Your First Line of Defense: Walls, Windows, Roofs, and Eaves

“It is December, and nobody asked if I was ready.” – Sarah Kay

Exclusion takes constant vigilance. Evidence of mice can be found outside this well sealed door.

Exclusion takes constant vigilance. Evidence of mice can be found outside this well sealed door.

Winter has officially set in with temperatures in the single or even negative digits. It might seem a bit late for pest-proofing, but some pests are still on the move. Cold-blooded insects such as boxelder bugs, brown marmorated stink bugs, and multicolored asian lady beetles are tucked away for the winter. Preventing warm-blooded pests that are still out in the cold from entering is good IPM. Acting now can also prevent early spring infestations from mammals and birds attempting to nest in your building.

Even in harsh winter conditions, rats must forage for food. These trails highlight that rodents will follow safe/known paths. Notice the large area of undisturbed snow in comparison to the few sets of tracks.

Even in harsh winter conditions, rats must forage for food. These trails highlight that rodents will follow known paths. Notice the large area of undisturbed snow in comparison to the few sets of tracks.

A light snow cover that lasts for a few days can help your inspection efforts by showing evidence of mammals attempting to enter the building. If you find tracks and droppings, carefully inspect those areas to identify why animal signs are concentrated in that area. Chew marks can show where mammals are attempting to break through into the building.

You can also take advantage of the bare tree limbs to inspect higher parts of the building such as rooflines for signs of possible access.

If you find any issues, take steps to exclude pests.

Rodents can chew through thin-bristle brush door sweeps, allowing pest entry.

Rodents can chew through thin-bristle brush door sweeps, allowing pest entry.

  • Replace door sweeps that are no longer filling the gap
  • Seal openings with exclusion products such as sheet metal, hardware cloth, rustproof “steel wool” replacement products, and flexible sealants
  • Keep foundation perimeter free of debris
  • Keep gable, soffit, roof, and other vents in good repair and made with animal-resistant materials and design
  • Prune tree branches to be no closer than ten feet from a building

For more information on excluding pests, visit Best Management Practices for School IPM: Indoor BMPs: Structural: Walls, Windows, Roofs, Eaves and Beasts Begone! A Practitioner’s Guide to IPM in Buildings.

Online School IPM Resources to assist IPM Professionals with their Programs

Thank you to Janet Hurley, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, for her dedicated effort to progress school IPM and for allowing us to use her post.

In 2014, a number of collaborating institutions led by Dawn Gouge, University of Arizona and Janet Hurley , Texas A&M AgriLife Extension received two separate grants from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to provide online resources on integrated pest management (IPM) for school personnel. The Stop School Pests team used their grant to focus on education and training for personnel, while Hurley and collaborating scientists created a one-stop online “big box store” of IPM resources, including documents, training, pest ID pamphlets, state legislation and more.

stop-school-pests-urlThe training website, Stop School Pests, resulted from a collaboration of 42 people from federal and state agencies, universities, school districts, tribes, advocacy organizations and industry. Together they proposed to build a resource that would increase IPM adoption in K-12 schools and reduce the risks from pests and repeated pesticide use.

stop-school-pests-modulesStop School Pests provides modifiable PowerPoint presentations for in-class teaching and self-guided online courses. Lessons are specific to different roles within a school, so that facility staff will have access to materials specific to them.

While some groups, such as facility managers and maintenance personnel, were eager to delve into the materials, others such as nurses and teachers initially did not think the subject matter pertained to them. However, several who participated in some of the in-class lessons said that they did not realize how much they did not know about pest management and were glad that they took the lessons.

“I have been a school nurse for 25 years, and I cannot believe I learned so much helpful information in just one hour,” said Mary Griffin, a nurse in Arizona, after attending a training session piloting the Stop School Pests School Nurse Module.

A softball coach said that she did not realize that spraying pesticides without a license was illegal in her state until she went through the training.

For personnel who need specific information or don’t know where to turn once a pest problem starts, the iSchoolPestManager website provides over 1,000 resources, including the educational materials from the Stop School Pests project.

