SPN: The Science of Drainology

phorid fly

“Drainology,” to quote the indefatigable rodent and entomology consultant Bobby Corrigan, “is the study of drains.” And who except a plumber would care to study drains? An IPM specialist of course!

floor drain dirtyDrains provide one of the most important breeding and harborage sites for pests in schools. In order to do a complete IPM inspection and treatment, therefore, you should know something about drains.

Cockroaches and flies are the two most common pests associated with drains. Cockroaches often live in sewers and can easily enter a kitchen or school facility through floor drains. Contrary to what you might think, infrequently used floor drains are more susceptible to cockroach entry. This is because when the water-holding traps that normally seal floor drains from entry of sewer odors dry out, cockroaches can enter more easily from sewage lines. This occurs most frequently with the large American cockroach.

american cockroach

The American cockroach is one of the more frequent visitors to school floor drains in TX.

Infrequently used drains should be screened to eliminate cockroach access, or flushed weekly with a gallon or so of water to maintain water in the trap. Screens may not be practical in areas where food waste and other particles may need to be washed down the drains. In such locations baits applied to the inside of the drain may be used without interfering with drainage.

Another problem occurs when food waste and debris builds up in and around floor drains. This is often overlooked during a sanitation inspection because such buildup may occur in the cracks around the edge of the drain. A butter knife or putty knife can be an invaluable tool for probing and cleaning crevices around floor drains. In addition to grooves around the floor drain be sure to check around and under any cracked or damaged floor tiles next to the drain.

When it comes to drains, sanitation is fly control. The only way to eliminate a chronic drain fly, phorid fly or fruit fly infestation from a room is to locate and eliminate the breeding site. In kitchens, the floor drain is often the site of fly breeding.

fruit fly phorid fly

drain/moth flyFruit flies (left) are identified by their stocky bodies and reddish eyes.  Phorid flies (middle) are humpbacked in profile and have heavy veins in the front of the wings.  Moth/Drain flies (right) have broad, scaly, spear shaped wings that fold flat and form a V-shape when at rest.

To test whether a particular drain is the source of a fly problem, try covering the drain with a piece of duct tape or other sticky tape. Flies will adhere to a piece of tape left overnight and reveal the source of an infestation.

clogged drain

Bacterial deposits in drains are habitats for moth and drain flies. Using microbial scum digesters to clean them can reduce a population.

A bucket of bleach water is NOT an adequate treatment for a floor drain with flies. Physical scrubbing with a brush and bleach solution can work. Or you can use one of the excellent bacterial gel products to eat away slime buildup on the insides of drains. Drain flies, in particular, breed in accumulations of slime that often coat drain walls.

The presence of phorid flies coming from a drain area may indicate a more serious problem. Phorid flies often serve as an indicator of a broken sewage line. As organic-rich wastewater passes through a damaged line, some of the solution seeps into surrounding soil. This can provide the perfect breeding ground for phorid flies. If you have an ongoing phorid fly problem, consider having the sewage lines inspected for leaks and repaired as needed.

One way you can prevent these types of pests from occurring is installing one-way trap guards that allows for water to go down the drain, but closes up when not in use.  This upfront expense on a new or remodeled kitchen may seem steep at first, but as time goes on it can reduce problems in an area prone to multiple pest problems.

Plumbing devices that allow for water to go down, but keeps pests from coming up can be installed in a variety of locations.

plastic device that blocks insects in drains


roof vent Finally one more area you might want to check is roofs.  As the roof ages water can build up, this can allow for moisture to move in that can lead to mold and mildew.  This problem can go undetected until the flying insects are so numerous that everyone is complaining.  This is a good time to make sure that moisture is not collecting on surfaces that support mold/mildew growth.

Written by Mike Merchant and Janet Hurley

Feeling overrun by Millipedes check out this post by Dr. Merchant on his CityBugs website 

SPN: End of school activities what you should be thinking about this month

standing water around wood building

As the school year comes to end, most of our readers are preparing for the mad rush of numerous maintenance projects that come when students and teachers leave. However, before they go here are some tips to get you through the next month and help you prepare for summer as well.

Moisture Monitoring

standing water around wood building

Poor drainage can allow mosquitoes to breed, and make the building susceptible to other pests. Look for ways to reduce this in your area.

This spring has been extremely wet. With the increased moisture in the air and the soil, there are a lot of pests that will be showing up. This is a good time to remind staff as they have their end of year festivities to be on the lookout for any areas that are showing water spots. Does an area smell musty that didn’t before? Are they seeing new insect pests showing up in restrooms, classrooms on exterior walls, little differences that might not seem like a lot now, could present themselves later this fall as bigger problems. Reminding everyone their role in the IPM and IAQ (Indoor Air Quality) programs at a time like this will make them appreciate your efforts in the fall.

Clutter Removal

This lost and found pile of clothing along with excess cardboard is a great place for bed bugs, cockroaches and mice to thrive.

Be sure to encourage teachers, staff, and students to discard items that they will not need next year. End of the school year is a good time to remind PTA/PTO groups to clean out the closets and toss those old items. Teachers should help students to clean out desks, lockers or other areas where they are known to ‘store’ items, so they go home. Have a bunch of stuff to clean out – think about another group within your community you could donate to. I have often seen the ‘pile’ of lost and found at schools become a mountain, if no one is willing to claim, then why not donate to a homeless shelter instead? Remember this clutter can become a home to mice, cockroaches, ants and mold so keeping everything tidy is good for all.

