SPN: Are You Ready for Those Spring Pests?

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

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

Native subterranean termite soldier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Odorous house ants have a distinct odor when crushed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are bed bugs worse than we thought?

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

Bed bugs are trouble. They drink our blood. They soil our homes with their feces and cast skins. They keep us awake at night and add stress to our already stressed out lives. And they’re revolting to most people.

Bed bugs produce an allergenic chemical called histamine to help them aggregate in sites like this mattress welt. Researchers worry that histamine may be adding another environmental allergen to our homes, like dust mites and cockroaches.

Until now, if there was one positive thing that could be said about bed bugs, it might be that they haven’t been found to carry communicable disease. The impact of bed bugs seemed mainly to come down to sleepless nights and the economic sting of pest control expenses.

But newer studies seem to point to a darker side of these blood sucking pests. In 2011 Mississippi researchers Jerome Goddard and Richard deShazo scored postings from three popular bed bug websites. They determined that nightmares, insomnia, anxiety, personal dysfunction and other psychological problems were common among online visitors. Some visitors to the sites were so severely shaken by their bed bug experiences that they scored high on a scale for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In addition to mental health impacts, in 2014 bed bugs were implicated as potential carriers of the Chagas disease pathogen, Trypansoma cruzi. Michael Levy, one of the senior authors of the study, said “we’ve now shown that the bed bug can acquire and transmit the parasite [in mice].” But it remains to be seen whether bed bugs can pass the parasite to humans. Currently Chagas disease is only known to be transmitted by kissing bugs–large blood sucking parasites most common in Central and South America. If enough people with Chagas disease are exposed to, and fed on by bed bugs, it’s theoretically possible that bed bugs could become a more important vector of the disease in the U.S. than kissing bugs.

Also, we now know that the causative agent for trench fever and several other diseases, Bartonella quintana, can be acquired and passed on in bed bug feces. The effects of trench fever range from mild to severe, even fatal. The disease has dogged soldiers in wartime for centuries, but until now doctors believed the pathogen was solely transmitted by body lice, insects prevalent among refugees, the homeless, and soldiers in camps and trenches. In a series of studies over the past six years researchers have been finding the bacteria in unexpected places. Traces of Bartonella DNA have been detected in head lice (like bed bugs, not common disease carriers), ticks, mites, and even cat flea feces. Now the focus is on bed bugs. In 2015 French scientists found the bacterium could survive in bed bug feces for up to 18 days. As with Chagas disease, the evidence falls short of proof that bed bugs do or can carry this disease to humans; but in light of the ongoing bed bug epidemic, the data are worrisome.

Finally, thanks to a paper published this month by entomologists at the University of North Carolina, we now know that bed bugs are a major indoor source of the allergy-provoking chemical, histamine. Histamine was recently found to be one of the chemicals bed bugs use to attract other bed bugs into aggregations. In this study researchers collected house dust from homes both with- and without-bed bugs, and tested the dust for histamines.

“Histamine levels in bed bug infested homes were at least 20 times higher than histamine levels in homes without bed bugs,” said Zachary DeVries, lead author of the paper. Even worse, histamine levels remained high, even three months after homes were treated with heat treatments.

“Histamines are used in skin and respiratory allergy tests… they cause a bump in skin tests and restrict breathing in respiratory tests,” DeVries said. In addition, he notes in the paper that histamine exposure can result in thinning of the epidermis, possibly posing significant skin effects.

While this study didn’t look at health effects among people living with bed bugs, they speculate that risks posed by bed bug-produced histamine could rival the allergy- and asthma-causing effects of cockroaches and dust mites. They worry that because bed bugs live in bedrooms, where we spend the most amount of time indoors, the impacts might be multiplied.

This should remind us of our history with cockroach allergens. Not until the mid-1990s did public health experts and entomologists prove that cockroach allergens have a major impact on human health, especially in big cities. We’ve never looked at cockroaches in quite the same way since this discovery.

We may eventually have to rethink the way we think about bed bugs. Until then, keep tuned into bed bug news and continue to hone your bed bug fighting skills. After all, who more than your customers deserves a good night’s sleep?

A Few Resources

Advice for parents about bed bugs

Bed Bugs go to School

Bed Bugs Bite Poster  (great for nurses offices) Visit our Bookstore to purchase printed packets 

SPN: Licensing Requirements, Posting, and CEUs

Winter is almost over, and spring is heading our way, and it’s a good time to remind everyone of what the licensing and training requirements are for all employees.  Texas has two sets of laws pertaining to pesticide applicators there is the Occupations Code and Agriculture Code.  The Occupations Code covers the structural pest control applicators; Agriculture Code covers private applicators (Ag) and others like landscape management, greenhouses, right of way, vector, forest, and a few others.


If you are an employee of a governmental entity, apartment building, day care center, hospital, nursing home, hotel, motel, lodge, warehouse, food-processing establishment, school (K-12) or educational institution (University/College), and other noncommercial entity then you are required to obtain a noncommercial pesticide applicator license under structural pest control if want to do conduct any pest control indoors.  On the outdoor grounds public schools require licensed applicators for all pesticide applications.  If you choose not to conduct pest control yourself, you can hire a licensed pest control contractor who can make these applications.

