Given the choice of servicing a kitchen call from a single-family home or a multi-unit complex, most PMPs would choose the former. Pests in a detached residence tend to be easier to manage, because of not only the types of pests you encounter but also the relative ease with which you can control access to food, water, heat and harborage. Convincing one family to cooperate versus tenants of an entire building also makes the job simpler.
How do kitchen pests differ in detached and multi-unit residences? Most notably, cockroaches are king in multi-unit settings, while it’s unusual to find cockroaches in detached houses. You’re much more likely to find ants, stored-food pests, small flies and sometimes mice – all of which can pose problems in multi-unit accounts as well.
Inspection Tips and Hot Spots
Whether in a single-family home or a multi-unit complex, your residential kitchen inspection should begin with a conversation. Interview your customer about what they are seeing. Try to get a sense of what kind of pests you’re dealing with and how widespread the infestation might be. Then start your visual inspection. Here are some points to keep in mind:
• Look for cockroaches in kitchen cabinets (including around the hinges), around plumbing, near the sink and dishwasher, around the refrigerator (including the seal around the door), in the hoods over the stove and food-prep areas, in wall voids – anywhere they might find crumbs of food, drops of water, heat or safe harborage.
“Inspect for leaks, because moisture is the top area of concern,” advises Richard Berman, consultant and former technical director of Waltham Services. “Then, if you can, pull out the stove and refrigerator (carefully – don’t damage the floor!) to get a good look behind and under. Lie flat on your back to look up under cabinets and sinks. It makes sense to start your inspection where the customer has seen activity, but don’t limit yourself to that. Examine every crack and crevice.”
• Look for evidence of mice where you see food scraps or crumbs, and inspect cupboards for droppings. Inspect the exterior perimeter of the building for entry points and the interior walls for holes. “Maintenance workers in apartment complexes tend to neglect repairing holes left behind when drain, water supply or dishwasher lines are installed,” says Richard Kramer, CEO of Innovative Pest Management. “Apartments share these common drain systems and walls, which means rodents and cockroaches have free access from one unit to another.”
• For ant issues, find and follow the trail to the source. Closely examine the edges and corners of the pantry, cabinets, stove, baseboards, and under the sink – anywhere food or moisture might be. If you can’t find the trail through a visual inspection, try prebaiting, which can also help you identify whether these ants are more inclined to accept a protein, carbohydrate or lipid bait. Once you’ve located the trail, you should be able to determine whether the nest is situated in a wall void or outdoors.
• Locating stored-product pests – saw-toothed grain beetles or Indian meal moths, for example – entails a visual inspection of the pantry and determination of which foods are attracting them. Examine older food items first, Berman advises, as well as pet foods, since they are most frequently the culprits.
• To determine where phorid, vinegar and drain flies might be breeding, inspect all of the drains and other wet areas of the kitchen: in and around the dishwasher and sink, and anywhere condensation might be an issue.
• Don’t overlook the possibility that the infestation could be in another room. Activity in the kitchen might be just a symptom of a larger problem going on elsewhere in the residence.
Treatment begins by taking any measures you can to eliminate or minimize food, water, heat and harborage. Clean up crumbs and gunk. Locate and repair water leaks. Minimize clutter, especially cardboard and other natural materials. Seal any cracks or holes in the walls and around pipes and drain lines. Once you’ve addressed sanitation and exclusion, you can develop a treatment strategy.
• Cockroaches: Cockroach baits have become the go-to solution for many PMPs. But Kramer suggests using a combination of treatment methods, depending on the circumstances. He explains, “If the infestation is light, then baiting might be enough, but if you’re seeing 50 or more, then you know there are 500 or more in that space. Consider vacuuming those you can see, then spray and follow up with baits. Spray is a particularly good choice if the unit you’re treating is vacant, between tenants.” Where to bait? Near harborage sites: in the upper corners around the sink and dishwasher areas, along drawer tracks and places where you see fecal deposits. Keep baits out of sight, says Kramer, and remember to rotate them to minimize resistance. Kramer also recommends adding insect growth regulators (IGRs) for longer-term control.
• Mice: Don’t underestimate the power of exclusion efforts in controlling rodent activity. Beyond that, snap-traps are a great option. Kramer warns against using open rodent baits in a residence but suggests they might be effective in a utility closet that is inaccessible to children and pets.
• Ants: Unless you’re dealing with a particularly aggressive species – fire ants or crazy ants, for example – ants are generally easy to treat. Gary Bennett, director of the Center for Urban and Industrial Pest Management at Purdue University, shares this advice: “Exclusion is important, because once ants gain access, they can nest in wall voids and other places that can be difficult to identify,” he says. “Talk with the customer if you see issues with ill-fitting windows or doors, or plumbing that’s not properly sealed off.”
What to do once ants have made their way in? “Spray the foundation of the house, as well as any outdoor nests, to gain fairly quick control,” advises Kramer. “Inside, baiting is preferable to spraying. Just make sure that you explain to your customer that they will see increased activity for a few days while the bait is attracting ants. Otherwise, they will think the situation is getting worse.”
• Stored product pests: Once you have identified the pest and the food source attracting it, discarding that product is the first treatment step. “Inform the customer that any contaminated foods should be discarded, but don’t discard them yourself because they are the customer’s property,” recommends Berman. “Once the contaminated foods have been eliminated, treat cracks and crevices with insecticides labeled for kitchen use.” Customer education about sanitation and sound food-storage practices is important to preventing future infestations.
• Small flies: Microbial foams, gels or liquids clean grease and other organic matter from drains, usually solving any residential small fly issues. Insecticides labeled for kitchen use may be added if a large number of flies remain after the sanitation process is complete.