Getting Started with IPM

Provided below are guidelines to aid you in understanding Integrated Pest Management and how it can be adapted for use in your school. Outlined is general information that applies to almost every pest situation, including initial steps such as monitoring to determine the extent of the problem. We encourage this be done regardless of what control method you ultimately pursue. Following that is a list of methods available to you for approaching pest related problems. After reviewing and understanding the basics of IPM, we invite you to enact an official school district policy for IPM use.

Decision Making Process

Is treatment action necessary?

The first step to Integrated Pest Management in your school is to consider some fundamental questions. What pests are causing your problems and are they at a tolerable level? Depending on these factors, you will be able to determine if control is needed and what control works best for your circumstances. Identifying the pest species involved is a vital step in your future treatment action. by monitoring through observation and simple devices such as sticky traps, you can obtain samples from which identification can be made as well as an indication of the number of pests present. Remember to keep good records of all monitoring activities.

Where and when should treatment activity take place? Which tactics are best to use?

Should you employ control measures where pests are actually seen or evidence of their presence is apparent, or should you manage them by addressing breeding grounds and other habitations? Identification is key here because sometimes it's easier to address the infestation at its source, rather than approach the immediate concern (i.e. get rid of trash where flies breed rather than treat a classroom for adult flies). In other cases, getting rid of the obvious problem is more important (spraying and removing a wasp nest from an eave near the front door of the school). This is a judgement call dependent upon the pest, where its invasion occurs, and the potential harm it can cause to people and property.

Life cycles of pests are also important in understanding at what time to perform a treatment. Obviously using something like insect growth regulators (substances that make insects sterile before they reach maturity) must be done in young insects rather than adults, while other control methods can be applied at any stage of development.  Again, common sense about how much concern and damage the pest is causing (tolerance/action levels) can guide you in making decisions. A wide variety of control methods are available, and based on what you have learned through your use of IPM thus far, you can adopt a treatment approach option that fits best with your school.

You may also be interested in developing an official IPM policy statement covering strategies you have found work and that you feel would be useful in future school endeavors.

How should others be informed about IPM Plans? Who should be involved in designing and implementing IPM?

Who within the school will be responsible for initiating and maintaining an IPM program? Perhaps an individual or team will be designated to coordinate IPM efforts. This could include school administrators, maintenance personnel, landscape employees, and pest management professionals. Also inform parents, teachers, school nurses, kitchen crews, and other staff about IPM policies. These people may in some cases be involved in planning and implementation.

Once the tactics are chosen, give proper and regular notification to school personnel, parents, and students about what methods are going to be used, what pest is being controlled, where the treatment will take place, and when. Notification can be accomplished in several ways, such as flyers, brochures, announcements (verbal or written), and posters. Schools may want to develop guidelines for how they will deal with current and future notification issues, since this is an important part of any IPM program.

General Overview:

Structural and landscape pests (animals, plants, or microorganisms) can pose significant problems to people, property, and the environment and interfere with human purposes within the school site.  Strategies for managing pests are influenced by the pest species and degree to which the population threatens the school environment and all its components.

A school IPM program usually includes several steps that help to ensure safety and the likely success in controlling a pest situation. These recommended steps are outlined below:

  1. Monitor for pest populations and other relevant factors (e.g. damage levels)
  2. Identify pest species accurately
  3. Determine injury and action levels that trigger control methods
  4. Select the least hazardous and disruptive control methods
  5. Time treatments to the best advantage
  6. Target treatments to minimize exposure to humans, pets, and other non-target animals or plants. This will also help to contain costs.
  7. Educate people both directly and indirectly involved with the pest problem (teachers, staff, students, administrators, pest management professionals)
  8. Notify school staff, students, and parents when a control measure is going to be implemented.
  9. Evaluate the effectiveness of treatments to fine-tune future action.


Involved regular and ongoing inspection and monitoring of areas where pest problems might or do occur.

