Pest Control at Colleges, Schools, and Child-Care Centers
Pro Zone Pest Control provides Integrated Pest Management (IPM) services to schools of all kinds in and around Dayton, Springfield, Northern Cincinnati, and Ohio's Miami Valley.
We provide pest control services at private, parochial, and public nursery schools; child day-care centers; nursery, elementary, middle, and high schools; as well as colleges, universities, and adult-education trade schools. We treat all schools using a School Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach that emphasizes non-chemical control measures rather than pesticides and is in full compliance with both federal and State of Ohio school IPM standards and guidelines.
Schools were among the first places to adopt IPM as their standard pest control methodology. The motivation, of course, was to protect children by reducing or eliminating the use of pesticides in the places where they spend so much of their time. When this change started to happen, a lot of pest control companies just gave up treating schools. Old habits die hard, and the habit of just walking through a building spraying smelly chemicals on the baseboards was one that a lot of exterminators just weren't ready to give up.
The owners of Pro Zone Pest Control, however, welcomed the change. We'd actually been moving toward IPM long before it became the trend. It just made sense to us that pesticides shouldn't be used as a first course of action, not only for environmental reasons, but for effectiveness ones. The old-school methods of pest control simply weren't very effective. They treated the symptoms rather than the causes.
We wanted something better, and so we started looking for better, more enlightened ways to do pest control long before IPM and "green" pest control became the rage. By the time most pest control companies were dragged kicking and screaming into the world of IPM, we'd already been doing it for years.
What is School IPM, Anyway?
School Integrated Pest Management is a comprehensive, holistic approach to pest control that seeks to maximize effectiveness while minimizing the use of chemical pesticides. It recognizes the fact that most pest infestations are the end result of other problems that we can address without chemicals, so correcting those other problems minimizes or eliminates the need for pesticides. A school IPM technician, therefore, isn't a guy (or gal) who shows up once or twice a month to "spray," but rather an inspector with a keen eye who looks problems that may lead to pest infestations, and makes sure that they are corrected before they do.
Some of the problems a school IPM specialist looks for include:
- Exterior structural deficiencies that allow pests to get into buildings such as foundation cracks, broken windows or screens, missing bricks, damaged or clogged rain gutters, poor landscaping practices, or gaps around pipe chases and utility wires.
- Exterior pest harborage areas such as gaps under shingles or shakes or the hollow tubing of playground equipment.
- Structural problems inside buildings that are conducive to pest problems such as cracks and crevices in kitchens, gaps around plumbing, leaky pipes, or faulty drain traps.
- Interior and exterior sanitation problems such as improperly-stored trash, open dumpsters, poor food storage practices, or food in places where it shouldn't be.
- Bad habits, such as leaving doors open while children are outside playing.
The technician will also look for signs of pests such as droppings, burrows, tracks, or the pests themselves, often with the aid of sticky traps and other monitoring devices. In short, the IPM technician is, first and foremost, an inspector who obsessively looks for problems that could lead to pest infestations, and then gets those problems fixed before they become pest problems.
Some other important aspects of school IPM include:
The IPM technician doesn't work alone. Communication and cooperation are critical parts of an effective school IPM program.
Because the technician typically works when neither the students nor most staff members are present, extensive use of log books and meticulous record-keeping are also part of the program. Both the staff and the students are encouraged to report pest problems to a designated staff person, who notes the problem in the Sightings Log, which the technician will check during every visit. On campuses with multiple buildings, each building should have its own log; and in very large buildings, there may be multiple logs (for example, on every floor).
The technician also will communicate any problems found that require action by the school to the designated contact person, as well as to the responsible department when practical. For example, spilled food products in the pantry should be reported to the head of the food service department, and missing bricks on the exterior of the building should be reported to the physical plant department.
Depending on the problems that are found, the IPM technician may just correct them himself or herself. For example, wasp nests inside tubular playground equipment are common pest problems around schools. In the past, most exterminators would treat those nests with insecticides as they occurred. A school IPM technician, on the other hand, is more likely to seal the open ends of the tubes with aerosol foam to prevent the wasps from nesting inside the tubes in the first place.
Tolerance levels are the levels of pest activity that are considered acceptable in a particular location. Pest problems that don't rise to that tolerance level are not treated. For example, a moderate number of flies buzzing around a dumpster far from any school buildings might be acceptable, but any flies at all in a kitchen would not. Therefore, a tolerance level for flies in the area around a dumpster might be set at 10, but the tolerance level in the kitchen at zero.
Emphasis on Non-Chemical Control
In addition to correcting structural and sanitation deficiencies, known pest problems are treated using non-chemical methods like trapping whenever possible. For example, spiders in the boiler room or flies in a trash-storage area can be treated with sticky traps rather than insecticide sprays.
When pesticides are needed at a school using an IPM system, they're selected from a group of products considered "least-toxic" by the EPA. (Legally speaking, there's no such thing as a "safe" pesticide. "Least-toxic" is as close as it gets.) Most of these products are either borates (products containing boric acid) or botanicals (products derived from plants, such as mint oil). There also are insecticide gels and baits that are injected into cracks in very small quantities using a syringe for control of pests like cockroaches and ants. These products have such low toxicities and/or are applied in such tiny amounts that they are considered acceptable when needed.
Notification, Record-Keeping, and Transparency
Except in emergencies, notice is usually made before most pesticides are applied. "Emergencies" are usually defined as situations such as stinging insect nests close enough to places frequented by students and staff that they present a stinging hazard. Prior notification is not required in those kind of situations, but the pesticide application is still recorded in the logs.
Some pesticides classified as "least-toxic" by the EPA are also exempt from prior notification. Examples would include most borate (boric acid) insecticides, as well as some rodent baits when used in tamper-resistant containers or in areas not accessible to students. These products are considered to present such minimal risk that prior notification is not needed, but their use is still recorded in the logs.
Pro Zone Pest Control welcomes the opportunity to inspect your school and design an IPM program that meets your unique pest control needs. Please contact us to set up a no-obligation inspection and consultation.