“Strength lies in differences, not in similarities.” – Stephen Covey
Stephen Covey was an educator, busi-nessman, organizational leadership development expert and author. His book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” which has sold more than 25 million copies in 40 languages (www.stephencovey.com), stresses finding meaning or success in any situation through seven core principles. No matter where you are in the country, ants are likely your top revenue generator, and also your biggest “headache” pest (due to callbacks).
Covey’s quote above, though taken out of context, perfectly describes the challenges associated with ant control: diversity, adaptability and tenacity (hundreds of thousands of different individuals working for the greater good). As we move into ant season, there is an opportunity to change both how you’re performing an ant service and its potential outcome. Try applying Covey’s seven tenets of personal growth to your ant control program.1. BE PROACTIVE. Don’t wait in reactive mode. Use the winter months to review ant-related callback trends from the previous ant season and determine what did and didn’t work (look at both sides of the equation; the PMP and the customer). Identifying recurring customers and engaging with them prior to your phone ringing may save extra service stops.
2. BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND. In this case, your goal is ant control. Develop YOUR plan of attack so you can accomplish your goal. The first step in any ant control plan is a thorough inspection. The inspection can happen long before a customer actually calls you about ants in their kitchen. A thorough inspection should identify structural deficiencies, favorable landscape or other conditions conducive to ants. Document everything you see during the inspection: potential attraction sources (food scraps, storage practices, sanitation, honeydew-producing insects, non-functional drainage systems, etc.), access points (cracks/openings around doors, windows and utility lines, plantings too close to the structure, etc.) and potential nesting site red flags such as areas of landscape stone, rock walls, downed trees or structural timbers and piles of compost or other organic debris (leaves, mulch, etc.).
3. FIRST THINGS FIRST. The next step in your ant control plan is to take stock of the inspection findings and PRIORITIZE responsibilities. Assess identified deficiencies and conditions conducive and assign an “owner” for each corrective action. Remember, in any ant control program there is a partnership that relies on both PMP and customer responsibilities! Break down corrective actions into groups such as “necessary” (e.g., sanitation or food source reduction), “supportive” (e.g., minor landscape changes, caulking or sealing windows/doors) or “perfect world” (e.g., major landscape modifications or foundation repairs).
4. THINK WIN/WIN. Communicating with the customer is essential. Every opportunity to build trust and mutual understanding (or “buy-in” for your [and their] ant control program) is one that can’t be passed up. Walk the customer through the inspection findings and their specific ant control plan, including your prioritized “fix-it” list and the breakdown of responsibilities/cooperation both sides will put forth completing necessary and supportive corrective actions. Remember, something simple that takes a technician 15 minutes, such as raking out landscape beds for a customer (prior to treatment), could save 90 minutes later if it reduces one callback.
5. UNDERSTAND, THEN BE UNDERSTOOD. Know your enemy. With the bedrock (cultural and physical control tactics) of your ant control plan in place, be ready for the call to action. Arm technicians with a good hand lens and ant ID field guide (ask your distributor as many of the manufacturers have excellent guides with easy to follow keys and diagnostic images). Glean all information you can from your customer. Technicians have to interpret what they’re hearing and determine where the ants are coming from and where they are going (foraging trails). Combining this information with a confirmed ID and understanding of species-specific biology and behaviors, they also may determine nesting location(s).
6. SYNERGIZE. Implement the plan. There is no one-trick pony to managing ants and reducing the callbacks associated with them. Both non-pesticide and pesticide-based tools must be utilized. The ant control plan and associated corrective actions define the role of non-pesticide tools. When pesticides are required, PMPs have many pesticide-based control tools in their toolbox, including many formulation types (e.g., bait, dust, SC/WP, granule), application methods (e.g., broadcast, C&C, spot, void) and active ingredients (e.g,. boric acid, fipronil, imidacloprid, indoxacarb). Don’t rely on only one tool. For many nuisance ants, multiple products/formulations may be required on the exterior and interior.
7. SHARPEN THE SAW. Ant control is not static. Apply this principle to the bigger picture of your program. After implementing cultural, physical and chemical control tactics, you must monitor, evaluate and potentially change your control plan. If the implemented plan didn’t work, why? What parts of the plan should change? Stress different strategies at different times of the year by adjusting your priority list or changing product choice. For example, are there times when landscape modification is more important than physical exclusion, or will rotating the bait formulation to reflect seasonal foraging behavior increase acceptance?
FINAL THOUGHTS. Stephen Covey said, “If we keep doing what we’re doing, we’re going to keep getting what we’re getting.” Think about your ant control program in the frame-work of these principles. Feel out all aspects of your plan’s strengths and weaknesses and focus on specific areas for improvement. Do this and the odds of your revenue generation equaling profit generation will likely increase.
