When choosing a school or university, most students or parents do a little research on specific programs: the location, the academic curriculum or the school's extracurricular activities. What they probably don't think about are pests on campus. Repeated infestations of birds and other pests give potential students two other areas to think about: their health and how safe they are in these academic and living environments.
With pests swarming among students, education institutions have to find ways to keep school health-code inspectors at bay. Some questions to ask:
Are schools at risk? Birds and bats can carry more than 60 different diseases that are transmittable to humans. Histoplasmosis, for example, is a respiratory disease that can be fatal and comes from a fungus that grows in dried bird droppings and bat guano. If people don't take care in removing bird and bat excrement, they can open themselves up to harm from microscopic invaders. Rats, on the other hand, can carry hundreds more lethal diseases, including smallpox, Ebola, hantavirus and rat-bite fever, which can be acquired through the bite or scratch of a rodent, or the ingestion of food or water contaminated with rat feces.
Can pests cause property damage? The biggest concern for parents and school officials is the health of children in learning institutions. But many don't pay enough attention to the potential physical damage associated with lingering pests and their fecal matter. Bird droppings and bat guano have acidic elements that can erode wood, metal and steel. The droppings don't cause immediate damage, but bird droppings left to linger can lead to deteriorating school facilities. Birds will nest just about anywhere that can provide shelter, including roofs, ceiling vents, wall vents, chimneys and soffits. This nesting can cause stains and structural damage. Bird guano corrodes not only metal, but also a number of building materials, including concrete, stone, tar shingles and brick. Although it is not as life-threatening, it definitely can burn a hole in any school's budget.
Are schools at risk for lawsuits? Bird droppings can be slick, which can cause students to slip and fall, resulting in injury. Diseases from infestations that are transmitted at school, whether on a soccer field, in the school cafeteria, or even breathing in toxic air, can make a school liable.
How can education institutions solve the problem of bird, bat and rodent infestation? Guns, dogs and plastic owls have been the solutions of choice, but pest-control companies have discovered that although these “solutions” may have worked, they work for only a little while. More humane, eco-friendly ways exist that can permanently rid school facilities of troublesome birds, bats and rodents. Non-toxic, non-lethal and non-harmful is the new motto. Schools have been introduced to many different environmentally friendly solutions. Many products target animal senses, including taste, sound and sight. Each product's goal is to deter and repel pests while respecting their existence.
What's the difference between toxic and non-toxic? Be careful when deciding on a taste-aversion solution. Some products contain chemicals that can cause severe illness or death to the pests and even humans who come in contact with them. Non-toxic taste aversions, which are applied to areas where birds like to feed, are a popular tactic. The solution, which is not harmful to humans but is repulsive to the palate of birds, is mixed with water and is applied to grass, trees, crops and vegetation. Therefore, the bird and or pest is not harmed, but its taste buds are. Basically, when the food source goes, so will the pests.
Are there products on the market that can cover a large area such as an education institution? An ultrasonic device uses sound waves that irritate birds, yet are silent to humans. They work well in semi-closed locations, such as under a bridge, where the structure can reverberate and amplify the sound. Sonic devices use real alarm sounds made by pest birds and predator sounds of their natural enemies that scare the pests away. These devices work for larger areas and can cover up to six acres. Multiple sounds and programmable settings allow a user to vary the bird-scaring soundtrack for optimum effect.
Keeping education institutions sanitary takes more than a mop and broom. Many schools still are not aware of the health risks, lawsuits, code violations and damage that pests can cause. Without a permanent solution, there could be a hefty price to pay. Pests cannot be avoided; the best solutions use humane deterrents and repellers to create situations that are unsavory to them. Prevention and staying on top of the infestation are key to avoiding these pest problems altogether. Education institutions that embrace such measures can help save their money, health and reputation.
Crost is a former media correspondent with Bird-X, Inc., Chicago, a manufacturer of green and humane bird deterrents and repellers. For more information, call (800)662-5021.