Integrated Pest Management

Bee pollinating clover

Now that gardening has fully begun, it brings to mind the fact that so many of our fruit and vegetable crops are pollinated by insects. According to the Crops & Soils Magazine for certified crop advisers, agronomists, and soil scientists; more than a third of the food we eat depends on pollinators. Because of this, we need to make sure we are doing what we can to protect and reduce the damage to bees and other pollinator insects.

Bee populations have decreased in the past few years due to a problem called Colony Collapse Disorder, which is still being researched. The scientists are calling the reduced bee populations Colony Collapse Disorder and are attributing it to pesticides, a mite, and poor bee nutrition due to a lower diversity of flowers for the bees to forage. There are things we can do to help the bee populations, including planting a wider variety of plants for the bees to forage for pollen.

Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, is a good way to help reduce pesticides in the environment and help our bee populations. IPM is a method of managing weeds, insects, or diseases by using multiple techniques. Control methods for IPM would include mechanical such as hand pulling, cultural such as tillage, biological such as allowing natural predator insects to survive and chemical such as using pesticides.

IPM practices for insects would include

  • Tilling the garden after the growing season
  • Hand removal of the insects
  • Inspection for eggs to remove prior to emergence
  • Utilizing row covers to protect the plants from damage
  • Scout your gardens often to reduce an insect pest problem while the population is small
  • Try to avoid killing all the predator insects such as ladybugs, praying mantis’, and ground beetles.

Weeds in a lawn

The main idea behind managing weeds in your lawn or in your garden is to reduce locations where they grow and have healthy plants that can out-compete the weed species.  IPM practices for weeds would include:

  • Hand pulling
  • Mowing grass at the recommended 2.5-3 inches
  • Mulching around trees and gardens
  • Fertilizing correctly to ensure all plants are healthy
  • Planting the right plant in the right place

For a disease to occur there must be a susceptible plant host, a disease causing organism, and the proper environment.  IPM practices for diseases would include:

  • Watering plants early in the morning
  • Avoiding watering over the top of the leaves
  • Spacing garden plants and trees correctly
  • Planting resistant cultivars
  • Removing exhausted plant material in the fall to reduce possible diseases to overwinter where the plants will be next spring.

Chemicals are often a good way to manage pests in our lawns and gardens, however if we use an IPM program we may not develop a pest problem in the first place. If a pest problem does occur and chemicals are necessary, just make sure that you are applying the pesticides correctly. Use pesticides only as prescribed on the label, in the correct environmental conditions, and using the correct personal protective equipment. Also, if insecticides are necessary for an insect pest, be sure to apply them later in the evening when bees are no longer active for the night to avoid harming the bee population. It is also best to avoid spraying insecticides on plants that are blooming, so bees cannot be harmed when foraging that flower for pollen.

Fleas and Ticks

LewiNow that warm temperatures have finally come, summer will be here before we know it. With warmer temperatures, comes many insects and other arthropods outside to annoy us, including fleas and ticks. I have a wonderful miniature schnauzer that I would hate to see fleas and ticks on, and I don’t want him bringing these pests inside my home. There are many things we can do to protect our pets and ourselves from ticks and fleas.


Ticks are arachnids, they are a close relative to spiders, as they have 8 legs. The most common tick found in Nebraska is the American dog tick, or the wood tick. In extreme southeastern Nebraska, the Lone Star tick may also be found, which can be a carrier for a disease similar to Lyme disease. Many times we will find ticks on our pets or ourselves after being outside, especially if we have been in heavy vegetation where ticks are often found.

Ticks can be controlled through the use of many tactics.

  • Tick collars
    • The pet will still need to be inspected for ticks
  • Shampoo treatments
    • Need to be repeated often
  • Spot pesticides
    • Purchased from your veterinarian
    • Applied monthly through the spring, summer, and fall
    • The most recommended treatment of control for your pets.