What you need to know when you see a TDA pesticide license

There are a couple of terms that need to be explained before I continue with this article.  General Use Pesticides refer to insecticides, herbicides, rodenticides, etc. that is sold in a container that is less than or equal to one quart for liquid products or less than or equal to two pounds for dry or solid product.  Or is ready for use, requires no further mixing or dilution before use, and is packaged in a container of one gallon or less for liquid products or four pounds or less for dry or solid products. Typically, these products are considered for consumer use and can be purchased at any local hardware store.  However, if you plan to apply some of these products around children, animals, or high public use areas, you still need to have a license in many cases.

In Texas, under the Texas Administrative Code requires anyone who is going to purchase, apply, or supervise the use of restricted use pesticides, state limited use pesticides or regulated herbicides must have either a private applicator license or most commonly most fall under one of these categories landscape maintenance(3A) nursery plant production(3B), vegetation management(5), and/or public health pest control (12) {see the end of the article for what each of these license categories covers}. At the same time, no matter the chemical applied outdoors; applicators should remember to apply by using the appropriate ground application equipment and when winds do not exceed 10 miles per hour.

The reason for the above explanation comes from questions I receive about the ability to purchase weed killer or fire ant baits at a local store and the need to have a pesticide license.  If you are a governmental entity, apartment building, day care center, hospital, nursing home, hotel, motel, lodge, warehouse, food-processing establishment, school (K-12) or educational institution (University/College), or some other group that has public exposure not only are you required to have a pesticide license to apply, it’s a good idea because you want our clients to know you are doing everything you can do to protect them.

Continuing Education Credits

One of the updates coming from EPA is additional certification and training for pesticide applicators, except in Texas we have required certification and training since 1997.  The Texas Department of Agriculture has updated their rules to reflect the changing times, but overall, we have always been ahead of the curve with our requirements.  If you are licensed under SPCS (like I am) then you must receive at least two general CEU credits each calendar year, then 1 credit in every category you are licensed in.  For me I have Pest (P), Lawn & Ornamental (L) and Weed (W), so I must obtain 5 credit each year (January – December) so I can renew my license the next year.

For those of you who are licensed by TDA Ag then each commercial or noncommercial applicator must obtain at least five CEUs prior to the expiration of the license. A minimum of one hour each must be obtained from two of the following categories: integrated pest management, laws and regulations or drift minimization, then the rest can be considered general knowledge credits.  Under the TDA CEU requirement those credits must be obtained from the time your license renews to expiration.  So, if your license renews on March 1, 2018 and expires Feb. 28, 2019 then you will need to obtain 5 CEUs for your license renewal between those dates.

School IPM Coordinators, since 2009, TDA has required that you receive 6 hours of TDA approved IPM continuing education units (CEU) every three years.  Superintendents are required to appoint a school IPM Coordinator or Responsible IPM Coordinator for districts that have more than one person trained in IPM and inform the Department of Agriculture within 90 Days of that appointment.  Once appointed the School IPM Coordinator has six months to successfully complete a Department-approved IPM Coordinator training class. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension offers regionally to obtain some background on what is an IPM program and how it relates to school district operations.

It is also the requirement school IPM Coordinator and the license commercial or noncommercial applicators to maintain copies of YOUR CEU certificates for two years, but in some cases, you may need to hang on to these for five years; especially if you are tied to a school IPM program that only gets inspected every five years, for example.


Remember TX school IPM rules require that you post at the time of treatment and keep in place until the specified reentry has been reached.

This is a good time to remind everyone about posting and notification requirements.  For schools, this might be a good time to remind teachers and parent groups about not using their own chemicals at the school garden.  For public schools, remember that outdoor applications for Yellow and Red Category products require a sign, locked fence area, barrier tape or person to monitor for 4 hours after Yellow Category products and 8 hours after Red Category products.

For all indoor insecticide applications Texas requires that the licensee must provide a pest control sign to:

  • a residential rental property owner or manager at least 48 hours prior to a planned indoor treatment at a residential rental property with five (5) or more rental units.
  • the employer or building manager at least 48 hours prior to a planned indoor treatment at a workplace.
  • the chief administrator, IPM Coordinator, or building manager at least 48 hours prior to a planned indoor treatment at a hospital, nursing home, hotel, motel, lodge, warehouse, food-processing establishment, school or educational institution, or day care center.


The Texas School IPM rules have required each public-school district prior to or by the first week of school attendance, ensure that a procedure is in place to provide prior notification of pesticide applications in accordance with the School IPM rules to parents and students.  However, one of the things I’m asked about is how do schools who are close to an agricultural producer ensure their students and staff are not exposed to pesticides from neighboring properties.

Under the TAC Rule §7.37 TDA does have some additional Prior Notification Requirements for individuals that can request prior notification of a pesticide application:

  1. any person who works or resides in a building, house, or other structure located on land adjoining and within 1/4 mile of a field on which pesticides may be applied
  2. persons in charge of licensed day-care centers, primary and secondary schools, hospitals, inpatient clinics, or nursing homes within 1/4 mile of the field on which pesticides are to be applied.
    1. The parent of a primary or secondary school student may for good cause request notification from the department if the person in charge of the school has refused to request notification. (This is above the school IPM requirements)
    2. If the department determines that notification should be given, the department shall notify the farm operator to give notification to the person in charge of the school
  3. any person with chemical hypersensitivities, allergies, or other medical conditions which may be aggravated by pesticide exposure and whose residence or place of employment is within 1/4 mile of the field on which pesticides are to be applied.

