Industry News

The impact of hurricanes in pest management, and the important role PMPs play in mitigating them

Austin M. Frishman, Ph.D.

The urban pest management industry plays a significant role in the well-being of the community before and after a hurricane occurs. With major hurricane devastation in Houston, Texas, southern Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands this year, this article couldn’t be more pertinent. 

I am no stranger to hurricanes myself. Having lived through nine hurricanes in Hollywood, Florida and two in Boca Raton, Florida (Hurricane Wilma and Hurricane Irma), I understand how devastating they can be. Fortunately, my family went mostly unscathed. Our home did suffer from Hurricane Wilma, so now we have a new roof and screened patio. 

Proactive steps to take before a hurricane

  • Turn over any items that can collect water and serve as mosquito breeding areas
  • Check wind chimes to make sure no paper wasp or mud dauber wasp nests are active inside the flutes
  • Obtain a list of safety protocols from local authorities or newspapers to give to your customers
  • Inspect the premises and make a list of appropriate actions the customer needs to take:
    • Put up hurricane shutters
    • Pick up and remove loose debris
    • Take in small flower pots, ornaments and other items that can become airborne once a storm hits
    • Recommend tree-trimming so wind can flow through trees without toppling them over

Expect the unexpected

These are just a few examples of what to expect after a hurricane:

  • An abundance of new breeding areas for mosquitoes, like clogged rain gutters
  • Rodents and cockroaches seeking harborage in areas where screening has been destroyed, like attics
  • Millipedes and other crawling arthropods that squeeze through openings around exterior doors as they seek dry areas
  • Any non-native pest species transported from other areas by the storm
    •  After Hurricane Wilma, pest management professionals in Miami, Florida were finding leaf-cutting ants, which were carried from Central America by the storm and were never previously recorded in south Florida

What to do after a hurricane

  • Use a larvicide to prevent mosquitoes from maturing
    • Ensure you are certified in the correct pesticide certification category, which can vary from state to state
  • Place sand in saucers used to hold potted plants, which can prevent water from becoming deep enough for mosquitoes to breed in
  • Place a few drops of mineral oil in the axils of bromeliad plants, which will last for at least a month and provide a film on the water to help kill mosquito larvae
  • Encourage customers to repair damaged screening and soffits to prevent potential pest harborages
  • Inspect vegetation debris piled up by landscapers, which could invite pests like rodents to move in
  • Check old rodent bait stations and termite baiting devices, and replace as needed
  • Inspect trailers and boats that were stored indoors during the storm to see if they contain any spiders, cockroaches or rodents
  • Be on the lookout for fire ants, as they move their nests to higher ground during storm surges

Above all, always remember to communicate with your customers. Tell and show them what you are doing to help prior to and after a hurricane. It will help build a valuable bond that will enable you to keep happy customers for years to come.

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