SPN: Pest Management in the era of COVID-19

coronavirus microspotic

What’s that saying about March – in like a lamb out like lion or vice versa. We have always associated that saying with the weather but now I am beginning to think COVID-19 is following this model. It started slow and as March is coming to end this virus is beginning to roar. For us in pest management this has been an odd time, do you service accounts when we are trying to practice social distancing (I prefer physical distancing)? What is considered essential services when it comes to pest control? How about your school district is it completely shut down, meaning that no one is watching your IPM program? It’s still spring in TX, depending on where you are at you are seeing mosquitoes, fire ants, nuisance ants, millipedes, crane flies, and rodents to name a few of the more annoying pests in our state.

In this edition of School Pest News (SPN) I am going to try and breakdown what you need to have and what you need to know to help you get through this uncertain time.

Several Extension Specialists from across the country came together this month to help those who work with multi-housing clients. This dialogue began has as a discussion to help someone answer the question as to what you consider an essential pest problem.  This is what we determined for those of you who live in multi-family housing or service those accounts.  {Be on the lookout for a blog by Dr. Merchant for all pest management professionals on this topic soon.}

  • Control of rats in residences (any infestation level), or removal of a bat found in the residence, or common spaces
  • Control of fire ants in and around residential areas.
  • Common-area pest inspection/treatments in high-rise hallways, maintenance areas, garbage rooms, and garbage chutes; findings of any pests in the hallways should be recorded for later proximate-apartment follow-up.  {This will vary depending on location and type of facility}
  • Inside the apartment cockroach, bed bug, mouse/rat, or fly treatments for high-level infestations in residences, or lower-level infestations if:
    • A resident has a non-COVID-19 medical issue involved, such as asthma (as a result of pandemic response measures, we currently have people spending more time in their home, exposed for longer periods to possible asthmagens and respiratory irritants)
    • a resident complains and consents to treatment for priority pests (bed bugs, rodents, cockroaches or other significant public health pests)

Pest control providers can determine what will consider a high-level pest infestation, again calls from customers should not be ignored, but prioritized to limit the customer and pest management professional from unneeded physical contact to prevent COVID from spreading. Consult with your local health department (city/county), Texas Department of Agriculture, Texas Pest Control Association and/or university extension specialists about prioritizing additional pests of public health significance (i.e. filth flies, fleas) that could be problematic in your area. Treatments conducted outdoors for wasps, fire ants, mosquitoes, termites, etc. could continue with proper precautions and should be decided on a case-by-case basis.

coronavirus microspotic Consider using and sharing this document Pest Control Operations and Social Distancing in Multi-Family Housing During the COVID-19/Coronavirus Outbreak  

In addition, the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) is recommending printing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) form and printing an essential service work document on company letterhead.  Both of which can be downloaded here from their website https://www.pestcontrolcoronavirus.com/government-resources/state-province-level/  for Texans you can visit the TPCA website for updated information.  NPMA also hosted a webinar on Performing Pest Management in Challenging Times go check this recording out.

Our friends with the Arizona Community IPM program have been working overtime to help get you additional information on COVID-19 and how to manage this in your school, nursing home, or other sensitive environment.  The topic is of course focused on the COVID-19 outbreak, and the safe use of disinfectants and cleaning products.  You find their information at this newsletter link   Thank you, Dawn, Shaku, Lucy, & Jennifer for providing this information.

Finally, in an effort to assist your educational needs I developed a really short survey to learn what Texas A&M AgriLife Extensions IPM team can do to help you.  Follow this survey link to let me know your thoughts.



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What’s that blob in my playground?

yellow slim mold

Are you seeing a lot of odd looking blobs of yellow,  pink, white, or even orange looking foam substance?

yellow slim mold

Slim mold growing on compost

You are not alone. And no it’s not some animal vomiting, this is Slim Mold.

Slime molds belong in the phylum Myxomycota in the kingdom Protista. They are not a true fungus. These organisms exist in nature as a “blob” (plasmodium), similar to a amoeba. And they engulf their food, mostly bacteria. The slime mold that typically appear on mulches are from the genus, Fuligo septica  .

Slim mold growing from an office worm bin.

Slim mold growing from an office worm bin.

The brightly color blobs usually appear and may spread around mulched beds when there is high humidity and relatively warm temperatures. In Texas, we typically hear of slime molds in the spring and occasionally in the summer in highly irrigated shade areas. Slime mold can appear to be bright yellow to red. As they begin to dry out, these colors fade to brown and tan. Breaking up the dried blob, you may notice a dark brown to black core – the spores. Slime molds are not known to be a danger to human or animals.

slim mold openChemical treatment is not warranted for this problem. These organisms are very sensitive to the environment. The best approach to controlling slime mold is by modifying the environment. Slime molds do not survive well in dry conditions.

While we cannot control the spring rains, you can carefully manage your irrigation systems to reduce the amount of wetness on the surface. You can also use a rake or even use a stream of water to break up the slime mold. This will encourage the drying out of the slime mold and remove the unsightly “vomit”.

Some people consider the slime mold to be a beneficial organism in that it helps in the decaying process of the mulch and may also play a role in competing against some soilborne plant pathogens. However, most will find this an unsightly mess.

