• Welcome to IPM for schools, homes and communities

    This website helps all of us create healthy indoor and outdoor environments in our homes, schools and communities using Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in a safe, sustainable and efficient way.

    We will be posting regularly on pests and how to control them, so come back often. Also check out the Colorado Center for Integrated Pest Management, http://ipm.agsci.colostate.edu.

    You can contact us by following this link and filling out the form.

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Cast your vote on November 4

This blog addresses issues affecting healthy communities and healthy people. Food production and pest management practices are issues that affect all of us. In a couple of weeks, we have the opportunity to vote on several ballot initiatives. The Colorado Mandatory Labeling of GMOs, Proposition 105 is on the 2014 statewide ballot as an initiated state statute. The measure would require any “prepackaged, processed food or raw agricultural commodity that has been produced using genetic modification” to include the label: “Produced with genetic engineering.”

Efforts for required labeling and bans of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have been a growing issue in American politics at the state and local level. Over 60 countries, including all members of the European Union, have laws or regulations mandating the labeling of genetically engineered foods. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) says, “crop improvement by the modern molecular techniques of biotechnology is safe. In a series of surveys taken in 2001, 2006, and 2011, about one third of Colorado respondents consistently expressed the opinion that GM foods are almost always or usually safe (see Labeling of Genetically Modified Foods, by P. Byrne, CSU Extension factsheet). However, a number of agricultural organizations are concerned that the measure may send the message to consumers that the foods are unsafe.

There are several complex issues related to GMOs. Under current laws, companies may voluntarily label foods produced without genetic modification, and foods labeled USDA Organic are produced without genetic modification. The question on the ballet is whether we should require food that has been genetically modified or treated with genetically modified material be labeled as such. Here’s what Garry Auld, PhD, RDN, professor, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Colorado State University said in a letter to the Fort Collins Coloradoan: “If consumers hope to retain some influence on the food system, than they have to know what type of system they are supporting with their purchases. Vote to label GMOs and then vote with your food dollars to support a just, environmentally sustainable food system that actually produces healthy food for everyone.” Opponents say that proposition 105 will result in higher food prices as farmers, food manufacturers, distributors, and retailers pass their costs to comply with the labeling requirements on to consumers. CAST YOUR VOTE ON NOVEMBER 4!

Infectious diseases in Colorado?

Don’t worry about Ebola — you are much more likely to get a native infectious disease! Tularemia is a bacterial disease transmitted by ticks or deer flies. You can also get tularemia from handling infected rabbits, so it is sometimes called rabbit fever. “We haven’t seen this many tularemia cases in Colorado since the 1980s,” said State Public Health Veterinarian Dr. Jennifer House. “In the last 10 years Colorado has averaged three human cases of tularemia a year,” Dr. House said. “So far in 2014 we have had 11, and additional suspected cases are under investigation.” Symptoms range from skin ulcers to pneumonia.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to prevent exposure, wear insect repellent, wear gloves when handling diseased animals, and don’t mow over dead animals — always good advice. The CDC Division of Vector Borne Diseases is right here in Fort Collins, so they have the latest information.

Love bats — but leave them alone!

This bat is common throughout the western United States.

This bat is common throughout the western United States.

I just heard from an environmental health professional about an incident where some young people (who should have known better) were handling a live bat. Bats are valuable and fascinating creatures and need to be protected – but if you find a bat, don’t handle it! Bats host virulent diseases that afflict humans, although the bats may not have any symptoms of disease.

In Colorado and throughout North America, bats are the main predators of night-flying insects, consuming thousands of insect pests of crops and forests. The Colorado Bat Working Group has a newly revised key to help identify bats. All 19 species of bats in the state are classified by Colorado Parks and Wildlife as non-game mammals and are protected by law. National Bat Week is October 26 to November 1, 2014!

In schools and home, exclusion is the soundest long-term solution. For the common bats along the Front Range, proper exclusion techniques can only be used between the months of October through March when bats are hibernating elsewhere. Do not use exclusions during the summer breeding season, as mothers cannot get back to feed their infants in the roost and they will die. Seal openings with sealant, hardware cloth, or wood after all bats have exited.

We have some really big “pests”!

black bearBears are sometimes considered a ‘pest species’ in the foothills and forests of Colorado. Today black bears are trying to share space with an ever-growing human population. In Colorado, most bears are active from mid-March through early November. Black bears are curious, smart and very adaptable. They’re not fussy and will eat just about anything with calories. Bears want to get the most energy they can with the least amount of effort. Every bear’s goal is to get fat enough to live through the winter. Using bear resistant containers for trash is essential. For more information, see the Colorado Parks & Wildlife brochure on bear proofing your home or school.