Bug Spray Collage

To reduce your exposure to ticks,

  • Avoid tick-infested areas, if possible
  • Wear proper clothing
    • Light -colored
    • Long-sleeved shirts
    • Long pants
  • Use repellents
    • Those containing DEET work best
  • Inspect yourself upon returning home from potentially tick-infested areas
  • Remove any ticks that became attached to you
    • Use fine-tipped tweezers
    • Pull the head and the rest of the tick out all together to avoid infection
    • disinfect bite location and wash hands after removal of ticks
  • It is not practical to use chemicals in your yard to control ticks
    • The best thing for controlling ticks in your lawn would be to keep it mowed at the recommended 2-3 inches
Highly magnified view of a cat flea. Jim Kalisch, UNL Department of Entomology

As for fleas, these are transported into your home by pets and by other stray animals to your yard. Fleas are the tiny insects that jump around on your pets and can get into your home. Many of the tick pesticides are also labeled for fleas. If your pet gets fleas or brings them into your home, it is best to treat inside your home and the pet at the same time.

  • For your home
    • Wash bedding
    • Vacuum
    • Use an insect growth regulator (IGR) in areas where the pet spends time to kill any larvae still found in your home
  • For your pet
    • Apply spot pesticides
  • For your yard
    • Utilize IGR’s outdoors, in shady locations, where the pet spends time
Spot treatments for fleas and ticks for Dogs.
Spot treatments for fleas and ticks for Dogs.

For flea and tick control it is recommended that you work with your veterinarian before you use products on your pet. It is important to read and follow label instructions with any pesticide. Products for use on dogs may not be appropriate for cats. The information for this blog came from Barb Ogg, UNL Extension Educator in Lancaster County.


Preparing Summer Gardens

Tilled gardenWe are almost past our frost-free date for 2014. We usually say we are safe to plant all our summer plants on or following Mother’s Day for the year, which is May 11th of this year. This way we are going to be past any fear of frost, in most years, which would injure or kill what we just planted. With that said, we need to make sure that all our gardens are prepared correctly and our plants are planted properly.

Vegetable gardens need to be tilled and the soil needs to be prepared for planting. The time to apply additional organic matter to our gardens would be while we are tilling it up for planting. Spring is the time that we can add compost to our vegetable gardens, don’t apply fresh manure to a garden unless it is done in the fall of the year to allow all the bacteria in the manure to break down. When adding compost to a garden, till through the garden a few times then add compost at a 1-2 inch layer to the soil surface and run the tiller through the garden an additional 2-3 times.

Tilling Garden

After the soil is prepared, and we have come to Mother’s Day weekend or later, you can plant your summer vegetables into that soil. Make sure you follow the spacing recommendations that are on the seeds or labels. If plants are grown too close together they will have a lower vegetable yield and they are more vulnerable to diseases in the environment. Be sure to water all newly planted vegetables and seeds in immediately after they are planted. Granular fertilizers can be applied to the soil when planting to help give the plants a jump-start. A general vegetable garden fertilizer of 10-10-10 or 12-12-12 works very well to help your plants grow well.

Another thing we can do with our gardens this time of year, is cleanup all of our annual and perennial beds and plant our container gardens. If you haven’t already done so, prune back all the dead material on perennials such as coneflowers, lilies, and ornamental grasses. This will allow the new material to grow up and look nice. If there are new perennials you want to plant in your garden, you can plant those now. You can also begin planting annual plants as needed to fill in your flower beds. If you haven’t pruned back roses or butterfly bushes, you can do that now too. Wait to prune back spring blooming shrubs such as forsythia, lilac, and spring blooming spireas until after they have bloomed for the year.

Container Gardens
Container Garden Ideas; Photo from:

Container gardens can also be planted now. Follow these steps for a great container garden.

  • Choose your  container
    • Make sure it has a drainage hole, otherwise most anything can work for a container
  • Fill the container with a potting soil or soil-less mixture
  • If it is a large container, you can fill the bottom third with aluminum cans, plastic bottles, or gravel
  • Plant your container with annuals, perennials, herbs, succulents, or mixtures.
  • Keep your container plants well watered, as they tend to dry out quickly
  • For a visual display, try to plant the container with a thriller, a filler, and a spiller
    • The thriller could be something tall and eye-catching, such as spike grass
    • The spiller could be something that drapes over the side of the container, such as wave petunias
    • The filler could be whatever else you like to put in your container to fill the space, such as gerbera daisy