Tag Archives: school grounds

Ticks and Schoolyard Edges

The time of the falling leaves has come again. Once more in our morning walk we tread upon carpets of gold and crimson, of brown and bronze, woven by the winds or the rains out of these delicate textures while we slept. – John Burroughs, The Falling Leaves

image of a man in long pants and sleeves, a baseball cap, and ear coverings using a leaf blower. In front of himn leaves are being blown towards the camera.

Leaf blowing leaves is a common practice, but does it cause a risk for more ticks?

A recent study, Artificial Accumulation of Leaf Litter in Forest Edges on Residential Properties via Leaf Blowing Is Associated with Increased Numbers of Host-Seeking Ixodes scapularis Nymphs published in the Journal of Medical Entomology, showed that areas where leaves were raked or blown into forest margins tripled the number of blacklegged tick nymphs compared to areas where leaves were not artificially accumulated. (There was no observed impact on lone star ticks.)

chart showing that 14 ticks were found within the woods, 51 along the wood edge, 12 3 meters into the field,1 found 6 m into the field, and 3 on the technician.

Most ticks were found along the woodland edge.

Combine this with the findings of a Cornell study, Active surveillance of pathogens from ticks collected in New York State suburban parks and schoolyards, and it is clear that woodland edges are the areas of highest risk for students to encounter ticks. Fortunately, most students don’t spend much time in these areas. Unfortunately, students will chase stray balls into these areas when ticks are furthest from their minds.

What can you do to protect students from these tick risky areas? Step one would be to monitor your school grounds for ticks. This low tech monitoring technique can easily be accomplished by a coach, playground monitor, or even students. Knowing that ticks are active can allow for some adjustment of play, like putting up cones to let students know areas are off limits.

Is there an area with consistently high tick activity? Installing fences or netting can prevent stray balls from entering wooded edges. Think of it as reverse exclusion – in this case, we’re keeping the students out of the pest areas.

Keep in mind that blacklegged ticks prefer high humidity, so look to reduce shady and damp areas where students spend time. We can modify parts of the school grounds to make them less hospitable to ticks by:

  • Removing leaf litter from wooded edges in high traffic areas
  • Removing trees shading play areas if monitoring shows those areas have tick activity
  • Replacing wood mulch, which can store moisture, if monitoring shows tick activity,  with a different, drier option
  • Widening trails to reduce the risk of students brushing against vegetation
  • Eradicating invasive plants, such as Japanese barberry, honeysuckle, and multiflora rose, that easily establish along wooded edges, and have been associated with higher concentrations of ticks carrying disease-causing pathogens

For more information on ticks and schools, check out our updated fact sheet Understanding and Managing Ticks – A Guide for Schools, Child Care and Camps. Additional information can be found on our website Don’t Get Ticked NY.

School IPM 2020 Conference

When it comes to student learning and achievement, the physical environment is a full partner.” – Dr. Lorraine Maxwell, Cornell University A picture of a school with a banner that says "School is Open Humans Only" with a bedbug, cockroach, tick looking at the sign. The tick is holding a mouse pull toy and the cockroach is holding a coronavirus shaped balloon. Includes the logos for NYSIPM, Cornell AgriTech, and USDA: NIFA

Another annual NYSIPM Conference is in the books and it was certainly different from what we imagined when we started planning last year. Covid-19 caused us to move the in-person gathering from April to a virtual conference in August. (Silver lining: it turns out virtual conferences are easier to get online than those we record with a video camera. You can now view the conference presentations from our YouTube channel.)  The virus also both supported and distracted from our main goal of discussing school pest issues that need community interventions to address.

As I discussed in my July post, Back to School – Humans Only!, Covid-19 is an excellent example of an issue that cannot be handled by school personnel alone. We have all been called to support the openings of schools through practicing social distancing, wearing masks, and handwashing whenever we leave our homes. As we looked at pest issues with similar community connections, examples included pests like bed bugs coming into schools on backpacks, but also wheelchairs and cockroaches coming in supplies and food packaging. Increasing communication and engaging collaborators that can help address these issues in the community preventing the introduction of pests into schools were brought up repeatedly. You can view that discussion here. Drs. Dina Fonseca and Paul Curtis also provided us with excellent examples of community members working together to manage mosquitoes and deer.

Besides influencing our conference, how else will Covid-19 impact schools from an IPM perspective? A few virus mitigation practices have direct impact on pests.

