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A Bear Walks into a Bar (AKA: How did this happen?)

Quiz time: Yesterday on your weekly grocery shopping trip, you stocked up on five extra-large bags of dark chocolate (hey, they were on sale) Today when you got home from work there’s a bear in your kitchen eating your chocolate. Do you:

a. Give the bear the dark chocolate and hope it shares.

b. Ignore the bear, hope it goes away.

c. Ignore the bear because it’s obviously someone else’s problem.

d. Run, screaming while thinking “where did that bear come from?”

In facilities where there are pest issues, you would be surprised how often the answers are a, b, and c. However, “where did it come from?” is something I’m asked frequently once an issue has gotten to a certain level of infestation. Once a pest problem has appeared, the next question should be: why.

In order to answer the “why”, it has to be determined where it may have started. Sometimes this is easy: fire ants were found in a facility in the upper Midwest, almost at the Canadian border. These ants are only found in the south so it was almost guaranteed they had been delivered in from their supplier in Texas. Sometimes this is nearly impossible. In one situation a site had an Indian meal moth infestation. It had gone on for months so it was unfeasible to track it back to any individual introduction points.

Pests don’t just spontaneously appear at a site. Bed bugs don’t instantly generate in a hotel room. Flies aren’t conjured out of thin air in a restaurant. Warehouse beetles aren’t summoned from the ether. They come from outside or are brought in. In order to save valuable time and money (and headaches!), finding a pest issue early is key. Once populations have reached a certain point, it’s hard to tell what the flashpoint was to this fire. If it can’t be determined how it happened, what’s to stop it from happening again?

There was an assisted living facility I was working with that had bed bugs in most of the residents’ rooms. The cost to treat all these rooms was high and because it couldn’t be traced back to one introduction, it was likely this was going to happen again. The next time would be different! The staff and residents were educated on what to look for and what to do when they found them. When a new resident moved in and brought bed bugs on their favorite chair, they were found that day, treated, and monitored more intensely for the next month. No other areas were affected. By using all the eyes in the facility they were able to discover bed bug issues fast, figure out how they got in, and significantly reduced their pest control costs. It also made the residents and their families a lot happier.

Many of our pest species originate outside and make their way into sites. A warehouse storing dried foods started finding cigarette beetles in a few of their monitoring traps. Since they had a good monitoring system in place, they saw where the first ones were being caught and that numbers were beginning to increase. What was confusing was where they were found: in the middle of the warehouse, not on the edges and not by any doors. This area contained finished products, therefore it wasn’t brought in on a raw ingredient. Where were they coming from? The outside. Right above this area was a vent. We traced the vent to the roof. Recently, they replaced the filters on their roof HVAC systems. On one of them, they did not install the filter correctly, there was a big gap around it. The unit was sucking cigarette beetles from the outside and blowing them into the middle of this warehouse.

Picture this a different way. You come home from work and your in-laws are sitting on the couch eating a bag of your favorite sour cream and onion potato chips. Wouldn’t you want to know how they got in and how long they had been there? You would want to make sure to lock that back door before you lost the rest of the giant case of sour cream and onion chips because it takes time and money to get more chips. Figuring out how pests get in early allows you to figure out where they got in, and address those areas so it doesn’t continue to happen.

Stop wasting time and money losing your chocolate and sour cream and onion crisps! Have a good plan in place to find where and why pests are getting in. Do you have a pest issue that needs some detective-ing*? Contact us to find out how we can help!

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*in-laws and bears not covered

lagniappe: I wasn't kidding about the chocolate... (maybe they need some exclusion here?)

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