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Pest control in food service facilities can quickly become a struggle between the client and pest management professional if expectations between the two are not spelled out early in the relationship. If both parties are not on the same page as far as duties are concerned, then small issues can and will escalate, resulting in dissatisfied clients.
It’s no secret that two of the greatest contributing factors in pest management are sanitation and exclusion; giving pests less food and water to consume, and minimizing the places in which they can enter and hide. That said, overcoming those two issues is much easier said than done.
As PMPs, it is in our best interest to work with clients as closely as possible, giving them as much detail and advice as one can afford to give, and knowing where and when sanitation and exclusion issues can turn into problems. The more effort you put into educating your clients on where they can help themselves, the better off both parties will be.
Because of this, the most important step in any account is the inspection. This is particularly true for cockroaches, which are among the more common pests in commercial kitchens and food service facilities. They are resilient little insects that have been on the earth for more than 350 million years and one of the most successful organisms to inhabit the planet. There are more than 3,500 species identified globally, but only a handful that are known to become common pests to humans. These amazing insects are constantly infiltrating even the best defenses to enter homes, restaurants and just about anywhere humans are present. They thrive in cracks and crevices that provide the warmth and humidity toward which they so strongly gravitate. Keep this in mind when you perform your inspection.
The most common inhabitant of commercial food facilities is the German cockroach, easily identifiable by two dark brown stripes running behind its head. Other cockroaches also may be present, but would be less common in commercial kitchens. American cockroaches tend to be much more common in basements and crawlspaces, but they also may be found in and around drains, garbage areas and sewers. They are easily distinguishable from most other economically important cockroaches because they are much larger — more than 1 inch in length — and are capable of flight.
Brown-banded cockroaches are more likely to be found in (marginally) drier areas than German cockroaches and prefer to feed on starchier items. Because of this, when infesting commercial kitchens, brown-banded cockroaches are more likely to be found in non-food storage areas, although they can be found in kitchen areas as well.
INSPECTION TIPS. German cockroaches are generally found in cracks and crevices of warm, moist or wet locations. They thrive in commercial kitchens due to the plethora of these types of harborages and the abundance of food debris that lodges in and around these areas. Although they prefer fermented food spills, German cockroaches are general feeders that will readily feed on anything from food crumbs to spilled beer to stained clothing and even dried glue. This is why sanitation becomes critical in cockroach control; as long as there are greasy floors and food spills or residue, cockroaches will have food to eat.
During your inspection, you not only should look for the cockroaches and their harborage areas, but also identify as many of the alternate food sources as you can because much of your control will probably involve baits. Even more important than food is their water source. Keep your eyes open for standing water, condensation, etc. Commercial kitchens often place frozen foods on countertops. Thawing will cause water to accumulate on top of metal surfaces and condensation on the underside of these surfaces. Combine that with the gaps in the joints that many of these types of counters have and the result is a perfect harborage zone for German cockroaches.
Commercial kitchens are full of equipment which often seem to have been built to provide as much harborage for German cockroaches as possible. Prep counters, ovens, dishwashers, soda fountains, and coolers represent a nearly infinite number of harborage areas and usually are subject to repeated use and abuse, causing the joints to expand and giving cockroaches and food debris more places to hide. In addition, there typically will be a number of coolers and refrigerators in food service facilities, all of which have rubber door seals that crack and peel with time. When this happens, the seal itself becomes a perfect harborage for cockroaches. These must be replaced when they start to deteriorate. Further, commercial kitchens often have walls covered in stainless steel splashboards, which are easy to clean, but can separate from the wall, creating even more gaps and hiding places for cockroaches.
Don’t forget to check other areas that cockroaches frequently use to travel and hide: Check that escutcheon plates around plumbing pipes are secure, and there are no gaps around conduits that run through walls or between cabinets and walls or floors. It is your duty to do as much as you can to treat these areas, but more importantly, document these areas for your client.
The use of monitoring traps cannot be overstated for the ongoing success of cockroach control. Using monitoring traps high and low in as many areas as possible will give you a 3D representation of cockroach (and other pest) presence and harborages. Inspecting monitors not only will enable you to identify specific pests in the area, but with German cockroaches in particular, you will be able to identify the extent and direction of a harborage area. For example, if you are finding lots of nymphs on one side of a trap, you probably have a harborage area within a few inches of that side.
Once you have gathered the information and properly documented it, pass it to the client as well as your manager so you can build a history of the account. In larger accounts, it is not a bad idea to create a site map and label the areas. Give your client a copy for the pest-sighting log so staff can be specific when a pest is sighted.
Take this information and create a “diary” of the account, so that you will be able to track changes in areas, define “at-risk” areas that are constantly having pest problems, and create a detailed history of the account. This information will help you in the future and help other technicians who need to service the account, should you be unavailable.
The preceding article was excerpted from Chapter 17 of the PCT Guide to Commercial Pest Management by John Cooksey of McCall Service and Victoria Fickle, a graduate of Purdue University.
Each pest control firm is unique, but one thing every successful company shares is a commitment to ongoing label training. That’s because these PMPs understand that comprehending pesticide labels is the foundation of successful pest control. The information featured on a pesticide label allows the technician to apply the product in the most effective manner possible, while adhering to federal regulations designed to ensure that products are applied safely and effectively by professionals.
But label training takes time…and time is money. “From personal experience, I understand finding the time to train technicians is complicated based on scheduling issues and the importance of revenue generation,” says Joe Barile, technical service lead for Bayer. “Every hour a technician is not out in the field servicing accounts is an hour they’re not generating revenue.”
Add to that the fact label training isn’t particularly sexy — or as Barile says, “doesn’t have a lot of spice” — and it can sometimes be a tough sell for PMPs and training directors alike. “Label training is purely a technical program,” he says. “It doesn’t offer the wonder of how flies breed or how mosquitoes carry disease,” but that doesn’t make it any less important.
