School IPM Best Practices

The Steps of IPM

Anyone concerned with reducing pest problems while regarding the health and safety of humans and animals should consider these simple steps:

Step 1: Sample for Pests (Inspect and Monitor): Is there a real problem?
Step 2: Proper Identification: Is it really the pest you think it is?
Step 3: Learn the Pest Biology: Will it be a long-term problem or will it be gone next week?
Step 4: Determine an Action Threshold: Do you need to act?
Step 5: Choose Tactics: What’s the best treatment?
Step 6: Evaluate: How did it work?

IPM Step 1: Sample for Pests (Inspect and Monitor)

This is the hands-on (or on-your-knees) part of IPM. This is the same whether you expect to find a pest, or if you are merely trying to find out if one exists.

Tools for Inspecting a Site for Structural Pests

Flashlight – A flashlight is an essential tool because pests often live or seek shelter in dark, secluded, and inaccessible locations. To identify these harborage areas, a flashlight is indispensable, and it is also very useful in locating points of entry, maintenance needs, and sanitation deficiencies.

Extendable Mirror – This tool, a mirror with a telescoping handle, allows easy inspection behind and beneath equipment and furniture.

Magnifier – Inspectors should carry a 10 × magnifier because it can aid in identification of pests and confirm the presence of insect parts, frass (excrement), and other evidence of pests.

Clipboard, Pencil, and Paper – A clipboard, pencil, and paper are necessary for all pest control inspections. Accurate records are the key to long-term successful pest management. If you are not keeping records, you are not doing IPM.

Map or Diagram of the Facility – Inspectors should make numerous copies so that areas of concern can be marked during each inspection and referred to during future inspections.

Small Jars or Zip-locking Plastic Bags – You may need to collect specimens for further analysis.

Tools for Inspecting Turf, Ornamental Beds, and Other Outdoor Areas

Trowel, Shovel, or Cup Cutter – Good for examining soil in the root zone

Soapy Water Flush (lemon-scented dish liquid/water/bucket) – Fill a container with 1–2 gallons of water and add 1–2 tablespoons of lemon-scented dish liquid. (Reduce soap if using on bentgrass.) Mix and slowly pour over a square yard of turfgrass where you have seen damage or pest activity. Over the next five to ten minutes, watch for insects to emerge as they move up from soil onto the leaf surfaces. Capture them in a jar or plastic bag if you need to identify them later, or simply record the species and count so you may determine if the population may cause damage.

Float Method (can method) – Set a coffee can with both ends removed 1–2" into the soil of turfgrass areas suspected of having insect problems. Fill the cylinder with water and watch for insects to float to the surface. (This works best on chinch bugs but be careful you don’t count the bigeyed bug, a beneficial that looks similar to a chinch bug. If you see 20 chinch bugs, you have surpassed the damage threshold.)

Magnifier – A jeweler’s loupe or any hand-held magnifying glass is a must for insect identification

Clipboard, Pencil, and Paper

Diagram of the Field or Planting Bed

Zip-locking Plastic Bags

Identification “Keys” (for turf, grounds, and ornamental plant pests: insects, weeds, diseases)

Sampling Square (optional)

Small Snippers or Pruners

Monitoring for Structural Pests

Monitoring combines visual inspection, trapping, and communication with staff that use the area. “Passive” traps catch pests off guard during their normal activities. “Baited” traps contain an attractant or pheromone. Species-specific pheromone traps have become especially common in the area of stored product pest (pantry pests) monitoring. Other types of traps have physical shapes and attractants that are designed to exploit the behavior of groups such as stinging wasps or flies, and you can often employ these traps to control pests as well as for monitoring.

The basic sticky trap is a piece of cardboard with glue to catch insects and/or rodents. Rodents are also trapped using a variety of mechanical devices: kill traps (snap traps), multiple catch traps, and live traps. A discovery of rodent droppings, gnawing damage, or “grease marks” is an obvious sign of rodent infestation.

Monitoring for Outdoor Pests

Monitoring is the regular inspection of the grounds throughout the growing season, and allows pest managers to detect pests before they reach damaging levels. By monitoring, a trained employee can assess the need for action, evaluate how well control tactics have worked, and develop site history information that helps in anticipating future problems. This act is the crux of IPM and distinguishes it from conventional pest control programs. Monitoring identifies areas that are most likely to need treatment, and allows the pest manager to pinpoint the time when a pest is most vulnerable to treatment.

Turf Specific (insects)

Insect sampling techniques complement visual monitoring by aiding in the detection and identification of insects and assessing their damage potential. Sampling should be initiated when an insect infestation is suspected, at appropriate times in a pest’s life cycle, in historically infested areas, or when a posttreatment analysis of pesticide efficacy or other control measures is desired.

