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


Special Edition: Resources after a flood

As they learned during Hurricane Sandy, rats can swim and drown. Be aware of both and remember to protect yourself as well.

During the recovery effort after a flood there are many pests that everyone needs to think about. Not just pests but there are several health aspects everyone needs to consider. This special edition of School Pest News is full of resources for you to use at work and home.

Remember there are a variety to consider over the next few weeks as you clean up after Hurricane Harvey. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has an enormous amount of information on cleaning  up safely after a disaster that I wanted to share with you.

Worker Protection After a Flood 

Flood Water After a Disaster or Emergency

Protect Yourself from Animal- and Insect-Related Hazards After a Disaster

Rodent Control After a Disaster

Rodent pest proofing fact sheet from City of New Orleans

The CDC also offers these two online courses to help you and others with your response

Environmental Health Training in Emergency Response (EHTER) https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/ehs/elearn/ehter.htm

Vector Control for Environmental Health Professionals (VCEHP) http://lms.southcentralpartnership.org/vcehp.php

Most Texas snakes, like this Texas rat snake (Elaphe obsoleta), are not venomous and try to avoid people. (AgriLife Extension)

Finally, snakes are a real issue as well in Texas.  Dr. Maureen Frank, Assistant Professor and Extension Wildlife Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension developed this fact sheet on Snake and Flooding to help all of us out.

Snakes and Flooding


Texas A&M AgriLife entomologists: Floating fire ants, insect pests among flood hazards

Fire Ant Raft that can form after a major storm Photo by Sandwedge

Fire ants, as their colonies begin to flood, can join feet or tarsi to form water rafts, and they are more aggressive once in the floating formation, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service entomologists. But other insect pests can also pose human threats in flood conditions, they said.

Check out this Facebook Post from WFAA Chief Meteorologist Pete Delkus

Dr. Paul Nester, AgriLife Extension entomologist, Houston, and Dr. Mike Merchant, AgriLife Extension urban entomologist, Dallas, encourage those affected by flooding to stay prepared and aware of pests, especially when it comes to mosquitoes, floating fire ant colonies and bedbugs.

After Hurricane Harvey drenched much of southeastern Texas, dropping more than 50 inches of rain in some places and flooding significant portions of metropolitan Houston, everyone needs to be aware of a variety of pests.

Any temporary body of water that is present for more than a week can be a mosquito breeding habitat.

In Texas, the biggest human threat from mosquitoes continues to be West Nile virus from night-flying pests, Merchant said. He pointed out that Zika virus also remains a risk, though a minor one. But nuisance mosquitoes, like the saltmarsh mosquito, not considered especially important for carrying human disease, will be most noticeable in the weeks after water subsides.

“Heavy rains actually reduce some mosquito breeding sites, especially those of the southern house mosquito, which is our primary carrier of West Nile virus,” Merchant said. “But as waters subside and puddles dry up and stagnate, these mosquitoes will return after a few weeks.”

Merchant recommends anyone conducting hurricane cleanup and repairs keep mosquito repellent handy at all times, especially at night.

Meanwhile, Nester said fire ant colonies floating through floodwaters are dangerous, as they are alive and will “explode” upon contact with an object or person, engulfing the subject and stinging it relentlessly in an effort to protect their queen at the center of the formation. He said people should take precautions to avoid run-ins with floating colony “mats” and should remain aware of what objects are floating near and toward them in floodwaters.

“Dress appropriately when working in floodwater,” he said. “Cuffed gloves, rain gear, and rubber boots help prevent the ants from reaching the skin. If they do, they will bite and sting. Remove the ants by rubbing them off.”

Follow this link to see Nester’s short guide on fire ant protection in flood conditions.

Image of a fed bed bug, by Gary Alpert Harvard

While some face challenges from the rising water, Merchant has other advice for displaced Texans living in temporary shelters: be on alert for bedbugs. The pest, while not a major problem in most evacuation centers, has a way of showing up when many people converge in close quarters, Merchant said.

“The most important thing is that shelters are aware of the potential for bedbug problems and have a plan for how to respond,” he said.

He said shelter managers should prepare by knowing what bedbugs look like, inspecting sleeping quarters regularly and employing a reputable pest control company to deal with infestations as necessary.

By: Gabe Saldana

If need you information about mosquitoes check out these links for more information:

Managing Mosquitoes after a Flood

Mosquito Safari 


Here is some helpful information about bed bugs

Advice for Staff About Bed Bugs After a Flood

Using Freezing Methods to Treat for bed bugs

For Additional Resources check out Dr. Merchants website Insects in the City 


SPN: IPM Training Materials, Hurricane Harvey Storm Information

2010 rains, flood waters submerged a Cheatham County school bus, vehicles, and Kingston Springs Elementary School

It’s late August and this this is the newsletter that we (AgriLife Extension School IPM Team) welcomes everyone back to school.  As I write this newsletter the weather advisory for Texas isn’t just hot, but hurricane preparedness.  When I look at the map of Texas being covered I realized almost half of the schools in the state could be impacted by Hurricane Harvey.  So, for this newsletter I will share some educational materials you can use with staff not just for IPM, but also for storm safety.

As Harvey strengthens in the Gulf of Mexico, experts predict widespread flooding and wind damage will occur.


From Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Press Release by Paul Schattenberg

2010 rains, flood waters submerged a Cheatham County school bus, vehicles, and Kingston Springs Elementary School

Image from creative commons on what a school flood can look like.

“We’re expecting Harvey to bring a lot of rain and flooding over a large area of the state and as he intensifies, some strong winds as well,” said Dr. Andy Vestal, AgriLife Extension specialist in emergency management, College Station. “The storm system may also spur tornadic activity.”

Vestal said people in both urban and rural areas of the state should take steps to prepare for what may come from this storm system to minimize damage and reduce the impact of its aftermath.

He said the Texas Extension Disaster Education Network, Texas EDEN, at http://texashelp.tamu.edu/ has a variety of materials on disaster preparation and recovery.

Vestal reminds everyone to avoid being trapped by a flood, it’s best to evacuate before flooding starts. “Listen to the radio, TV or NOAA Weather Radio and follow directions from local officials regarding evacuation or seek high ground if you experience localized flooding in your area,” he said. “Be prepared to evacuate quickly… know your routes and destinations and where there’s an emergency shelter. If you’re trapped by a flash flood, keep out of flooded areas and away from moving water, whether you’re on foot or in a vehicle. Always remember to turn around, don’t drown.”

