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The difference between pest control and integrated pest management

Hoteliers should know the difference between basic pest control and integrated pest management because your reputation, income and staff morale depend on it.

Basic pest control is reacting to a pest infestation to eliminate pests when they become a nuisance. A pest controller is then called in to provide a treatment to trap or apply poison to kill the pests. The hotel may even assign staff to conduct some pest control operations to save on costs.

Taking action only when the pest infestation has already occurred can have several negative consequences:

  • pest population size: pests are more numerous, more widespread and more difficult to control
  • use of toxic chemicals: toxic chemicals may have to be used to get quick results, either in greater quantities or when they could have been avoided by preventative measures
  • damage to reputation: allowing pest numbers to grow to the stage of infestation is also likely to result in customers encountering pests, which will damage your reputation and create a media situation that can rapidly spread out of your control
  • legal action: if pests are present in areas handling food it may result in legal action by local or state authorities, including closure of the food business and fines
  • escalating costs: controlling a larger pest population, use of toxic chemicals and legal actions can all increase costs, while at the same time income may be damaged by loss of customers

Choosing the right pest control company with trained personnel and experience of the business needs is an important step.

In 2006 a pest control company used by many hotels and restaurants in Connecticut was fined $583,000 by the state’s Department of Environmental Protection for pesticide control violations. These included “improper applications of various pesticides at restaurants, retail stores and hotels across the state, failure to oversee the work of employees with properly certified supervisors, and inadequate record keeping.”

An employee in a restaurant had become ill and fainted at work the morning following a pesticide treatment by the company in which more than 20 times the concentration of pesticide was used. Numerous other misapplications by the same company were then discovered. Both staff and customers at these businesses were exposed to dangerous levels of pesticide.

Even for pests in business areas that are not so closely regulated it is important to follow sound procedures. The Environmental Protection Agency compiled a list of pest control practices that are not safe and effective in treating bed bugs, one of the most common pests in hotels. These include:

  • hiring an applicator with no or little experience in controlling bed bugs
  • hiring an applicator that does not provide a follow-up inspection and repeat treatments if needed
  • hiring an applicator who does not follow IPM (integrated pest management) practices — they may charge less but are far less likely to achieve success

What is integrated pest management?

Integrated pest management (IPM) is an approach to pest control that aims to achieve sustainable pest management by applying a systematic strategy to prevent pests. IPM only uses pesticide chemicals as a last resort and emphasises the use of materials and methods that minimize the impact on people and the environment.

IPM is implemented as part of the business management plan and involves collaboration of hotel management, staff and the pest control contractor.

There are four high-level components of an IPM program:

  1. Set action thresholds: the pest control contractor works with the customer to understand their specific business requirements to indicate at which pest population levels action needs to be taken — in a food handling environment this may mean zero tolerance
  2. Monitor and identify pests: this requires highly trained technicians, proper inspections, accurate identification, use of monitoring devices and active client participation
  3. Pest prevention: there are many procedures that should be part of standard management practice, including good sanitation practices to eliminate access to food, water and shelter; excluding access by using screens, sealing holes etc; and use of traps to intercept invading pests before they become an infestation
  4. Pest control methods: the most effective and safe method of pest control is used to eliminate pests. Western Exterminator’s IPM evaluates the most suitable control methods based on:
    • physical methods: adjusting temperature, humidity and light
    • mechanical methods: insect light traps, vacuum cleaners, spider/cobweb brushes
    • chemical methods: use of approved pesticides, carefully targeted and following environmental, health and safety and wildlife regulations

IPM is continually evaluated and results fed back to the customer with recommendations for improvements. It also includes thorough documentation of action taken, pest activity and pesticide application, compliant with relevant standards and regulations.

Western Exterminator’s IPM approach

Western Exterminator uses a tailored approach to IPM called ERDM which stands for: Exclusion, Restriction, Destruction and Monitoring.

Exclusion: Preventing pests from gaining access to a business, property or area by sealing areas and proofing buildings

Restriction: Stopping pests from spreading if they have gained access and removing food and harborage

Monitoring: Ensuring that protection measures are working, and that they continue to work even after control has been achieved

Destruction: Innovative, market-leading control measures, including non-toxic solutions

The ERDM approach is supported by a technical team and regulatory experts, as well as R&D programs that develop innovative, technologically advanced non-toxic products. This allows Western Exterminator specialists to offer best-in-class products and solutions that underpin their knowledge and advice.

Western Exterminator’s Integrated Pest Management services are also supported by pest awareness training for employees and staff, to help recognize early pest activity.


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