Jay Bruesch, who for 37 years helped train service technicians and keep Plunkett’s Pest Control updated on trends and technology, has retired.
In reflecting on the many contributions Bruesch made to Plunkett’s, owner Stacy O’Reilly noted, “Jay was for Plunkett’s, a creative teacher, relatable for our technicians, empathetic to the real challenges our technicians face, hard-working, always listening, learning, reading and finding ways to help our team solve challenging problems well.”
A graduate of the University of Wisconsin with a BA in German literature, Bruesch’s first teaching experience came in a classroom, teaching middle school in Eden Prairie, Wis. Needing a summer job, he asked his brother Ted, who at the time was working for Wil-Kil Pest Control (and recently retired from Liphatech), about working in pest control. Ted introduced his brother to Plunkett’s Pest Control and then-owner John O’Reilly, who eventually hired Jay as a service technician.
After trying his hand at service technician and supervisor, Bruesch found his true calling as a trainer/educator, with responsibilities for initial and ongoing technician training. This included updating and adding to the company’s technician field reference manual, which was originally written for Copesan partners by Austin Frishman in the 1970s. Bruesch also made his mark by developing and putting on continuing education events for service professionals interested in learning beyond the basics to help them do their job better. As Stacy O’Reilly said, “Jay respected what the technicians’ already knew and worked hard to bring new approaches and interesting ways to teach. Jay never took the easy shortcut of just lecturing to people.”
As a way to thank Bruesch for his contributions, Plunkett’s made him the fifth employee to have his number (5) retired. His number 5 jersey now hangs at the company’s headquarters in Fridley, Minn. “Each person brought to Plunkett’s not only a career of dedication but served our staff and our clients that helped transform Plunkett’s as a company into something we might never have become but for their excellence,” O’Reilly added. “Jay’s unquestioned respect and confidence that we could train all employees to serve the most complex of clients equally well set the standard for Plunkett’s technicians’ excellence.”
The idea to retire the number of important Plunkett’s contributors was created to recognize Dick Czech, a Plunkett’s service technician who saved and revived the company’s residential program. Tiring of the hassles associated with residential pest control, John O’Reilly was planning to exit residential and concentrate solely on commercial. Czech asked O’Reilly to give him one summer to prove this was a business segment worth keeping. Through Czech’s personal connections with clients, he built an entire route in one little Minnesota suburb that summer. Today, Plunkett’s residential business accounts for $10 million in yearly revenues. — Brad Harbison
Xcluder is expanding its line of rodent-proofing offerings with the launch of the Xcluder Joint Sealing Kit, which the firm says is designed to quickly and effectively seal or re-seal gaps in concrete joints that may be susceptible to rodent and pest intrusion. The Joint Sealing Kit is the latest addition to Xcluder’s collection of rodent-proofing solutions that offer pest management professionals peace of mind against rodents and other pests, the firm says.
Engineered concrete joints, including contraction, construction and isolation joints, can widen over time due to concrete shrinkage, foundation settling and seasonal temperature cycles. When these joints expand, the original joint seals often split. Standard joint seals and foam backing are not designed to withstand the gnawing power of rodents, Xcluder reports. Unprotected joints easily can be exploited by rodents and other pests to burrow under the slab and tunnel throughout a home or building. Extensive burrowing can then lead to costly structural damage.
The Xcluder Joint Sealing Kit features three 1- by 48-inch strips of Xcluder Fill Fabric and a tube of premium, non-priming, elastomeric polyurethane sealant. The Xcluder strip is pressed into the gap with a putty knife or screwdriver and covered with the provided sealant, sealing the gap and preventing rodents from burrowing through.
Unlike steel wool and copper that corrode, Xcluder’s patented blend of stainless steel and polyfiber will not rust or decompose over time, the manufacturer says. The sharp, coarse fibers cannot be gnawed through.
Happy Cornerz is a 3-in-1 product that gives PMPs more options to monitor and trap more pests, the manufacturer says. The product allows users to trap a variety of insects and pests in upper corners.
PMPs know that when insects and pests are indoors they love traveling along baseboard edges and hiding where those edges merge and meet. That’s often in a low or high corner, Happy Cornerz says. This product allows PMPs to monitor lower and upper corners in living rooms, bathrooms, bedrooms, kitchens, underneath sinks and inside cabinets, the company says.