Check out this short video from the Texas Plant Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (TPDDL)  it has great information you can share with others.  You can also visit their website at http://plantclinic.tamu.edu 

WHAT: Slime Mold

Howdy TPDDL fans and Happy re-run WHAT Wednesday! We wanted to showcase our slime mold video to help answer the question, WHAT is wrong with my Red Yucca? We were recently sent this question via email along with an image of some white goop towards the base of a Red Yucca plant (I have uploaded the image in the comments under this post). Even though slime mold takes on different colors, it still looks like dog vomit to me! Enjoy the vid! -ML #TXPlantClinic #rerunwhatweds #slimemold #didmydogjustthrowthatup

Posted by Texas Plant Disease Diagnostic Lab on Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Thank you to Dr. Kevin Ong, PhD, Professor & Associate Department Head, Extension Program, Department of Plant Pathology & Microbiology and Director of TPDDL  for sharing this information with me.  Everytime I see this particular mold I think of Dr. Ong when he first started with AgriLife Extension and was stationed at the Dallas Center.  The facts about this mold has not changed from 2005 to now, with lots of moisture comes a growth that thrives with warm temps and lots of water.

Finally, I found this article from the Northwest Extension District, UF/IFAS Gardening page they had slim mold grow out of their vermi composting bins https://nwdistrict.ifas.ufl.edu/hort/tag/edible-slime-mold/ something teachers might need to consider as well.


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SPN: COVID19 Update: 3.12.2020

man cleaning a surface with gloves

Clean hands saves lives and prevents the transmission of many common diseases.

For many of us we are learning about this new virus COVID-19. COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by a coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2. SARS-CoV-2 is a new strain of coronavirus that scientists first identified in December 2019. COVID-19 is part of the family of coronaviruses, ranging from the common cold to more serious diseases, such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-COV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-COV).

Because it is a new disease, humans have not built immunity to it, and scientists are still learning how to treat it and refining ways to diagnose it. Coronaviruses are common in humans and many animal species. For example, the common cold is caused by a coronavirus, so undue panic is not fully warranted right now.

COVID-19 is not the same as the flu. Seasonal flu is caused by a different virus, called Influenza A. The seasonal flu vaccine is effective in preventing many flu illnesses, but it does not protect against COVID-19. Similarly, prescription medications to treat flu are not used to treat COVID-19.

SARS-CoV-2 is spread from person to person through respiratory droplets, which is the same way that seasonal flu is spread. The virus resides in the respiratory fluids that coat the respiratory tract, which includes nose, mouth, throat, and lungs, and may reside in other mucous membranes (such as the eyes). Droplets of this fluid are produced through coughing and sneezing. When a person with COVID-19 coughs or sneezes, droplets containing the virus are sprayed into the surrounding air.

Infection occurs when a droplet carrying the virus enters another person’s mucous membranes. Mucous membranes include the respiratory tract (nose, mouth, throat, and lungs) but also eyes. The droplet could be transmitted in this way through the air or could be shared through touching, such as if an infected person coughs into his hand and then touches or shakes hands with someone who subsequently touches his eyes, nose, or mouth. Because droplets are affected by gravity, they eventually fall to the ground, usually within a few feet of the person who coughed or sneezed.

Although this is not thought to be a significant source of COVID-19, there is some possibility that the virus can exist on surfaces and spread that way. Example: If an infected person sneezes and touches a doorknob or countertop, and then another person touches that surface and then subsequently touches their mouth, nose, or eyes. Scientists are still learning about how COVID-19 spreads since it is a new disease, so all precautions are necessary to help from spreading this virus.

We all have a responsibility to help prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19 (and the flu). Prevention of COVID-19 relies on preventing respiratory droplets of an infected person from entering the mucous membranes of others. If every person follows all recommendations to prevent COVID-19 spread, the epidemic will come to an end more quickly.

On March 11, 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak to be the first pandemic caused by coronavirus. The pandemic label is more about how widespread a disease has become. A WHO website defines a pandemic as “the worldwide spread of a new disease.” An endemic disease is one that occurs at a low level in a certain geographic area. By comparison, epidemic disease breaks out in explosive proportions within a population, and pandemic diseases occur worldwide.


  • Disinfect surfaces and objects that are frequently touched
  • A list of EPA-approved products that are expected to be effective against COVID-19 is available at: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2020-03/documents/sars-cov-2-list_03-03-2020.pdf 
  • Diluted, unexpired household bleach is also effective against coronaviruses on appropriate surfaces.
    • The ratio for your diluted bleach should be 1:10.
    • Fill a container 90% with water and then fill the remaining 10% with bleach
    • Or, mix ¼ cup bleach with 2 ¼ cups of water


Policies and Strategies that might be recommended in locations where there is community spread of the disease.

Social distancing: Creating ways to voluntarily increase distance between people in settings where people commonly come into close contact with one another. Specific priority settings include schools, workplaces, events, meetings, and other places where people gather.

Closures: Temporarily closing child-care centers, schools, places of worship, sporting events, concerts, festivals, conferences, and other settings where people gather.

Note: Local health departments in conjunction with Texas DSHS will notify the public for the need of social distancing or closures (if any). in the case of a declared pandemic, public health officials may recommend additional actions so due make sure you are following Texas Department of State Health Services website https://dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus/

CDC Coronavirus Disease 2019 Preventing COVID-19 Spread in the Communities. Resources for K-12 Schools and Childcare Programs https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/index.html there is great information about what decisions need to be made by Administrators as local health authorities make decisions about closures of events.


Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area through contact with others in their community, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected.

This is different from travel-related disease, which is when a person becomes infected before returning from travel where they learn they are infected.


The use of facemasks is crucial for health workers and other people who are taking care of someone infected with COVID-19 in close settings (at home or in a healthcare facility).  CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19.

You should only wear a mask if a healthcare professional recommends it. A facemask should only be used by people who have COVID-19 and are showing symptoms once it is recommended by their healthcare professional. This is to protect others from the risk of getting infected.


The state of COVID-19 evolves daily.
Make informed decisions based on facts, not fear.
To see the most up-to-date information and to monitor travel advisories, visit Texas EDEN, DSHS, and CDC websites.
Subscribe to email updates from the CDC Health Alert Network.

I would like to that the Texas Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN) which is a collaborative educational network dedicated to educating citizens about disaster mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. Texas EDEN is a part of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and is affiliated with National Extension Disaster Education Network.  They have been working on this topic non-stop and provided the information contained in this newsletter.



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SPN: February is National Pesticide Safety Education month

national pesticide safety education month

national pesticide safety education monthFebruary is National Pesticide Safety Education month and I decided to devote this month’s newsletter to this topic.

What is pesticide safety?

Safety is always an issue when using pesticides. Applicators, bystanders, and the environment can be harmed by exposure to pesticide concentrates or vapor drift. Those who work with pesticides must know and follow safe practices to reduce risk. Pesticide safety begins with choosing the correct product.

Safety is important in pesticide storage, transportation, mixing, and loading. Equipment cleanup and maintenance must be done safely. Unwanted pesticides and empty pesticide containers must be properly disposed.

How often do you the licensed applicator and/or the IPM Coordinator sit down and review the pesticide labels you use in your program?  And do you follow up reading the label with reading the Safety Data Sheet (SDS)?  Both documents contain a great deal of information not just on how to use the product, but also if that product could have any potential side effects to you the applicator.

Here are some key parts of the label you should focus your attention on.

Directions for Use.  One of the most important sections of the pesticide label is the directions for use.  This portion of the label is often one of the most lengthy and detailed.  Do not assume that you remember the label from the last time you used the product.  It is important to re-read the label each time you use the product.  If you do not understand the directions on the label, do not use the product until you can get help from someone else familiar with interpreting labels, such as the product retailer, manufacturer, county extension agent, or state regulatory agency.

Man using a backpack sprayerHuman Health Precautionary Statements.   These statements must follow signal words and provide additional information about health precautions that should be taken when using the pesticide.  Such statements might include information on which routes of entry are of special concern (e.g., mouth, eyes, lungs).  In addition to route of entry, the label may list specific actions needed to prevent poisoning accidents.  For example, the label may say: “Do not breathe vapors or spray mist,” “Do not get on skin or clothing,” or “Do not get in eyes.”

Some labels fully describe the protective equipment you need, including the kind of respirator to wear.  Other labels require the use of a respirator but do not specify type or model.  Many labels carry no statement at all.  You should follow all label instructions on protective clothing or equipment.  However, a lack of instruction does not mean protection is unnecessary.  Likewise, the mention of only one piece of equipment does not rule out the need for additional protection.  As a minimum standard, always wear shoes, long-sleeved shirt and long pants when applying pesticides.  Likewise, whether the label calls for it or not, it’s a good idea to wear chemical resistant gloves whenever mixing pesticides or working extensively with handheld pump sprayers.

Sensible selection of protective equipment depends on a thorough understanding of the pesticide, the job, the weather, the applicator and how these factors interact.  For example, a WARNING label might state: “Causes skin and eye irritation.  Do not get in eyes, on skin or on clothing.  Wear goggles while handling.”

Safe pesticide use depends on risk awareness, proper protective equipment, skill at handling equipment and pesticides, plus careful personal hygiene and regular medical care.

Hazards to Wildlife and the Environment.  Improperly applied pesticides may be harmful to the environment.  Label statements pertaining to wildlife and the environment may include groundwater advisories or instructions on protection of endangered species.  If a pesticide is hazardous to specific plants or animals, this fact will be noted in a special toxicity statement on the label.  For example: “This product is highly toxic to bees,” “This product is toxic to fish” or “This product is toxic to birds and other wildlife.”

General Environmental Statements.  These statements include common sense reminders to avoid environmental contamination, such as: “Do not apply where runoff is likely to occur,” “Do not allow drift on desirable plants or trees” or “Do not apply where the water table is close to the surface.”

Sample outdoor posting

Reentry statement.  Some pesticide labels contain a reentry precaution.  This tells you how much time must pass before people can reenter a treated area without protective clothing.  Reentry intervals are set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) when the review the pesticide product.  Additionally, some states, like TX, have special reentry requirements for schools.  Reentry intervals set by states are not always listed on the label.  It is your job to find out if a reentry interval exists.  If there is both a label reentry interval and a state reentry requirement, you must abide by whichever one is most restrictive.  When no reentry interval is stated on a label, common sense dictates that no unprotected individuals should enter a treated area until dusts have settled or sprays have dried.

In TX on public school property, when using a Yellow Category product, the area must be posted at the time of application and remain posted at least 4 hours after the application is completed.  At the same time, no students can be within 10 feet of the application site area.  If you use a Red Category product, the area must be posted at the time of application and remain posted at least 8 hours after the application is completed.  At the same time, no students can be within 25 feet of the application site area.