Outdoor awareness

This is the time of year for picnics, BBQs, and graduations, which also means mosquitoes, ants, and ticks to name a few of our favorite pests. Personal protection and awareness to areas means being prepared to face certain problems. For outdoor events schools can determine a policy that allows for parents to provide mosquito and tick repellent to their children. For certain classes that require outdoor exposure it might be wise to work with teachers and administrators to ensure student safety is considered. Remember the 4 D’s

  • DUSK/DAWN – Stay indoors at Dusk/Dawn. This is the time of day that mosquitoes are most active, so if you can’t stay inside then DO cover up.
  • DEET- Use insect repellents that contain DEET when going outside, especially at times closer to dawn or dusk when mosquitoes are most active. If you are not a fan of DEET, there are other repellents you can use, so use one!
  • DRAIN – Remove all areas of standing water. Examples are pet dishes, empty soda cans, and water trays under potted plants. Repair faulty French drains, so the water doesn’t stand. Remove debris from rain gutters. Mosquitoes will breed in this debris since it is normally damp under the debris. Remove all piles of dead leaf material from under trees and shrubs; this also is a breeding site.
  • DRESS – Avoid being bitten by mosquitoes by wearing light-colored long-sleeved shirts and long pants when going outside. You can also purchase mosquito suits which is a fine mesh netting that can be worn over your clothes.
    Another pest to be aware of outdoors is snakes. Remind everyone to watch for those that slither in tall grassy areas, or where there could be a large wildflower population. The small mammals and birds that use those areas for nesting and eating (food & harborage) are also places for larger prey to lurk as well.

For more information on ways to help your IPM program check out these links:

Mosquito Control Methods and other information pertaining to repellents and mosquito diseases as well.

Integrated Mosquito Management Plan – basic information to help you and others prevent mosquitoes in your area.

Texas Parks and Wildlife has a great website on Venomous Snake Safety and what are the 15 snakes you should know.  Another good resource is the Herps of Texas website herpetology is the study of amphibians and reptiles and this website has a full list of the snakes you will find in TX.

tickapp.tamu.edu imageHere is a past newsletter article from Dr. Merchant on Fleas and Ticks that will help you learn more about management and control of these pests.  In this article from 2016 Ticks to look out for – by southern states can help you determine what tick species you have.  And remember you can visit our TickApp site to answer all your questions about ticks.

(Note in some cases when you go to open the website in your web browser you might be asked to verify a certificate – DON’T hit Cancel and the site will load.  We have a quirk that we are trying to work out.)  


SPN: Program, Policy and Plans how can terms help your IPM program.

Since the inception of the Texas School IPM Law and Rules, school districts, IPM coordinators, pest management professionals and regulators have struggled with three words associated with IPM: program, policy, and plan. What are they and why are they important to the success of your program is what we will focus on in this issue of school pest news.

According to the School IPM Law adopted in 1991 and amended in 2001, 2007, and in 2009 each independent school district shall adopt an integrated pest management program that is outlined by the regulating agency (Texas Department of Agriculture/TDA). Within the School IPM rules, TDA requires school districts to have an IPM program. An IPM program is a set of related measures or activities with a long-term aim. The aim for schools is typically no pests inside the buildings and limited pesticide use in and around campuses. The IPM program recognizes that maintenance of a safe, clean, and healthful environment for student and staff is essential to learning.

The key components of an IPM program are:

  • Pest Identification
  • Prevention
  • Recordkeeping
  • Monitoring
  • Notification
  • Evaluation
  • Education of staff
  • Regulations and policies
  • Written IPM plans with thresholds that trigger responses

If you review Rule §7.201, Responsibility of School Districts to Adopt an IPM Program you will notice that the Department of Agriculture outlines several key points of IPM in the written rules.  These rules state that each school districts IPM program will have:

  • school board approved IPM policy
  • monitoring program
  • use lower risk pesticides
  • use of non-chemical management strategies
  • system for keeping records
  • education program to inform school district employees about their roles in the IPM program
  • written guidelines that identify thresholds for when pest control actions are justified

If you compare the bullet items that describe what are the key components of an IPM program versus what TDA requires schools to have as part of their IPM program you will notice several similarities.  And each bullet item is critical to a cohesive IPM program, but the next two “P’s” are critical for guiding the IPM program.

The next “P” in IPM is Policy – TDA and anyone recommending IPM will often mention having a policy statement.  A policy is a course of action adopted or proposed by a government, party, business or individual.  The School IPM Policy is written by the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) and sent to public schools in TX.  TASB has 100 percent membership among 1,023 Texas school districts and works with school administrators to ensure that you have copies of your School IPM policies.

Something we recommend at every one of our school IPM trainings and prior to any TDA inspection is to go find your district IPM policy.  To do this open your favorite internet browser (Chrome, Explorer, Firefox, Safari, etc.) and in the search box type your district name and policy on line, the search should come up with a link to your district page. The webpage view should look like the image below. It will have your district name on the top (notice this example is Manor) and there are two search boxes.  Go to the “policy code” search box and in that box type “CLB”.

Once you do the search you should have a page that looks like the image below.  You should have a CLB local and legal in Word, PDF, and HTML – pick a version of the legal and local, open them, save to your computer and then print for your IPM notebook/files.

This District Policy is one of the most important documents for your IPM program.  The CLB local is the locally approved school board policy for IPM. Within this document you will notice it states only licensed applicators can make pesticide applications on school property, this statement alone can help you explain to teachers and staff on why they can’t make pest control applications themselves.  Secondly, this statement also refers to the full set of school IPM laws which is also referenced in CLB legal.  With these two documents you the IPM Coordinator can use the documents to educate staff, teachers, and administrators about your IPM program. Having a clear and concise IPM policy helps everyone who is part of your organization understand their roles.

The third “P” is plan. Plans are detailed instructions on how key pests will be managed, with detailed monitoring plans with thresholds that determine when treatments are necessary. These plans have preferred tactics and strategies that are typically specific to the pest and contain prevention and management options that are essential to your area of the state.  Plans are written or documented, but don’t need to be approved by a school board as they may need to be flexible enough to manage unexpected situations.  Plans should have basic information about a given pest (fire ants, outdoor cockroaches, mice, weeds, etc.) and then preventative or routine maintenance to keep aware of these common pests you experience in your district.  The plan should also have non-chemical and chemical controls as well.  For some pests like ants and roaches you may have different thresholds depending on species and location, since kitchens are typically more critical than a warehouse, plans will vary by location.

One of plans you should have on hand is for German cockroaches since they tend to hitch rides in back packs.

One of the resources we offer through a collaborative effort of Extension Professionals across the country is IPM Action plans for twenty-four of the most common pests, along with a document on basic IPM practices that you could use with staff when you are training them about their role in the IPM program.  You can find these management plans here – you can download and use with your IPM program.