Dr. Joyce Cavanagh, AgriLife Extension family development and resource management specialist, College Station, said one of the best things Texans can do to prepare for an emergency is map out a family evacuation plan ahead of time and practice it. The plan should include establishing escape routes and making sure to include all members of the household in a practice session.

“People should also have an emergency kit for their home, office and each vehicle,” Cavanagh said. “The kit should contain enough supplies to take care of immediate family members for at least three days.”

She said some essential kit contents include bottled water, non-perishable foods, a hand-operated can opener, mouth/nose protection masks, extra clothing, first-aid kit, gloves, blankets, toiletries, battery- or hand-powered flashlight, weather radio, spare batteries, garbage bags, medications and anti-bacterial cleaners or wipes.

The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service has a series of Public Service Announcements available for media use to help people learn how to clean up and stay safe after the storm. School Personnel, some of these items can help you organize your schools and community if disaster strikes.

PSAs with their scripts, can be found at https://today.agrilife.org/issues/hurricane-information/, then click on English or Spanish. These PSAs are free for broadcasters and also may be used on print or broadcast media and emergency assistance websites. Free educational materials about preparedness and recovery can be found at http://bit.ly/2vsJrQT.

For School IPM Coordinators and Pest Management Professionals: 

Fire Ant Raft that can form after a major storm Photo by Sandwedge

After the storm insects, vertebrates, and reptiles will be on the move.  If you need materials to assist you with controlling a variety of pests visit our Pest Management Plans section on the School IPM Website or contact any of us with AgriLife Extension to assist you.

U.S. EPA Announces New on-Demand School Integrated Pest Management Videos Now Available

Access EPA’s new on-demand webinar series about a variety of integrated pest management (IPM) topics. You can increase your knowledge about IPM as time permits during the day and school year. Help make their environments (and yours) pest free using IPM strategies. Learn about pest management strategies you can implement now.

You can also find these training modules and more at the iSchoolPestManager website under Training in the document toolbox.

Let the Binge Watching Begin!

Webinar Topic  
Yellow Jackets & Wasps Watch On-Demand!
Bed Bugs Watch On-Demand!
Weed Control Watch On-Demand!
Ticks Watch On-Demand!
Rodents Watch On-Demand!
Developing an IPM Plan Watch On-Demand!
Bats Watch On-Demand!
Mosquitos & Zika Virus Watch On-Demand!
Lice Watch On-Demand!

Recently the U.S. EPA also released Pest Control in the School Environment: Implementing Integrated Pest Management (IPM). The publication is an update to its popular 1993 publication, Pest Control in the School Environment: Adopting Integrated Pest Management (IPM). The updated version reflects recent innovations in school IPM, provides links to new information, and has been redesigned into an easily printable format. It provides an overview of IPM and details the steps a school can follow to establish an IPM program.

As a smart, sensible, and sustainable approach to pest control, IPM reduces the need for routine pesticide use by utilizing sanitation, maintenance, monitoring, pest exclusion, habitat modification, human activity modification, and the judicious use of pesticides.

Throughout the nation, schools that have adopted IPM report long-term, sustainable pest mitigation that both reduces the use of pesticides and is cost effective. Because protecting the health of children is important, EPA recommends that all school districts implement programs that promote integrated pest management and the safe use of pesticides. In May 2016, a diverse group of stakeholders endorsed EPA’s approach to school IPM, and agreed to work to implement IPM in schools over the next three years. This publication and other materials provided by EPA are designed to support this effort.

For more information on school IPM, please visit our website at: https://www.epa.gov/managing-pests-schools



Fall 2017 School IPM Training

people sitting at tables with a person speaking
Several people standing in a school kitchen serving area

Dr. Mike Merchant educates one of our school IPM coordinator classes about the importance of the kitchen inspection.

For Texas Public Schools, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) has been around for over twenty years. And for 20 years Texas A&M AgriLife Extension has been the leader in offering educational programs to assist school IPM coordinators and their school districts have award winning school IPM and IAQ programs. While Texas Administrative Code (TAC), Title 4, Part 1, Chapter 7, Subchapter H, Division 7 School IPM Rules require that every ISD appoint and train a school IPM coordinator, we realize that more than 6 hours of training is what is needed to have a superior school IPM program. Our program has in-person trainings for required School IPM Coordinator training, Advanced School IPM (refresher CEUs), pest management training courses, and soon online training modules to help when time is tight.

Day One – Required New Coordinator Training

This course is for any school personnel who need to learn about what is required for a school IPM program under the Texas Administrative Code (TAC), Title 4, Part 1, Chapter 7, Subchapter H, Division 7 School IPM Rules.  This class fulfills Texas state requirements for new IPM Coordinators who need the six-hour class to be classified as the designated IPM coordinator.  At the same time, this class fulfills the requirements for the three-year recertification (refresher course), an introduction to office staff or other school administration in how to adopt and manage an IPM program, and for pest management professionals this course will allow you to understand what is required by the Texas Department of Agriculture Structural Pest Control Service rules. The course will cover legal requirements for schools, an introduction to IPM, how to monitor your schools under TDA requirements, and a hands-on exercise to understand the difference between Green, Yellow and Red Category pesticides.

Day Two – Advanced Coordinator Training

This course is for School IPM Coordinators who need a 6-hour refresher course or anyone licensed by TDA in the Structural Pest Control Categories, TDA Landscape Management, and Private applicators who want to learn about IPM and obtain 6 hours of CEU credit. This course is aimed to provided additional information on how to manage and sustain an IPM program.  Topics are aimed at school IPM coordinators in general; however, many of the topics aren’t just limited to schools.  For 2017, this course covers the Ag Science/Garden programs many schools face, the pests they encounter and what the rules are associated with these programs.  This course is also covering rodent management, with some additional information on rodenticides use on school property. Dr. Merchant will cover cockroach control as well, learn what works best for the most common cockroaches in Texas.


IPM Experience House Trainings

Our IPM Experience House is a former dormitory building that has been converted into a series of small, rooms that simulate actual work sites–ideal settings for hands-on training. We have attempted to design IPM House to provide a realistic, controlled environment where it is safe to practice the skills and craft of IPM.  Courses use a mix of classroom and field training to provide new and experienced PMPs with the skills they need to excel in their profession.  These classes are designed to assist new apprentices, technicians, and non-commercial applicators understand their role in the IPM process but also how to control pests using IPM techniques and practices.


