April 2016 // Volume 54 // Number 2 // Tools of the Trade // 2TOT4
An Integrated Pest Management Tool for Evaluating Schools
Having the ability to assess pest problems in schools is essential for a successful integrated pest management (IPM) program. However, such expertise can be costly and is not available to all school districts across the United States. The web-based IPM Calculator was developed to address this problem. By answering questions about the condition of a building and the behaviors of individuals who use it, any pest management professional or building manager can use the IPM Calculator to assess pest risk at a school campus and obtain IPM-based solutions to reduce that pest risk. This new tool is available online at http://ipmcalculator.com.
Integrated pest management (IPM) is a science-based decision-making process used to identify and reduce risks to human health and the environment from pests and pest management actions (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2004). IPM as it applies to structural pest control emphasizes the combination of pest proofing, sanitation, and changes in human behavior as a supplement or alternative to more traditional, pesticide-based pest control programs.
In recent years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and some states have promoted the use of IPM in public schools (Geiger & Tootelian, 2005; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1993, 2002). Anticipated benefits of using IPM in schools to control pests include better pest control and reduced risks from pesticide exposure to children (Alarcon et al., 2005; Hernandez, Parron, & Alarcon, 2011; Kubista-Hovis & Lame, 2004; Williams, Linker, Waldvogel, Leidy, & Schal, 2005).
Adoption of IPM in public schools has been slow, though, often coming only after IPM practices are mandated at a state or local level (Hurley et al., 2014). Expert assessment of pest problems and customized recommendations for improvement have been shown to increase adoption of IPM in schools (Kubista-Hovis & Lame, 2004). However, such expertise is expensive and not universally available to the estimated 12,880 independent school districts across the United States (U.S. Census Bureau, 2012).
For this reason, we developed a web-based IPM Calculator that can be used by any pest management professional or building manager. The calculator is used to assess pest risk at a school campus and offers IPM-based solutions to reduce pest risk. It is available online at http://ipmcalculator.com.
Using the IPM Calculator
Users are asked to register before using the IPM Calculator. Registration enables the user to save individual school data, enter evaluation information for more than one school building, and make comparisons among school buildings.
After registering, users are prompted to answer questions regarding current pest activity, customary pest management practices, and the condition of various locations in and around the school building (cracks in walls, door sweep conditions, drainage, etc.). IPM Calculator users also are asked questions regarding sanitary practices in the school (frequency of clutter, cleaning intervals, garbage handling, etc.) as the activities of people in a school has been found to greatly affect the presence of pests (Gillett & Leppla, 2006). Questions are designed to be easy to answer by anyone familiar with the facility, and they focus on the following school sites:
- exterior garbage,
- landscape features,
- building envelope,
- food storage,
- staff lounges/break rooms,
- office areas,
- classrooms, and
- utility areas.
See the appendix for specific questions asked by the IPM Calculator.
To assess pest risk, the calculator takes into account expected and observed pest pressure for 18 key pests and risks of infestation associated with those pests given the condition of 34 specific building features and maintenance practices.
IPM Calculator Outputs
After data for a school campus are entered and submitted, the calculator provides the user with two scores: current pest risk and potential pest risk. Current pest risk is a risk estimate based on actual pest observations made during the building inspection. Potential pest risk is a risk estimate based on the likelihood of pest pressure for a school in the relevant region of the country. The current observed pest risk may be a more valid assessment for a campus when an inspection is done by a trained and experienced evaluator. The potential pest risk may be more realistic when the inspection is done by a less experienced evaluator. The overall current risk score provides a school with a standard academic grade (A to F) that is easily understood by decision makers.
In addition to a risk score, a chart illustrating the top pest risks for the campus is provided. Each pest risk score is based on the presence and importance to overall health and economic cost associated with the pest. For example, German cockroaches, rats, and mice, with their potential for spreading disease, pose a higher risk potential than, say, nonstinging ants.
