Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Gee, I love my job

Today's IPM Coordinator training class at
Plano Independent School District.
As I write, I'm sitting in a mostly dark room listening to my Texas AgriLife colleagues Don Renchie and Janet Hurley walk a group of almost 40 school IPM Coordinators through a long list of rules and regulations about how pesticides must be used in Texas public schools.  In between jokes, back-and-forth banter, and scribbling pens, learning is taking place and it's a beautiful thing. 

Given a choice, I suspect most of us would probably not choose to spend our day watching a PowerPoint slide show and listening to speakers for hours. But there is little boring about this session between a group of eager learners and an entertaining speaker (and if you know Dr. Don Renchie, you know what I mean).  I know the efforts made by Janet Hurley to keep this training interesting, relevant, and interactive.  A wireless audience response system gets students interacting with us trainers, and shows both the class and the trainers how well the message is being conveyed.  Refreshments are handy and (at least today) the chairs are comfortable. Life is good.

I've found few things more satisfying that imparting knowledge to a motivated group of adult learners.  Some of my personal best friends are teachers and find great fulfillment in teaching children important life skills. Personally, give me a group of adults.  Sure kids are cute, and their innocence and naivete is engaging; but adults need education just as much as the kids. Adults are easily bored, often critical, sometimes prejudiced and usually forgetful; but nothing in my book is better than giving adult learners skills that they need to excel in their jobs and/or life. The rewards outweigh the pains.

School IPM coordinators, and the PMPs who work for them, are given the weighty responsibility of keeping  school districts pest-free while balancing pesticide risks.  This isn't easy.  Coordinators have to first master a dozen or so pages of laws and regulations; they have to learn tongue-twisting pesticide names and their properties; they have to organize reams of records; they have to fight for scarce  budget dollars; they have to counsel frustrated principals, teachers and sometimes parents; and they have to be ready for unannounced visits from state inspectors.  Few of them asked for their jobs as IPM coordinator, rather they were assigned the position usually on top of several other jobs. 

Watching and listening to classes like this respond to speakers and ask intelligent and probing questions is highly satisfying.  Over the years I watched some of our IPM class and PMP alumni work their way up through the food chain in their school districts and pest control companies.  I've seen people who were initially reluctant to be assigned the job of "bug killer" only to embrace the position and take great satisfaction in their new job. I like to think that I and my colleagues have played a part in the pride and high performance of more than a few of these men and women.  And that's why I love my job.

Friday, February 24, 2012

CEU Opportunity in Dallas next week

Live in north Texas and still need your CEU credits for 2012? Our office at the Texas AgriLife Center at Dallas will be offering a 5-hour training next week on Thursday, March 1.  Speakers will include Melody Lee (TDA), Dr. Jim McAfee (Extension), Micah Pace (Texas Forest Service), Rob Cook (US EPA) and myself.  You can preregister through Monday, or register the day of the training (you save $15 by pre-registering).  

To register online, go to   https://agriliferegister.tamu.edu/events/index.cfm.  Search on the keyword "IPM" and select the link for 2012 Spring IPM Seminar at the Dallas location.  When you get there, click on the Enroll Now button.  A flier with the schedule, titles of talks and location is available by clicking here.

This is always a good conference, and the food is good too. I hope to see some of you next week.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Pyrethroid label changes hit the streets soon

You can recognize a pyrethroid insecticide by
reading the active ingredient list.  Pyrethroid
common names end with  the suffixes "-thrin"
(such as bifenthrin) or -ate (such as esfenvalerate).
The past few years has seen a major shift in the insecticides the pest control industry uses to provide long-term, residual control of general insect pests.  In the 1990s and early 2000s, chlorpyrifos, diazinon and assorted other organophosphate (OP) and carbamate insecticides dominated much of the pest management professional and consumer pesticide markets. Passage of the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act, and a conscious effort by U.S. EPA regulators to wean the country from OPs, created a regulatory environment that favored pesticides with lower toxicity potential for human and wildlife. Indeed, a recent study by Alison Clune and colleagues from Emory University provides experimental evidence that levels of OP metabolites in human urine decreased significantly between 1999 and 2004.

This decline in OP and carbamate use in pest control opened the door for increased use of pyrethroid insecticides. For the most part, pyrethroids have proven to be good substitutes for the older insecticides; however in recent years there have been growing concerns that pyrethroids might not be as environmentally safe as originally thought. Specifically, pyrethroid residues are increasingly being found in sediment at the bottom of urban streams and rivers, where they are toxic to some aquatic insects and other invertebrates.

What this means for the average pest control technician is that there will be changes over the next few months in wording on all pyrethroid labels to minimize the risk of stormwater contamination from structural pest control.  PestWeb just published a nice summary of the new rules and timelines for implementation, and the Pyrethroid Working Group (a pesticide industry coalition) also summarized the upcoming changes and offers the opportunity to sign up for email alerts on changes to regulatory alerts on pyrethroid insecticides.

It's always important to read pesticide labels, but this change means that all PMPs should be especially alert to changes in the labels of these commonly used products.  The biggest changes will be in how pyrethroids are applied to outdoor impervious surfaces. All applications made to sidewalks, driveways, patios, porches and structural surfaces (such as windows, doors, and eaves) will be limited to spot and crack-and-crevice applications only (around windows and doorways this is defined as a spray band no more than a one-inch wide). In addition, if you are in the habit of using pyrethroid insecticides to treat sewer lids or walls for cockroaches, this type of application will be specifically prohibited.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Insect Superbowl Ad

I may be one of the few Americans who didn't see this ad when it came out during the Superbowl (I missed the first half), but since one of our pest management agents forwarded it today, I am now up-to-speed.

The animation on the ad is impressive, and the artists obviously did their homework in designing their lovable bugs. I identified a caterpillar, bumble bee, ants, grasshopper, lady beetles, a praying mantis, dragonfly, and (the star of the lineup, in my opinion) a jumping spider--all rendered pretty accurately from an anatomical perspective, if not a behavioral one.

It's fun to see insects being included in popular culture, especially when people are encouraged to see the world from a new (insect) perspective.  But in real life cars are not especially kind to insects.  Some of you may remember that about a year ago Dutch biologist Arnold van Vliet decided to estimate annual insect mortality due to cars.  After enlisting 250 drivers and counting insect mortality on a small part of each car (the license plate), he estimated nearly a trillion insect fatalities caused by cars every six months in the Netherlands alone.  Extrapolated to the U.S., where we drive our 200 million cars about 2.5 trillion miles annually, blogger Stephen Messenger estimates this would mean we're killing around 32.5 trillion insects on the front grills of our Tahoes, Camrys and Ford F-150s each year.

Chevrolet may be doing the insect world little good by introducing its fancy new sports car, but at least its ad is clever.