The author is a board certified entomologist and manager — technical services at Rollins in Atlanta.
A client calls in August complaining about bees all over the dumpster; a restaurant is haunted by bees intimidating patrons on the patio; or a technician is bragging about a large bee nest they’ve removed from the eaves of a house. Sound familiar? The only problem with these examples is that rarely are they actually bees! Stinging insects like yellow jackets and paper wasps aren’t technically bees, but who cares? Sure, it makes for correct entomology, but there are more layers to this honeycomb than that! For instance, there’s a safety aspect to this taxonomic mix-up — it can mean the difference between a no-hassle nest treatment and sharing a bee suit veil with a stranger (a very small, but very angry, stranger). Hopefully this has gotten the attention of anyone who has mistakenly used the term “bee” when referring to any stinging insect…
SAFETY FIRST. Let me back up a minute. When working with stinging insects, one essential piece of personal protective equip-ment (PPE) is a bee suit. It’s shocking to me how many technicians are working with yellow jackets and honey bees without one. With safety becoming ever more important to our clients and injuries becoming ever more expensive for pest management companies, it’s a no brainer. Buy your technicians bee suits if they are working with large colonies of stinging insects — it’ll be the best $100 spent on safety. Period. Bee suits are effective; they can make one feel almost invincible when treating stinging insects. As all bystanders flee in fear, the bee suit-clad PMP can stand his ground against a ferocious colony’s assault. Remember the dragon from The Hobbit, named Smaug, who could totally annihilate a city without fear of retribution? Yeah, it’s like that. Of course, the target insects that we are called on to decimate are not all the same size…and just like Smaug you may find there is a chink in your armor that a flying arrow can penetrate! Beekeepers are very conscious of the size of honey bees. They use terms like “queen ex-cluder” and refer to “bee space,” which are related to the size of honey bees. Bee keepers are great at finding materials that keep out honey bees. After all, what else would one need to keep out of a bee suit?
There are different styles of bee suits available — some have a hooded veil built onto the suit and others have a separate veil that slides over a brimmed hat. If your bee suit has grommets or ventilation eyelets in the hat, they are often 0.5 cm open-ings, just the perfect size to keep out angry worker bees while still maximizing air flow.
One of the smallest, and also most common, yellow jackets that we deal with in the Midwest is called Vespula maculifrons, the Eastern yellow jacket. They are not the same size as a honey bee and have been known to sneak right through those bee suit grommets and dispense a little payback to the unsuspecting applicator!
Unfortunately, after some swelling, you might not be the same size! So, what is a PMP to do about it? Here are a few tips for getting your bee suit yellow jacket ready:
- Snip out pieces of window screen and use hot glue or liquid nails to affix them inside the bee suit over any large ventilation openings.
- Wear sturdy socks that can be pulled up to your calf when working with stinging insects.
- Duct tape, while not professional looking, can be a great tool to wrap around the ankles or to put over the suit’s zipper closures to ensure you have a tight seal.
- Tyvek arm sleeves work great to fill a gap between the bee suit sleeve and gloves, which sometimes opens when reaching above your head to treat or remove a nest.
If you find yourself cursing all beekeepers and their no-room-for-error suit designs after a yellow jacket has penetrated your armor, be thankful that you aren’t wearing a suit optimized for keeping out bumble bees — and that the animal envenomating you is fairly small!
SMART CHOICES. There is growing concern over bee populations today. Be wise in what you treat. Many solitary bee species are non-aggressive and often don’t warrant control. While honey bees are not an endangered species, and we are absolutely legally able to manage them — many times it doesn’t make sense from a PR or risk analysis standpoint to do so. Reach out to a beekeeper or hobbyist to remove the bees intact, when possible. (In regions with Africanized honey bees, this likely won’t apply.) If there isn’t such a resource readily available in your area, consider filling this need. Honey bee cutouts and swarm captures can be rewarding and profitable, not to mention the honey tastes fantastic when it hasn’t been treated with insecticidal dust!
The author is manager of education and training at Rose Pest Solutions, Troy, Mich.
Copesan is an alliance of pest management companies with locations throughout North America. To learn more, visit www.copesan.com.
J.F. Oakes is marketing its new XLure Ready To Use (R.T.U.) Rice Weevil Trap. The trap contains a pheromone lure for rice weevils and a food attractant to attract other stored product beetles. The attractant is food grade, making this trap free of pesticides. The XLure Rice Weevil Trap has been specially designed for early detection of infestations and more timely control, saving money on costly damage, the manufacturer says. The trap is for use in all stages of food processing, storage and distribution facilities.
