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. https://aggieturf.tamu.edu/
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. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vmr9Y 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. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1nIwZ


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 https://hlhw.tamu.edu/

Water University https://wateruniversity.tamu.edu/




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.


Want more? Check out the AggieTurf website: https://aggieturf.tamu.edu/

Follow Dr. Grubbs @TXTurfGal (Twitter)

Follow @AggieTurf (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram)

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.

SPN: Texas IPM Stars; Head Lice and Bats

AgriLife Extension program bolsters Texas schools’ pest management approach

Writer: Gabe Saldana

More than a decade of work alongside Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service experts in integrated pest management, or IPM, has culminated in the national certification of four Texas school districts as “IPM Stars,” said Janet Hurley, AgriLife Extension school IPM specialist in Dallas.

IPM Star Certification LogoIPM Star certification from the IPM Institute of North America was awarded in April to Plano, Conroe, East Central and Killeen independent school districts for consistent exemplary marks on the institute’s 37-point evaluation.

IPM is the practice of combining pest control strategies for minimal or zero pesticide use, Hurley said. “Instead of reliance on regularly scheduled pesticide applications, schools using IPM approaches employ proactive pest exclusion practices,” she said. “They emphasize sanitation to eliminate food, water, and harborage for pests, regularly monitoring for pest presence. They use insecticides only when populations are present, and even then, use the least toxic pesticides whenever possible, resulting in cleaner, safer, healthier schools.”

The four districts join Spring ISD, the only other Texas school district to have achieved the national certification. Plano ISD renews its existing IPM Star standing from 2007.

“We have worked with these districts on their IPM programs since about 2001,” Hurley said. “Schools have been required to follow Texas IPM standards since 1995, but those receiving IPM Star certifications have shown themselves to be exemplary in low-human-risk pest management on a national scale.”

The 37-point IPM evaluation that determines an IPM Star certification includes markers like cleanliness for preempting infestation, pest reporting protocols, and pest-control/staff preparedness.

“Maintaining excellence in all these areas is a big undertaking,” Hurley said. “But the certification really shows how Texas school IPM standards stack up nationwide.”

She said the Texas school districts awarded this year were also participants in a 2015 study where AgriLife Extension IPM specialists joined extension programs from across the country to develop a means for standard evaluation of school district pest management programs.

“The evaluation measures we used in that study paralleled those of the IPM Star certification closely enough that we thought our districts could compete successfully for IPM Star recognition, and they have,” Hurley said.

She urged any Texas school district looking to bulk up its IPM approach to reach out to the AgriLife Extension school IPM program by visiting the website, attending one of the two-day workshops, or by contacting directly.

“We want to see Texas schools leading the nation in safe pest control practices,” she said. “This year’s IPM Stars are a sure sign that we’re on the right path.”

Head Lice an old foe

Head lice infest 10 to 12 million people each year in the U.S., making “lousiness” one of the most common communicable conditions in this country. Children transmit lice to one another through the sharing of common items like headphones, ball caps, helmets, and other items that come in close contact with humans and others.  It only takes one adult female louse to begin an infestation. Severe infestations may cause irritation, scratching and the subsequent invasion of secondary infection. Head lice are not considered serious vectors of disease. They are normally found on children, but they can spread to adults, too. Household pets do not carry head lice and lice cannot move in from outside.

Last fall, Blayne Reed, Extension Agent-IPM for Hale, Swisher, & Floyd counties and I worked on updating our department head lice document.  Download it now so the next time the nurse or teacher ask you to spray you can have this handy for them to read.

Image of human head lice handout



Download the full PDF file HumanLice_final






Bat Management

It’s that time of year – bats are on the move and before the summer comes here are a few tips to remember.

Once bats have their pups you should not plan on doing any exclusion work, in some states, it’s illegal to exclude bats.  In Texas, we want to protect the bats, but also protect humans and companion animals from rabies.

For more information on bat management check out this past School Pest News article – What everyone should know about bat management

Need to train your staff on how to properly capture a bat, check out this presentation I developed for you to use.


Bat Control In Schools_English



SPN: Are You Ready for Those Spring Pests?

As the rain falls, so does our chances to bring a wide variety of pests into our homes and schools. Two of the most common for spring are termites and ants.

As April approaches so does the emergence of termites. Termites that swarm are actually doing building maintenance a favor. While you may find the idea crazy that termite swarming is doing you a favor, understanding termite biology will make the idea more acceptable.

Image of Native subterranean termite soldier

Native subterranean termite soldier

Termites can damage buildings undetected for a long time because of their secretive, underground habits. The one time of year that termites are most likely to alert people to their presence is swarming season. Termites would do a lot more damage to buildings without evidence of the swarms because problems would go undetected and untreated for longer periods of time.

Termite swarming can start in January and February in South Texas and be as late as April and May up in the Panhandle.

IPM Coordinators must be familiar with the appearance and behavior of termite swarmers, and should encourage maintenance and custodial staff to report termite swarmers immediately. Because swarmers disappear as quickly as they appear, it is too easy to assume the problem is also gone. The presence of swarmers indoors is a sure sign of an active termite infestation.

In most parts of Texas termite swarming activity starts with the construction of a swarm tube in late March or early April. A swarm tube looks innocent enough at initial formation – a small dab of mud or dirt appearing mysteriously on an indoor wall.  Within a week or two, however, when the weather conditions are right, the tiny hole becomes a doorway for dozens to thousands of termite swarmers.