How big is your cat-faced spider?

This is the sixth year of our annual “how big is your cat-faced spider contest”.  Araneus gemmoides is one of the most common spiders people encounter in the fall. Look for concentric webs (with spiraling sticky coils) near porch lights, just outside windows, or in areas that are likely to attract flying insects.

Photo by W. Cranshaw

Photo by W. Cranshaw

The female cat-faced spider is straw-colored to dark grayish brown, can be quite large (5-7 mm long and 4.5-5.5 wide), with a bulbous abdomen and a pair of projections on the front that look like the ears of a cat. A faint white line runs down the mid-line of the front of the abdomen and it is usually crossed with small V-shaped markings.

The heaviest cat-faced spider received before contest deadline — October 17 — will win! Only the cat-faced spider is eligible; no other spiders need apply. Please note that no external decorations are allowed; spiders must be in the buff during weighing. For further contest details and entry information, contact Dr. Whitney Cranshaw (whitney.cranshaw@colostate.edu)

If handled, a mature cat-faced spider may give a sharp pinch of a bite, although they cannot normally pierce the skin. They are not a dangerous species and do not have venom that produces any serious effects on humans.

Females produce a silk-covered egg sac in the fall. At the end of the season, all the spiders die and the only surviving stage between growing seasons are eggs. Eggs hatch in spring and tiny spiderlings disperse, usually by ballooning.

See the CSU fact sheet about this spider.

The real cost of bed bugs

In the 2013 “Bugs without Borders” survey, pest management professionals reported that the majority of bed bugs are found in homes — but they are also in hotels, dorms, nursing homes, schools and office buildings. The number of instances of bed bugs in libraries, retail stores and airplanes has gone up! Bed bugs plague cities, both large and small. There is some evidence that bed bug infestations are a seasonal problem occurring most often in the summer and least often in the winter. The pest control company Orkin ranks cities by the number of bed bug treatments Orkin performed per year; Denver was number nine (right after Washington, DC) in 2013.

bed bugs on mattressThe first step in controlling any pest problem is to accurately identify the pest. Here in Colorado, we also have bat bugs and swallow bugs. See the fact sheet Bat Bugs, Bed Bugs and Relatives.

Control measures are expensive, including the costs of replacing furniture and bedding. However, these are not the only costs. What is the real cost of bed bugs and their control?

There are costs to mental and physical health. Infestations of bed bugs can cause emotional distress, anxiety, paranoia and sleeplessness. In a recent study conducted by the University of Arizona, 89% of respondents indicated that bed bug infestations led to extreme stress and 100 % indicated some level of anxiety. The bites associated with bed bugs can result in secondary infections (even though bed bugs are not known to transmit any diseases). Another health risk is associated with misuse of chemicals to control bed bugs. People have treated their beds and mattresses with “alternative treatments” – everything from Listerine to lighter fluid.

There are costs to the environment – repeated applications of certain pesticides may lead to populations of bed bugs that are resistant. Bed bugs all but disappeared in the 1940s and 1950s, with the widespread use of DDT, which had long-lasting insecticidal activity as a dry residue. Reports began to circulate with 3 years of its introduction that some bed bug populations had become DDT-resistant. By the 1960s, bed bugs resistant to DDT were found worldwide.

Being vigilant is the best way to prevent infestations from spreading. Regularly inspect for signs of bed bugs. Pay close attention to sheets and to the seams of furniture and upholstery for telltale brownish or reddish spots. These pests have been known to inhabit electrical sockets, surge protectors and behind picture frames. Vacuum and clean all areas – including offices, hallways, lobbies, kitchens, bathrooms on a daily basis. Eliminate clutter as best as possible.

September Healthy Schools Newsletter

The September newsletter is out. Learn more about bed bugs, weed killers, unused pesticides and mosquitoes in this month’s edition.

School district personnel may want to mark their calendars to attend the National Environmental Health Association workshop “Biology and Control of Vectors and Public Health Pests: The Importance of Integrated Pest Management” November 5 – 7 in Denver.

The workshop features presentations from top entomologists and IPM experts in the U.S. and includes interactive group activities and discussion on a variety of important topics including:
• Integrated pest management (IPM)
• Vector-borne diseases of public health importance
• Rodent management
• Bed bug biology, control and interactive inspection
• Mosquito management
• Tick management
• Pests in the housing
• Pests in the food environment and interactive inspection

To register online please visit: http://www.neha.org/public-health-pests-conference.html.

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