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Cooperative Extension Service

Summary: Insect identification is the single most important step in any integrated pest management program. You simply cannot succeed unless you know exactly what you are trying to control. You local Cooperative Extension Service can put you on the right track.

Have you ever been asked a question that you just cannot answer? Of course you have. Everybody has experienced that moment. So, what did you do? Did you fake the answer and hope it would not come back to haunt you? Some people do exactly that, but well prepared individuals know better. The logical step would be to admit your lack of knowledge on the topic and promise to get an answer. From there you would seek out various sources to supply you with the information to bring you up to speed.

Pest control is no different. You need to have information about the insect pest you are trying to control. So, why do I get hundreds of email questions asking me how to control œa little black bug or œa yellow flying beetle or any number of general descriptions of insects? In every instance I ask the writer to collect samples of the insect and have them properly identified.

The mind boggles at the various types of ants walking this planet. Each ant species acts in subtle different ways. One ant might nest in trees, while another only nests underground. Some ants eat sweat foods, another eats only protein-based foods, while still another eats both. Some ants seek moisture, while others need very dry conditions. So, when I get an email pleading for help in controlling an ant problem, you can see why it is necessary for me to ask the identification of the ant. How can I possibly give good directions if I don't know if the ant in question is living in a tree, in the mulch or under the slab of the house?

Insect identification is the most important aspect of good integrated pest management. In simple terms, integrated pest management (IPM) is a progression of steps you should take before running for the pesticides and good IPM begins with identifying the insect. Once you know what you are up against you can determine what steps must be taken to exclude the pest by closing off its access points, taking away its shelter and eliminating its food source. All done without pesticides and without spending a dime.

Now, this is where your local Cooperative Extension Service comes into play. Every state throughout the U.S. and U.S. territories have an Extension office staffed with one or more experts who provide useful, practical, and research-based information to agricultural producers, small business owners, youth, consumers, and others in rural areas and communities of all sizes. Consumers, such as you, are welcome to bring their cache of insects and drop them off for identification. No charge! No obligation! It's your tax dollars at work. The Extension agent will also offer suggestions on what steps you need to take to rectify the situation. The time you spent visiting the Extension office could save you hundreds of dollars in professional pest control fees.

I'm not suggesting that you undertake pest control tasks that could put you in harm's way such as in removing a large hornet's nest. The pros have the right equipment and access to products that are not readily available to the general public. Nor am I suggesting that a professional pest control company is incapable of making a proper insect identification. Many are capable, but then again, some think they are capable, but in truth, are not. What I am saying is that the Cooperative Extension Service has no vested interest in selling you a product or service. It is a neutral ground. A place to go to get good advice without a sales pitch attached.

Click here to get to the Cooperative Extension Service website. Once inside, click on your state and look up the nearest Extension office by your county name. It's that easy!

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