Gastonia residents learn about IPM on A Bug’s Day

In a North Carolina nature museum on May 30, SIPMC represented one of 30 exhibitors at “A Bug’s Day” event at the Schiele Museum in Gastonia. Partnering with the North Carolina Extension Implementation Project (EIP), also funded by USDA NIFA, SIPMC presented IPM to the general pubic in a very tangible way.

“A Bug’s Day” afforded us a time to talk to homeowners and older children one on one. Adults liked the interactive posters on Farm and Home IPM, while children loved the vials of bed bugs. After some coaxing, their parents would peer into the vials as well. The experience opened up some good “bed bug story” sharing opportunities and a chance to talk to parents about what IPM means at home.

We estimate that about 300 people attended the event, and displays were spread through the entire museum. We were in a room that was adjacent to the Insect Cafeteria, so we had a steady stream of traffic throughout the day.

SIPMC Display

Carol finishes set-up for our table while I take a break to take a photo before the kids come.

Our table included two “advent calendar” type displays, one on Farm IPM and the other on Homeowner IPM (the main picture of which we used with permission from the National Pest Management Association’s website). We also had two vials of bed bugs, lent to us by NC State entomologist Rick Santangelo. To help people match IPM to bed bug control, we had handouts demonstrating how to build a bed bug trap (for monitoring), along with a few examples of a professional bed bug trap.

We gave out several brochures on beneficial insects and vegetable garden IPM, donated to us by Kris Braman at the University of Georgia. Braman produced the brochures with funding from one of our IPM Enhancement Grants. Also for the taking were brochures on attracting pollinators to the garden, donated by USDA NRCS.

Our first guest was a high school teacher who seemed skeptical about our display. When we asked him if he knew what IPM was, he said, “I don’t know what it is, but I know I don’t like it.”

He then went on to tell us that he refused to use pesticides even on plants that were being completely defoliated. We told him about some mechanical pest management options such as picking insects off of the plants.  We also informed him that the purpose of IPM is to reduce pesticide usage (he assumed differently) and that often in a home garden, chemical pesticides are not needed. However, we did tell him why a farmer with a cash crop might need to use pesticides, and used spotted wing drosophila as an example. Before he left our table, he had given his phone number to Carol to help with a presentation she has to give to teachers at an FFA meeting and said that he would tell his fellow teachers about IPM.

We talked to a couple whose relatives had a bed bug infestation for a year and explained to them that they could scout for bed bugs in their home using the bed bug traps.  We also informed several adults about the use of heat to get rid of small bed bug infestations.

SIPMC Display

Our “advent calendars” for farm and home IPM were very popular and held up until a tired 3-year-old child ripped off one of the doors on the Home IPM display late in the afternoon.

Two middle school children surprised us with their knowledge about farm pest management and shared stories of their experiences on a relative’s farm. Most other people that we met were unfamilar with farm production, so we shared the cycle of preventing, scouting, monitoring and treating when necessary with several of them.

The event was the first of what I hope will be a repeated experience. I don’t think our displays taught anyone the nitty gritties of IPM on their own, but in most cases, they started a conversation. Most of the adults we talked to wanted to know how to keep insects out of their house instead of resorting to a spray can, so we talked about some of the prevention methods that are used in schools such as caulking and fixing cracks. Some people were already familiar with bed bugs and how to prevent them from entering their homes. One person reacted to the information in our farm IPM display about GMOs and didn’t realize why they were used until we explained how important it is for farmers to protect their crops so that the public can have pest-free produce.

I don’t know if we converted anyone to IPM, but we did give out about 30 bed bug trap handouts and 40 vegetable garden IPM brochures.

Overall the event was an eye-opener as to whether people outside of our land-grant world recognized the term “IPM.” As I had anticipated, virtually no one did. However, everyone we talked to was very interested in hearing what we had to say. The experience made me think that, despite our desperate attempts to write articles that teach people what IPM is, maybe people really need to see a face and hear a voice in order to “get it.”

We’ve been invited to show our displays at BugFest in Raleigh in September, and based on the reaction to the display across from us with huge insects from the science museum in Durham, we learned that the one thing we’re definitely going to have to bring is more live insects.

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