[Focus On IPM] Costs Vs. Benefits

Features - PCT News

Many pest management professionals assume that IPM treatments are more expensive than traditional treatments. A recent research project put that theory to the test.

December 11, 2003

Why should I pay this much for my pest control?"

How many times have you heard that from a prospective customer? One routine answer may be, "We use IPM-based service procedures." Then the prospect follows up the question with "So?" For many years it was assumed that integrated pest management costs more to provide, but do we really know how much more and why?

In January of 2002, a study was started to examine not only the cost difference, if any, but also the efficacy difference of IPM and conventional pest control procedures. Some surprising results came out of this study.

THE RESEARCH. For this project, a low-income public housing community was selected. This community had an ongoing German cockroach problem for several years and has been serviced under a regular pest control program for some time. A hundred units in this community were chosen. Half of the units were serviced under a conventional type of service program, and the other half treated under an IPM protocol.

The conventional service consisted of spot and general surface applications with a liquid residual pesticide applied with a B&G sprayer. Aerosol dust material was also injected into critical areas in the kitchen and bathroom. The liquid pesticide was re-applied every 30 days and the dust re-applied as needed. The areas treated were the kitchen and bathroom of each apartment. Monthly trapping was performed to determine efficacy.

The IPM half was treated first with a vacuum. All visible pockets of roaches were removed as well as some debris material that may have been a food source or an attractant. After the vacuuming, the units were treated with cockroach gel baits and insect growth regulator. Again only the kitchen and bathroom areas were treated. A monthly application was made for the first three months then the service was switched to a quarterly schedule.

Our observations were as follows:

For the units that received the conventional treatment…

• The same amount of time was spent on the clean out as was spent on the monthly follow-up visits.

• More grams of formulated product were used than in the IPM treatments.

• No precision placement was possible.

For the units that received the IPM treatment….

• More time was needed for the initial clean out than for the follow-up services.

• Fewer grams of formulated product were used as compared to the conventional service.

CONCLUSION. When we compared the long-term cost and efficacy of the two treatment strategies for controlling German cockroaches, we found that indeed the IPM treatment strategy was significantly more expensive than the conventional treatment strategy. However, the IPM strategy was able to control the German cockroach infestations even under conditions of poor sanitation. While it was less expensive, the conventional treatment plan was also ineffective against the cockroach infestation. It proved to have no more impact than not treating at all.

The results of this study show that a pest control operator must have a good grasp on the operating expenses for his or her business. Without such information, jobs could be undersold and the results to the customer could be disappointing.

Editor’s note: A full version of this study with all data has been accepted by the Entomological Society of America for publication in the Journal of Economic Entomology. At press time, the date of publication was unknown. Further results from this study will appear in PCT in 2004.

Photos are courtesy of Dini Miller.

Frank Meek is national commercial technical manager for Orkin Pest Control, Atlanta, Ga. He can be reached via e-mail at fmeek@pctonline.com. Dini Miller works in the department of entomology at Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va.