These sampling methods include:

Disclosing (irritant) Solution – surface-active insects can be flushed from the turf with disclosing solution.
Flotation – many insects will float to the surface when submerged in water.
Soil Examination (cup cutting and soil diggings) – most soil-inhabiting insects, such as scarab grubs, cannot be sampled by the methods previously described and must be sought in the root and thatch zones where they feed.
Traps – insect activity can be monitored using a variety of trapping methods:

  • Attractant (lights, pheromones, and/or food scents) that lure insects to the trap
  • Light (light bulb) traps collect a wide variety of flying insects, including scarab beetles, and cutworm, webworm, and armyworm moths
  • Pheromone traps are highly selective and normally capture only one sex (usually males) of a single species of insect
  • Pitfall traps are placed in the ground so that the top is flush with the turf surface. These traps capture insects as they move along the ground.

Visual Inspection – certain insects are most easily detected by visual inspections.
Sweep Nets – useful for collecting flying insects in turf areas.

Turf Specific (weeds)

Scout for weeds in the spring (late April or early May), early summer (mid- to late June), and again in late summer or fall (mid-August to late September). Record the species, where they occur, the intensity of the infestation, and if there are patterns of occurrence (spotty, throughout, etc.).

IPM Step 2: Proper Identification

Species identification of pests is essential because pests differ in behavior and life cycle, and because these characteristics affect the methods used for management. An accurate identification is the first step in understanding a pest’s life cycle, behavior, and preferred habitats and food sources. Knowledge allows the pest management specialist to discover and act on pest weaknesses. Don’t risk treatments on a misidentified pest.

IPM Step 3: Learn the Pest Biology

Knowing the pest biology and life cycle goes a long way in understanding how, and if, to use a treatment. Ill-timed actions may be ineffective. Likewise, actions that are preventive and anticipate a flare-up will be more effective.

IPM Step 4: Determine an Action Threshold

An action threshold defines the point above which specific pests cannot be tolerated, thus initiating a pest-specific treatment action. Action thresholds may be based on different criteria including: health problems associated with pests, pest damage resulting in monetary loss, aesthetic damage to plants or buildings. Public health threats should take precedence over other factors.

Action Thresholds in School IPM Programs

IPM Step 5: Choose Tactics

Many aspects of structural pest management—attitudes, policies, materials, and knowledge—are changing rapidly. The following information is intended as a brief overview of the current state of pest management art and science; it is not intended as a substitute for more in-depth references.

Cultural Management
Cultural pest management methods relate to matters of sanitation, recycling, garbage disposal, incoming product inspection procedures, storage practices, cleaning schedules, maintenance and recording pest sightings. It is good insurance to have a written policy diagraming specific procedures and delegating responsibility.

Physical Management
The ideal in IPM is to prevent pests from establishing themselves in a given environment. Prevention is accomplished through excluding, repelling, or deterring pests. The choice of physical control is determined by characteristics that are specific to each site, and begins with inspection. Look for possible points of entry, potential harborage areas (i.e., where pests live and hide), and sources of food and water, and use EXCLUSION.

Exclusion is preventive or remedial maintenance on the exterior and interior of the building. Screening, caulking, and plastering are a few examples of inexpensive and easy ways to physically exclude pests inside and outside. Eliminate pest living space by routinely scheduling repairs. Store products off the floor and away from walls to facilitate ease of monitoring.

Repelling pests can be accomplished by the placement of an unattractive substance that causes an animal to move away from a site, or through the use of visual or audio devices designed to lure or to frighten animals away. Physical management includes removing pests with vacuums and traps or destroying them by freezing or heating.

Biological Management
Biological control is the deliberate use of a pest’s natural enemies—predators, parasitoids, and pathogens—to reduce the pest’s population. It was once the most important means of pest management until replaced with chemical treatments.

Chemical Management
Chemical pesticides have been the mainstay of structural pest control practices since the 1950s, but they bring the concerns of pollution, nontarget effects, and the development of resistance by pests. Integrated Pest Management reduces this dependence but accepts there will always be pests that cannot be effectively controlled without the use of chemical pesticides as a last resort.

IPM Step 6: Evaluate

Effective evaluation is key to the continuing success of any treatment. Continue to monitor for pests and to document maintenance and sanitation needs.

  1. Did the treatment work?
  2. Have you kept records throughout the process? (When and where did pest appear? What did you do to treat for the pest? Was it successful? What will you do in the future?)

There are many recordkeeping tools available. The point is to use them, keep them organized, and use them to predict future infestations and choose treatment.