Pest Profiles

Below are some of the common pests you may find in and around schools!


Ants are well known for their annoying habit of attacking the picnic basket. These small creatures can also be pests when they enter buildings and invade locations such as the kitchen and bathroom. Many species, such as odorous house ants, are attracted to sweets, while others are attracted to proteins. Trails of ants can be seen leading from wall voids to food sources. It is very important to keep counters and food areas clean and clear of crumbs to discourage ant invasion. For more information, take a look at the IPM learning module Managing Ants Safely in and around Schools (PDF 2.2 MB).


We all know these guys...they carry germs, produce allergens that can trigger asthma with their feces and body parts, and are just downright unnerving. The four common indoor roaches found in homes, schools, and other sensitive environments include the German (most commonly found in kitchens), American (like steam tunnels), Oriental (love areas with excessive moisture, such as basements), and Brown banded (can be found anywhere, not necessarily near food areas).

These insects are hardy, omnivorous, and gregarious, but people are repulsed by them and their presence, and with good reason. Cockroaches can cause serious problems with not only contamination of food, but also are responsible for worsening asthma in those who suffer from the disease or are sensitive to the cockroach allergens. Cockroaches are therefore more than a nuisance, they must be controlled in order to prevent and improve conditions that have implications for human health. For more information, you may want to look at the IPM learning module Cockroach Management (PDF 1.7 MB).


If you've ever been near an overflowing trash can or dumpster, you will no doubt see numerous flies buzzing around it. Garbage and decay are perfect breeding grounds for these insects, often looked upon with great distaste. Flies are a nuisance in buildings when they breed in drains, decaying organic matter, and trash and then walk over surfaces where food is stored, transmitting germs and bacteria wherever they go. They also are simply annoying when they buzz around heads or, in cases of some species, bite humans and animals.

Sanitation can help immensely with many species such as fruit flies, phorid flies, moth flies, and house flies. These animals thrive in even small areas of rotting organic matter, but if areas are kept clean, flies are far less likely to breed. In the case of biting flies, such as mosquitoes and stable flies, other methods may be necessary to combat these pests. To learn more, see Fly Management (PDF 1.9 MB), one of the IPM learning modules.

Head Lice

Next to cockroaches, head lice probably are one of the next most feared arthropod. These tiny insects live their entire lives on the scalp and hair of their human hosts, and will die after about 24 hours if they do not have a host. Lice are very hardy, especially the nits (eggs), which the female attaches to the hair with a strong glue when she lays them.

For more details, check out Head Lice: A Recurrent Problem that can Pit Parents Against Schools (PDF 433 KB).


Mold is sometimes overlooked as a pest problem, but it can be a significant one, especially for those with allergies or asthma. It is important to note that in schools, where children and staff spend a good part of their day, that having good air quality is essential to health. Mold compromises this with it's odors and release of spores, so it must be considered a pest as much as mammals, arthropods, or weeds. Moisture control is the key to controlling mold and keeping it from spreading.To learn more about mold and its remediation, see the IPM learning module Mold and Indoor Air Quality in Schools (PDF 1.4 MB).

Rats and Mice

Furry mice and rats can be cute as pets, but as unwanted visitors into buildings, they can be a nuisance in a variety of ways. They contaminate food, spread diseases, and leave messy droppings everywhere. They are also feared by many people, who can be startled or repulsed by their very presence. Clutter is a big factor in attracting mice. If there are piles of clothes, litter, or other materials lying around, rats and mice can make a home from these or use them for hiding places. Add food morsels to the mix and you have a perfect place for rodents to take up house. Sanitation and reducing clutter are big steps toward controlling mice and rat infestations.

For more information about rodents, please see Mice and Rats in and around Schools (PDF 1.2 MB).

School Ground Rodent and Mammalian Pests

There are several vertebrate pests that can make an unsightly mess of school turf by burrowing or chewing at plants under the surface. These pests include 13-lined ground squirrels, moles, voles, and pocket gophers. Exclusion and trapping, among other methods, are used to remove these animals from school property. For more details about control of outdoor pest such as these, please visit School Ground Invasion by Voles (PDF 1.1 MB), Pocket Gophers (PDF 1.1 MB), Ground Squirrels (PDF 647 KB), or Moles (PDF 1.2 MB).


Spiders in general are beneficial...they eat many pest species and incidental invaders in our homes and schools. Finding a few spiders in the house is natural and if you don't disturb them, they won't disturb you.

There are only a few spiders of concern in Nebraska...ones that can provide a painful or dangerous bite. These include the black widow spider and the brown recluse spider. The black widow has a neurotoxic poison that can affect the whole body with cramping and pain. The brown recluse spider causes a localized wound that can be very minor to necrotic depending on the amount of poison injected and the sensitivity of the individual. These two species are both fairly reclusive, and must be provoked severely in many cases to bite. Many times bites result because of accidental pressure on the spider when moving items or putting on clothes where a spider has been hiding.

Other spiders of medical importance include the parson spider, and the yellow sac spider. The bites of these species are usually not as severe as the reactions to the venom of the black widow or brown recluse, but sensitive individuals may still suffer greater reactions from the bite that other people. See Brown Recluse and Structure Invading Spiders in Nebraska (PDF 2.2 MB) for more information about these arachnids.

Stinging Insects

Bees and wasps strike fear in many people because of their painful sting. In some cases, these insects just want to be left alone and only sting in self defense while other species are rather aggressive and should be approached with caution. Many stinging insects, such as honeybees, are beneficial...they pollinate flowers and produce honey. But others, such as yellowjackets, are nuisances that hover around people, trash cans, and building eves in the summertime in search of food and shelter. Although stings are usually just a temporary but painful inconveniences, some people have deathly allergic reactions to them, making the need to control these pests especially important.

To learn more about stinging insects and methods for control, visit the IPM module Yellowjackets and Other Stinging Insects.


Weeds such as dandelions, white clover, and puncturevine are an unsightly nuisance when found growing in the lawn, garden, or fields, on the side of the road, and in the cracks of sidewalks and parking lots. They can outcompete other species for water and resources, and lessen the quality of the landscape. To find out more about weeds and how to manage them, see IPM on School Grounds (Landscape) (PDF 1.0 MB) and IPM for School Turfgrass (PDF 985 KB).

Other possible pests that might become problems in or around schools include bats (PDF 1.3 MB), silverfish (PDF 469 KB), stored product pests (PDF 508 KB) (beetles and other pests that infest grains, flour, etc.), rabbits (PDF 1.1 MB), and snakes (PDF 1.4 MB).