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, Visit 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.



SPN: School IPM and Pest Control Recordkeeping

In this newsletter we are going to look at some of the more frequent problems that are encountered during a school integrated pest management (IPM) inspection by the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA).

Texas is one of the few states that require all persons who apply pesticides to hold a noncommercial applicator license if they make applications not just in schools but other locations as well. Under the Occupations Code Chapter 1951 the following employees must be licensed if they apply pesticides:

  • State government employees and/or
  • Persons performing pest control at:
    • An apartment building
    • School/Day-care center
    • Hospital/nursing home
    • Hotel/motel/lodge
    • Warehouse
    • Food-processing plant (other than a restaurant, retail food, or food service establishment)

Structural pest control includes, but is not limited to, pests that may infest:

  • parks
  • buildings or structures and adjacent areas (perimeter of a building)
  • industrial plants
  • streets
  • docks
  • railroad cars
  • trucks
  • ships
  • airplanes.

Under the Texas Administrative Code, Agricultural Section, Title 2, TDA licenses pesticide applicators who apply restricted-use and state-limited-use pesticides and regulated herbicides.  For public school districts, this also includes general use insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides on all outdoor grounds.  This inclusion falls under the Structural Pest Control Rules for Integrated Pest Management Program for School Districts, which requires anyone using a pesticide to have a license.  While this might seem burdensome, we must remember that we all work in the public environment and public safety is at the forefront for school administrators.  Pesticide licensing demonstrates that you care about student safety.

2 samples of 48 hour posting notification

The sign on the left is the standard 48 posting notification that TDA publishes on their website. The sign on the right is something AgriLife Extension developed with TDA for schools to use.

Posting is another aspect of pesticide safety that will need to be maintained.  Any treatment done indoors requires 48 hours prior notification.  If your pest control company is not ensuring you have this sign, 48 hours in advance call them and ask why.  It is up to the school IPM coordinator or building manager to ensure that 48 hours prior to any indoor treatment that the building is posted.  Posting serves notice to all building occupants that there may be an insecticide treatment in two days.  In addition to the indoor posting, all outdoor treatments for any type of pesticide application (excludes fertilizer) should also be posted.  The type of treatment will determine how long the sign will remain up.  If your applicator is using a Green Category pesticide, then once the treatment is done the sign can come down provided the label does not require a longer re-entry.  For Yellow Category products like herbicides with a Caution signal word, the reentry time is 4 hours after the application is complete.  Finally, Red Category products, which carry a Warning or Danger signal word or restricted use pesticide, signs must stay in place 8 hours after the application is complete.

Parental notification is part of the school IPM rules.  Parental notification requires school districts to send a notification to all parents at the beginning of the school year informing parents to contact the IPM Coordinator regarding concerns about pesticide products used at the school.  This enables the coordinator to keep track of children who might have a chemical sensitivity or allergies to certain pests.  In some cases, the school nurse may know; but does the school nurse know when the pest control company is coming to service the school?  With so many different types of allergies, asthma triggers, and kids who have compromised immune systems, this notification process ensures that schools don’t contribute to poor student health.

Finally, what do you do if your IPM Coordinator retires or a budget reduction has your IPM Coordinator laid off?  Don’t panic, but it is important that the Superintendent appoint an IPM Coordinator as soon as possible in order to remain compliant with School IPM legislation. Per the rules, the coordinator needs to report to TDA within 90 days that there has been a change.  The Legislative Budget Board mandates TDA to inspect 20% of Texas public school districts every year.  A common inspection issue is failure to have a designated or a trained IPM coordinator.  New IPM coordinators must attend an approved six-hour school IPM coordinator training within six months of appointment.  Incumbent IPM coordinators must have six hours of continuing education every three years.   One thing I have learned over my career helping schools with their IPM programs is you can never have enough training on this subject to pests, pesticides and conditions change too much and you must be aware of everything.

Don and Mike training

Drs. Don Renchie and Mike Merchant instruct at one of our two-day regional classes which is the best way to stay up to date on staying compliant with TDA rules.

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension offers two-day training workshops that provide this required IPM Coordinator training.  The first day addresses IPM Coordinator training and satisfies the mandated training requirement.  The second day focuses on pesticide application and provides CEUs for applicator license recertification.  License holders and IPM coordinators can obtain 5 of the approved continuing education credits for school IPM refresher certification, but at least 1 hour in school IPM specifically is needed to follow TDA rules.