At first glance, the company says Happy Cornerz initially appears like a typical glueboard until you choose how to apply the product:
- Use it as one large flat trap.
- Separate it into three smaller individual flat traps.
- Use the triangular portion of the three separated pieces as a glue trap for mounting into lower or upper corners to track and catch more pests.
The manufacturer says common objects stick to the glue surface because of the unique mounting design. The glue is on the backside of the corner trap, which means the clean side faces the environment while the insects and pests on the glue are not visible to customers.
Coalmarch recently announced the launch of SprowtSell, a suite of tools designed to close the loop between incoming leads and sales, the company said. Coalmarch has offered website development and digital marketing services, as well as hiring and training solutions for growing pest control businesses, for more than 10 years.
“SprowtSell is an exciting addition to our Sprowt digital marketing platform,” said Donnie Shelton, Coalmarch CEO and owner of Triangle Pest Control. “It’s all about bridging the gap between customers or potential customers and your team, streamlining communication, and closing leads faster and more effectively.”
The foundation of the platform is built on the Call Tracking Metrics phone system, allowing a PMP’s call center to access call recordings, track lead sources, customize call routing and score calls within an agent dashboard.
“SprowtSell also incorporates tools like customizable call scripts to guide your CSRs step-by-step through collecting customer data, and a tech lead form that collects data in the field and standardizes communication to close those leads faster and more effectively,” said Christin Nein, director of product management.
SprowtSell currently integrates with PestPac, with plans to expand to other CRM platforms in the near future, the firm says.
Editor’s note: This month we welcome to the pages of PCT a new technical quarterly column from Terminix International. A variety of authors from Terminix will occupy this space, starting with Doug Webb.
Termite infestations may not be a top-of-mind issue for most people — until that warm, beautiful day in late spring or early summer when swarming termites show up uninvited and make themselves at home in the living room. Both residential and commercial structures may have termite swarming events during the termite swarm season and although no one wants termites in their homes or businesses, there actually is some value in a termite swarm.
As pest management professionals, we are the first responders when termites swarm in a structure. A termite swarming event can be very scary for home and business owners alike. Whether there are just a few drywood swarmers, several hundred eastern subterranean swarmers or several thousand Formosan swarmers, termites flying around the room are not easily ignored. Even if this is a first-time swarm experience, most people know that termites can cause significant damage to their structures and that an expensive treatment may be imminent.
So how can a termite swarm be a good thing? Termite swarms are a tip-off that a termite colony has invaded the structure and that gives PMPs an opportunity to help protect the biggest investment most people ever make. Termites are cryptic creatures that spend most of their time working and feeding out of sight. Without swarms, termite infestations could progress undetected for years, leading to excessive damage and repair costs. While there are other signs of termite infestation, they may not be as spectacular as a termite swarm in the living room and are likely to go unnoticed.
WHY DO TERMITES SWARM? Swarming termites, also known as alates, are the reproductive members of a termite colony. While most of the members in a colony are worker termites that damage structures as they feed, the sole purpose of the alates is to leave the colony, reproduce and sustain their species. Alates do not bite, sting or even eat wood, and simply letting your customer know that up front can lower anxiety levels substantially.
As alates get ready to swarm, they first prepare a swarm tube for a “launch site” and then wait patiently for the right conditions to ensure their highest probability of survival. They swarm into the air from hidden areas within the colony with each individual swarmer taking a brief flight that may only last a few seconds. They are not strong fliers, so after a short flight, they land, break their wings from their bodies and pair with a mating partner. The future queen leads the way traveling on foot to find a place to start a new colony as the king faithfully follows her to their new home.
Termite alates are mostly unsuccessful in finding a place to start a new family, especially when they swarm indoors where there is no access to soil. Most will die within a few hours from dehydration. Even when they swarm outdoors, the survival rate for termite swarmers is low. There are many predators and finding a suitable biome for starting a successful colony is no easy task in the short time they have.
For those mating pairs that do survive, a nuptial chamber is constructed underground by the king and queen, mating occurs and the first eggs soon will hatch into tiny larvae. The larvae will be tended by the king and queen until they are old enough to start helping with the developing colony. Most will become worker termites. Soldiers and reproductive termites will begin to develop as the colony matures. A network of tunnels and decentralized nesting chambers will develop, and as time passes, it will take more and more cellulose to provide food for the increasing workforce.
