What Is IPM at Home, School, and the Workplace?

What You Can Do to Prevent Pests

Keeping schools pest-free

If you've heard of the term "IPM," you may know that it had something to do with pest control, but not really understand what it is. Or, then again, you may have never heard of the term, so have absolutely no idea what it means, and have no idea why you should care. This article explains the concepts of IPM, why it is an important means of pest control, and how you can play a part in implementing IPM not only at home, but also at your child's school, and/or your place of work.


IPM: What to Know

If you've ever had a pest of any kind in your home, school, or office (be it a creepy cockroach, roving rodent, or scary spider), you do need to know about IPM – and you do, in fact, need to care. So, to explain what it is and why you should care, to respond to both of the statements in the first paragraph:

IPM is an abbreviation for Integrated Pest Management. While there are various definitions for the term, the two I see as most applicable are the following:

  1. As defined by the National Pest Management Association, "Integrated Pest Management is a process involving common sense and sound solutions for treating and controlling pests. These solutions incorporate three basic steps: 1) inspection, 2) identification, and 3) treatment. Treatment options vary from sealing cracks and removing food and water sources to pesticide treatments when necessary."
  2. Similarly, the University of California's Agriculture and Natural Resources states: "Integrated pest management, or IPM, is a process you can use to solve pest problems while minimizing risks to people and the environment.… IPM focuses on long-term prevention of pests or their damage by managing the ecosystem."


IPM: Why to Care

In IPM, implementing "sound solutions," "minimizing risk," and focusing on "long-term prevention" all come down to the same thing. That is taking action to prevent pests from getting established and using pesticides only as a last resort. By doing so, you help to reduce the environmental impacts of pesticides, reduce risk to your family, and, often, can keep pests out of your home (school or office) through non-chemical means.

So how do you prevent or get rid of pests without pesticides? You can avoid pesticides by incorporating do-it-yourself (DIY) methods or partnering with a pest control service provider:

  1. DIY. Instead of running to grab a spray at the first sign of an ant, spider, or fly, take a look around. Inspect the interior and exterior of your home: Are there holes or gaps through which an insect (or mouse) could crawl? Do doors and windows reach all the way down to the sills? Are screens torn or loose? Is there food or crumbs lying out to attract pests? These are just a few of the conditions for which you should inspect – and correct. (For more information on this, see 10 Tips to Keep Pests Out and DIY Pest Inspection and Identification Like a Professional.)
    It also is important to be sure you correctly identify the pest and understand what has attracted it to effectively control it. For example, while bait is generally the most effective control for ants that invade homes, there are exceptions; and rats and mice have behavioral and preference differences that will impede control efforts if you don’t know which it is. (Also see What REALLY Works to Get Rid of Fruit Flies.)
  2. Partnering. Although pest control technicians have a range of products on hand to kill pests, today's professional will prefer to work in partnership with you to prevent and eliminate pests. Once he or she inspects your home, recommendations should be made that can help to reduce pest attraction and survivability in and around the home; then a program should be customized that fits your home, family, and property. Even with professionals, pesticides should not be the first choice of action.


IPM Away from Home

While, thus far, we've discussed IPM in the home environment, there are things you can do to help prevent and reduce pests in your workplace and at the school(s) your children attend. Of course, you aren't going to cut back trees and shrubs to keep pests from traversing them onto the building, or repair windows and screens (unless you are on the maintenance staff), but paying attention to the items you and your children take to and from the buildings can increase their IPM efforts.

The following are some tips from NPMA, along with some general recommendations, for helping to keep your workplace and your children's schools pest-free.

IPM at the School

  1. If your child carries lunch from home, pack all items in sealed, pest-resistant containers to keep any pests that are in the school from finding their way into your child's lunch.
  2. Advise your child to pick up after him/herself after eating, just as he/she would at home. Crumbs and spills left lying around are a sure pest attractant.
  3. Check and clean out your child's backpack each day. If there are pests in the school, or another child has a problem at his or her home (such as cockroaches or bedbugs), these can be carried into school on their belongings, then crawl from there into your child's and brought back to your home.
  4. Thoroughly check any toy or other item your child is taking in for Show and Tell or playground play, inspecting it for hitchhiking bugs. This is particularly important if the item has been lying outdoors.
  5. When you are at the school for parent-teacher conferences, assemblies, or performances, be vigilant: Keep an eye out for any sign of rodents or insects and inform the principal or other administrator if you see droppings or gnaw marks in a classroom or elsewhere around the building.
  6. Also, tell your child to tell his/her teacher or you if he/she sees any of these.
  7. Similarly, bring cracks, holes, gaps, and open doors to an administrator's attention, as these provide easy entry points, not only for insects and rodents, but also for wildlife pests. (And in today's world, a door that is left open and unattended is a major security concern as well.)

IPM at the Workplace

  1. If you carry your lunch from home, pack all items in sealed, pest-resistant containers to keep out any pests that may be in the facility or brought in by others.
  2. While it is best advised to not keep food in desk drawers or lockers, if you do, be sure that it, too, is in a sealed, pest-resistant container, and is regularly checked to ensure against spoilage – which attracts a whole different type of pest!
  3. Clean up crumbs and spills immediately. This is particularly important if you are eating at your desk, which is usually not cleaned/vacuumed nightly, or outdoors, which can attract birds, rodents, and wildlife as well as insects.
  4. Check your computer bag, backpack, briefcase and/or purse nightly to ensure you are not bringing pests into your home – or taking them from your home into the workplace.
  5. Although you are unlikely to have "Show and Tell," it is advisable to thoroughly clean and check any items you take into the workplace to set on your desk or store in your locker. For example, a Frisbee that has been lying outside could have become home for a spider or other critter.
  6. Advise the maintenance staff if you see any sign of rodents or insects, droppings or gnaw marks or cracks, holes, and gaps in the structure. And, just like at schools, any unattended, open door can be an open invitation for insects, rodents, wildlife pests – and be a major security concern as well.

Whether controlling pests at home, at your workplace, or at your child's school, it simply makes sense to Integrate a range of Pest Management techniques for IPM.