Components of a School IPM Program

Stefan P. Parnay, Agriculture, Weights and Measures - Marin County

One of the characteristics of an IPM approach that makes it so effective is that the basic decision-making process is the same for any pest problem in any location. The strategies and tactics may change, but the framework in which decisions are made is the same each time. Thus, the pest manager does not need to try to remember dozens of pest control “recipes” for specific pests. Instead, it is an understanding of the components of an IPM program that must be mastered.

An IPM program is built around the following components:

Monitoring the pest population and other relevant factors such as the condition of structures and the health of plants

  • Monitoring is the regular and ongoing inspection of areas where pest problems do or might occur.
  • Monitoring helps you become familiar with the buildings, grounds, plants, and pests at your school so you can anticipate conditions that can trigger pest problems, and thus prevent them from occurring or catch them before they become serious.
  • Monitoring helps you decide if treatment is necessary.
  • Monitoring helps you determine where, when, and what kind of treatments are needed.
  • Monitoring and keeping written records allow you to evaluate and fine-tune your treatment program.

Keeping records of your monitoring and treatments activities

  • Records function as the memory of the IPM program.
  • A monitoring program is only as useful as its record keeping system, and without records you cannot improve and fine-tune your treatments.

Accurately identifying the pest

  • You must know the name of your pest before you can make intelligent decisions about how to manage it.
  • For help in identifying insects, vertebrates, or weeds, contact the Marin Department of Agriculture at (415) 473-6700.

Determining action levels that trigger treatments

  • Total eradication of pest organisms is virtually impossible to achieve.
  • Decide what number of pests or what level of pest damage will trigger treatment to prevent unacceptable medical, economic, or aesthetic loss. This number or level will differ from site to site and from pest to pest.
  • Refine your action levels as you gain more experience with the site and the pest.

Assessing alternatives for controlling the pest

Consider all of the following

  • Education: providing information to change behavior and increase willingness to share the environment with other organisms
  • Sanitation: removing sources of food and water for pests
  • Habitat modification: repairing or redesigning structures to reduce or eliminate pest harborage, food, and water
  • Modification of horticultural activities: altering planting techniques, irrigation, fertilization, pruning, and mowing to improve plant health and to discourage pests; choosing the right plant for the right place
  • Physical controls: using traps and barriers, installing screens, weather-stripping, and door sweeps, using vacuums not only for cleaning, but also for vacuuming up pests
  • Biological controls: using predators and parasites to control pests—you can conserve or enhance these natural enemies that already live on your school grounds by avoiding pesticide use that will kill them and by growing a variety of flowering plants to provide them with food in the forms of nectar and pollen
  • Least-hazardous chemical controls: using pesticides as a last resort in their least-hazardous formulations, as spot treatments only when and where they are needed

Implementing a variety of management strategies

IPM’s prevention-oriented approach is best achieved by integrating a number of treatment strategies.

Evaluating your pest management program

Which strategies worked and which didn’t?

Fine-tuning your pest management program

What should you do differently next time to improve results?

Establishing effective lines of communication

All levels of school personnel from administrators through teachers and students to maintenance and grounds staff have a role to play in pest management and must communicate among themselves for the program to work. It is important that everyone understand what is being done about pest problems that affect them and why a particular course of action has been taken.

Educating and training all school personnel about IPM

Since all levels of school personnel play a role in pest management, everyone must be educated about IPM and how their actions affect pests and the conditions that encourage them. The amount and kind of training will vary with each level. The most intensive training should be provided for maintenance and grounds personnel.

Providing recognition for employees

Recognize staff for outstanding service to protect the school, the public, students, and/or other employees from pests or pesticide use. Reward hard work, new and innovative ideas, and a willingness to try new things.

Planning for long-term pest prevention and pest control

This requires both a knowledge of pest biology and building operations. Although the sanitation and pest exclusion measures are technically simple, they may be difficult to plan, fund, and execute. Your long term efforts will often require coordinating various departments that may not normally be involved in pest management.