• Chelle Hartzer

Talk Dirty to Me (AKA: Down in the dumps)


We talk a lot about sanitation when it comes to pest control. It is incredibly important to work on sanitation issues because pests (like all living things) need food, water, and shelter. So if we eliminate, or at least limit, any one of those items, we can have a big impact on pest problems. I’ve written and talked a lot about sanitation and I could go on and on. In fact, I have a webinar coming up that I’m talking about for four hours on sanitation and pest control.


I promise, this blog post will be shorter.


And a bit different because this time, because I want to focus on outside sanitation. We (the ones doing the pest control and the customers) are often fairly good about cleaning up messes on the inside. The tendency is to think “inside the box”. Today, I want you to think outside the box. Many of our pest issues start on the outside and move in; if we can keep them on the outside and in low numbers, it makes the inside jobs much easier.

As I mentioned above: food, water, and shelter. Each pest is going to require something a bit different. Termites need to feed on wood, flies want some decomposing plant or animal material, mosquitoes want blood. Which pests need to be targeted? Because let’s be real, we can’t just “clean up” the entire outside. Customers want their wood pile, their compost pile, their outdoor time. They like their prettily mulched gardens that are harboring cockroaches and ants. They want the beautiful flowers that are attracting the carpenter bees and wasps.


When I moved into my house, one side was covered in all this vine. It was climbing up the side of the house, totally overgrown in the area, and choking out the trees and shrubs that were planted there. This was a huge problem (for me!) for many reasons:

This is the offending area of my house
  • Termites – I couldn’t inspect in those areas because it was so overgrown and encroaching up the exterior.

  • Cockroaches – particularly the woods roaches we have here in GA (but also Americas, Turkestans if you are in those areas, and even Asians) like that area because it stayed shaded but warm, damp but not wet, and protected from predators.

  • Small flies – yeah, usually small flies are an indoor problem. In this case, the copious amounts of decaying material under the vines, the fact it stayed moist, and nearby openings meant every time it rained, I had moth flies in my house.

  • Rats – yup, rodents we all happily in there because there was great protected habitat for them to hide in.

  • Mosquitoes – the area was fairly well drained but it did still hold water, especially after heavy rainfall.

  • Crickets – I know crickets are a huge pest, but the habitat and food present under all the vines meant I had a pretty good population and they kept getting in nearby doors. Nothing is more annoying than that one cricket that finds that one spot in your house that just resonated their sound everywhere.

On a good note, there were plenty of spiders and I found a few snakes therefore some natural predators were taking advantage of the abundance of pests in the area.

All of this and more can be found in these overgrown areas around sites. The denser the vegetation and the closer it is to structures increases the risk of pests entering a site. Getting the customer to start addressing these issues is key. It’s not always accepted by the customer! So when they can’t (or won’t), clean up the sanitation issues outside, it doesn’t mean the situation is hopeless and there is nothing to be done about the pests.


I didn’t get all of that ripped out in a day. In fact, it took months to get it all. In fact, I still have a little bit left that I’m hoping to get out in the next couple weeks. In the meantime, I set bait stations for the rats and a few snap traps that managed to reduce my chipmunk problem. I sealed up the basement door where the crickets were getting in. For the moth flies, I did some treatments done around doors and windows I knew they might be resting. I applied some granular products as a perimeter treatment right around the house to cut down on the cockroaches.

"But we don't want to tear it down!"

None of that addressed the root cause – the heavy vegetation. It did help to mitigate the pest issues while I dealt with the root cause. Plus, I had reasonable expectations that the pest issues couldn’t be completely eliminated until I added in the sanitation step.


Anyone who says “sanitation is easy – just clean everything up” is insane. Sanitation is hard. It’s impossible if it’s looked at as removing everything at all times. Particularly when dealing with outside issues that involve reducing food material, water sources, and habitat, it’s virtually impossible to get it all. That doesn’t mean the effort shouldn’t be put in to reduce those issues as well as treatment and other physical methods to deter and prevent pests. It can't be an "all or nothing" viewpoint. If this were easy, everyone would be doing it!


If you need some help with accounts that are having outside sanitation issues, contact us, we can help!


Lagniappe: listen to me wine about sanitation:



360 PFCS – your urban pest control consultants.

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