Skip to main content

University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in Schools: P2 Opportunities

Covers resources related to integrated pest management in K-12 schools.

P2 Opportunities

Introduction

Implementing integrated pest management procedures in schools typically involves common-sense steps for reducing the need to rely upon chemicals for pest control. It establishes action thresholds for ongoing pollution prevention with schools caused by routine pest management controls.

Develop a plan

Starting an integrated pest management program with an established action threshold is key to preventing pollution caused by routine pest management. Below are the steps included in effective IPM plans.

  1. Adopt an IPM policy and/or guideline for managing pests.
  2. Designate and train an IPM coordinator who can serve as a liaison for the school (staff and students) and pest management professionals.
  3. Learn biological requirements of pests and how to recognize signs of pests.
  4. Establish pest thresholds and determine actions triggered at each level. This will become your action plan.
  5. Conduct an initial pest management inspection of the building and school facilities/campus with a pest management professional and the school's IPM coordinator.
  6. Perform necessary repairs to minimize access to the building. Do not invite pests into the building.
  7. Complete necessary landscape adjustments to minimize need for weed and insect control.
  8. Implement necessary sanitation practices, reduce clutter, and clean all high-risk pest areas of the school facilities/campus.
  9. Control pest populations with physical and mechanical controls first, using least-toxic chemical controls only as a last resort. When using chemical controls, always select the least-hazardous materials first.
  10. Establish and conduct a monitoring program.
  11. Maintain observation, activity, and control records.
  12. Regularly evaluate and reevaluate the program.
  13. Communicate goals and components of the program to parents, students, and staff.

IPM provides a systematic process for controlling both interior and exterior pests without reliance upon chemicals. Within the school's IPM policy, include statements that encourage establishment of action thresholds (what are acceptable and unacceptable population numbers of any pest) and action plans for sightings of pests.

Action plans should include standards for acceptable applicator services and appropriate treatment strategies. Communication to staff and parents should recognize their rights-to-know about any treatments. All treatments should begin with the least-toxic and least-hazardous alternatives.

Use the links on the right side of the page to find model IPM plans.

Landscaping

Native plant landscaping is an effective technique for reducing chemical use on the school campus. Relying upon plants indigenous to the community encourages natural controls of plant material. Removal of invasive weeds using manual methods can prevent large population buildups. Landscaping companies that specialize in native plants are available in most communities. Local native plant society members can contribute educational material and plant selection suggestions. State native plant societies can recommend contacts for local affiliates. County extension offices can also offer recommendations on native plant materials and practices.

The simple practice of keeping shrubby vegetation away from the building will reduce the risk of structural pests. Observe the building/vegetation interface beginning at the ground level and going up to and including the roofline. Keep highly fragrant flowering plants that attract insects away from play areas and along pathways. Fragrant flowering plants are valuable pollinator attractants yet, can create unnecessary risks for children with allergies.

Energy Efficiency

Reduced energy use is often closely associated with pesticide prevention techniques. Buildings can be made more energy efficient by sealing cracks, caulking windows, and closing gaps under doors. Sealing around pipes will further reduce energy waste by closing in warm air during the winter and sealing out warm air during the summer, while keeping pests and some allergens out.

Pollution Prevention

Unnecessary use of pesticides (herbicides, rodenticides, and insectides) increases the amount of exposure of hazardous chemicals for children and school staff, and contributes to ongoing pollution in school environments.

Exterior overuse of pesticides is known to contribute to water quality degradation and will infiltrate the watershed. Residual pesticides will enter the food chain of local wildlife and will place neighboring pets at risk. Disposal of pesticide containers creates greater risks when they are sent to landfills. Some pesticides reduce indoor air quality for students and subjects them to unnecessary chemical hazards over long periods of time.

Pollution Prevention Options

Area Pest/Problem Possible Least-Toxic Actions
Library Silverfish/Destruction of books and manuscripts caused by feeding on starches, including glues that bind books Reduce interior humidity; vacuum cracks, crevices, and other harborages; prohibit food in the library; and caulk and seal entry routes.
Kitchen Rodents/Contamination of food Caulk and seal entry routes, conduct deep cleaning around cooking areas and in all cracks and crevices, unload deliveries away from kitchen, and monitor all deliveries for hitchhiking pests.
Locker Rooms, Greenhouses, Restrooms Molds, Viruses, and Bacteria/Airborne allergens Repair all leaks and plumbing problems, keep area dry, reduce humidity level, provide air circulation, and clean surfaces with soap and water.

Choosing and working with a professional pest control service

Not all professional pest control services follow IPM methods. Greater numbers of contractors are recognizing the need to obtain IPM certifications. Look for certified operators who pursue continuing education and training for the most current appropriate and least-hazardous methods and materials. School administrators should learn about health risks associated with traditional pest control methods, as well as the federal and state requirements, before contracting with a pest control service. 

Education

Education opportunities that foster pollution prevention through IPM vary and apply to every level of participation.

  • Administrators should learn about health risks associated with traditional pest control methods as well as legal and state requirements.
  • Facility managers need to learn how to manage through sanitation, routine maintenance, and ongoing monitoring. They should also learn about the chemistry of traditional control methods.
  • Everyone should understand harborage requirements of pests. Teachers can work with students to develop classroom methods that complement the school's IPM plan. Parents can learn from the school and from their children about IPM practices for the home.
  • Different activities in the classroom can teach about pest habitat requirements and recognition. Older students can learn about existing barriers and resistance to change, and hazards associated with use of hazardous materials.

EPA Pesticide Registration

EPA pesticide registration is required for all pesticides and each of their uses. 

Essential Links