Building features that contribute the most to overall pest risk also are presented in chart form. For example, for a school with a high actual risk for German cockroaches, kitchen sanitation and pest proofing likely will rank prominently in the list of building features needing attention. Users can use these recommendations to prioritize improvements in building maintenance and sanitation.
Efficacy of the IPM Calculator
To test how well the IPM Calculator performed, 43 individual school buildings in Alabama, California, Florida, Louisiana, Maine, and Texas were evaluated independently with the calculator and by Extension specialists. The results of the independent evaluations were compared, and adjustments were made to the weights for each question as needed. Final results showed that the IPM Calculator results were only 5 percentage points lower than Extension specialist results for the same school.
Summary and Conclusion
The IPM Calculator can be used both as a management tool and as an educational tool to explain IPM concepts. As a management tool, the calculator can provide decision makers with a relatively objective measurement of pest risk. By reinspecting a school and reusing the calculator over time, the calculator can show progress or lack of progress in improving pest control. It also can provide administrators with guidance as to which building feature improvements might have the greatest impact in reducing pest risk. By showing users that modifications to a school environment or changes in staff behavior rather than reliance on pesticides can reduce pest risk, the calculator also serves as an educational tool.
Tighter school budgets and limited numbers of personnel with IPM expertise are significant barriers to widespread adoption of IPM in U.S. public schools. By using the IPM Calculator, schools can perform their own assessments and better prioritize building needs that affect pest problems in schools. The IPM Calculator also can provide Extension agents and specialists with a new tool to assist schools in identifying pest problems and solutions.
Alarcon, W. A., Calvert, G. M., Blondell, J. M., Mehler, L. N., Sievert, J., Propeck, M., & Stanbury, M. (2005). Acute illnesses associated with pesticide exposure at schools. Journal of the American Medical Association, 294(4), 455–465.
Geiger, C., & Tootelian, D. (2005). Healthy Schools Act spurs integrated pest management in California public schools. California Agriculture, 59(4), 235–241.
Gillett, J. L., & Leppla, N. C. (2006). A worm in the teacher's apple: Protecting America's school children from pests and pesticides. Journal of Extension [online], 44(3) Article 3TOT5. Available at: http://www.joe.org/joe/2006june/tt5.php
Hernandez, A. F., Parron, T., & Alarcon, R. (2011). Pesticides and asthma. Current Opinion in Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 11(2), 90–96.
Hurley, J. A., Green. T. A., Gouge, D. H., Bruns, Z. T., Stock, T., Braband, L., . . . Crane, L. (2014). Regulating pesticide use in United States schools. American Entomologist, 60(2), 105–114.
Kubista-Hovis, K., & Lame, M. L. (2004). The economics of school integrated pest management: An analysis of the Monroe IPM model in Bloomington, Indiana. National Schools Update. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Biopesticides and Pollution Prevention Division, 1(3), 5–7.
U.S. Census Bureau (2012). Census of governments: Organization component estimates. Washington, DC: Author.
U.S. Department of Agriculture. (2004). IPM roadmap. Washington, DC: Author.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (1993). Pest control in the school environment: Adopting integrated pest management. 735-F-93-012. Washington, DC: Office of Pesticide Programs. Retrieved from http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/ipm/brochure/
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (2002). Protecting children in schools from pests and pesticides. EPA-735-F-02-014. Washington, DC: Office of Pesticide Programs. Retrieved from http://nepis.epa.gov/Exe/ZyPDF.cgi?Dockey=200002CR.PDF
Williams, G. M., Linker, H. M., Waldvogel, M. G., Leidy, R. B., & Schal, C. (2005). Comparison of conventional and integrated pest management programs in public schools. Journal of Economic Entomology, 98(4), 1275–1283.
School IPM Questions by Area
|Exterior Garbage Areas|
|Building Envelope Areas|
|Food Storage Areas|
|Staff Lounges/Break Rooms|