School Smart IPM: The Sensible Way to Work the Bugs Out

Dawn H. Gouge Ph.D. is an overly enthusiastic entomologist. Associate Professor, University of Arizona, College of Agriculture and Life Science.

EPA_2One of the funniest things I recall from my youth was my Mum’s reaction to the imposing Giant House Spiders that cohabited with us in our lovely English duplex. Now the spiders can reach a fairly good size of 2-3 inches, and they are fabulously agile and rather fast moving when they want to be. But back to my Mum: the alert would usually begin with ear piercing shrieks and the sound of thrown slippers, newspapers, and the slamming of doors (please note “a tactical withdrawal is the most desirable form of retreat” Sun Tzu, the Art of War). Our Mum, a 5 foot, 95 pound protector would dash back and forth hammering the offending 0.05 ounce arachnid into oblivion, or at least into several pieces. Our Dad would then be given a list of directives (get that old wood out of the house, fix the backdoor sweep, etc.). Little did we know, but my sister and I were witnessing Integrated Pest Management in action.

Integrated Pest Management (commonly referred to as IPM) is the most effective, safest and most cost effective way to manage pests of all kinds.  As a professional I am an advocate of IPM, as a tax payer I am an enthusiast of IPM, and as a parent I am nothing short of fanatical.

I have been an entomologist for nearly 19.1 years, and a parent for 12.7 years. I undoubtedly know a good deal more about bugs than my own young offspring. But I do know a great deal about “what’s good for her” and I am passionate about my daughter’s physical health.

EPA_1Working to facilitate the implementation of school IPM has been one of the most thrilling adventures of my professional life.  Educating on the simple ways pest infestations can be prevented or safely eliminated has empowered partnering school districts across the nation to reduce pest incidence and pesticide use by as much as 93%, making learning environments safer for students, faculty, and staff.

Because protecting children’s health is a top national priority, EPA recommends schools use IPM – a Smart, Sensible, and Sustainable approach to pest management. Smart because IPM creates a safer and healthier learning environment by managing pests and reducing children’s exposure to pests and pesticides. Sensible since practical strategies are used to reduce sources of food, water, and shelter for pests on campus. Sustainable because the emphasis is on prevention that makes it an economically advantageous approach.  Simply put, EPA supports school IPM; national IPM organizations educate on IPM; and state land-grant universities facilitate the implementation of school IPM.

Learn more and get involvedSchool IPM needs the backing of tenacious teachers and unyielding parent power.  Talk with your school administration today!


  1. John Carter says:

    Thank you for all the hard work you have done for School IPM. Still an advocate here in Bloomington, IN.

  2. Gary Ron says:

    Loved your opening paragraph – reminded me of my mother who would spray every bug in sight with Aquanet hair spray. Don’t know if the bugs stopped moving because of this liquid hair glue stopping them in their tracks, or them standing still and admiring themselves on how marvelous they looked.

  3. As the former chair (served 3 yrs) of the Maryland PTA Health & Environmental Issues Committee, I can tell you that this is a very important issue – impacting every child and every teacher. Chemical means of pest control should always be the LAST resort, not the business as usual attempt at pest control. True and successful pest control, especially in a school setting, places the priority on human health (i.e. our children’s as well as teacher’s) and the impact to their environment (i.e. IAQ, water, soil, outdoor air, etc.). There is a significant and positive impact to academic performance as well as to the schools’s budget when IPM [Integrated pest management] practices are institutionalized at a school or in a school district. Visit “School IPM 2015” for more info. There are regional workgroups for all parts of the country – specifically established and designed to helps schools transition from conventional pest control to IPM. Take action today – for your child’s sake.

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