Making Pest Management a Priority

Warmer weather makes outdoor activities possible but it also tends to increase pest pressure, too. Providing for pest management service is a fact of life for most property managers. In multi-unit housing settings, a variety of micro-environments, such as kitchens, bathrooms and garbage collection areas, elevate the potential for pest infestations. While the occasional pest problem is common, a serious infestation can lead to lost reputation and, by extension, lost revenue.Besides being a nuisance, some pests cause serious health effects. For example, scientific studies have shown a strong correlation between cockroach populations and increased symptoms of asthma, especially in children. Fire ants are aggressive and inflict painful stings. Flies are known to spread disease-causing germs associated with food such as salmonella, strep and dysentery. Termites can cause extensive property damage. Last, but certainly not least, bed bugs are making national headlines. While they do not spread disease, bed bugs can take a physical and mental toll on their victims through sleepless nights, stress and general embarrassment. In some cases, residents have sought legal damages in response to living with an infestation of bed bugs.The good news is there are proactive steps property resident managers can take to help prevent pest problems. Integrated pest management and preventionBecause your residents’ homes are considered sensitive environments, your Pest Management Professional (PMP) will likely recommend an “Integrated Pest Management” (IPM) approach. IPM relies on a combination of different control techniques that get results and minimize people’s exposure to pesticides.Cockroach and fly control can be enhanced by resident education regarding: •    Keeping kitchens and bathrooms clean. •    Storing food in airtight containers.•    Placing garbage and recycled products in containers with tight fitting lids. Outdoor dumpsters should be cleaned regularly with soap and water. •    Reducing clutter whenever possible.•    Sealing cracks and crevices that provide easy access to the structure and ideal hiding places. Bed bug prevention starts with staff education. Your PMP can teach your staff to recognize bed bugs and telltale signs of an infestation. As more people become familiar with these pests, property management must also be able to address concerns from residents and answer questions. Options for controlToday, insecticide baits are the formulation of choice for controlling cockroaches, and are also available for ants and filth flies. Baits are effective, require less advance preparation, and can usually be applied discreetly to “out of the way” places. Some are even specially formulated to be more attractive to pests than alternative food sources commonly found in the kitchen.For cockroach control, ask your PMP for a bait solution that will provide quick knockdown and long-term control. In some cases, these baits exploit cockroach behavior by employing a delayed-action kill, allowing one roach to spread the active ingredient to other members of its colony, which is known as the domino effect. In addition, some cockroach baits also provide a contact kill, which will control cockroaches whether or not they consume the bait.For outdoor fly infestations around dumpsters or picnic areas, ask your PMP for a liquid bait that can be sprayed onto dumpsters or around outside picnic areas. Bed bugs are not the sort of pest that can be eliminated easily with an over-the-counter insecticide. Working in conjunction with your PMP, a successful bed bug treatment requires:•    A thorough inspection.•    A clean room to work in. Bed linens should be placed in a plastic bag until washed so as not to transfer bed bugs to other areas. Vacuum bags should be discarded immediately.•    The treatment of headboards, bed frames, baseboards, and all cracks and crevices with a broad-spectrum, pyrethroid insecticide that provides residual control of adults and eggs and is labeled for use in all areas where bed bugs hide. •    The inspection and treatment of perimeter walls, wall voids and surrounding units as necessary, as bed bugs tend to migrate to adjacent units. •    Follow-up inspections, and treatment if necessary, because bed bugs can live for up to one year without feeding. A Pest Management Professional should be able to identify different pests and treatment options that best meet your needs. Once you have contracted with a company, establish a schedule for regular service. If possible, ask the company to assign one or two PMPs to your account so that you are dealing with the same individual/team, who can become familiar with your staff and establishment, on a consistent basis. Above all, it is critical to make pest management a priority, provide full disclosure of the infestation to your PMP, allow him/her to access any and all problem areas, and commit yourself and your staff to becoming your PMP’s “partner in pest management.” This collaboration with your PMP will go a long way toward preventing infestations and addressing problems quickly. Gordon Morrison is a marketing manager for Bayer Environmental Science, makers of cockroach, ant and fly baits as well as controls for bed bugs and other pests. Morrison has served on the board of directors for the Professional Pest Management Alliance and has over 25 years of experience in the professional pest management industry. He can be reached at 919-549-2535 or