Integrated Pest Management - Take II

Kay Hinkle
Adams County Master Gardener

In another article on IPM I listed just a few of many ways that the home gardener can use Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to rid his or her property of pests that live there. Using these non-invasive home remedies can solve many pest problems.

As I noted then, none of these remedies will harm humans, pets or beneficial insects. IPM is a term that refers to a common sense approach to pest control. As the name implies, Integrated Pest Management is the integration of various strategies to keep pest populations at tolerable levels in a cost-effective and environmentally sound manner.

The purpose of revisiting IPM in this week’s article is to underscore the approach to keeping pest populations at tolerable levels - and to say that what is tolerable to me has changed since I last wrote on the topic of IPM. Last year at this time I was frustrated with squirrels in the bird feeders in spite of modifications that should have kept them away. Also, there were tunnels from pesky moles pushing their way through the yard and flowerbeds that marred the beauty of our lawn.

Since I wrote that article my aging father has moved into our home; we move at a slower pace as a result. What once seemed to be an obstacle in our quest for the perfect landscape has become a pleasant family diversion. The squirrels now come as invited guests to dine on the two birdseed bells that hang from summertime shepherd’s hooks. They usually arrive in the early morning, three at a time. They take turns leaping onto the bells that swing from the impact, hanging upside down while feeding. One waiting squirrel keeps an eye on our Jack Russell Terrier, sitting just inside the French doors, planning her attack if the door should open.

My newfound tolerance has extended to include moles as well. We applied milky spore to our lawn last year in an effort to rid our property of grubs – which should lead to the exit of the moles due to a declining food source. The idea was to get rid of the grubs with something other than pesticides as outlined in Integrated Pest Management. It is too early to tell if the grubs in the grass are gone, but I can see that the moles have moved to the mulched landscape surrounding our fishpond!

After reading a recent issue of Country Living Gardening, I find that the mole is really a delightful little creature! Although many of us may think of moles as rodents, they are insectivores - tiny little eating machines. They consume nearly their body weight in insects, slugs, and grubs daily.

Did you know that the mole’s velvety fur lays flat against its body to facilitate movement, and is so smooth that it picks up no dirt as it navigates under the sod? Did you know that the broad-footed mole does the breaststroke to "swim" through the soil in search of grubs and slugs? They have no external ears and their large, claw-tipped forefeet are powerful earthmovers. As they burrow, they leave behind a telltale wake of loose, crumbly earth.

If you don’t find moles as endearing as I do, try one of these easy solutions to discourage them or perhaps the application of milky spore that my husband applied last summer. One creative solution is to place a glass bottle upright in the soil near a run. Leave about an inch of neck above ground; the weird whistling vibrations disturb the moles. Or stick inexpensive pinwheels into the soil near tunnels and mounds. Moles, with their delicate skulls, are extremely sensitive to vibrations.

Finally, if all else fails, you can build a mercy trap to capture the moles alive. Dig to the floor of an active run and sink a coffee can into the soil so that the rim of the can does not protrude above the floor. Do not refill with soil; simply darken the run by placing a board across the hole above the ceiling. Remove the cover at least twice a day to check for moles. Relocate the captive moles to a new area.

As you can see, there are a variety of home remedies that you can use to safely deter hungry critters from your lawn and garden. Harsh chemicals and pesticides can jeopardize the environment as well as the safety of children and pets – not to mention beneficial insects in your garden. IPM offers many solutions to removing garden pests.

The question is really a matter of personal taste - What is tolerable to you and your environment? What may be a pest to some of us offers a sideshow to others. And really, is it a pest or merely another miracle of nature - a tiny insect-eating machine - doing the breaststroke with his fat little feet just below the earth’s surface?

Read other articles on ecological gardening & native plants

Read other articles about controlling insects & garden pests

Read other articles by Kay Hinkle