Protective Equipment and Personal Safety

Pesticides can enter your body through your skin, eyes, mouth and lungs. Pesticide poisoning occurs most commonly through skin contact.  Some pesticides can soak through skin quite easily.  Concentrates are especially dangerous.  Also, two areas of your body, your head and genitalia, absorb pesticide very fast and need extra protection.

If a pesticide spills on you, your skin will absorb most of it within minutes. Wash off the pesticide immediately. Avoid direct contact with pesticides by wearing protective clothing.  The pesticide label will tell you what protective equipment is necessary. When a label is silent (doesn’t provide clear instructions), at a minimum wear a long-sleeved shirt, long pants or coveralls, shoes and socks.   It is also a good idea to wear chemical resistant gloves when you are mixing, loading and applying liquid pesticides to avoid contact with your hands. Remember what Dr. Renchie says about our hands, “they are the nastiest thing on our bodies” if you don’t protect yourself who will?

This information can be found in our School IPM Manual.

Merchant, Michael E., Don L. Renchie, and Janet Hurley. B-6015: An Introduction to IPM in Schools: A Manual for Facilities Maintenance Professionals. College Station, TX: AgriLife Extension, 2007.

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SPN: Recordkeeping one of the most important tasks of an IPM program.

Paul Duerre IPM Coordinator Killeen ISD IPM Coordinators and pesticide applicators are required to keep records; however, not everyone keeps records the same and completely. Today we are going to look at what you need to maintain good records so that they can support your program and the important work you do. What you put out, when you put it out, how you apply it, who applied it, and the exact location you made that application is critical to ensuring regulators, customers and the public know exactly what you did and why.

Application use records (who, what, when, where, why & how) are required from the U.S. EPA through each state lead pesticide agency, in TX that is the Department of Agriculture, which requires applicators to record the 1) name and address of the customer, 2) name of pesticides and/or devices used, 3) total amount applied, 4) device used and total number 5) mixing rate for formulations, 6) purpose (target pest including weeds and diseases), 7) date and time, 8) service address, 9) name and license # of person(s) in attendance as well – if you have unlicensed people working under you (3A) you must list them as well, and 10) outdoor applications require: wind direction, velocity, and outdoor temp at the location of the service address.

Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How of IPM

Who: When TDA is called out on a complaint the first thing they look for is who made the application. The rules reflect that each licensed applicator is to list their name and license number. However, what many are not doing is listing everyone who was present at the time of application. If you are training an apprentice and you don’t list them then how can you prove you gave them on the job training if they are not listed on the application use record. Who is present is critical even if that employee doesn’t stay the two years you must keep the record, because you never know when you will need that person to substantiate a claim.

What: What you do when you have identified a pest problem including the non-chemical controls aids with documenting how you used all of your IPM steps. After you have monitored and identified a pest problem or are preparing an outdoor area for future use, application use records record all the steps you thought of in your mind on paper. Name of the pesticide(s) you used, this means the trade name, EPA registration number and in some cases active ingredients, depending on how your record keeping document is set up. At the same time is the application being made using devices as well. For example, did you use a gel bait, and used straws to place the bait in hidden locations or a plastic bait station? Adding this small detail might be critical in 16 months when the client asked about a treatment made back then, can you remember back that far on what you did each day, 20 times a day?

Speaking of devices when you place out sticky cards for monitoring, rodent bait stations with snap traps, bird netting or any other device used to control, repel, mitigate or destroy a pest you must document that as well. Documentation of monitoring or scouting is a critical piece to the IPM program because it goes back to assessing a situation. How do you know if you have a pest problem if you have not had more ways than verbal complaints to aid in what you might be dealing with. At the same time, if you install devices that aid in exclusion you are also telling your client, TDA and the public you understand the principles of integrated pest management. Every step you take counts to a pest reduction so document it.

When: The date and time you make any type of pesticide application is not just required, but also aids in future defense of proposed complaint. Most applicators are great at recording the date, it’s the time many question as there is no note. However, if you are making an outdoor application on school grounds and it requires that students not be present for 4 hours after the application, then you would need a time to establish that parameter. What about those times when the label directions states “when dry”, Dr. Don Renchie, always recommends that 4-hour reentry time be used to aid in ensuring the public is protected. As pesticide applicators that is the ultimate challenge, ensuring what you do causes no harm to human, animal or another non-target entity like water.

Where: This simple step is the most critical and yet this is where most mistakes are made. Most applicators will use the customer address, which is fine when it’s a residential property; however, the bigger the property the more important it is to document exact physical locations. Inside an office building, school campus, nursing home, hospital, childcare or any other facility that people occupy it’s important to document where you made a treatment. Did you only make a treatment in the kitchen area or breakroom, did you only need to treat for something in an atrium? Were you placing traps up in a false ceiling area? Outdoors are you on the athletic field or are you on a playground? Did you take care of shrubs and trees, did you go close to the community garden? While some of this is not completely required by TDA, many of the municipalities are adopting rules about what can be done on their public lands so it’s important to know all the rules, not just the TDA rules. Nothing prohibits the applicator from using a map to illustrate where an application was made.

