Taking the mystery out of the proper use of mist nets.
In the past 30 years, the pest control industry has seen a lot of changes. From IPM to GPS, technology is rapidly changing how we do business. Our ability to use older technology seems to diminish over time as our mindset becomes increasingly high-tech; however, many tools used for years in our industry are still just as effective today when used properly. Mist nets used for capturing birds are a case in point.
Introduced to North America in the mid-20th century, mist nets were widely adopted as an indispensible tool. Misuse and improper understanding of this capture method has led to a decline in usage, although it remains incredibly effective in capturing nuisance birds. Proper education on how to use mist nets can ensure results — and happy clients.
Mist nets, typically made from nylon mesh, have three to four panels that run horizontally and are separated by support lines. The support lines have loops attached to their ends to allow the net to be hung vertically. When a mist net is hung properly, it is inconspicuous to birds. Birds normally strike mist nets at considerable speed. The net is designed to “give” and gently decelerate the bird when it strikes the net.
After a bird strikes the net, the panels overlap at the support lines to form a pocket to hold the bird. When setting a mist net, there are several factors that must be taken into account in order for a successful outcome.
Know Your Bird. The first thing to consider is the target bird’s daily movements. Spend time learning where the bird is roosting, loafing and feeding, as well as preferred flight paths between these locations and when the bird is most active.
Net Location. Once you know this basic information, you can begin looking for the right location to place your mist net. Too often, mist nets are installed in areas where they are easy to put up but have no relation to where the birds are actually flying — you can guess what the results are. When looking for a location to set your mist net, avoid areas where the outline of the mist net will be visible. Birds will avoid visible netting. Look for areas where there are shadows or where there are other visual vertical surfaces that could camouflage the net outline. Movement also can cause birds to steer clear of netting. Once set, ensure your net is as still as possible. Air ducts and open doors are common culprits in sabotaging mist net effectiveness by causing movement that warns a bird of its presence.
Humane Treatment. After you’ve installed your mist net, it must not be left unattended. Mist nets must be checked a minimum of once per hour. When a bird is caught in a mist net, it has no access to water or food. Birds can die from dehydration in a matter of hours. As our industry comes under ever closer scrutiny by the public, we must ensure that we perform all of our services in a humane and professional manner. From the control measures we choose, to how we service them, to how we release or euthanize trapped animals, humane treatment must be one of our primary concerns.
Removing Birds from a Mist Net. The sooner a bird is removed from a mist net, the less chance it has of becoming deeply entangled (and as such, we minimize harm). In addition, removal helps keep the mist net still, increasing the likelihood of capturing additional birds. To remove a bird from a mist net, first determine the side of the mist net from which the bird entered. An easy way to do so is to locate the bird’s belly. Next, secure the bird by the wings and feet to prevent struggling. Gently lift the bird out of the pocket and away from the mist net feet first. As the bird comes out of the mist net, use your free hand to remove any strands that might still be caught on the bird. Once the bird has been removed from the net, it should immediately be placed in a transport container. The transport container must be blacked out in order to minimize stress on the bird. Trapped birds can either be released or euthanized in accordance with your state laws. Finally, after all suspected nuisance birds have been captured, mist nets should be removed to eliminate the chance of non-target species being captured and potentially harmed.
A Valuable Tool. Using a mist net does demand attention to detail and intense monitoring for a period of time, but the tool remains as effective today as when it was first introduced to the industry. When used properly, it is one of the best ways to quickly and humanely remove nuisance birds from nearly any location.
The author is vice president, North American Bird Program, The Steritech Group Inc.