Pest Control Tactics

The modern arsenal of pest control weapons is large and diverse.   It encompasses not only the methods that cause direct mortality, but also a variety of other tactics that reduce the reproductive potential of a pest population or modify its behavior.

Cultural Control

Cultural or ecological control involves purposeful manipulation of the environment to make it less habitable for pest species.   Any change in the spatial distribution of host plants (crop rotation, intercropping, or trap cropping), variations in the time of planting or harvesting, application of water and fertilizer, and management of ground cover and/or surrounding vegetation may have a significant effect on the survival and growth of pest populations.           More about Cultural Control

Biological Control

Biological pest control relies upon other living organisms (parasites, predators, and pathogens) as pest control agents.   These beneficial species are an important part of the ecological balance in every natural community.   In some cases, biocontrol agents are reared and released in large numbers to suppress native or introduced pests (augmentation).   In other cases, careful management of the environment (conservation) is sufficient to insure the welfare of natural enemy populations.   Insect species that are accidently introduced from foreign countries often become pests because they have escaped from natural enemies in their homeland.   Finding and importing these natural enemies is one important part of biological control.           More about Biological Control

Another facet of biological control is the use of resistant plant (or animal) genotypes.   Natural host resistance may involve defensive chemicals that inhibit growth or development (antibiosis), physical or chemical characteristics that reduce palatability (antixenosis), or genetic traits that simply reduce the extent or severity of injury (tolerance).           More about Host Resistance

Legal Control

Legal control tactics include all forms of legislation designed to prevent the establishment or spread of pest populations.   Border quarantines and licensing or certification programs can be effective in limiting the movement of infested animals, seed, or breeding stock.   State and federal eradication programs can marshal greater resources, cover larger areas, and have more impact than most local or regional control efforts.
More about Legal Control

Physical - Mechanical Control

Physical and mechanical pest control includes a wide variety of devices that exclude, entrap, entangle, or electrocute insects.   These methods, as simple as window screens or as sophisticated as electronic bug killers, are often more practical for individual gardeners or homeowners than for farmers or ranchers with large commercial acreage.

More about Physical and Mechanical Control

Eugenic Control

The sterile male technique and other forms of autocidal control have been developed as wide-area birth control methods for insect pests.   By constantly flooding the environment with large numbers of sterile insects, it is possible to reduce a population's reproductive success to the point of extinction.   New strategies are also being developed for introducing deleterious traits into the genetic makeup of pest populations.   Continued progress in biotechnology will surely increase the range of options for genetic control of pest species.           More about Eugenics and Birth Control

Chemical Control

Chemical control tactics involve a wide variety of substances that cause direct mortality (toxicants), disrupt developmental processes (growth regulators), prevent reproduction (sterilants), or modify insect behavior (semiochemicals).   Conventional insecticides (the toxicants) have been a mainstay of chemical control since the late 1940's because they are convenient, effective, and inexpensive.   But these compounds are not without problems.   Their persistence in the environment, their effects on non-target organisms, and their tendency to select for resistance in target populations necessitate prudence in their selection as pest control agents.   Over-reliance on these compounds (as well as occasional misuse or abuse) has drawn fire from many directions, forcing the adoption of less toxic compounds with fewer environmental side effects.

          More about Semiochemicals
          More about Conventional Insecticides

Integrated Pest Control

Integrated pest control is a management philosophy that attempts to find and utilize the optimum combination of control tactics, including cultural, biological, physical, and/or chemical, that will reduce a pest population below its economic threshold with minimal impact on the environment and non-target organisms.   The principles of integrated control are the foundation of modern integrated pest management (IPM) and sustainable agriculture.           More about Integrated Control

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Last Updated:   26 July 2003
John R. Meyer
Department of Entomology
NC State University