The 12 Days of Pest-mas (AKA: WTH with all the birds?)
If you followed along on social media for my 12 days of Christmas – Pest Control Edition, this is the expanded version with tons of extras! If you missed any, here is your chance for the full list so you don't feel left out.
On the first day of Christmas - a partridge in a pear tree Do you know what birds do? What comes in, must come out! Also, fruit trees are attractive to rodents, wasps, cockroaches, and many more pests.
Bird droppings are also somewhat caustic so over time, they can eat through many substances, not to mention the contamination factor of people walking through it and carrying it inside.
On the second day of Christmas - two turtle doves When it comes to bird control, identification is extremely important. Most bird species are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. It's a much shorter list of what birds are NOT protected. There are a number of doves on the list, but not turtle doves!
Proper ID is also needed because different birds will have different control methods that will or won't work for them. There are many means for bird management from simple scare devices to total exclusion. There are many great resources out there, and then there's this one (just in case you were still looking for a gift for me).
On the third day of Christmas - three french hens Backyard chicken keeping has become more common since the pandemic. These birds are often treated as pampered pets and kept in close proximity to humans. This means they can transfer lice, mites, and even bed bugs.
Then there are the insects attracted to their feed, their droppings, and more that can then go on to infest human foods and structures. Not to mention all the food borne diseases. And bird diseases like avian flu. Backyard fowl can be foul.
On the fourth day of Christmas - four calling birds Birds have a great sense of hearing. They use it to communicate with each other. Fun fact: the White Bellbird has the loudest bird call ever documented. They can also hear other species and if those are predators, it can scare them. If they hear that hawk screech or a loud booming sound, they are going to take flight.
Using sound as a scare device to frighten birds away can be effective, especially with other management methods. If used too often in the same pattern, birds will learn it is all bark and no bite and it won't work well.
And don't waste time on "ultrasonic" devices - U. of Nebraska did some studies and showed their inefficacy.
On the fifth day of Christmas - five golden rings Where do we find gold, gems, precious metals, jewelry, and other valuables? Museums! Museums are very tricky when it comes to pest control because we can't have any pests that may destroy the artifacts, and at the same time, we have very limited options on what we can use for pest control. Many stored product pests like warehouse beetles, fabric moths, silverfish, and rodents can be hugely destructive.
While not all museums will have cafes or dining, they will still have employees bringing in lunch and the "household" pests that can come with that.
On the sixth day of Christmas - six geese a-laying Insect eggs are really tough to see. Our pest species lay tiny little eggs and some species will hide them in cracks and crevices. Imagine trying to see a bed bug egg without any magnification or a cockroach egg under a loose baseboard. This means pest infestations can go some time without being detected. Using monitoring devices can increase the time it takes to discover pest problems, and point to where they may be occurring.
Glueboards are the "standard" monitor, but there are pheromone monitors for stored product pests, pitfall traps for bed bugs, and more specialty monitors for specific pests. Remember placement is key: you can't put a monitor for bed bugs over a refrigerator and expect good results!
On the seventh day of Christmas - seven swans a-swimming Those swans aren't the only thing a-swimming! If there is water, there are probably mosquitoes. And birds are helping in the transmission of many mosquito-borne diseases.
If you haven't, you definitely need to check out this interactive tool. You can see what mosquito borne diseases have been reported in your area (down to county level) and how severe they are by year. Super helpful for those doing mosquito control.
Oh, and mute swans are considered one of the world's most aggressive waterfowl species. (Enough with the f%$@ birds already!)
On the eighth day of Christmas - eight maids a-milking The US produces around 226 BILLION pounds of milk per year. Facilities processing milk and milk products are very susceptible to flies. Particularly small flies like phorid flies and these tiny pests can carry food-borne pathogens and contaminate foods and food contact surfaces.
Trace that milk back a step, and you have cows. Like birds, what goes in must come out, and large flies like house flies and blow flies definitely like those "outputs". Urban pest management usually doesn't deal with agriculture pests, but many "urban" sites are can be close to dairy farms and impact people and structures.
Powdered milk is at risk too! Stored product pests, particularly the Dermestid beetles like the high protein content.
On the ninth day of Christmas - nine ladies dancing Rocking out to your favorite music is great exercise. For insect pests, it serves as a mating dance to attract a suitable partner and pass on some genetic material. Cockroaches have a pretty simple "dance". If you want to see an elaborate show, check out peacock jumping spiders!
On the tenth day of Christmas - ten lords a-leaping There are many pest species with pretty amazing leaping abilities. The humble house mouse can jump up to 24 inches (not to mention its incredible climbing ability). Norway rats have been known to jump over 36 inches.
When looking for rodent pathways, this jumping ability can throw off inspections. While I couldn't find any hard numbers on roof rats, those especially will leap from one spot to another with great agility and accuracy.
And the tiny insects aren't forgotten, the springtails have incredible leaps!
On the eleventh day of Christmas - eleven pipers piping.
Those pipers better be cleaning the pipes regularly because small flies like living in pipes. Moth flies are notorious for being in the gunk in and around drains. Phorid flies like pipes that are broken and leaking sewage. Even dark-eyed fruit flies can be found in pipes.
The buildup of organic material in pipes and drains is a perfect habitat and food source for small flies. Cleaning regularly can prevent that. Remember that most small flies can develop in as little as seven days. That's why a weekly cleaning program can significantly disrupt their life cycle and reduce the problems.
On the twelfth day of Christmas - twelve drummers drumming
All those drummers are creating quite a cacophony of noise and that has to be annoying to the people around them. Unfortunately, pests aren't as affected by sound. Scare devices that use loud sounds can be effective short term for birds, but the rodents and insects really don't care.
All research that has been done on those "ultrasonic" pest repellers has also shown them to be useless. Best quote from a reputable source:
“But Linda swears by these devices, she never gets mice”, you might say. Well it’s very possible Linda got very lucky. Pest control is messy and extremely variable between homes, so save yourself the $19.99 on Amazon and try some other old fashioned methods: like endlessly sealing up holes and shaking your fists angrily at the pesky critters.
Congrats, you made it through the holidays!
There you have it folks, the 12 days of Pest-mas, the expanded version. Hope you enjoyed it and stay tuned for next year's episodes! In the meantime, you don't have to wait for a special holiday* to improve your programs, contact me.
*Gifts are always appreciated though... :)
Looking for that perfect present for your mosquito loving friend?
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You know you want to listen to the loudest bird on earth
No longer open, but you can see the pictures from the Cockroach Museum Hall of Fame