School IPM

Non-Chemical Pest Management

When a pest problem requires action, look first to those methods not requiring the use of pesticides. Pest control practices such as trapping, caulking, power washing, and vacuuming are control measures you can use with a high degree of safety. Ideally, you should concentrate first on those methods that work over the long term, or that prevent pests in the first place; methods such as pest-proofing (exclusion) or operational changes that improve sanitation. Often, nonchemical measures are combined for the most effective results, and sometimes used together with limited pesticide application. Common nonchemical pest management methods are discussed here.


Poor sanitation makes life easy for cockroaches, flies, ants, mice, rats, and other pests that need nothing more than a little spilled food, a drippy faucet and a place to hide.

Removing available food for pests is the most obvious, and probably the most important, sanitation step to reduce pests. However, cleaning up clutter is important, too. Stacks of papers or closets jammed full of 'stuff' provide harborage (living and hiding places) for pests.

Good sanitation is a nonchemical pest management measure that does not require specialized training or equipment. All that is needed is an understanding of the connection between food, standing water, clutter...and pests.

Vacuuming is an important part of a sanitation program since thorough and frequent vacuuming removes food particles and other debris that pests feed on. Vacuuming also can be used to control pests directly. Pest control companies are increasingly using industrial-type vacuums to suck up cockroaches, flies, ants, spiders, and other pests.

For many pest problems, a vacuum may be all that is needed. A group of cockroaches living under a rabbit cage can best be removed simply by lifting the cage and vacuuming them up. For other pest problems, a vacuum may be the only control method that is acceptable. An example is ants living inside an oven.

Pest control companies and cleaning services often use specialty backpack vacuums equipped with filters that can remove even tiny allergenic particles. Special attachments allow vacuuming under appliances and around sensitive equipment like computers. After vacuuming, the vacuum bag should be dropped into a sealable plastic bag and discarded.

Power Washing
Various types of power washing equipment use a high-pressure stream of water to remove accumulated debris, grease, and other potential food and harborage for pests. Candidates for power washing include the following sites:

Power washing is usually done by school staff, but may be a separate service provided by a contractor, sometimes the pest control contractor.

Sanitation in Food Service Areas
Schools should allow food and beverages only in certain designated areas. (Note: Food and beverages should be prohibited in computer rooms and in similar pest-sensitive sites.)

In the main kitchen and cafeteria, food preparation surfaces should be cleaned promptly after use. Grease should be cleaned regularly from ovens, exhaust filters, and grease traps. Power washing is a good way to remove grease and spillage and to flush floor drains. Garbage cans should use plastic liners. The cans should be cleaned regularly, and garbage removed daily. Catch trays in insect light traps should be emptied regularly.

Stored packaged foods should be stacked on pallets or on shelves that are away from the wall to allow inspection and cleaning. The policy of "first in, first out," ensures that foods do not remain in storage for too long. Empty boxes, cans, and any damaged packages should be promptly discarded. Opened foods should be stored in tightly sealed containers.

In secondary food areas like lounges, snack areas, and the home economics classroom, stoves, refrigerators, and sinks should be kept clean. Leftover food should not be stored for long periods. Spills under and behind vending machines, microwaves, and coffee makers should be cleaned up promptly.

Sanitation in Other Indoor Areas
In the science lab or animal rooms, animal cages should be cleaned and bedding replaced regularly. Spilled feed and animal feces should be removed daily. Animal feed should be stored in tightly sealed containers.

In rest rooms, locker rooms, and janitorial closets, floor drains and shower drains must be cleaned routinely. Mop buckets should be emptied after use and wet mops and rags cleaned and hung to dry.

In lockers and desks, regular inspections should look for conditions that attract pests like forgotten bag lunches, discarded candy wrappers, or wet clothing.

Sanitation and Waste Disposal
Garbage cans and recycling containers should have lids that close and should be emptied and cleaned regularly. The trash room should have a concrete floor with a floor drain so that it can be hosed down or power washed.

The dumpster and compactor should be washed out regularly using high pressure and a degreasing solution. After cleaning, the dumpster's drain plug should always be replaced. Sliding doors or lids on the dumpster should be kept closed. Spilled trash around the dumpster should be picked up daily. Trash cans on playgrounds and in other outside areas should be emptied daily and cleaned regularly.

Sanitation Outside the Building
Trash on the grounds, especially trash that accumulates around the foundation and under shrubbery, should be picked up. Fruits and vegetables that are lying on the ground should be removed to discourage rodents, yellowjackets, and other pests that feed on decaying vegetation.

Roof gutters should be cleaned, and stagnant water in containers and playground equipment should be emptied.


