SPN: Pesticide Awareness Month: Read the label

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

You probably wouldn’t buy an unfamiliar food product without looking at the label or take a new prescription without reading the instructions and warnings first. The same care should be exercised when using pesticides, because the label is the law, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, recognizes February as National Pesticide Awareness Month.

AgriLife Extension integrated pest management specialist Janet Hurley encourages the public to take the time to learn how to protect themselves and their families from the potential dangers pesticides can present when misused, mishandled or incorrectly stored.

Pesticides: For more than just ‘pests’

It’s not just about bugs, Hurley said.

“Most people don’t think pesticide safety is something they need to be concerned with,” she said. “But they don’t realize a lot of the chemicals they use day in and day out for cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting — especially now with COVID-19 — those are all pesticides.”

Pesticides are regulated by the EPA and represent a broad category that applies to far more products than the average consumer would imagine. Everything from cleaning products and antimicrobials to herbicides and bug repellents are pesticides.

Read the label, then read it again

Consumers have been encouraged to read food labels for years, but pesticide labels haven’t received the same focus on education, Hurley said.

“The label is there to be read,” she stressed. “It will tell you everything you need to know—the active ingredients, if protective gear is needed, how much and how to use it, and potential dangers.”

She also said that it is necessary to read the label every time, as different brands and formulations can have different active ingredients and application instructions.

“Take disinfecting wipes for an example, it doesn’t matter who makes them or what brand, you must read the label,” Hurley said. “If you’re going to use one to wipe off a countertop that may be okay, but if you’re going to wipe down a large area you need to wear gloves. People need to read the directions and follow them. They don’t all have the same active ingredient.”

Following directions ensures the product is being used in the safest and most effective manner possible. It also means that you are utilizing it in the most cost-effective manner and not wasting product.

More doesn’t equal better

Using more of a product than its labeled usage isn’t going to make it work more effectively and can even be dangerous to people and pets, she said.

Some common home-cleaning mistakes are using products in a closed room with poor ventilation. Some products used together can even cause a deadly chemical reaction.

“Most of these things people just store under their kitchen or bathroom sink and don’t really think about having these things in the reach of children or pets either,” Hurley said.

She said that just as we want to be aware of what we expose our bodies to when it comes to the food we ingest and the water we drink, the same is true for the chemicals we are exposing ourselves to when using pesticides for cleaning, addressing pest issues or working in the garden.

“This isn’t a case where more is better,” Hurley said. “In order to protect ourselves and our environment we have to be aware, and that requires some level of self-education to know what you are using and how to use it.”

A helpful educational website both Hurley and the EPA recommend is the National Pesticide Information Center.

Safety indoors and out

Spring is coming and people are going to want to start doing things in their yards, she said, but it is important to keep best practices in mind inside and outside.

EPA assesses the risks and benefits of all pesticides sold and distributed in the U.S. and requires instructions on each pesticide label for safe use.

The EPA’s best pesticide awareness practices include:

  • Storing pesticides in their original containers with proper labels.
  • Storing pesticides out of the reach of children and pets, preferably locked up.
  • Using the amount specified on the label.
  • Washing hands with soap and water after using a pesticide.
  • Keeping children and pets from entering sprayed areas until they dry.
  • Keeping pesticides away from food and dishes.
  • Washing clothes that have been in contact with pesticides immediately and separately from other items.

A special thank you to Susan Himes writer and media relations specialist for Texas A&M AgriLife for covering this timely topic. 

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SPN: How do I get a pesticide license in Texas?

Man using a backpack sprayer

Man using a backpack sprayer

To be licensed or not to be licensed? Although having a pesticide applicator license is not required for IPM Coordinators in Texas, it’s an option that many are choosing. Licensing is a decision that must be based on your own circumstances. This article is designed to help you understand the issues involved.

A certified applicator (CA) is licensed by the state to apply pesticides. In Texas, only certified applicators and licensed technicians can conduct pest control services on school and child care facilities. In Texas, a school district or child care employee can be licensed as a non-commercial applicator, a less expensive option. A non-commercial applicators license does not require a business license but does require training.

As a CA you may engage in pest control treatments, such as fire ant baiting, herbicide application, and much more. Another benefit of being licensed is that through your training and recertification requirements, you gain a better knowledge about the nuts and bolts of pest control. You might even save your district money by performing some of the simpler procedures such as monitoring with glue boards and applying ant baits.

There are, however, additional costs to being certified, including license fees and the time associated with testing and preparing for exams. And, as a CA there are yearly fees and training requirements to keep your renewal credits up to date. Most districts we talk to have conclude that having at least one CA on staff is a benefit.

The next major decision concerns what agency to license with. In Texas, outdoor applicators can license with Texas Department of Agriculture under the landscape management category or Structural Pest Control Service (SPCS). Those who want to put out glue boards, take care of mice or put out indoor pesticides must be licensed with the SPCS.

The Texas Department of Agriculture is designated as the state’s lead agency in the regulation of pesticide use and application. TDA is responsible for licensing and training pesticide applicators, overseeing worker protection, registering pesticides for sale in the state and working to minimize unnecessary impacts to agriculture while enhancing protection of endangered and threatened species.

What’s the difference between TDA Ag and SPCS?

The Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) licenses pesticide applicators that use restricted-use and state-limited-use pesticides and regulated herbicides. These additional requirements for a TDA Ag 3A license below are to remind school districts of their requirements.

  • Employed by a political subdivision, cemetery, or government-owned golf course.
  • Hold a TDA commercial, noncommercial or Noncommercial Political Subdivision license.
  • Comply with annual continuing education required by TDA.
  • Applicators who work for public or municipal golf course and apply pesticides on turf, trees or shrubs can license with either program, Structural or Ag.
    • A person may not purchase or use a restricted-use or state-limited-use pesticide or regulated herbicides unless the person is:
       licensed as a commercial, noncommercial, or noncommercial political subdivision applicator in the use categories covering the proposed pesticide use; or
    • An individual acting under the direct supervision of a licensed applicator.

The Structural Pest Control Act (Chapter 1951 of the Occupations Code) requires licensing of businesses and individuals that perform structural pest control for hire. Additionally, employees of units of state government who apply pesticides as part of their job duties, and persons performing pest control at an apartment building, day-care center, hospital, nursing home, hotel, motel, or lodge, warehouse, food-processing establishment, or school must be licensed. Structural pest control includes but is not limited to pests that may infest parks, buildings or structures and adjacent areas, industrial plants, streets, docks, railroad cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes.

Structural pest control includes the following activities for compensation:

  • identifying infestations,
  • making inspection reports,
  • providing recommendations,
  • submitting estimates or bids,
  • contracting,
  • performing services to prevent, control or eliminate infestations, or
  • advertising such services.

License Types

  • An Ag commercial applicator is a license for a person who operates a business or is an employee of a business that applies restricted-use and state-limited-use pesticides or regulated herbicides to the land of another for hire or compensation.
  • An Ag noncommercial applicator is a license for a person required to license who does not qualify as a commercial applicator that applies restricted-use and state-limited-use pesticides or regulated herbicides to the land of another for hire.
  • An Ag noncommercial political subdivision (NCPS) applicator is employed by a political subdivision of the state of Texas or of a federal agency operating in Texas.
  • A Structural Pest Control Business License is a license required to operate a pest control business. Each individual working for the business must have their applicator license connected to the business or be registered with the business as an apprentice (if unlicensed). Each business must have employed a commercial certified applicator to be designated Responsible Certified Applicator.
  • A Structural commercial certified applicator is a license for an employee of a business that offers pest control services for hire.
  • A Structural noncommercial certified applicator is a license for a person not affiliated with a structural pest control business that performs structural pest control for a noncommercial entity (employer) on their employer’s property and is required to license because they perform pest control services for compensation.
  • A Structural technician is a license for a person who has completed the apprentice registration training and passed the technician exam and is working for a structural pest control business or a noncommercial entity under the supervision of a certified applicator.
  • An apprentice registration is a person registered by a business or noncommercial entity to train for a technician license, has not passed the technician examination and who performs pest control services under the direct supervision of a licensed technician or a certified applicator. An apprentice may work only for the business or noncommercial entity for which they are registered.