Why: This action is mission critical, why did you use the product you used, and can you justify that in a court of law? When you listen to the regulators discuss those that violate the pesticide label or misuse the product, it all comes down to justifying why the applicator did what they chose to do. While the rules state you can put ants, termites, weeds, fungal disease, rodents, etc. as the target pest, the principals of IPM state you should properly identify the pest and call it by name on the record. When I see ants, termites, and weeds to name a few, I then look at what is being applied and wonder is this the right product for the job? Ants is one example of a nuisance pest that requires specialized insecticides to control them. When we conduct AgriLife Extension trainings we always stress the use of specific species. To continue with the ant example, on the application use record if you were using a fire ant bait product, I would expect to see the pest listed as fire ants, not just ants. The same would go for herbicide treatments, try to list the target weeds you are trying to control it just might aid in the future when a council or school board member asks a question.

How: Pesticide applications just don’t happen – someone has to make the actual application, so how was that done? Did you make a broadcast bait application using a Herd spreader? Did you use a fogger, crack and crevice, ready to use sprayer, how did you make the application of the chemical you listed on your service ticket? Again, if a lawyer was looking at your records and you were on the witness stand, can you defend the document they are looking at?

Most of don’t think we will ever have to defend the actions we take when we make a pesticide application, and yet the times they are changing, and this article is to remind everyone to stay the course.

Which leads to the changing of times – paper or digital?

The Texas Department of Agriculture does require all applicators to keep records, I have supplied the images of the agricultural use and structural use sample forms you can find on the TDA website. However, what has been asked of me numerous times, can we keep this information in an Excel spreadsheet (mostly non-commercial ask this question) or even the industry online or in the cloud. Until this past December I was a big supporter of all things digital, then I heard of one City (New Orleans) and one pest control company that was attacked using ransomware. Both entities lost EVERYTHING and had to start over. Because emails were compromised some digital accounts had to be scrubbed. What saved some was the belief of backing up data on a separate hard drive and putting that in a secure location. Because the other threat is fire and flood, if you lost the computer, is that data safe someplace else. Take this as a cautionary tale to ensure all of your records no matter what they are, are protected in the event of a natural disaster or corruption of the malicious type.

School IPM coordinators when it comes to maintaining your IPM records and you use a work order software that does not allow you to easily collect the application use details. You will need to keep the detail records as described above; however, you can take that detailed record and attach to your work order software for district wide recordkeeping. When I work with schools one-on-one, this is always a tricky area, as each district’s work order system is slightly different. However, the principles remain the same. Someone either created a “problem” or it’s a “preventative maintenance task”. You the technician are tasked with closing the work order. Here is the critical piece of the IPM program, when you stumble across a problem as you are working on the “work order” is it your responsibility to fix it (let’s use door sweep) or must you turn that over to another craft? This is where it’s extremely important to have an IPM team. All of the members of this team may not perform the day-to-day operations of pest management; but they do aid by ensuring that sanitation, cultural, and physical controls are maintained. So who’s responsibility is it to fix the door sweep, make sure that’s part of your program as well.

Indoors versus Outdoors tips to remember

Indoors: Posting or prenotification of what and when you plan to make an application has been in TX law since the mid 1980s. The 48-hour notice was not meant to be a burden on the pest control industry, it was designed to allow the public to know when a chemical might be applied. Posting this sign in areas of common access is all that is required by the Dept. of Ag. Check out this newsletter story for more on posting

Sample outdoor posting

A sign like this can alert parents, students, and teachers that an area has been treated for insects, weeds, or plant diseases.

Outdoors: Currently the only group who needs to post every time a pesticide application is made outdoors is public schools. The School IPM rules require that students are not present or not expected to be present within ten (10) feet of application site. The treated area must be clearly posted at all entry points with a sign, or secured using a locking device, a fence or other practical barrier such as commercially available barrier caution tape, or periodically monitored to keep students out of the treated area until the allowed reentry time. While this is for public schools, again I have seen cities and municipalities adopt similar ordinances as way to protect the citizens of their community, so know your local rules.

All applicators need to be aware of wind direction, velocity, and outdoor temp. When you listen to the notice of violation reports especially when an herbicide has been involved this one always comes up. Everyone who is making an application is required to follow the label on the product and TDA rules. Does the label require a buffer zone? Which way is the wind blowing and how fast, can the product you are using be carried on a breeze that lands on the neighbor’s property and damages one of their plants? Know your label, where your PPE and document everything you need to be complaint and answer the public questions when the time presents itself.

Remember as the licensed applicator you are responsible for your actions, yes, your supervisor can direct your applications as well. But if you are unsure, remember read the label first and if you need help AgriLife Extension and the Department of Agriculture or other agencies can assist you.

Safety First.

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SPN: Announcing the 2020 School IPM Coordinator Training Schedule

The long awaited 2020 School IPM Coordinator training schedule for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension is finally here!

If you can’t make one of our in-person trainings check out the online courses at AgriLife Online Pest and Weed Control Courses there you can find the 6 hour School IPM Coordinator class and new for 2020 a 1 hour School IPM refresher class that will allow you to receive this credit to complement a 5 hour structural CEU course to fulfill the 6 hours you need every three years to stay compliant with TDA.

