Ukiah Unified School District

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Ukiah Unified Continues to Focus on Pest Management

             Last year, the Ukiah Unified School District (UUSD) began working with the California Department of Pest Regulation (DPR) and Dr. Andrew Sutherland from the University of California Cooperative Extension to manage a Turkestan cockroach infestation at Ukiah High School, after the cockroaches—a species not previously seen this far north in California—did not respond to traditional pest management strategies.

According to DPR scientist Ashley Freeman, UUSD Director of Maintenance, Operations and Transportation Gabe Sherman and his team “did a fantastic job” that resulted in a dramatic decrease in the cockroach population.

Sherman took immediate action to reduce the population, as well as developing a comprehensive Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plan for ongoing maintenance. When the rainy season began, the cockroaches went into dormancy; but Sherman and his team continued to follow their IPM plan, because they knew once the rains subsided, some of the cockroaches would return—and they have.

The difference between this year’s situation and last year’s is that UUSD has a far better understanding of the Turkestan cockroach; and he has pest management scientists from DPR and UC Extension invested in helping him contain the population.

Since school began, Sherman’s team has spent hundreds of hours addressing structural issues to make it harder for cockroaches to thrive. In addition to keeping campuses clean, they have created barriers between indoor and outdoor spaces with door sweeps; sealed cracks in the concrete; and used baits, foams and gels to kill existing cockroaches.

In April, UUSD collaborated with DPR to host a seminar to provide in-depth information about integrated pest management for school facilities personnel, as well as local pest exterminators. The seminar emphasized preventative techniques and featured hands-on demonstrations by UC Extension advisors.

Now, DPR and UC Extension are working with UUSD to continue to refine their understanding of the Turkestan cockroach with a research project that will include a thorough investigation into the baseline pest density and activity levels over the site and careful research about which treatments are most effective.

Dr. Sutherland said, “This will require mapping and photography of the campus as well as an intensive overnight trapping program. From the resulting information and data, we will divide the campus into units, decide upon the final methodology to use, and assign our experimental treatments to the units.”

Sutherland will work with Sherman to conduct the ongoing research to figure out which treatments work best.

Sherman reminded members of the public, especially those with students at Ukiah High or who live near the school, that cockroaches typically use decaying leaf matter to make dirt, which is an important part of the ecosystem. Sherman’s goal is to keep cockroaches outside and to keep the population size down. To do this, high school students and staff need to continue to keep the campus as clean as possible, discarding food waste in appropriate containers and minimizing dirty, messy areas that provide food for cockroaches. “Food waste on campus continues to be the single largest contributing factor to our ongoing woes, and the only remaining item that our partners feel we have not adequately addressed. We’ve made great progress, but this requires ongoing management. I’m glad we have such well-informed, enthusiastic partners from DPR and UC Extension dedicated to helping us.”