Tag Archives: pesticides

Bed bugs in schools aren’t going away

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” –Henry Ford

Bed bugs in schools are an issue that is not going to disappear. We have many resources available to help people deal with the issue, but, as is often the case, these resources are not looked for until there is a crisis.

Finding a bed bug in any situation can be distressing, but should not be a cause for panic.

This became clear, once again, as a distraught school official called to ensure that the pesticide application they were planning was legal. When asked if the pesticide applicator had found an infestation, the answer was “We know there isn’t one”. The strategy had been to spot treat when a bed bus is found. But the problem has escalated. Parents are pulling their kids from school. The union is involved. Finger pointing is rampant. The pesticide application was planned to show that SOMETHING is being done.

But we know that it isn’t going to help. Eliminate every bed bug in a building and the very next day a student or staff member can bring in another hitchhiker from an infested home.

So what is the solution?

Bed bugs are, simply, a community problem. It is nearly impossible to determine who is at fault and laying blame is pointless. The old saying states that it takes a village to raise a child. It also takes a village to deal with a bed bug problem.

First, know that it is nearly impossible to prevent bed bugs from entering any public facility. They will hitchhike on personal items from infested homes. These introductions are common in schools, office buildings, movie theaters, retail stores, libraries, taxis, buses, trains, diners,…

Bed bug infestations are rare in schools, but introductions from infested homes, usually on personal items that travel from home to school and back again, are quite common.

Second, infestations do not happen unless bed bugs have the opportunity to feed. They hate disturbance, prefer darkness when feeding, and need a body to be still, usually for two hours or more – not conditions typically found in schools.

Third, especially in apartment units, a family might be doing their best to control bedbugs, but a neighbor’s untreated apartment can lead to constant reinfestations. And there are multiple reasons for residents to not report bed bug infestations within their apartments, including:

  • Bed bugs might not have been noticed. Not everybody reacts to bites.
  • Residents are ashamed or embarrassed. Despite the fact that anyone can get bed bugs, there is the false stigma that bed bugs are associated with poverty and unsanitary conditions.
  • There is a risk of being charged for treatment or being evicted, even when the landlord is responsible.
  • Treatment is expensive and the resident might not have the resources to hire a pest management professional.

A national organization called eXtension has developed an IPM Action Plan for Bed Bugs that addresses the responsibilities of the school community and parents (and, in extreme cases, local government). Both lists include education. The NYS IPM Program can help with educational resources (below) and workshop opportunities.

The Action Plan goes on to discuss procedures that should be followed if a suspected bed bug is found and what to do if children repeatedly come in with bed bugs. It even provides recommendations for further intervention when children continue to come in with bed bugs despite interventions. A small sample of listed procedures include:

  • If a confirmed bed bug was found on a child then the school nurse should inform the child’s parents. [A letter and] inspection report should be sent home with the student. (See Bed Bugs: What Schools Need to Know fact sheet for a good sample letter). Educational materials should accompany the letter.
  • In most instances students should not be excluded from school due to bed bugs. Schools should not be closed due to the discovery of bed bugs unless there is a widespread infestation [which is rare].
  • In an infested home, parents should store their child’s freshly laundered clothing in sealed plastic bags until they are put on in the morning. This prevents bed bugs from hiding in the clothing and being carried to school.
  • Backpacks, lunchboxes and other items that travel back and forth to school can also be inspected daily and stored in sealed plastic containers at home to prevent bed bugs from getting into them. [Backpacks can also be treated in a hot dryer.]
  • At school a “hot box” might be used to heat treat belongings possibly infested. A hot box is an insulated container with a heating element that raises the temperature above 115 degrees, killing bedbugs. They can be purchased for a few hundred dollars. Dryers that contains shelves will also serve the same purpose.

Action plans can then be formatted as a flowchart, making decision making simple to understand and follow. The Michigan Bed Bug Working Group put together the Bed Bugs: What Schools Need to Know fact sheet with a sample flowchart.

This flowchart is part of Bed Bugs: What Schools Need to Know. The fact sheet also includes a sample parent letter.

We recommend that every school develop a bed bug policy based on the recommendations within the IPM Action Plan for Bed Bugs and use NYS IPM Program resources to help educate the school community and beyond regarding bed bugs and how to deal with them.