TDA Ag Pesticide Applicator Categories

  1. Agricultural Pest Control (Commonly referred to as Private Applicator)
    A. Field Crop Pest Control
    B. Fruit, Nut and Vegetable Pest Control
    C. Pasture and Rangeland
    D. Vertebrate Pest Control
    E. Farm Commodity Pest Control
    F. Animal Health
    G. Citrus Pest Control
    H. Livestock Protection Collar
    I. M-44
  2. Forest Pest Control
  3. Lawn and Ornamental Pest Control
    A. Landscape Maintenance
    B. Nursery Plant Production
  4. Seed Treatments
  5. Vegetation Management
  6. Aquatic Pest Control
  7. Demonstration and Research
  8. Regulatory Pest Control
  9. Aerial Application
  10. Soil Fumigation
  11. Hold for future
  12. Public Health Pest Control

Structural License Categories

  • Pest control – Inspection and/or control of pests in and around homes, businesses, and industries. This includes insect pests or pest animals which may invade homes, restaurants, stores, and other buildings, attacking their contents or furnishings or being a general nuisance, but do not normally attack the building itself, as for example, roaches, silverfish, ants, flies, mosquitoes, rats, mice, etc.
  • Termite control – Inspection and/or control of termites, beetles or other wood destroying organisms by means other than fumigation in buildings, including homes, warehouses, stores, docks, or other structures.
  • Lawn and ornamental – Inspection and/or control of pests of ornamental plants, shade trees and lawns, in a park or adjacent to a residence, business establishment, industrial plant, institutional building or street.
  • Structural fumigation – Inspection and/or control of pests through fumigation of structures not primarily intended to contain food, feed, or grains.
  • Commodity fumigation – Inspection and/or control through fumigation of commodities and/or structures normally used to contain them. A TDA agricultural pesticide applicator license may be used for fumigation of raw agricultural commodities.
  • Weed Control – Inspection and/or control of weeds around homes and industrial environments.
  • Wood Preservation – Pest control that involves the addition of preservatives to wood to extend the life of wood products by protecting them from damage caused by insects, fungi, and marine borers. Such wood products will include, but not be limited to, crossties, poles, and posts. This category is only for use by those persons using wood preservatives that may be classified as restricted use.

Licensing Requirements for TDA Ag License

To get a TDA Ag 3A (Landscape Maintenance) commercial, noncommercial or NCPS license to apply pesticides to lawns, trees and shrubs for compensation or hire, one must:

  • Apply for the license with fee to TDA: PA-401 and $200 license fee for commercial applicators or noncommercial applicators or $75 license fee for noncommercial political subdivision applicators.
  • Pass the TDA general exam,
  • Pass TDA’s laws and regulations exam,
  • Pass TDA’s ornamental plant and turf pest control exam.

Licensing Requirements for TDA Structural License

Certified Applicator

  • Submit a completed Application for Exam and Certified Applicator License. The certified applicator license fee of $125.00 must be pre-paid to be approved to take exams. Applicants must pass at least one category exam and the general standards exam. Qualifications for certified applicator license are:
    • Have held a technician license for at least six months and been employed with duties including pest control services under the supervision of a licensed certified applicator for at least 12 of the last 24 months.
    • Have a degree in a biological science* and furnish an official copy of their college transcript; or
    • Have 12 months verifiable technical field experience in the past 24 months from another occupation. The applicant must submit a signed and notarized statement from their previous employer detailing technical field experience as it relates to pest control.
  • For noncommercial certified applicators only, complete a SPCS approved noncommercial applicator training course.

For a list of pesticide applicator trainers follow this link(external website)


For those who do not meet the qualifications to be approved to take the certified applicator, apply for apprentice registration for technician license and submit $125 fee. You must be able to register with a currently licensed pest control business. After the apprentice has completed all training requirements, they can apply to take the technician exam.

Exam Charges for TDA Ag License

  • General exam (includes laws and regulations) is $64. Applicants must additionally pass a category exam, which are $64.
  • Applicants must first apply with license fee to TDA to be approved to take the exams.

Exam Charges for TDA Structural License

All structural exams are $64 each. Certified Applicators must submit application online or via mail (SPCA-410) with license fee and proof of eligibility to be approved to take an exam. Apprentices requesting to take the technician exam must submit a Technician Exam Application with a copy of the certificate of completion from the Technician Training Course to eligibility@TexasAgriculture.gov

If your application is incomplete, you will be sent a letter advising you of the deficiency and providing guidance on how to resolve the issue. If your application is complete, you will be sent a letter giving you instructions for scheduling the exams. Once processed, you will be scheduling the required exams.

Exam Preparation

Study materials for license exams may be purchased from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Obtain order form D-1405 from a county Extension office or: Extension Agricultural and Environmental Safety Program   or call (979)845-1099 


The Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) has contracted with PSI Services (PSI) to administer exams for agricultural pesticide applicator licensing. This is the same vendor that administers exams for structural pest control licensing. PSI has been providing credentialing and testing services to state and federal agencies, private sector businesses and professional associations for over 65 years.

PSI will provide both excellent quality exam opportunities and a convenient schedule for pesticide applicators to test in 22 locations across the state. The schedule will provide more testing opportunities than previously offered. By outsourcing testing to a third-party vendor, the Department’s resources may be used in a more consistent and efficient manner.

Renewal Requirements for Commercial/Noncommercial Political Subdivision License (Ag)

  • Fee $75 annually
  • Expires annually at the end of the anniversary month on which it was issued.
  • Requires five continuing education units annually.
  • CEUs may be obtained online every other year.

Renewal Requirements for Structural Commercial/Noncommercial Certified Applicator

  • Annual renewal fee is $125
  • The license expires annually, and expiration coincides with the expiration of the business license under which the applicator license is issued. For school districts, this would fall under the first person who is licensed for the school district.
  • CEU requirements are for the calendar year (Jan. 1-Dec. 31). For example, if you renew at any time in 2016, you must have taken your CEUs during calendar year 2015.
  • Applicators do not have to get CEUs during the first year in which their license is issued.
  • Applicators must earn two CEUs in general training and one in each category in which the applicator is certified. Of the two general category units, at least one must be in federal and state laws, pesticide safety, environmental protection, or integrated pest management.
  • No course may be repeated for credit within the same recertification year.
  • Only one CEU each year may be obtained through a self-study or Internet course

For More Information You May Contact TDA Directly:

AG Contacts:  Phone 512-463-7622          Email: pesticides@texasagriculture.gov

Submit licensing paperwork not requiring fees to email: license.inquiry@texasagriculture.gov

Website: Agricultural Applicators

SPCS Contacts:  Phone 512-463-3207

Email Contacts: 

Compliance and licensing questions:  SPCS@texasagriculture.gov

Licensing forms with no fee & licensing questions: SPCSLicensing@texasagriculture.gov

Exam documents for Techs & Certified applicators to test: eligibility@texasagriculture.gov

Website: Structural Pest Control Services

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Hurley recognized as integrated pest management pioneer for schools

Janet Hurley

Specialist created and continues to grow IPM programming around Texas

Janet HurleyJanet Hurley continues to be surprised by her career choice. She envisioned a job in health care, but despite fighting on a different front line, public health is still her focus.