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 pests and the technologies used to control them.  IPM is a process that requires cooperation among all staff members within your school district as well as your pest control company; it can be performed by anyone with proper training.  A good IPM program makes schools less hospitable to pests by modifying the environment and by using the lowest impact pesticides as necessary.  Managing risks from pests and pesticides are top priorities and, no matter what the law may be, this is something every administrator should want to accomplish.


Here are a few of our resources to help you accomplish your IPM program goals:

48 Hour Posting Notification for schools PestControlNotificationSign – Schools

Yellow or Red Category Justification Form Justification form

For outdoor posting you can ask your lawn care provider for signs or Gempler’s has them 

Recognizing Green Category Products Fact Sheet Recognizing Green Category Products for Schools

Recordkeeping form in Excel  Pest Control Use Records combo Ag and SPCS

Publications available at the AgriLife bookstore

School IPM Educational Materials to help you teach everyone about IPM.   Visit our AgriLife Extension Bookstore  to order yours today

Bugs and basil: Insecticides and veggies don’t always mix

Man using a backpack sprayer

Who wants to eat insecticide?  Not me, and I’m guessing certainly not your customers.

garden in a backyard

Do your employees know what to do when encountering vegetables, herbs or other food plants around a home? Asking a customer about their edible plants might save that account. Photo by Jeff Raska.

So if your company does residential pest control, are your employees trained to know what to do when they encounter a vegetable garden, fruit or nut tree in a backyard?  And are they trained to answer a customer’s questions about the safety of their insecticides around vegetables or herbs?

I’m guessing this subject is not commonly addressed in technician training classes. I was asked by an industry sales representative this week: “Is it appropriate for a technician to be recommending that a homeowner simply wash their vegetables after having their yard treated for mosquitoes, or should the vegetables should be thrown away?”

The answer to this question depends on whether the plants were directly exposed to the spray and what the label says.

I did a quick review of the common mosquito adulticides used in backpack sprayers.  None of them allow application to edible plants.  The Suspend® Polyzone label, for example, says “do not apply this product to edible crops.” The Fendona® label says to not use on vegetable gardens.  Some make no mention of vegetables or edible crops at all.  And when it comes to edible plants, if application is not explicitly mentioned, it’s not allowed.

Will pesticides make a plant toxic?

Of course many insecticides, including some of the active ingredients in your tool kit, are used legally on crops all the time by farmers. This is allowed by the EPA only if that pesticide has been granted a tolerance for a given crop, and certain days-to-harvest intervals are followed.  These rules work to ensure that any pesticide residues left after a pesticide application are below levels of concern for human health. The 2016 Pesticide Data Program survey by USDA shows that this system works. Out of 10,000 market food samples analyzed in the study, over 99 percent had residues well below the EPA established tolerances. More than 23 percent had no detectable pesticide residue.

So insecticide residues on plants are not necessarily toxic, especially when label directions are followed and adequate time passes to allow the product to naturally degrade. The products we use in pest control may be the same active ingredients used by farmers; but they may differ in concentration and formulation. Most importantly, pest control insecticides do not carry food-treatment labels so they cannot legally be used on edible crops.

Talstar® products, for example, consist of the active ingredient bifenthrin, the same active ingredient used by farmers and even home gardeners under a variety of trade names. The Talstar® P label for mosquito control, however, says “not to apply to bearing fruit or nut trees or vegetables or edible crops.” To a law judge it won’t matter whether other formulations allow application to food crops. To a judge enforcing FIFRA requirements, you must follow the label on the product you are using.

Spray contamination 

Man using a backpack sprayer

Backpack mistblowers are commonly used for applying residual insecticides to mosquito
resting sites; but mists should be applied carefully to avoid drift onto fruit and nut trees and vegetable gardens. Image by Mike Merchant

If an insecticide is deliberately sprayed on an edible crop or plant, and the product is not labeled for such use, the plant would not considered safe by EPA standards. The implication is that all of the plant, or at least the edible parts, should be thrown away. Your customer could replant, of course, unless prohibited by the label.

Labels generally do not, however, prohibit use of these products in the vicinity of a vegetable garden. I assume this means that if you take care to keep sprays directed away from vegetable gardens, any incidental drift from nearby spraying with a coarse spray, aerosol or mist generator equipment should not be a problem. Likewise, thermal foggers and ULV applications used nearby should leave insignificant residues as long as the application orifices are directed away from edible plants at all times.