NYS IPM Bed Bug Resources

And be sure to check out a potential grant opportunity to help the school community purchase the airtight containers and heating units needed to help prevent bed bug transportation. The Walmart Foundation Community Grant Program offers grants ranging from a minimum of $250 to the maximum grant of $5,000. We do not know if they have ever funded this type of project, but let us know if you are successful!

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

Pesticide Misapplications? The Costs Are High

A chemical smell wafting through an upstate middle-school classroom last fall ended up sending six students to the hospital. What happened?

A member of the custodial staff sprayed wasp killer by a fresh-air intake. Some of that spray ended up in a second floor classroom. Fourteen students and two staff members felt ill, according to a newspaper account; in fact, the school was evacuated for more than a half hour.

Need help identifying a pest and what to do about it? What's Bugging You? has the information you need.

Need help identifying a pest and what to do about it? What’s Bugging You? has the information you need.

The school was fined $5,500 for violating three pesticide regulations. But incidents like this are preventable by practicing integrated pest management.

The NYS IPM Program offers resources such as this video about stinging insects and IPM strategies that reduce the risk of stings.

Many state regulations pertain to pesticide use in and around schools. You can find a synopsis here. But first and foremost — anyone who applies pesticides on school property must meet pesticide application certification requirements. (The same applies to child care centers, office buildings, or any other commercial or public property.) If the certified applicator is a school employee, then the school itself must be registered and appropriately insured.

Neither the school’s pesticide-application notification requirements nor the Child Safe Playing Fields Act were violated, since each provides exemptions for the use of small containers of aerosol products in an imminent threat from stinging and biting insects. Regardless, a certified pesticide applicator must apply them, and, if applied by a school staffer, the school must be registered.

School staffers can obtain and maintain commercial pesticide licenses after getting the right education credits and passing their exams. You can find information about pesticide certification on the Pesticide Safety Education Program website, including information about upcoming classes.

Organizations such as BOCES and CASDA often ask NYS IPMers to present at their conferences.

Organizations such as BOCES and CASDA often ask NYS IPMers to present at their conferences, such as this upcoming workshop on ticks and tick-borne diseases.

Consider: without the basic knowledge inherent in getting a license, how can you be sure that staff are aware of the laws that keep incidents such as this from occurring? Who will be qualified to choose a pest management contractor when the need to protect students from the threat of pests — whether increased risk of asthma from mice or cockroaches, rashes from poison ivy, or anaphylactic shock from a wasp sting — relies on an expert’s help? And how will school personnel know what steps they can take to not only deal with existing (and potentially costly) pest issues, but also prevent new ones from taking place?

Answer: Be sure your maintenance staff gets the education needed to stay up to date with the latest pest management information.

The New York State Integrated Pest Management Program has resources to help schools with their pest issues. Visit the NYS IPM Program’s school webpage. Learn about specific pests, including stinging insects. Sign up for our blog, The ABCs of School and Childcare Pest Management. Send staff to classes offered by our experts.

We are here to help address your pest management needs.

“How To” …Our IPM Tools for Managing School Pests

The IPM Resources menu on the Best Management Practices for School IPM website provides ‘tools’ to help practitioners, experienced or new, practice IPM. And that’s the point.

Integrated Pest Management uses science- based knowledge to reduce pest problems. But as good as your practices might be, communication between custodians, groundskeepers, school staff, teachers and administrators, as well as the school board, and greater community is crucial. As with students, pest management works best when everyone is ‘on board’.

From our experiences in schools, and discussions with school staff and pesticide control officers, we created a list of resources to help in the everyday practice and that important cooperative effort.

General IPM:

Action Thresholds in School IPM Programs

Basis Steps in IPM Implementation

Colorado Coalition School IPM Policy Statement Template

University of California IPM: A curriculum for Early Care and Education Programs

EPA Citizen’s Guide to Pest Control and Pesticide Safety

EPA Pest Control in the School Environment: Adopting IPM

IPM for Pennsylvania Schools: A How-To Manual

IPM for School Administrators and Principals

sample of IPM for admins

Notice of Pesticide Application

Pesticide Application Record Form

Integrated Pest Management Literacy Plan for K-12 Education

Simple Inspection Form (generic indoor or outdoor)

sample generic inspe form

Long-Term Management of Structural Squirrel and Bat Problems.

 

Next time, we’ll focus on Resources specific to Indoor Pest Management.

Child Safe Playing Fields Act – Frequently Asked Questions

A New York law essentially banning pesticide use on the grounds of schools and day care centers has been full effect since 2011. The letter of the law states:

A vacuum transforms into an effective IPM tool when used to collect yellow jackets entering and exiting subterranean nests.

