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Pest Prevention by Design in Schools Report

Pest Prevention by Design in Schools, one of a series of school Integrated Pest Management (IPM) webinars hosted by EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM, was presented on February 23, 2016. Included here is the contact information of the presenters and responses to questions and comments.

On this page:

  • Chris Geiger, Ph.D., IPM Program Manager, City of San Francisco
  • Robert Corrigan, Ph.D., Rodent IPM Specialist, RMC Pest Management Consulting

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Questions and Answers

The questions below were posed by the webinar participants. The responses may have been refined by the presenters following the webinar for clarification or to include additional resources.

General Questions

  1. Are these prevention measures being used in other kinds of buildings?
    (Dr. Geiger) Absolutely. We are involved in numerous multi-family low-income housing projects. For example one set of developments with 3,500 units with between 8 to 10,000 people. We have been getting a very enthusiastic response. We are hoping to follow-up next year, once the installation is completed. At that point we plan to do some pest monitoring to see how effective it has been. There are many other situations like that out there where pest prevention by design is sorely needed. There is a lot of interest in it right now.
  2. What do architects and builders think of the pest prevention measures?
    (Dr. Geiger) That is a great question, and we don’t completely know the answer. I think they recognize that the need is there. I wonder if there is anything that the NPMA can do in this regard. For example, are there better ways to connect the pest control industry with the building industry? I believe that there is not an on-going two-way communication between these industries. If this communication can be fostered at the Association level, then it can trickle down and you can be each other’s pest prevention partners.

    I think the work that we do with the Green Building Council is a first step. We have been working with them to improve their IPM credits. If any of you are familiar with the LEED checklists, they have credits for IPM built in; however, they have not been very strong or specific in the past. They have been improving though, and we are hoping to get something in there more explicitly about pest prevention. We recently worked with a lot of developers and architects on housing and rehabilitation projects, and actually there are quite a few architects who really "get it." We have had some amazing cooperation with architects while we were just sitting there and describing the problem; whether it was with a cold joint between buildings, or a kitchen cabinet with gaps, or a refuse enclosure, they were sitting there drawing out the solutions as we spoke. So several of the architects that we worked with were extremely enthusiastic about pest prevention. I think that is a good sign. I do not know how that plays out in other locales.  A lot of it is such common sense that I think the architects and contractors realize why we are doing this. In many cases, we have found that it is a matter of communicating these changed practices to their sub-contractors, and changing their habits.
  3. We have problems with flies in kitchens – is there some way to prevent this?
    (Dr. Geiger) Well, it depends on the fly. The most common fly in kitchens are fruit flies. Fruit flies can reproduce very quickly on very little food. So the first thing to do is to clean everything you can. Possibly you will find a raisin or a grape, or something else underneath your cupboard or in your trash container. Cleaning out your trash containers and drains is a good place to start. Often that will solve the problem. Once you have done that, though, it will still take a while for the flies to disappear. They will live a few more days, even though you have gotten rid of the source. You can put out sticky traps of various kinds. That might help get rid of them more quickly. 

    (Dr. Corrigan) If they are other flies that flutter around, they may be drain flies. Just like the name indicates it's usually a dirty drain or the dirty edges of the drain component itself. It’s not that they are coming up out of the drain. In many cases, they are breeding in the nooks and crannies of the drain system, or even in wet areas between tiles. So drain flies are often associated with stagnating water getting trapped in micro crevices. In that case, you need to be a detective. The other place that flies are found is in the dumpster, where flies feed on the organic soup that accumulates on the bottom and sides. 

    If it's a larger fly, like the house fly, many times the first place to check is right at the dumpster. Just like Dr. Geiger said, check the nooks and crannies both in and outside of the dumpster. Those dumpster areas along with flat crevices, really need to be scrubbed for they are often a major fly breeding zone. Then inspect 20 to 40 feet from the dumpster. Follow their path directly into the kitchen. Look for any unscreened windows or doors. 

    For any additional flies that are still fluttering around, I break out my insect net and run around the kitchen catching them. It actually works quite well. 
  4. Are these prevention measures cost effective?
    (Dr. Corrigan) Pest prevention measures are nearly always more cost effective than having to correct a pest infestation once it has become established (and then continues to spread to previously uninfested areas).  With pests, it is nearly always a case of "pay me now, or pay me more later."