Depending on the termite species, size of the colony and other factors, there may be only a few swarmers or there may be thousands produced from a single colony. In areas of the country with dense colony counts, this can multiply into millions of swarmers exiting from multiple colonies on the same day or over a period of a few weeks. This is one reason termites are so successful and why termite swarmers can be such a nuisance. Whether there are a few hundred eastern subterranean termite swarmers flying around in a living room or millions of Formosan termites swarming outdoors at night affecting outdoor events and even traffic flow, it can be a harrowing experience.
TERMITE DAMAGE. Termite swarmers are mostly a seasonal nuisance, but they indicate that the rest of the colony, including those that eat wood year round, have breached the building’s envelope. Most members of a termite colony remain hidden, constantly eating wood or other cellulose-containing materials they find and delivering digested cellulose to their nest mates to fuel the colony. This feeding behavior can severely damage wooden structural components and other cellulosic furnishings within a structure.
In both residential and commercial buildings, termite damage repairs can total thousands of dollars. For businesses, there is also the cost of downtime while rooms are under repair, possible negative experiences for customers and perhaps even damage to the firm’s reputation. Termites are much more than just an inconvenience — they can cause major disruption in homes and businesses and can have significant budgetary impacts.
WHAT TO DO. The first response many consumers have to a swarm is to use an aerosol spray. Sprays can make termites stick to surfaces, making cleanup difficult, and often contain solvents or other components that can stain or damage building materials. The biggest issue is that this type of treatment can give the false impression that termite swarmers have been killed and the problem is solved. Needless to say, PMPs should encourage consumers to not use sprays.
Pest management professionals can glean many bits of information when evaluating undisturbed areas where swarming has occurred. We know termite swarmers are attracted to strong lights (i.e., exterior windows). We know that just because swarmers congregate around the windows, it does not mean the infestation is in that immediate area. Often a small pinhole in the drywall on the far side of the room is where termites are entering and that should be the starting point for tracing back to the primary entry point. Successful PMPs are skilled at finding the source of the infestation rather than focusing on the location of swarmers.
To remove swarmers, use a vacuum cleaner. Most termites will die during this process, however, it is best to dispose of the vacuum bag. When termites start swarming, they often trickle out of a tiny hole over several hours or days so it may be necessary to vacuum multiple times over the next few days.
Like any pest challenge, identifying and treating for termites can be difficult and complex. The best way to help customers through a termite swarm event is to take the time to explain swarming behaviors, calm their fears about swarming termites and discuss the process for developing a solution. Thoroughly inspect the structure, evaluate the situation and explain your findings to the customer. This will help you provide an effective termite control plan that fits their situation and provides the protection that the customer expects.
W. Douglas Webb is technical services manager with Terminix International. He earned his master of science degree in wood science and technology from Mississippi State University, having specialized in wood-destroying insects and wood deterioration. He has served Terminix customers across the United States for more than 37 years.
Monitors can be an invaluable tool whether you are battling a current issue or proactively watching a location. These devices work 24/7 and will be your eyes when you are not present in your account.
You can use insect monitors for multiple purposes. First, if they are installed properly, you can catch a problem early. If you have your insect monitors placed properly, you can find an introduction before the pests become entrenched at the client’s location. This is especially useful in commercial kitchens where there is a constant influx of susceptible product being brought into their facilities. Knowing the biology of the pest you are trying to monitor for will help you exploit their habits for increased capture rates.
Once you have your proactive monitors set up and you catch an insect, you can tell what type of insect pressure you are experiencing. If you don’t know what it is, you can provide a specimen to an entomologist or your state agency for proper identification. This is useful so you can properly identify it instead of relying on the client for identification.
You also can tell directionality by looking at the monitors. If all you see is ground beetles on the left, then focus your attention in that direction. At this point you should be looking for harborage or entry points, structural conditions, sanitation issues or employee habits that are contributing to the pest intrusion. Make sure you report any relevant conditions on your service report or they will never be corrected.
In many cases, you can tell how close you are to a harborage point. This can be achieved by looking at how many pests you have captured and their current life stage. For instance, if you are monitoring for German cockroaches and you catch a bunch of first instars, you know you are within a few feet of the harborage point. If you are monitoring for cigarette beetles, and your program has a spike in a particular area, then you know you are in the general vicinity of the issue.