In Person School IPM Coordinator Trainings in Texas

One-Day workshops with Ms. Janet Hurley, ACE
Location  Training Date 
Ysleta ISD, Administration Building, 9600 Sims El Paso 79925 January 28, 2020
Beaumont Area location to be determined June 2 or 4, 2020
Overton Hotel, Lubbock, TX (part of TPCA workshop) September 16, 2020
Two-Day Workshops with Dr. Don Renchie, Dr. Mike Merchant, and Ms. Janet Hurley
Location  Training Date             
DFW Area: Birdville ISD, W.G. Thomas Coliseum, Meeting Room C; 6108 Broadway Avenue, Haltom City, TX 76117 March 5 & 6, 2020

*note this is Thursday & Friday 
Judson ISD: Wagner High School 3000 North Foster Road, San Antonio, TX 78244 April 2 & 3, 2020

*note this is Thursday & Friday 
Houston Area:  Conroe ISD 601 W Lewis St Conroe TX 77301 September 30 & October 1, 2020
Midland/Odessa Area: ECISD Training Center 701 N. Vine Street, Odessa, Texas 79763 October 21 & 22, 2020

To register for one of these courses visit our conference services website at https://agriliferegister.tamu.edu/ or call 979-845-2604 Keyword: School IPM

Class time is 8:30 am to 5:00 pm with an hour for lunch. typically lunch will be sponsored but not guaranteed
Advanced Cost: $210 for both days, $135 for one day only
Day of Event Fee $240 for both days, $155 for one day

Located in north east TX then check out this training at the Region 8 ESC

East TX Area                                       February 27, 2020                             

Region 8 Educational Service Center, Pittsburg, TX  – Registration is through Region 8 ESC please visit their workshop website to register  https://txr8.escworks.net/catalog/session.aspx?session_id=170605 

You can also contact Janice Brown at Region 8 ESC for more information.


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SPN: Gardens, Mosquitoes and Fungi

In this month’s edition of School Pest News, I have several items to share with you.

In an effort to help School IPM Coordinators in TX with their school garden programs, I recently worked with the Junior Master Gardener team to develop a simple document that help explains the volunteers and teacher roles in the school garden process.  This document can be shared with those in your district overseeing gardens to help educate them as well.  At the same time, there is an online module on School Gardens found on our new Online Resources platform. This class is free to everyone, once you register with us for an account, class participants can print a certificate and present a copy to the IPM coordinator for proof of training.

Download and share  School Garden Basic Info

The Colorado Coalition for School IPM Newsletter came out this month, and a topic we don’t often cover in integrated pest management is talking fungi.  Dr. Marcia Anderson, U.S. EPA Center for Integrated Pest Management discusses “The Fungus Among Us – Restoring Ecosystems and Controlling Pests.”  In this article she discusses about mushrooms growing in the woodchips in the playground to how fungi are being using in biological pesticides.   In addition to Dr. Anderson’s article the Colorado Coalition also has information on kissing bugs something to always to on the lookout for in TX as well.  ColoradoSchool_IPM_Newsletter

Yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti

Yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti

Finally, the scientists from AP&G (Catchmaster) wrote up their research trials at two large school systems in California on using a new device the Ovi-Catch and using Final Feed to control mosquitoes. I’m including the article, plus a copy of the article in PDF which illustrates the Ovi-Catch system.

Summary of Integrated Mosquito Management in Southern California Schools. By: Stanton E. Cope, PhD, VP, Technical Products and Services, AP&G and Jim Shaver, Western Regional Manager, AP&G


Invasive mosquitoes, especially the Yellow Fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti and the Asian tiger mosquito Aedes albopictus, are spreading rapidly in the United States and California is no exception.  These species prefer to breed in artificial containers such as tires, cans and bottles, children’s toys, plant drainage saucers, clogged gutters – basically, anything that will hold water.  Also, they bite primarily during the daytime, so school children are at increased risk.  Not only are they a biting nuisance, but they can also spread serious diseases such as dengue fever, chikungunya, Zika virus and yellow fever.

Successful Control in Schools Using IPM
ovi catch device

Catchmaster Ovi – Catch AGO Mosquito Trap is specially designed and built to catch mosquitoes during the height of the breeding cycle. Contains a glue board inside that has a maximized glue surface so the use of pesticide is unnecessary.

In Southern California, school districts deal with large numbers of complaints about mosquitoes.  These complaints come from students, teachers, staff and parents.  With current restrictions on treatments in sensitive areas like schools, hospitals, child-care, etc. the integrated pest management teams were frustrated because they had almost no tools to address these mosquito issues.  The IPM staff were limited to inspecting to remove breeding sites and treating with contact insecticides made from essential oils.

Our installation of Ovi-Catch at the Anaheim Union School District and the Los Angeles Unified School District provided excellent results.  The IPM Technicians were delighted to have “some options” to actually impact the mosquito population and satisfy the concerns of staff, students and parents.  The Ovi-Catch traps were installed in discreet and/or locked areas and had no issues with tampering.  The staff noted less mosquito activity and were very happy with the reduction of mosquito issues.

This success was enhanced with the introduction of Final Feed mosquito spray.  Final Feed improved results and offered a treatment method that lasted for 30 days or more.  One of the major issues in schools is the surrounding properties.  IPM Technicians frequently expressed that they had thoroughly inspected the school properties and removed breeding sources.  However, they have no control over the surrounding properties and standing water located there.  Final Feed provides a method of mitigating mosquitoes moving onto school property from adjacent areas.

The Final Feed applications and Ovi-Catch installations provided vital “leave behind” products that help to mitigate mosquitos that are originating off the property and are making their way onto the campus. “Ovi-Catch and Final Feed are an important part of our mosquito management program.  If you can use these valuable tools, you should” said Rich Kravetz, IPM Technician, Anaheim Union School District.

