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  • Writer's pictureChelle Hartzer

Behaving Badly (AKA: What’s in your luggage?)

It’s come up a few times in the last few weeks so it’s definitely sticking in my mind. I’m also about to travel out of state for some work stuff. You can’t claim that travel is plane! Prepare for takeoff.

Anytime you have a large space that people congregate in, that has multiple types of stores/spaces/uses inside, there is so much that can happen. At least from a pest control standpoint. You have lots of people coming and going. There is a bunch of food: restaurants, convenience stores, vending machines, cafeteria areas, trash bins, and more. The habitat options are also numerous from tiny cracks and crevices to larger dark protected spaces for all manner of pests. Water sources are readily available in multiple spots. Cleaning can be tough and some spaces (like airports) are in operation just about 24/7.


That leaves plenty of space for pests to invade and it makes them hard to deal with when they do get in. Take some of these recent examples:

Mice (rodents) in the airport. What’s not to love about airports when you are a mouse? Food, hiding spots, safety…it’s all there. When you have large, multi-use spaces, finding those infestation spots is a big challenge. Everything is very connected so even if the mice are foraging in one restaurant, that doesn’t mean they aren’t also nesting in a vending machine and eating from the nearby convenience store. There are only so many places where traps and stations can be placed because of the high traffic of people and luggage moving back and forth. It’s not uncommon for transportation hubs to have rodent problems, they can often go undetected until that mouse decides to saunter through a gate area and someone catches it on their cell phone.

In this case, three restaurants were closed down, but that doesn’t mean the rodents were somehow confined to those spaces, nor does it mean that a few days of closure will fix that. (This is the second time this airport has been in the news the last few months for this issue.) Maybe the mice were grabbing a quick snack before their trip to Florida to work in a certain park?


Birds are a problem in certain airports. Maybe their wings are tired? I’ve personally seen them in Orlando, Kansas City, and a couple of CA airports. People think it's all cute until they get shit on. Literally. There is also the problem of food contamination, diseases, and parasitic insects carried by those “adorable” birds.


I’ve also encountered stored product pests in airports, specifically Indian meal moths.

Last year, Hawaii made the news for having bed bugs in their terminals.


Once you get on the flight, the problems don’t end. Forget snakes on a plane (though it has happened), yesterday was cockroaches on a plane. Maybe they were tired of flying on their own? It did look like there were multiple cockroaches, not just one. Not only is it gross, cockroaches can carry a number of food-borne diseases. Maybe it's a good think airlines have cut back on meals!

This story hit just a few weeks ago. Typically it’s pests like bed bugs, or maybe a cockroach. Nope. In this case, someone packed a dead fish in their carry-on. And maggots “rained down” from the overhead compartment onto several nearby passengers. I’ve seen a lot and experienced some pretty nasty conditions due to my work but “raining” maggots is a little much even for me. (My computer knows too much about me, it auto-corrected “carry-on” to “carrion”.)


People try to fly with all kinds of food items. One of the big pests that CBP is looking for is Khapra beetle which can be found in many types of dry foods. While there are no rules about bringing foods back and forth in the US, anyone coming from another country is aware that there are some things you can NOT bring back with you. I accidentally tried to come into the country with an apple I had picked up in the London airport and then forgot about it in my backpack. You would have thought I was bringing in drugs with the way they reacted.


All of these situations are challenging because there is a huge space to try to inspect and manage treatments for (terminals), quick turnovers can make treatment and monitoring almost impossible (aircraft), and conditions that can’t be controlled (travelers). Airports, transportation centers, malls, and other multi-use sites present unique issues that aren’t always easily solved.


If you’ve run into these situations, fly on over to contact us. You can air your problems with us instead of winging it.



Lagniappe – ugh, the gate lice.

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