Of course applicators should always be aware of weather conditions and the locations of edible plants.  If wind is blowing toward a garden, upwind applications should be avoided.

So what should you do if a fruit, nut, vegetable or herb is is accidentally over-sprayed? Such a plant should be pulled, or else the produce should be left uneaten or discarded, by the customer.

Systemic insecticides

Some insecticides are “systemic,” meaning they have enough water solubility to be taken up by plant roots and translocated to other parts of the plant. Although the EPA allows some systemic insecticides on crops, in general systemics are not labeled for use on food crops because they can leave residues in edible plant tissues that do not quickly degrade.

Insecticides containing neonicotinoids and acephate are examples of PMP insecticides that may be systemic in plants. These include products like Merit®, Premise®, Transport®, Tandem®, Alpine®, Temprid®, Orthene® and others.  Herbs and other root or leafy vegetables exposed to systemic insecticides should be considered contaminated for the season and should not be consumed.

Some termiticides can also be systemic in plants, leading to concerns about vegetable gardens planted next to homes treated for termites. Fipronil, for example, is slightly systemic in some plants; and the Termidor® SC label says not to “apply around edible plants.”  The label does not say explicitly how far away an edible plant must be, although the Premise® 2 label (whose active ingredient, imidacloprid, is much more water soluble) is more specific. It says to “not treat within a distance of one foot out from the drip line of edible plants.”  The Premise® guideline, therefore, is probably a good, conservative guidelines for all termiticides. Keep the outermost leaves of garden plants at least a foot away from any soil-applied termiticide and you should be OK.


Regarding washing, your technician may want to suggest vegetable washing to a concerned customer whose nearby yard or house perimeter has been treated with an insecticide spray.  Washing is a good idea whether pesticides have been used or not. The best washing technique includes a pre-rinse with a 10% vinegar solution (for germ control) followed by 30 seconds of tap water.  This is a great way to remove urban dust, microorganisms and traces of pesticides from vegetable and fruit surfaces.

Would you recognize an edible plant?

herbs in the garden

Watch out for those herb gardens. Some can be obvious, but what about those in pots. Image Source: KoryeLogan (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Lastly, can you and your technicians tell a basil from a begonia, a mint from a marigold, or a pear from a poplar? Any applicator wanting to follow label directions around a home needs to be aware of what plants are present. We all don’t have to be botanists, or know all the local tree species; but we should recognize the most common fruit and nut trees, herbs, and vegetables. Would you know what the common herbs sage, basil or rosemary look like? Sounds like a good exercise for training day.

When visiting a residence the first time, ask your customer if they have any herbs, fruit trees, nut trees or vegetables that you need to be aware of. Today’s gardeners are more likely to plant edible plants within flower gardens, so you might have a basil plant or a tomato plant growing among the daisies. Assume your customers are organic in their vegetable garden and avoid these areas accordingly.

Believe me, your customers will appreciate any extra consideration you give to their home gardens. Treat them well and they might even greet you at the door with a big bag of zucchini.

Written By: Mike Merchant, Urban Entomologist and Professor, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension.

SPN: What Worm are You?

Bagworms, webworms, army worms, there are a lot of different “worms” out there that can make your shrubs and trees look unsightly.  Depending on where you live in Texas you might have seen one of them and wonder what you should do about them.  Before you get too confused, while worm is in the name they are really caterpillars.  And we know that caterpillars will cocoon and turn into a moth or butterfly.


Bagworms hanging from a twigBagworms can be seen hanging from the twigs of a variety of trees and shrubs. They are recognized by the distinctive 1.5 to 2 inch long spindle-shaped cocoons that they make. The cocoons are made from a combination of silk that they spin, along with leaf, twig and bark material from the host tree that they are feeding on.

  • Form small cases that hold larvae, pupae, or female adults and eggs
  • Cases are often found on evergreen trees & shrubs such as cedar, juniper, cypress, or pine
  • Cases are made from silk and plant material laid down similar to shingles on a house, overlapping in layers
  • Newly hatched larvae spin a silken thread & either are carried to a new plant by wind or attach themselves to the plant they are on and begin to build their own silken bag
  • Bags remain on plants even if bagworms are dead
  • Bags are transportable; larvae carry them along as they move about the plant
  • To manage bagworms, handpick bags off the plant and dispose of them

Check out this link to Dr. Merchant’s webpage on bagworms

Webworms or Tent Caterpillars:

Fall webworms on a shrubFall webworms are another caterpillar that may be confused with bagworms. The female moth will lay a cluster of a few hundred eggs on the underside of the leaves of a host plant in the spring and the eggs hatch approximately one week later. After hatching, the larvae immediately begin spinning silken webs for protection from predators while they are feeding. The caterpillars will skeletonize leaves so that only the veining structure remains. The webs initially start at the tip of branches and can eventually extend all the way down to the trunk of a tree.