Dr. Don Renchie educates class participants about the Texas School IPM rules

Educational training for school staff (In-service modules)

Training of school staff about IPM is time consuming and AgriLife Extension realizes that you don’t have time to develop your own powerpoint to conduct training.  Over the past couple of years, we have been working with University of Arizona and the IPM Institute of North America to develop training materials that can be used by IPM program administrators (anywhere) to deliver in-house training for school staff.  Of the 18 Stop School Pests modules on this website  all are designed to allow you the end user to either view the module on your PC/tablet/phone or download and use in person to train a group of custodians, maintenance or grounds workers, or food service personnel.


Online Training for CEU Credit

In 2018, we plan to launch interactive online modules that earn you CEU credit.  These courses will help you learn about school IPM, general household pests, and other information that you can learn on your own time and pace.  In the meantime, you can check out this website for some of our educational courses you can use for more information.


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


2017 Fall School IPM Coordinator Training Schedule Two-Day Courses

Instructors Day 1: Dr. Don Renchie, Dr. Mike Merchant, and Ms. Janet Hurley
Instructors Day 2: Dr. Mike Merchant, and Ms. Janet Hurley

Location Training Date Registration Deadline
Houston Area: Humble ISD/Summer Creek High School 14000 Weckford Blvd, Houston, TX 77044  September 27 & 28, 2017 September 24, 2017
Concho Valley Area: Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center, 7887 U.S. Highway 87 North, San Angelo, TX 76901 October 18 & 19, 2017 October 13, 2016

2017 Fall School IPM Coordinator Trainings One Day

Instructor: Janet Hurley

Location Training Date Registration Deadline
Panhandle Area: Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center, 6500 Amarillo Blvd. West, Amarillo, TX 79106 September 19, 2017 September 15, 2017
Beaumont Area: Bill Clark Pest Control, 2975 N 11th Street, Beaumont, TX 77703 November 14, 2017 November 10, 2017





SPN: Updated Green List publication, Summer Bugs that make you Itch

Recognizing Green Category Pesticides for Texas School IPM

Recognizing Green Category Products

By Janet Hurley

Introducing our “Recognizing Green Category Products” handout as a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension numbered publication. Forever known as the ‘green list’ this document has morphed over the past fifteen years to help us (Don Renchie, Mike Merchant and Janet Hurley) to train Texas School IPM coordinators about our three colored category pesticide ranking system. When the ranking was first developed in the mid-1990’s organophosphates were being phased out, pyrethroids were coming on, but also a variety of other insecticides were being introduced. Over the past twenty years we have used this handout in conjunction with our School IPM training to help educate participants what are the active ingredients that comprise our Green category.

In training we are always asked why isn’t this on the label and we respond that this is a Texas requirement, not a Federal requirement so no pesticide label needs to have that designation. However, with programs like LEEDs and Pollinator Protection Programs using more “green” products, this list has now become even more relevant.

In Texas, the following classes of insecticides make up the Green Category Products  Title 4, Part 1, Chapter 7, Subchapter H, Division 7, Section §7.204 of the Texas Structural Pest Control Regulations:

  • Biological (living) control agents
  • Boric acid, disodium octoborate tetrahydrate, or related boron compounds
  • Botanical insecticides containing no more than 5 percent synergist (does not include synthetic pyrethroids)
  • Insect and rodent baits in tamper-resistant containers or for crack-and-crevice use only (not broadcast)
  • Insect growth regulators (IGR)
  • Microbe-based insecticides
  • Pesticidal soap, natural or synthetic horticultural oils
  • Silica gel, diatomaceous earth

These products based on how they are applied (targeted to infestation area) and in most cases low-toxicity of their active ingredients (IGRs, botanical) allowed them to be included into the Green Category. Under the botanical insecticide group the list of active ingredients has doubled in the past 10 years, making this “list” hard to keep up with. Hence, AgriLife Extension has always maintained this is more about a teaching tool than a list for people to use to purchase pesticides or an endorsement of products. When we developed this document, I wanted to learn what all the products were so I could help train better, not realizing that this would be a long-term pursuit. At the same time, it is a good reference tool so that as an IPM Coordinator, Pest Management Professional, or anyone else interested in green products to see what is currently available.

A few things to remember when using this document; when looking at the baits section remember this section is for baits used in tamper-resistant containers or for crack & crevice use; the botanical section is constantly changing our rule just requires the products in this category have no more than a 5% synergist. Synergists are chemicals that make insecticide ingredients more effective at killing pests. Finally, the product names listed are not recommendations, endorsements, or a full list as products change as well.

For more information about pesticide classes and detailed information check out the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) website  they have some great information you can use as well.

To obtain your own copy you can check out the AgriLife Extension Bookstore where you can download a PDF copy and soon order a hard copy of this document as well.

Summer Insects that will make you Itch!

By Paul Schattenberg, featuring Wizzie Brown and Molly Keck.

As people become more active in summer, so do a few familiar pests that keep Texans itching – and scratching — for relief, said Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service entomologists.

“This time of year there’s usually a significant increase in chigger and flea activity,” said Wizzie Brown, AgriLife Extension entomologist, Travis County. “With people and their pets spending more time outdoors, the likelihood of getting bitten by chiggers or fleas also increases.”

Brown explained chiggers are mites in the immature stage. Molly Keck, AgriLife Extension entomologist, Bexar County, said chiggers develop in fields and weedy areas, especially areas with tall grasses.

Red welts on ankle showing what chigger bites look like

Chigger bites cause red, irritated marks on the skin. Chiggers prefer biting areas where skin is the thinnest or where clothing fits tightly, like places around the ankles and waist. (Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service photo by Dr. Mike Merchant)

“While chiggers are active from spring through fall, they are most noticeable in the summer, especially early summer when there’s a good amount of vegetation,” Keck said. “The larvae gather on the tips of plants and other locations where they crawl onto hosts.”

She said chiggers typically live in edge habitats or zones – areas of denser vegetation next to areas more open or lacking in vegetation.

“This might be a thick garden along a fence line next to a well-manicured lawn or in the tall grass that borders a walking trail,” she said. “These are good locations to avoid.”

Brown said chiggers climb onto people walking through infested areas, crawl upwards and wander around the body seeking a good site to settle down and feed. The preferred feeding locations are areas where skin is thinnest or where clothing fits tightly, such as around the ankles or waist or behind the knees.

Brown said when chiggers feed, they inject a digestive enzyme that breaks down skin cells, which are then eaten.

