How does your company handle pest management?

That was one of the many topics of conversation on Monday, July 31 at the International Society of Arboriculture’s Annual International Conference & Trade Show, held at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in Oxon Hill, Maryland on the National Harbor.

Joe Boggs, of Ohio State University

In his presentation titled “Your Pest Management Strategies: Which Pests Matter?” Joe Boggs, assistant professor with the Ohio State University extension and department of entomology, explained how every tree care company needs to carefully categorize where to put their pest management emphasis.

“Share your philosophies with your customers,” Boggs explained to the attendees. “There’s a whole lot of pest management decisions that stop with saying, ‘This pest causes no harm to that tree.’ That’s a rough position to be in, when you’re looking at a tree covered in fall webworms and you’re saying they’re causing no appreciable harm.”

Boggs explained that proper pest management practices support good tree health, identify the problem (subsequently making a diagnosis) and separate “serious from not-so-serious” pests. He also explained to the attendees that, “tree death without a correct diagnosis is malpractice.”

In terms of how individual tree care companies evaluate pest impacts, Boggs said that a common dilemma faced is “How do I make money if I’m not treating, and I’m just telling my customers that those fall webworms aren’t hurting the tree?” Boggs went on to say that, “On one hand we have clients that have zero tolerance with a tree looking bad; we can’t convince them to plant a plastic tree. On the other hand, all of us in this room know that there are very few tree pests that require treatments — if we measure strictly based on tree health.”

The problem, Boggs said, is  that “not all pests are equal. We can’t say all defoliated caterpillars act the same. We can’t say all scales act the same.”

Boggs recommended sorting out pests into three categories:

  1. Pests that are damaging to trees;
  2. Pests that are serious problems but management is no longer possible or is beyond your capacity to manage;
  3. Pests that can be managed by your efforts, (which need to form the core of your service).

Determining which category each tree pests fits into is a creative exercise all tree care companies should engage in each year, to “be the most productive and profitable this coming season,” Boggs said.