  • Spin webbing over branches of host tree to enclose foliage they feed upon
  • Attack over 88 species of plants, including fruit, nut, and ornamental trees and shrubs
  • Use web as a protective covering; spin webbing immediately after hatching out of egg
  • Webbing remains on tree even if caterpillars are dead/ no longer there
  • Webs can be pruned out of the tree or opened with a stick/ spray of water to allow predators to eat caterpillars
  • When using a pesticide, webbing still needs to be opened

In the event you need to control this pest, here are some control tactics you can use:

Less toxic active ingredients for management include Bacillus thuringiensis (Green Category) variety kurstaki, which targets only caterpillars or spinosad (Green Category) which targets insects that feed heavily on foliage. Both of these active ingredients must be consumed to work properly, so good coverage of foliage is important. Consider treating with these products in the evening so they won’t degrade as quickly as using them during the day where they begin to break down quickly from sunlight. Bt and spinosad work best on smaller stages of caterpillars (less than ½ an inch); once caterpillars are larger it is best to use a residual contact pesticide (Yellow Category). Synthetic pesticides include active ingredients such as permethrin, cyfluthrin, carbaryl, or acephate (Yellow Category). Read the label to check what plants products may be used on and read and follow all label instructions.  Remember if you use a Yellow Category product to complete a justification form as well.

For more information on fall webworms check out this factsheet

Fall Armyworms:

Fall armyworm on bermudagrass, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension photoFall armyworms are approximately 1-1½ inches long, depending on instar, and can vary in color from a green to mottled brown, to almost black.  Armyworms attack many different kinds of plants. When food is scarce, they will move to plants that are not normally attacked. Thus, armyworms can be found on nearly any plant as they migrate in search of edible foliage. Besides warm-season turfgrasses, plants attacked by armyworms include grain and forage sorghum, corn, small grains, sweet potato, beans, turnip, clover, tobacco, spinach, cucumber, potatoes, tomatoes, cowpeas, cabbage, bluegrass and others.

  • Weather conditions that favor the fall armyworm is above average rains in August and September.
  • Because armyworm moths are strong fliers, outbreaks can also occur when storms move the moths and allow them to escape natural enemies. Armyworms should be controlled when they occur in large numbers or plant damage is becoming excessive.
  • Damaged areas of lawns appear off-color and eventually turn brown as damage progresses from small windowpane strips of damaged leaf tissue to destruction of entire leaves. Armyworms feed any time of the day or night, but are most active early in the morning or late in the evening.
  • Treat with a labeled insecticide when leaf damage becomes evident and large numbers of caterpillars are visible. Effective, low-impact insecticides include halofenozide (small caterpillars only) and spinosad (Both are Green Category). Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) products are widely available and will selectively control small armyworm larvae without harm to beneficial insects; however, Bt residues does not last on turf for more than 1-2 days. Conventional insecticide (Yellow Category) choices for armyworms in lawns include bifenthrin, carbaryl, esfenvalerate, permethrin and others.

For more information on Fall Armyworms check out the AggieTurf website

Special thanks to Dr. Mike Merchant and Wizzie Brown for information and some of the images in this issue of School Pest News.

Water-Wise Tips for Turfgrass

Developed by Becky Grubbs, PhD and Ben Wherley, PhD AggieTurf  to help you manage your turf a water-wise checklist for the hottest and driest months of the year.    Click this link for a downloadable version 



Additional Resources


Mow at the upper end of the appropriate mowing height range for your species of grass Taller grass = Deeper Roots. Deeper roots can improve overall infiltration and access to water deeper in the soil. For more information on appropriate mowing heights for your species, visit the AggieTurf Website.
Follow the 1/3 Rule. Mow frequently enough to never remove more than 1/3 of the total grass mowing height at one time. Scalped grass is stressed grass. Stressed grass will be less tolerant to heat and drought, and more vulnerable to other pests or fungal pathogens. Landscape photograph of turf grass


Water deeply and infrequently. Try to water to a depth of approximately 6″ each time you water. Watering this way encourages deeper, denser root growth. Again, this can improve infiltration and access to water deeper in the soil.