“Itching and redness are caused by our body reacting to the enzymes injected into our skin,” she said. “It typically begins 3-6 hours after being bitten, peaks at 24 hours and can last up to two weeks.”

She said the best way to avoid chiggers is to keep away from areas likely to be infested, but if that is not possible, some other ways to protect from them include:

  • Use an insect repellent with DEET or picaridin.
  • If wearing boots, tuck the pant legs into them.
  • Avoid sitting on the ground.
  • Remove and launder clothing as soon as possible after being in infested areas.

Shower or bathe soon after being in an infested area. Scrub vigorously with a washcloth.
She said some ways to reduce the possibility of chigger infestations around the home include keeping the lawn mowed, not allowing weeds to grow, keeping brush cleared and targeted use of residual pesticide sprays.

“Sprays with pyrethroids have proven to be effective,” Brown said. “But if you do get bitten, avoid scratching any pustules caused by the bite as opening them may lead to infection. Use oral antihistamines or topical anti-itch creams to relieve the discomfort.”

Welts from fleas biting an arm (creative commons image)

Fleas too are pests that reappear persistently during summertime, the entomologists said.
“Fleas are small, wingless insects with flattened bodies and all body spines pointed to the rear for easier movement through the fur or hair of an animal,” Keck said. “Their mouthparts are formed for piercing and sucking.”

Flea larvae are found in the nests of various animals, in rugs or carpets in the home or in the soil in areas where animals frequent. They feed on organic debris and as adults are blood-feeders.

“Fleas are ectoparasites and females require a blood meal to produce eggs,” Brown said. “After feeding on a host, females can produce about 30-50 eggs per day that fall off the host animal and into carpeting or other areas inside and outside the home. After fleas pupate, they hatch out of the cocoon in about two weeks, but pupae can remain dormant for up to five months.”

She said proper flea management has multiple parts.

“Fleas should be managed on the pets as well as in the environment,” she said. “Grooming the animal with a flea comb and/or bathing it regularly can help reduce flea numbers. Wash pet bedding in hot water and avoid walking pets in known flea-infested areas.”

Brown said a veterinarian should be consulted about flea control products for pets.
“There are numerous products on the market that work well when used according to label instructions,” she said. “When you find fleas on a pet, you need to not only treat the pet but also any areas the pet frequents — both inside and outside the home.”

Image of a cat flea up close

Brown noted fleas found around or in homes without pets may be coming from wildlife.
“Attic and crawl spaces should be inspected for wildlife activity,” she said. “Wildlife should be removed, and after removal the area should be treated with an insecticide labeled for fleas. Then the area should be sealed so wildlife cannot re-enter.”

Brown also advised that new homeowners may have problems with fleas shortly after moving in if the previous owners had pets with fleas.

“You should vacuum thoroughly and regularly under furniture and along baseboards to reduce flea eggs, larvae and pupae. Then place the used vacuum bag in a sealed plastic bag and throw it into an outdoor garbage can so fleas do not hatch out and re-infest the home.”
She said outdoor flea treatments targeted to areas where pets frequent should be done at least twice.

“The second treatment should occur 10-14 days after the initial treatment,” she noted.

SPN: Understanding the pest control contract

Monitoring is part of an IPM program. Be sure that your company is giving you the best service you can afford.

Do you find your IPM program lacking? Frustrated that you are getting the services you think you are paying for? Then it’s time to look at pest control bid specifications and make some adjustments. When it comes to pest control program there are three basic goals. First, the program needs to be as safe as possible. The program reduces the risk from both pesticides and pests. Second, the program should be effective in eliminating pests as a potential health threat. Finally, the program should be affordable. The program should be simple and as easy to implement as possible. It should not also rely only on spraying insecticides, the company you hire should be able to determine where the pests are coming from so they can be eliminated, not tolerated.

In Texas, schools have had to abide by state guidelines that require adoption and implementation of IPM practices. Unfortunately, not every school district and pest control contractor understands these concepts. In my experience, too often schools use a standard contract developed by the purchasing department and don’t require additional reporting and monitoring by the pest control contractor without considering price and time. Many of the state mandated IPM programs require the contractor to excessively monitor, seek permission prior to making pesticide applications, and require excessive and elaborate systems for evaluating all the pest management systems. As a result, this often frustrates the customer and pest management professional. Therefore, one of the most important factors in having a successful IPM Program in schools is defining the role the pest management professional in your IPM program.

The biggest mistake I have observed in working with the different school districts has been the bid process. School districts have not updated bid specifications* ten and sometimes, 20 years. Schools are still requesting that their contractor to make routine pesticide applications in their kitchens and other sensitive areas. Whether your pest management professional is applying a residual insecticide or uses baits and gels, if they are making applications every time they visit your campuses, the contractor is not practicing integrated pest management. (*Note at the end of this article are a few examples of bid specs)

Too often pest control companies are not equipped to service schools in the way they are requested or expected to do so. This results in ill feelings from both parties. However, we recommend that schools and companies work together to assure that IPM principles and pest control needs are being met. An IPM program is a team effort between the pest management professional and ALL the school employees, it’s not just one person out there spraying.

Here are some tips that are important in writing a bid specification and pest control contracts.