The final item Texas Schools should consider is a written document like our “Sample Written IPM Program with thresholds” document that you can find on our website under the School IPM Coordinator Notebook page.  This is a Word document so it will download in that format so that you can edit this document to suit YOUR districts needs.   With 1,023 school districts in our state it is hard to customize everything, this document is designed to help you customize your IPM program. This is critical depending on where you are located and where your pest pressure comes from: nature, students, teachers, or staff.   The written program that complements the IPM Policy and pest management plans can seek input from teachers, School Health Advisory Committee (SHAC) members, school board members and even administrative staff like risk management and the school nurse.  Using the opportunity to update your written IPM program is also a great way to remind everyone in the district about your IPM program and ensure you are keeping students and staff safe from pests and pesticide use.

Finally, if you are unsure if you are ready for TDA to come visit your school IPM program; check out the school IPM compliance audit I developed it to help prepare for TDA visits.  This two-page checklist allows you to review the items you would need to present to a TDA inspector when they visit for their routine inspection. For those who are not familiar with the Texas School IPM rules the Department of Ag is required to visit 20% of the schools each fiscal year, which allows for schools to be audited every five years provided they are following the rules.  One of services is to assist schools with compliance assistance through site visits. If you are struggling with your IPM program call or email today.

Written By: Janet Hurley, ACE, MPA, Extension Program Specialist

SPN: Meet the Ladies of AgriLife Extension Turfgrass

brown spot on lawn area

With our spring two-day school IPM trainings just around the corner, I thought this would be a good time to introduce our Extension Turfgrass Specialists.  Dr. Becky Grubbs-Bowling and Dr. Chrissie Segars can’t wait to meet you at our second day of trainings this spring and later in October.

Meet the Scientist: Rebecca Grubbs-Bowling
By Bianca Calderon

Becky is a Texas native and she can’t wait to share her knowledge with you.

From Lubbock to Athens, and now College Station, Dr. Rebecca Grubbs-Bowling, Texas A&M University assistant professor and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service turfgrass specialist in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, helps Texans better understand their turfgrass.

Grubbs-Bowling began her educational journey at Texas Tech University where she gained both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in horticulture. She later received her doctorate in crop and soil sciences at the University of Georgia (UGA) where she researched environmental turfgrass science including precision turfgrass management and improved resource-use efficiency.

Her UGA research also had a social component in which she worked directly with homeowners to better understand the priorities that drove their lawn care decisions.

Since starting at Texas A&M last April, Grubbs-Bowling has worked on various projects that provide research-based education and outreach for homeowners as well as professional turfgrass managers and producers.

AgriLife Extension education and outreach projects include the program “Healthy Lawns and Healthy Waters,” geared particularly toward homeowners and AggieTurf which is more for the professional and school market.

The program provides educational workshops and outreach tools needed for homeowners to use the best management practices for residential landscapes. It focuses on protecting water quality by reducing runoff through rainwater capture and providing information on ecologically appropriate quantities and timing of inputs to residential lawns in the watersheds.

Grubbs-Bowling also coordinates the Texas A&M Turfgrass Ecology and Management Short Course, a professional development tool for turfgrass managers throughout the state. She said the four-

brown spot on lawn area

Brown spots in turf can be hard to diagnose. This dynamic duo can help you out.

day short course allows an in-depth understanding of turfgrass systems, with the course’s main goal being to improve resource-use efficiency.

Resource-use efficiency is research or outreach designed to improve how efficiently resources are being used in management, Grubbs-Bowling said. It can refer to any resource inputs: water, nutrients, fossil fuels and more.

“Our objective is to empower turfgrass managers to make confident, well-informed decisions through a combination of applied and theoretical knowledge,” she said. “There’s a desire on our end as turfgrass researchers throughout the country to not only improve the management practices that are being done but also improve the quality of the grasses as a whole so that fewer inputs can go into them.”

With the turf industry contributing about $6 billion annually to Texas’ economy, Grubbs-Bowling said everyone is involved in some way or another with turfgrass, whether it is a homeowner or golf course superintendent.

She said it is important to communicate to landscapers, home builders and communities that the key to a more water-conscious landscape is to focus on growing a healthy, vigorous root system. Deep, well-developed turfgrass roots are known to offer a number of water-related benefits including improved water infiltration and stress response. With a healthy root system, turfgrass will often be able to better withstand drought or flooding.

“No matter how small your little piece of Texas is, you have the power to have an impact on our resources and environment,” she said.

New turfgrass specialist educates on sustainable management, safety
By Gabe Saldana

The newest state turfgrass specialist for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service aims to inspire sustainable management of safe sports fields and other turfgrass applications.

Chrissie hails from SC, but she is a southerner and enjoys the outdoors.

Dr. Chrissie Segars’ office is at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Dallas.

Her focus is coaching field managers on a system of approaches where primary goals are user safety and healthy turfgrass. Segars’ extension outreach efforts cover aeration, fertilization, irrigation, variety selection, pests, weeds and a wide array of other practices.

“It’s so important to educate about how all these disciplines work together to cultivate safe playing surfaces and healthy fields,” she said.

Focus on safety

Segars cited several field characteristics that determine safety, which are affected by proper management. They include surface hardness and foot traction among others.

The South Carolina native, in addition to her outreach initiatives, aims to find solutions that support better sports fields across the socioeconomic spectrum. As such, Segars will conduct research at the nexus of best management practices for turfgrass health and field safety.

“My research in Dallas will give me a great opportunity to take the science right to the public and to industry,” she said. “I’m excited to see how this work can improve the field.”

Segars holds a bachelor’s degree from Clemson University and masters’ degrees in kinesiology and horticulture from Louisiana State and Oklahoma State universities, respectively. She earned her doctorate in crop science from Oklahoma State.

Segars joins Dr. Becky Grubbs as AgriLife Extension’s second turfgrass specialist for Texas.

“I’m excited to begin working with all the people involved in the turfgrass industry across the state,” Segars said. “I want to make a strong impact in Texas, keeping turfgrass sustainable, starting with Dallas-Fort Worth.”

