Back to school usually means going through a checklist of items: Have the class schedule memorized and know where my classes are – check. Remember my locker combination – double-check. Don’t forget to pack my lunch – triple check. Make friends with the brainiac in calculus class – quadruple check!
It’s back-to-school time for thousands of kids throughout the country, and Mr. Little wants you to study hard, have fun with your friends and enjoy a pest-free school year. Pests in schools (and I’m not talking about the kid who thinks it is funny to eat worms at recess to gross the girls out!) have been around as long as chalk has been meeting blackboards.
Why are pests attracted to schools?
It’s as easy as an open book social studies final – because there are ample sources of food, water and shelter available. Think of all the places an insect or rodents can set up shop in a school environment. Start with the cafeteria or dining hall where meals can be served around the clock to hungry students.
With all that food being delivered, stored and prepared, there is bound to be crumbs, spills, leftovers and garbage. This presents a delicious buffet for ants, cockroaches, rodents and stored product pests.
When you add in the water for preparing food and cleaning pots and pans, you are two for two when it comes for ideal conditions for pests to live in complete and utter happiness. And when you factor in the numerous hiding locations such as storage boxes, under or inside kitchen equipment, in garbage cans or even hollow chair legs – then you have hit the trifecta!
The cafeteria is a haven for hungry pests, but beyond the cafeteria are a syllabus of other potential pest hiding locations. Student lockers, desks and gym locker rooms easily become homeroom for pests who feed on left behind food. Boiler or furnace rooms are attractive “study” locations for pests who enjoy the warmth and moisture associated with these locations.
Delivery docks and storage areas
The same goes for delivery docks and storage areas where food and supplies are delivered on a daily basis. Pests can transfer in and out of school buildings – no transcripts required – quite easily if the proper exclusion practices, including making sure window screens are in good repair, doors are kept closed, cracks and crevices filled with caulk, and trash removed on a regular basis, aren’t completed.
Students, teachers, and staff
Finally, you have to consider the impact students, teachers, and staff have on pest pressure in a school. They are unknowing “school buses” for pests; bringing them to and from home in backpacks, gym bags, lunch boxes and on clothes!
What can you do to prevent pests from “enrolling” this semester in your home?
Since entomology was my major in college (I assume you could guess that one?), I have a short homework assignment for the parents of young scholars. Here are four tips for straight A’s in pest management:
- Regularly inspect and clean out backpacks, gym bags, lunch boxes, and any other packages that come home from school. Pests can easily hitch a ride home in any of these items so keep an eye on them.
- Remind budding scholars not to leave food or snacks in backpacks, lockers or desks. An open package of chocolate chip cookies or a spilled soda is extra credit for mice, ants or cockroaches.
- Pests such as cockroaches and mice are most comfortable when amongst the clutter of a dorm room or school locker. Eliminating clutter will reduce pest hiding and breeding locations.
- Use storage containers or sealed plastic bags to store clothing and dorm room bedding. This will keep bed bugs and other pests from hitching a ride home for the weekend.
If you have questions about pests in schools or your home, don’t hesitate to reach out to the experts in pest control.