  1. Recommended levels of monitoring for school - can be done as precautionary/preventative measures if pests are suspected, or if pests or evidence of their presence has actually been seen.
    • Casually look and record observations
      • Carefully inspect and record observations
      • Complement written observations with quantitative descriptions
  2. Why monitor?
    • Helps determine if treatment is needed based on sizes of pest populations seen and at what level pests are detected and can be tolerated.
    • Helps in deciding where, when and what kind of treatment is needed. This could include preventative treatment, pinpointing specific areas to treat, and determining vulnerable stages of a pest's development where treatment might be most successful.
    • Allows you to evaluate treatments after showing success or failure of a certain method so that it can be improved upon in the future.
  3. What to monitor
    • For plants: Regular observation of condition of plants, kind and abundance of pest, amount of damage to plants, weather conditions, human behaviors that might affect actions of pests, and management activities.
    • For structures: Regular observation of the conditions of buildings, levels of sanitation, numbers of insects caught on sticky traps or other monitoring devices, amount of damage,  human behaviors that might affect actions of pests, and management activities.
  4. Monitoring Timing
    • Depends on the site (outdoors or indoors) and the pests themselves. More frequent monitoring might be needed when a pest problem is at its peak and can be lessened as the problem becomes under control. In an outdoor situation, certain times of year will be important. Finally, some species are nocturnal and some monitoring may have to occur at night when these animals are active.
  5. Record Keeping
    • Important for helping to learn about pest species, what treatments have been tried, what has worked and what hasn't.
    • Helps in future decision making because it gives insight into what resources are available, it can be used by different employees, and it is not lost when the employee who did the original observation leaves.
    • Should include what is monitored, as well as where, when and by whom.
    • Keep records together in an accessible, convenient place, and keep them well organized. Inform those responsible for record keeping of what materials they are responsible for using each time they perform a monitoring activity. Designing ready made sheets for this purpose can simplify this process. For a sample monitoring form, see
    • Remember that record keeping isn't just limited to monitoring. Schools will probably want to generate reports and data on not only monitoring activities, but what treatment strategies were used for their situation as well. These types of documents can really aid in future pest management.

Identify Target Pests

Keep in mind that finding out what the pest species is, its life cycle and habits, and its behavior can greatly increase your success in managing it. Capture specimens for identification either by you or by a specialist before proceeding with a particular control method.

Correct identification is also important in determining injury and action levels. These involve the amount of damage a pest causes and the tolerance you have to the pest. For example, finding a few stray flies who have come in through an open door in warm weather or finding a couple silverfish on the kitchen floor might be considered tolerable and not require any form of control. On the other hand, seeing one mouse in a classroom would be another matter. Health considerations play a major role in injury/action levels because certain species (like mice) can spread disease to humans through biting or contamination and these must be dealt with more quickly than pests that are simply a nuisance. Other pests cause aesthetic or structural damage to buildings, clothing, woodwork, and furniture, and these too can be of major concern. It is important to carefully evaluate your circumstances and identify pest species and their numbers, then determine appropriate management techniques.

Make Management Decisions

Outlined below are various guidelines for determining a pest treatment strategy. Before making a final decision on which techniques to use, read through the control methods section, evaluate circumstances, and then choose the most appropriate treatment or combination of treatments that will work best.

  1. Criteria
    • Least hazardous to human health
    • Least disruptive to natural controls (natural enemies of the pest) and school activities
    • Least toxic to non-target organisms such as other plants and animals
    • Most likely to be effective and discourage reoccurrence
    • Easiest to carry out safely and effectively
    • Most cost effective in both the short and long run
    • Appropriate for the environment (water, soils, etc.)
  2. Timing
    • Monitor to determine times when pests will be most susceptible to control methods and natural enemies will be least impacted by them.
  3. Targeting
    • Place in crack and crevices
    • Spot treat weeds, not entire lawn
  4. Controlling
    • Follow the least-toxic approach available. IPM involves the use of a wide variety of methods to control pests that take into consideration maintaining the highest standards of safety and preservation of people, animals, and the environment. The choices of control strategies are immense, and trying to wade through all of the information can be daunting. It is important to do research and consultation with other professionals before deciding on a final plan of action, and it is suggested that the least toxic approach be taken for any pest situation. This will ensure that all methods are explored rather than rushing into something that may not be best for the school.

