The Basics of Pest Control

Pest control is a key part of successful crop production. It involves preventing, identifying, and controlling pests to maximize yields and minimize yield loss.

Pest control is an integrated process that combines exclusion, sanitation, and monitoring techniques with biological and chemical controls. It also uses mechanical methods such as weed control and trapping to prevent, exclude, or eliminate pests before they damage crops.

Identifying Pests

Identifying pests is an important part of any pest control program. It helps you determine the type of pest that you have and what control measures need to be taken.

Some pests can be difficult to identify because of their unique appearance or body structure. Features such as the color of the pest, the shape of its wings, specific features (spots, dots, lines) on its body or eggs can help you determine the correct identification.

The National Identification Services (NIS) coordinates and provides national-level identifications of plant pests in support of USDA’s regulatory programs. NIS scientists are experts in the fields of botany, entomology and malacology.

These specialists are also available for assistance on your individual identification issues. You can contact them by contacting your local extension office or online.

Using IPM

Integrated pest management (IPM) is an information-intensive strategy that seeks to use multiple tactics and tools to control pests. It also seeks to minimize environmental impacts.

IPM incorporates pest control strategies that can reduce the risk of pest infestations and the reliance on pesticides. It also promotes sustainable bio-based pest management alternatives.

Insects, such as aphids, fungi, nematodes and mites, can cause significant problems to crops. Integrated pest management can reduce these problems by preventing or minimizing their population levels.

Preventative strategies include sanitation, exclusion and nonchemical devices that minimize pest exposure to people and the environment. It also utilizes natural enemies, such as predators and parasitoids that help to ward off pests.

Chemical control is often a last resort in an IPM program, but should be considered when other methods fail to keep populations under previously set thresholds. It should be applied only at the determined acceptable level of injury or environmental toxicities.

Using Pesticides

Pesticides are chemicals that are used to kill or control a variety of pests. They can be insecticides, herbicides or fungicides. They are widely used in agriculture to protect crops, livestock and other foods from pests.

However, pesticides can pose health hazards. They can cause short-term adverse effects, such as stinging eyes, rashes and blisters, and long-term effects, such as cancer and other chronic harms.

Occupational exposure to pesticides can occur through exposure from agricultural workers in open fields and greenhouses, as well as people in the pesticide industry or exterminators of house pests [6,8,10,13-15]. In addition, residues in food and drinking water may lead to adverse health effects.

Safe pesticide use includes understanding the label, using proper protective clothing and equipment and following safety instructions carefully. Also, it’s important to follow any other precautions on the label and to dispose of unwanted pesticides properly.


Monitoring is a key component of pest control. It helps you understand how effective your program is and if it needs any adjustments.

Unlike evaluation, which often only takes place at the end of a project, monitoring is an ongoing function. It requires systematic collection of information on specified indicators throughout a project or program.

It is important to keep in mind that the system of which a project or intervention is part is complex and can involve multiple levels, organisations and entities.

Therefore, complexity-aware monitoring should focus on attending to interrelationships, multiple perspectives and boundaries in order to gather the right information at the right time for decision-making.

Monitoring can be an essential component of any successful project, intervention or public policy. It offers steady direction to project implementation and enhances performance, transparency and accountability.