Hurley, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service integrated pest management, IPM, program specialist, Dallas, was recently awarded the International Integrated Pest Management Award of Excellence for IPM Practitioner – Academic by the IPM Symposium for her outstanding work in school IPM.

The IPM Symposium is a 100% volunteer run group of practicing IPM professionals across the nation. The conference meets every three years, but due to COVID concerns, the 2021 conference is being put off and Hurley will have to wait until 2022 to officially receive her award.

Hurley was recognized for her efforts to establish and solidify Texas’ school IPM program. She was recognized by the IPM Symposium as one of the pioneers focused on school IPM education and program implementation at the school district level

“[Hurley] is a strong advocate of hands-on training, including field trips and demonstrations, and continues this approach in all educational events she organizes even today, such as the interactive Rodent Academy for schools and pest management professionals,” the award announcement read. “Through her successful program, Ms. Hurley has maintained regular training courses for school IPM coordinators and staff, hosted a nationally recognized school IPM website, served on national and regional school IPM committees, and established strong working relationships with a variety of organizations that have supported her school IPM efforts.”

Hurley recognized by IPM peers

In his nomination letter to the IPM Symposium, Mike Merchant, retired AgriLife Extension urban entomologist, Dallas, praised for Hurley’s continued efforts to make schools safer and train pest management professionals.

Janet Hurley, foreground, and Hoa Phan, Spring ISD, IPM coordinator investigate building for ants, image courtesy of Tom Green, IPM Institute of North America

“Janet Hurley’s job has always been a frontline, boots-on-the-ground position. She works tirelessly to learn and teach IPM,” Merchant wrote.  “She is the glue that holds the Texas school IPM program together, keeping good records on contacts, remembering names and faces, and attending to the dozens of details that must be tracked for every training class. She has an almost encyclopedic knowledge of school districts and their IPM personnel. This serves her well in establishing the trust and relationships that encourage schools to adopt IPM.”

Hurley said being recognized as one of three recipients among hundreds of IPM specialists in the nation makes her feel she has made a difference in the profession and for her clients from Texas school districts, pest control professionals and ultimately the public.

Membership in the Symposium Steering Committee and participating in the conference are ideal for networking and sharing information among IPM professionals from around the nation, she said. It also allows collaboration with players involved in national programs like U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

“The conference is where we talk about new invasive species and cutting-edge integrated pest management tools and techniques,” she said. “So, for me, the symposium award is the highest recognition I could ever receive because it’s 100% from my peers.”

Hurley said it has taken a “village” – including AgriLife Extension specialists, various federal and state regulatory agencies and the school districts – to initiate and enforce an effective IPM program that focuses on protecting schools, students, and staff from pests and pesticides

“On our side, and the regulatory side, we want verifiable IPM within schools, and we work with school boards, administrators and facility managers regarding specific problems whether it’s proactive or dealing with infractions,” she said.

Leading the way in school IPM

In 1995, the Texas Legislature passed a law effectively creating pest management standards in school districts across the state, including mandated inspections. Hurley was hired in 2001 to oversee a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant to help promote school IPM through developing resources.

In 2002, the Legislative Budget Board’s mandated the Structural Pest Control Board, SPCB, to inspect 20% of the state’s 1,052 school districts each quarter that fiscal year. It was the first of its kind of regulatory inspection of school IPM rules in the nation.

Overnight, Hurley became someone school administrators and facility managers were seeking out and engaging. By summer 2002, the SPCB had completed 830 school IPM inspections of which 80% were non-compliant. This led Hurley to create the two-day school IPM coordinator training that is now recognized as a leading example of school IPM education.

Over time, school districts recognized the impact Hurley’s recommendations had on the way they fought pest problems, whether fire ants on campus, lice in a classroom or rats and roaches in storage and kitchen areas. They also recognized that budgeting properly and addressing problems proactively could save money in the long term.

Hurley’s goal as a specialist is to make recommendations based on scientific data and to establish best management practices with a focus on proactive measures that preempt the need for chemical control.

“Door sweeps would solve three-quarters of my problems,” she said. “Simple things like that. We are so engrained with the need for immediate gratification – ‘It comes in a can and kills bugs dead, so that’s what I will use.’ No, sometimes it’s not that simple, so my job has to be about changing that behavior and educating people about better, healthier, more cost-effective approaches to IPM.”

Making a difference

Hurley said she especially enjoys working with school districts because she has seen her efforts make a difference. But building and maintaining effective IPM programs in districts is an ongoing effort due to regulatory changes regarding treatment options, technology improvements and how specific pest populations ebb and flow if given an opportunity or build resistance.

There is also the loss of institutional knowledge due to turnover in districts. Hurley produces a monthly newsletter that is distributed nationally to 1,642 school staff members, pest management professionals and interested stakeholders to keep them informed about potential problems.

Each district is different and implements individual IPM plans, she said. But there are many standard practices all facility managers need to perform, such as preparations for summer and winter breaks, a time when pest problems can get out of control quickly.

Hurley said it’s important to recognize the efforts by school districts and their support staffs.

“It’s important to get recognition, but it’s also important to give the districts praise for their hard work,” he said. “Being a trusted resource, that is what sustains me. That and engaging with people around the state in a field I am passionate about and one that I believe makes a difference every day.”

Written By: Adam Russell, adam.russell@ag.tamu.edu
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SPN: Before you leave the campus remember these tips

mouse-with-christmas-baubleIt is that time of year. It’s time to clean out the classroom and get ready for the holiday break.  Before you take some time to be with family and just relax, let’s take some time to think about sanitation. When you close up the classroom, make sure that you don’t leave behind a picnic for pests.

The pests we generally see in schools include cockroaches, mice, rats, spiders, ants, silverfish, and occasionally crickets. These pests are animals and they like the same things we do, food, water, harborage and safety.  The holiday break is a perfect time for pests to thrive because we often forget and leave something behind to live on. 

Places that provide the necessities for pest survival are what we term pest vulnerable areas (PVA). Each of these areas should be thoroughly inspected before leaving for winter break. Areas that need special attention include the kitchen and cafeteria, faculty lounge, custodial storage areas, science classrooms, art centers, special needs classrooms, kindergarten and daycare classrooms, locker rooms, culinary arts/home economics classrooms and other reported pest “hot spots.”

Remember all floor drains can become pest vulnerable areas.

The kitchen and cafeteria will require some deep cleaning. Floor drains should be inspected for organic matter build up, for those drains that are filthy, look for microbial and enzyme  scum digesters to help reduce this build up.  At the same time, all equipment and floors, especially corners and around furniture legs, should be degreased. Don’t forget that walls and light fixtures should also be cleaned. Just a small amount of food, grease, splatter or other organic material can allow pests to thrive while no one is around to watch. 

In the teacher’s lounge, check refrigerator seals, clean inside and under the microwave, behind and around soda machines and under sinks. These are excellent places to harbor pests. Also, be sure to clean any pest droppings you find. Droppings are difficult to age, and the pest manager won’t be able to conclude whether the infestation is old or new, unless they know that the area has been thoroughly cleaned.

How about classrooms? Clutter, candy and improper storage are a pests best hiding place and feeding station. Upholstered furniture is a pest haven. By reducing clutter, the jobs of the sanitarian and the pest manager become easier.

Remind custodial and other staff members that if they come across any live pests while cleaning, be sure to record what type and where on the pest sighting log or work order system. This is a good time to remind everyone that proper documentation of what they see helps you and the IPM program solve the problem before it becomes newsworthy. 

How do you minimize a PVA?