A vacuum transforms into an effective IPM tool when used to collect yellow jackets entering and exiting a subterranean nests.

No school or day care shall apply pesticide to any playgrounds, turf, athletic or playing fields, except that an emergency application of a pesticide may be made as determined by the county health department or for a county not having a health department such authority as the county legislature shall designate, the commissioner of health or his or her designee, the commissioner of environmental conservation or his or her designee, or, in the case of a public school, the school board.

Questions about the law still abound. Here are the most common questions we receive:

What areas are affected?

Besides the playgrounds, turf, athletic or playing fields clearly stated in the law, playground equipment and fence lines around athletic fields and tennis courts are included.

The following areas are left to local discretion, but with the understanding that the intent of the law is to reduce children’s exposure to pesticides:

  • Areas around buildings
  • Ornamental plants such as trees, shrubs, and flowers

Pesticides used inside of schools or day care centers, or to protect a structure, are not banned.

Family day care centers are exempted.

What if a fence line is managed by the surrounding landowner (such as childcare center on a college campus)?

The inside of this child care center’s fenceline falls under the Child Safe Playing Fields Act.

The inside of this child care center ’s fenceline falls under the Child Safe Playing Fields Act.

The law applies to the interior fence line that encloses the play area (the side that children may contact).  The law would not apply to the exterior fence line.

If a park hosts school athletic events, such as games and practices, must it be managed under the law?

No.

What pesticides are banned and are there any exceptions?

Pesticides are substances intended to prevent, destroy, repel, or mitigate pests. They include insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, rodenticides, and plant growth regulators. All EPA registered pesticides are banned by this law for use on grounds at schools and day care centers, with the following exceptions:

  1. Antimicrobials such as bleach
  2. Aerosol sprays (18 ounce or less) to protect from imminent danger from stinging or biting insects
  3. Insect and rodent baits in non-volatile containers
  4. Products containing boric acid or disodium octaborate tetrahydrate
  5. Horticultural oils and soaps
  6. EPA exempt pesticides, known as minimum risk pesticides and 25(b) products, are not registered by EPA because they find them to pose little or no risk. Cornell has a list of allowable herbicides for schools and day care centers available for your reference.

Note that all of the above exceptions (except bleach) must be applied by a NYS licensed pesticide applicator. Any off label use of a product – such as the use of bleach, vinegar, road salt, or home remedies to control a pest – is illegal under state law.

Is there a provision within the law to add additional materials to the exempt list?

No. A change would require either the EPA to add to its 25B list or the NYS legislature to pass new legislation.

How do we apply for an emergency exemption?

Under the law, a public school can seek permission for an emergency application from their school board. Non-public schools and day care centers ask the Department of Health in the case of emergencies that threaten public health, such as ticks, or the Department of Environmental Conservation for those significantly affecting the environment, such as an invasive species.

While clover does not provide the traction and stability of turfgrass, it is considered a repetitive pest problem and not an emergency under the law.

While clover does not provide the traction and stability of turfgrass, it is considered a repetitive pest problem and not an emergency under the law.

While the law does not indicate what might be construed as an “emergency”, the Guidance document states pest issues are NOT emergencies if they are:

  • manageable with allowed products and practices
  • a routine or repetitive pest problem
  • purely an aesthetic issue

We are used to dealing with the DEC on pesticide issues. Besides deciding on emergency exemptions for environmental issues on private school and day care grounds, what is their role in the law?

The Department of Environmental Conservation, in consultation with the State Department of Education, State Department of Health, and the Office of Children and Family Services has written guidance for alternative management of turf, but has no role in enforcement.

Where can I find help in managing my grounds without the use of pesticides?

The new Cornell Sports Field Management website provides sports turf managers with the latest best management practices and resources they need to maintain safe and functional school and community sports fields.

The new Cornell Sports Field Management website provides sports turf managers with the latest best management practices and resources they need to maintain safe and functional school and community sports fields.

Cornell University is committed to helping you provide safe, functional school and childcare landscapes. The Cornell Turfgrass Program connects you to numerous resources, most notably the Safe Sports Fields Management website and the Lawn Care: The Easiest Steps to an Attractive Environmental Asset ibook. The NYS IPM Program has a dedicated page for schools and childcare centers, including a new blog, The ABCs of School and Childcare Pest Management. We also encourage you to take advantage of educational opportunities throughout the year.