The iSchoolPestManager site was built as a searchable online mine of school IPM resources from every state. Staff from Texas A&M AgriLife spent several months collecting materials; then volunteers from throughout the country, even one from Israel, painstakingly combed through them to eradicate duplicates, outdated materials or references to materials that no longer existed. The initial 1,315 resources were pared down to 1,045 entries. Staff at the Pesticide Information Center in Oregon helped design and build the website. The website currently has 1,065 documents to assist everyone with adopting, maintaining, and sustaining their IPM program.stop-school-pests-website

Search for all sorts of documents by going to the show me everything tab.

The site is formatted for a standalone computer, with a separate link that will bring up special formatting for a smart phone or tablet. Resources are divided into four areas: geographically specific, professional trainings and other materials, insect-specific information, and groups of documents such as fact sheets, regulations, checklists and more.

Rather than duplicate information already provided at other websites, Hurley decided to link to them. For instance, self-paced instruction under “Training Modules” links to pages hosted by eXtension. Some of the PowerPoint presentations are located at Bugwood. Some of the educational links go to videos at university websites.

While the amount of information in iSchoolPestManager might seem overwhelming at first, users looking for specific information will be able to use the headings and sections to locate what they need more easily.

Additional information

School IPM Training Opportunities Abound


There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning. – Jiddu Krishnamurti

One of the key tenants of IPM is knowing your pests, or potential pests, and risks. Learning opportunities become a valuable tool in helping to prepare for and prevent pest issues from arising. Happily, we live in a time when School IPM training events are easily accessible.

The annual Turf & Grounds Exposition has an informative Sports Turf and Schools track. This year will highlight some back to basics presentations, a focus on regulations pertaining to schools, ongoing research on alternatives to pesticides for sports turf management, and irrigation and water management. The Exposition will be Nov. 16 and 17 in downtown Rochester. This and other events are listed on our Facebook page at

Throughout the year, the EPA Center of Expertise for School IPM hosts a webinar series featuring national experts from across the country. Upcoming webinars include:

Ants - The #1 Pest in Schools is one of many webinars offered by the EPA Center of Expertise for School IPM.

Ants – The #1 Pest in Schools is one of many webinars offered by the EPA Center of Expertise for School IPM.

  • October 18, 2016 — Pest Control Should Not Drive You Batty: How to Manage Bats Effectively in Your School
  • November 15, 2016 — Developing an IPM Plan for Your School
  • December 13, 2016 — Managing Cockroaches in Schools
  • January 24, 2017 — Pests of Public Health Importance in Schools
  • February 21, 2017 — Contracting for IPM-Based Pest Control Services for Schools
  • March 14, 2017 — Preventing Pests in School Cafeterias and Kitchens
  • April 11, 2017 — Contending with Invasive Plants on School Grounds
  • May 9, 2017 — Managing Bed Bugs in Schools, Childcare Centers, and Boarding Schools
  • May 23, 2017 — Managing Yellow Jackets and Other Wasps on School Grounds

Previous events cover a variety of topics including mosquitoes and Zika, ants, rodents, Stop School Pests and iPestManager – School IPM Educational Programs, turfgrass IPM, designing for pest prevention, and more. Webinar PDFs are available for all presentations and the recorded webinar is available for many.

And for information at any time, do not hesitate to visit NYS IPM’s Schools and Daycare Centers and the Safe Sports Field Management websites.



Ticks: Assessing the risk at schools and child care centers

“I tried real hard to play golf, and I was so bad at it they would have to check me for ticks at the end of the round because I’d spent about half the day in the woods.” – Jeff Foxworthy

‘Tis the season for requests for emergency pesticide sprays on school and child care grounds to get rid of ticks. The request is often prompted by an irate parent who found a tick on their child.

Problem #1: IPM requires evidence, not complaints, to determine when management should take place. When looking for an exemption to apply pesticides under the Child Safe Playing Fields Act, confirmation that ticks are on the property is essential.