You can verify if an IGR is being used or if it is being used correctly. If your staff is supposed to be using an IGR at an account with a German cockroach issue on a regular basis and you find numerous German cockroaches without twisted wings, then they are either not using the IGR or they are not getting the product where it needs to be. This can alert you to coach your technicians about the way they are servicing the account and improve their knowledge base to increase your service quality at that location and others.
RODENT CONTROL. You also can use monitors for rodents. Many people just use glueboards, multiple catch traps and bait stations as an elimination tool. However, monitors also can be invaluable and provide many of the same benefits as when used for insects, including understanding what type of pressure you are experiencing and from what direction pests may be coming. In addition, they can alert you to take proactive measures (in some cases) to prevent an intrusion from becoming an established population.
As with insects, knowing what type of rodent you are monitoring for will dictate how you will structure the program. If it is for mice and Norway rats, then you will look at monitoring down low. If you are monitoring for roof rats, then you will be setting up your baiting program and other monitors up high. The location of your monitors can be more important than the number of monitors you install for any pest issue.
There are many ways you can use monitors for rodents to catch a problem early. You can use a layer of bait stations on the exterior to know when you are starting to experience an influx of rodents at your client’s location. Adding devices along the fence line will provide a forward-operating, monitoring program that can alert you to a potential issue long before they even reach the structure, even if you are using just monitoring blocks, bait blocks or snap traps. You can use your multi-catch devices to know when a large influx of mice is brought into a client’s warehouse with a particular product, preventing them from spreading unchecked. Another way to monitor for rodents is to use a small bait placement or glueboards in a homeowner’s garage to help catch mice before they enter their living space.
Using the same set-ups as described previously, you can tell directionality of any rodent pressure at your customer’s location. If you have a sudden influx of rodents at your fence line program along the west wall, then you know that you will need to reinforce that area to prevent a rodent issue inside for your client. If your multi-catch devices constantly catch mice by a pillar, then you probably have a structural issue behind it that needs to be addressed. That glueboard you stuck in the garage can tell you if the client needs to repair their garage door to prevent mice from getting inside.
You can use monitors to regularly check for many pests including general insects, rodents, stored product pests, fabric pests and flying insects, to name a few. Just like in real estate, location is extremely important. Knowing where to place them can be key to catching an issue early or risking additional customer impact. If your monitors are not placed properly, they lose their value very quickly. They need to be placed in areas that pests frequent such as in corners, inside equipment, in shaded areas, areas that are not disturbed and other pest-specific locations.
The monitors need to be secured properly as well. If you placed the monitor perfectly but someone moves it or throws it away, then they are doing nothing for you. These devices are your eyes when you are not there, so if they are removed from their ideal spot, then they will cease to provide value to your inspection. Make sure you review with the customer how important they are and why they are placed where you install them. Additionally, they will need to be serviced and replaced on a regular basis. If the glue stops being sticky, then it is no longer valuable, regardless of placement. If the bait inside your device is six months old, then it probably is not palatable to a rodent anymore. Having stored product pest monitors out is great, but if the lures are past their change date then they are just pretty decorations. The point is that without proper servicing, the devices are no longer valuable to your program and can actually put your client at risk since your monitors are no longer working properly.
You also can use pheromones and attractants to increase effectiveness. These can be added or are already impregnated in some items. Many glueboards have attractants added to them to increase capture rates, but in some cases adding a pheromone can increase the effectiveness of these devices. This is common for German cockroaches and stored product pests, but you also can use this method on ILTs, rodents and others if you think about how to exploit their habits. Another way to use this strategy is to verify if an issue has been resolved. By using a monitor that is augmented for a particular pest, you can see if an issue has been truly resolved.
There is much more information on monitors and their placement to be gathered, but by increasing your knowledge of their usage, you can increase the level of your service. By using monitors, you can see what trends are starting and can work with your client to be proactive and catch an issue early before it starts to impact both operations.
David Moore is a board certified entomologist who received his master’s degree in entomology from Virginia Tech. He serves as the manager of technical services for Dodson Bros. Exterminating.
Copesan is an alliance of pest management companies with locations throughout North America. To learn more, visit www.copesan.com.