Non-toxic pest control
For the last eight years, Santa Clara County, Calif., has been reducing its use of pesticides and herbicides, focusing instead on preventing pests and using non-chemical strategies to eliminate them. The Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program aims to reduce pesticide use in buildings, on turf and landscapes and for nuisance wildlife, as well as herbicides used to control vegetation in rights of way and to manage aquatic and invasive vegetation. To track its activities and progress, the county uses a variety of technologies to automate data collection and record and analyze the chemicals’ use.
The facility maintenance groups and pest control service providers previously were limited to information about pest control efforts kept in paper data logs. They did not have a way to quickly collate documents or review the history of a site or its pests to determine the primary reasons for pest activity or how to control it effectively.
To better understand pest management issues, and improve incident handling, IPM program managers contracted with Anaheim, Calif.-based Western Exterminator Co. in 2008 to provide personal digital assistants (PDAs) and software that would collect field observations about pest conditions and methods used to treat them. The data collected by the devices in the field is stored and organized in an online system created by the county’s Information Services Department.
Departments and contractors can enter data about pests and treatments using the PDAs or their computers, seek approval on pest management activities, and monitor pest management activities and treatment use by each application, site, location, purpose and cost. The system also can sort and search previous applications by reference numbers, user group, operator name, address, and application date; and calculate pesticide and herbicide rate of application, quantity, dilution rate, area, and cost of chemicals, alternatives and labor. IPM staff use a data-modeling tool to track trends and predict problems before they can become serious pest issues.
Since the program began, the total number of pesticides, applications, volume and toxicity has been significantly reduced. Also, the county has reduced the right of way acreage under herbicide management by 80 percent. No aquatic herbicides have been used in ponds and lakes since the program began, and in 2008, no pesticide use was reported in 15 out of 27 regional parks. Dependence on non-chemical alternatives has increased significantly.
Project: Digital governance for Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
Jurisdiction: Santa Clara County, Calif.
Agencies: County IPM Program, County Executive’s Office, Information Services Department
Vendor: Anaheim, Calif.-based Western Exterminator