Daily News Archive

Schools Learning to Keep Pests Away Without Toxins
(from October 30, 2002)

Instead of using dangerous herbicides to get rid of weeds, some Central New York schools steam them away, reports the Post-Standard. Shrieking noisemakers scare off seagulls at North Syracuse's athletic stadium, while floating scarecrows keep them out at Liverpool. Border collies might be brought to North Syracuse to chase away Canada geese, which create a poop problem on school fields.

And instead of putting out poison bait to catch mice, school workers now caulk holes, store food more securely and clean regularly. Any mice that still get into buildings eat their last meal on the end of a snapping trap.

Other solutions to pest problems include using mint oil for bees and noisemakers called helikites (helium-filled mylar balloons covered in nylon, tethered to old tires by kite string) to control other pesky birds. The helikites bob up and down, fly to and fro, spin in the wind, the motion helps to keep birds away.

Pests that once met a toxic end now stay away from school buildings, or they die an environmentally friendly death. A new state law requires 48-hour notice before use of certain restricted pesticides. Schools all over New York have been looking for poison-free ways to rid their buildings, playgrounds and athletic fields of pests.

The process is called Integrated Pest Management or IPM. The techniques focus on closing access for pests into buildings and deterring their presence on grounds. If they do get in, regular housekeeping and secure food storage help ensure pests don't stay.

Ants are the top nuisance in New York's schools, according to a survey conducted last year by the state IPM program. Keeping them away can be as simple as mopping an ant trail, which confuses them, Hammond said. Boric acid, a non-toxic powder that becomes inert after a few days, destroys an ant's cell structure and usually stops ant trails.

Weeds are another pesky problem. Overgrown sidewalks, fence lines and parking lots leave a bad impression with students, staff and visitors.

Two years ago, Liverpool Schools bought a device called an Aquacide, which steams weeds to death. Baldwinsville, Fayetteville-Manlius and Indian River schools each bought one a year later. Liverpool's Aquacide uses a diesel engine to heat tap water to about 260 degrees. A small gas engine fires the steam through a gun-shaped tube tipped with four nozzles. A weed will start out a shiny bright green, then became a dull, deep green. It looked and smelled like cooked spinach. Once it dries, it will turn brown and blow away.

Click here to view the full text of this article as seen in the Post-Standard.

To learn more about IPM in Schools visit Beyond Pesticides' Children and Schools web page,
as well as our State and Local School Pesticide Policies web page