• Chelle Hartzer

What's New with You? (AKA: Make a change!)

Actual conversation I had with a client the other day:

Client: I don’t understand why we still have this problem.

Me: How long has it been going on?

Client: Over a year now.

Me: What have you done so far?

Client: We have been fogging with product "X".

Me: And….

Client: “And” what? That’s what we’ve been doing for over a year.

Einstein is credited with saying “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” There are a few things we can dissect out of this.

Mouse hole
Don't cover up the problem, fix it!

First, they were only treating. They hadn’t increased sanitation, looked at where hotspots were, addressed any exclusion issues that might have been contributing, nothing along those lines. We know that pests are complicated organisms and using multiple tactics to mitigate them is more effective than the “spray and pray” method. Just doing treatments is doing nothing more than throwing a band-aide on the broken arm.

I worked with a restaurant once that was doing weekly treatments (in the kitchen wall voids) for cockroaches. WEEKLY. They were still seeing small numbers of cockroaches. They couldn’t understand why they were paying to have this weekly treatment and still having cockroaches. I couldn’t either, to be honest. By spraying constantly into those areas, they were just pushing the cockroaches deeper and further to the edges where they were escaping into other areas, mainly the dining rooms. We switched up the treatment regimen, had them improve their sanitation, and worked on sealing up lots of small openings. After about a month, there were consistently seeing fewer cockroaches.

Next, they are using the same product for over a year. Insect pests develop fairly quickly. German cockroaches can go from the egg to adult stage in 2-3 months. Stored product pests usually take around one month to reach maturity. By continuously using the same product, you breed resistance: the insects no longer die when the treatment hits them. Also, in this particular case, they were using the same application method: fogging with a non-residual. This meant they could knock down the exposed stages, those individuals that were out of their hiding spots, but there was still this constant reservoir of insects never contacted.

Infested flour
You can see adults, but larvae and eggs are hidden

There was a warehouse I worked with that had an Indian meal moth issue. Those of you who have dealt with this know it is incredibly annoying and challenging. The adult moths are flying around, but the immature stages are hiding and feeding on all the exposed food. This warehouse was fogging twice a month and barely seeing any results. Because food was present, we were limited on which products we could safely use. Instead of continuing to fog (expecting different results), a switch was made to a much better product that had a much bigger impact and only needed to be changed out twice a year. The money that they saved by not fogging twice a month was redirected into sanitation efforts. This meant less food resources for the pests, actual physical removal of some of the pests, and a much more effective system. They actually wound up saving some money and invested that in structural repairs. (and that helped with the rodent problem they were having on top of the IMM issue!)

Finally, they weren’t evaluating their program (I use that term loosely since their “program” was merely fogging) and adapting. Pest issues don’t follow the same exact pattern every time there is an issue. Facilities change, processes change, and even people change and all of this can have an impact on pest issues.

I consulted on an issue at a museum that had a small house mouse issue in indoor planters near its café. The mice had gotten in and found a particular planter a nice safe space to nest with easy access to the café’s leftover food waste. We found the opening they had gotten in, sealed it, and actually removed all the planters. A year later, I get another call about mice. This time, they were in the drop ceiling above the café. The museum staff had never considered that and had no monitoring or preventative tactics in place to keep those mice out. The situation had changed, the mice adapted.

You can use a screwdriver to put in a nail. However, it is not the best tool for the job and it might cause more damage than it solves. And if you keep using that same screwdriver on all your nails, you are wasting tons of time, money, and effort and likely still not solving the problem. The same holds true when dealing with pests. Find the right tools and make adjustments when things don’t go as initially planned. If you are dealing with a tricky pest situation and what you’ve been doing isn’t working, give us a shout!