  1. Program Management – who’s going to run the contract? Who will be responsible for the oversight of this contract? For Texas schools, if the IPM Coordinator is responsible for the IPM program, do they also have the reasonability for overseeing the pest control contract? It has been my experience this doesn’t often happen. The IPM Coordinator should have input into the decision making related to the pest control contract, this means working with the purchasing department for the district and have a chance to interview the potential companies to see how they will respond
  2. Type of Contract – how will you pay the contractor? Will it be a firm-fixed price or indefinite delivery (as needed basis)? A firm-fixed price generally refers to a set price on a monthly or quarterly basis. The indefinite delivery method in general runs counter to an IPM program. It requires pesticide applications without considering IPM principles. Both methods have advantages and disadvantages, which will require discussion between the IPM coordinator, purchasing manager, and other school administrators to develop a package that is right for your program.
  3. Estimating Cost – what is the going rate for pest control? According to the pest control companies I have talked with is this: the bad news is not paying enough is the single most important reason for receiving mediocre pest control service. The good news is pest control is probably the least expensive service of all the building services a school district needs. School administrators need to understand what they are requesting and pay accordingly, rather than relying on what was acceptable ten and twenty years ago. Do you consider the type of structures you have and their age? Does the structure have conditions that lend themselves to constant pest problems? What about accessibility? In many cases the only person who has keys to dry food storage is the kitchen manager – is he/she present when the pest management person is there? If they are not, will it cost your district more to have someone present, or will that area be neglected during routine inspections? Moreover, if is not being inspected, what happens when you have an infestation of cockroaches or rodents?
  4. Method of Award – how will you select the contractor? Generally, there are two methods used by schools. Sealed bidding means an award based solely on price, it’s considered the quickest and simplest, most efficient award. The problem with this method is it often draws from the more undesirable companies. The more revolutionary type of award method is Source Selection. This method allows for detailed, comprehensive evaluation of the pest control companies ability to deliver quality service. This method can be cumbersome and time intensive. It requires the IPM Coordinator to work prior to sending out the request for proposal, which is also required per the Texas School IPM rules.
  5. Statement of Work – exactly what is the contractor expected to do. Too often this is where schools make their biggest mistake. They start their bid process with this step rather than the first four steps. While it is important to understand, what services will be covered, it is equally important to understand the school’s role versus the pest control contactors role. For example, for rodent control who is responsible for exclusion? Since it’s the school building, does your district utilize a preventative maintenance program to seal up any openings the size of a dime or larger? Or do you expect your pest control company to do this? If you answered yes, then how much are you willing to pay? This is not the time for IPM ideology and remember that in order for structural pest control to be effective, pesticides must be considered and you have a role in the program as well, if you don’t fix the conducive conditions you can’t expect the pest problem to go away.
  6. Quality assurance – how will the contractor’s work be evaluated? This final step is often overlooked. In my experience, many pest control contracts do not offer an “out clause” that allows the IPM coordinator an option to get out of contract for poor performance. The true sign of a good pest control company is the reduction of pest complaints, along with a reduction of pesticide applications. Since IPM is about pest prevention, the contractor and the school should be working in tandem to deliver a safe environment for students and staff.

In addition to the six steps above, remember that IPM is more than just pest control. While the pest management professional has oversight of inspections and corrective actions, the overall pest control effort includes improvements in sanitation and exclusion throughout the facility where conditions for pest infestation have been identified. This requires a commitment from the school district, as well as the pest control contractor.

Finally, here are some important tips for schools who are struggling with their contractor. At the minimum, ask yourself and your staff the following questions. If you answer yes to two or more of these questions, it’s time to review your bid specifications and contract and seek help from a qualified specialist.

  • Are pests or evidence of pest frequently encountered?
  • Are there obvious conducive conditions for pests?
  • Are insecticides being routinely sprayed indoors? Are there obvious indoor rodenticide placements? (Review those service tickets every month)
  • Is pest control service limited to pesticide application, with little or no inspection of potential trouble spots? (Does the technician list problem areas on the service ticket?)
  • Are many occupants dissatisfied with the pest control service?

If you answered “no” to all the above questions, your pest control program is successful and conforms to the intent of the school IPM mandates. If you answered yes, then it’s time to review your IPM program and work to solving those issues. Remember Texas A&M AgriLife Extension has experts that can help you with your program so don’t hesitate to contact us.

Here are a couple of documents to help guide you.

Sample Bid Contract Request for Proposal using IPM

Sample RFP

Monitoring for Insect Pests


SPN: Bed bugs happen: Even in school

Written by: Dr. Mike Merchant, Professor and Urban Entomologist

A message to all parents with kids in school:  Bed bugs happen.

Image of a fed bed bug, by Gary Alpert Harvard

Bed bugs happen even in your children’s school, and like it or not we’re all going to have to deal with it. That will mean fighting the inclination to go into hyper-protective parent mode. Instead we all need to relax.  Deep breaths.  Eyes closed. Find your center.  Breeeathe… it will be all right.

It doesn’t matter what kind of school our kids attend, there’s a good chance that sooner or later you’ll hear rumors of bed bugs on campus.  I say this with some confidence because, in case you haven’t heard, these tiny, bloodsucking pests have become something of an epidemic over the past 15 years.  It’s inevitable that sooner or later children who live in infested homes will bring bed bugs to school.  While statistics are few, the numbers of public and private schools reporting problems appear to be on the rise.

Even so, the number of schools with bed bug infestations remain few and far between.  Notice the difference between a report of an introduction (one or a few bed bugs being brought somewhere) and an infestation (an entrenched, actively feeding, reproducing and sustainable community).

Schools get introductions, but almost never get infestations of bed bugs.  Why? Because schools are dynamic environments.  Our kids don’t usually sleep at school (at least not long enough to become a bug snack). On top of that, school children rarely slow down long enough to interest a shy, retiring blood-feeding parasite.  And that’s a good thing.

  Schools get introductions, but almost never get infestations of bed bugs.

In fact, until this week, I had not heard of a documented case of a public or private school with a bed bug infestation.  Dr. Marcia Anderson, of the Environmental Protection Agency, enlightened me this week about a few of the schools she has investigated over the years with actual, if isolated, infestations of bed bugs.  In my opinion, however, the stories seems to be a case where the exceptions serve to prove the rule.  And such stories are rare in my experience.

Classroom reading area with bed bug infested sofa. Photo courtesy M. Anderson

The cases Marcia reported involved donated sofas. In some of the cases, love seats and couches were brought into classrooms for reading areas.  Children thought the furniture was a good place to toss their backpacks, and eventually bed bugs found their way from backpack to sofa. In these situations, bed bugs were able to survive for a time thanks to students and teachers who would sit for extended times, or even nap, on the comfiest furniture in school.  At least long enough to embolden a bed bug to sneak out for a meal.

In another school, discarded, but decent-looking sofas and love seat were donated to deck out the teacher’s lounge.  Turns out all of the aforementioned upholstered furniture was discarded for a reason.  It had bed bugs.  In a couple of these cases the district had the furniture steam-treated, in one case, repeatedly.  In most of the cases, the problem went away when the furniture was removed… no pesticides needed.

And that’s my point.  Even though bed bugs are easily carried from home to school, we shouldn’t assume that our schools will necessarily get overrun with bed bugs. The chance of a stray bed bug being able to safely take the blood meals required to establish a long-term new home in a school is low.  And infestations are so rare because individual bed bugs don’t commonly survive long when moved to a relatively hostile environment, like a school.

