM, please visit:

Virginia Cooperative Extension materials are available for public use, reprint, or citation without further permission, provided the use includes credit to the author and to Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, and Virginia State University.

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Publication Date

July 14, 2020