The words 'pest control' are enough to strike fear into any household, but do we understand the extent these exterminators go to to rid our homes of nasties? I swapped my computer for a solid stomach, and discovered what it's really like to be a pest controller for a day, how they handle a job that we might squirm at, and try to understand why they do it! I accompanied Jeff (pictured right), an RSPH Level 2 qualified pest controller who looks after the east coast region of Pestforce, on a typical (and busy) day in the life of a pest controller...
JOB 1 - Mouse in the house
Our first job and we visit a semi detached house following a call from a letting agency, the neighbours had been hearing noises within the empty property. Letting agents tend to rely on pest controllers due to the nature of some tenants who may have a number of pets in the property which has been known to lead to flea infestations, or even tenants' lack of hygiene that has practically invited rats or mice to join them in the property - rent free!
Jeff had first visited the property the previous week to investigate; Jeff's trusty ratting hound, Jasper (pictured below), had accompanied him but hadn't discovered rats, nonetheless Jeff laid some poison around key areas (pictured above right) to get an indication of what we're dealing with today. One week later and we've discovered that mice are the guilty squatters!
"The reason we know its mice instead of rats is because the bait is still in place," Jeff told me, "Rats have a tendency to drag the bait off to their 'larder' whereas mice will eat on the spot. Also, there isn't the definable smell of rats in residence; rats have a very specific and unpleasant odour."
So the job today is re-bait, then Jeff will come back next week for his final visit to ensure the job is done and remove any left-over bait - job done.
Jeff tells me that he operates with the three visit rule with vermin:
- Visit 1 - set the scene, place the bait strategically, Jasper the dog to give it a sniff-over for evidence of rat.
- Visit 2 - seeing the problem/recognising the problem. Re-bait.
- Visit 3 - no further sign; the bait hasn't reduced in size, therefore it leads Jeff to believe that the job has been done. Remove all bait.
First job complete, off to the next one!
JOB 2 - Wasps in winter?
We're off to a beautiful house to view a potential wasp situation. The lady had experience of wasp nests last summer - three nests in their pool house, two further nests in the garden which Jeff dealt with. The garden has a number of laurel hedges which Jeff tells me is a plant loved by wasps, along with lalandi. Now she has discovered signs of wasps in her loft and is worried they've come back so it's our job to reassure her with some solid wasp advice and a solution.
Jeff heads on up into the loft with his head torch on, I shuffle around at the bottom of the ladder trying to look useful. When he comes back down he's discovered a hibernating queen's nest with several wasp corpses around it. Once the warmer weather begins, this will become an active nest if left untreated.
Jeff suggests to the customer that he fogs the loft space with an insecticide that will kill all insects up there. She's happy with that, so Jeff heads back up to the loft armed with a fogger (pictured) and subsequent safety breathing apparatus. I continue to shuffle around the ladder trying to look useful...
Once fogged, Jeff explains the action he's taken to the customer, and we're back on the road again...
Job 3 - Squatter rats
Location: Grimsby docks - a rat hotspot!
Me and Jeff were on his second visit to the docks for this infestation, "On my last visit, I removed the food source from the top of the building, which in this case was a load of pigs ears", Jeff informed me, "this would mean that the rats would be drawn out as they weren't dining on their version of a roast dinner, starvation overcomes fear so this would be a good opportunity to lay some conveniently placed bait - their version of kebab by comparison. But I must warn you, the smell of rat is strong". Thank you, Yoda, noted.
But I hadn't noted, I had never anticipated the whiff of rat to be as bad as it was, I'd silently congratulated myself over handling the aroma of fish, now coupled with 'eau de rat I honestly thought I'd wipe all credit I'd built up by acting like a squeamish, shrieking wimp - however, I kept all this internalised so as not to blow my cover of someone with a strong stomach.
When entering the ground floor we detected several points of entry, these rats had really made this building their home with a choice of doorways and drains as entry points. Telltale signs of black, oily rat trails were obvious: through the floor, from the ceilings, they'd even been brazen enough to chew through an actual door!
We could tell by the smell that they were lurking around the lower floors now that their dinner of pigs ears had been removed, so we lay trays of bait (rodenticides) on the upper floors, and the hardcore bait machines on the floors that smelt particularly bad (their favoured hangouts).
Jeff will return to the docks in a week's time to check on progress.
JOB 4 - Rat decking
We are off to Cleethorpes to a family home that has had evidence of rats in their garden and guttering. This is Jeff's third visit now so we're checking that the job is done. The customer confirmed that they hadn't heard any noises since Jeff's last visit, so this looked positive.
"People lay decking, not realising the potential shelter it's giving rodents", Jeff tells me, and "if decking is to be laid then it will need to be accessible to prevent rats and mice taking shelter in there". In this particular case, the customer had to cut a big whole in their decking in order to lay bait centrally to treat the potential rat problem.
Jeff checked the drain and removed a nibbled block of rodenticide, specifically for drains, and removed the all bait underneath the decking. Another satisfied customer!
JOB 5 - Mouse in the roof
We've been called to a residential property in Donna Nook where the owner had heard scratching in the roof. This was Jeff's third visit to the property and had previously taken the appropriate measures by laying some traps and bait around the loft area.
The customer told us that she no longer heard the scratching, but Jeff had a cursory look around the external roof area where some tiles were loose, and then went up to the loft. Whilst the mouse traps had claimed no victims, Jeff discovered a redundant wasp nest (pictured)!
JOB 6 - Mole hunt
I'd always assumed that moles were quite cute in a "Wind in the Willows" kind of way; I hadn't anticipated what a pest they can be to a garden-owner. Moles 'swim' through ridged tunnels, all inter-connected in a variety of depths, throughout a garden leaving an unsightly ridge effect.
Jeff explained, "It's well known that moles are difficult to catch as they're well protected through their underground mazes, and pick up on smells and vibrations which means they move to the safety of the deeper tunnels".
This mole is being particularly elusive so we set a trap in a fresh mole hill and hope for the best. Jeff will be back next week to check on progress.
JOB 7 - Rat suspicion
We visit a commercial property for our final job of the day. It's a farm equipment manufacturer, and they've reported seeing rats in the factory. Jeff had laid traps the week before so we needed to check on them.
"Rats suffer from neophobia, which means that they don't like change", he explains, "If we lay a rat trap - day one they will avoid it, day three they'll start to get used to it, and so on. Eventually it will become part of their furniture so they will explore it. This is why people should be patient when it comes to setting rat traps; don't think that it's been unsuccessful after a couple of nights, it's a waiting game".
So when we enter the factory we discover that some people have been moving the rat traps around each morning when they discover they're empty, and wonder why they're not working. Jeff patiently explains to them that the traps need to stay in the same place and that the problem will continue if they take it upon themselves to try to manage their rat issues.
After my day with Jeff, I can only admire the work that pest controllers do, day in day out, to ensure our properties remain pest free. It's certainly not for the faint hearted, and I was surprisingly pleased to get back to my day job!
All of Pestforce pest controllers are RSPH Level 2 qualified in Pest Management
Author: Joanna Maplethorpe, Content Marketing Editor, DBS Internet Marketing