Q&A: Grain pests, mystery ‘bites’ and low-income customers


December 28, 2016

Photo: ©iStock.com/trekandshoot

Photo: ©iStock.com/trekandshoot

Q: A customer who makes specialty food products keeps small quantities of whole grains in a cooler, which is set at below freezing. My question is, how long does the grain need to be held below freezing to kill all stages of grain pests? Are there other options for controlling them, short of fumigation?
— Alan C., Maine

A: Cold temperatures are not good control agents. Freezing temperatures will stop the development of grain pests, but to get good kill, the grain needs to be stored below freezing for months or more. Remember, most of these pests live outdoors and survive winter temperatures.

Heat is a much better control agent for insects. A temperature of 130°F for 15 minutes will kill all stages. Of course, bags of grain must be heated until the center of the mass reaches the critical temperature — which will take more than 15 minutes.

Q: Almost every year when the weather gets really hot, we face mystery “bites” in offices. I read somewhere dry air often is associated with these symptoms. Is that true? If so, why does this occur during hot weather, when the air is usually humid?
— Frank D., New York

A: You are correct that dry air is often associated with mystery “bites.” Dry air tends to make the skin more sensitive and any contaminants in the air, such as computer paper dust, irritate the skin. Even though the air outdoors may be humid, air conditioning dries out the air inside. That is why air handlers have drip pans to collect condensation. The hotter it is outdoors, the more the air conditioning system runs, and the air indoors becomes even drier.

Don’t get sucked into applying a pesticide if you can’t find any biting insects. Have the client call an industrial hygienist to sample the air and figure out the source of the problem.

Q: An area we service has many low-income customers who would rather be do-it-yourselfers. I was thinking about putting together a package to sell to such people so they can do it themselves. What do I need to consider if I do this?
— Bill K., Indiana

A: In most states, you would need to become registered as a dealer with your regulatory agency. This would mean paying a fee and probably passing a test. It also would require you to keep certain records for such sales. Furthermore, you should check with your insurance agent because you may need additional coverage for pesticide sales. This seems like a lot of hassle for a few extra dollars.

An alternative would be to suggest customers go to a local “do-it-yourself” store (if one is close by), a big box store or hardware store that sells consumer products. Give them a list of products they would need for certain pests and provide suggestions on how best to use the products. Then, make sure they have your contact information if they find out they can’t do it themselves. Most do-it-yourselfers fail, but by helping them up front, hopefully they will call you to do the job after they fail. This approach might be more profitable than directly selling them the products they need — and a lot less hassle for you if you become a dealer.

Email your questions about insect identification and pest management technologies and techniques to Dr. Doug Mampe at dentomol@aol.com. Your questions most likely will be printed and answered in one of Pest Management Professional’s upcoming Ask the Expert columns.


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