Check out our School IPM and IPM Experience House training schedule on our Conference Service Website https://agriliferegister.tamu.edu/

SPN: Reporting for Yellow, Red and Incidental Use treatments.

Next to urban wildlife what readers wanted more information on is staying in compliance or understanding how some of the school IPM rules are interpreted by the Texas Department of Agriculture Structural Pest Control Service Division. So the next couple of issues will pertain to this topic.

Several of the top ten non-compliant problems for Texas schools boil down to paperwork.  Top of the list is failing to have the Yellow Category Justification form.  This failure comes from pesticide applicators not understanding what is considered Yellow category products.

Typically, Yellow category products are herbicides with a Caution signal word, insecticides that are broad spectrum or fungicides.   Active ingredients like bifenthrin, cyfluthrin, deltamethrin, hydramethylnon, indoxacarb, fipronil, metaflumizone are all insecticides that can be used indoors and/or outdoors in baits, contact sprays and other methods.  If the active ingredients are in a tamper resistant container than these active ingredients can be considered Green, but if they are applied via granules, spraying, or another broadcast method then they typically are considered Yellow and require a justification for use form. For more information on Green products check out this resource  Recognizing Green Category Products

The Justification form is to be completed by the pesticide applicator, this includes anyone doing grounds applications as well as indoor applications or incidental use.  The critical parts to this form are “description of pest problem” and “justification for use”.  These statements are designed to inform the IPM coordinator and anyone else who asks, “why are you using this product”.  Sometimes the true answer is it’s the only one that works, but that doesn’t cover the regulatory factor. To help illustrate the rule I am including a few examples from past experience for better understanding.

 Example 1: There are multiple fire ant mounds that appeared after a spring or fall rain on an athletic field or playground.  The IPM coordinator contacts the pesticide applicator and requests a treatment ASAP.  The applicator responds that the product they can use is Advion* and they can be out tomorrow to make the treatment, but the fire ants won’t be eliminated for another 2 days.  The coordinator agrees, then the applicator needs to complete the form.  They will also need to post the

This is a sample of what your outdoor posting sign could look like.

outdoor area at the time of application with a sign, or secured using a locking device, a fence or other practical barrier such as commercially available barrier caution tape, or periodically monitored to keep students out of the treated area until the allowed reentry time of 4 hours after application is completed.  Remember the time for reentry starts once the application is completed.  And remember they need to submit your application use record within two business days as well.

Description of pest problem: Heavy rains and varying temperatures have caused fire ant mounds to appear on elementary playground.  Fire ants can sting children which can cause an adverse reaction.

Justification for use: Advion* is a fast-acting fire ant bait that can help reduce and control fire ants.

Example 2:  There is a complaint about ‘roaches’ in several classrooms.  Your pest control contractor determined that both American and German cockroaches were present and chose to use Tempo Ultra WP*.  Since this will be an indoor treatment remember no students can be present and a notice must be posted 48 hours in advance, and it’s up to the coordinator that this is done.  The applicator needs to complete the justification form and present that with the service ticket.  The coordinator needs to ensure no students can enter the treated area 4 hours after the application has occurred.

Description of pest problem:  Wing of school campus has had water leaks, cardboard storage and other problems that have led to a heavy infestation of German and American Cockroaches.

Justification for use: Tempo Ultra WP* is a fast-acting insect control measure that will knock down the current population so that IPM measures can be implemented after this high presence of cockroaches is reduced.

Red Category justification forms are also in the top ten in noncompliance with TDA School IPM inspections.  The following example is designed to help you understand documenting a Red category product.


Chickweed is a cool season weed that can appear in turf, ornamental beds, or other areas where it’s not wanted.

Example 3:  Your school district has built or renovated a school campus and during construction the turf area was not maintained.  It’s early March and the area is covered in henbit, chickweed, and dandelions.  Your grounds manager comes to you and requests to use Trimec 992 Broadleaf Herbicide* so that he can “kill” everything so we can sod for turf this spring.  This product has a Danger Signal word making it Red Category.

Description of pest problem:  Broad-leaf weeds are covering a large turf area that needs to be eliminated prior to installing replacement turf.

Justification for use: Trimec 992* is a fast-acting herbicide that control a variety of broadleaf weeds.  This product will also allow us to re-establish a turf area within three to four weeks.

As this is a Red category product you will also need to post the outdoor area at the time of application with a sign, or secured using a locking device, a fence or other practical barrier such as commercially available barrier caution tape, or periodically monitored to keep students out of the treated area until the allowed reentry time of 8 hours after application is completed.  Remember the time for reentry starts once the application is completed, so you might want to do an application like this when you know you can restrict student use for a full day.

Another frequent item that schools make mistakes is who can be trained for incidental use and what types of pests can be treated under this heading.  Incidental Use allows the IPM Coordinator the ability to train someone within the district, whose primary responsibility, is NOT to respond to pest complaints or calls, but to treat an occasional pest problem.

For this to happen, the pest problem must be considered an emergency like fire ants in a classroom, bees, wasps, or hornets next to an exit door, or some other stinging or venomous insect.   The rule allows the coordinator to train an individual on a specific insecticide for use in a specific location or area. The coordinator must train the employee on the Incidental Fact Sheet English   or  Incidental use for fact sheet schools Spanish prior to any application.

Example 4: The district has an A/C tech that travels the district replacing filters and other A/C related repairs.  When this individual gets to a site and it has a hornet’s nest in close proximity of

This is an example of a Green category wasp killer.

the A/C unit, this individual under Incidental Use could use their supplied can of hornet killer to help reduce the insect population.  This same individual would need to complete a Pesticide Application Record for Incidental Use and return that form to the school IPM coordinator.

The Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) also requires the IPM Coordinator to train this individual on incidental use fact sheet, basic information about the product they are using like proper usage, PPE, and other things they need to consider before and during use.  If you or this person finds themselves constantly treating for pests, then TDA would want that person to become licensed.  Incidental use means occasionally dealing with a pest problem, not a weekly remediation.

