Integrated pest management is a term we use in the pest control industry to define a service standard that is both environmentally conscious and highly effective. My family consumes a lot of produce and I have to admit not once while eating an apple or an avocado have I considered the implications that IPM (Integrated Pest Management) has on the food we eat. That got me thinking, “what are the origins of IPM?”
After some not so exhaustive research I learned that Integrated Pest Management is not a modern practice derived from modern thinking. Charles Valentine Riley, who was born in Chelsea, London, England on September 19, 1843 used his love of the natural world to catalogue an insect collection of 115,000 mounted insects. Educated in Germany and France, Charles Valentine Riley was fascinated with insects from an early age. By age 17 he landed in the United States in Illinois and turned his passion into an incredible body of work in his all too short life.
Charles was a keen observer of crop damage caused by insects and at age 17 was sending his findings of insect crop damage to the Prairie Farmer, an agricultural journal in the Midwest. By the age of 21 Charles was working as an entomologist, artist and reporter for the entomological department of an agricultural journal. His passion led to numerous appointments including State Entomologist of Missouri in the spring of 1868. He published nine annual reports (in collaboration with Asa Fitch, T.W. Harris and B.D. Walsh) that are widely regarded by authorities as the foundation of modern entomology.
Riley was not prone to sitting back and watching the grass grow. His body of work includes getting Congress to pass a bill that created the United States Entomological Commission in March 1877, and was also appointed the chairman of the Grasshopper Commision due to his work during the grasshopper invasion of many western states between 1873 and 1877. After a fallout with the Commissioner of Agriculture, Charles left his position and pursued his passion from his home. After President James Garfield was inaugurated in 1881, Charles Valentine Riley was reappointed and remained the chief of the Federal Entomological Service until June 1894. Riley also authored over 2,400 publications and two journals; the American Entomologist (1868-80) and Insect Life (1889-94)
One of Charles’ crowning achievements was his role in helping reduce the decimation of citrus crops in California in 1888. Charles collected parasites and predators of the cottony cushion scale and found a natural enemy of the scale in Australia. Charles introduced a beetle, Vedalia cardinalis, now known as Rodolia cardinalis to the California citrus industry and significantly reduced populations of the cottony cushion scale, without the use of chemicals. His efforts set the tone and direction for the study of biological control of plant damaging insects.
There are four components that make IPM (Integrated Pest Management) the right solution for many commercial customers and homeowners alike. The Ehrlich IPM philosophy follows these core areas:
- Action thresholds are established in order to determine what pests and or environmental conditions exist.
- Highly trained technicians identify and monitor pests and engage client participation to ensure the success of the program.
- Prevention is upheld through practising good sanitation, exclusion and the use of mechanical trapping devices to intercept pests before they become a problem.
- Control is the goal and to that end Ehrlich utilizes mechanical, physical and lastly, chemical means of achieving this goal.
Sadly, Charles died at the very young age of 52, leaving a wife and six children. Charles contributed his scientific findings to what is now The Smithsonian Institute and left a legacy that pioneered biological control of crop damaging insects. Integrated Pest Management has now evolved beyond being a mere industry catch phrase and is now one of the standards by which many programs are judged by. I think I will go finish my apple now.