Worker Protection Standards (WPS)

Worker Protection Standards applies to those who work in the Agricultural or Greenhouse Industries; however, these standards are good for anyone who is licensed and works with pesticides.  The Texas Department of Agriculture and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provided this information. The requirements in the current WPS are intended to inform workers and handlers about pesticide safety, provide protections from potential exposure to pesticides, and mitigate exposures that do occur.  http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/health/worker.htm

What Is:

Landscape maintenance(3A): to control pests in the establishment or maintenance of lawns or ornamental plants grown for function or aesthetic purposes in landscapes, such as athletic fields, residential properties, industrial sites, golf courses, parks, and cemeteries.

Nursery plant production(3B): to control pests in the production of ornamental plants or other nursery stock and commercial turf. This category includes plants in field production, greenhouses, shade houses, or similar structures.

Vegetation management (5): to control unwanted plant growth in rights-of-way, in the maintenance of roads, parking lots, utility lines, wind generator sites, pipelines, railways, airports, public surface drainways and ditches, industrial sites including oil field sites, adjacent riparian or natural areas and includes public sewer root control

Public health pest control (vector control)(12): for pesticide applications made for the purpose of treating, repelling, mitigating, or otherwise controlling any non-human organism that is, or may be, a vector of human disease by a pesticide applicator who is an employee of, or an independent contractor for, a federal, state, county, city, mosquito or vector control district or other political subdivision, or a person working under the direct supervision of a pesticide applicator who is an employee of, or an independent contractor for, a federal, state, county, city, mosquito or vector control district or other political subdivision.

Written by: Janet A. Hurley, Extension Program Specialist III

SPN: Flu how the cleaning fits with your IPM program

Between the news, my social media feeds, email, and phone calls I know it’s flu season, how about you? Many who work in the IPM program are also involved in the school environmental health program as well, and there are lots of questions. The three big questions I get asked is what can we use, can we use disinfecting wipes, and do we need to post? Below are some of the best guidelines I can give you, along with some tips and documents to print and post.

Full disclosure this newsletter is more about cleaning and prevention, than what is the flu. And the prevention is more on school hygiene keeping the building safe, which is part of IPM, not what products you need to use.

Man cleaning a desk

Custodian Carl Crossman wipes down classroom tables as he makes his daily rounds. Cleaning in public areas is essential to keep the spread of cold and flu from happening.

The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) have a lot of information on the flu, what to do if you get the flu, and how to clean to help with the spread of the flu. At times like this, knowing how to use cleaning products is key to success.  To kill the bacteria or virus on a surface the cleaning agent must remain on that surface for up to 10 minutes (depending on disinfection/antimicrobial product).   To be safe follow Federal regulations, read the label before you use any pesticide product, yes cleaning products are pesticides.  DSHS has two good websites on How To Clean and Disinfect Schools To Help Slow the Spread of Flu and Information for Schools & Childcare Providers as they state on their website knowing the difference between cleaning, disinfecting and sanitizing.

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
  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; and
  4. Allowing the surface or article to air-dry.

Sanitizing should be done on those surfaces everyone touches. The obvious are doors, door handles, and facet handles.  The not so obvious, door handles in bathrooms, computers (screens, keyboards, headphones), shared devices like microscopes, keypads to enter a door, refrigerator doors in the breakroom, and the list goes on, the key sanitize those areas that most people touch frequently.

When it comes to cleaning materials the next big question I’m asked is about disinfecting wipes.  While these are convenient cleaning wipes, some common sense needs to 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 clean up 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 I personally were cleaning up a small mess in my kitchen, nope not worth it to me.  However, if I’m going to use these wipes every afternoon to wipe down the headphones, keyboards, desktops, paint brushes, microscopes, etc. (items the kids touched) then yes, I would probably wear a pair of disposable gloves that way I’m doubly 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. Remember after using these wipes wash your hands with soap and water.

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.

Making sure employees are aware.

Recently the U.S. EPA updated their rules regarding the protection of agricultural workers for additional training, but with these updates it’s a good time to remind you about some of those training requirements for your school when it comes to using respirators while cleaning or applying herbicides.

face respirator

An example of a respirator that would require a medical evaluation before using.

If you have employees who need to wear a respirator to clean or repair an area, since 2015 employers are required to conduct medical evaluations of each employee.  Wearing a respirator can put an extra burden on the body. People with underlying medical conditions may put themselves at risk if they work while wearing a respirator. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires medical evaluation before any employee can even be fit-tested for a respirator.

If respirators aren’t required in your workplace but employees wear them voluntarily, OSHA says you still must perform a medical evaluation. The sole exception is if the only type of respirator voluntarily worn is a filtering facepiece respirator (the paper mask type), then OSHA doesn’t require the medical evaluation.  This means schools and all other employers still must make sure that their employees are medically fit to wear one of these devices.

