As a kid living in the 1960’s, I really enjoyed the cartoon featuring mice playing horns and string instruments to the tunes of Artie Shaw and Glenn Miller About this same time I remember going to the office with my father for a tank of gas on weekends. While the gas pump was running I was checking out the storage room. Big drill bits, spray tanks, parts, valves, screws, hoses. And the smell…OH MY! It was a concoction of cigarettes and bug juice. I was extremely interested in the 35 gallon drums of broken cookie and candy pieces. My father explained they mixed these goodies with strychnine or arsenic to kill rats and mice. I also loved the stories about sodium fluoroacetate (compound 1080) and how it killed a rodent almost instantly. Phostoxin was a widely used product too. They’d drop the pellets in rat burrows and the buggers would come out gasping for air. A baseball bat or a golf club to the back of the head finished the job! Please note the picture of my father Matt Hunter with Vernon Lavender proudly crouched in front of a stack of rats. See the sheer joy on their faces- after investing a days’ work shooting these jokers with a 22 rifle. His quote about that day? “We didn’t make any money but we sure had a lot of fun!” My father’s last name is Hunter, but he doesn’t hunt. But make no mistake- he was just as proud squatting in front of that stack of rats as he would be of amounted deer head over the fireplace!
By the time I got in this business in the early 1980’s, rodenticides took on a different look. We were placing out a lot of anticoagulant pellets in bait trays. We’d place those trays where the rodents could find them but the kids couldn’t. Customers thought if you hid the bait the rodents couldn’t find it. They would simply move these trays right in the middle of the kitchen floor. Soon after we’d get those frantic calls from parents and pet owners fearful that their kids or pets ingested rodent bait. Although this makes no sense today, we also had a habit of placing bait trays inside bait stations. Does something seem a little odd about this? All anyone had to do was simply shake the bait pellets out. It’s obvious- this process would not protect humans or pets from bait exposure. This same practice also posed problems when we did large commercial accounts; seems that some of the employees would simply shake the bait out and it use at their home!
Today’s rodenticides come in various colors, soft and hard, with or without ridges to gnaw on. We have all sorts of bait boxes to help secure these products from getting in the wrong mouth. We also have an additive called Bitrex commonly found in rodenticides. When a human or domestic animal attempts to consume bait with Bitrex added they experience a bitter taste so horrible they immediately spit the bait out before ingestion. You might remember the ads in pest control trade magazines that showed a baby with a horrible expression on his face. My guess is they gave this little fella a lemon wedge to bite on immediately before the picture was taken. Anyway, the picture was worth a thousand words!
I don’t know about you but is seems that snake encounters with bait stations are on the rise. These problems are not only occurring in rural areas, but increasingly in urban neighborhoods and cityscapes. You might find yourself checking 250 rodent stations around a food distribution facility located adjacent to a swamp area. You have to be careful! The good news is we are seeing bait stations that help prevent snake encounters. Interested? Call your favorite distributor to find out about these stations today!
An embarrassing story…years ago I received a complaint about noises in the attic. Knowing the neighborhood quite well I suggested the problem was squirrels and referred him to a “critter getter” friend of mine. A few days later I got a call from my “critter getter” friend asking why we don’t get rid of rats anymore! He simply trapped the rats and did exclusion work on those areas of rat access. Done deal! Over time the critter control industry saw the pest control industry as a great source of referrals. These guys used excellent marketing skills to enlist our help. When we sent them business they rewarded us with gift certificates for restaurants. How about those huge jars of candy they leave on our desk?! I’m not talking about cheap candy either. The good stuff! The jar was never empty- One day something happened… the wildlife industry saw a lot of opportunity to make money by getting in the bug business. How did we respond? Like me, bug folks are slowly crossing the line and getting in the wildlife business too. I will be forever grateful to Rick Benson, owner of Southern Wildlife Control. With 40+ years of experience, he put me under his wing and gave me a bird’s eye view of wildlife business. He helped me through the process of licensing. He gave me the opportunity to work on ladders in freezing temps with 30 mph wind gusts doing squirrel management. Even more, he continues to be a tremendous source of information about the wildlife business.
Let’s face it- rodent exclusion is IPM. Yes, rodenticides have their place but harborage management solutions are part of the plan too. Well, it’s time to go home and you can bet I’ll be listening to XM radio’s 40’s channel. Maybe Benny Goodman or Harry James will take me back to those dancing mice. By the way, what was the name of that cartoon? It’s driving me crazy!
Owner- LandMark Pest and Wildlife Solutions