Thursday, July 25, 2013

Fighting Bed Bugs In A Do-It-Yourself Market

After several months of preparation, I was fortunate this February to attend the Bed Bug Central bootcamp in hosted in New Jersey.  There, we were versed in what does and doesn't work long-term, in the latest efforts of bed bug control.  Also, what is coming up in the courts and measures to protect one's company and employees in the event of a lawsuit.  We participated in hands-on bed bug measures that were implemented in several high-rise apartments where infestations exceeded levels I never thought I would ever see in my lifetime.  As a result of passing the final tests they administered and agreeing to continue to implement these same processes within our own company, we passed and became certified as a "Bed Bug Free Company".  This was important to us in that it provides credibility with our customers, who like everyone else, are turning to the internet to find solutions to their own bed bug infestations.

There are problems with internet solutions in that the countless blogs and articles tend to either oversimplify or else scare the crap out of the reader!  In fact, we're finding that most of our customers are already throwing out their mattresses and furniture in their efforts to rid their homes from these blood-sucking parasites.  They're buying bug bombs (which have been proven not to work), consumer available sprays and traps, washing their bedding continuously, etc.  After several months of failure and many bites later, they're deciding that they've had enough of failure and they're going to need an expert.  This term "expert" is also subjective as we'll discuss next.

Many companies are sending their poorly trained "experts", aka, their technicians, to customers and all they're able to accomplish is a lot of spraying, a lot of bed moving, and driving the little blood suckers all over the place.  After leaving a very expensive bill, they're also leaving a large amount of bed bugs still plaguing the customer.  This frail attempt to solve such a difficult problem of bed bugs by employing the same pest control efforts used in other targeted pest procedures is a sure way to fail.  Not only is the customer still being bitten but they're more the poorer for it now and skeptical that some other "expert company" is going to get any better results.  And who could blame them?

In fact, I just had a conversation with a customer who had one of the big national companies attempt to rid her house and failed.  During my conversation, she knew enough information with the previous practice that she continued to conflict with what I was trying to explain.  I finally interrupted her and asked her to "please just forget everything they told you and asked you to do.  We are going to approach this completely different and we'll instruct you in what to do and what to expect once we get there and assess the severity."

What's most important to understand with bed bugs is that they are NOT after your bed, your sofa, or any other furniture.  They are after YOU!  You are the bait.  They will follow you where ever you go throughout your house.  They will feed on you where ever you spend your time sitting or sleeping, be it your desk chair you use working on your computer or your bed where you sleep.  So throwing out mattresses may temporarily reduce their population for a short time, it is not a solution to the problem.  And if you live in apartments, there are other adjoining units that may indeed be the source of your woes.  Unless the source is identified and treated, you will NEVER have any relief.

Imagine spending your hard earned money month after month on chemicals only to be continually bitten because the source was on the other side of the wall or one floor above you.  You'll NEVER WIN! 

People aren't expecting that the solution to winning a bed bug war is expensive anyway.  Costs can run from $800 to several thousand dollars, depending on whether the costly heat treatments are being used.  By the time the DIY'ers spend money on materials that don't work or aren't properly applied, the cost of these feeble attempts make an already costly problem so much worse!

Message to Bed Bug Victims:  Don't Try This At Home!  DO check out and verify the credentials and the successes of the company you are thinking about doing business with.  And the warranty information will tell you a lot about what the company thinks about their own track record.  If they're asking you to throw out everything BEFORE they'll treat and THEN offer you a warranty, well DUH!  Who could fail at that?!

My advice:  Hang up the phone and try someone else.  It's not only about the money.  It's about your peace of mind too.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Case of the Phantom Bug Bites

There home is wayyyy out in the country.  We'll call them Lois and Mike.  They're each retired and have a son who's had to move back in with them. They have a nice country home, clean, well-kept.  A small dog, no fleas.  An RV that doesn't get used as much as it used to.  They have a really great garden that's producing lot's of vegetables this year.

Lois calls the office about what she believes are bed bug bites all over her body and her husband is getting them too!  We promise to get out there quick and identify and provide a solution.

I go myself since my techs are already dedicated to a very busy spring rush of activity due to the early warm weather here in East Texas.  After greetings are exchanged, Lois takes me back to the area she's getting the bites, the bedroom. 

First thing I notice is the amount of gray dust that is completely scattered around the room.  It's even under the bed and between the matress and box springs.  She tells me they've been fighting the bug bites for over a month now and had only the week before bought and put out diatomaceous earth powder all over everything!  Diatomaceous earth powder is sometimes used for insectide control only because it causes dehydration when insects crawl through it.  Not bad idea I guess when you're desperate to make the biting stop and you're practicing DIY protocol.  As a pest control company, we don't use it because it takes so long for any effects and customers don't want to wait for relief.

First thing I tell Lois is "this is going to have to be vaccuumed up before I can even perform any treatment" and she agrees.  She adds, "it wasn't working anyway." 

As she vaccuums, I carefully inspect the bedding. Nothing. No signs of bed bugs at all.  I'm looking for blood splatters on the sheets or mattress.  Or better yet, an actual bed bug. I stop and ask to look at these bites they're encountering and they're more than happy to show me, at least the one's that aren't in indecent locations.