  5. What is the best way to determine where to invest money in my pest prevention and control program? 
    (Dr. Geiger) That is a matter of prioritizing pest prevention efforts in an existing building. The first thing you are going to want to pay attention to is the building envelope and any ways that pests can get in from the outdoors. In conjunction with that, a walk-about is a priority. On the inspection, bring along someone who knows their stuff. That will go a long way toward prioritizing how you spend your money. For example, in some cases you might find a rat super highway around or under the building, perhaps leading to the basement. Those pathways could be the root source of all of your problems, but it takes a trained eye to see them. After the building envelope, the next priority is to look at anything that is leading between rooms like pipe chases and so forth, especially if you are working in multifamily residential buildings, because this would allow pests to move from room to room. The next priority would be the kitchen, where the pests have everything they need: Water, harborage, and food. Review some of the situations and practices covered in this presentation. 

    (Dr. Corrigan) What Dr. Geiger says sums it up exactly. You have to be careful, though. Sometimes the pest problem could be so overwhelming that you must do triage and determine which the most important thing to accomplish first is. This particular webinar reviews many of these steps. Start with the big problem areas first, then work backwards. It is not about sealing every single nook and cranny at first, but to prioritizing the most important ones. 

  6. What can I do about rats in outdoor areas? 
    Review above answer (#4). Do a walkabout. Seal the building envelope, etc. Review the EPA webinar: Keeping Rodents Out of Your School – January 2015. Listen to and view the recorded webinar.  But the most important rule to keep in mind is that if there are rats outdoors, there is food nearby.  If it is Norway rats, it usually is all about the trash; or someone’s trash very close to the area.  If the rats are roof rats, they can be a bit more difficult because they can feed on fruit trees, nuts, berries and the like.  For sure eliminate the easy sources first.  Make sure there are no bird feeders until the rats are corrected.  Any fruit trees must be managed to avoid leaving any fruits on the ground.  Check to make sure neighboring dog pens are not contributing.  

  7. Isn't 1/4 inch mesh susceptible to mouse entry? * It's confusing that the presentation indicates in a couple of places that a 1/4 inch gap allows mouse entry.
    (Dr. Corrigan) If it is ¼ inch mesh, really, a mouse cannot negotiate it, particularly since it is in a square. Sometimes they can negotiate a ¼ inch crevice at the base of a door, but in most cases, ¼ inch mesh gets the job done quite well.  In general, it is a matter of how we express it.  Anything larger than a ¼ inch is asking for trouble; sometimes it is better to think in terms of the metrics system.  Nothing larger than 6 mm is usually recommendation for mice and nothing larger than 12 mm for rats.

  8. Please provide details on how to identify correct sealant products. 
    (Dr. Corrigan) I’d like to make a comment first. There is a big difference between caulk and sealant. That is very important for people to realize. When you buy caulk, that is one type of chemistry, and when you purchase sealants, that is another chemistry. The distinction is that sealants give and take when a joint moves. You need elasticity, meaning that the sealant will continue to move without creating a gap. Caulks perform relatively poorly in this regard. It is very important that you do your homework on elastomeric sealants, and that is easily done on the internet. There you can see the difference in elasticity between brands. The better ones are worth every single penny. 

  9. Any suggestions to keep roaches out of computers in the classroom? 
    (Dr. Corrigan) First, no food should be allowed in a computer room that might attract and feed the cockroaches.  If roaches are established within computers, it is because they have food nearby the computers.  Sticky monitoring traps can be set at the back exterior of the computers; and cockroach bait stations can also be installed either nearby (but in out of sight areas) or even within the computer encasements by pest professionals familiar with such practices.

  10. Any ideas on how to catch a roof rat?
    Please review our webinar on: Keeping Rodents Out of Your School – January 2015. Listen to and view the recorded webinar Exit.