In general, we are having excellent results.  However, as is the case with most devices and materials, training is key. Results have been strongly supported by the management and staff in the IPM programs who are motivated and very willing to accept training on the proper application of Final Feed and placement of Ovi-Catch.

For more information on these devices you can contact a sales rep in your area by going to this website 

Mosquito Management in CA Schools

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SPN: Head Lice: A Lingering Pest

As October comes to end and the weather changes over from warm to cold, kids will start carrying more garments. Cooler weather is prime time for head lice outbreaks. Contrary to popular belief, head lice are not a sign of poor hygiene; in fact, lice are perfectly comfortable on a clean head. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there is no reliable data on how many people get head lice each year in the United States; however, an estimated 6 million to 12 million infestations occur each year in the United States among children 3 to 11 years of age.

head lice nits Mike Merchant

Nits adhere to the hair and can become dislodged when kids share items like headphones, hair brushes, helmets and other items.

Lice eggs, known as “nits,” are firmly adhered onto hair shafts, making it especially difficult to remove them. Each louse can live up to one month and produce one hundred offspring with regular meals of human blood. Head lice can be transferred by head-to-head contact, sharing hats, combs and pillows.

Screening for head lice in schools is a very useful role for the school health professional. Active infestations need to be addressed individually. Parents of all children using the room with any child with confirmed head lice should be notified and provided with basic information including description, signs and symptoms; strategies to eliminate head lice. The information should include where to go for additional help.

School districts vary in adoption and enforcement of the controversial “No Nits” policy, which states that any student with head lice, even a single nit, should be forced to stay home from school. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Association of School Nurses advocate that “No Nit” policies should be discontinued. Since lice do not spread disease or have any harmful effect other than an itchy scalp, requiring students to miss school is unnecessary and detrimental to their performance. The presence of nits alone is not a good predictor of infestations; only about 18% of children with nits alone will become infested with adult lice. Supporters of the zero tolerance policy, including the National Pediculosis Association, state that the only way to control and stop the cycle of lice infestation is to keep kids out of school until all nits are removed.

How to Spot Head Lice

Lice have three pairs of legs and are grayish-white in color. Nits are oval white cylinders that are about a sixteenth of an inch long. Lice prefer to lay their eggs near the ears and the back of the head.

Prevention and Treatment

Children should be encouraged not to share combs, hats or other personal belongings. Once an infestation is detected, non-chemical treatment options include washing clothing, pillow cases, sheets, blankets and other bedding material in hot soapy water and drying on a high heat cycle to kill all lice and their eggs. Use of lice sprays on furniture and toys is not effective. Non-washable items can be sealed in plastic bags for seven to ten days.

Manual removal of nits close to the head is always recommended. Fine-toothed “nit combs” are helpful. Combing and brushing wet hair damages lice and eggs significantly. Additionally, use of a hair dryer further injures adults, nymphs and nits. Botanical-based lice removal aids such as Lice-B-Gone® and De-Licer® may ease removal.  See our IPM Action Plan for more tips.

To remove lice and nits,

1. Comb and divide hair into sections, use a metal fine toothed louse comb to remove nits and lice. After combing each section dip the comb in a container of hot soapy water to remove lice and nits.
2. Repeat if nits are still attached within 1 cm of the scalp.
3. Repeat until all the sections of hair have been systematically combed.
4. Clean nit removal comb, clips, brushes, headphones, hats, etc. with hot soapy water.

For more information about head lice, download the Human Lice factsheet or visit the Texas Department of State Health Services website Managing Head Lice in School Settings and at Home
Head Lice (Pediculosis) Fact Sheets


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SPN: Resources We’ve Got Them

Online Training Now Open

If you need training, you know AgriLife Extension is here for you. However, sometimes our schedules don’t often mesh. Introducing the Texas Department of Agriculture approved online 6-hour school IPM coordinator training course.  This course has been designed to aid anyone wanting to learn more about their school IPM program or need to fulfill the required training for all new school IPM coordinators.

There are six modules that are designed to educate about integrated pest management tactics in school settings as well as the legal requirements associated with the Texas School IPM Rules.  Each section has knowledge based questions at the end, this is designed to aid the participant to take the final exam. While the in-person school IPM training does not require an exam, in order for our course meet TDA approval each online client will need to take a short quiz at the end and pass with a 75% score to receive a certificate of completion.  The certificate will fulfill the requirement of successfully completing a Department-approved IPM Coordinator training course within six months of appointment or obtain at least six hours of Department-approved IPM continuing education units (CEU) every three years.  The cost for this class is $45 and you don’t have to complete it in one day.

Other courses you can find at AgriLife Online Courses is one of great interest to many of our readers IPM for School Gardens 101.  This free course is for school IPM coordinators, principals, teachers, and volunteers who support school gardens.  This module explains the school IPM rules, as well as reminds teachers and volunteers that they cannot make pesticide applications on school property.  Sign up at the Online Courses website to be the first to learn about new CEU classes as we add them.

Management Plans

odorous house ants feeding on liquid ant bait

odorous house ants feeding on liquid ant bait

The Texas School IPM Rules require that each school district as part of their IPM Program have many different requirements.  However two areas that many school IPM coordinators struggle with is having a monitoring program to determine when pests are present and when pest problems are severe enough to justify corrective action and having a set of written guidelines that identify thresholds for when pest control actions are justified.