Wait to water until visual wilt is occurring, and do so late at night or early in the morning.

Watering late at night or early in the morning will reduce evaporative losses, improve water-use efficiency, and reduce length of overall leaf wetness, which reduces disease potential. Sprinklers watering athletic field


Use the Cycle Soak Method.

Because sprinkler precipitation rates usually exceed soil infiltration rates, cycle soaking improves soil water infiltration and reduces runoff by “pulsing” water onto the lawn in small amounts over several hours. Check out this video from Dr. Richard White on the Cycle Soak Method. bHTjL0&t=27s


Monitor your irrigation equipment judiciously.

Broken or malfunctioning irrigation equipment can both waste water and create localized dry spots across the lawn. Replace broken heads, and consider a professional irrigation audit by a licensed irrigator. Want to check your irrigation efficiency on your own? Check out AgriLife Water University’s video on the Catch Can Method.


Take advantage of rainwater. Rainwater catchment can help you take advantage of natural precipitation and supplement irrigation water. A number of AgriLife programs offer courses on rainwater catchment. Check out these programs, or contact your County Extension Agent for local resources:

Healthy Lawns, Healthy Waters

Water University




Till new areas before replacing or installing new sod.

Prepare areas for new sod by tilling the area to a depth of 6” to 12″, when possible. Good site preparation is critical to improving water infiltration and laying the literal groundwork for a healthy stand of turfgrass.


Look ahead.

In the spring and fall, consider core aeration and thatch removal to improve overall water infiltration for active growing months. Not sure what to do here? Contact your local County Extension Agent for additional input.


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SPN: New kissing bug guide published to strengthen the fight against Chagas disease

Cover of the Kissign Bugs and Chagas Disease book
Cover of the Kissign Bugs and Chagas Disease book

This new kissing bug guide is to help Texans be more prepared about this true bug.

A guide to help battle a potentially fatal disease transferred by a blood-sucking insect called the kissing bug has been published by a task force led by The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).

While it may not make good bedtime reading, the new image-based guide from the Texas Chagas Task Force could keep you from falling victim to a disease caused by a parasite that the kissing bug carries. The parasite is Trypanosoma cruzi (T.cruzi), and the disease it causes is called Chagas disease. It is dubbed the silent killer because its symptoms are so elusive. If caught early, Chagas disease is treatable but if left undetected and untreated, it can eventually lead to problems such as heart failure, an enlarged heart or stroke.

“There’s still a widespread lack of knowledge about the insects that carry the parasite and this neglected disease, which often at first shows no signs whatsoever. Most people aren’t even aware of Chagas, let alone that it exists here in the United States,” said Paula Stigler-Granados, Ph.D., head of the task force and assistant professor at UTHealth School of Public Health in San Antonio. “We aim to change that by telling people all about it because early diagnosis and treatment are absolutely vital to avoid its potentially debilitating, even deadly, effects.”

Stigler-Granados wants everyone to be able to recognize the kissing bug and know that if they may have been bitten, or have been exposed to one, they need to tell their doctor and get tested.

Three kissing bugs various life stages

Kissing bugs all life stages – image courtesy of Gabe Hamer, Texas A&M University

“Everyone, especially in Texas, should know what these insects look like, how to avoid them and what to do if they happen to find one in or around their homes. It’s a complete myth that they are only found in mud huts. We see them everywhere, including million-dollar homes,” Stigler-Granados said. “This is an important guide, not only for the general public but also for physicians and veterinarians who are often on the frontline of talking with the public about the disease.”

The hot summer months are peak season for kissing bug activity in Texas, she said. Chagas disease is estimated to affect more than 7 million people worldwide. Although most prevalent in Latin America, kissing bugs and Chagas disease can also be found in the Southern United States.

Recent research has shown a high rate of kissing bugs infected with the T.cruzi parasite in Texas, amounting to 64 percent of captured insects in one study and 60 percent in a military study in the San Antonio area.

Kissing bugs often bite victims around the mouth or eyes while they sleep, thus leading to its name. But in reality, kissing bugs can bite anywhere on the body.

The disease is mainly transmitted through the feces of the insect, which gets into the bite wound. It can also be passed from mother to fetus and through contaminated blood products or even contaminated food or beverages.

