Four hundred sixteen calls for mice; 325 for skunks; 175 for American cockroaches; 164 for ants. These are just some of the pest complaints made by Penn State employees during the 2014 calendar year at the University Park campus.
Lysa Holland, environmental compliance engineer in the Office of Physical Plant, hopes these numbers will drop as a result of the University's new commitment to implementing integrated pest management, or IPM, principles across all University Park buildings.
According to Holland, IPM is a stepwise approach to pest management that combines accurate knowledge of both the pest and the level of potential harm with multiple tactics to prevent, reduce or eliminate pests.
"IPM is all about prevention," she said. "With everyone working together, we can minimize pest problems on campus and lessen the need for chemicals. This creates healthier indoor air quality and supports Penn State's sustainability goals."
The University's IPM Committee began meeting in 2009 to discuss the design process of the new Business Building as it implemented LEED-EB (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-Existing Building) standards. Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, these standards dictate the design, construction, operation and maintenance of existing buildings such that they implement sustainable practices. During that time, there became an opportunity to formalize the committee's work by creating an IPM plan for the building.
"My feeling was if we were putting together an IPM plan for the Business Building, we were putting it together for everybody," said Holland. "I didn't think one building should get a different kind of pest management than the others. So we expanded the IPM requirements for the Business Building to everywhere at University Park."
In October 2015, the plan, which already had been implemented in the new Business Building, was officially adopted by the Office of Physical Plant and will be enforced across campus.
According to Holland, the University contracts with an outside vendor, Orkin Inc., to conduct pest inspections and management. Under the new IPM plan, if an Orkin staff member sees a building situation that clearly is causing a pest problem, he or she must report it to the University's Work Control Center, which will send a technician out to fix the building problem.
"They'll still catch the mouse," she said, "but now they'll also tell you that the reason the mouse is coming in is because there are no door sweeps. They'll take pictures of the doors and send those in to the Work Control Center. So we're fixing the buildings to avoid pest problems from occurring in the future. We had never totally closed that loop before."
Another component of the campus's new IPM plan is training. The IPM Committee already has started training the custodial staff and will be training the maintenance staff at Penn State about their roles in IPM.
"Custodial staff members might be able to address sanitation problems or report potential building problems, while maintenance staff members can take care of physical problems like missing door sweeps or windows that won't close," said Holland.
The committee also is planning to provide information to all Penn State faculty, staff and students telling them what to do if they see a pest, how to report it and how to prevent it by taking steps such as reducing clutter and managing their food areas properly.
Finally, the IPM plan mandates nonpesticidal solutions as an initial response. If pesticides are necessary, only the least toxic pesticides (Tier III) are used, unless a need is formally demonstrated for a stronger substance.
Other members of the IPM Committee from Penn State include Erik Cable, custodial programs manager, Office of Physical Plant; Dave Manos, assistant director, Housing; Chuck Wakefield, assistant director, Food Services; Tom Neely and Shawn Ward, facility managers, Hospitality Services; and Professor of Entomology Ed Rajotte and IPM Program Manager Lyn Garling, College of Agricultural Sciences. Randal Ridenour, pest control vendor, Orkin, also serves on the committee.