  • Reduce pest entry
    • Repair cracks, holes, and gaps
  • Reduce food sources
    • Store food, even pet food, in sealable containers
    • Clean, clean, clean
  • Reduce harborage
    • Eliminate clutter and cardboard

Refrigerators, microwaves, and toasters.

Locate every microwave and fridge to insure nothing surprises you in January.

Remember, pests only need crumbs or food residue (especially greasy surfaces) to survive for months. If these areas are not thoroughly and regularly cleaned, your pest manager will have a difficult time managing the pests. Also, if there is an infestation that must be treated, the food stuffs compete with the bait treatment, making it ineffective. This is a lose lose situation. What is left is an unsanitary area that still has a pest problem. If your school has problem areas like these, determine who is responsible for cleaning that area and set a regular cleaning schedule. In areas like these, there is often upholstered furniture. Don’t forget that the furniture needs to be vacuumed as you are cleaning the room. The cracks and crevices hold crumbs and can be home to cockroaches, silverfish and rodents. Sanitation is a group effort and once if maintained, is a crucial part of pest management.

One of the best ways to document what you see is to utilize an IPM Inspection form.  Remember good documentation can help you answer questions to school administrators, parents, teachers and any one else who asks.  Check out this Inspection_Checklist_for_School_Facility  created by NC State University.  

Finally, don’t forget about mold and mildew.  

Mold and mildew often happens by the fluctuations in  temperatures and humidity during shut-downs.  This can happen anywhere on campus but one area that is forgotten is Athletic and Band Hall areas due to items that are put into storage moist or left after an event.  Remember these area areas that should be part of your continuous monitoring of indoor humidity along with known problem areas. 

5 steps to minimize mold risk during & after a shutdown:

  1. Maintain indoor humidity as low as possible, not exceeding 50%, as measured with a humidity meter
  2. After a prolonged shutdown and before occupants return, buildings should be assessed for mold and excess moisture
  3. After an assessment has confirmed that mold and moisture are not detected OR after remediation has been completed, a building HVAC system that has not been active during a prolonged shutdown should be operated for at least 48 to 72 hours (known as a “flush out” period) before occupants return
    • Open air to the highest setting that allows you to maintain desired indoor air temp
    • Flush till odors are removed
    • Check HVAC filters-they may need to be changed after flush out
  4. After a building is reopened and occupied, routine (e.g., weekly) checks of the HVAC system are recommended to ensure operating efficiency
  5. If no routine HVAC operation and maintenance program is in place for the building, one should be developed and implemented
    At a minimum, consider:
    • Inspection and maintenance of HVAC components
    • Calibration of HVAC system controls
    • HVAC testing and balancing

Visit the CDC/National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health [NIOSH]  for more information controlling dampness issues that result in indoor mold growth, as well as on renovation and remediation if indoor mold has become an issue. Check out their Dampness and Mold Assessment Tool for Schools and General Buildings 

And thank you to TASB Facility Services and Risk Management Fund for the information about mold and mildew.  


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The Fungus Among Us – Restoring Ecosystems and Controlling Pests

Special article by Marcia Anderson, PhD, LTE;  U.S. EPA Center for Integrated Pest Management

It’s that time of year to take a walk through a forest or your neighborhood. Are seeing mushrooms, the reproductive structure of a fungus, growing on rotting tree trunks or decaying woodchips? One of the main benefits of fungi is that they help break down and recycle organic material, making nutrients available for new life. 

Depending on where you are located you might be seeing mushrooms growing in the woodchips on your playground. There is some concern when toddlers or small children are around as they tend to put everything in their mouths, including mushrooms.  One of the easiest IPM solutions is roping off the area until the local cooperative extension service can identify the mushrooms as being non-toxic. This type of interaction serves as a reminder of how little most people know about fungi. There is, however, much to discover.

Commonly known as the aborted entoloma or shrimp of the woods, is an edible mushroom in the Entolomataceae family of fungi. Caution should be used in identifying the species before eating.

Fungi have been around for 1.3 billion years, but we are just beginning to discover many of their benefits. Aside from being a culinary treat, certain fungi are key elements in restoring ecosystems and allies in helping farmers protect valuable agricultural crops.

Although relatively unrecognized, fungi can be powerful tools in pollution remediation through a process known as mycoremediation. That is the use of fungi to break down or remove a range of contaminants, including oils and toxic chemicals, from the environment. This form of biological remediation can filter toxins from stormwater runoff and help clean up industrial oil spills.

These fungi can help us remove or detoxify chemicals, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls, petroleum compounds, and heavy metals like mercury and lead. How do they remove these chemicals? The fungal mycelium, or vegetative part of the fungus, absorbs and converts the hydrocarbons in these contaminants into carbohydrates. Research using oyster mushrooms has shown significant pollutant removal from both soil and water in remediation areas. Once used for bioremediation, the mushrooms are destroyed as toxic waste.

Turkey tail fungus (Trametes versicolor) helping to break down old trees.

Similarly, turkey tail mushrooms are suitable for mercury remediation, and garden giant mushrooms can be used for E. coli removal. Mycobooms, straw rafts containing mushroom mycelium, can absorb oil from water.

Fungi are also used as biological pesticides, or biopesticides, that target specific insect pests and plant diseases. Biopesticides are considered less toxic than their chemical counterparts and are comparatively safer environmentally. Termed mycoinsecticides, some fungi act as parasites of insects and can protect plants from certain infections and diseases, thereby enhancing crop production.

For example, one biological pesticide used in agriculture is Trichoderma spp., a beneficial fungus that colonizes plant roots and outcompetes disease-causing fungi. Trichoderma protects plants from soil-borne pathogens in non-food crops, fruiting vegetables, cole crops, legumes, herbs, cucurbits, berries, and small fruits. A side benefit is that, over time, it stimulates plant growth and increases plant defenses.

Wood rot fungi Trichoderma spp. Robert L. Anderson, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

Another commercially used biopesticide, Beauveria bassiana, is a fungus that acts on insects including aphids, whiteflies, thrips, fire ants, and bedbugs. The fungal bodies adhere to the insect’s exoskeleton and slowly dissolve a hole in the insect’s body. The fungus penetrates the body, proliferates, and produces spores that subsequently liquefy the insect’s internal organs. Its slow action allows time for the target insect to pick up the fungal spores and infect the rest of the colony. The best news is that it does not affect non-target organisms.

Another fungal biopesticide, Pythium oligandrum, protects crops and turf from roughly 20 soil-borne pathogens. Muscodor albus is a fungal biopesticide that is an alternative to the fumigant methyl bromide. It is used to protect food commodities from post-harvest decay. It is also used on ornamental plants, seeds, and seedlings to protect against soil-borne diseases.

In tropical countries, manufacturers have combined the use of entomopathogenic biopesticides and insecticide-treated bed nets to control the mosquitoes that carry malaria. Sprays of some fungal spores are pathogenic to mosquitoes during specific stages of their life cycle and affect their metabolic and reproduction rates. Fungal infection consequently reduces the mosquito’s ability to transmit diseases. The World Health Organization has been testing the biopesticide Beauveria bassiana to reduce malarial transmission, resulting in a high mosquito mortality and rapid reductions in feeding and flight capability.

The growth of the biopesticide market, including these fungal-based controls, comes in response to the increasing demand for more natural pest control tools. Biopesticides can complement conventional chemical pesticides and are cost effective and eco-friendly. Biopesticides can be incorporated into any Integrated Pest Management program, contributing to sustainable pest control and healthy environment.

For more information on biopesticides, visit the EPA biopesticide webpage. In addition, Paul Stamets’ TED lecture on mushrooms discusses how mushrooms can save the world.