Liphatech’s Generation bait family has expanded to include its newest offering: Mini Blocks in a 4-pound bag. Generation is still available in the multiple formulations of mini blocks, pellet place packs and paraffinized pellets. Mini blocks are now available in either a 4-pound bag (sold in a 16-pound case of four bags) or a 16-pound pail. Generation gives PMPs the performance of difethialone, the newest second-generation anticoagulant available, in a cost-effective, compact size, Liphatech reports.
Liphatech’s easy-to-carry 4-pound bag provides a convenient option when space is limited and portability is important, the company adds. With a reseable top and durable, water-resistant construction, the bait stays dry. The full label is printed directly on the bag.
Rockwell Labs says its EcoVia WH Stinging Insect Killer jet aerosol, a new FIFRA 25(b) exempt and research-based botanical insecticide, is now available. EcoVia WH aerosol delivers fast knockdown of wasps, yellow jackets and hornets, the company says. Its foaming jet spray reaches up to 18 feet to ensure thorough coverage of the nest and it is also effective on spiders. Like other FIFRA 25(b) products, there are no notification requirements (PMPs should verify with state regulations), and no pyrethroid application restrictions. Since it is a water-based formula, it will not leave behind an oily residue. EcoVia WH is available in a 16-ounce can.
Executive Pest Control Productswww.execpcp.com
Executive Pest Control Products of Sanger, Texas, announced the release of its newly updated website www.execpcp.com. “The website is now more user-friendly and simple to navigate,” said President Kurt Rank. The site features printable product flyers in English and Spanish, as well as a listing of its distributor network. The new website was designed by Razoreye Web Design.The company manufactures three patented Termite Drill Hole Repair Plugs, including the Super Plugs, Sealtite and Tri Seal Plugs. The company also offers its unique Clear Puffer Duster, as well as Wall Injectors, Can Keepers and Bait Syringe Replacement Plungers and Tips. The company offers free sample packages upon request. Ridge-Guard www.ridge-guard.com Ridge-Guard is designed to prevent squirrels, bats, mice, rats, stinging insects and more from entering roofs vented at the ridge. The company says most types of ridge vents are either installed incorrectly or warp and crack with age. Ridge-Guard is applied directly over affected roof ridges, rendering the vent impregnable by most types of wildlife, the company says. Ridge-Guard eliminates the need to tear off the entire ridge cap and replace when animal entry is detected or damage occurs. It saves customers money and animal control technicians time, the company says. Ridge-Guard comes in a protective tube for travel and includes 160 linear feet of product and all the fasteners needed to install it. Tick Box Technology Corporation www.tickboxtcs.com Tick Box Technology Corporation announced it has renamed its product the Tick Box Tick Control System (formerly known as Select TCS Tick Control System). The Tick Box Tick Control System has been registered with EPA and 26 states and the District of Columbia. The company said that due to the overwhelming nickname use and reference to the product as “The Tick Box” officials felt it was fitting to change the product’s name. The former name will continue to be registered so as to allow the consumption of any inventory that may remain in the channels of trade. The Tick Box Tick Control System controls ticks and reduces the risk of Lyme disease and other tick-borne infections. It treats the primary hosts of the disease — chipmunks and white-footed mice — with a small dose of fipronil. The ticks are killed during the critical larval and nymph stages when they contract the Lyme bacteria and other tick-borne diseases from small rodents. The Tick Boxes achieve 88 percent control in year one and 97.3 percent in year two, the company reports. The product is for professional use only and is available to PCOs directly from Tick Box Technology Corporation, Target Specialty Products and Univar.
North America has three types of vultures: The California condor was barely saved from extinction. The turkey vulture is the most familiar and it is found all throughout the United States. Now, the black vulture is moving northward from South America and the southern U.S., and its population has exploded in numbers during the last 10 years. They are coming to a site near you!
I have worked with bird roosts that had more than 2 million starlings, 1 million grackles and sites with more than 100,000 pigeons, but these birds are a whole new dimension in the world of avian management. First, they fall under the protection of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. If you are going to do anything other than structural modification or harassment, you will need a Form 37 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the state in which the problem exists noting that the depredation permit is necessary. The Form 37 must accompany the federal application to receive a depredation permit from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
WHY THEY ARE A PROBLEM. The urea from roosting vultures can shut down equipment, as well as eat the paint off walls and vehicles. It is so acidic, that over time it can even corrode metal in hand rails and rubber-coated wiring. Some buildings and parking garages are also having problems with vultures pulling the rubber seals from around windows and the windshield wipers off vehicles. I didn’t even discuss the smell. (Scratch and Sniff sticker not included in this article!) The wingspan of a vulture is around 6 feet. When roosting around electrical units, such as electrical sub-stations, this can cause electrical shutdowns and is one of the main reasons for cell phone tower failure. Maintenance costs are in the hundreds of millions of dollars in the U.S. alone. I have developed a system being used on cell phone towers and it repels quite nicely, so far. I have said that during the last 40 years everything will succeed and everything will fail depending on the circumstances.
