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  • Writer's pictureChelle Hartzer

Introverted But Will Talk About Pests (AKA: I'm a nerd)

I talk to a wide variety of people in my position. I deal with pest professionals from large and small companies. I consult with folks working in food processing, healthcare, hospitality, and museums. I also talk to the general public when they find their way to me. I had a great conversation last week.

It was a tricky situation they were trying to work around. This was an old structure with a pest issue. Of course, many treatments had been tried, but the problem returned, usually after a few weeks. This was obviously frustrating and they were tired of throwing money at a problem that didn’t seem to be getting any better. It had gotten to the point that they started thinking about fumigating.

Due to the structure, the pest, and the longevity, the problem was likely in the walls at this point. No amount of liquid applications was going to get into the wall voids where this problem had likely been developing for decades if not longer. Even with an IGR, it wasn't going to happen. While the customer had done everything they could including sanitation, the problem was continuing. So we started discussing fumigation.

Since the structure was old, it had lots of holes. It was not going to hold gas without some help. For some reason, they couldn’t tent the structure and were planning on doing a tape and seal on the doors and windows. I’m assuming they were going to pump in a huge amount of gas and pray that it got to the wall voids in enough concentration for enough time to kill the pests. Due to the failure of past treatments, the customers wanted a guarantee it would work. I wish I could have given that guarantee. Even with monitoring the gas levels, even if they put a monitoring line in a wall void, I didn’t have much faith it would be effective.


There was also the concern about safety. I try to avoid using any form of the word “safe” when talking about pest control. I absolutely understand the concerns though. They were mostly concerned about long term effects and breathing in any gas. I talked to them about how structures are cleared and the safety precautions that are taken to ensure the gas is out of all areas and there wouldn’t be any “bubbles” that came up after they had the structure back. I let them know there was no residual left once the gas was gone. While I wouldn’t speak to any long term health effects, I let them know that the EPA had approved the product.


After almost 45 minutes of very valid questions and me providing as much information as I could about fumigations, I asked a question: had they considered a heat treatment? Of the multiple pest control companies they had talked to, not a single one had brought up doing a heat treatment. I felt like a complete idiot that I had talked to these people for almost an hour on one treatment when a different treatment could be a better fit. (In my defense, the call was specified to be about fumigation.


In my opinion, doing a heat treatment was a much better idea. Not just because they were concerned about health, but because it was an old leaky structure that couldn’t be tented. With heat, it doesn’t matter if hot air seeps out. As long as all areas (including those tricky wall voids) get to temperature and are held for the right amount of time, it was going to be very effective. I gave them the basics of heat treatments and how they work. I provided some recommendations on what to ask their next pest control company. Considering this was all over the phone and I didn’t have eyes on it, I’m feeling pretty optimistic that they are going to finally be able to take care of their pest issue.

Aside from me bragging about my entomological awesomeness, there are a couple morals to this story:

  • Nothing is perfect when it comes to pest control. There will never be perfect sealing or sanitation, and no treatment will ever be flawless.

  • It can take a village. It’s okay to reach out for help and shoot ideas back and forth. We’ve all had different experiences and can bring some creative solutions to the party.

  • Keep asking questions. The more information that can be collected, the better.


That’s my story this week. Go out there and be safe, be fabulous. And contact me to be your on-call entomologist troubleshooter.

Urban pest consulting


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