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NYS IPM 2005
Excellence-in-IPM Award Winners:
Richard Muscarella

Better way to dealing with pests earns advocate Rich Muscarella an Excellence in IPM Award

by Mary Woodsen

Richard MuscarellaHis smallest client is a mom-and-pop Italian restaurant. His biggest is a 250-bed hotel. Their common problem -- pests. Rich Muscarella's proactive, least-risk approach to solving their pest problems has earned him an Excellence in IPM Award from the New York State Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Program at Cornell University.

Among Muscarella's favorite success stories is bringing IPM into the City of Buffalo's public school system in Buffalo, New York. His company, Ashland Pest Control, had held the contract with city's schools for a number of years when in 1989 he decided there had to be a better way. "The schools were inundated with cockroaches, and mice were running all over the place," he recalls.

The school administration was skeptical at first. They said, 'Oh, just spray'" says Muscarella, who has a master's degree in urban entomology. "But I allied myself with Cornell's IPM Program, adapted and applied their scientific methods, and found myself some very smart mentors."

Things have changed since then, Muscarella says. "The Buffalo school district is extremely cooperative." His technicians monitor each school building every month. The district has 71 school buildings and a large service center.

"Their reports rarely show pests," says Robert Rua, the district's director of building safety and health. "Occasionally a mouse will get in, or some ants." Rua credits Muscarella for showing the district how to combat pests by incorporating preventative IPM methods such as building pests out and stressing scrupulous sanitation.

Thanks in part to Muscarella's coaching and advocacy, the Buffalo school district has received the rigorously audited IPM Institute's STAR School IPM Certification.

Muscarella's team also manages pest for the 18 schools in the nearby Williamsville Central School District.

What does Muscarella see as emerging problem pests? Bedbugs are becoming a major problem, especially for the hospitality industry. "At one hotel, a pest-control company sent someone inexperienced in there," Muscarella says. "They sprayed, but since the spray they used simply repels bedbugs, they ended up scattering them through 16 adjoining rooms."

Muscarella, who says he holds contracts with 80 percent of Buffalo's hotels, supplies hotel general managers with training materials for their staff. "You need the full cooperation of all employees," he says. "It's got to be a proactive, joint effort. Everyone has to know what to look for."

Jennifer Grant, assistant director of the New York State Integrated Pest Management, credits Muscarella for promoting sound, sensible pest management methods within his industry and to staff in sensitive settings such as schools.

"Rich is a great advocate and mentor to his peers," Grant says. "He canvassed the state carrying forward the message of good IPM in an intensive series of school IPM workshops and is always highly valued for the hands-on approach he brings."

Muscarella receives his award on April 5 at the National IPM Symposium in St. Louis, Missouri.