A straightforward pest control solution is to simply change the conditions that allowed the insect or animal to become a pest in the first place. One way to do this is to make physical or mechanical changes that will make the location less attractive to pests or that will keep them from entering buildings. Pestproofing can be as simple as repairing screens and caulking cracks or as sophisticated as landscaping with pest- and disease-resistant plants. Some physical alterations can be expensive and time-consuming but they usually are permanent solutions.

Pestproofing Buildings

Pestproofing on the Grounds


Traps for insects, mice and rats are nontoxic and easy to use. They have the added advantage of containing the pest for disposal so that there is no concern about odors from dead rodents inside wall voids or in other sites. The one disadvantage in a school setting is that school children will often investigate and interfere with traps that are visible and accessible.

Traps for Insects
The traps commonly used indoors to capture insects are sticky traps, pheromone traps, and insect light traps. These traps are discussed in detail in the article on monitoring pests.

Jar traps capture certain insects, particularly yellowjackets and flies. Yellowjacket traps are useful in the fall when yellowjackets are foraging around human food, drinks, and garbage.

Traps for Mice and Rats
Traps used to catch mice and rats are glue boards, snap traps, and multiple-catch or repeating mouse traps. In addition, there are small mouse traps that will capture individual mice alive to be disposed of or relocated, and there are specialty live traps for capturing larger animals like raccoons or skunks. Before trapping animals other than rats and mice, be sure you understand what you are doing and have the proper license or permit.

The common snap trap for mice or rats can be baited with a food bait such as peanut butter, or with cotton balls or other nest material, or left unbaited. Snap traps with an expanded trigger design usually are more effective.

Multiple-catch or automatic repeating mouse traps are larger, metal traps that are capable of catching up to 20 mice without having to be reset. Mice are usually captured alive.

Glue boards for rodents are similar to insect sticky traps but are usually larger with more adhesive. Mice or rats that walk onto the board are captured.

Placement of Rodent Traps.
Traps should be placed in rodent runways. Rodents usually travel along baseboards or edges of walls or other objects. Place snap traps perpendicular to the wall with the bait pedal against the wall. Place glue boards parallel to the wall. For mice, traps should be placed about every 10 feet. For rats, place traps approximately 20 feet apart.

Place traps (and glue boards) where they will be inaccessible to children, pets, or other animals. Otherwise, place them inside a tamper-resistant bait station secured so that it cannot be lifted.

Traps can be placed outdoors around the perimeter of the building as well. Put them inside tamper-resistant bait stations to keep them away from children and animals, and to keep them dry and dust-free. Locate the bait stations in inconspicuous locations such as behind shrubbery or inside dumpster enclosures.

Check traps daily and remove captured rodents. Wear gloves when handling dead rodents and dispose of them immediately in a sealed plastic bag. Used glue boards should be disposed of, rodent and all, and replaced. Snap traps and multiple-catch traps can be emptied and reset.

Number the traps or glue boards and record their location on a map of the building or grounds. Also record on a service sheet when traps are checked, emptied, and/or replaced. Move traps that have had no activity to a new location.

Light Management

Certain flying insects will congregate wherever there is bright exterior lighting such as around doorways, parking lots, loading docks, or ball fields.

When bright lights around the perimeter of a building draw insects, pest problems can result:

  1. Dead and dying insects can accumulate around doorways and windows,
  2. Some of these insects may find their way inside through crevices, faulty screening, etc., and
  3. Insects flying around lights attract predators, like spiders, that feed on insects.

There are four factors that determine whether insects will fly to a light:

  1. its brightness or wattage,
  2. its ultraviolet (UV) output,
  3. its heat output, and
  4. whether there is competition from other lights nearby.

Bright lighting around schools is an important security measure, especially when students are present for nighttime activities. But there are several ways to reduce the problem of insects flying to lights without sacrificing outdoor lighting.

Information on our site was developed for conditions in the Northeast. Use in other geographical areas may be inappropriate.

The information in this material is for educational purposes. The recommendations contained are based on the best available knowledge at the time of printing. Any reference to commercial products, trade or brand names is for information only, and no endorsement or approval is intended. The Cooperative Extension system does not guarantee or warrant the standard of any product referenced or imply approval of the product to the exclusion of others which also may be available.All agrochemicals/pesticides listed are registered for suggested uses in accordance with federal and Connecticut state laws and regulations as of the date of printing. If the information does not agree with current labeling, follow the label instructions. The label is the law.Warning! Agrochemicals/pesticides are dangerous. Read and follow all instructions and safety precautions on labels. Carefully handle and store agrochemicals/pesticides in originally labeled containers immediately in a safe manner and place. Contact the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection for current regulations.The user of this information assumes all risks for personal injury or property damage.Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Kirklyn M. Kerr, Director, Cooperative Extension System, The University of Connecticut, Storrs. The Connecticut Cooperative Extension System offers its programs to persons regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability and is an equal opportunity employer.