Integrated Pest Management
The Sonoma Master Gardeners' website, and several UC websites contain a wealth of information on pests, bugs, plant diseases and disorders, and methods to control those.
What is a Pest?
Pests are organisms that damage or interfere with desirable plants in our gardens, field, and orchards. Pests may transmit disease, damage crops, or may be just a nuisance. A pest can be a plant (weed), vertebrate (bird, rodent, or other mammal), invertebrate (insect, tick, mite, or snail), nematode, pathogen (bacteria, virus, or fungus).
The Ten Most Wanted Pests section of the website identifies the worst pests of Sonoma County and suggests methods for managing them.
Integrated Pest Management--what is it? why use it?
Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, is a process gardeners can use to solve pest problems while minimizing risks to people and the environment. IPM focuses on preventing pests or disease in the first place by growing healthy crops, using disease resistant plants, and utilizing proper cultural practices. Before resorting to chemicals, good practices include monitoring to identify pests, then using predatory insects or other biological controls.
IPM focuses on prevention before cure
With IPM, you take advance actions to keep pests from becoming a problem as much as possible. Keep your plants healthy and stress-free. Unhealthy plants are more susceptible to pest infestations. Use good cultural practices like selecting disease-resistant varieties; avoid overcrowding; use compost instead of synthetic fertilizers; and water efficiently, using a drip irrigation system. In the edible garden, dispose of diseased plant materials quickly and rotate crops annually. Use aviary wire or hardware cloth at the bottom of raised beds to keep out gophers and moles.
Vigilance is the watchword. Close monitoring of your garden allows you to find problems early. Many or most of the insects in your garden are not harmful and many are beneficial. This continual checking of your landscape detects problems with plants and crops, identifies water or irrigation issues, and lets you decide on the appropriate management steps before things get out of control.
Controls when pests are present and not tolerable
If there are pest-caused problems, the first steps are identifying the pest and deciding whether its effects can be tolerated or if the problem warrants control. Temporary leaf damage, for example, will not seriously damage a plant. Neither is loss of a few tomatoes or roses. In such cases, doing nothing and waiting for the pest to leave may be the best solution. Continued damage over many weeks may call for action.
Plant for predators. Beneficial insects can target specific insect pests and should be encouraged in the garden. Lady beetles (ladybugs), lacewing larvae and spiders help control pest populations. The more bugs in your landscape, the more insect predators you’ll have – including the birds. The Top Ten Beneficials section of this website highlights those most beneficial in Sonoma County.
Other control methods include:
- hand picking insects off of plants
- using sticky insect barriers and traps
- spraying with a strong stream of water or insecticidal soap
- spraying horticultural oils, such as Neem oil
- applying dormant sprays on woody plants to control some fungal and insect problems
- dust around the base of plants with diatomaceous earth (DE) to control slugs, snails, grubs and other insects
- apply Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) to control certain larvae
IPM methods always recommend using the least toxic synthetic chemical pesticides as a last resort. Always carefully read and follow label directions; use pesticides in bait stations rather than sprays; spot-spray a few plants instead of an entire area.
SCMG's Gwen Kilchherr and Dana Lozano, writing as the Garden Doctors, provide more tips and strategies for implementing IPM.
Since this website focuses specifically on Sonoma County, presented first are the
Ten Worst Pests of Sonoma County.
These are the most prevalent and oft-encounted pest problems locally. Each one in the list contains a link to more information on the specific pest.
These ten also contain links to more information on how they work, what they predate, and how to obtain or attract them.
The UC IPM website contains a number of other helpful tools.
Natural Enemies Gallery is an expanded list of Good Bugs