Check out this guide from the USDA Forest Service Field Guide to Common Macrofungi in Eastern Forests and Their Ecosystem Functions 

If it looks like a big blob it could be slime mold check out this article by Dr. Kevin Ong 

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SPN: Mosquitoes and West Nile Virus is on the rise.

According to the calendar we are entering the season of fall. For Texans, this means football (hopefully) and  battling mosquitoes on your campuses. This particular insects will make you itch, scratch, and sometimes even say bad words. With the help of Dr. Sonja Swiger,Associate Professor & Veterinary/Medical Extension Entomologist, AgriLife Extension this article will help explain the symptoms of West Nile Virus and encephalitis, what schools need to know about basic mosquito management and additional resources to help educate you and your staff.  

Aedes-life-cycle cdc

Life Cycle of Aedes aegypti and Ae. albopictus Mosquitoes (image from CDC)

Mosquitoes are of concern in the school environment because many species are painful biters and/or are capable of transmitting diseases. In the United States, the threat of developing encephalitis from mosquitoes is far greater than the threat from other mosquito vectored diseases. Encephalitis, meningitis, and other diseases can develop from the bites of mosquitoes infected with certain viruses such as West Nile, St. Louis encephalitis, LaCrosse (California) encephalitis, and Eastern equine and Western equine encephalitis. An effective control program will not eliminate all mosquitoes but will keep the population at a reasonable level and will reduce both nuisances and the risk for mosquito-borne diseases. With human cases on the rise this summer, our best defense is knowledge of the virus and mosquito management.

West Nile Virus is a mosquito-borne virus contracted through mosquito bites. Only about 60% of people who have tested positive for the virus ever knew they were being bitten by mosquitoes, so it’s advisable to just assume they are out and about daily depending on where you live in the state.

People of all ages (including children) can contract the virus. About 20% of those who contract WNV (1 in 5) will come down with what is called “West Nile fever”; less than 1% of people will develop serious symptoms referred to as “West Nile Neuroinvasive Disease” which affects the central nervous system; the other 80% of those infected develop no symptoms of the virus.

Symptoms of West Nile fever can include:


Body Aches

Rash on the trunk of the body



Swollen lymph glands 

About 1 out of every 150 people with West Nile Virus will develop a severe infection resulting in encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord). Severe illness can occur in people of any age; however, people over 60 years of age are at greater risk. People with certain medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, and people who have received organ transplants, are also at greater risk.

Symptoms of encephalitis or meningitis include:

High fever


Neck stiffness




Muscle weakness



How Mosquitoes become infected and transmit to humans.

West Nile virus transmission cycle

Virus transmission cycle (Image from Mayo Clinic)

After a mosquito feeds on the blood of a bird infected with West Nile Virus, the virus goes through a short growth period before it is capable of being retransmitted – as few as four days.

The infected mosquito, full of virus and ready to feed again, will look for a bird, human, or other animal for its next blood meal. This is the basic transmission cycle of the virus as it moves easily from bird (reservoir host) to mosquito (vector) and then – accidentally – on to humans or other animals. Humans, horses, or other animals do not expand virus transmission and are referred to as “dead end” hosts for the virus.

Mosquito Prevention Tactics

The best way to prevent West Nile Virus is to minimize the number of mosquitoes since that is the only way the virus moves from bird host to human in nature. Generally, the easiest way to deal with mosquito pests is to prevent them from breeding around us in the first place, and this is quite easy.

Mosquitoes need wet conditions to lay their eggs and grow from an aquatic larva into a flying adult a poor irrigation system can contribute to encourage breeding sites. HUMANS create most of the wet conditions used by mosquitoes in our state, and it is likely that many of us have mosquitoes developing in our neighborhoods and own backyards. We cannot eradicate every individual mosquito, but there are some very simple steps each of us can take to keep numbers low.

The most important single thing a school district can do is make sure school grounds are not contributing to your local mosquito populations. Check water catchment basins, storm drains, low areas, and equipment storage yards, athletic and playground equipment, especially, for places where water might be caught and held. Drain or treat with Bti dunks, or Altosid granules–both Green category insecticides.

Dense vegetation shown here can hide mosquitoes, ants and other pests make sure you are inspecting these area as well.

Mosquitoes typically rest in vegetation or other shaded sites during the day. If you have areas of vegetation or doorways where mosquitoes are a noticeable problem, consider treating such sites with a residual pyrethroid spray. This would be a Yellow category treatment and should be limited to known problem areas. Insecticides like deltamethrin, cyfluthrin, bifenthrin, and lambda-cyhalothrin can provide up to six weeks control on vegetation or building surfaces. They can be applied via hand-held pump sprayer, backpack mist blower, or power sprayer to doorways and trees, shrubs and ornamental grass around buildings and entryways. Do not allow students or staff into treated areas until sprays have thoroughly dried. Remember students cannot enter an area that has been treated with a Yellow Category product for 4 hours.

If the city or your district wants to apply ULV insecticides for pretreating sporting venues, posting and notification requirements must be followed and Yellow category justifications filed, as with any use of Yellow category product. ULV treatments usually use synergized pyrethrins (Green for products with less than 5% piperonyl butoxide), resmethrin or permethrin (Yellow). Mosquito control with such sprays is short-lived (few hours to a day) and should be conducted only when wind is less than 5-10 mph.

When it comes to IPM for mosquitoes, don’t forget educating students, parents, and staff. The district should consider notifying parents and students advising them to wear repellent to school or evening sporting events. Use of repellents on school grounds is something each school district must decide on. Personal use of repellents is not prohibited or really addressed by state school IPM regulations; however, they are addressed through the Department of State Health Services who considers repellents as part of an over the counter medication. If you haven’t done so, visit with your district’s head nurse make sure she/he is aware of your IPM program and the efforts you, your staff and your pest control contractor are doing everything they can do to help prevent mosquitoes. The Texas Department of State Health Services and many local mosquito control authorities have useful educational fliers and websites (see below) that parents should be aware of. School districts have a useful role to play in getting mosquito awareness information out to our communities. Consider linking this information in your school district’s website.

Resources and More Information 

Mayo Clinic West Nile Virus Website 

CDC website on Mosquitoes 

IPM Mosquito Management

TX Dept of State Health Services Mosquito-Borne Disease Prevention Website and here are their kid friendly resources link 

Mosquito Repellents

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Apply fall preemergence herbicide to avoid spring weeds


As soil temperatures cool, now is the time to plan for preemergence herbicide applications to eradicate common cool-season weeds like annual bluegrass and lawn burweed, said a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.

preemerge application

Applicating preemergence herbicides can reduce broadleaf and grass weeds in spring. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension photo by Adam Russell)

Chrissie Segars, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension turfgrass specialist, Dallas, said homeowners looking to improve the look and feel of their lawns by preventing annual weeds and burs should prepare to apply fall preemergence herbicides. Preemergence herbicides are designed to disrupt the germination and emergence of unfavorable plants.

Other fall and winter management practices like proper irrigation will also ensure turfgrass emerges healthy in the spring.

“Fall weed management is an important part of annual turfgrass maintenance,” she said. “It rids lawns of undesirable plants that compete with our turfgrass and helps your lawn get a good start in the spring.”

Ridding lawns of weeds

Preemergence herbicide treatments in the fall can help rid your lawn of grassy weeds like annual bluegrass and rescuegrass, and broadleaf weeds like henbit, chickweed, Carolina geranium and lawn burweed. Choosing the right herbicide can seem daunting, but AgriLife Extension has a number of publications dedicated to identifying weeds and herbicide selection.

Segars said preemergence active ingredients are an important consideration for tackling unwanted weeds. Products will typically list a range of plants it will control whether perennial or annual and broadleaf plants or grasses. Preemergence herbicides are most effective on annual weeds, while other weeds must be controlled with post-emergence applications.


