The University of Arizona

UA Pest Control Experts to Create Nationwide Guidelines for Schools

April 2, 2014

The Environmental Protection Agency has given the UA’s Integrated Pest Management program $250,000 to create training materials that will be used in schools nationwide to safely and effectively eliminate insects, rodents and weeds.

The Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday awarded a $250,000 grant to the University of Arizona's interated pest management program for schools so that it can create training materials for educators nationwide.

Through multidisciplinary expertise, the UA Community IPM Leadership Team, part of Cooperative Extension in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, helps schools implement safe and effective IPM programs that reduce risks from pests, including insects, rodents and weeds, as well as pesticides use in schools, on playing fields and in surrounding areas.

“IPM is the safest, most effective and most cost-effective way of managing pests while posing the lowest risks,” said Dawn Gouge, principal investigator for the EPA School IPM grant.

Integrated pest management addresses the fundamental reasons why pests are a problem by correcting conditions that are conducive to infestation in the first place. IPM includes pest identification and monitoring indoors and outdoors, pest-proofing of facilities, improving sanitation standards, and improving plant health in landscapes, including trees, shrubs and turf. Only the least toxic and most effective pest management tools are used.

The School IPM program is currently practiced in 44 school districts statewide, including some of the largest districts in the Arizona. IPM in schools has reduced pest incidences by an average of 78 percent and pesticide use by 71 percent, according to the School IPM program.

In Arizona, pest incident reports have dropped by 85 percent for all School IPM programs combined. The Mesa Unified School District now trains 100 percent of its custodial and maintenance staff annually on IPM, Gouge said.

The IPM materials, to be available in print and online, will include self-guided information for schools everywhere. After receiving training, school personnel will take proficiency exams and those who pass will receive certificates.  

During Wednesday's event, EPA representatives Jim Jones, assistant administrator of the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, Thomas Cook, director of the Center of Expertise for School Integrated Pest Management, and Jeff Scott, EPA Region 9 division director (Waste Management Division and Communities and Ecosystems Division) visited Metro Tech High School to present the check.

IPM has been used at the school for more than 10 years to control insects, weeds and rodents. Visitors saw how traps are placed at "hot spots" and how the focus is on prevention rather than widespread pesticide spraying. To help illustrate the pest problems in specific areas, live creatures including bedbugs, scorpions and cockroaches were on hand.

The Arizona IPM Education Commitment Awards also were presented Wednesday to the following "heroes" in recognition of their dedication to IPM education and for establishing safe learning environments for children:

  • Tony Scarfo, Phoenix Union High School District
  • Ed Stallard, Mesa Public School District
  • Bill Currie, International Pest Management Institute
  • Dan Vezie, Maricopa Unified School
  • Elaine Wilson, Intertribal Council of Arizona
  • Doug Brunner, University Termite and Pest Control
  • Fred Willey, Invader Pest Management
  • Pat Copps, Orkin
  • Ron Walker, Arizona Department of Agriculture Office of Pest Management