To view the press release, click
November 18, 2004
Larry Schmeits, WESD’s pest management specialist, visits each of district’s 32 schools at least once a month.
He walks the grounds to locate fire ant nests and does a careful flashlight inspection of food storage, preparation and serving areas.
He also checks “pest sighting logs,” placed in each school for staff to report any pests they have spotted or related concerns they may have.
Schmeits sees his role as an educator and diagnostician, rather than as a pesticide applicator.
“A teacher might report small flying insects in the classroom,” says Schmeits.
“In the past, we would have fogged the entire room with insecticide.
Now, the first thing I’ll look for is a potted plant. Tiny fungus gnats can breed in damp potting soil.
They’re harmless but can be a nuisance. All it takes most of the time is letting the teacher know where they’re coming from and suggesting a little less water to keep the soil dry.”
In IPM, pesticides are used as a last resort, and in ways that reduce exposure to children and others.
“When I started working at WESD two years ago,” relates Schmeits, “I could walk into any school and find a dozen or so fire ant stings reported each week. I’d see a fire ant mound every ten feet along the sidewalks.”
Schmeits treats problem mounds with a teaspoon of insecticide bait. Ants carry the bait into the nest, destroying the colony.
“Now we no longer have kids having to fight off the ants as they’re waiting in line at the water fountain.
And I’ve only used two pounds of insecticide in all of last year.”
The district was at the geographic center of the West Nile Virus outbreak out this past spring. WESD was well prepared, having started a mosquito surveillance and source reduction program a year ago.
Locations on school grounds where standing water remained for more than 48 hours were identified as likely mosquito breeding sites.
Drainage was improved where possible, and where not, a biological insecticide that kills only mosquito larvae was applied after rainstorms.
A press release was prepared and circulated to help educate school staff and parents to correct standing water at home, and to use repellants and protective clothing to reduce bites and opportunities for infection.
Schmeits joined the district’s staff in 2002 after twenty years in the pest control industry.
He heard about Gouge’s IPM program at a meeting of the Arizona Structural Pest Control Board and attended the next available training.
Frank Devine, administrator of maintenance for the district and Schmeits’ supervisor, supported the direction Schmeits was headed.
“We wanted Larry to move forward as quickly as he was comfortable with, both to improve insect and weed control, and to reduce reliance on pesticides,” reports Devine.
Together, Schmeits and Devine drafted an IPM policy statement which is now before the school board for approval.
Schmeits is working with governing board member Kate KcGee to refine the policy for formal adoption.
“I want to be sure IPM is the way we deal with pests forever more,” states Schmeits.
WESD was established in 1891 by 13 farm families and has now grown to include 32 schools on 440 acres, with more than 23,000 students and 3000 staff.
The district serves both northwest Phoenix and Glendale.