School IPM Best Practices

Outdoor BMPs: Playgrounds

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a science-based, sustainable decision-making process that uses information on pest biology, environmental data, and technology to manage pests in a way that minimizes both economic costs and risks to people, property, and the environment. On playgrounds, IPM is a preventative maintenance process that seeks to prevent pests from becoming established and, if found, to quickly suppress pest reproduction and activity.

IPM Guidance for Playgrounds

Educate Yourself and Others

  • Administrators, contractors, and other municipal departments responsible for maintaining school grounds should understand the merits of utilizing IPM, and understand the pesticide regulations pertaining to their district and state.
  • Facility and grounds managers should have an IPM management strategy for playgrounds, and know it before a pest emergency occurs.
  • Teachers, staff, students, and custodians should be aware of how to respond to pest issues on the playground. This includes noticing and reporting signs of pests, and how to avoid interactions with pests such as stinging insects and poison ivy.
  • Educate the community about your school’s IPM program and the role everyone plays in preventing (and safely addressing) pest issues. Newsletters, public meetings, and signs can be helpful.

Dealing with Insect, Tick, and Rodent Pests

  • Using quality spray foam, prevent insect pest access to playground structures by sealing openings and gaps in playground equipment where pests such as wasps build nests.
  • Reduce pest habitat by removing sources of standing water, by keeping flowering (pollen-rich) plants away from equipment, by checking ground surfaces for voids usable by rodents and stinging insects, by keeping plants and turfgrass trimmed, and by using mulch (shock-absorbing surface material) that typically does not harbor pests. (Investigate and understand state or local safety regulations for type and depth of mulch.)
  • Respond quickly to reported pest sightings. Remove students and staff from the area; cordon off risk areas until it is safe to return.
  • If needed, work with a pest control company to identify the pest and address the issue.

Dealing with Weed Pests

  • Determine a threshold for weed tolerance on the playground.
  • Understand the type of weeds you are dealing with (how do they spread? Life cycle? Why does it favor this site?)
  • Establish a management plan for long-term success based on thresholds and treatment options.
  • Use a barrier along the perimeter of defined playground area to keep grasses from intruding.
  • Using playground-approved products, mulch to a minimum of 4″ to reduce sunlight on soil.
  • Scout for and remove emerged weeds by hand when they are small and less established—remove the complete plant and root when possible.
  • Consider mechanical assistance such as trimmers and hot water weeders.
  • Consistently scout for plants such as poison ivy or other irritant plants, then follow your IPM plan to remove them.

Common Pests


For More Information