One of the questions I receive during our school IPM training is how you really handle incidental use.  My answer is simple, train an individual you trust and document it.  Give them a can of wasp killer along with 10 of the application use records they need to complete.  When they have used the can up and you have received all their documentation, then you can issue another can and paperwork.  If you have to make yourself a reminder in your calendar or hand-written note, just be sure to check in on that individual to make sure they haven’t used up the product but didn’t complete paperwork.   It’s on you the coordinator to ensure that everyone is following the IPM program and if they are not, report that to your supervisor or superintendent.

Written by: Janet A. Hurley, ACE, MPA, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, Extension Program Specialist III

(* The information given herein is for educational purposes only. Reference to commercial products or trade names is made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by the AgriLife Extension Service is implied.)

IPM for Microorganisms with a Focus on Influenza Viruses

Women blowing her nose

Thank you to the University of Arizona School and Home IPM Team for this informative newsletter.

Dawn H. Gouge, Shujuan (Lucy) Li, Channah Rock, Natalie Brassill, University of Arizona

Each year between 5 to 20% of the U.S. population will get flu. The economic cost is estimated at $10.4 billion per year in direct medical costs and an additional $16.3 billion in lost earnings.

Weekly Influenza activity estimates for week ending in Jan 5, 2019The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported January 11, 2019 that between 6.2 million and 7.3 million people have been sick with flu so far this season (since Oct. 1 2018), about half those people visited a doctor, and up to 83,500 people have been hospitalized in the U.S. There has been widespread flu in 31 states.

Influenza viruses typically circulate in the United States annually, most commonly from late fall through early spring. Flu is more dangerous than the common cold for children. Each year, millions of children get sick with seasonal flu, thousands are hospitalized, and tragically, some die from flu-related complications.

The CDC recommends annual influenza vaccination for everyone 6 months and older with any licensed, age-appropriate flu vaccine (IIV, RIV4, or LAIV4) with no preference expressed for any one vaccine over another. CDC has published “Prevention and Control of Seasonal Influenza with Vaccines: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices – United States, 2018-19 Influenza Season” on the recommendations for use of vaccines for the prevention and control of flu during the 2018-19 season in the United States. Current U.S. statistics indicate that the flu vaccine is reducing the risk of illness by 40 to 60 % (CDC), and even if you do get the flu after receiving a flu shot, the illness may be milder.

It is ideal to get a flu vaccine before flu begins spreading in your community. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies that protect against flu to develop in the body. The CDC recommends that people get a flu vaccine by the end of October, but getting vaccinated later, can still be beneficial, even in January or later.

Influenza vaccine syringeFlu comes every year, but the health impacts differ depending on when, and which strains start circulating. In recent years, flu related deaths have ranged from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people per year. Hospitalizations also range between 140,000 and 710,000 annually (CDC). During 2012-2013, about 45% of the U.S. population got vaccinated, helping to prevent an estimated 6.6 million flu-related illnesses.

Flu is a highly contagious viral infection that causes the rapid onset of symptoms. The symptoms may start mildly, but often increase in severity rapidly, sometimes in a matter of hours. People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:

  • Fever (not everyone with flu will have a fever)
  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.

Any person experiencing chest pain or breathing complications should seek immediate medical assistance.

The flu can also exacerbate (make worse) chronic health problems like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Most people recover completely within two weeks, but some develop complications, such as pneumonia. Pneumonia in very young children or in adults older than 65 is cause for concern as the symptoms can become life threatening, and may result in death if left untreated. Bronchitis, sinus and ear infections are other common complications resulting from the flu virus. Influenza antiviral drugs may be prescribed to treat influenza infections. Antiviral drugs are a second line of defense that are used to treat flu if you get sick. FDA approved medications are prescribed by your doctor and include: oseltamivir phosphate (available as a generic version or Tamiflu®), zanamivir (trade name Relenza®), peramivir (trade name Rapivab®), and baloxavir marboxil (trade name Xofluza®).

Image of woman sneezing viewer sees all the droplets in the airSo how can caregivers and facility managers maintain a healthy indoor environments, and limit the spread of the flu virus? Flu viruses spread from person to person mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze, or talk. Less often, people might get the flu by touching a contaminated surface or object, and then infect themselves by touching their own mouth, eyes, or nose. Most healthy adults are capable of infecting other people 1 day before symptoms develop, and up to 7 days after becoming sick. Children may pass the virus for longer than 7 days. Symptoms start 1 to 4 days after the flu virus enters the body.

 This means that you are able to pass on the flu to someone else before you feel sick yourself

Good health habits to minimize flu:

  • Stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. This will help prevent others from catching your illness.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick or who have chronic illnesses. Teachers and staff managers, please accommodate students and workers keeping up with schoolwork or work projects from home as much as possible.
  • If you are ill cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough, sneeze or talk. Throw the tissue away immediately after use and wash your hands with soap and water. If a tissue is not available, cover your mouth and nose with your sleeve, or the crook of your elbow. This has been named the “vampire sneeze”, and catches on well with young children. If you cover your mouth and nose with your hands, wash them immediately.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Give children the opportunity to wash their hands and encourage children to wash their hands effectively: 1) Rinse hands and arms up to the elbows, 2. Apply soap and lather for at least 20 seconds (sing the Happy Birthday song twice) cleaning hands, arms, and fingernails, 3. Dry with a paper towel. NEVER have children use disinfectant wipes as hand sanitizer wipes, these are two very different things.
  • Avoid touching your face, especially eyes, nose, or mouth. Encourage children to avoid touching their own or others’ faces.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces or objects.This is a job for adults, who can accurately use products correctly following all the steps necessary as provided on the label.

Women blowing her noseHere are five important things to know as you combat the flu virus.

  1. Know the difference between cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing.
  • Cleaning removes some germs, debris, and dirt from surfaces or objects. Soap and water significantly improves the physical removal of germs from surfaces.
  • Disinfecting kills germs on surfaces or objects. Disinfecting alone will not clean dirty surfaces but disinfecting after cleaning further lowers the risk of spreading infectious germs. Disinfectant wipes are registered pesticides as they are designed to kill, or inactivate microbes.
  • Sanitizing lowers the number of viable germs on surfaces or objects to safe levels, determined by public health requirements.