Reduced clutter

Photo of slide from conference: "Summary – NYC study Students’ perception of the school’s social learning environment is, in part, shaped by the physical quality of the school building. The social learning environment affects student attendance and subsequently academic achievement. Demographic factors play a role but school building quality remains an important contributing factor to the learning environment."

School building conditions matter in learning outcomes.

To decrease items that need to be regularly cleaned and sanitized, only required items are being kept in classrooms. The elimination of furniture and cushions, fewer books, less arts and crafts materials (or materials stored in easy to clean containers) will provide less space for pests to hide. We touched on this in the blog post, Bed Bugs in Schools – Prevention. And, as we learned in our keynote address, Healthy Environments for Learning by Dr. Lorraine Maxwell,  too much clutter can also lead to cognitive fatigue. While there is much influencing learning outcomes this year, we can hope that simplifying classrooms will help reduce pests and support learning.

Food in the classroom

There will be expanded food in classrooms as student travel within building is curtailed. Breakfast in the classroom has already proven to be challenging. This year lunch in the classroom, as well as teacher breaks, will increase the volume of food and food waste, the number of spills, and the amount of cleaning occurring throughout the school. On the School IPM Best Practices website, you can find information and resources on breakfast in the classroom.

Ventilation

To increase ventilation, windows and doors are being encouraged to be left open. Open doors leave opportunities for rodents and flying insects to enter buildings. Windows should have screens in place to exclude pests, but have screens been checked for holes or bent frames? Bobby Corrigan discussed rodent exclusion in his presentation, Identifying and Understanding the Rodent Vulnerable Areas (RVAs) of Schools: Essential for Sustainable IPM.

Sanitation

With IPM, we usually discuss cleaning more than sanitation, but Covid-19 has created a shift. (Note: this is unfortunate as this particular virus succumbs to soap and water.) We are not the experts on this issue, but have included a couple of blog posts to help provide some guidance:

The most important outcome of the conference is the message that school building matters and, indeed, as Dr. Maxwell concludes, “When it comes to student learning and achievement, the physical environment is a full partner.” And we all have a part to play.

Be sure to visit our School IPM 2020: Where We’ve Been and What’s Next webpage for information on our speakers and links to the recordings of all the presentations.

For more information on school IPM, visit our Schools and Daycare Centers webpage.

Managing Wild Parsnip

“As everyone knows, when fighting a zombie, you grab a shovel and aim for its head. The same with wild parsnip, except you aim for its feet.” – Paul Hetzler

picture of yellow umbrella-like flower on a large green stalk

The bright yellow flowers of wild parsnip can be noticeable from a distance. The sap in this widely spreading invasive plant can cause severe burns.

There is no lack of invasive species in New York – but some do raise more of a concern than others. One such is the wild parsnip. Commonly spotted along roadsides with its bright yellow flowers, it can cause a problem on low maintenance areas on school grounds.

According to the New York Invasive Species Information Clearinghouse, wild parsnip produces furanocoumarin, “a compound in its leaves, stems, flowers, and fruits, that causes intense, localized burning, rash, severe blistering, and discoloration on contact with the skin on sunny days”. Avoid the sap and avoid the chemical burns.

In order to avoid those burns, the NYS DEC recommends:

  • Do not touch any parts of the plant with bare skin.
  • Wear gloves, long-sleeved shirts, pants, boots and eye protection if working near wild parsnip to prevent skin contact with the sap. Synthetic, water-resistant materials are recommended.
  • If contact with sap occurs, wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and water, and keep it covered for at least 48 hours to prevent a reaction.
  • If a reaction occurs, keep the affected area out of sunlight to prevent further burning or discoloration, and see a physician.
yellow flowers with some seed formation

Wild parsnip going to seed. The seeds become browner as they get ready to drop.

Digging out the root, cutting the root an inch or two below the soil, mowing, and herbicides can all be effective in managing wild parsnip. It is unlikely, however, that an emergency exemption for herbicide use would be approved before seed drop. Mechanical methods will have more long-term benefits.

And wild parsnip is going to seed, so make sure you don’t ensure a new crop next year by spreading seeds around! Before conducting any management, carefully cut the seed heads off with clippers and put them in a plastic bag. The bag can then be left in the sun to rot the seeds before disposal. And don’t forget to wear protective clothing to prevent any sap from reaching exposed skin or eyes.

If you want to learn more about wild parsnip and its management, our favorite guest blogger Paul Hetzler covered it well and humorously in his blog, Vengeful Veggies.