Over the summer I moved all of the IPM Action Plans to the the School IPM Website.  While doing this I updated the plans and organized them so that coordinators and pest management professionals can use these documents as guides.  Each action plan has the following sections: general information, identification, monitoring methods, suggested thresholds, non-chemical and chemical controls.  Under the non-chemical section there is detail for sanitation, cultural, physical and mechanical controls.  The IPM plans are designed to educate everyone on the best way to control each pest identified in the plan.  For example, there are several ant management plans, since ants do not always react the same to certain control measures, these plans help to identify and manage the most common pests seen around TX schools.


Spiders on the Move

With the changing on the weather many of you will start to notice a spider or two.  It is important to remember that there are many different species of spiders in Texas, but only the recluse and widow spiders have venom that is harmful to humans.

Black Widow spiders like to hide

There are several species capable of inflicting a harmful bite, but relatively few envenomations result in long-term injury. Spiders generally will not bite unless accidentally trapped against the skin or grabbed. Some species actively guard their egg sacs or young. Many spider species are too weak to puncture human skin. When envenomation does occur, mild reactions may include slight swelling, inflammation, burning or itching sensations lasting a few hours. Spiders of medical significance include widow spiders (Latrodectus spp.), recluse spiders (Loxosceles spp.) and yellow sac spiders (Cheiracanthium spp.).

Spiders are often implicated by medical professionals when patients present skin lesions. However, a US study showed that of 600 cases of suspected spider bites, approximately 80% were not caused by spiders. Very few fatalities occur, usually fewer than three annually. Widow spiders have a neurotoxin in their venom, which is potentially lethal.

Dr. Merchant wrote a post a few years ago about Wolf Spiders: Never more than 5 feet from a (wolf) spider is a short read for everyone living in the south on what spiders to expect if you live in the area.  You can also find the IPM Action Plan for Spiders as well on the website.

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SPN: Back to School Reminders

As the new school year starts this is a good time to remind your staff about your IPM program.

Education can be conveyed using posters, newsletter, emails or personal communications.

Many of your new teachers may not be aware of the TX school IPM law and rules, it is your job as the District IPM coordinator to inform them of this rule and ensure they know what to do if they have pest problems. One of the best things you can do is send out is an email reminder letting them know if they see a pest or pest activity to let you know. Reminding them about things like doors that don’t seal properly, signs of water leaks, or areas not being cleaned regularly can all lead to potential pest problems. You will also want to make sure all of the school staff is aware that only licensed pest management professionals can make pesticide applications. That they can’t bring pest control products to school, that includes snap traps, glue boards and pesticides.

The School IPM rules require that by the first week of school attendance, ensure that a procedure is in place to provide prior notification of pesticide applications to parents, or guardians of children attending the facility in writing that pesticides are periodically applied indoors and outdoors, and that information on the times and types of applications and prior notification is available upon request.

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.

This is also a good time to remember that for ALL indoor pesticide applications the law still requires that you must post a pest control sign in an area of common access at least 48 hours prior to each planned indoor treatment and make a consumer information sheet available to any individual working or residing in the building upon the request of that individual. This includes using items like roach or ant gel baits, crack and crevice treatments, and other Green Category products. Things that are exempt from 48-hour posting are non-pesticide control measures, non-pesticide monitoring tools and mechanical devices, such as glue boards, snap traps, insect light traps, and live traps.  School 48 hour posting sign

On school district property you are required to post a sign at the time of any pesticide application. This sign will remain in place based on the category of the product and if there any additional label restrictions. For Green Category products the sign must go up prior to the application and can be removed once the application is done. Yellow Category products the sign must go up prior to the application and must remain in place 4 hours AFTER the application is complete. Red Category requires that the sign remain in place 8 hours AFTER the application is complete and you follow the posting like Green and Yellow. Remember for all Yellow and Red Category products the pesticide applicator must complete a Justification form.

While we are on the subject of outdoor treatments, I have received calls and emails asking about the using glyphosate on school property. Currently there are no restrictions on using this product or any other pesticide product provided it is registered (licensed) by the U.S. EPA and TDA. In some counties in TX, the Department of Agriculture does have restrictions on certain herbicides so be sure to check with your pesticide distributor before you purchase any new product.  Check out this handout from Dr. Scott Nolte on Glyphosate Info 

Be sure to keep bait stations clean and with fresh bait. Make sure they are secure so that children or non-target animals can open or move.

Finally, the other question I receive a lot has to do with the use of rodenticides on school property. It’s been almost a decade since the EPA implemented the Rodenticide Mitigation Decision which limits how rodenticide formulations are manufactured and sold. This decision was to tighten safety standards to reduce risks to humans, pets, and non-target wildlife. Where a specific product is authorized for use depends upon whether the bait station component of the product has been shown to be resistant to tampering by young children and by dogs as well as whether the unit has been found to be weather-resistant. Read the labels of these products before purchasing any of them to make sure that the product obtained is labeled for use in the place(s) that you intend to apply it. When it comes to rodent management this is one tool in your toolbox, sealing doors, plumbing penetrations and other ways that mice and rats can enter a building is one of the best things you can do to prevent rodents from entering a structure.

For more information on Understanding the EPA Rodenticide Risk Mitigation Decision this link will take you to the National Pest Management Associations document on this topic.  It’s worth the read.

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