The eight-page medical evaluation has portions for the employer and employee to complete.  Upon completion the employer must select a physician or other licensed healthcare professional, such as a registered nurse or physician’s assistant, to perform the medical evaluation. The evaluation must consider the individuals health, specific job description, respirator type, and workplace conditions.  To learn more about medical evaluations please visit the OSHA website to view the Respirator Medical Evaluation Questionnaire Check out this link.  This is one of many areas that you will be learning more about over the next year as we discuss all the changes for pesticide applicators.

bathroom door handle

Seal_N-kill film placed on bathroom door handle.

Finally, if you are interested in something new, check out this website  Seal-N-Kill is a durable, flexible polymeric film that has antimicrobial features.  It was something that caught my eye in 2016, but I haven’t seen much use, yet.  This film is for places like door handles, push plates, and other common surfaces that you can apply this film material on.  The research I have seen shows that after a year the film shows no growth of staphylococcus aureus, how it works on the flu virus has not been tested.  However, this is something to consider, especially if you have certain areas that are heavily used by the public.  I would be interested to learn of your results.

Below are a variety of links for handouts and more information.  Make sure everyone in the district understands their role in this process, the cold and flu are spread by humans so changing behavior is essential.  Make sure everyone washes their hands often, don’t touch your nose and mouth if possible (germ transfer), if you sneeze use a tissue or sleeve (not your hands – germ transfer), and if you are sick stay at home you will get better faster if you do.

Stay Healthy,  Janet

AgriLife Extension Links to be Prepared for the Flu https://agrilifeextension.tamu.edu/blog/2018/01/11/flu-reported-widely-across-texas-prepared/

Excellent Handout to post Avoid the Flu at School and Work http://texashelp.tamu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Avoid-Flu.pdf

Visit TexasFlu.org  to obtain additional posters and handouts to use with staff and students

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Website resources for Schools and Child Care Centers associated with flu https://www.cdc.gov/flu/resource-center/freeresources/print/print-schools-childcare.htm

This is a nice flyer to post on the best ways to clean to prevent the flu.  Cleaning to Prevent the Flu

You can also find this handout in additional languages on the CDC website listed above.

DYI- disinfecting solution:

(A) One tablespoon of regular strength liquid household bleach to each gallon of water used for disinfecting such items as toys and eating utensils

(B) One-fourth cup of regular strength liquid household bleach to each gallon of water used for disinfecting surfaces

A Safer Way to Keep Schools Pest Free; Stop School Pests Launches Free Online Courses

New Online Courses Help K12 School Employees Make Schools Healthier Places to Learn

Stop School Pests, a new online training program, is now available to school employees across the United States and beyond at www.StopSchoolPests.com. The training will help schools reduce pest complaints, pesticide use, and pest-related costs, and improve food and fire safety by teaching staff how to prevent pest problems before they occur.

Students spend a major part of each day in school – on average 30 hours each week. Exposure to pests and pesticides can create an unhealthy school environment. Mice and cockroaches can cause or trigger asthma attacks and allergies. Similarly, an over-reliance on pesticides can lead school employees and children to be exposed unnecessarily to dangerous chemicals.

“Schools must be safe, healthy spaces for students and staff. It’s important to manage pests with smart, common-sense approaches that minimize exposure to pests and chemicals,” said Dr. Dawn Gouge who was involved in the project from its beginning and is a Professor and Public Health IPM Specialist at University of Arizona’s Entomology Department. “These training modules will make that possible for any school district, no matter the size or budget.”

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a long-term approach to preventing pests utilizing the least-hazardous, most effective, sustainable and cost-effective methods. Stop School Pests new online training program will provide important tools to help school staff implement more effective pest-control programs.
Teachers, school nurses, administrators, food service personnel, facility managers, landscape and ground managers, maintenance and custodial staff – every staff member plays a role in making sure food sources for pests are minimized and making sure that surfaces and outdoor areas are safe for children to touch.

The Stop School Pests portal offers specific training modules for each role that address the basics of smart pest management, identifies common pests found in schools, and the health risks associated with pesticides and pests. The training is free and open to anyone and is administered by the non-profit organization IPM Institute of North America. Presentation files can be requested at no cost.

The training content was developed by the School IPM Working Group and through a multi-year, nationwide project with funding by the US EPA, the USDA, the North Central IPM Center, and the National Education Association.

Stop School Pests aims to make affordable, accessible training available to all involved in making sure schools are healthy spaces for every child and employee in every community.

All training courses are available at no cost at www.StopSchoolPests.com. After a short quiz, users can download a certificate.




For More Information contact:

Alina Eva Freund, Project Manager
IPM Institute of North America
608 232 1410 x 1007

SPN: Before you go remember these tips

As we come to the end of December and before you leave for the holidays please remember these tips so when you return you won’t be returning to unexpected guests.

This buffet of food left out overnight, or worse over a weekend or extended break can lead to pest infestation no one wants to face.

Tis the season for parties with cookies, pizza, gingerbread houses, drinks, and lots of sweet stuff. All of this left out when you go on break means when you get back you can enter your classroom or work space to find ants, cockroaches, mice and even rats.  Don’t assume that custodial will make it to your area, be a good steward and clean it up, seal it up and make sure that when you get back you don’t have any unexpected visitors.

Storage of holiday decorations, school supplies, and other miscellaneous items usually ends up in cardboard boxes.  Cardboard is great for temporary packaging, but not long term.  Cardboard can harbor roaches, silverfish, mice, and mold.

