Tag Archives: mouse

IPM in the classroom – No creature was stirring… scratch that. They are.

Oh, the weather outside is frightful
But a week off from school is delightful
And since cleanup was incomplete
School pests eat, breed and eat, breed and eat. – Tortured adaptation of Let It Snow Let It Snow Let It Snow

I admit to being a Christmas music junkie (Once Thanksgiving is over, thank you. Christmas music in October is ridiculous.) But I might have overdosed a bit as, considering my next blog topic, visions of mice running through empty classrooms danced through my head. (Okay, I’ll stop now.)

Mice would find Jim delicious. Photo: Michael Homan flickr

At any time of the year, school pests, especially mice, roaches, and ants, will find and consume any food laying around. And sometimes they eat things we might not consider to be food, like glue, fragrant soaps, and their dead brethren.

The holidays, however, bring their own avalanche of new food possibilities. Forget the parties with their crumbs, spilled juiced, and bits of candy that rolled under the radiator. (Actually, don’t forget them. Not forgetting is the point of this post, so we’ll get back to them shortly.) Holiday crafts can be a mecca of opportunity for the critters that make school buildings their home.

The small, round milo and millet can get everywhere! Photo: Megan flickr

By holiday crafts, we mean anything from macaroni art to gumdrop wreaths. As an example of the pest implications of crafts, let’s look at the classic pinecones coated with peanut butter and rolled in birdseed. The small, round milo is a primary ingredient in many inexpensive birdseed and is not even eaten by most birds. The smaller, also round, millet is more popular with birds, but, trust me, both can get everywhere! Although more expensive, black-oil sunflower seeds are high in energy, a favorite of many birds, and, most pertinent to this post, infinitely easier to clean up. (If you’re interested in pursuing this non-pest related topic, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology provides a quick guide to seed types.)

And then there is the run-of-the-mill food opportunities provided by breakfast in the classroom, afternoon snack, and the emergency stash in the teacher’s desk drawer. All of these activities lead to overwhelmed custodial staff, who are likely already understaffed and overworked, and, of course, those happy pests that can feed uninterrupted through the holiday break.

A pest-proof container that fits in a desk drawer is the perfect gift for teacher.

So lend a hand. Pre-plan those holiday crafts and parties with pests in mind and be sure to include a clean-up strategy. Give the students the responsibility for their own messes and the tools they need to clean it up. And, if someone asks you what you want as a gift, pest-proof containers for your emergency stash could be just the ticket.

For more ideas on scrooging pests, see the Texas School Pest News post Don’t make it a Happy New Year for Pests. The NYS IPM Program has put together School Integrated Pest Management: The Four Laws for Keeping Schools Pest-Free and other resources available on our Schools and Daycare Centers webpage.

And make sure you check under the radiator.

Happy holidays!

The Role of School Nurses in Integrated Pest Management for Public Health

By Meredith Swett Walker. Originally published on Entomology Today, by the Entomological Society of America, November 2017. Republished with permission.

tick cubes and spoon

Tick specimens embedded in Lucite can help school nurses distinguish disease carrying ticks like Ixodes scapularis from other species. Nurses are also provided with a tick removal tool with a web address directing them to online IPM resources for schools. (Photo credit: Kathy Murray, Ph.D.)

School nurses do more than just apply bandages to scraped knees and administer asthma inhalers. They are also health educators, they help control communicable diseases, and they even do some pest management.

Meredith Swett Walker

In the past, the dreaded head louse (Pediculus humanus capitis) was likely the only pest a school nurse needed to worry about. But, with the rise of arthropod-borne diseases like Lyme disease, West Nile, and Zika, nurses increasingly find themselves thinking about tick and mosquito control as well. Bed bugs, meanwhile, are also cause for concern, and as head lice evolve resistance to traditional insecticidal treatments, even these pests require more sophisticated control methods. But school nurses typically haven’t received training in pest ecology or integrated pest management (IPM.)

At Entomology 2017 in Denver, Kathy Murray, Ph.D., of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry presented her work with the Northeast School Integrated Pest Management Working Group to engage school nurses in IPM for public health pests in schools. This project aims to give school nurses the tools, resources, and training that they need to promote and support IPM policies in schools. The work was endorsed by the National School Nurse Association and supported by the Northeastern IPM Center.

In the last 15 years, many states have started requiring schools to practice IPM. This may seem odd, but a school campus is essentially a large public property, and any property, be it a building or open space, has pests. Usually, IPM efforts in schools focus on facility managers or custodians. But school nurses deal directly with the effects of these pests on students and can be an important addition to the IPM team.

In many public schools, resources are spread thin. Facility managers may not always have the budget for the labor or materials necessary for effective IPM. But when facility managers and nurses come together to ask administrators or school boards for more resources for IPM, their requests have more heft, says Murray.