Kissing bug on the floor of a building

Kissing bug found in camping barracks. PHOTO CREDIT entomologist Walter Roachell

Once people are infected, there may be no indication of contracting the disease for years or even decades. For those who do develop symptoms, the disease can begin to affect the heart or digestive systems, at which point it can become potentially fatal.

“This mysterious disease itself does not present with a lot of symptoms initially, if any at all. You may have a spot or a welt from the bite, or you experience mild flu-like symptoms,” Stigler-Granados said. “Ultimately Chagas can progress to the chronic symptomatic phase, which typically manifests itself as heart disease, although gastrointestinal disease is also possible.

Around 20 to 30 percent of infected persons will enter the chronic symptomatic stage of Chagas disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The majority of sufferers remain undiagnosed until the chronic symptomatic stage, highlighting the need for greater awareness and early intervention.

Physicians can prescribe a medication to treat Chagas disease in adults and children. The CDC can also assist with coordinating treatment using other drug options.

Facts about the disease, maps and pictures of the multiple species of kissing bugs found in the Southern United States are featured in the comprehensive guide. Life-size young and adult insects are shown, pointing out their distinguishing characteristics. It also identifies look-alike insects, which don’t transmit the parasite, to help people rule out possible suspects.

“If in doubt, you should take the necessary precautions and submit the insect for testing, which will not only assist with prevention but also surveillance of the disease,” Stigler-Granados said.

Common kissing bug habitats, such as beneath porches, dog houses and kennels, chicken coops, and rodent nests, are discussed.

Kissing bugs should never be handled with bare hands or crushed, due to the parasite’s presence in its gut. Clear guidance is provided on how to safely collect a suspected kissing bug and how to send it to be tested if suspected of biting someone and/or if found inside the home or if found outside the home.

The guide was funded by a five-year $544,329 cooperative agreement grant from the CDC to conduct outreach and education on Chagas in Texas. More than 20 experts who are part of the task force, along with close collaboration with Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, were involved in its production.

Top tips on how to keep kissing bugs at bay

  • Bring pets, such as dogs and cats, inside at night if possible or keep them in a place where they will not be exposed to insects from the outdoors. Check their bedding.
  • Seal cracks or openings into your home, especially around windows and doors leading outside.
  • Elevate woodpiles and keep them away from your home.
  • Get rid of pests, such as rodents, living under or near your home in consultation with pest management professionals.
  • Remove piles, excess leaves, and animal nests or burrows around your property.
  • Keep chimney flues closed when not in use.

Victoria Tagg, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and School of Public Health, San Antonio.  Media Contact: 1-713-500-3030

Summer Management Considerations for School Sports Fields

Green grass field

Over the summer is the time to prepare this field for the fall.

Summer management for both active and inactive sports fields is critical to maintaining healthy, safe fields year-round. Even just light maintenance can make a huge difference in what is possible when school starts again in the fall.

Sprinklers watering a sports field

It’s a good idea to conduct an irrigation audit at least once a year to make sure you are watering the turf correctly.

To prevent surface hardness from creeping up to dangerous levels, regular irrigation is important – even for those fields that remain otherwise inactive during summer months. In many parts of the state where fields are constructed atop our trademark “shrinking and swelling” clays, the lack of irrigation can result in significant cracks in the field surface by the time football season is upon us. It can take a considerable amount of time and water to properly re-saturate the fields and bring them back to a safe surface capable of supporting healthy vegetation. Deep watering even once a week during dry periods can prevent this. Water early in the morning. This will optimize water use and prevent disease on your fields as fall approaches. Monitor and correct any malfunctioning irrigation. Uniform coverage will prevent dry spots where soil will harden and pests will move in. Consider a catch can audit.


Raise the mowing height on fields that are less active in the summer. This will encourage deeper roots, improve water infiltration, and reduce weed encroachment during less active months. It will also reduce the risk of scalping when mowing is less frequent. In preparation for the coming year, mowing heights can be gradually reduced to those more acceptable for play. For shorter mowing heights, mow more frequently to prevent scalping. Never remove more
than 1/3 of the total height at a time.

Fertilization and Soil Amendments

Conduct a soil test by compiling multiple samples from across the entire field. Soil testing can be performed by the Texas A&M Soil, Water, and Forage Testing Laboratory . Use this as a guide for applying fertilizers or soil amendments over the summer when growth is more vigorous. Your goal should be to maintain the healthiest grass you can with the healthiest roots possible. A dense root system in the summer can make all the difference in the fall. Typically, between 2 and 6 lbs of N per 1000 ft2 is recommended per year for bermudagrass. These can be applied in 0.5 to 1 lb N per 1000 ft2 rates every 6 – 8 weeks during the growing season (May – Sept/Oct).


