Pest Control – How to Identify and Manage Pests

Whether you’re dealing with bugs, diseases or weeds, it’s important to identify and manage your pest problem.

Managing pests is an ongoing process that involves a variety of practices. Some control methods are more effective than others, so you may need to try them all before finding the best solution for your pest situation.

Pest Identification

Identifying pests is an important part of pest control, as they can cause serious damage to plants and crops. They can also spread plant diseases, which can threaten human health.

There are many methods to identify pests, including visual observation and identification by computer analysis. Although these methods are not always accurate, they can be useful in the early stages of detection and can help farmers and gardeners protect their crops.

Detection is most effective when it is carried out early in the season or at a time when crop growth is suppressed. Using several scouting trips in areas where pest populations have been historically a problem is helpful.


Pesticides are chemicals used to control and prevent insects, weeds, rodents, birds, fish, nematodes (roundworms) and microbes that damage or infect property or cause diseases.

Pesticides come in different forms – liquids, aerosols and powders. They are grouped according to the target pests, method of application and chemical content.

They are toxic to humans, animals and the environment – which means they may kill wild animals and domestic pets, as well as pollute air, land and waterways.

It can also be harmful to plants, including the crops they grow from. The chemicals used in these products are toxic and may be harmful to humans when they are ingested, absorbed through the skin or inhaled.

When choosing a pesticide, choose one with the lowest human toxicity and the smallest quantity needed for effective control. Avoid those that are highly toxic or have a long half-life, as these may be less effective and can create residues that can be lethal to the environment and other species.

Nonchemical Control

Nonchemical pest control strategies are a major component of integrated pest management. They involve a range of tactics, including host-plant resistance, biological control (using natural enemies), cultural controls such as crop rotation and moisture management, and mechanical/physical controls.

The best nonchemical pest control options are those that are least toxic to people, pets and wildlife while still being effective against the target insect. This includes products that don’t leave residues to damage beneficial insects and soil organisms.

Organic farmers and gardeners place a strong emphasis on these nonchemical approaches. They also practice crop rotation and build soil health.

In addition to these strategies, growers can integrate traditional pest-control methods such as sprays based on horticultural oils containing a vegetable oil or light mineral oil. These oils physically clog the insects’ breathing pores and may be effective in preventing pests from reaching the plants.


If pest problems aren’t severe enough to justify chemical control, prevention methods should be used first. This practice is called Integrated Pest Management (IPM).

IPM integrates biological, physical, and least toxic chemical pest prevention and control practices to keep pests from causing problems in your garden and yard. IPM is an effective approach to pest management that uses fewer chemicals and often saves money.

Step One: Accurately identify the pest. This means knowing the name, life cycle, behavior, and natural enemies of the pest.

Using a reference book from the library or garden center helps to ensure that you have an accurate description of the insect and its habits.

When pests are identified, monitor for signs of damage on a regular basis, about once a week. This will help to spot infestations before they get out of hand, and it will also allow you to determine if pest populations are thriving or declining.