School IPM Basics

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What is a Pest?

A pest is any living thing—a plant, an animal, or a microorganism—that has a negative effect on humans. It can be an unwanted plant (weed), fungi, nematode, microbe (such as bacteria or virus), insect, spider, mite, bird, fish, rodent, or even a deer. Labeling an organism a pest is a very subjective concept that varies with each individual’s point of view. In general, pests are unwanted or undesirable because they:

  • Reduce the availability, quality, or value of human resources such as food, feed, water, or space;
  • Injure humans, animals, crops, structures, and possessions;
  • Spread or cause disease; or
  • Interfere with human activities by causing annoyance, discomfort, or inconvenience.

Many organisms may become pests, certain organisms are often pests, but none are inherently pests.

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What is a Pesticide?

pes-ti-cide: any substance used to kill, repel or otherwise control a pest. Pesticides are often referred to by the type of pest they control: insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, rodenticides and disinfectants (to name a few).
How can you tell if it’s a pesticide? If it’s a chemical substance and you’re using it with the intention of controlling a pest, then it’s a pesticide! This includes homemade solutions.

What you should know

Pesticide use is strictly regulated in Maine schools. With few exceptions, pesticides may only be used by a licensed commercial applicator and each application must be approved in advance by the school’s trained IPM Coordinator. When pesticides are applied in areas accessible to students or staff, signs must be posted to indicate what, when, where and why a pesticide application is scheduled and parents/guardians and staff must also be notified 5 days in advance. In addition, a pesticide may only be used precisely as directed on its label, which is a legal document. For rules governing the use of pesticides in and around schools see School IPM Regulations.

Some common types of pesticides:

  • Insecticides—kill insects.
  • Herbicides—kill weeds and other plants. Found in weed control products including lawn ‘weed & feed’ products.
  • Fungicides—kill fungi. Used to control mold & mildew or to protect plants from diseases.
  • Molluscicides—kill snails and slugs.
  • Rodenticides—control mice, rats and other rodents.
  • Disinfectants and sanitizers—control human disease-producing microorganisms (like bacteria and viruses).
  • Repellents—repel biting insects or vertebrates like birds or deer.

What is IPM?

Integrated pest management (IPM) is a common-sense, sustainable approach to preventing and managing pests. IPM enables schools to manage pests through regular pest monitoring, effective communication, good facilities management practices, and combinations of smart effective tactics including pest traps, good property management practices, and selective use of chemicals when needed. With IPM, schools can protect human health and the environment while saving money. More: An Ounce of Prevention Brochure (PDF).

IPM is the 'standard of practice' for pest prevention and management in buildings and grounds to protect people and promote academic success.

Maine Schools are Required to Use IPM. All Maine schools, both public and private, are required to adopt IPM policies and practices and appoint an IPM coordinator. A quick guide to Maine's school IPM requirements - Maine School IPM Brochure (PDF).

Five Keys to IPM

  • Be prepared. What pests can you expect and how can you avoid them? Learn which tactics work—and under which conditions—if pests show up in school buildings, playgrounds and athletic fields.
  • Think prevention. Keep pests out with sealants, door-sweeps, and screens; keep it clean and dry--inside and out; keep plants and lawns healthy to resist pests
  • Stay alert. Scout routinely, keeping tabs on potential pests. Know your threshold—the point when a few pests become a few too many.
  • Choose and use. Choose tactics and tools for the best results that protect children, staff and visitors--and Maine's valuable natural resources, too--while staying within budget. Whatever option you settle on—do it right! Plan carefully, make smart choices, and keep records!
  • Evaluate. How did it work? How much has the situation changed? What did you learn? What is left to learn?

I'm new to IPM, where do I start?