Integrated Pest Management practices lead State in using natural pest control methods

Monday, August 7, 2017
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Staff at Integrated Pest Management remove snake
Staff at Integrated Pest Management remove snake

Imagine you’re using the restroom in between classes when a cockroach crawls up the drain on the floor. Or you’re eating lunch in your office when you see a few ants hanging out in the corner of the room. Instead of dealing with these pests on your own, UNL Facilities Management has established procedures for pest control to minimize chemical usage as well as administer it in the safest way to people.

Integrated Pest Management practices (IPM) have been used at the University for almost 20 years by the Custodial Services as well as the Landscape Services department. Ron Bacon, the pest control manager of Facilities, Maintenance and Operations said that IPM’s goals are to solve pest problems while being the least disruptive to people. They have worked to minimize the use of chemicals by looking to alternative methods of pest control.

Bacon described a few tactics of pest control that the Facilities Management uses to deter pests from settling in the first place. He showed an example in a building under a partially-covered delivery entrance with six feet of space between the ceiling and the beams below. He explained that pigeons used to get into the space and became a hazard because their droppings carry diseases and other threats to health. This project created a net that was installed and closed off that large open pocket in the ceiling, deterring the birds from the space.

In the case of the cockroaches coming up the drains, this happens when water levels are too low in the drains, but the staffs were proactive about the issue and have screened most drains to create a barrier between cockroaches coming up and water running down. Solutions like netting and screens are often simple alternatives to using chemical products.

The successful implementation of IPM strategies requires constituents to contact pest control if they run into a problem rather than trying to handle it on their own. Bringing in your own chemicals from home is often less effective than having a trained professional take care of the issue with more organic methods.

Landscape Services takes a bit different approach to IPM as their procedures deal with the maintenance of plants and foliage on campus. Jeff Culbertson, the Assistant Director of Operations at Landscape Services, said that IPM has mainly included the reduction and proper use of pesticides and fungicides.

“What has become increasingly important when you apply pesticides is to make sure you’re applying them to the target, not having excess material in the environment, controlling any kind of spills and being precise about the rate of application,” Culbertson said. “Non-target victims, whether they’re plants, animals or people might be affected by unintended exposure.”

Landscape Services uses proactive strategies by monitoring plants and trees for individual issues and then isolating that case. When a plant might have a pest or fungus, the best way to control for that is by thoroughly cleaning up leaf and other debris that could infect other plants, and Culbertson said this has proven a better alternative to spraying.

“Historically, a lot of people thought that pesticide applications were almost benign - they killed the dandelion but they weren’t worried about everything else it might kill,” Culbertson said. “Or it killed the bug but didn’t realize that it was also killing the honeybees and butterflies also.”

Culbertson is involved with the Nebraska Cooperative Extension to write and narrate training videos for Nebraska’s pesticide applicator’s permit. These training tools help keep the entire state to the highest standard of practice, just like the Custodial Services and Landscape Services do for each other. Leading these industries at the state’s top institution motivates innovation and reduces non-organic methods of pest control.

“I think there’s a civic responsibility knowing that we’re representing the state, and we have students, faculty and staff that we are trying to keep our work to the highest level for,” Culbertson said.