School IPM in Phoenix and on Arizona Indian Reservations

Protect and Enhance the Nation's Natural Resource Base and Environment
Research Year: 

Most schools in Phoenix and elsewhere in Arizona routinely spray their facilities with pesticides to control an assortment of fire ants, cockroaches, mosquitoes and bark scorpions. Each month the treatments are repeated as part of an outdated pest prevention program that doesn't work. Unacceptable pest populations remain a problem in these schools. At the same time, while the poisons are applied and reapplied, parents pull their children out of school for a day or two each month to avoid pesticide exposure.

Description of Action: 

In April 2000, the Kyrene school district in metropolitan Phoenix tried another approach and brought in a team of specialists that included entomologists from the University of Arizona. Three schools in the Kyrene district were chosen for a pilot Integrated Pest Management (IPM) project, to control pests while avoiding reliance on chemical pesticides. The schools concentrated their efforts (and capital resources) on identifying what the pests were, finding where they came from and preventing their entry into buildings. The custodial and kitchen staffs also were mobilized to learn how to spot trouble. All of the openings around pipes and conduits were sealed, crawl spaces were closed off, and drains and building slabs were repaired to inhibit cockroaches. Trees were trimmed back and birds were encouraged to roost where their droppings wouldn't contaminate walkways and other high traffic areas. The program initially came from Indiana University (IU). IU entomologist Marc Lame had done a pilot study in the Midwest and wanted to try a similar program in the desert Southwest.

In 2001 a new pilot program began on The Navajo Nation in three Bureau of Indian Affairs schools. The main pest issues at the sites included rodents, bed bugs and house flies. Although the program was going to expand to include all the BIA schools on the Navajo, Hopi and south Pueblo reservations, BIA discontinued program support and sponsorship in 2003. New pilot programs subsequently began on the Gila River Indian Reservation and Hopi Reservation in fall 2002. One school had spent nearly $7,000 in pest control annually until the school IPM program brought the cost down to a few hundred dollars instead.

The structural IPM program continues to grow: 1) UA faculty are currently working with the Arizona Structural Pest Control Commission on ways to provide pest control companies with certification that will recognize those who practice IPM techniques, and 2) a UA faculty member has been appointed vice president of the International Urban IPM Association.

In 2004 a pediatrician specializing in asthma will compare the frequency of asthma attacks in schools that are on traditional pesticide spraying programs with the frequency of attacks among students in schools that have adopted integrated pest management plans. Asthma is associated with certain pesticides and with the presence of cockroaches. Schools that are on IPM programs not only have fewer cockroaches, but also less pesticide in the environment.


The IPM final evaluation for the Kyrene School District showed that the three Phoenix schools reduced their pesticide applications by 90 percent and kept pest populations below 85 percent of their original levels. The program was expanded to 27 sites in that district. The final evaluation for the Navajo Nation sites showed that the pilot schools reduced chemical pesticide use by more than 90 percent and also reduced pest incidence by more than 60 percent.

These successes have resulted in a unique coalition project launched in January 2004 with Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, Public Health, EPA Region 9, the UA, Structural Pest Control Commission and the National IPM in Schools team headed by Lame. The coalition includes five new school districts: Mesa Public, Scottsdale Unified, Washington Elementary, Madison and The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. The ultimate goal is statewide implementation of school IPM practices.

One school on the Gila River Indian reservation had been spending $7,000 annually in pest control costs. After the IPM program was implemented, their bill was reduced to a few hundred dollars per year, saving the school money and increasing safety by withholding large amounts of pesticide

. On the Hopi reservation, feral dogs that were carrying ticks–disease vectors–were handled through an innovative community-wide IPM program. Instead of killing them, which would have left the ticks to find humans as blood hosts, the dogs were fitted with tick collars to reduce the disease threat. The Arizona state program for IPM in schools has become a model for developing statewide implementation plans for IPM in schools across the United States.

Funding Agencies: 

University of Arizona Cooperative Extension; Environmental Protection Agency

Conact Name: 
Dawn Gouge
Contact E-mail: 
Contact Address: 

Department of Entomology

The University of Arizona

37860 W. Smith-Enke Road Maricopa, AZ 85239-3010

Tel: (520) 568-2273 ext, 223 FAX (520) 568-2556