Applying Pesticides in Schools
Updated: May 25, 2022
You would think that selecting and applying pesticides- whether in the home, the office, schools, hospitals, retail spaces, dormitories, etc. ̶ is a fairly straightforward matter: You identify the kind of pest or pests, you’re trying to eradicate, then you “whack ‘em” with the strongest bug spray you can find, right?
Alas, no. Things are just a little more complicated than that.
Every setting, from your home or office to schools, hospitals, and even taxis and buses, requires a different approach to pest eradication. To say nothing of how the particular pest you’re dealing with will influence the line of attack you ultimately take.
You can find plenty of information about the dos and don’ts of dealing with pests in the home. We’ve written loads on how to get rid of bed bugs, fleas, ticks, and scabies (among others). This is not to say that dealing with pests in your own home isn’t important; it clearly is. But more sensitive environments, such as schools and healthcare facilities, require especially careful handling.
Getting Rid of Pests in Schools
“An ounce of prevention,” Benjamin Franklin famously advised Philadelphians in 1736, “is worth a pound of cure.” And this is particularly true when it comes to keeping pests out of schools and hospitals. We will get to this later, but some issues should come before others.
Here’s how to get pests out of a school setting:
You need to properly identify the pest, or pests, you’re dealing with. I say pests, plural, because if you notice one sort of bug in your school, chances are good that there are others you just aren’t seeing! This is one reason that using a licensed Pest Management Professional (PMP) from a reliable, well-established company is so important.
Always call in a PMP. We just can’t stress how important it is that you do this! On more than once occasion we’ve been made aware of instances where a clerk in the school office tells a custodian to start spraying insecticides ̶ without asking anyone higher in authority. This really does happen, unfortunately! It may well be that your particular school district, even county or state, actually requires the use of PMPs. So, before you do anything, check with your principal or school superintendent. Failure to do so can get the school district ̶ and you, especially ̶ into a lot of trouble. If you go ahead with pesticide application on your own, not only could you be disciplined (or fired) by the school board, but individual parents could name you, along with the school district, in any civil lawsuits they might bring.
So, if you have determined that you can, legally, use a pesticide to tackle an in-school infestation, keep this advice from the University of California Agricultural and Natural Resources web site in mind: “Before using any pesticide, be sure you need it. Verify that the organism you seek to control is really causing lasting damage, and research alternative management methods.”
Always apply your pesticide of choice on a Friday night, unless, of course, it’s the beginning of a holiday period. The point is that using a pesticide on a Friday evening pretty much ensures that students and staff won’t come into contact with it. Note: Whether you’re a member of the custodial staff or a PMP, you should always check with your local state and/or country officials regarding the use ̶ and permissibility ̶ of your chosen pesticide.
As any PMP will quickly tell you, no pesticide is 100% effective on first use. A manufacturer may claim that their product kills every insect and disinfects completely with one application, but it simply isn’t true. It’s always a good idea to reapply your pesticide a week later. Remember, most bugs are tough and resilient, so you need to double down on your eradication efforts.
Where Do Bugs Hide in Schools?
If you’ve been doing this for a while, you probably know that certain areas of a school are more attractive to bugs than others. Before you start your “Search & Destroy” mission, make sure you have all the following locations on your hit list:
Cafeterias - Pests always look for sources of food and water. Ergo, cafeterias are Bug Destination #1.
Classrooms and Lockers – May contend with cafeterias for Bug Destination #1. Food remnants (and assorted, unidentifiable ‘goodies’) are a never-ending smorgasbord (and breeding ground) for pests.
Gyms and Locker Rooms – Like cafeterias, doesn’t need an explanation!
Dumpsters – These may not be in your official purview, but waste bins and other garbage receptacles throughout the school can be a source of pest problems.
That done, you can now proceed to choosing the best pesticide you can find.
Why You Should Use Sterifab
While it’s true that all pesticides are toxic to some extent or another, but (particularly in schools), you should not necessarily apply the most powerful product you can acquire. On the contrary: you should use the least toxic but most effective pesticide available, especially since you may have to return a number of times to an infestation site. A build-up of chemicals is actually the last thing you want in a school and its environs.
This is one of the (many) reasons that we recommend using a product like Sterifab®. Sure, we’re biased and there are other products on the market, but history has shown that Sterifab is particularly effective at treating pest infestations in schools. Not only is it effective at killing bed bugs, fleas, lice, ticks, and a host of other insects, but it is NON-RESIDUAL. It becomes inactive after it dries, which usually takes between 15-20 minutes at room temperature. The children can go back to playing right after you spray!
How to Apply Sterifab in Schools
If you go with Sterifab, here are some guidelines.
Don’t dilute Sterifab.
Shake it well before and during application to make sure that the identification crystals it contains are evenly dispersed.
Point and spray. (Sterifab is nonresidual and can be sprayed directly on furniture, lockers, cabinets, drawers, carpets, seats, waiting areas, offices, garbage bins, and so forth.)
How Much Sterifab Should You Use?
The amount you’ll need depends on the type and extent of your specific infestation. A typical couch in a school library will require 10-12 ounces per application. (A gallon will cover approximately 8-10 pieces of upholstered furniture, while the 5-gallon container will treat approximately 40-50 pieces.) And while it’s nonresidual, Sterifab should never be sprayed on people, animals, or cooking utensils. Also, it shouldn’t ever be used on wax surfaces.
A Final Note:
If you have ever employed a PMP in your school, they have probably said that one application of a pesticide is not a guarantee that the pest in question has been totally eradicated. Chances are that it hasn’t and multiple visits (or applications) may be necessary. So, the part about repeat visits isn’t a play on the part of the PMP to boost their fees. It’s just a fact of bug life that one pass of a pesticide probably won’t be enough. Remain vigilant and keep a pesticide handy!