Lawn burweed is a common broadleaf weed that grows low to the ground in the spring. They typically go unnoticed until the tiny stickers are stepped on. Fall preemergence herbicides can rid lawns of the painful and pesky weed. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo)

“Having knowledge of seasonal, chronic weed problems will help you narrow down product choices,” she said. “Choosing the right active ingredient for your problem weeds and applying it correctly are very important to weed management.”

Segars said homeowners who are not comfortable handling or applying chemical products should contact local landscape professionals. You should always follow product labels and distance applications from desirable plants to avoid injuring them.

Preemergence herbicide applications

Segars said AgriLife Extension recommends the fall preemergence herbicide regimen to begin when soil temperatures reach approximately 70 degrees. This recommendation is commonly based on annual bluegrass – a weed that germinates when soil temperatures are below 70 degrees. This generally falls in September or October, depending on where you are in Texas.

“Don’t get into the habit of relying on the same calendar date every year; that’s why we have soil temperature recommendations,” she said. “Environmental conditions can be drastically different from year to year. Some weeds will germinate later in the season but applying products in a timely manner builds up a preemergence program that stays ahead of weeds.”

Segars said soil temperature probes, even probe-type meat thermometers, can help homeowners gauge application timing.

There are weather-related websites and applications that monitor soil temperatures and even give updates via notifications, she said.

Identifying which weeds you want to control is important for choosing the correct herbicide option, such as broadleaves and grasses or perennial and annual weeds, she said. Segars recommends granular herbicides for homeowners due to ease of application.

“For best results, we generally recommend at least one application of a preemergence herbicide in the spring and fall,” she said. “These two applications, if done properly, can greatly reduce the number of annual weeds in your yard.”

Segars said some homeowners may desire to make a second or split application of preemergence, and it’s a good idea to have both a pre- and post-emergence herbicide on hand for the second application.

“Herbicides aren’t 100% effective every time, especially if you have heavy rains following application or missed the desirable timing,” she said. “Having a mixture of a pre- and post-emergence product just ensures you catch any weeds that break through your original application while they are immature.”

Watering in the preemergence herbicide immediately after application using some type of sprinkler system is recommended. Typically, granular preemergence products need one-quarter to one-half inch of water to dissolve properly, but always follow product label instructions, she advised.

“It’s easy to water in the product, especially if you have an in-ground irrigation system,” she said. “It could be risky trying to time it with rainfall. So, I would recommend using a sprinkler and figuring out how much water it is putting out and how long you’ll need to water to correctly activate the herbicide.”

AgriLife Extension has information regarding irrigation and sprinkler audits that will help homeowners determine how long to irrigate specific amounts. For more information about irrigation, visit the Texas A&M Extension School of Irrigation.

Say ‘no’ to weed and feed in the fall

Weed and feeds are a common and popular product, but Segars does not recommend using them as a fall/winter turfgrass management tool.

“We’re entering a time when warm-season grasses are slowing down in a lot of the state, and we don’t want to fertilize them too late, especially with nitrogen,” she said. “Putting nitrogen down promotes growth, and a quick freeze could cause damage.”

Segars said the last nitrogen application should be no later than four to six weeks before the average date of the first frost.

Watering as seasons change

Turfgrass needs adequate soil moisture going into winter, but as temperatures fall, Segars said homeowners should dial back on irrigation. AgriLife Extension’s Water-Wise Checklist provides good year-round recommendations that will maximize irrigation efficiency and effectiveness. 

Approximately 1 inch of water per week is AgriLife Extension’s summer turfgrass irrigation recommendation for actively growing grass. But as fall nears, Segars said rains should be enough, and that allowing grasses to visibly wilt before supplemental water applications is a good rule of thumb.

“If we are receiving typical fall rains, you can turn the system off or just water as needed until the grass goes dormant,” she said. “You don’t want to overwater, but you also want to have some moisture in the soil, especially in areas that experience hard freezes. Having some moisture in the ground will help protect them from winterkill and sustain them through winter.”

Scout now for spring preemergence application

Segars said now is a good time to scout for summer weeds like crabgrass and sandburs. Sandburs are a warm-season perennial grass known for their spiked seed pods that grow at the end of the stem and drop or attach themselves to any human or animal passersby.

Spring preemergence applications typically start when soil temperatures reach around 50-55 degrees, which can be January to March based on location and weather conditions. 

“Make note of what weeds you have now, and prepare for spring preemergence application,” she said. “Identify the weeds you have and note where they are. Make a game plan for getting your warm-season grasses off to a good start in the spring.”

Written by: Adam Russell, AgriLife Communication Specialist 

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How Texas became leader in safe public school pest management

2 people looking at chairs
2 people looking at chairs

AgriLife Extension school IPM specialist Janet Hurley and Wylie Independent School District IPM coordinator Tony Jacinto inspect a storage space of stacked chairs for pest issues at Wylie High School.

Anyone returning to a Texas public school this semester is safer from pests and pesticides, thanks to a host of integrated pest control practices required by the state and taught to licensed professionals by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

Requirements for integrated pest management, or IPM, in Texas schools were passed by the Texas Legislature in 1991. IPM is the practice of controlling pests with alternatives to pesticide. It employs other methods that consider environmental safety and human health.

New laws, shift in focus

Man in coveralls

AgriLife Extension state pesticide safety coordinator Don Renchie, Ph.D., leads school IPM training in an industrial school kitchen.

By the time school IPM became law, AgriLife Extension’s state pesticide safety coordinator Don Renchie, Ph.D., and urban entomologist Mike Merchant, Ph.D., had

already been training pest control professionals in safe application for schools across the state. They were steeped in collaboration with the Texas Structural Pest Control Board — of which Merchant was a member — to develop comprehensive curricula for the training.

“There had been major incidents of human contact with pesticides in Texas schools, due to application by unlicensed applicators, leading up to passage of the IPM laws in 1991,” Renchie said. “In Texas, we decided that our children were most important, and that’s why IPM is the law here.”

Only 23 states have school IPM laws or regulations, according to the National Pest Management Association.

As provisions of the Texas’ school IPM law took effect in 1995, Renchie and Merchant shifted focus to developing a training series for the IPM coordinator. This staff position is still required at every Texas school district today. They are responsible for ensuring safe school district spaces by adhering to all IPM mandates, existing and emerging.

IPM coordinators continue to be trained by AgriLife Extension, but the agency’s training reach, evaluation systems and advanced IPM techniques help make schools safer for Texas students, faculty and staff than ever before.

A boost for school IPM training in Texas

AgriLife Extension retired entomologist Mike Merchant, Ph.D., leads school IPM training.

In 2001, a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency allowed Renchie and Merchant to hire AgriLife Extension school IPM specialist Janet Hurley, Dallas. The grant also created the Southwest Technical Resource Center for School IPM. Hurley joined AgriLife Extension as director of the center, whose education materials live on as part of AgriLife Extension’s comprehensive teachings. Her work to organize school IPM training across Texas dovetailed with a previous grant that Merchant and Renchie were awarded to create “The ABCs of IPM” video series. The series is still taught to IPM coordinators as part of state requirements.

By that time, she said, roughly 80% of Texas schools had fallen out of compliance with state IPM standards. Additionally, a more streamlined system for professional training was needed across the state.

Seeking solutions

“When I got there, it was six hours of training, pat ‘em on the back and ‘see ya later, bye,’” Hurley said. “I said ‘No wonder the schools look like deer in headlights with IPM standards.’ And my bosses said ‘well that’s why we hired you. Now what are you gonna do about it?’”