When addressing pathogens in the built environment, select the cleaning product based on the need. While soapy water is sufficient to clean up a drink spill, it is not the best option for all jobs, for example, a disinfectant is required to clean wrestling mats to prevent the spread of infectious skin diseases like ringworm (a fungal infection of the skin). Remember that disinfectants are registered pesticides and therefore the label must be followed in order to avoid health problems, such as eye injuries, chemical burns, and respiratory illness, as well as to achieve effective disinfection.

As influenza cases increase, school teachers appeal for disinfectant wipes and tissues.  While it is enormously helpful to supply the latter, disinfectant wipes are not ideal for school classrooms for several reasons:

  • School aged children should NOT be touching them.  KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN is on the container.
  • They are sometimes used as hand and even face wipes by children, and many contain eye irritants as well as respiratory irritants that affect asthmatics.
  • Disinfectant wipes are registered pesticides as they are designed to kill, or inactivate microbes.  Unfortunately they can be used incorrectly, e.g., people should use gloves, or at least wash their hands after using them.
  1. Clean surfaces and objects that are touched often.
  • Daily sanitize surfaces and objects that are touched often, such as desktops, countertops, door handles, computer mouse and keyboards, faucets, and phones.man cleaning a surface with gloves
  • Use gloves when handling surfaces and items contaminated with bodily fluids, and throw soiled items away after proper disinfection
  • The flu virus can remain in an infectious form on a surface for up to 48 hours. It is not necessary to close work places, childcare facilities or schools to clean or disinfect because of flu. If facilities are closed due to staff shortages or student absenteeism during a flu outbreak, it is not necessary to do extra cleaning and disinfecting. Normal cleaning and disinfection practices are sufficient to remove or kill flu viruses.
  1. Always follow label directions on cleaning products and disinfectants.
  • Wash surfaces with a detergent to remove dirt.
  • Rinse with water.
  • Apply an EPA-registered disinfectant that is approved to kill influenza virus, following label directions exactly. Disinfection usually requires the product to remain on the surface for a certain period of time (e.g., letting it stand for 3 to 5 minutes), and may need to be removed with clean water. Follow label directions exactly.

Remember to read the label, washing hands after use should be exercised by anyone using these products without gloves.

  1. Product safety.
  • Products have specific directions on labels and hazard warnings. Chemically protective gloves and eye protection is advisable and may be legally required.
  • Never allow children to use disinfectants or disinfectant wipes.
  • Do not mix detergents with disinfectants unless the label explicitly states that it is safe to do so. Combining products can result in serious injury or death. Mixing chlorine bleach and ammonia cleaners produces a lethal chlorine gas. Commonly used products contain bleach (hypochlorite) and ammonia e.g., toilet bowl cleaners often contain bleach, and window cleaners often contain ammonia.
  • Ensure that anyone using cleaners and disinfectant products have access to labels in a familiar language, and can read and understand the labels.
  1. Solid Waste handling.
  • Follow standard institutional procedures for handling waste, which may include wearing gloves. Place no-touch wastebaskets where they are easy to use. Avoid touching used tissues when emptying wastebaskets, or wear gloves if tissues must be handled. Wash your hands with soap and water after processing waste and dispose of gloves.
  • Stay home if you are a sick and work as a food handler. Influenza viruses from sick food workers can contaminate food if workers do not wash their hands properly, cough, sneeze, or talk over food that will not be cooked (e.g., salads or sandwiches). People who eat contaminated food can then get sick.



More Information about flu can be found on the CDC website https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/index.html

National Pesticide Information Center http://npic.orst.edu/health/readlabel.html

Washington State University https://schoolipm.wsu.edu/microorganisms/

Antimicrobial products http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/antimicrobials.html


SPN: Managing Wildlife on School Campuses

Coyote on concrete road with high five bridge in background

When I asked School IPM Coordinators what topics they wanted to learn more about this year, managing wildlife topped the list.  For most people, “nuisance wildlife” means an animal is destructive or menacing. The animal may be damaging property such as buildings, crops, pets, livestock, gardens, or public parks. Wildlife may threaten human health or safety by spreading diseases; through direct attacks; or accidentally, because of collisions with cars, airplanes, or trains.

The most common wildlife issues in Texas are bats, skunks, racoons, opossums, coyotes and feral hogs.  For this article I have included several handouts that will help you to educate yourself and your staff on the best management practices for managing nuisance wildlife on your school campus.

Coyote on concrete road with high five bridge in background

Coyote in an urban area, image from wilddallas, CC-BY_NC 4.0

A slender, dog-like carnivore, coyotes are common throughout Texas. They have adapted easily to the expansion of human communities into their habitat and can occasionally be found in urban and suburban neighborhoods. Coyotes may live alone or in small “packs” of up to 6 individuals. They hunt at all hours of the day and night but may be seen more often in the early morning or just before sunset.

Urban and suburban coyotes, like urban deer, are symptoms of a broader issue. People continue to expand housing subdivisions and other human development into what used to be open range wildlife habitat, especially on the expanding fringes of large metropolitan areas. This is increasing the potential for encounters and conflicts between people and wildlife.

Trapping and similar nuisance control actions cannot eliminate urban coyote problems, although this can be part of the solution in some situations. The real solution and the greater need facing Texans right now is public education. We must inform the communities we work and live in and empower people to take steps to coexist with coyotes and other urban wildlife.

Managing Coyotes on School Grounds: An Integrated Wildlife Damage Management Approach was written by John Tomecek, Michael Bodenchuk, and Mike Merchant to help schools in Texas with a growing problem.  This 6-page publication is perfect way to share educational information with teachers, administrators and parents on what they should do if they see a coyote on school grounds.