So what should schools be doing about bed bugs?  First, every school should have a policy about bed bugs.  It should involve the following:

  • Kids should not be singled out for notice, or stigmatized, for bringing bed bugs to school.  Kids have a difficult enough time without being labeled as bed bug smugglers.  Instead, the parents of kids with bed bugs should be discreetly advised about the problem, and assisted with information about how to make their home bed bug free.
  • Backpacks of kids from bed bug infested homes should be isolated, or treated with heat, and the child encouraged not to put their belongings on, under or next to beds, sofas, or stuffed chairs overnight.
  • Pest control should be asked to inspect trouble spots and vacuum or steam furniture within 5-10 feet of a bed bug sighting.  Pesticides should almost never be needed.
  • Baited interceptor monitors should be placed around trouble spots and left overnight, or better yet, over the weekend.  After a week or two of this kind of sampling (and trapping), the classroom can be declared clear.
  • In the meantime, students, staff and teachers should be educated about bed bugs and what they look like.  When and whether to inform parents about an introduction should be part of the policy.
  • School nurses should be involved in the process.  A nurses office can be a safe place for a child to have their belongings thoroughly inspected or heat treated, or stored for the day.  Items with suspected infestations can usually be safely stored in a large garbage bag or smooth, vertical sided tote box that bed bugs find difficult to exit.

The good news in all this is that bed bugs are not known to carry any disease, and the chance that your child will bring home a bed bug is low.

It’s possible to both overreact, and underreact, to bed bugs.  Overreaction might result in unnecessary disruption and expense for the school, or unnecessary pesticides being used. And you don’t want that.  Under-reaction is usually due to not knowing what to do.  Inquire if your school has a policy for dealing with bed bugs.  If not, suggest that they look at our model protocol for schools (and don’t allow used sofas to be brought to campus).

And now, relax.  Deep breaths.  Eyes closed. Find your center.  Breathe… it will be all right.

SPN: Fleas and Ticks

By: Dr. Mike Merchant, Professor and Urban Entomologist

Image of a cat flea up close

Fleas and ticks are not the kind of pests one normally expects to find in schools, but then what’s normal about school IPM?  Several recent calls to our office have concerned flea and tick problems, some of which are apparently being brought from home, and some which may be originating on school grounds.  So let’s learn some basics about these two pest types.

Fleas are insect pests of warm blooded animals.  About 95% of flea species specialize in feeding on certain mammals, and only about 5% feed on birds.  The most common flea encountered on people, dogs and cats is the cat flea, Ctenocephalides felis.  Though cat fleas readily bite humans, they cannot survive and reproduce on human blood alone.  Therefore, apart from the occasional flea that might be transported from a home, the presence of fleas in a school classroom indicates a furry host is nearby.

Most chronic flea problems in schools can be traced to feral dogs or cats, or the occasional opossum or raccoon that have taken up residence in a building crawl space or attic.  In such cases, look critically at the structure to determine possible entry points, and the location of possible den sites.  Live traps are usually the best way to remove unwanted boarders.  Potential entry points should be closed up as soon as the suspected animals are removed.  Rats and other rodents can also harbor fleas, but rat fleas are less likely to be a biting problem for people.

This American Dog tick (Dermacentor variabillis) is found on a grass blade. Most commonly referred as questing. Image from Jim Occi, BugPics, Bugwood.org

Ticks are most often picked up outdoors.  Ticks can hitchhike for several days in the hair or on hard-to-see parts of the body, so finding a tick on a teacher or student is not certain proof that the tick was picked up at school.  Playgrounds that border on natural prairies, un-mowed fields or the edges of forests may be a source of ticks.

Ticks typically hitch rides on the shoes, socks, or pants legs of people when they walk through suitable tick habitat.  Ticks may wander and climb over the body of their potential host for several hours before attaching.  The idea that ticks climb into trees to drop on unsuspecting children or adults underneath is not true, though ticks are frequently found attached to the head amidst the hair.  These ticks simply climbed, unnoticed, from the lower body to the head before attaching.

Numerous ticks in a classroom is rare, but if they occurred, it would signal the presence of a nearby tick-infested dog.  The brown dog tick is the only tick species that is normally found indoors and its sole hosts are dogs.  If the infested dog is a pet, it should be removed from the school and treated immediately by a qualified vet.  If the infestation appears to be coming from a crawl space or den under a portable classroom, the insecticide permethrin, or similar registered Yellow-Category product, can provide control. Be sure to spray vertical as well as horizontal surfaces, since ticks typically climb a vertical walls to rest after a blood meal.

Outdoor tick infestations can be suppressed to some extent by mowing grass where it is suspected that children might be picking up the ticks—say along edges of sidewalks or playgrounds.  If further actions are needed, permethrin can provide extended suppression of ticks along the edges of grassy or brushy sites.

For more information on fleas and ticks, see online publications E-433 Controlling Fleas or E-150 Control Those Ticks and in Spanish E-150S: El Control de Garrapatas

IPM Action Plan for Fleas

We have the best mobile website on ticks http://tickapp.tamu.edu/ 

Insect growth regulators, such as Precor® or NyGard®, are effective Green-category products for flea control indoors, particularly in carpets and along floor edges and under buildings.  Sprays should be directed to sites where animals are suspected to hide or rest during the day.  Keep in mind that most IGRs kill flea larvae, but not adult fleas.  Sprays containing limonene or pyrethrins are effective Green-category products that can knock down and kill adult fleas, but they may need repeated applications over 1-2 weeks for a well-established flea problem.  Underneath a building, a longer-residual product, like permethrin, may be needed.

Insect growth regulators in today’s pesticide market are man-made versions of compounds that are very similar to insect hormones.  The concept of using insect hormones was first discovered by researchers studying insect metamorphosis in the late 1950s.  The first insect hormone to be discovered was referred to as “juvenile hormone” (JH) because of its action in keeping insects in the immature state.  It was noticed that when JH was applied to some immature insects, like Cecropia moth caterpillars, they could be kept almost indefinitely in the caterpillar stage.  Here was the fountain of youth, or as one researcher put it, a “Peter Pan hormone”.

It was quickly discovered that even small amounts of some juvenile hormone mimics applied to the cuticle of developing insects could also disrupt normal metamorphosis, causing them to die without completing development.  Surely this would be “a truly perfect insecticide, for the insects could hardly evolve a resistance to their own hormones,” reasoned one early JH researcher.

Several commercially successful hormone-mimicking insecticides have been developed over the years.  Though perhaps not the perfect, all-around insecticides originally envisioned, they have proven to be successful tools for the management of certain pests.  In addition, these “IGRs”, as they came to be known, proved to be generally very low in acute toxicity to mammals and birds, groups that share no similar hormone systems with insects.