    (Dr. Corrigan) Roof rats can be tricky to catch. It is not a DIY job for many reasons including personal safety.  Again, ask why is the roof rat there?  Identify the food source and if possible eliminate the food.  Inspect for structural disrepairs and have these corrected.  Once the roof rat is stressed from losing its food source, snap traps are probably the best approach.  Install several traps in the areas of activity; place an enticing small amount of food on and around the trap without setting the trap.  Do this for a 3-5 days before actually setting the trap.  Once the rat has taken the pre-set baits for a day or two, then go ahead and set the traps in the capture position.  Capturing roof rats with traps is a job left to a pest professional who is experienced in this practice.  

  11. Do trash compactors have advantages over dumpsters? 
    (Dr. Corrigan) Of course, they will hold larger quantities of trash.  However, the tradeoff is they must be carefully maintained and kept clean at all times. If they become grungy or the various components do not close properly due to accumulating residues, they can quickly become pest breeding centers for flies, bees and wasps, as well serving as a constant attractant to these pests and others such as birds, raccoons, rodents, ants and cockroaches. Dumpsters must also be kept clean, lids kept closed and they must be stationed away from delivery doors and on concrete pads.  Otherwise dumpsters will also serve as pest magnets to the building and possibly fly breeding centers (particularly below the dumpster in any crevices in which food residues leak and accumulate. Many schools “live and die” with their pest issues all due to how they maintain or fail to maintain their dumpsters and compactors.

  12. Every once in a while we get a call about a bat that gets into one of the schools (probably from an unscreened window left open overnight). Any proven ideas how to catch them without harming them? Maybe a butterfly net?
    (Dr. Anderson) Please review page 8 of the EPA PESP Wire on bats or the following EPA blogs on bats: Bats: More than tiny city vampires, 10/31/12 and Management of Much Maligned, Often /Misunderstood Bats, March 8, 2016.

  13. (Comment) I found durabond a fast setting plaster over stainless blockage at pipe penetration. Very hard and great to keep rodents from getting through. A very long-lasting combination at significant pipe penetrations. Also over mesh, screening properly applied at heater pipe penetrations. 
    (Dr. Corrigan) Sounds like a good suggestion. As long as it is also of sufficient elastomericness.

  14. Do you have a checklist that can be followed or use for IPM when new construction for schools and child care are being planned?
    (Dr. Geiger) The guideline is not divided up by kind of building. The EPA certainly has a lot of resources on school IPM. I am not sure what you have in the way of checklists. The Department of Pesticide Regulation in California has a school IPM program which has a lot of materials as well. With regard to our checklists, we do have ones that correspond to the pest prevention guidelines that we can make available. I can share those with EPA. They are all a work in progress, but they are a very helpful tool.

    There is also a coalition called the Scientific Coalition on Pest Exclusion. The acronym is the same as the mouthwash: SCOPE. This coalition is a group of scientists and other professionals from both private and public sectors. Finding the scientific basis for pest prevention is their top priority, and they are developing research checklists as part of that.  Some of these checklists will probably be site specific for schools, distribution centers, homes, office buildings, and more.

  15. Is there any industry standard language (link?) to include in commercial (institutional) new or renovation design documents? 
    (Dr. Geiger) We have some documents Exit with specification language that we have been using in our projects with low-income housing. This language was used in the design documents, and is was oriented around sealants. It did not address everything you would probably want to address but it was a great start and I would be happy to share that. The EPA does have a document under the Office of Children’s Health Protection website. Scroll down. You will see a number of resources toward the bottom right of the page. It will talk about the school citing guidelines. EPA put the document out a few years ago, so it may very well prove to be useful in you school building process or for renovation.

  16. Will we be able to replay this presentation at a later date?
    Yes. This presentation is now located on our website for on-demand viewing. When you click on the link, it will bring you to a YouTube video. Pest Prevention by Design in Schools – February 2016; Listen to and view the recorded webinar Exit.

  17. Will the presentation be available for download? Where?
    A recording of the webinar is available here.Exit.

  18. Is attendance verified by sign in/out? Can more than one person receive a certified for a single sign in, or will each attendee who signed in receive a certificate?
    Yes. Please contact for questions concerning certificates. 

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Upcoming School IPM Webinars

We welcome your participation in our upcoming webinars and ask you to encourage your peers to attend. These presentations are geared specifically to school and school district facility managers, buildings and grounds managers and staff, childcare facility managers, and school IPM practitioners. School nurses, school administrators, health officials, and pest management professionals are welcome to attend.

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