Managing Coyotes on School Grounds (download this PDF file)

Mexican Free-tailed bat

This Mexican Free-tailed bat image was taken by Stephen Biles, IPM Agent, AgriLife Extension

No matter the time of year, bats in and around schools are always on the minds of IPM Coordinators.   Half of the state of Texas remains mild to warm throughout the year, which allows the Mexican free-tail bat to roost in buildings and bridges.  Over the years I have written numerous newsletter articles on this topic.  We even have our website https://agrilife.org/batsinschools/  and color brochures.  However, I know many of you wanted something that you can distribute to others in your district.  In February 2017 I wrote a newsletter article on bat management what everyone should know.  The trouble with the article was it is not the easiest to print and share.  For this newsletter I have created this article as a PDF file

Bat Management what everyone should know is a 3-page document that you can print, post and share with others on how to live with and manage bats on school campuses.

Feral hogs (or Wild Hogs) continue to grow in numbers in Texas and elsewhere. Because of their destructive feeding habits and potential to spread disease, feral hogs are a substantial liability to agriculture and native wildlife in Texas. However, these animals are also sought for recreational hunting and commercial harvest. The AgriLife Extension Wildlife & Fisheries Unit has a website dedicated to this topic which covers feral hog biology, natural history, damage management, and control techniques.  If you want to learn more about this problem “pest” the please visit their website for more information.   Feral Hogs 

Finally here are a few more documents you should check out.

Wildlife Diseases helps you to understand rabies, plague, Giardiasis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Leptospirosis, Histoplasmosis and few more of the more common diseases that can be transmitted from animal to human.

Mange in Wildlife: Identification and Implications for Human and Animal Health is a 4-page document on how to notice mange on wild animals.

Managing Skunk Damage is a 2-page fact sheet that is designed to help everyone understand why managing skunks is important

New Free Resource for School Districts to Improve Student Health and Performance!

images of learning modules

School districts throughout the US now have a free training tool to ensure all school staff – custodians, maintenance, food service, teachers, grounds staff and more – understand how they can reduce pest problems and asthma, and boost student and staff performance, as they go about their daily tasks.

Did you know that exposure to mice, cockroaches, dust mites and pesticides can trigger asthma attacks? Increasing awareness of the pest connection to asthma is one of the key goals of the free training. Asthma is the number one reason why children miss school, and attendance is one of the most critical contributors to student success!

images of learning modules

There are 9 different module series to help you educate everyone in the district

Due to their behavior and biology, school-aged children are particularly susceptible to exposure to pests and pesticides. The Pest Defense for Health Schools offers free, on-line professional development to address this challenge. School districts are using the program for new staff training as well as ongoing continuing education. Users describe the program as “informative” and “very helpful.” A typical response: “Thank you for the information presented clearly and concisely. It was great information.”

The Pest Defense, formerly Stop School Pests, is focused on preventing pest problems including head lice, bed bugs, mice, cockroaches and ants. Simply ensuring all exterior doors have well maintained door sweeps to seal the gap between the bottom of the door and the door sill can reduce pest complaints by 65%! Everyone working in schools has an important role to play.

To learn more or to sponsor an in-person training, please contact Julian Cooper, jcooper@ipminstitute.org. Visit stopschoolpests.org to view the training. The training was developed with support from the US EPA and the USDA North Central Region IPM Center, and with contributions from experts in the National School IPM Working Group.

SPN: The Importance of Educating Staff about Your IPM Program

Integrated pest management (IPM) is a process that requires cooperation among all school staff members, faculty and students and pest management professionals within a school district. IPM is a strategy of managing pests using multiple control tactics that provide the best control with the least cost and environmental impact. IPM is based on thorough knowledge of the pests and the technologies used to control them and can be performed by anyone with proper training. A good IPM program attempts to make schools less hospitable to pests by modifying the environment and by using the lowest impact pesticides necessary. Managing risks from pests and risks from the pesticides used to control them are top priorities under an IPM program.

Having a sustainable IPM program takes time, effort, and people. Simply adopting IPM tenets and practices is part of the solution, but having a well thought out program takes some effort. Each school or district should have a designated IPM coordinator (“The Bug Stops Here” person). All reports and complaints should be directed to the coordinator’s office. The IPM coordinator should be viewed as an important part of the overall environmental quality team for the school or district. When it comes to IPM, cooperation is the key to successful operation. The IPM Coordinator for the school system needs to be an individual who can work with upper administration, principals, teachers, custodians, food service, and maintenance. The IPM Coordinator needs to have the ability to request work orders and have some input regarding how repairs are made. This individual also needs to be able to request that custodial crews undertake special deep cleaning projects when necessary. The coordinator also needs to be able to work with food service staff on continual maintenance and implementation of IPM practices in order to make these areas less pest friendly. The coordinator must also have the ability to work with campus teachers and principals to change practices that cause conditions conducive for pests.

IPM is information intensive; the coordinator should have time to attend conferences and other educational programs so that he/she can keep up with all the trends on pests and pest treatments. The coordinator must also be able to communicate well with others; this includes composing emails and newsletters to district staff during certain periods of the school year when specific pest problems are common.

Training for staff: Everyone within the school district has a role in IPM. All custodial staff, food service personnel, and maintenance personnel should be trained to look for hidden problems. Teachers, principals, and coaches should be educated on when a pest problem is significant enough to warrant a pesticide treatment versus when a pest problem needs exclusion or sanitation remediation. Within the IPM program it is everyone’s responsibility to help maintain the “health and well-being” of the school building. An IPM program will be received favorably when everyone is trained (especially teachers) as to why pests favor school buildings and what steps can be taken to keep ants and roaches out of classrooms. Most people do not understand that everyone has a role in the IPM program: teachers and staff can properly store food in their classrooms; custodians can utilize effective cleaning practices; maintenance staff can seal up holes, which allow pests into the building; and anyone can report broken door sweeps. If everyone in the district understands the need to report properly, then pest complaints will decrease while the use of pesticides also decreases.

