Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in Schools

The Integrated Pest Management in Schools and on School Grounds Law defines IPM as "a managed pest control program in which methods are integrated and used to keep pests from causing economic, health related, or aesthetic injury through the utilization of site or pest inspections, pest population monitoring, evaluating the need for control, and the use of one or more pest control methods including sanitation, structural repair, non-chemical methods, and, when nontoxic options are unreasonable or have been exhausted, pesticides in order to minimize the use of pesticides and minimize the risk to human health and the environment associated with pesticide applications."

Pest control in schools is essential to protect both the health and safety of the children and staff, minimize pest damage to structures and personal property, and improve the quality of the educational environment. To meet these goals, the Maryland Department of Agriculture works cooperatively with Maryland public school systems to implement an IPM program to control pests in schools. In order to have a successful IPM program, teachers, parents and students should have an understanding of what an IPM program is and what role they have in helping to ensure that the IPM program will be effective.

Practices such as sanitation, excluding pests through structural repairs, and education comprise the routine IPM service. A combination of these practices achieve an effective long term pest control program. The basic components of IPM are:

  • MONITORING - Monitoring is the regular surveillance of an area for pests using traps, visual inspections, and interviews with staff. Surveys are conducted to determine if a pest problem exists, the location and size of the infestation, and conditions that may contribute to pest problems.
  • SANITATION/STRUCTURAL REPAIRS - Pest problems often can be prevented through proper sanitation, reduction of clutter and pest harborage, and performing small repairs that exclude pests from a structure.
  • COMMUNICATION - Staff and student cooperation in correcting conditions that contribute to pest problems is essential to the success of an IPM program. Training and educational programs on subjects such a pest identification, biology, and sanitation can be conducted to promote understanding and assistance with the IPM program.
  • RECORD KEEPING - Monitoring data on pest numbers and observations on housekeeping and structural deficiencies are recorded in a logbook maintained in each facility. A section of each logbook is reserved for use by staff to alert the pest management technician of pest sightings between scheduled services.
  • PEST CONTROL WITHOUT PESTICIDES - IPM practices such as trapping, screening, caulking, steam cleaning and power washing are effective long term pest control methods. Non-pesticidal pest control practices can be effective and applied with a high degree of safety.
  • PEST CONTROL WITH PESTICIDES - Pesticide use may be necessary in an IPM program to effectively control pest infestations, but only can be used after non-chemical methods fail. Pesticide applications should only be done as a last resort and be applied in a manner that will maximize the effectiveness in controlling the target pest and minimize the exposure to humans and other nontarget species.
  • PROGRAM EVALUATION - Monitoring data and observations are periodically summarized and reviewed to evaluate program effectiveness. IPM practices and procedures are continually adopted and modified based on past experience and results, and knowledge, gained over time, of the problems associated with each facility.
  • QUALITY ASSURANCE - Technical oversight provides an objective, on-going evaluation of program activities and effectiveness. Whether provided by in-house or contracted pest control personnel, oversight and review are critical to maintaining an effective IPM program.

Integrated Pest Management is different from a traditional pest control service. IPM programs can significantly reduce the use of pesticides through the use of technical expertise in identifying and encouraging the use of more permanent non-pesticidal control practices that are proactive in preventing pest problems.

Each IPM program is specifically designed to meet the individual needs of the area serviced. The success of a school IPM program depends on the assistance and cooperation of the administration, staff and students in each facility. Improvements in sanitation, housekeeping, and facility structure can only be initiated by the occupants of each facility.

IPM does work and is a safe and effective way to control pests. IPM is a program, but unlike traditional pest control programs, IPM cannot be used intermittently to solve a single pest problem and then be discontinued. IPM must be a continuing program in order to manage the environment where pests live and address future pest management needs.

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