Organic Pest Management: Part 1

by David Mueller, BCE

The best way to control a pest is to prevent it from entering your facilities or product in the first place. The goal of any pest management program in the organic food industry should be zero defects and no customer complaints. This is not easy when the number of insecticidal products that you are allowed to use to reach this goal is very limited. But, providing a wholesome food product without pest insects included is possible if you are willing to change your mindset on how to approach this job.

A well balanced pest management program starts with the big circle called PREVENTION. It is the largest circle of the three because the most time and resources should be allocated to it. This includes such things as cleaning up spills, caulking cracks, replacing screens on doors and windows, painting the 18 inch white line on the perimeter of the warehouse, a 30 inch gravel pest prevention barrier on the outside perimeter, correcting improperly installed outdoor lights, replacing door sweeps that are worn out or nonexistent, inspecting pallets for carpenter ants and mouse droppings, sweeping and vacuuming spider webs in the  warehouse, to name a few. Prevention takes time and constant diligence, but it pays huge dividends in a balanced food safety program.

The second circle in a well balanced pest management program represents the percentage of time and effort that should be devoted to MONITORING for pests, defects, and customer complaints. Think of this as a virtual thermometer for pest activity. If the pest population starts to rise, the monitoring tools will give you an early warning before there is a pest outbreak that could serious affect the reputation of your company and its products.

Monitoring includes the following:
• Pheromone traps (indoor and outdoor)
• Mechanical wind up mouse traps
• Sticky board traps (blunder traps)
• Black lighting for rodent urine
• Flashlight for those hard to inspect areas
• 18” white lines
• UV Rodent Monitoring (fluoresces rodent droppings)
• Rodent census baits (non-toxic)
• Spider webs

The prescense of spiders are an excellent indicator of insect activity. Spiders eat insects
and their existence depends on insects.

Old Code Dated Product:

It is important to check questionable code dates because such containers can harbor insects. The rancid odor of the old product attracts female moths and beetles to this product to lay their eggs. Here they have a higher probability to survive and thrive. Rotation, Rotation, Rotation is all important in reducing insect infestations. By allowing even one bag of old code dated grain based ingredient to sit on the shelf for one to two years could become the “nova” for a large insect outbreak. Always ask: “How long has this been here?”

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