She began to develop — with Merchant, Renchie and EPA grant colleagues in New Mexico and Oklahoma — one-day and two-day school IPM trainings, which emphasized hands-on work. It is the same model AgriLife Extension uses to deliver emerging school IPM information today at the IPM Experience House.

house with bushes

AgriLife Extension IPM Experience House, Dallas

While Hurley worked to broaden AgriLife Extension’s reach, Renchie and Merchant could still lead school IPM trainings and focus on expanding responsibilities of entomology and pesticide safety — the overarching areas of urban pest management statewide.

Hurley created a map of Texas’ roughly 1,030 school districts and began reaching out to them with what she calls “the gospel of IPM.” By 2008, she built enough enthusiasm among Texas schools to form the nation’s first statewide association of school IPM professionals — the Texas IPM Affiliates for Public Schools. Before the group disbanded, it welcomed more than 1,000 attendees to its annual meeting between 2009 and 2014.

These early efforts all contributed to making AgriLife Extension a driving force in the unique success of IPM in Texas schools and beyond.

School IPM impact


Janet Hurley leads a school IPM training for school district IPM coordinators in North Texas.

Since 2002, AgriLife Extension has offered 234 full days of school IPM training classes and reached 5,861 participants from 1,638 school districts. Hurley’s efforts alone include 265 personal site visits to Texas school districts. She assists with compliance issues and helps IPM programs prepare for inspections and awards.

As a result of these efforts, more than 20 Texas school districts are winners of the IPM Institute of North America’s national IPM Star award — more than any other state.

Among the state’s recognized districts is Wylie Independent School District, whose IPM coordinator is Tony Jacinto. The district failed to meet state IPM standards in 2016, before Jacinto heard about Hurley and AgriLife Extension from colleagues in another district.

“At that time, I had no experience with IPM and asked Janet to come teach me the ABC’s,” Jacinto said.

By 2019, Wylie ISD had become one of Texas’ national IPM Star districts, and Jacinto had scored 103 out of 100 during the award audit — above a perfect score.

Hurley is also a strong supporter of the IPM Star award, which exceeds even Texas’ standards for IPM.

What’s next

Today, Renchie continues to train pest control professionals for licensing, and Merchant retired in August following more than 30 years with AgriLife Extension.

“It’s widely recognized that IPM adoption benefits health and the environment,” Merchant said. “These accolades and increased compliance numbers show that Texas schools are safer as a result of AgriLife Extension’s reach and work.”

Meanwhile, in conducting 75 regional two-day trainings and 84 one-day trainings since 2002, Hurley remains the most active coordinator of school IPM training in Texas, and likely in the U.S., Merchant said.

Janet Hurley“She has an almost encyclopedic knowledge of Texas school districts and their IPM personnel,” he said. 

Through AgriLife Extension, Hurley also maintains a school IPM hotline and the Texas School IPM website, providing learning resources and training information. Her industry newsletter, School Pest News, is in its 137th edition since 2002, and it circulates to a readership of about 1,600 per issue. She is active in the International IPM  Symposium steering and awards committees and is on the National School IPM Steering Committee.

Over the next year, AgriLife Extension will expand IPM offerings with its public Residential IPM course series, which covers general integrated pest management for homes.

Hurley will propose a comprehensive research initiative to determine rat presence in Texas as well as the types of communicable diseases they carry, which remains largely speculative, she said.

“We’re just going to keep on building,” she said.

Written by: Gabe Saldana, Communications Manager, Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center of Dallas

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SPN: Save the date for future trainings and more

In the fast-changing world, we are living in I am going to devote this newsletter to a variety of resources and upcoming trainings to help you navigate through these difficult times.

Over the summer, Shelly Branstetter, Membership Services Manager, TASB Facility Services; Joanie Arrott, Risk Prevention Services Manager, TASB Risk Management Services and I have been distance meeting to see how our groups can help better support you our clients. On Tuesday, September 10, 2020 from 8:00 AM to 9:00 AM we will host our first webinar – Your COVID-19 Cleaning and Disinfecting Playbook. Sanitary facilities, equipment, and commonly touched surfaces reduce the spread of not only COVID-19 but also seasonal illnesses such as flu. During this webinar, our experts from TASB and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service will tackle cleaning and disinfecting public spaces, plus safe chemical management, during the COVID-19 outbreak. There will be a 30-minute question and answer period, we ask you to submit your questions when you register by emailing facilities@tasb.org and providing the following information:

  • Name
  • Title
  • Organization
  • Questions for the experts

While this is the first session, our goal is to hold these sessions at least monthly until December in hopes to help you still “meet” with your fellow IPM coordinators, facility managers, custodial staff and others that help support schools being open.  Our team knows it is YOU and YOUR staff that help keep the doors open pest and pesticide free, which includes your cleaning programs now. Be sure to reach out to the facilities@tasb.org email with your questions and to register for the Sept. 10th event.

School IPM Coordinator

This important training will still happen this fall in person at two locations. To attend these classes, you will need to register and follow social distancing COVID-19 precautions. This means participants will be required to wear a face covering during the class and be spaced out. This means we will be capping these classes so register early. At the same time, these courses will offer CEU credit for structural pest control and those with a 3A license as well, so make sure you enter your license number when you register.

Location: Address Dates 
Houston Area:  Conroe ISD 601 W Lewis St Conroe TX 77301 September 30 & October 1, 2020
Ector County ISD: 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/  Keyword: School IPM

Class time is 8:30 am to 5:00 pm a box lunch and snacks will be provided.
Advanced Cost: $210 for both days, $135 for one day only
Day of Event Fee $240 for both days, $155 for one day

Insect Identification

Did you know that AgriLife Extension Department of Entomology offers an Ask the Entomologist section? You can check out our digital image library to compare what you have with an image, find many of our factsheets, or you can upload an image for diagnostics. Check out this website https://askanentomologist.tamu.edu/ and be sure to bookmark for future reference.

Training for school staff on proper cleaning procedures.

This is a reminder that the OSHA Haz Com standard applies to workers, as does the respirator standard when an employee is required to use a respirator (including N95 filtering facepiece respirators) in some aspect of their job. Texas School fall under a requirement for all Texans to be trained when using chemicals, this includes cleaning

A new NIOSH webpage, Hazard Communication for Disinfectants Used Against Viruses, provides information on health hazards that could be caused by cleaning products and disinfectants. Also included are recommendations for barriers and respiratory protection that workers can use to protect themselves from these hazards. More at https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/disinfectant/default.html

Review EPA Guidance on Indoor Air and COVID-19

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a new website addressing indoor air and the coronavirus, including information about ventilation and HVAC systems. The EPA also has a list of frequently asked questions.

Additional COVID resources provided by the National Pesticide Safety Education Center (NPSEC) and National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) in effort to have everything in one place.


Finally, the American Federation of Teachers held a webinar earlier this month.  The slidedeck link will take you to the recorded webinar that you can share with your staff.  

 “Cleaning and Disinfecting in Schools During a Pandemic” was held on August 12th.  This was their first webinar in their Road to Reopening Schools designed to discuss promising nuts and bolts strategies for a return to brick and mortar school buildings based on the best available and most current scientific evidence, as outlined in AFT’s ”Reopening School Buildings Safely” recommendations. This report, details the very basic conditions needed to open schools,-critical safety and health guidelines, and instructional considerations. For this four-part series, we will be joined by local leaders, district administrators, and experts in their respective fields.  

If you missed the live session, you can access our first webinar on Cleaning and Disinfecting on demand here: https://event.on24.com/wcc/r/2563524/BE6CF9C04A945B5BE815E69B2B2A2B8F.   Below is the description and list of guest speakers for this program.