Under the current Texas school IPM regulations, IGR products may be applied to schools without needing to file a use-Justification form with the IPM Coordinator.  This means that an applicator or licensed technician can apply an IGR during an inspection, whenever he or she deems it appropriate, providing they follow the 48-hour indoor posting rule.  Effective IGR products include fire ant baits, flea and cockroach sprays, termite baits, some ant baits, and mosquito Larvicides.  There are also excellent IGRs for the control of whiteflies, aphids, scales, and fungus gnats infesting outdoor and indoor plants.

Juvenile hormone-mimics work by disrupting the metamorphosis process.  JH-compounds work principally on immature stages and are generally slow to produce a pest control effect.  They are generally non-toxic to adult stages, but can be quite effective in killing immature insects and sterilizing adults.  Examples:

  • methoprene
    • Extinguish® (fire ants)
    • Precor®, Archer® (fleas)
    • Pharorid™ (ants)
    • Altosid®, PreStrike™ (mosquitoes)
    • Award ® (fire ants)
    • Apex® (fungus gnats)
  • hydroprene
    • Gencor®, Point Source™ (cockroaches)
  • pyriproxifen
    • Nylar®, Nygard® (fleas, cockroaches)

Product names do indicate endorsement of a certain product but are included for educational purposes.  

SPN: Fire Ant Control: The Two-Step Method and Other Approaches

By: Dr. Paul Nester, Extension Program Specialist – IPM, Houston/Metro area

Fire ant mounds can appear anywhere

When it comes to insect pests, fire ants would probably top everyone’s list! Red and black imported fire ants (Solenopsis invicta and Solenopsis richteri) are invasive species and their painful bites can injure or kill livestock, wildlife, domestic animals, and humans. Their large mounds (as many as 300 per acre) are unsightly and often damage mowers and other equipment. Fire ants also infest buildings and can damage electrical equipment by chewing on wire insulation.

Fire ants cost Americans $6 billion a year, including the cost of insecticides. The Two-Step Method and other approaches described here can lower that cost while reducing environmental damage and improving fire ant control. Knowing your options will allow you to make better choices to protect your family, pets, and property.

Identifying Fire Ants

There are hundreds of ant species in the southern United States, including some native fire ant species, and most of them are considered beneficial insects. Collectively, ants till more earth than earthworms and some prey on other insect pests to help to reduce their numbers.

Fire ants will build their mounds almost anywhere—in the open or next to a building, tree, sidewalk, or electrical box. A fire ant mound does not have a central opening. Fire ants emerge quickly and begin biting and stinging when the mound is disturbed. They will even run up vertical surfaces.

Worker fire ants are dark reddish-brown with shiny black abdomens, and are about 1/16- to about 1/4-inch long. Fire ants are similar in appearance to many other ants, so make sure you have correctly identified the species before attempting to solve your ant problem. If you are uncertain about the species, call your local extension office for assistance in identifying your ants.

Controlling Fire Ants

Fire ants carrying bait back into the nest to feed the queen and brood.

Most people and school districts (about 80 percent according to one survey) try to control fire ants by treating individual mounds. Mound treatments are expensive, up to $2 or more per mound, and require lots of time and labor if you have much land to treat. You can easily use too much insecticide, which may lead to environmental contamination if rain-washes the insecticide into lakes and streams. To be effective, the mound treatment must kill the queen(s). Otherwise, the colony will survive. Some nests may go undetected. Even an area where every mound has been treated can soon be re-infested by fire ant colonies migrating from untreated areas or floating there on floodwater. In addition, deep-dwelling colonies that escaped mound treatment can quickly form mounds after a soaking rain. It is usually more effective and less expensive for School Districts to treat the entire yard with a product designed for broadcast application.

Fire ants cannot be eliminated because it is not possible to treat all infested areas. There may not be one best method for fire ant control, especially in large areas. Your objective should be to find the method or methods that are most cost-effective, environmentally sound, and fit your tolerance level for fire ants. In areas where these ants do not present problems, doing nothing is one option. For Texas Schools your best option is to implement an integrated pest management program (IPM) that gives everyone an idea about how fire ants will be controlled on district property.

Remember fire ant strings have been associated with student deaths, so designing an effective fire ant management program utilizing broadcast baits or long residual granules may be in the best interest of the school district. 

Types of Control

Organic products: A few products are certified as organic. These include ingredients such as d-limonene, an extract from citrus oil, or spinosad, a chemical complex produced by a soil microbe. This could be your only option for your campus school garden or other areas where you need to be sensitive to the type of insecticide you are using.

Chemical control: The use of insecticides for fire ant control is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency and Texas Department of Agriculture. Approved products must be used according to label directions. Read the label carefully! An approved product is one that has directions for fire ant control on the label. Be sure it is appropriate for where you intend to use it, particularly if you will be treating a vegetable garden or other food production site. Products for use in electrical utility boxes and indoors are for use only by pest management professionals who are licensed by the TDA.

Control Products

Most active ingredients are marketed under more than one brand or trade name. This article refers to the generic names of the active ingredients in insecticides, which you should see on the product labels. Some sample trade names are given as well.

Products are formulated as dusts, granules, liquid drenches, or baits. They are applied either to individual ant mounds or across the surface of the ground (broadcast). The various active ingredients affect ants in different ways.

Most active ingredients are contact insecticides that affect the nervous system of ants. Contact insecticides include acephate (Orthene®), carbaryl (Sevin®), fipronil (TopChoice®, Taurus® G, Quali-Pro® Fipronil 0.0143G or Taurus® Trio G) broadcast granules, which are restricted use professional products, pyrethrins, pyrethroids (bifenthrin, beta-cyfluthin, cyfluthrin, cypermethrin, deltamethrin, gamma-cyhalothrin, lambda-cyhalothrin, permethrin, esfenvalerate, tefluthrin, tralomethrin, or zeta-cypermethrin), and liquid spinosad formulations. These ingredients vary in how quickly they kill ants and how long they remain in the environment. Natural pyrethrins and synthetic pyrethroid ingredients kill ants in minutes. Acephate and carbaryl take about one day, while granular fipronil may take four to six weeks to eliminate colonies. Hot water, pyrethrins, and d-limonene treatments have little or no lasting effect. Carbaryl, spinosad, and acephate break down in a matter of days to weeks. Pyrethroids can remain in the environment for weeks to months, while fipronil can persist as long as a year.