It’s a fact that we may not want to hear, but clutter does not inspire, it creates chaos!  And of course, nice nesting habitat for mice, roaches, silverfish, and ants which often follow.  No true clutter connoisseur lives or works alone.

A cluttered workspace, be it a classroom or kitchen, creates barriers to efficiency and many (including students) may feel stressed with the informational and visual overload of a cluttered environment.  Clutter also contributes to the accumulation of dust and provides harborage for insects such as cockroaches.  In this way, clutter is more than a stress inducer; it can be a health concern.

De-cluttering has the immediate effect of eliminating pest harborage.  When clutter is reduced, there is increased access to floor spaces, allowing for more thorough cleaning by custodial staff.  The same is true for shelves and inside cupboards.  Where there are nooks and crannies – created by “stuff” – pests will hide and breed among the clutter, there will be allergens and lots of bugs.

Clutter control also helps improve overall school hygiene.  It’s easier for custodial staff to sweep, mop, and dust when things are generally organized.  Minimizing clutter also helps teachers stay organized. It’s much easier to keep your room tidy when your cupboards and bookshelves are not overflowing with stuff!

Here are some tips to keep the clutter down and your area ready for your to work and learn.

This storage room has the potential to harbor roaches, ants, mice and other insect pests that most food service workers don’t want to see. Empty the boxes out or use durable plastic storage containers to store items like holiday decorations.

Kitchen staff

  • Do not use corrugated cardboard for long term storage.  German cockroaches are brought inside our schools hiding in the corrugations.  They feed on the glue starch that holds the boxes together.  Rotate out all corrugated cardboard if possible.
  • Keep pantry shelving free of needless debris. Emptied supply boxes should be broken down and recycled rapidly.
  • Clutter is also a problem around and in drains: debris blocking and clogging up drains can not only lead to maintenance issues, but drain flies love to breed in the scum that accumulates around the edges (and bleach won’t help!).  Make sure all drains have covers, especially sink drains.  There are heavy duty metal sink-drain baskets that can be dish washed.





Leaving mops in the buckets can help cockroaches thrive, it also doesn’t help with mold and mildew. The mops should be hung just like the broom.

Though you are the sanitarians of your schools, in general you are not responsible for de-cluttering areas other than your own.  Custodians can set a great president by maintaining well organized custodial closets.

  • Hang brooms and mops (head end up) on a wall rack; brooms & mops are pest havens as they contain food, moisture, and a protected area in which to feed & breed.  Keep these items hung up.
  • Get good shelving!  Too often, custodians have no shelving or organizational features in their closets.  However, this is a “pest vulnerable area” and without organization it can lead to a rapid decline toward bugs, dirt and filth.  Shelves should be wire (not wood), with the bottom shelf a minimum of 6” off the ground to allow for cleaning under.  Use the IPM program you are part of as leverage for good quality shelving that will get your school on the right track.
  • Custodians: make sure your closets are not reservoirs for cans of illicit pesticide sprays, from classrooms or elsewhere.



This campus decided to store all the art supplies in one room, the problem with this was the cardboard and placing items in front of the windows. It allowed for ants and mice to enter.


As the educators in your school, you have a great opportunity to set an example for students and staff.  Get the kids to help with the following suggestions, too!

  • Art supplies – Cockroaches dine on glue, and crickets, termites, booklice, and silverfish (among others) will readily consume paper.  One guess as to what they do with macaroni noodles and rice!  Keep glue containers clean and capped.  Store art supplies in plastic pest-proof containers, such as Tupperware or Rubbermaid, with tight-fitting lids.
  • Storage closets – have you ever seen a well-organized teacher’s closet?  We have and generally they belong to the best of the best teachers we know.  We appreciate that it’s tough for teachers to create projects and educate on a budget; of course, you want to keep all that stuff!  But ask yourself one question: have you used it in the last 2 years?  If the answer is no, then toss (or recycle) it.  This goes for the rest of your classroom, too.  No cheating by stuffing storage bins full of things you plan to get to “one day”.  Benefit from the extra space and let the clutter go!
  • For everything that’s left, organize it, and store it in plastic tubs with tight-fitting lids.  No boxes – you’re importing cockroaches AND feeding them when you use corrugated cardboard!
  • End-of-week 15-minute desk clean off.  Think “file not pile”.  Documents go in one of 3 places: the file cabinet, recycle bin, or trash.  Have students do this with their desks as well!

At this campus the lost and found pile of clothing kept growing over the school year. Piles like this can harbor roaches, ants and bed bugs.

Lost & found

  • Principals – make sure there is a designated person responsible for maintaining this area.  Pest inspections almost always reveal a neglected lost & found area, with clothes lying on the floor in heaps.  This is wonderful pest harborage, and you can expect to find cockroaches, mice, ants, and crickets. In this age of bed bugs you could also be harboring these unwanted guests by neglecting the pile of clothes you keep.


SPN: How are your records?

How are your records? This isn’t the most exciting of topics, but this is a good time a year to take time to review your IPM program and your recordkeeping procedures.


Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) requires that prior to any indoor pest control treatment 48 hours in advance. This posting notification must be placed in an area of common access for schools, child care centers, nursing homes, hospitals, hotels, motels, food processing plants and warehouses. For those of you who service apartment complexes in 2018 you will need to provide pest control sign to a residential rental property owner or manager at least 48 hours prior to a planned indoor treatment at a residential rental property with five (5) or more rental units. This sign must be on paper that is letter size (8 1/2 inches by 11 inches) and contain the required information with the first line in a minimum of 24-point type (one-fourth inch) and all remaining lines in a minimum of 12-point type (one-eighth inch). One of the items we changed for schools was adding a word to the title. You will notice our sign mentions both treatment and service. To find the TDA approved sign you can visit their website at http://www.TexasAgriculture.gov/spcs  go to the forms link.  Or you can download our School IPM sign PestControlNotificationSign – Schools

While many schools have a contract with a pest management company for school kitchens typically making a pest control treatment at every visit isn’t always needed. However, if when the service technician is checking their monitors and does notice insect activity on the monitoring device they will have the ability to treat if this sign has been posted correctly. During our school IPM training we instruct our coordinators that these signs need to be placed in common areas that the contract covers (school cafeteria, teacher lounges, utility rooms, etc.) if the contract covers the entire district then you might want to post these signs next to doors or another area that staff and teachers can see.

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

Outdoors posting is required at the time of treatment and this is only for public schools. The sign must be placed on a fence that locks if the area you are treating is fenced. If the area is not fenced, like most middle school turf areas, then signs should be placed on all 4 sides of the field area. You can also use caution barrier tape or an individual to occasionally monitor to ensure that students don’t walk on the treated area. For Yellow Category products (herbicides, some fire ant products, pyrethroids) students must be kept off the treated surface for four hours. For Red category products (warning or danger signals word) students must be kept off the treated surface for 8 hours.

Justification Forms

Justification forms or most will know this as Yellow and Red Category approval is still one of the top non-compliance violations for school districts. In most cases this is due to the IPM Coordinator and Certified Applicator not realizing what is considered Yellow Category. The other reason for not getting this document is that some school districts contract out their athletic field maintenance and in some cases those contractors do not realize that they MUST give the IPM Coordinator a copy of their application use records and a justification form. To make this easy for you if your certified applicator is using an herbicide and it has a Caution Signal word – the product is Yellow and requires a justification form. While the justification form is good for 6 months or 6 applications per site listed, I recommend that a form be completed by the applicator and placed with the application use record. By putting these two documents together will make it easier when your district is inspected by TDA. If your applicator is using residual products with pyrethroids or other synthetic products (Talstar, Tempo, Amdro, Advion Fire Ant Bait, to name a few) then they will also need to complete a justification form. This is especially important if they are making an indoor treatment, you want to make sure you have the correct paperwork in the event you receive an inquires from teachers, staff members, or parents.

Here is the correct form to use Justification form

Remember we have our Recognizing Green Category Products for Schools

Application Use Records/Service tickets

Completing the service ticket is one of the most important things we do in pest control, but I’m always amazed when I find these documents missing information. What did you use? Typically, I will see part of the products trade name but it’s not the full name, it’s been abbreviated which is fine when you are making notes to yourself, but on the service ticket it all needs be there. Add the EPA registration number and then anyone can see the exact product you used and can look it up if necessary. For mixed solutions TDA requires you to complete the mixing rate question typically this solution rate is found in the pesticide label. And this number is different than how much you applied. Per TDA rules “the mixing rate and total amount of material applied or the percentage of active ingredient(s) and total amount of material applied for manufacturer’s formulations that are mixed with water or other material, if applicable” is what they want you to complete. At the same time, if you use any type of pest control device (snap traps, glue boards/monitoring cards, rodent bait stations, etc.) you must list how many devices used and what they are. In some cases, you might need to plot this information out on a diagram – remember when you are monitoring and controlling pests everything you do counts towards this, so document it, you never know when you will need to consult that information.

Labels and Safety Data Sheets

All pesticides used by Pest Management Professionals must be registered with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Texas Department of Agriculture, except for those pesticides that have been exempted from registration by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), Section 25(b). All pesticides used must also bear a label as required by FIFRA and Chapter 76 of the Texas Agriculture Code. Pesticides intended and labeled for use on humans are exempt from this section, this typically covers products like head lice shampoo and insect repellant.

SDS documents are important to have on site in the event of an accident or if someone complains of side effects.

For schools they must have a copy of the pesticide label and safety data sheet (SDS) that is current and should be kept in a separate notebook or file folder. Pesticide labels contain detailed information on how to use the product correctly and legally. Labels also contain information on potential hazards associated with the product and instructions you should follow in the event of a poisoning or spill. The SDS (formerly known as MSDS) includes information such as the properties of each chemical; the physical, health, and environmental health hazards; protective measures; and safety precautions for handling, storing, and transporting the chemical. These documents are important to both the pesticide applicator and the consumer, and must be made available to anyone who requests a copy.

A good tip to remember when you are out in the field and you want to rush through your paperwork, think about this “will what I write stand up in court of law?” If someone was to file a complaint can you justify your work through your pest control records, because if you can’t now is the time to correct your information and make sure all your records are in good order.