Roles of other staff in the IPM Program:

School Administrators: Administrators should be aware of state laws about IPM in schools, pesticide use in schools, and any other regulations addressing pest management. Administrators should be familiar with the district’s IPM policy. The IPM program needs administrative support for sustainability and effectiveness. The IPM Coordinator should communicate with school administrators on a regular basis. The most important responsibilities of administrators are to:

  • Adopt and maintain an IPM policy.
  • Include IPM as part of your health and/or safety committee(s).
    • The School Health Advisory Council (SHAC) is a group dedicated to ensuring that student and teachers health is considered during the busy school year. The SHAC group is appointed by the school district to serve at the district level. The School Health Advisory Council assists the district in ensuring that local community values are reflected in the health education program. The council will address the continued implementation of a coordinated health program including health education, physical education, health services, nutrition services, counseling, healthy school environment, staff health promotion and family/community involvement.
  • Designate and support your IPM Coordinator (s) by sending them to a variety of trainings.
  • Support priorities for maintenance and sanitation, as identified by the IPM Coordinator.
  • Encourage faculty and staff understanding and full participation in the IPM program.
  • Administrators to learn more about how you can be more involved check out this link 

School Nurses: School nurses should be aware of the IPM Policy, IPM Plan, and pesticides on school property. Be familiar with the signs and symptoms of pesticide poisoning. Be aware of signs of pest exposure including head lice, fire ants, bed bugs, asthma, rabies and mosquito and tick-borne diseases present in the region. The nurse should be able to communicate with the IPM Coordinator about such concerns. A nurse should:

  • Be aware of any children or staff with asthma, chemical sensitivities, or allergies to stinging insects.
  • Have information on IPM strategies for pests that can affect student health.
  • Keep a list of students who have serious reactions to stinging insects and communicate this information to the IPM Coordinator
  • Assist the IPM coordinator with educating students, staff and parents about public health pests like head lice, bed bugs, ticks, and scabies.
  • Nurses check out these resources at this link 

Students and Teachers: Students and teachers need to be trained on how to report pest sightings. Using pest sighting logs and/or a work order system allows teachers report their concerns to the IPM coordinator. The teacher can act as the liaison from the student to the IPM coordinator. Students and teachers must also understand the necessity of keeping facilities clean:

  • Leave NO food in lockers, classrooms, and common areas overnight, weekends and holidays
  • NO eating or drinking in areas not designated for food consumption.
  • NO clutter, which can provide shelter and makes inspection and cleaning difficult
  • Teachers check out this link for lesson plans and more information about IPM at this link 

To order the posters featured as images visit our AgriLife Bookstore search for school IPM

SPN: School IPM Resources

cattle pen

In this edition of School Pest News, I thought I would share a variety of resources that I have sent out over the past month in hopes of helping everyone who might be having trouble with pests or organizing their IPM Program.  Look for the hyperlinks throughout this post, plus any ad

Bed Bugs 

Bedbugs in a mattress welt

Bed bugs produce an allergenic chemical called histamine to help them aggregate in sites like this mattress welt.

Next to head lice, bed bugs seems to be the pest that can hitch a ride with anyone or anything.  When this happens most people are not sure what to do.  The best thing a school, child care center, medical facility or any other public place can do is adopt a management plan that fits your situation.   A few years ago, Dr. Merchant and I wrote a website post bed bug protocol for schools this is a very good reference to help IPM Coordinators and administrators develop a plan to work with students, parents, and staff when bed bugs are introduced into a school classroom.  In May 2017, we also had a newsletter article on this topic Bed bugs happen: Even in school, that you can use to help educate others about this particular pest.

Don’t forget our posters Bed Bugs Bite Poster


Armyworms, tent caterpillars, asps

With all of the moisture we have had in some areas of the state there has been an increase in activity lepidoptera (butterflies and moths).  Earlier this summer Wizzie Brown and I wrote a newsletter story on What Worm are You, not realizing that what we saw this summer was only the beginning.  Just last week, Dr. Merchant and Dr. Lindsay Hoffman posted a blog on alert for armyworms and YouTube video on armyworms.  Another odd pest is the Asp or Puss Caterpillars in some areas they can take over a tree(s) .  In October 2017, our Fall Pests on the Move newsletter covered asps and fleas.   If you are having trouble with this pest I do have additional resources that are not posted on the website, that I can share if you email me.

AG Science Program

cattle pen

These areas can become pest magnets if not managed correctly.

Over the past several years depending on where your school district is located the Ag Science program and the School IPM program have not always communicated correctly. This mostly has to do with the nature of the areas that ag barns and greenhouses are located. Especially in rural Texas, these areas are not near houses and people. However, in suburban areas that twenty years ago had a lot of open land, is now being swallowed up to houses, apartments, and shopping areas. This is placing these Ag facilities that were once isolated into areas that the public can see. For some of the school’s districts I have worked with this has brought their IPM program into question. When in truth a training of this staff on roles and responsibilities can help with the education component of the school IPM program; but, also allows everyone to know what is expected. Ag Science teachers are allowed under the FFA Charter and curriculum requirements to take care of pests on animals and plants.  To help with explaining this to staff, I created a fact sheet ( AgScienceteachersandschoolIPM) that outlines the school IPM program and how these teachers can help.

In addition, I’m including these links to help with managing pests in these environments that could help.

IPM Action plan for Nuisance Birds

IPM Action plan for House and Filth Flies

IPM Action plan for Small Flies 

Another IPM tactic is the control of manure these two articles storing manure and composting manure are good resources to share as well.

Training for Staff

Stop School Pests poster for kitchen staff

Use this with custodial and food service workers to remind them about IPM

The Texas School IPM Rules require that the IPM coordinator is responsible  that school district administrators and relevant school district personnel are provided opportunities to be informed and educated about their roles in the IPM program, reporting, and notification procedures.  This includes reporting pest and pesticide complaints.  At the same time, it might also require training about clutter management, cleaning practices, and other ways they can help keep the school building pest and pesticide free.

The StopSchoolPests website offers online trainings that can help you educate others at their own pace.

For some of you, this resource for housing managers can be helpful.  Pass this one on to your community members StopPestsinHousing.

Our other educational posters

Stop School Pests Teachers Poster

Stop School Pests Kitchen Staff Poster English/Spanish

For your grounds applicators this educational poster for worker protection is a nice way to remind them to use their PPE  Workerprotectionposterby PERCbyEngSpan

Visit our AgriLife Bookstore for variety of information and to purchase the school IPM posters in packets.