Controlling pests: Five steps to greener integrated management

IPM emphasizes biological, mechanical and cultural controls.

May 8, 2018   by Alice Sinia

Use low-impact pesticides in targeted locations. PHOTO: FOTOLIA

Research has provided many innovations that help us reduce our impact on the environment, and those efforts extend to pest management. Pesticides may be one of the first things that come to mind, but the best practice for eliminating pests in food manufacturing facilities is an ecological approach based on the principles of integrated pest management (IPM).

When you know where pests live and how they behave, you can take proactive steps to keep them out of your facility and eliminate the conditions that attract them.

Follow these five steps for greener pest management:

1. Measure pest activity.

Thoroughly inspect the facility. Know which pests impact the facility and define action thresholds. They’ll help reduce and focus pesticide use. Thresholds vary for different areas of your property. For example, four flies just inside the main entrance may be acceptable because they aren’t a risk to food products, but the same number of flies in a food processing room calls for immediate control and preventive actions because they’re a contamination risk.

2. Be proactive.

Implement habitat modification, exclusion, maintenance and sanitation strategies that keep pests away. Maintenance and janitorial staff will alert you to signs of activity while helping to eliminate the sources of food, water and shelter pests need to survive. Hold regular IPM training sessions and incorporate these tasks into daily staff routines:

• Caulk gaps, cracks and crevices to close entry points.

• Maintain door and window seals and screens, as well as door sweeps.

• Clean up product spills and fix water leaks to remove sources of food and water.

• Keep exterior doors closed as much as possible.

• Remove trash daily and regularly wash trash bins to eliminate debris.

• Clean hard to reach areas to remove buildup that attracts pests.

• Unload shipments in a designated area to avoid spreading pests from a contaminated product.

• Remove clutter that harbours pests, such as wooden pallets and cardboard.

• Make it harder for pests to access food items by storing them off the ground.

3. Maintain detailed documentation.

Records of both preventive and corrective actions help track the effectiveness of an IPM program, identify trends and drive continuous improvement. Create a system for employees to report pest activity. After each visit, review the service report provided by a specialist to ensure recommendations are implemented.

4. Monitor hot spots.

Some areas of your facility are more prone to pest activity than others. Continuously monitor these areas to catch activity before an infestation occurs. Monitor your facility by employing methods such as visual inspections, non-toxic glue boards, pheromone traps and light traps. Common hot spots include employee break rooms, garbage and recycling areas, equipment storage areas, wall voids, voids in machinery and food storage areas.

5. Use green treatments, when necessary.

Pesticide treatments should be a last resort. Implement mechanical and cultural controls first. If they don’t work, use low-impact pesticides strategically and target specific locations.

Plants without an IPM program will be on the defensive. Adopting a green pest management program reduces the environmental impact and benefits the bottom line.

Alice Sinia is the quality assurance manager – regulatory/lab services, for pest management firm Orkin Canada. E-mail Alice Sinia at

This article appeared in the March 2018 print issue of PLANT Magazine.