Written by: Janet Hurley

The Role of School Nurses in Integrated Pest Management for Public Health

By Meredith Swett Walker is a writer for Entomology Today 

School nurses do more than just apply bandages to scraped knees and administer asthma inhalers. They are also health educators, they help control communicable diseases, and they even do some pest management.

Tick specimens embedded in Lucite can help school nurses distinguish disease carrying ticks like Ixodes scapularis from other species. Nurses are also provided with a tick removal tool with a web address directing them to online IPM resources for schools. (Photo credit: Kathy Murray, Ph.D.

In the past, the dreaded head louse (Pediculus humanus capitis) was likely the only pest a school nurse needed to worry about. But, with the rise of arthropod-borne diseases like Lyme disease, West Nile, and Zika, nurses increasingly find themselves thinking about tick and mosquito control as well. Bed bugs, meanwhile, are also cause for concern, and as head lice evolve resistance to traditional insecticidal treatments, even these pests require more sophisticated control methods. But school nurses typically haven’t received training in pest ecology or integrated pest management (IPM.)

At Entomology 2017 in Denver, Kathy Murray, Ph.D., of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry presented her work with the Northeast School Integrated Pest Management Working Group to engage school nurses in IPM for public health pests in schools. This project aims to give school nurses the tools, resources, and training that they need to promote and support IPM policies in schools. The work was endorsed by the National School Nurse Association and supported by the Northeastern IPM Center.

In the last 15 years, many states have started requiring schools to practice IPM. This may seem odd, but a school campus is essentially a large public property, and any property, be it a building or open space, has pests. Usually, IPM efforts in schools focus on facility managers or custodians. But school nurses deal directly with the effects of these pests on students and can be an important addition to the IPM team.

In many public schools, resources are spread thin. Facility managers may not always have the budget for the labor or materials necessary for effective IPM. But when facility managers and nurses come together to ask administrators or school boards for more resources for IPM, their requests have more heft, says Murray.

The Northeast School Integrated Pest Management Working Group has presented its project to engage nurses in IPM at nursing conferences. (Photo credit: Kathy Murray, Ph.D.)

In the Northeast, ticks are a major concern, particularly Ixodes scapularis (also known as the blacklegged tick or the deer tick), which transmits Lyme disease. Students may come in with ticks they picked up at home or can even pick up ticks on the school grounds. The project supplies school nurses with a tick removal tool, as well as actual ticks embedded in Lucite to aid in distinguishing disease-carrying species from non-vectors. When nurses learn more about tick ecology, they can help identify potential tick habitat on campus and work with facility managers to get it removed.

Mosquito bites themselves are not a major concern for school nurses, but arboviruses like Zika or West Nile are. When nurses know more about the behavior and ecology of mosquitoes, they can help identify mosquito breeding sites on campus, such as small pockets of standing water, and work with facility managers to address them. Where arboviruses are a serious concern, nurses may advocate for outdoor sporting events to be scheduled to avoid peak mosquito activity periods like dusk.

Murray found one health-pest relationship that many nurses were unaware of: the connection between cockroaches, mice, and asthma. The fecal material and urine of these pests are potent asthma triggers. Unfortunately, schools are a prime habitat for mice and roaches. There is food present in the cafeteria and often the classroom. In addition, school buildings are typically unoccupied at night, when mice and roaches are most active. Some research has even shown higher levels of pest-related allergens in school buildings than in the average student’s home. If nurses are concerned about asthma attacks at school, managing pests may help.

In her presentation at the Entomological Society of America’s 2017 annual meeting, Murray made the case that school nurses are often at the front lines of pest-related public health challenges. They can also be essential bridges to the wider community. When confronted with a pest problem, “nurses would like to have some solid, research-based, concise information—in multiple languages” that they can share with students’ families. The IPM project is working to provide that. While some school nurses may have never envisioned IPM as part of their job description, Murray says she has found the school nurses she works with to be interested in IPM and “very passionate about protecting student’s health.”

If your district is interested in learning more about this program feel free to contact AgriLife Extension we would be happy to help educate your nurses about this information.


SPN: Fall Pests on the Move

Over the past month it seems that everyone I have heard from has discussed a large outbreak of one type of insect pest or the other. For this newsletter rather than discuss pest control record keeping, I am going to refer to several common pests and then give you links to past newsletter stories where you can find Action Plans or additional educational information you can use.

Asps – Aka Puss Caterpillars

Even as a moth these furry critters can cause some pain, anything with a spines that can flare up is a defense mechanism to keep predators away. Remember don’t touch them.

Asps and other stinging insects are part of the nature in Texas, their frequency is dependent on environmental factors.  Stinging caterpillars are commonly found in the live oak trees. However, any hardwood tree can be a source. On occasion they may be found on, in, or around shrubbery. They may also be found crawling on benches and playground equipment.

Asp infestations, typically, are a short-term problem lasting roughly 3-4 weeks twice each year. One exposure in mid-spring and one in mid-October are typical. In most years infestations are minimal and little to no action is required when it comes to pesticide applications. Time, education, and patience for the weather to change.

Stinging by these caterpillars is normally a short-term irritation and may require first aid administered by the school nurse. Dead caterpillars can cause the same irritation as live ones, as their spines are still prickly.

