Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

IPM calls for several steps to eliminate bed bugs, not just pesticides.

When a bed bug infestation is initially discovered, the first reaction for many is to reach for a can of pesticide spray. Unfortunately, without careful planning this approach is not effective and can pose unnecessary health risks.

Fortunately, there is a better approach to dealing with bed bugs and other pests. Michigan State University Extension recommends Integrated Pest Management, or IPM. According to the Michigan Manual for the Prevention of Bed Bugs, an IPM approach “uses all possible control methods in a logical combination to minimize the risk of pesticide exposure, safeguard the environment, and maximize effectiveness.” Pesticide use is just one possible component of an IPM plan, and it is never the first step. Several critical actions need to take place before pesticides are applied.

The first step is to identify the purpose of the IPM program. In the case of a bed bug infestation, this is easy! The purpose is to get rid of all of the bed bugs. Next you will need to carefully inspect the location for any sign of bed bugs. In a home or apartment this includes the bedroom, as well as other rooms adjacent to the bedroom.

The next step is to identify the pest. You’ll want to confirm that the pest you have found is actually a bed bug. It’s best to have an expert identify the pest. A pest management professional can do that for you, or you can contact Michigan State University Diagnostic Services.

If confirmed bed bugs are found in the home, then it is time to devise a treatment plan. Treatment isn’t just the application of pesticides. Treatment also involves cleaning and de-cluttering, isolating the bed is also recommended. Bed bug hiding spots should also be located and eliminated. These steps (as well as a few others) need to take place before a pest management professional applies his treatment. When choosing a pest management professional, seek out someone who uses an IPM approach.

Once the treatment step is completed, post-treatment evaluation needs to take place. This involves monitoring for surviving bed bugs. No matter what treatment method was used (pesticides, heat or a combination) surviving eggs may be present that will hatch. In this case, follow-up treatments will have to take place.

IPM also involves education. The more you know about bed bugs, their habits and what it takes to eliminate them, the better your chances of eradicating them.

For information on how to prevent or treat bed bug infestations, visit the Michigan Department of Community Health website at

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