First thing I notice is that the bites are arbout the neck and shoulders, lower back, and down around the middle of the legs, in the knee areas.  They are very small and some are very red, like they're inflamed from scratching.  They are flat with no whitehead like an ant bite would leave.  They aren't swollen and raised like mosquito bites either.  But they claim they ARE itchy!    Hmmmmm?

They're not down around the legs or ankles the way flea bites normally are.  They're not chiggers either. Hmmm?  "This is a good one!", I tell them.  I'm sure they're not amused but I certainly am having to think long and hard on this challenging situation.

I go outside and walk very slowly through the yard and around the house.  Nothing jumps on me either.  That confirms it's not fleas being tracked inside.  And the sporadic bites all over the bodies, and in particular around the groin areas, the fold of the elbows and knees, all moisture-prone areas in particular, leads me to believe that it's either very small spiders coming up through the floors from underneath the pier and beam house, or else it's some kind of mite. 

I propose giving them a very, very thorough spray treatment throughout the house and then wait for results, and they agree.  I mix up the same solution we use to treat for fleas and then broadcast it heavily throughout the house.  I also instruct them to wash all their clothing and bedding in hot, soapy water before they return them to their closets and drawers because it's possible something very small is inhabiting the clothing.  And finally, to call me back in a week and let me know what's happened.  They both feel somewhat relieved and Lois confides to me that they haven't been to church in over a month because they thought they had bed bugs.  She said her church was full of "huggers" and she "was afraid she would give them to someone!

A week later, Lois calls and says it has gotten a little better but they continue to itch and the bites, though slowed down, have continued.  Well, that rules out small spiders as a suspect.  We're only down to mites now.  Due to the locations of the bites and the fact that anything survived what I did to their house when I treated, it had to be the dreaded Scabies mite! 

Most human infestations of scabies result from person-to-person contact. Although they can transfer from animals to humans and vice versa, several types of scabies mites exist, each having a preferred host species on which it reproduces. In dogs, scabies mites cause mange. Scabies is the most common and important condition resulting from mite infestation of humans. Unlike other mites, scabies mites actually burrow and produce tunnels one centimeter or more in length just below the surface of the skin, in which they lay eggs. The mites are believed to feed on skin and secretions. The entire life cycle (10-17 days for human-infesting scabies mites) is spent on their host. Without a host, they survive only a few days. In previously unexposed individuals, a scabies infestation may go unnoticed for more than a month. Then, severe irritation and itching develops, especially at night. This is why they were going so crazy!

I told her that they both needed to get to a doctor right away and that the treatment for scabies is an ointment or cream containing 5% permethrin to kill the mites that are burrowed under the skin.  She told me the doctor had told them earlier that the bites were "bed bug bites" and we all know now he was wrong.  I told her then find another doctor because we were sure that it's scabies mites.

Lois called back the next day.  They saw a doctor and turns out we were right. She was so happy that we correctly diagnosed her problem.

Reality Check:  A good solution requires intelligent and thorough pest control methods.  The easy part is always the spraying.  The hard and complicated part is putting in the time and being very thorough in the initial investigation.  This is something not so many pest control technicians are either trained or willing to do.  Many have so many customers to see (quotas) they dread long investigations.

At Gary's, we make sure that our techs are trained and competent in just about everything and only see 6-8 customers a day.  This allows for investing the time to perform real quality investigations, leaving no stone unturned.  Because in the end, our results always speak for themselves! 

Contact us if we can help you too.  Get Gary's and Get 'Em Gone!   or Like us on Facebook!

Monday, May 7, 2012

My posts are going to be different, amusing, informing, and funny!

As a relatively young pest control company, we've grown so much through the past several years that my time has always been valuable to me.  I have to wear so many hats during the operation of our ever expanding company and I have to try hard to make sure that my family has their priority time with me and work doesn't interefere to the point that they get shorted.  So you can see that the idea of engaging the changes of social media, such as blogging, is something that I've been hesitant to embrace.  However, here I am...blogging my first blog after convincing my wife that it'll only take 30 minutes to write out my thoughts.  If I'm successful in my time estimating skills, then you'll be reading a second blog to come shortly, otherwise, this may be my last words before I am awakened by a hospital physician notifying me that I have endured a terrible blow to the head and that one day I will be able to walk again.

I've decided that if I am going to blog, then I'm not going to do as my peers do and see how much boring information about different insects I can impress upon you with my brilliance.  I feel that there is so much information available to any investigating user seeking information that to simply add to it on my own blog site serves no useful purpose.  However, if there are pertinent things that I feel need addressing that isn't otherwise available to my readers (and customers), then I won't hesitate to share details and facts that will illuminate your minds and stir your passions.

I have given it alot of thought and my intentions are to respond to email questions, or phone calls that raise issues that others will find useful.  I also intend to share case studies with you...actual investigative instances that our technicians or myself have encountered that you can learn from and apply in your own situations or that you can begin to understand the line of reasoning that we use to solve your pest problems.

Lastly, from time to time, I intend to share funny or amusing stories, conversations, or situations that we find ourselves in during the course of a week's work.  And believe me, I'll have alot of material to draw from.  The hard part will be whittling it down so that it can be read in 5 minutes or less.

So please join me on this journey into the wild, zany, sometimes crazy but never boring life we call...Pest Control.