KEY VULTURE CHARACTERISTICS. Textbooks state that the black vulture is not as sensitive to smell as its counterpart, the turkey vulture, which is almost always found in the same roost. It is noted that the turkey vulture has one of the largest olfactory bulbs (a part of the brain that helps control smell). That should make it more adept in locating carrion than the black vulture, which has a much smaller olfactory bulb. The theory is that the black vulture simply follows the turkey vulture to locate and aggressively take the turkey vultures’ find of carrion. I, on the other hand, am questioning this theory due to the research I have been doing during the last 10 years with both birds. I have buried carrion in the ground, leaving the carcass largely invisible and also placed carrion in plastic trash bags so that no portion could be seen. Half of the time, the black vultures will still show up before the turkey vultures. It reminds me of the early 1980s when I was studying computer programming. The computers at that time were the size of a small car. Now, your cell phone has more capabilities than the larger computers did back then. So, I question this theory that bigger is more efficient. But don’t tell this to turkey vultures. I don’t want to get involved in that discussion.The turkey vulture is mainly a carrion feeder, but it will also feed on vegetation and insects or anything that it can scavenge from a local dump. It locates food from sight and has an amazing sense of smell (parts per billion, I am sure). The black vulture is much more aggressive when it comes to finding lunch. It will feed on the same diet as the turkey vulture, but if it can’t locate a carrion meal, it has no problem creating one. My family lost four cows last year to black vultures attacking and killing the heifers while they were giving birth and in a vulnerable position. It’s not just the cattle. They are taking advantage of any animal in a weakened position.
LOCATION IS KEY. What attracts huge numbers of vultures to buildings or manufacturing sites and cell phone towers? Location. Oil and gas refineries are becoming a favorite roosting place for vultures because they are built and designed to attract vultures. Refineries have high areas for roosts usually near fresh water or they have large fresh water pools for fire monitors. Also, oil and gas refined at the plant site release the same gasses that are released by a decomposing body: methane, hydrogen sulfide, ammonia and methanethiol. These are just a few of the many gasses that are by-products of the refining process. To oil executives, these aromas mean money. To the vulture, it smells like a giant smorgasbord. Many times, while climbing through a large vulture roost near an oil rig, I can’t help but notice the contented smiles of hundreds of these birds who are obviously thinking to themselves: ‘Does life get any better than this?’MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES. Our job is to disrupt their established contentment. These birds do not frighten easily. Books tell you that hanging an effigy of a dead vulture will cause them to disperse. Many government agencies and others have worked with this idea, purchasing fake effigies and placing real ones in an attempt to dissuade the birds. My experience shows that the existing fake effigies are not effective. The real ones are quickly consumed by the other vultures.
Shooting is viable at some sites, such as food sites, dumps, etc., but not on oil and gas facilities. Shock track on certain sites where there are ledges can work if the entire ledge is covered and no space is left for them to stand comfortably. Spark-producing products, such as shock track, cannot be used at a refinery since they would blow up and level the refinery. That will strain the relationship you have with your customers.
High tensile wire has been tried, but the birds were observed using the wire as a hand-hold, if you may, by folding a wing over the wire to help stabilize themselves in high winds. And the higher you go, the windier it gets. Structural modification works well, but it must have a 90° slant or the vultures will use it as a couch. Methyl anthranilate has been tried, but these birds stick their heads in dead bodies and love it. So, they just tuck their heads under their wings and go to sleep.
Constant harassment seems to work, but many times this involves all night long climbing, moving and lethal removal (with a permit). Lasers will make them uncomfortable for a while, but if nothing lethal is used in conjunction with the laser, the birds quickly become accustomed to its use. The numbers allowed in the take from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service on your permit will be small in comparison to the birds that are roosting. And always, when it comes to lethal removal, don’t discuss it or write children’s books about it. It will cause you to be questioned by the local public.
AN IMPORTANT PERSPECTIVE. Vulture management is an adventure, but we have to be balanced in our efforts. Many people feel they are just a “bunch of buzzards” that create havoc and few would miss them. The fact is vultures are a genuine spoke in the ecosystem’s wheel. They have a place in our universe, and we are aware of what happened to the California Condor.
The author is president of A-Mark Pest & Bird Management, with offices in Baytown, Texas and Rockville, Ind. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.