Monday, July 27, 2009

Confessions of a Cockroach Hit Man

A friend of mine was pricing an extermination job for his apartment in a row house. He was pretty glum when someone who advertised "low low prices quoted him a $300.00 price tag for five rooms. Money was tight. He wanted the biggest bang for a buck.

Years ago, I used to do exterminating. I was slow and thorough. I knew how to find where the roaches lived. I knew how to lay out bait for rodents. The only thing that gave me the willies was rat jobs. I've had them as pets, but in the wild they make me very nervous.

I quit exterminating in good part because I did not want continuous exposure to roach spray. The poison acts on the human nervous system in much the same way it does on that of the cockroach, if there is accidental exposure. Over the course of days and weeks, I had my share of cumulative exposure. I felt woozy and klutzy when I was exposed to it too much. The humbling thought that there was a common denominator between human and insectile neurochemistry was both humbling and disquieting.

My favourite roach jobs involved gel. Gel gives off no fumes. Like any other poison, it is laid out near areas of infestation. It is great for row houses. You don't have to worry about cockroaches taking refuge in areas that haven't been sprayed upstairs or next door. The gel attracts the roaches and kills them. I have found that the common gels in the local hardware stores are not terribly effective. A roach can be a grandparent in a few weeks. Generations come and go in a year's time.Roaches adapt, just like microorganisms do.

Professional exterminators are more likely to be up to date with the latest chemicals. Some things they use are highly dangerous. Others are more user friendly. It is advisable to take warnings on roach baits and poisons very seriously, to lay them down only in areas that are safe from children and pets.Additionally, they should be out of contact with food.

Years ago, I had a job in Manhattan in a food warehouse that was severely infested. Even in daylight, there were hundreds of roaches on the walls. It was frustrating applying gel, because there was no satisfaction of hitting a nest and knowing that you had blasted thousands of roaches. I even watched the annoying little creatures sniff and nibble. A week later, there were still roaches but much less. At the end of a month, there was not a roach to be seen.

An exterminator is as obligated to be maintain confidentiality as any doctor. I never told my wife where I had been or who my clients were. I would not even convey greetings. People are understandably secretive about their pest situation.

When my friend got all of the expensive quotes for an exterminator, he was understandably discouraged. Then a thought occurred to us. Why not go on line and buy chemicals? I did a Google search for exterminator supplies. After looking at a few sites I came up with Pest Control Express in Maryland. It was offering a box of four tubes of Advion gel, manufactured by Dupont for $27.50. Shipping and handling . Shipping and handling brought my friend's order to $34.43. He ordered at about 2:00 PM. Confirmation was instantaneous. Two days later, he got a box of four syringes of Advion gel. Each little syringe was 30 grams. There was one applicator and one plunger for all four tubes. I used disposable rubber gloves. My friend, his wife and children all pointed out the areas where roaches had been sighted. We avoided any surfaces that might have contact with food. I gave the same speech I had given in numerous homes and businesses about not competing with the bait by leaving out food.

The thoroughness of the job I did was similar to that of a comprehensive initial treatment. The results were readily visible in the next couple of days. The roaches that did appear were dead or dying. It was clear that Pest Control Express had sold me quality merchandise.

I looked at the active ingredient in Advion gel and came up with a web site that did not knock me out with scientific language. I found an article in that stated as follows.

"Rachel Carson wasn't all that happy with DDT. I bet she really wouldn't like a gel bait insecticide that can kill three generations of cockroaches as they feed off of each other and transfer the poison. Unless she hated cockroaches as much as the rest of us do. It is the first time that scientists have shown that a pest control bait will remain effective when it's transferred twice after the first killing dose, said Grzegorz "Grzesiek" Buczkowski, assistant professor of entomology. Passing the insecticide from one cockroach to the next is called horizontal transfer."

The article describes how three generations of roaches are hit with one dose of Indoxacarb, which is the active ingredient in Advion. It describes what is meant by three generations being hit. First there are the adult roaches who are directly poisoned. This affects the eggs of the dying roaches. Even the baby roaches that are eaten by surviving adult roaches continue to deliver poison. Beyond the third generation, the Indoxacarb has dissipated so it is no longer effective.

Despite the alarming reference to Rachel Carson and DDT, Indoxacarb gets safe ratings from the EPA as a "reduced risk pesticide". This does not mean that you can put it on your hamburgers and mix it into your salad. It is still a poison and should be treated as such. When you become aware of the risks of airborne cockroach excrement and shed skin, it lessens one's reservations about dragging out the heavy artillery.

Gel is a big step up from sprays. Even the scent free sprays trigger an allergic reaction in some people. Most of them are nerve toxins and not to be trifled with. Gels are far better to work with and to live around.

I still dream of poison free pest control. My dream home would have a wind mill and solar panels. Every month, I would get a check from the electric company. My car would be one of those Japanese cars that runs on water. And instead of an exterminator I would have colourful lizards running around zapping roaches with their sticky tongues. Unfortunately, I live in the real world where these dream like innovations are out of my reach. So until then, places like Pest Control Express are the way to go. My friend is happy that his roach problem is under control. He and I split up a six pack of Czech Pilzner to celebrate. His wife is happy. I got a classic beer buzz. everybody wins. Thank you Pest Control Express.

This article is an unpaid and unsolicited expression of my personal opinion. Sphere: Related Content

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