New England Nurse Conf 2017 table

The Northeast School Integrated Pest Management Working Group has presented its project to engage nurses in IPM at nursing conferences. (Photo credit: Kathy Murray, Ph.D.)

In the Northeast, ticks are a major concern, particularly Ixodes scapularis (also known as the blacklegged tick or the deer tick), which transmits Lyme disease. Students may come in with ticks they picked up at home or can even pick up ticks on the school grounds. The project supplies school nurses with a tick removal tool, as well as actual ticks embedded in Lucite to aid in distinguishing disease-carrying species from non-vectors. When nurses learn more about tick ecology, they can help identify potential tick habitat on campus and work with facility managers to get it removed.

Mosquito bites themselves are not a major concern for school nurses, but arboviruses like Zika or West Nile are. When nurses know more about the behavior and ecology of mosquitoes, they can help identify mosquito breeding sites on campus, such as small pockets of standing water, and work with facility managers to address them. Where arboviruses are a serious concern, nurses may advocate for outdoor sporting events to be scheduled to avoid peak mosquito activity periods like dusk.

Murray found one health-pest relationship that many nurses were unaware of: the connection between cockroaches, mice, and asthma. The fecal material and urine of these pests are potent asthma triggers. Unfortunately, schools are a prime habitat for mice and roaches. There is food present in the cafeteria and often the classroom. In addition, school buildings are typically unoccupied at night, when mice and roaches are most active. Some research has even shown higher levels of pest-related allergens in school buildings than in the average student’s home. If nurses are concerned about asthma attacks at school, managing pests may help.

In her presentation at the Entomological Society of America’s 2017 annual meeting, Murray made the case that school nurses are often at the front lines of pest-related public health challenges. They can also be essential bridges to the wider community. When confronted with a pest problem, “nurses would like to have some solid, research-based, concise information—in multiple languages” that they can share with students’ families. The IPM project is working to provide that. While some school nurses may have never envisioned IPM as part of their job description, Murray says she has found the school nurses she works with to be interested in IPM and “very passionate about protecting student’s health.”

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Meredith Swett Walker is a former avian endocrinologist who now studies the development and behavior of two juvenile humans in the high desert of western Colorado. When she is not handling her research subjects, she writes about science and nature. You can read her work on her blogs Pica Hudsonia and The Citizen Biologist or follow her on Twitter at @mswettwalker.

Protect Your Health When Cleaning Up After Mice

Worldwide, rodents carry approximately ten diseases, most of which we’ve never heard of. Centuries ago, ‘the Plague’ spread via flea bites from infected rats. Today, most diseases spread by direct contact with a rodent or–more likely–it’s excrement (saliva, urine, or feces).

While you may not plan to touch a mouse or its droppings, you may put yourself at risk by simply inhaling microscopic particles that are released into the air when you:

  • remove a dead mouse or its trap
  • sweep or vacuum to remove nesting materials or droppings.

Deer mouse and white-footed mouse usually live outdoors but enter homes to forage for food.

Hantavirus, when dissipated in the air (microscopic virus clings to particles), stays alive after rodent activity. In fact, it may be viable up to fourteen days, but according the the CDC, it is more likely three to four.

How do you know?

It is difficult to determine just how old these signs of activity are, so always take precautions with your health and those around you.

No one wants to see this work ahead of them, but do you know how to protect your health while cleaning up?

Here’s the quick list of what to do to protect yourself:

  1. We repeat: ALWAYS TAKE PRECAUTIONS!
  2. Use snap traps to monitor current activity.
  3. Wear rubber, latex, or vinyl gloves when cleaning.
  4. SPRAY the urine, droppings, nest materials or carcasses with a disinfectant. The CDC recommends 1 part bleach to 10 parts water (10% solution) or a commercial disinfectant. SPRAY ENOUGH TO COMPLETELY MOISTEN THE ITEMS AND AREA.
  5. Use paper towels, and place everything in the garbage. (Double bagging with grocery bags can be helpful. Always double bag dead rodents.)
  6. After all signs of activity are removed, disinfect the area and any thing that might have been contaminated. MOP floors and DISINFECT counters with commercial disinfectant or 10% bleach solution. Toss out gloves that can’t be disinfected.
  7. Steam clean or shampoo upholstered furniture and hot-water wash any bedding, towels or clothing that may have come in contact with rodents. MOISTENING EVERYTHING IN YOUR CLEAN-UP AREA WILL SIGNIFICANTLY REDUCE THE OPPORTUNITY FOR AIRBORNE VIRUS TO ENTER YOUR LUNGS.
  8. When a significant clean-up job comes along, a cheap dust mask will not do the trick. Invest in a proper filtered safety mask. It’s worth the cost!

Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) and Hemorrhagic Fever with Renal Syndrome (HFRS) are two extremely dangerous conditions you do not want to encounter. These diseases do not affect the rodents that carry (vector) them.

Even without the threat of disease, clean up work often causes breathing problems for those in and around the area. Don’t forget that cockroaches and their excrement and shed skins are also a main cause of childhood asthma.

Make proper clean-up procedures part of your IPM plan.

“How to’s”… more School BMP tools for Indoor Pests

Our Best Management Practices for School website holds a lot of practical help for anyone who wants to increase their knowledge of IPM. This post focuses on Indoor IPM and includes the links to:

An Ounce of Prevention: IPM for Schools and Childcare. A resource for staff and parents, because everyone has a role in pest reduction.

Air Quality and IPM– Asthma Concerns from EPA Asthma is the most chronic illness affecting children.

Asthma and Cleaning Products: What workers need to know  Cleaning products can cause breathing problems in custodians and other staff, as well as students.

BMPS for Indoor Non-Food Areas  Here’s a checklist for yearly, quarterly, monthly, weekly and daily practices to reduce the chance of pests in areas such as boiler rooms, locker rooms, gymnasiums.

BMPs for Kitchens, Cafeterias and Storage Areas  A checklist for custodians, administrators and food service staff. Number 1 on the list:   An IPM policy is in place that gives specific plans of action to both deal with pests, and to improve pest management

Cockroach Identification  It does make a difference, you know…

Introduction to IPM for School Faculty.  Here’s an easy way to spread the word!

General_Poster_Faculty_IPM

Slide 1

University of California IPM: Green cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting, A Curriculum for Early Care and Education

IPM Poster for Custodians

Bed Bugs in Schools – Prevention

bed_bug_adult

Exclusion and sanitation are key factors in structural IPM.  Because schools and child care facilities rarely provide the favored overnight buffet found in homes and hotels, bed bugs found in schools and daycare facilities (as well as libraries, restaurants, theaters and public transportation) generally don’t create the same long term infestations. They will, however, be doing their best to find a blood meal, feed, and be on their way in less than fifteen minutes.

No one can prevent a bedbug incident, but the risk of infestation can be reduced if you and your staff learn to be proactive.

Exclusion?

Bed bugs travel via clothing, coats, backpacks, purses, book bags, instrument or document cases, etc. Obviously, checking everyone as they come in the door, and their belongings is unrealistic. Bed bugs don’t hop or fly, so they rely on speedy locomotion and you.

BedBugSuitcase_lg from bedbugcentral

bed bugs on a suitcase. Image from Bedbugcentral http://www.bedbugcentral.com/

 

Take note: Exclusion still plays a part in bed bug control, and we’ll discuss this in a future post. And never adopt or accept second-hand furniture without a thorough examination.

Sanitation?

Cleanliness has nothing to do with the presence of bedbugs, but clutter is any pest’s best friend. Clutter provides habitat and makes inspection (scouting) difficult. Large, long term infestations may occur where cleaning and sanitation has lapsed.

Where do they hide?

Insects the size of poppy seeds or apple seeds can find shelter anywhere. They prefer to be close to their food source (why not?) so look in the folds, seams and hidey places in and around upholstered fabric. Use a putty knife, playing card or plastic card along the edges of carpeting, along wall molding and trims, and behind wall art. Visually inspect behind electrical wall plates. (At home, electronics such as bedside clock radios can harbor bed bugs).  Any resting place for humans can become bed bug habitat.

If your school has had bed bug incidents, you should be inspecting on a regular basis.

Examine pillows, cushions, seams and all parts of upholstered furniture, including under and inside the frames. Do this in teacher lounges, libraries, auditoriums and any classroom or office with upholstered furniture or a resting area.

Know what you are looking for. Study the photo resources we’ve provided and other online information

Look for active bedbugs, cast skins and tell-tale reddish-brown-to-black spots of excrement.

Reduce clutter. This may be the most difficult step in a classroom. Keeping classroom paraphernalia in totes and keeping them mobile makes inspection and cleaning easier, and reduces bed bug travel opportunities. This is also an excellent way to reduce the chance of ants, cockroaches or mice.

Train your staff on how to reduce the chance of infestation.  Also, discuss bedbug prevention openly with staff and students to reduce shaming and ridicule. Do not panic if a bed bug is found. If it’s an isolated case, there is no way to know where that insect came from.

Have a policy in place and know how to capture, keep, and identify a bed bug.

More on Inspection:

Take along a flashlight, putty knife, playing card or plastic card, a screwdriver, wide clear tape, magnifying glass, small zippered bags or tightly-closing plastic containers, facial tissue, tweezers. Have large garbage bags on hand, and remember to fill out an inspection form.

NYSIPM – steps in inspection and collection

BedBug TV: How to inspect a couch

A detailed Bed bug resource from Toronto aimed at public housing