Fortunately, the thousands of termite swarmers emerging into a school office or classroom do not contribute to the indoor spread of termites.  Subterranean termite swarmers that emerge indoors are unlikely to actually start a new colony.  Because they cannot reach soil, any swarmers that emerge indoors quickly die.  However, the IPM coordinator or building manager needs to investigate and inspect the area where the termites swarmed to determine if an active termite colony is in the building.  The inspection can wait until classes end for the day or for thorough inspection you may wait until the school year ends.   You should call in a pest professional to conduct a thorough inspection and treatment.  There are several treatment options, for more information about termites, check out our Urban Entomology website.

The following diagram may be used to train school maintenance staff in how to distinguish between ants and termites.

Image of termite with equal shaped wing and an ant with shorter hind wings

Remember termites have equal shaped wings, whereas, ants have shorter hind wings

Winged Ants Winged Termites
two pairs of wings, hind wings shorter two pairs of wings of equal size and shape
elbowed antennae hair-like antennae
narrow “waist” between abdomen and thorax no narrow waist


Spring is also the time for many of our nuisance ant species to swarm as well.   Carpenter ants are bicolored ants that are among the largest ants found in Texas, making their swarms dramatic. There are fourteen species of carpenter ants that occur in Texas.

Common indoor species, Camponotus rasilis Wheeler and Csayi Emery, have workers that are dull red bodied with black abdomens. Worker ants range in size from 1/4 to 1/2-inch. They can be distinguished from most other large ant species because the top of the thorax is evenly rounded and bears no spines.

Male (left) and female carpenter ant swarmers.

Male (left) and female carpenter ant swarmers. Note the pinched waist that distinguishes these insects from termites.

These ants usually nest in dead wood, either outdoors in old stumps and dead parts of trees and around homes (in fences, fire wood, etc.) or indoors (between wood shingles, in siding, beams, joists, fascia boards, etc.). Ant colonies are often located in cracks and crevices between structural timbers, but the ants can also tunnel into structural wood to form nesting galleries. They often appear to prefer moist, decaying wood, wood with dry rot or old termite galleries.  Sometimes teachers and school administrators are concerned about damage to the structural integrity of the building because they think they might be dealing with a termite swarm. However, damage is often limited because these ants tunnel into wood only to form nests and do not eat wood. Galleries (nesting tunnels) produced by carpenter ants usually follow the grain of the wood and around the annual rings. Tunnel walls are clean and smooth. Nests can be located by searching for piles of sawdust-like wood scrapings (frass) underneath exit holes.

Odorous house ants

Odorous house ants have a distinct odor when crushed.

The odorous house ant, Tapinoma sessile, is considered a pest when it enters structures searching for food, water or nest sites. It cannot sting because it lacks a stinger and will likely only bite if you stick a hand into its nest and vigorously disturb the colony. Occasionally winged reproductives ants found at lights concern people as well. Odorous house ant is common throughout the United States and is the second most common pest ant managed by professionals!  This ant is about 1/8-inch long, dark brown to black and smells like rotten coconut with a hint of other odors when crushed, which gives it some other names like “piss ant”.

In addition to their smell, odorous house ants are accurately named as they are often found foraging along the outside base of a home. Increased indoor activity is often associated with rain. Odorous house ant activity can be observed during the day and night and will be found foraging outdoors in greatest numbers when temperatures are between 70 and 86 degrees F. Odorous house ants use edges, ridges or other guidelines to move from one place to another. Natural (vines, trees and shrubs) and man-made (siding, ground/foundation wall interface, wires, pipes, conduits, baseboards, counters and others) objects may serve as guidelines.

This ant will respond to baits for more information check out this fact sheet from University of Tennessee by Karen Vail and Jennifer Chandler.

Man driving a fire ant bait broadcast spreader at a school

To control fire ants on school campuses it is recommended that you broadcast bait using an appropriate spreader.

Another common foe is the red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) which is common in all southern states.  As the weather continues to warm up, fire ant activity will also warm up.  Initial imported fire ant mounds are usually found near sidewalks or slabs.  This is especially true in the cool spring because these areas presumably warm up sooner. These ants are aggressive and once encountered can result in stings, equipment failure and unsightly fields.

Despite the warm days with air temperatures in the 80s and 90s, soil temperatures are just climbing to levels where fire ants are foraging for food.  This means that in some areas it may still be a little early for applying fire ant bait.  Currently the soil temperatures ranged from mid-60s to the mid-70s here at the Dallas office.  Research indicates that fire ant foraging doesn’t begin in earnest until soil temperatures reach the 70 degree mark.  Our standard recommendation is to hold off bait applications until May.

While baits are still the most cost-effective and environmentally sensitive option for area-wide fire ant control, mound treatments are effective for controlling visible mounds and can be applied any time of year.  Mound treatments are ideally used against fire ant nests that need quick control, like mounds next to the school or in other inconvenient locations.   For more information about fire ants and fire ant control, you can go to the Fire ant website or check out fire ant management plan.

Finally if you would like to confirm if your pest management professional is using a Green or Yellow category product, you can go to our Fact Sheet Recognizing Green Category Pesticides – a fact sheet for how to ID Green products to learn more about Green Category choices.

This article is a combination of documents and information from eXtension, Mike Merchant, Wizzie Brown, Molly Keck, Paul Nester and Janet Hurley.