Baits contain active ingredients dissolved in a substance ants eat or drink. Some bait ingredients affect the nervous system. These include abamectin (Ascend®, Award® II, or Clinch®), indoxacarb (Advion® or Ortho® Fire Ant Killer Mound Bait), metaflumizone (Altrevin®, or Siesta®), spinosad (Fertilome Come and Get It! or Payback), and fipronil (MaxForce FC). Some affect the digestive system (boric acid) or metabolism (hydramethylnon or Amdro® or Probait®). Other bait ingredients interfere with reproduction or growth. These include methoprene (Extinguish®), and pyriproxyfen (Distance® or Esteem®). A relatively new type of bait combines two active ingredients, hydramethylnon and methoprene (Amdro® Yard Treatment or Extinguish® Plus).

To be effective, baits must be fresh and applied when ants are actively foraging. To determine if the time is right for treatment, place a small amount of bait in the area to be treated and see if foraging ants remove it within an hour. Because ants collect, bait and return it to the colony, very little insecticide is needed. Baits are ruined by water, so do not water baits after application, or apply them when rain is expected.

Control Approaches – The Two-Step Method

Step 1. Broadcast fire ant bait once or twice a year (fall and spring) to reduce fire ant colonies by 80 to 90 percent.

Step 2. Treat nuisance mounds or colonies that move into the bait-treated areas. Step 2 may not be needed.

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

Baiting is the most cost-effective and environmentally sound approach to treating medium to large landscape areas. The bait you apply determines how quickly ants will be controlled and how long the effect will last. Faster acting bait products include indoxacarb (works in 3-7 days), metaflumizone (works in 7-10 days), hydramethylnon (works in 7-14 days for mound treatments and in 2-3 weeks when broadcast), and spinosad (works quickly on foraging ants but may take several weeks for reduction in mound activity).  These baits may need to be reapplied more often than slower acting and longer lasting products such as abamectin, methoprene or pyriproxyfen, which work in 1-2 months when applied in spring and six months when applied in fall. Products that combine fast- and slow-acting ingredients, such as hydramethylnon plus methoprene (Extinguish® Plus or Amdro® Yard Treatment), may control ants better because they act quickly and has a longer effect on the colony. Certified organic products that contain spinosad such as Fertilome® Come and Get It! or Payback® Fire Ant Bait can be used for broadcast bait and mound treatments. Use products such as Amdro® Pro, Esteem®, Extinguish®, or Extinguish® Plus for livestock pastures and hay fields.

Always read and follow the application instructions on the label of the product you are using. Use a hand-held spreader/seeder or a standard push spreader to correctly broadcast bait products. Use the hand-held spreader/seeder for baits that are applied at very low rates such as one to five pounds of product per acre. Use the push-type lawn for baits that are applied at higher volumes per acre (two to five pounds per 5000 – 10,000 square feet for example, Amdro® Yard Treatment).

Use a vehicle-mounted spreader such as the Herd® GT-77 to cover large areas. For home lawns, calculate the area to be treated and use the smallest spreader setting that allows bait to flow. Apply the bait in swaths, crisscrossing swaths if needed, until the specified amount is applied. For larger areas, see How to Calibrate a Fire Ant Bait Spreader located at http://articles.extension.org/pages/12228/how-to-calibrate-a-fire-ant-bait-spreader. The agitators in some spreaders may cause bait to cake up so that it does not flow properly.

Individual Mound Treatments

Although treating ant mounds individually is more labor-intensive and may use more insecticide than other methods, it is a suitable approach for small areas with few fire ant mounds (fewer than 10 per acre) or where you want to preserve native ants. Bait products (hydramethylnon, indoxacarb, metaflumizone, or spinosad) can be used to treat individual ant mounds and are ideal for treating inaccessible colonies like those nesting under sidewalks, in plant beds, and at the bases of tree trunks.  Remember when using single mound treatments you will only treat the mounds you see not the mounds you don’t see.  So using only single mound treatments may allow a population of active foraging fire ants to remain in an area, resulting in frequent re-treats to an area.

Some mound treatment products are available as liquid drenches, injectable aerosols, dusts, or granules that are watered in to the mound. Ants are killed only if the insecticide contacts them, so proper application is essential. These treatments are most effective when ants are nesting close to the mound surface (as they do when the temperature is mild). Colonies should not be disturbed during treatment. If you use a watering can to apply insecticide, do not use the can later for other purposes.

Long-residual Broadcast Contact Insecticide Treatments

Herd Spreader to use with ant baiting

With this approach, a contact insecticide is applied to the lawn and landscape surface. This is more expensive than other control methods but it may be more effective in smaller areas because ants that move into treated areas will be eliminated if the chemical is active. Granular products are best applied with a push-type fertilizer spreader and must be watered in after treatment. Granular fipronil products (TopChoice®, Taurus® G, Quali-Pro® Fipronil 0.0143G) are slower acting but longer lasting and only one treatment is permitted per year. Faster-acting contact insecticides, such as the pyrethroids (listed above), eliminate ants on the surface for months but may not eliminate colonies nesting deeper in the soil.  The product Taurus® Trio G is a fipronil granule with added pyrethroids so you not only get quick knockdown of foraging fire ants with the pyrethroids but the longer lasting control due to the firpronil active ingredient.

(Note: For Texas School IPM Programs, TopChoice®, Taurus® G, Quali-Pro® Fipronil 0.0143G or Taurus® Trio G, are considered Yellow Category per TDA rules for school IPM.)

Make a Management Plan

Chemical control lasts only as long as the effects of the insecticide used, or until new ant colonies move in from untreated areas. You can expect an ant infestation to return to its original level eventually. Thus, keeping fire ants in check requires a commitment of time and money. To reduce the cost and make control easier, consider making a map of your property. Divide the property into treatment areas and designate the most appropriate treatment approach for each area. Make and maintain a schedule for first treatment and any necessary re-treatments.

For example, you might use a long-residual broadcast contact insecticide at regular intervals in high-value or high-traffic areas (near buildings or in play or recreation areas) where maximum control is needed. In other areas, where 80 to 90 percent control of ants is acceptable, you might use the Two-Step Method. Because control lasts longer when large areas are treated, consider participating in a community- or neighborhood-wide treatment program. These have been shown to improve control and reduce cost. If everyone participates by making coordinated treatments, ant colonies will not be able to migrate from property to property.

Fire Ants and the Texas IPM in Schools Program

Broadcast bait basics