Doug Foster is the President of Burts Termite & Pest Control, Columbus, Indiana. We caught up with him to hear some stories about his rodent control experience.
Q: What is one of the biggest rodent infestations you have faced and how did you win?
PROMOTE: I’ve been doing this for a long time so I’ve had some real doozies. We received a call about three years ago for house mice in a tomato greenhouse on a small farm. The customer had eight greenhouses in total and began planting tomato seeds in pots around February to get an early start. In about six of the greenhouses, and in one in particular, about 50 mice got in, dug into the pots, chewed the roots, and wiped out the plants. The farm was surrounded by fields, so the mice invaded the buildings first to warm and then because he was basically serving them food – they really did eat! Before he called us he’d given out bait he’d bought in retail stores and of course the mice ignored this because the tomato plants were so much better.
I scratched my head at first because we usually start with exclusion, but how can you do exclusion work on plastic sheeting held in place with sandbags?
At first we went with baits and traps. The tomato pots sit on wire grids, so we have attached snap traps to the plywood for stability. We caught about 25 mice this way, but there was still more to do.
I’ve never used a repellent on mice but decided to give it a try. We distribute a granulate outside around the outside and inside on the outside walls of the greenhouses. We have also set up bait stations outside, around the greenhouses, to repel the mice before they enter the structures. We go back every spring and these measures have since made sure there are no more mice in the greenhouses.
Q: What is one of your real Tom & Jerry moments?
PROMOTE: We have had an 800,000 square meter pet food distribution center for about nine years. When we first landed the account, they accepted pallets from another center that had closed. Some of these pallets were like Trojan horses: they held crossed stacks of birdseed or dog food – with mice tucked securely in the middle.
After about 30 truckloads like this one, we designed a corrugated cardboard “moat” about 2.5 feet wide with sticky boards attached to the inside to wrap suspicious pallets. One of us got to the center of the pallet and unloaded bag after bag, looking for and inspecting mice.
About halfway through my technician had to leave and I was alone. I had removed every bag in a pallet surrounded by the moat and discovered the mouse. He was amazing: I would lift the pallet and he would come under; I would drop the pallet to smash it and it would slide into a void. This took about 15 minutes. Eventually I couldn’t see him so I lifted the pallet to one side and that damn mouse ran all the way onto that pallet and jumped off of it like it was a ski ramp! He cleared my moat and ran to safety. If I hadn’t been so mad it would have been fun. Fortunately, nobody was there to laugh at me. I greeted him. We’ll have it later, I’m sure of that.
DOUG FOSTERS RODENTE CONTROL TIPS
- Train clients to be your eyes and ears. We conduct training on our warehouse accounts every year, not just with managers, but with everyone. We present a powerpoint on rodent signs to look for, followed by a question-and-answer session. It paid off because employees get infested and let us know before the rodent population gets out of hand.
- Find the person who cares. From the largest warehouse to the smallest restaurant, there is always someone – a dishwasher, a waiter – who takes pride in the place and makes sure that your recommendations are implemented. It’s rarely the manager, by the way.
- Drop covers can be rodent highways. Don’t forget to check out the suspended ceilings when asked by Dr. Steal Bobby Corrigan (Pest Management Professional Hall of Famer). You open a blackboard and see all kinds of things there, especially in basements.
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