Nov 15, 2012 – Roaches In Schools


I need some help. I do several school systems where all of the schools are old. All of them have issues with American roaches. Door sweeps have been repaired, I have identified entry points, but I still am having problems. What products do you recommend and where should I put them?


A big part of this response has to address the use of pesticides on school properties. Most states have very strict laws regarding which insecticides can be used or which are restricted, on notification of parents regarding the pesticides that will be used, on posting treated sites on the school property prior to and following any pesticide use, and (very important) the establishment of a complete IPM Program for pest management on school sites. I am not certain from my search of the internet that North Carolina currently has laws in place on this subject, but several years ago statutes were passed that required the state Board of Education to adopt the steps above. I suggest you contact your local NC Dept. of Agriculture office to verify whether or not NC now has School IPM laws in effect. 

However, I am going to work on the assumption that IPM is now a requirement in the schools in your state, and if I follow the guidelines from several other states that I am familiar with here is what it might mean to you. First  of all, IPM is a very, very good idea. It simply means that you identify all those reasons that the pest is present in the first place, how it is managing to enter the structures, what conditions on the inside of the buildings may be providing it with food and water and harborage, and then continue to work to eliminate all of those conducive conditions. The goal of all of this is a good one, and that is to reduce or even eliminate the use of toxic materials if non-toxic, physical steps can be taken that do the job just as well. 

So, you indicate that you have inspected doorways and that the brush strips or other strips that should be on them are indeed in place and in good condition, so that roaches and other pests are now physically unable to enter by squeezing under doors. You have identified other entry points too, but you don't indicate whether or not they have been permanently filled. This, of course, is needed and while it is really going to seem overwhelming with older buildings, by taking it one bite at a time and slowly but surely filling the gaps and holes you make the progress toward total exclusion of pests from the inside. Hopefully you are either getting the cooperation of the maintenance staff at these schools or they are paying you properly to do this exclusion work. Our industry long ago recognized that our role as professionals is NOT just to apply pesticides, but it is to do all of those steps in IPM that ultimately provide the best long term relief from pests. 

Exclusion is extremely important, and that is why it is emphasized so much in IPM and with the IPM programs that the NC state schools should, by now, have in place. It is particularly important this time of year when outdoor pests are trying hard to get indoors where the conditions are more pleasant for them. Outside you need to identify where the roaches are coming from and where they are hiding on the school property. These big roaches like low, damp places, so storm drains and sewers are common places for them to be. It may require the help of the local public works folks to assist your inspection, but if you do find the roaches in numbers under man-hole covers or sewer openings then these places can be treated directly with labeled products. 

If you have a lot of dense groundcover plantings, thick shrubbery, and other plants covering the ground, they should be removed or trimmed up to expose the soil. Anything resting on the soil provides dark, damp harborage for the roaches, and it should be removed or re-positioned off the soil. 

Generally speaking School IPM programs allow you to use certain things without having to deal with parental notification, and the list is very short. It includes "baits in self contained stations", and this may be for rodents or insects. So, for American Roaches you may select some of the granular insect baits that are generally very attractive to them, but must place them within an insect bait station that can then be secured so that children cannot tamper with it. The baits also may be applied directly into wall voids where these roaches may be hiding if that application is possible. As far as liquid spray applications, a lot of the plant-derived active ingredients are acceptable on school properties, but may require the parental notification first and the posting of the treated areas. Some products, like EcoPCO WP-X have given very good control of cockroaches. 

So, find out first what limitations you have on school sites in your state, as this is a very important part of doing things legally. Then I suggest you get the new Inspection Report form for School Sites that is now available on PestWeb and do a thorough inspection of the school property, noting IN WRITING everything you find that is a "conducive" condition that invites the roaches there and supports their presence. Then, work with school management and maintenance to continue to make the buildings completely closed to the insects. 

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