Control Methods

  • Educate people to change behaviors, especially about sanitation and clutter. Meetings, classroom activities, training sessions, brochures, and flyers might be good ways to raise awareness.
  • Modify habitats of unwanted animals/plants by taking away their basic necessities: water, food, and shelter.
  • Sanitation: Keep food areas clean and free of crumbs, dispose of foods and garbage properly, disinfect surfaces often.
  • Remove clutter: Keep areas clean and organized.
  • Use materials in structures that are not well liked by pests
  • Eliminate sources of water: Watch for problems in areas such as sinks, drip pans, small classroom pet dishes and aquariums, beverage bottles, toilets, and wash basins. Also watch for condensation, clean up spills, and do proper maintenance of pipes and sewer systems. Even the smallest amount of water can sustain a pest.
  • Eliminate harborage places by caulking cracks and crevices and limiting movement between wall voids, etc.
  • Use techniques in landscape to minimize growth of weeds such as mowing at the proper height and fertilizing
Biological Controls (Natural Enemies)
  • Conservation: Protect natural enemies already in the environment. Limit treatment to when injury levels are exceeded, do spot treatments that will do the least harm to non-target species, apply treatments during times that are least disruptive to natural enemies, and use the most species specific, least damaging materials.
  • Augmentation: Increase amounts of plants or other resources that are attractive to natural enemies to increase their numbers. Certain species can also be purchased through a local insectary, although be careful that what is added to the environment to control a pest doesn't become a pest itself.
  • Importation: Again, certain species can be brought into the school environment, but give this careful consideration to make sure the new species doesn't cause problems of its own. Some exotic animals can also be fairly costly to acquire.
  • Examples: Ladybugs to control aphids, predatory mites for spider mites, nematodes for fleas, and parasitic wasps for caterpillars
  • Microbes: Some naturally occurring fungi, bacteria, and viruses attack pests. One well-known bacterium is the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). Most of these are very species-specific, lessening the chance of non-target species having a problem with them.
Cultural Controls (Discouraging pests by making changes to their environment through cultural practices)
  • Climate factors, such as temperature changes, can drive pests out or make an area undesirable to them.
  • Cultivation practices, such as raking and "plugging."
  • Host resistance can develop in plants that have had previous injury from insects. Resistant plant varieties may utilize defense mechanisms such as bad taste or smell, poisonous secretions, or altered genetics that make a once desirable meal no longer appealing to the pest.
  • Irrigation
  • Mowing, pruning, thinning, fertilizing 
Physical Controls
  • Barriers (Exclusion of pests from unwanted areas): Strategies such as caulking crevices and cracks, installing window screens, utilizing foundation footing, and using enclosed or well sealed food containers are good, non-toxic ways to prevent pests from entering into places where they are not wanted. These methods do not take a lot of extra time or labor and can be very effective in solving the problem without concern over pesticides.
  • Heat and Cold Treatments (freezing and torching): If pests are captured (from roaches to rats), they can be placed inside bags and put into the freezer or hot sun for a reasonable amount of time in order to kill them. Infested small appliances can also be placed in the freezer as well as keeping flour/sugar in the freezer to prevent invasion by stored product pests. Again, these are very simple methods that doesn't require a lot of time or effort and don't rely on toxic chemicals.
  • Manual Removal: Sometimes the easiest solution is to simply get rid of pests by hand. Although picking up dead insects from the carpet or pulling weeds can be done without gloves, a good general rule of thumb is to wear gloves whenever doing this type of work. Never pick up dead rodents without gloves, and disinfectant areas where dead animals were found after they have been removed. In the case of rats and mice, it is a good idea to spray the body itself and any feces around the area with disinfectant before handling. One can also use tongs to pick up dead insects or rodents, as this serves as an extra precautionary measure and is also good for those who do not wish to handle animals themselves.
  • Trapping (placed out of the way of humans and other animals and in the path of pests): Some types of traps are listed below:
    • Box (live) Traps (square, completely enclosed, darkened trap used for rodents and some wildlife)
    • Cage (live) traps (good for catching wildlife and in some cases, rats and mice)
    • Glue boards (with or without insect pheromones)
    • Flypaper
    • Snap traps (mice and rats) are more humane than sticky traps
    • Sticky substance traps: these traps can be used alone or placed inside containers and put out of view. They can be used for insects or small mammals (especially mice). However, keep in mind that mice can be easily frightened if they find themselves stuck to a board unable to move, so more humane methods would be baits, snap traps, or live traps.
Vacuuming (using attachments and special filters; steam cleaning)
  • Sometimes a simple vacuuming can greatly reduce the pest population and the areas in which they live. Vacuuming (with an attachment) around baseboards, in cracks and crevices, under cupboards, etc., can get rid of spider webs, crumbs, dust, and other debris that attracts pests. The pests themselves can also be vacuumed up, such as flies or Asian Lady Beetles out of windowsills, cockroaches out of the area behind the kitchen sink, etc. Again, vacuum bags can be frozen or heated to ensure the insects are dead before discarding them in the trash.
Other Miscellaneous
  • Cleaning (water) with a high power sprayer under hard to reach places to flush out debris and harborage areas
  • Drying out high moisture areas to reduce water sources and discourages mold growth
  • Removing excessive vegetation to discourage weed growth and leave more room for healthy plant growth
  • Washing clothing and bedding to lessen dust mites
  • Ventilating areas to keep moisture levels low to remove mold spores and keep fresh air circulating
Chemical Controls
  • Chemical controls (pesticides), depending on the type of pest needing control, are grouped as: herbicides for weed control, insecticides for insects, rodenticides for rodents, and fungicides for mold and fungi.

