What Procurement Needs to Know about Contracting for Pest Control

Integrated Pest Management Definition

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a decision-making process for pest control that utilizes regular monitoring to determine if and when treatments are needed, and to evaluate their effectiveness. IPM programs employ a mix of biological, cultural, mechanical/physical, educational, and least-toxic chemical strategies and tactics to keep pest numbers low enough to prevent intolerable damage or nuisance. Non-chemical methods and pest prevention are emphasized, and pesticides are used only as a last resort when other approaches prove insufficient. The goal of IPM is to achieve long-term, cost-effective, and environmentally sound pest control.

An IPM program emphasizes building-wide pest management strategies aimed at preventing pests rather than just exterminating when a problem arises. IPM is sustainable because, if done well with quality products, the small repairs we make to prevent pest entry and shelter will be in place for a long time.

In addition, educating residents and staff and putting procedures in place to help prevent pests from getting in the building in the first place is the best way to maintain pest-free homes. Prevention is fundamental to IPM—when a home is good for people and bad for pests you’ve found a sustainable way to do pest control.

Using the term “green” pest control rather than the technical “IPM” can help start a dialogue, but make sure you define what “green” means in the context of your service agreement so that everyone is on board with the IPM program. Marketing buzzwords come and go, but science-based IPM is here to stay. Talk with your PMP and make sure you are both on the same page. Make sure the service agreement defines the roles of the property staff, residents, and PMP.

Understand "green" services

Before reviewing an IPM proposal, understand what a “green” service entails. Because of its marketing value, most companies do offer green service programs, but they don’t all involve the same service. You want an IPM program.

What is green?

Green usually means the service or item is energy efficient, sustainable, renewable, or has a low carbon footprint. It can be as vague as working in an environmentally aware way. When you hear a pest control company talking about how they are green, they could be describing the way the company runs, not necessarily the service you receive. Internal green practices include recycling and energy efficient lighting in the offices, using fuel-efficient vehicles, routing service routes to minimize drive time, or responsibly disposing of hazardous materials. All of these are commendable and green, but they don’t directly apply to the service you receive.

The pest control industry is well prepared to offer all versions of green, but you have to know what to ask for. Just having the pest management professional use “nontoxic,” “non-chemical,” or “safe” products is not IPM.

"Nontoxic," "non-chemical," "botanical," or "safe"

If it kills pests, it’s toxic. And any product has some level of risk. Risk = toxicity of the product + risk of exposure to the product by a non-target organism (usually wildlife, pets, or humans). Sometimes the risk of using a pesticide is less than the risk of having the infestation persist.

Don’t be afraid of the terms chemical and pesticide, just be informed about the products and how they are applied. If you want IPM, there’s more to it than just using a certain set of pesticides.

Check out this resource: Massachusetts Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Toolkit: Self-ASsessment Checklist and Resources for Procurement Staff, Managers, and Owners of Affordable Housing from the Massachusetts Department of Health