For more pictures of wild parsnip, visit the Turfgrass and Landscape Weed ID website. For information on other  invasive species, visit the New York State IPM Program’s Invasive Species page.

And, just in case we didn’t quite get the message across – wear protective clothing and eye wear to prevent sap from causing severe burns.

Three Timely Steps for Managing School Pests during Shutdown. #1 Monitor

While pests like bedbugs are inactive waiting out school re-openings, the old standards like cockroaches and rodents can use quiet buildings to their advantage if habitat needs are met.  Food, water and shelter are available in areas such as storage rooms, kitchens, boiler rooms and crawlspaces. If your building is currently unoccupied, pest activity can go unnoticed by staff, especially if there is a disruption in pest control operator visits.

OUR NUMBER ONE SUGGESTION NOW IS…SCOUTING. Building maintenance remains (at this time) essential work. Just like in the summer months, buildings without students allow much great opportunity for extensive scouting and cleaning.

LOOK FOR PESTS, PEST ACTIVITY and PEST ENTRY POINTS. The partial inspection list below notes areas that may not be addressed daily during the school year.  Now is the time to move large pieces of kitchen equipment in buildings no longer providing meals.

image shows three samples of pest droppings for comparison, rat, cockrock, mouse

Rat, cockroach, and mouse droppings. Can you identify? (cockroach on the right)

Our Best Management Practices for School IPM website is available to help.  For example: Resources for custodial and building maintenance staff.  We have at least forty links to online or printable resources for IPM Policies and Protocols, General IPM Resources, Indoor IPM Resources and Outdoor IPM Resources

a partial chart of things to do monthly, quarterly or annually to reduce pest problems in buildings.

Here are some videos to help you out:

Signs of rodent infestations in buildings: NYSIPM’s Dr. Matt Frye

Setting snap traps : NYSIPM’s Dr. Matt Frye

Insect monitoring: West Virginia’s IPM Minute: Sticky traps for insects

How to conduct a Pest Assessment in Schools: EPA Webinar

Inspecting a Child Care Facility – Detailed video applicable to all school buildings

photo shows water lines inside a building's utility room. Grease marks are dark and greasy trails showing where rodents travel. This also shows how water condensation provides water for pests.

Dark areas known as grease marks show consistent routes of rodents. Their greasy fur leaves a trail. Why are they here? Pests rely on water sources such as condensation.

 

Announcing Updates to the Northeastern IPM School Best Management Practices Website

northeastipm.org/schools//

photo shows a screen shot of the front page of the school best management practices website

Our New Look!

Back in 2013, the Northeast School IPM Working Group (NESIWG) received a Partnership Grant from the Northeastern IPM Center to develop a Best Management Practices (BMP) website.

northeastipm.org/schools//

logo of the northeastern I P M center

Reducing pest and pesticide exposure is important for children, just as it is for district staff and visitors. But schools are especially challenging to manage because they include such varied and heavily used settings such as classrooms, cafeterias, laboratories, auditoriums, theaters, playing fields, playgrounds and gardens.

photo shows signs of damaged turf on a lacrosse field due to over use

The burden of use on an athletic field. (NYSIPM photo)

With the help of many contributors, the NESIWG both created and collected resources for school IPM. We wanted to help administrators, school boards, parents, teaching and support staff, athletic directors, groundskeepers, kitchen staff and custodians how a designated pest management plan can reduce both pests and the need for pesticides. The website was a success.

By 2018, NESIWG members saw the need to update old links and fill out gaps in the content. Eager to keep the website a useful and comprehensive resource, the working group applied for and received a NEIPM Communications grant. Again using focus groups, the following changes were made:

  • a reorganization of the pest species list,
  • additional information on relevant pesticide use regulations in all Northeastern states,
  • grouping resources by stakeholder roles,
  • the addition of two new pages: Breakfast in the Classroom and Playgrounds

Additionally, the recent grant included an update of the working group’s homepage, a new ranking of regional school IPM priorities, a current membership list and an index of school IPM contacts in the Northeast.

graphic shows front of new brochure announcing the changes in the school best management practices website

Front (Outside) of Brochure

Now, with changes soon to be complete, the NESIWG welcomes your visits and assistance in sharing this helpful site. After all, finding and using the website is key!

Back of new brochure advertising the changes to the Best management practices for schools website

Back (Inside) of Brochure

PLEASE CONSIDER DOWNLOADING OUR BROCHURE, printing a few and sharing them.  OR SHARE THIS LINK.

northeastipm.org/schools//