And it shouldn’t be just for new technicians, according to Barile. “While it should be an essential part of initial training for new hires, “everyone should go through label training on an ongoing basis,” he says. Doing so “creates a culture of compliance. Not doing so creates a casual culture which can lead to a lot of problems down the road,” Barile says.
NUTS & BOLTS. What are the most common mistakes made by industry professionals when it comes to reading and understanding labels? To get an answer to that question, PCT asked Barile, a 35-year industry veteran.
“One of the things I try to stress when I provide label training is you must accommodate the full document to stay in compliance,” he said. “Typically, when a PMP finds himself in the middle of a regulatory complaint, it’s typically because they have not followed the roadmap the label has laid out for them.”
Barile said pesticide labels “start out in very broad terms, but become more specific as you read further,” depending on the type of application or use pattern selected for a treatment. As a result, it’s critical the technician read the entire label so he or she has a complete understanding of how to properly apply the product.
“Where people get in trouble is when they assume they’re in compliance following a cursory review of the label” but in reality they’ve fallen out of compliance. “Unfortunately, in such cases, they’ve failed to comprehend specific details of the label, which may take them out of compliance,” a fatal error when a company finds itself the subject of a regulatory action.
“We’re all busy and thinking about the next stop, but we have to take time to understand the entire document to comply with federal regulations,” he said. “Label language is constantly changing, so just because you’ve read a label once doesn’t mean you have a current understanding of that label. Something might have changed from the time you read it last.”
Barile says that’s particularly true of long-tenured technicians who have read thousands of labels during their careers. “Experience can sometimes lead to complacency,” Barile said. “While we’re all aware label language changes from time to time, we’re used to applying a product a certain way, so we may not take the time to read labels as often as we should.”
The fact of the matter is, he said, “the way a product was applied two or three years ago, may not necessarily be fully compliant with what I have in my hands at the moment. You have to expend the energy to review labels constantly.”
So, how often does Barile suggest pest control technicians review product labels? “Whenever I teach a label training class, I suggest that every time a technician comes in with an empty package he needs replaced, it’s a good practice to review the label on the new package side-by-side with the old package.”
He said it’s also up to manufacturers to keep the industry appraised of any label changes as they occur. “Sometimes, those changes are readily apparent, as when we introduced an expanded label for Temprid FX featuring a number of new use patterns earlier this year.”
Barile said, in such cases, the manufacturer is going to aggressively promote those changes in industry trade magazine advertising, during one-on-one sales calls with pest control companies, and at industry trade shows and educational events. Sometimes the changes are more subtle, however, and not aggressively promoted by the manufacturer, so it’s critical pest control technicians constantly review labels to ensure they remain up to date.
Constantly reading pesticide labels “is one of those good habits,” Barile says, “like eating your broccoli or getting some exercise every day.” It’s important to not become complacent. Complacency represents the greatest threat to a PMP eager to avoid regulatory entanglements, Barile says. “You have to constantly work against the industry mindset that we’re going to do it the way we’ve always done it,” because that’s a recipe for disaster, whether when applying pesticides or expanding your business.
“Providing regular label training is a terrific investment in your company’s future, but you can’t assume your technicians are keeping up to date on the subtleties of individual label changes. Therefore, it’s essential you remain vigilant in developing company “best practices” when it comes to label training, Barile says, while incorporating regular label training into your company’s curriculum.
Editor’s Note: This article was reprinted with permission from Techletter, a biweekly training letter for professional pest control technicians from Pinto & Associates.
As fall turns to winter, customers might assume that they can forget about outdoor pests until spring returns. What they don’t realize is that many tick species, and especially the blacklegged (deer) tick, can remain active all winter long.
It makes sense that ticks could be active until the first hard frost but whether they remain active throughout the winter depends on the tick species, your location and how cold the winters get. For instance, in northern California and southern Oregon, adults of the western blacklegged tick, Ixodes pacificus, were found to be most abundant during cooler seasons. This western vector of Lyme disease is most active from fall to spring with numbers peaking in mid to late winter. Western blacklegged ticks are driven primarily by higher moisture in winter, not cooler temperatures.
The eastern vector of Lyme disease, Ixodes scapularis, the blacklegged tick, is most active during warm weather months, but can remain active all winter unless the temperature approaches freezing or there is snow cover. Even these periods of inactivity are usually short-lived because the ticks will resume activity as soon as conditions warm up a bit or snow melts. For freezing temperatures to kill most ticks, there must be a sustained number of days below 10 degrees Fahrenheit.
Fall weather may mean ticks are even more active as they begin a frantic search for a host animal whose body heat and blood will allow them to survive the winter. Those that fail to find a host before cold weather are forced to spend the winter in protected places and they may not survive. Typical overwintering sites for ticks are in lawns under leaf litter, in garden debris, in thick shrubbery under bark or under snow cover.
IMPACT ON DISEASE TRANSMISSION. It’s easy to see how global warming or climate change can be a factor affecting the life cycle of ticks. Blacklegged ticks have a two-year life cycle so there are times when two or more stages overlap. October is a key month in the blacklegged tick’s life cycle. If fall weather remains warm and allows ticks to extend their host-searching, more ticks will find hosts and will survive the winter.
As winters get warmer, there are fewer extended cold spells that will kill overwintering ticks. More ticks surviving the winter means more ticks looking for hosts in the spring. That means more infected ticks to transmit Lyme disease or other diseases. The take home message is that there is really no time of the year when you can assume that ticks (and Lyme disease) are not factors. People and pets still need some level of protection, even in winter.
The authors are well-known industry consultants and co-owners of Pinto & Associates.