Vigorous aeration will improve water infiltration, air flow, and stimulate root growth. Consider site-specific aeration of sports fields, where areas that are more likely to be compacted are aerated more aggressively. These are areas where foot traffic is heavier. Often, these areas can be identified by thinning turfgrass as well as poor water infiltration (pooling). Take care not to aerate too soon after a heavy rainfall event (can cause more compaction), or when conditions
are particularly hot and dry (can dry out the root zone).

Shallow or Deep?

Shallow-tine aeration can provide some nice short-term amelioration of soil compaction, and creates a sort of “direct line” to the root zone. This can be beneficial when coupling aeration with other maintenance such as fertilization or top-dressing. However, to truly stimulate deeper, denser roots, consider a more aggressive deep-tine aeration. Research has found that in more compacted systems (like sports fields), the roots will go as deep as the aeration. So, the deeper you go, the more benefits you will see for your root system. If core aeration is a regular part of your field maintenance (multiple times per year), consider varying tine depth to prevent the accumulation of a hardpan layer in the soil profile.

Solid or Hollow-Tine?
solid-tine aerator.

This is a solid-tine aerator.

For sports turf fields, the physical removal of soil cores is most likely to be advantageous in alleviating soil compaction and improving soil conditions. However, cleaning up extracted cores from the field can be tedious. Again, when aeration is a more frequent practice, consider alternating between different kinds of tines.

Follow the Texas Turf Program @AggieTurf (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) for more turf tips.

Written By: Dr. Becky Grubbs,  Turfgrass Extension Specialist & Assistant Professor

the AggieTurf website homepage

Come visit the AggieTurf website for more information.

SPN: Preparing for Summer

The school year is rapidly coming to an end and that means cleaning, repairing, and reviewing your IPM records. This newsletter is to help you prepare for the summer and help your IPM program grow.

School classroom with storage containers

This room is ready for summer, the teacher has placed all their supplies in storage containers. The room can have it’s deep cleaning and if custodial or the teacher finds evidence of pests in August, then you know where to start.

Before school ends be sure to send out an email to your teachers and principals reminding them to take home classroom pets, food items (even the macaroni art), and other personal items you would like out of their classroom. At the same time, you might need to remind them to store those items they want to keep in the rubber storage containers, so that your custodial staff can easily move these in and out of the classroom to clean.

As your staff cleans each campus, remind them to be on the lookout for evidence of pests. As they move items away from walls and expose the room for deep cleaning, workers need to make note of cockroach droppings, shed skins, wings, and other indicators that mice or cockroaches are living undetected most of the year, and report these findings to you the IPM Coordinator.

Dead roaches in an under-sink cabinet

While the dead roaches in this cabinet is important. What I see is openings behind the wall where they can enter and live (focus at the end of blue lines). Everything needs to come out, cleaned, and monitor for activity. If activity is found then baiting is best for this area.

Have them look for small openings along baseboards, bookcases, ceiling tiles and especially in storage rooms. Are they sweeping up a lot of spilled items like beans, sawdust, dust bunnies, etc. that could be an indication of insect or mammal activity?

Before the food service group leaves for the summer it’s critical that they place as much of their food items like condiments into rubberized sealed containers, so that those items are not subject to contamination. At the same time, food service staff should ensure that all food processing equipment is cleaned inside and out. Too often the inside doesn’t get cleaned and this food debris can become a food source for a hidden cockroach. Monitoring devices should also be placed in areas that have floor drains, several cockroach species can use these sewer pipes as highways to find food and shelter. Remind food service that the IPM coordinator and pest control applicator will need to access the food storage rooms during summer. Too often I see this left unnoticed for six weeks because ‘no one has the key’ and the kitchen manger comes back to a cockroach or mouse problem, because no one could inspect this critical area.

School kitchen cleaned up for summer with equipment covered with plastic

This kitchen was cleaned up for summer. What is not obvious in this image is the coldbase that is missing and broken along the ledge and walls. There was evidence of German cockroaches in the equipment, in the ceiling tiles, and other areas.

German cockroaches on a sticky trap in a school kitchen

This is one of the monitors from the kitchen (left). With a pest problem like German cockroaches this requires frequent inspections to ensure control measures are working. Look closely notice the floors and wall behind.










