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  • Writer's pictureChelle Hartzer

Summer symphonies (AKA: the sounds of success)

It is summer here in Georgia and the cicadas are singing away. It’s not the deafening dissonance of the cicadas in Kansas, it’s more the soloist with the orchestra in the background just waiting to break in. You can walk down the street or sit on the back porch and pretty much identify which tree the little singer is on. If you got close enough, you could probably even see the soloist (though the neighbors do look at you funny as you stand there staring at a tree).

Pests don’t often hold up a flashing sign that says “here I am!”. The majority of insects don’t make any sounds and are quite a bit smaller than those raucous cicadas. By the time they are actually seen, the problem is typically at infestation levels and is widespread. Take the Indian meal moth (Plodia interpunctella) as an example. I worked with a chocolate manufacturing company that was dealing with these. Unfortunately, by the time I was called in, the situation was widespread throughout the site. Indian meal moths are fairly small and it’s only the adult stage that is seen; larvae are mostly hidden inside food products and equipment. It was an expensive treatment, shutting down the entire site, but numbers came way down. Most importantly, a monitoring system was installed. Because these insects have strong pheromone communication (basically "talking" by chemical smells instead of sound), monitors can pick up individuals way before the people in the plant were going to see them. This meant we could find them early, when populations were low, and treat small areas. It turned out that one specific room was the ongoing issue. We were able to isolate that room, increase sanitation, and put it on a treatment schedule for just that area. The company saved money because it didn’t have infested product and didn’t have to shut down for three days for an expensive whole-facility treatment.

Once the daytime cicadas start tapering off, the reverberation of the katydids starts up at night. Many of our pest species prefer the night or at least those dark spots where they are hidden and protected. They aren’t going to announce their presence like the katydids here in Georgia. Species like carpenter ants. This story is personal: I was seeing a carpenter ant in my house, just one or two, here and there, pretty sporadically. Knowing that carpenter ants are mostly nocturnal, I knew they were most likely foraging at night when I wasn’t watching. I put down a few bait placements in some key areas I thought they might be. After a night filled with nightmares of giant ants eating my house and it falling down on top of me, I got up the next morning to check the bait. There was one spot that the bait was gone; bingo! I had my key spot, made sure to bait it heavily, and monitor it until it wasn’t being consumed anymore.

Controlling pests isn’t easy because while they want what we have to offer them (food, water, shelter), they aren’t shouting out that they are moving in. Like a bad tenant, they aren’t paying rent but are still eating the food and causing headaches and loss of money. If you know what to look for, there are signs, they just aren’t always easy to see. Have a tough pest issue you’ve been struggling with? Contact me to see how I can help save you time and money!

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