Problem #2: playgrounds and ball fields are lousy tick habitat. As Jeff Foxworthy discovered, golfers who  stay on fairways are in little danger of picking up ticks. While it’s always possible a tick dropped off a wandering deer, mouse, or bird, it’s not likely to survive in a dry place for long. Mowed lawn and mulched playgrounds don’t typically have the 85% relative humidity level ticks need to survive.

It can be difficult to tell if a tick has been feed up to two days after it starts.

It’s not easy to tell if a tick has been feeding for up to two days after it starts. But — be aware. This is only an estimate.

Problem #3: ticks are sneaky. Very sneaky. Their entire livelihood depends on being attached to another living being for up to a week without being discovered. A tick found today provides little information about where it was picked up.

But guidance is available. The TickEncounter Resource Center has growth charts showing how a tick’s appearance changes the longer it is able to feed. If you send them a picture, they can determine how long the tick has been feeding.

Dragging for ticks assesses tick presence and helps determine next steps for management.

Dragging for ticks can help assess tick risk and help determine next steps for management.

Still, be aware: this is only an estimate.

The upshot is that ticks found on students shouldn’t trigger pesticide applications on playgrounds. But they should trigger the IPM practice of tick monitoring. The easiest way to look for ticks? Dragging.

Tick drags are easy and inexpensive to make. Attach dowels on the ends of a 3’x3’ white flannel cloth and tie a string to each end of one of the dowels. Drag the cloth over grass for 30 seconds. Identify and count the number of ticks clinging to the sheet. Repeat over the entire area. Woods and shrubby areas are easier to scout with a tick flag, which is simply a tick drag with only one dowel attached. Instead of dragging, swipe the bushes and understory with the flag. Everything else remains the same. Done often wherever kids play, you can assess the risk of picking up ticks year-round. According to School Integrated Pest Management Thresholds, the recommended threshold for action for ticks is three ticks.

Did tick monitoring indicate that the tick population is above threshold on portions or all of your grounds? You can find management practices and more in our fact sheet, Understanding and Managing Ticks – A Guide for Schools, Child Care and Camps.

Looking for more information? Visit What’s Bugging You: Ticks. And stay tuned for upcoming posts about protecting our children from tick bites.

Partner with the EPA to assess Economics of School IPM

Health Resources in Action has partnered with the EPA to assess the economics of Implementing an IPM program in schools. To do so, they are looking for partners like you, and will provide funding as well.


The EPA’s “Keeping the Pests Out” needs schools that now use an IPM program after switching from a more traditional pest extermination strategy.

Why apply?

  1. Economic assessment is free to the selected schools
  2. $6000 to the selected schools
  3. Includes a detailed cost analysis of their IPM program
  4. This will help increase adoption of IPM in schools

The Deadline is May 6th, so we’re here to give you a push… Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Have your superintendent write a letter of commitment. Example: your district  is interested, feels it would be an asset to the research, and agrees to work with (HRIA) Health Resources in Action from Jun 2016-March 2018
  2. Provide the name of your IPM Coordinator
  3. Be contracted with a licensed IPM Provider (Pest Control company that follows IPM procedures)
  4. Show that you’ve implemented IPM
  5. Share 24 months of pest management records from when you used traditional pest treatments and 24 months of records after transitioning to IPM  **see note below
  6. Provide records that may help track incidences of asthma problems with students and staff in your district
  7. Fill out the application online  and hit send! See the link below which shows the application you’d need to fill out.

**IPM means recordkeeping after all, so here’s what they hope you can provide:

 -Records for at least 24 consecutive months of a traditional exterminator model, and at least 24 consecutive months of IPM model.

-Those records should include: pest management contractor invoices, work orders, IPM logs (pest sightings), IPM work plan, IPM contract reports, IPM materials (if purchased by the district), custodian annual cost per square foot, training cost for staff training on IPM, custodian overtime (for addressing pests if they are doing additional IPM work),energy cost, Average Daily Attendance
/Average Daily Membership and annual Occupational Safety and Health Act reports.

They may also collect stories from school personnel regarding changes in pest problems in the schools. Since some of these records may be held by the pest contractor, we assume that each school with request the specific data elements directly

Here is the link!

We’d love to see you be part of this important work.