Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Give a Daily Dose of IPM

I have been amazed recently about how many times I talk to family and friends and they will casually mention "We have these little bugs coming into the house" or "Something is eating my garden plants," or "What do you do about ants in the house? They are driving me crazy!" I look at these as educational IPM opportunities! So many consumers still go to the Raid as their first line of defense, and the more we can convince them there are other, safer alternatives, the more IPM will become a household word :-)

I've especially been inundated with ant questions recently. These little invaders tend to show up in the spring quite often, and many times will go away given a little time. However, some problems persist, and yesterday a friend of mine expressed concern with putting ant baits down because of her pet dog. The ants have migrated from the bathroom to the kitchen and show no signs of stopping. I recommended to her that she collect some ants, bring them to the Extension office and get them identified. That way she'd know what the species is and can get some advice from the Extension Educators on what to do for that particular kind of ant. In the meantime, I told her some general IPM tips: vacuum up the ants she finds, try to watch where the trail is coming from and seal any cracks or crevices where they might hide, and be sure to keep her dog food in a sealed container.

Another regular story I receive occurs every September. Some of my family members get a barn spider "infestation" all around the outside of their home. Good old Charlotte shows up in the awnings, on the clothesline, and other places that are not acceptable. Granted, these spiders are beneficial in eating other pests around the area, but they are large and to some people a bit intimidating. My family's first response is to grab a can of bug spray and attack Charlotte with it. While this will work as long as the spider gets sprayed directly, I encourage my family to go with a more "mechanical" approach and use a broom to swipe spider and web down. No sense exposing you or the clothes to unnecessary pesticide! The broom method also assures that you actually physically remove the spider too, either killing or "relocating" (my preference :-)!) her to a place where she won't bother you.

So next time your family and friends come to you with a pest problem, take the opportunity to teach them about IPM, education is the first step!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

RSS Feeds and Email Subscriptions

After a lot of reading about RSS feeds and blog email subscriptions, I finally have figured out how to put these options on this site! This should make it much easier for those interested in the Nebraska IPM blog to actually get updates when I post something new. The links to these can be found on the right hand side of the blog and below:

Subscribe to IPM in Schools: The Nebraska Experience by Email

Subscribe in a reader

Friday, May 14, 2010

Nebraska Kids Learn about Pests At Nature Nights

Last night was "Nature Nights" at a local Lincoln elementary school. This program, put on by the Nebraska Natural Resources District, encourages parents to bring their children to participate in various stations that focus on environmental and scientific areas. This was a perfect opportunity to introduce kids (and adults!) to pests and how to identify them! (trivia: did you know Nebraska even has scorpions ?!)

My station included two pest display cases, a microscope that projected onto a flatscreen, live Madagascar hissing cockroaches, and some "pest evidence," such as termite damage, frass, and sticky traps full of insects. The kids were very intrigued and were asking all sorts of questions! Of course they loved the Madagascar roaches and wanted to hold them. It was a great way to introduce how they differ from their pest cousins, the American, German, and Oriental cockroaches, for which I had pinned specimens to show.

Kids were also sent home with Pest Private Eye comic books to teach them more about pests and IPM! It's never too early to learn about this concept, and my hope is that such youth programs will provide children with a take home message they can use and also pass along to their parents and peers.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The First In-service

On May 3, four UNL Extension IPM team members (Barb and Clyde Ogg, Stephen Vantassel, and myself) visited the selected demonstration school in Omaha, where we will be starting our IPM assessment June 22. We met with the head of nutrition services, Tammy Yarmon, who had asked us to do an in-service for the food service staff.

During this hour and a half training, we did presentations on general IPM and gave specific information about how the demonstration would work. We also explained what strategies we recommended to the food service staff in particular to help in IPM efforts. These included good cleaning of drains, floors, appliances and surfaces, keeping items stored on metal shelves and in sealed containers, and discarding cardboard boxes as soon as reasonably possible. We explained this is because cockroaches like to hide in the corrugated areas of cardboard (and will also eat it if hungry enough!)

Stephen presented on mice and rats, and Barb talked about cockroaches. There were some definite "Ah ha!" moments, such as how the dark colored, moisture loving Oriental roaches are often called "Waterbugs" but are indeed roaches!

Following the presentations, the food staff took us to the kitchen to show us areas in which they had seen or captured pests. We also looked at the teacher's lounge, where one staff member explained that last time the vending machine had been serviced, she had seen roaches scurry out of it!

We look forward to working with OPS and LPS this summer!

Be an IPM Detective!!

Following is a reprint of an article that was published in various newsletters to let people know about our IPM youth project, Pest Private Eye!

The University of Nebraska--Lincoln Extension has developed an educational first person role playing video game, Pest Private Eye and the Case of IPM in Schools to teach children and the educators who work with them about pests and how to control them using Integrated Pest Management (IPM). The purpose of IPM is to try other methods first and use pesticides only after these other methods have been tried. IPM includes sanitation, exclusion, moisture reduction, mechanical controls, habitat modification, biological controls, and low toxic chemical controls. IPM reduces exposure to pesticides, increases human health and safety, and protects the environment.

With a primary audience of 4th-6th graders, the game teaches about pests and IPM through the virtual investigation of Eureka Elementary, a school invaded by pests such as flies, roaches, rodents, ants, and spiders. By learning about and identifying pests, exploring rooms, picking up and using tools, and interacting with school personnel, the player, as Pest Private Eye, helps to solve the school’s pest problems. Pest Private Eye’s assistant, Penny Poe, helps players navigate through the game and presents summaries of important concepts.

During gameplay, students learn about and implement various IPM strategies, including reducing clutter or cleaning up trash (sanitation), screening windows (exclusion), sealing holes (habitat modification), fixing leaks (moisture reduction), trapping (mechanical controls), and using low toxic baits (chemical controls). By using a magnifying glass when they see a pest, players learn about the importance of identifying a pest before controlling it. Players have access to a “Pest ID” book as a reference when they need help in identification, and can also gain clues by speaking with the principal and other school staff about what pests have been noticed around the school. Students learn about what tools are useful when implementing IPM, such as gloves and HEPA masks when working with droppings, flashlights, sticky traps, snap traps, bait, and trash bags. If players need a hint, that is available too! During the game players meet a pest management professional (PMP) working for Eureka Elementary, who gives Pest Private Eye his cell phone number, enabling players to “call” for help throughout the game. In the real world, this interaction with school administration, staff, and the PMP represents the teamwork required for establishing an IPM policy for a school, and how combined efforts make IPM a success.

The game has been piloted in libraries, summer 4-H camps, and after school programs, and UNL Extension received valuable survey feedback from pilot participants. Through an EPA grant we created a newly revised game, integrating suggestions from survey data, which includes more challenges and complexity. In addition, we developed a Teacher’s guide with activities that can be used to teach IPM in the classroom, and a Pest Private Eye comic book.

For more information about Pest Private Eye and the Case of IPM in Schools, including links to a demo, the Teacher's Guide, comic book, and other IPM resources, please visit