What’s been a big “Don’t you know what I do for a living” encounter with a pest for you?
Last December, I moved to Southern Arizona. My property borders the Coronado National Forest, and all its 1.78 million acres of natural beauty. There are regular visits from deer, quail, roadrunners, scorpions, rattlesnakes — well, you get the idea. I live in a wilderness area.
The weather started to get warm in June, and being a planner, I started carrying a couple gallons of water in my truck. A couple days later, I was shocked to find a huge puddle on the back-seat floorboard. Gosh darn it — OK, that is not what I said — one of the jugs had a hole in it.
No doubt, you know what happened. But in the moment, I thought I was dealing with a packaging defect, it being inconceivable that a mouse would dare enter my vehicle.
The next day, I looked in the back of my truck, and was relieved to find the remaining water safely inside. Satisfied that all was well, I got behind the wheel, and froze. What. Are. Those? There were all these … things all over my dashboard. They looked like… no! Inconceivable.
Maybe it was inconceivable, but with my head hung in humiliation, I had to face reality: A mouse had savagely befouled my vehicle.
I searched high and low for the little demon, but aside from the gifts he left on the dash, I didn’t see any evidence: no holes, no chewed-up papers, nothing.
I landed on a theory that perhaps I left the door open while loading stuff a few nights prior, allowing it in, and maybe it ran out while I was getting stuff out of the truck that morning. Yes, that had to be it. Or not.
HIDE AND SEEK
Spring forward a few weeks, and I had trapped three mice. I also cleaned and disinfected my vehicle a half-dozen times, but was no closer to understanding how they were getting in. Baiting around the parking area was not an option, with the wilderness literally on the other side of the barbed-wire fence.
As we all know, rodents are tenacious, problem-solving animals possessing instinctual drives that are like ours. The why: My vehicle provided shelter and security — and probably a pretzel or two, at first. The how: To be completely candid, I never did pinpoint that exactly.
But I did get control. Through some complex body contortions, I could feel where they had exploited a firewall penetration. Continuing the candor, there may have been some trail cameras and nontoxic tracking powder involved to point me in the right direction.
A few more contortions later, and I had the hole filled. It reinforced the rule that you cannot give up when trying to solve any pest problem, especially not a rodent problem.
It is important to be methodical and thorough, but you also must temper your enthusiasm to fit the circumstances. A single mouse should prompt you to conduct a thorough inspection, to answer the “why” and “how” questions, and a trapping/monitoring plan needs to be developed, executed and documented. However, it may not be an appropriate use of time and resources to treat a single capture as a crisis.
On the other hand, never give up. When we enter into agreements with clients, it isn’t simply a financial matter. It is a commitment to clients that we will do whatever we can — morally, ethically and legally — to keep their homes or businesses pest-free.
A great many of the pest species we encounter are more than just nuisances; they can spread organisms that can cause serious, even fatal illnesses. The issue of communicable disease obviously has been on everyone’s minds over the past several months, but it isn’t just this one virus that can cause harm. Protect yourself by wearing the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) when inspecting and treating, and protect your clients by keeping their facilities pest-free.
And remember, never bet against a pest management professional when death is on the line.
Email your questions about insect identification and pest management technologies to firstname.lastname@example.org. Your questions most likely will be printed and answered in one of Pest Management Professional’s upcoming columns.
BALDWIN is director of technical, training and regulatory services for Terminix Commercial. He may be reached at email@example.com.