    It is preferable to use the least toxic approach when managing pests. This is safer for the environment, applicators, and people and animals within the school setting. Sometimes higher toxic materials are necessary if other methods have failed, but take considerable care when deciding to use such products. Licensed applicators with appropriate protective equipment might be warranted depending on the type of pesticide applied.

    Another consideration to keep in mind is to base the choice of treatment on your circumstances. For example, even though it is preferable to use non-toxic and low-toxic methods first, sometimes it is necessary to use a more toxic product. It is important to remember, though, that these products, if used properly, can be safely utilized. For example, rodenticides can be highly toxic to other mammals, including humans, if misused. However, when other methods have been unsuccessful, the use of these pesticides for mice and rat control is sometimes unavoidable. If the rodenticide is contained in an enclosed bait station that is put out of the way of people or pets, marked as "DANGER: RAT POISON," and is only accessible to the target pest, the product is quite safe.  Alternatively, a physical control such as a snap trap may not accidentally poison a person or pet, but if a child or animal handled the trap improperly, they could get hurt as well.

    Use common sense when dealing with any pesticide, whether it is considered to have "low" or "high" toxicity, or could in any way pose a danger to a child or animal who doesn't know what it is or how to use it. The key is to remember there is a wide array of toxicities and formulations and you must evaluate: what are you trying to accomplish with the pesticide? How will it be used? Where will it be used? What kind of pest are you trying to control, and what is the risk of exposure in the area to non-target organisms? Choosing not only a specific chemical but also a specific format (liquid, granules, dusts, etc.) that is appropriate for the situation can make the difference between a safe use and a questionable use. To find out more about specific pesticides and for general guidelines for choosing a chemical control, please visit:

Selecting and Using Pesticides

  1. Notification: Give notification to school staff, students, and parents about what control methods will be used, where they are going to be implemented, and what pest is being controlled. This is especially important if chemical controls are involved and there is the chance of potential exposures to teachers, children, or other school personnel. If using pesticides, apply when buildings or rooms are unoccupied. Spot treat whenever possible to reduce the areas of exposure. It is best to give advanced notice that an application is scheduled so that everyone can take appropriate steps to ensure safety. Notify through verbal or written announcements circulated through the school or in class, flyers, school newspapers or newsletters, and notes to parents.
  2. Official Policy Statement: Once you have reviewed the suggestions and guidelines of adopting IPM for your school, you may wish to develop an official written IPM Policy Statement that incorporates the guidelines appropriate for your circumstances and applies to future IPM efforts. This statement could outline the mission of the school in keeping its facilities pest-free, especially its responsibility for providing a safe and healthy environment for its students and staff. It would also most likely include a detailed list of general procedures for conducting the IPM process, which would encourage a consistent approach toward IPM.
  3. Who Should Be Involved: Deciding to adopt IPM strategies in a school setting is a major decision. It requires thinking about pests in a different way than before and initiating a new approach to handling pest problems. It is important to evaluate not only how IPM will be addressed and implemented, but who will be involved in the process. Once a school has researched and decided it is interested in IPM, it may designate an individual or team to start up an IPM effort. Several people may be assigned different roles that together help to make the entire program work, or one individual may be in charge of overseeing that IPM tasks are accomplished. Administrators, teachers, maintenance personnel, food service staff, school nurses and counselors, environmental specialists, and pest control professionals may all become involved in a school IPM program. How the work is distributed and divided will probably vary from school to school.
  4. Evaluation: Upon initiating an IPM program, periodically evaluate your progress and make appropriate adjustments or changes. Some strategies may work for one pest but could be completely different for another. Other general activities (such as sanitation or education) can be effective in nearly all circumstances since these are things that provide an overall healthier environment and are helpful preventative strategies against almost any pest.
  5. Written policy: It is recommended that schools develop a written policy and maintain records of what has been done, the success of the treatments, and who was involved. This not only aids in making the evaluation process run more smoothly, but also creates a well organized historical record of the school's use of Integrated Pest Management. Interested in applying Integrated Pest Management principles to your school? If so, please review and electronically "sign" the form below to express your desire to begin IPM, and let's get started! In addition, you may wish to develop a formal policy outlining a customized IPM program in your school/school district.