Cleaning and Disinfecting

The goal of this webinar was to provide the latest information on the appropriate process for cleaning and disinfecting during the pandemic, why is it important and where does it fit in the interventions to keep students and staff safe. Discussion will include the steps to achieve disinfection and sanitizing during a pandemic, the elements of a cleaning and disinfecting protocol and the roles and responsibilities of staff and students in the cleaning and disinfecting process.

 Guest Speakers were:

Lynn Rose has worked for approximately 30 years in K-12 schools developing and implementing environmental health and safety (EHS) systems for all school departments.  In addition to her work on green cleaning and infection control in schools, Lynn has also worked on issues such as indoor air quality and the reduction of the use of toxic chemicals.  She has been recognized for this work through awards from EPA, the Massachusetts Dept of Public Health, Harriet Hardy Award from Western MassCOSH, etc. Her most recent award was from the National Pollution Roundtable for 2019 Educator of the Year.

Shari Obrenski is the newly elected President of the Cleveland Teachers Union. Shari is a proud public school advocate, having graduated from a public high school in her hometown of Jefferson, Ohio, as well as earning her B.S.Ed. from Miami University (Ohio) & her M.Ed. from Cleveland State University. Prior to becoming CTU President, Shari was an American History and Government teacher at Jane Addams Business Careers Center in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. She also serves at the 1st Vice President of the Ohio Federation of Teachers.

Eric Gordon is the Chief Executive Officer of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and has served in this position since June of 2011. He is responsible for the leadership and daily management of Cleveland’s 37,000-student school district.  Now in his ninth year as CEO, Mr. Gordon is the longest serving superintendent of the Cleveland Public Schools in over forty years

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SPN: School reopening does any of this impact my IPM and IAQ program?

As everyone is trying to figure out how to educate children during the COVID-19 pandemic, the question on everyone’s mind is how to do this by keeping schools clean? The guidelines from CDC, For a Safe Return to School in Fall 2020 and the Texas Education Agency’s two documents Public Health Planning Guidance and School Reopening Guidance Summary give some advice on how to open your school; however, it’s limited in the actual directions of what, where, and when to clean. In an IPM program the first step is to understand the pest you are dealing with and come up with your solutions. For us it’s understanding the virus and how it spreads, to develop a plan on which areas of the school need deep cleaning everyday or regular cleaning that has been done by custodial staff in the past. Many of the steps outlined can seem extreme, but it all depends on where you are located and what is going on in your community as relates to COVID positive cases on what you need to implement.

The Virus

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are known to cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is a new strain of coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans, which has led to a variety of changing information. COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly through close contact from person-to-person. Some people without symptoms may be able to spread the virus. It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, instead it is those airborne droplets we exhale every minute of the day. Check out this article, COVID Analysis, for a visual on how the virus can be spread indoors.

How to Protect Staff and Students

In all the guidelines that are being offered to help schools open, the one term I feel most have lost sight of is “mitigate”. The definition of mitigate is to make less severe, serious, or painful. In most cases this means good cleaning practices, social distancing (keep out my personal space) and wear a face covering over the mouth and nose. During flu season, school nurses and administrators remind kids to wash their hands, cover their cough, stay home if you are sick. These are the same principals we all need to remember with COVID.

The larger challenge for schools is ensuring everyone has enough personal space. Instead of four students sitting at a lab bench in chemistry class – it will be one student. Cafeterias will no longer serve buffet style, instead it will be served in the classroom, or box style with limited human contact.

One of the main pathways’ researchers have determine COVID is spread indoors is through those heavy droplets we exhale and then “float” in the air. One of the recommendations is to open windows and doors. There are two reasons we typically do not do that in TX; 1) it’s hot and 2) what pest will fly or crawl in. Instead, think about the ventilation system on each campus, make sure filters are changed, vents are clean, and more importantly the return air area is clean as well. If the weather permits, let kids outside to play or read. Also make sure staff understands that in the teachers lounge they too must follow all the guidelines as well.

Cleaning, Disinfecting, and Sanitizing

These three terms have been used so often and a lot of people believe that by doing these processes you can completely kill the COVID virus. At the same time, many believe that if you engage in these processes that you can keep the COVID virus away for days, which you cannot. Schools are being asked to mitigate the spread of the virus, not eradicate the virus. Let us look at the three terms:

  • Cleaning is the process of removing unwanted substances, such as dirt, infectious agents, and other impurities, from an object or environment.
  • Disinfection the process of cleaning something, especially with a chemical, to destroy bacteria.
  • Sanitize make clean and hygienic; disinfect

The Department of Family and Protective Services and Department of State Health Services define sanitizing. They recommend for the sanitizing process to be effective; you must follow these four steps in order:

  1. Washing with water and soap at least 2 minutes for hands
  2. Rinsing with clear water.
  3. Soaking in or spraying on a disinfecting solution (at least two minutes). Rinsing with cool water only those items that children are likely to place in their mouths.
  4. Allowing the surface or article to air-dry.

DSHS has this DYI- disinfecting solution:

  1. One tablespoon of regular strength liquid household bleach to each gallon of water used for disinfecting such items as toys and eating utensils (high touch items) 
  2. One-fourth cup of regular strength liquid household bleach to each gallon of water used for disinfecting surfaces

When it comes to cleaning materials the next big question is the use disinfecting wipes by the staff. While these are convenient, cleaning wipes require some common sense be used if you choose to use these in your school district. First, they are pesticides under the U.S. EPA Federal Insecticide Fungicide Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Under FIFRA pesticides must have two statements; 1) signal word (Caution, Warning, Danger) and 2) child hazard statement (keep out of reach of children), these requirements are to alert the user that these products require personal protective equipment and cautionary use around children.  Second, using these cleaning wipes for a quick cleanup is great, but to keep things like door handles, common use items (fridge handles, faucet handles), and in food preparation areas use the sanitation steps above. Should you wear gloves when using these wipes? If teachers and staff are going to use these daily to wipe down the head phones, keyboards, desk tops, paint brushes, microscopes, etc. (items the kids touched) then yes, they should wear a pair of disposable gloves that way they are protected.  Our hands are very porous, hence why it’s so easy to transfer the cold and flu, but we also must protect ourselves from cleaning solutions entering our system as well.

Many administrators have been introduced to the EPA List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) and many IPM Coordinators are now being asked if the products used on this EPA list fall under the school IPM program?  The short answer is no – in TX, the school IPM rules only pertain to pests that harm buildings, turf, humans, or other living things. The custodial cleaning and disinfection products that are used in schools have always been registered as pesticides under FIFRA. No matter the products you select you still need to train staff on the proper use of these products which includes reviewing the Safety Data Sheets. While that is not part of the school IPM rule, it is part of the Right to Know and Hazard Communication acts that require employers to ensure their employees are adequately trained.

Do I need to post? No, not unless one of the products you use require you to do so. If you are doing deep cleaning, using a misting type device, or some other type of cleaning that requires the employees to be protected, then you might want to think about notifying employees of these efforts. Again, read that pesticide label, the label is the law.

Finally, all cleaning and disinfecting products can be harmful to humans if used improperly. Improper use can be as simple as not wearing the right personal protective equipment to spilling a bottle of cleaner. If the product you are using has a signal word and keep out of reach of children that is the first step to understanding personal use protection. While we all want schools to open, we must also understand that in these indoor environments we must also be cautious about how many products we are using inside each room each day. In this white paper by Beyond Pesticides, The Intersection of Pesticides and the New Normal under Coronavirus they discuss many of the ways students and staff can be harmed by too much use of common cleaning products and hand sanitizers.

In August I will be working with EPA, TASB and others to offer some additional webinars on this topic and back to school pests in general, so watch your email for those announcements. 


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