First Aid: Carefully apply cellophane tape over the site and strip it off to remove as many poison spines as possible. Apply ice pack to reduce itching/ burning. Topical or oral antihistamines may be beneficial. If an allergic reaction occurs consult a physician immediately.

For more information check out this newsletter from Oct. 2016 https://schoolipm.tamu.edu/2016/10/30/halloween-pests-on-the-move/


Fleas can be a problem in all parts of the country except in very dry areas. The most common species in school buildings is the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis). This flea feeds on cats, dogs, and humans, as well as rodents, chickens, opossums, raccoons, and other animals. The dog flea (C. canis), rabbit flea (Spilopsyllus cuniculi) and the human flea (Pulex irritans) are less commonly encountered. Another flea of concern is the rodent flea (Xenopsylla cheopis) who are known carriers of a variety of diseases. This flea can act as a vector for plague, Yersinia pestis, Rickettsia typhi and also act as a host for tapeworms Hymenolepis diminuta and Hymenolepis nana.

However, with the recent flooding in south Texas, areas may be seeing an increase in flea activity due to habitat changes in the area.  Several of the flea species can be found on wild animals as they move from their displaced home areas.

There are a variety of flea traps you can use to help with monitoring in schools. Check out the fact sheets for more information.

Unlike most fleas, adult cat fleas remain on the host where feeding, mating, and egg laying occur. Females lay about 20 to 50 eggs per day. The eggs are smooth and readily fall from the pet and land on surfaces such as bedding and carpeting in the animal’s environment. They hatch in about 2 to 5 days. The flea larvae will feed on dried blood and adult flea excrement that they produce while they are feeding on the live animal. When inspecting for flea larvae it’s important to remember that larval development is restricted to protected places where there is at least 75% relative humidity. The larvae feed and crawl around for 8 to 15 days before building small, silken cocoons in which they pupate and develop into adults. Debris, such as pet hair or skin or carpet fibers, usually covers the pupae, providing visual camouflage. Outdoors ground cover makes this hard to notice.

Flea larvae develop more quickly at higher temperatures, preferring areas that are 70° to 90°F. At cool temperatures, fully formed fleas can remain in their cocoons for up to 12 months. Warm temperatures and mechanical pressure caused by walking on or vacuuming carpet stimulate emergence from the cocoon. At normal room temperatures, the entire life cycle can occur in about 18 days.

Developing an integrated flea management program requires understanding flea biology, population assessment techniques, mechanical control systems, biological control, IGRs and traditional insecticide treatments.  The first priority is to identify the pest, because suppression strategies differ among flea species according to Dr. Sonja Swiger, Met/Vet Entomologist with AgriLife Extension.  Collect specimens, then get them to one of our local county extension offices or regional district offices so that one of our entomologists can identify the fleas, this will aid in your management and educational needs.

This past spring Dr. Merchant wrote about fleas and ticks for more information,check out this link https://schoolipm.tamu.edu/2017/04/25/spn-fleas-and-ticks/

The IPM Action plan comes from University of Florida School IPM program IPM Action Plan for Fleas


SPN: Educational Materials for Your School IPM Program

Three new infographics and two detailed publications from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service help demystify the best practices for controlling pests in schools, universities and other areas where humans occupy close quarters.

“The average person, while not a pest control expert, is definitely affected when an infestation occurs,” said Janet Hurley, AgriLife Extension specialist in school integrated pest management, Dallas. “That means the average person is integral to controlling pests, especially where large groups of people converge.”

Hurley, co-author of the new educational materials, called the infographics and publications “a few quick resources that anyone can use to learn simple practices for deterring pests and infestation.”

Each of the new offerings includes science-backed tips for integrated pest management, or IPM — the strategy of managing pests with multiple control tactics, emphasizing lower costs and lower environmental impact.

One infographic in the poster series, “How Students and Teachers Can Stop School Pests,” is a double-sided checklist on measures for pre-empting pest infestation in schools. Another, “How Kitchen Staff can Stop School Pests,” features graphic illustrations on staying ahead of pest problems with regular maintenance and cleanliness habits. The third, “Don’t let the Bedbugs Bite,” is an illustration on four steps for monitoring and controlling bedbugs.

Meanwhile, the seven-page publication “Green Category Pesticides for Use in Texas Schools” is a detailed document on the most current “green category” pest control products for schools and other environments where control measures must account for human safety, Hurley said.

“The publication is a great resource for anyone who works with a pollinator protection or LEED, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, program,” she said. “It can really help determine what low-impact products to use in specific settings.”
Finally, “An Introduction to IPM in Schools: A Manual for Facilities Maintenance Professionals” is an in-depth manual on the steps to successful IPM. It covers how to implement an IPM program in a school or business. The manual is available at the Texas A&M AgriLife Bookstore webpage http://www.agrilifebookstore.org/Intro-to-IPM-in-Schools-p/b-6015.htm for purchase.

Go to http://bit.ly/2hiPgvb for electronic files of the poster series and the seven-page “Green Category Pesticides for Use in Texas Schools.”

Go to https://www.agrilifebookstore.org/category-s/1999.htm to purchase hard copies of the infographic poster series.

Written By Gabe Saldana

Bed Bugs Bite Poster

Stop School Pests Teachers Poster

Stop School Pests Kitchen Staff Poster English/Spanish