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Think like an insect during your inspection – Part II

By Dr. Austin Frishman, Ph.D.

Let’s further sharpen your inspection skills with Part II of my inspection series:

  • Consider exterior foliage: shrubbery touching a building or overhanging on a roof can be a highway for pests. Concentrate on low-lying shrubbery, such as spreading junipers, where rodents can hide and burrow into the ground underneath it. Also focus on the presence or absence of fruits that can attract rodents and ants.

  • Check interior plants: flowering bromeliads are dependent on the excretions of aquatic insect larvae from flies and mosquitoes for protein. Additionally, overwatering any plant soil creates an invitation for dark-winged fungus gnats to visit. Check these plants to see if favorable conditions are being created.

  • Use digital maps to your advantage: with digital aerial-view maps, we can now perform some inspections while sitting at our computers. As you scan an area, look for vegetation and/or debris on a roof, aquatic breeding areas and even fire ant mounds in lawns or fields. I wish I had these resources when I first started doing inspections!

  • Inspect in and around rodent bait stations: insects can harbor in these devices, along with toads and black widow spiders, so look inside and under stations. Also look nearby for rodent burrows — don’t get tunnel vision on the bait station alone.

  • Make inspections easier with simple tools: sometimes I would find live German cockroaches under a piece of machinery where pipes lead downward into a basement area. The problem was by the time I found a staircase and wound my way through a maze of clutter in the basement, I couldn’t tell exactly where the spot below the machinery was located. By taking a skinny stick with a red tip and pushing it through the hole in the floor upstairs, I was able to locate the red tip from below.

  • Test air currents: sometimes an air curtain is improperly installed and can pull air into a structure, drawing insects in with it. I test this by standing outside the door, taking a small piece of tissue and dropping it in front of the door from five feet above the ground. I do this in the center and near both vertical edges when the door is open. If improperly installed, the air curtain will pull the tissue indoors. Even if you resolve the issue, flies can still land on the ground in front of the door, walk in and then fly once inside. There are air curtains that blow upward when installed in the floor, which can prevent flies from walking in.

  • Avoid the comfort zone: don’t get into the same routine each time you inspect. For example, if you went around the exterior clockwise first, go counter-clockwise next time.

Once, a food plant with a rat infestation ended up being caused by a dead cow a quarter of a mile away, so it took a while to seek out the source. Even if the unpredictable occurs while you’re inspecting, it all goes into the memory bank for future inspections.

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