Distractions With Legs

Nothing can disrupt class quicker than a cockroach scurrying across the floor. Besides distracting students while they are trying to learn, pests also pose serious health risks for children. Cockroaches, flies, rodents, and other common pests can carry numerous disease-producing bacteria and viruses, while certain types of ants, bees, and wasps can cause painful stings.

Pest management in learning environments can present another challenge due to the potentially harmful effects of chemical treatments on children’s health. In fact, nearly two-thirds of states now follow regulations and guidelines that limit the use of chemicals in educational facilities. In response, many schools focus on preventive measures such as facility maintenance in their pest management programs.

While students would do anything for a“get out of class free” card, pests do not mind being in school. Schools can offer an abundance of food, water, and shelter sources. Odors from the cafeteria entice pests with the promise of food, as do bagged lunches left in lockers. Frequent supply deliveries and constant foot traffic provide easy access for the troublemakers. In addition, kids love to throw down their book bags while they play, which gives pests the perfect opportunity to hitchhike their way into the school and into a cool, dark locker.

A good facility maintenance program that limits pests’ ability to enter the building can help prevent your school from becoming an easy target for pests. Work with your pest management professional to implement the following maintenance tips.

    &bull Keep vegetation away from the building. Pests can use foliage as shelter and an“on ramp” onto the building, so trim back tree branches, shrubs, and plants. Create a three-foot barrier between landscaping and the school’s exterior, ideally with a gravel strip that will present an obstacle for pests.

    &bull Use positive airflow. The direction of airflow in your building can literally push flying insects outside when doors open. To check airflow, stand at an open door with a lighter in hand. If the flame blows outward (away from the building), the airflow is positive.

    &bull Strategically place exterior lighting. Fluorescent lighting attracts pests, so place these lights at least 100 ft. away from the building, such as in parking lots, to draw pests away. Mount sodium vapor lights that are less attractive to pests around entrances.

    &bull Minimize access. Install weather stripping to prevent pests from squeezing under doors, and, if possible, add a second set of doors to the main entrance. This extra measure can minimize the number of insects that enter the facility by 50 percent. Fit windows with #16 mesh screens to prevent even the tiniest insects from entering. And seal any cracks and crevices in the exterior with weather-resistant sealant. Keep in mind that mice can squeeze through a gap the size of a dime.

Communicate with your staff, students, and their parents about simple ways they can help in the fight against pests. Small measures such as properly disposing of trash and reporting pest sightings can make a big difference. By working as a team, your school can earn an A+ in pest prevention.

Frank Meek is Technical Director for Orkin, Inc. As a board-certified entomologist and a 20-year industry veteran, he is an acknowledged leader in the field of pest management. He can be reached at fmeek@rollins.com.