Finally, taking time during the summer to organize your IPM paperwork can help you identify unknown pest problems. If you haven’t filed all those service tickets that your pest control contractor has dropped off, now is the time to do it. As you file these away, hopefully by campus, look to see if there is evidence of pests. What comments were made by the service technician, do you have work orders that correlate information for those service tickets? Most often as I inspect schools for their compliance with the TDA school IPM rules, it’s looking at the service tickets that I find the small mistakes.

When you are asked by the TDA inspector “what is your monitoring program” they really want to know what you the IPM coordinator and the pest management professional are doing to prevent pests in your schools.

Monitoring can lead to making a pesticide application, but this simple statement is one of the most confusing aspects of the school IPM rules. Because monitoring and pesticide application may not go hand and glove. Depending on where your school campus is located, how old the building is, how has it been managed, and how active is the custodial service at that location can all play a rOverhead view of scool campus buildingole in pest activity. We have all heard the slogan, location, location, location, except when it comes to schools it is all about the location. If you have a campus that is located on low land that is prone to a lot of moisture, you are going to have a variety of problems. Does the campus have water standing under the building or in the building (basement areas)? These areas need to be monitored to make sure that insects, vertebrates, and mammals aren’t finding a place to live as well.

Pest attracting area on school building

Areas located on school buildings can become the perfect place for pests to thrive. Make sure these areas are maintained annually.

Age of the structure is important, from the time a school campus is built until it is no longer part of the district can play a key role in how the public and students perceive the District. If the campus looks worn down, not cared for: vegetation left unmanaged, lawns unmowed, soffits and eaves with missing pieces, anything that can be fixed needs to be fixed or the public thinks “we don’t care”. If a mouse can use ¼ inch (size of index finger) to enter a building, think what else can gain entrance. Birds can make nests in several openings, birds can lead to bird mites later in the year. How about that paper wasp nest that is small now, what will that look like in August? Monitoring is visually inspecting.

Crates of bananas in a school kitchen

Having fresh fruit can bring in fruit flies, so it’s something to train employees on what to recognize.

As you can see monitoring is more than setting out glue boards in the kitchen. Monitoring is a 360-degree process, it’s an assessment of what is going on in that setting, at that time. If you have kitchens that serve food, but not prepare food, that requires a different level of monitoring. If your kitchens are preparing food, then food service staff need to be aware of a variety of pests and pest signs. IPM technicians, need to know where to place monitors and remember to chart them and check them monthly. In some of the large high school kitchens I have seen as much as 30 monitoring devices strategically placed so that the IPM team could keep an “eye” on different areas that had potential to have problems. One American cockroach on a glue board may not be problematic if it’s early August and you have dry sewer lines; however, that same cockroach found later in the year and it’s on a counter, then you might need to inspect even more.

Pest management professional monitors pest counts

When monitoring in high pest areas, PMPs should document insect counts to help show pest reduction.

When you monitor, and you have evidence of a nuisance pest, jumping spiders don’t count, then based on your management plan your pest management professional should be able to make an application. With so many baits on the market, the most common first step is identifying your pest, it’s not just an ant or roach, and then choosing an insecticide bait that works the best for that specific pest. As the IPM coordinator you need to look at the service tickets, if you contract out, to see what your company is using. When I conduct those compliance audits, this is when I notice that the first product of choice isn’t a bait, but a spray. The spray that is used typically has an active ingredient that ends in “thrin” which means it’s a yellow category product and requires a form as well.

Here are the things the TDA inspector will look for 1) what type of monitoring on you and the pest management company doing? Can you document it? 2) are you posting as required by law? 48 hours in advance of any indoor treatment? 3) does the service ticket have all the information completed that is required by TDA for any pesticide application? Things that are missing, target pest (not just an ant), applicator name and license number, and justification form; 4) not a green category product then a justification form signed by the certified applicator is on file with the IPM coordinator. This last item is the number one violation for Texas School IPM programs. This seems so simple and in some cases like a bunch of red tape, but what this document is designed for is to remind the applicator and IPM Coordinator that there are green solutions, and have you explored those options? In some cases, the product you are using is the best solution, if you can explain that on the form, TDA will be pleased.

Remember we have our fact sheet Recognizing Green Category Products to learn more about Green category products.

Still need to train your employees about IPM, then visit our Training Modules page we have training for everyone from teachers, custodians, grounds, and food service.