PATRICK STEPHENSON

Earthbound concerns of an ascendant adult

“Pest Control”

by Patrick Stephenson,
not a fan of cockroaches

ROCHESTER MAGAZINE // Pests, whether in the form of cock-ah-roaches, rats or screaming small children, are problems we’ve all, at some time, dealt with. Often, as you’ll see, they leave droppings, or suck blood, or rain from white ceilings in the night. In order to find out exactly how bad (slash crazy)Pest Control regional pests have been, we consulted a few local pest control proprietors, who, in times of need, have charged into sites of infestation and screamed, ‘Say ehlo — to my little fah-riend [various pesticides].’ These are their stories, uncensored.

1. Our first comes from Harold Leyse, the owner of Adam’s Pest Control, which was founded in 1971 and named after Eve’s Edenic companion, and whose tagline is: “There were even pests in the Garden of Eden.” (Hint: worms, snakes) This first story is a short one. “I had a rat run up my pants leg one time,” says Leyse. “But thanks to my quick reaction I was able to drown him.”

2. All jokes aside, Leyse says he’s “had cockroaches coming off ceilings, so thickly in one kitchen that they were like raindrops and I had to button my shirt. Usually, before you see a white German cockroach” — which have exoskeletons and shed skin — “you’d have to be an exterminator for several months. In this kitchen, [dramatic pause] I saw nine.”

3. Leyse also cites another home, in Minneapolis, “where people imagined there were Amazonian poisonous tree frogs hiding behind a refrigerator, ones that would jump out and spit whenever someone opened the fridge door.” Cases like these, in which clients have imagined a nonexistent threat into being, do occur. “You gotta feel sorry for some of these people,” Leyse says.

4. Our fourth story comes from Jay Bruesch, the technical director of Plunkett’s Pest Control, which was founded by Tom Plunkett in 1915 and is owned today by Stacy O’Reilly. Of crazy pest control stories, Bruesch says, “Oh boy, there are a million.” When we asked him to extract from memory one in particular, he came up with this one — about bedbugs.

Bedbugs? At first, we were surprised. Aren’t bedbugs only the stuff of nighttime goodbyes? “Don’t let the bedbugs bite,” and so forth? No, says Bruesch. Although they’ve been in remission since the 1950s, they’ve returned and are becoming more common. Bedbugs, he says, are “tiny, reddish, flat, and oval-shaped, and are about 1/5 of an inch long.” And, like tiny prowling vampires of the night, they suck blood.

“Our company once treated a motel room for bedbugs,” says Bruesch, “which are very adept at hiding in cracks and crevices. The crew worked on the problem for a while, and, when we were pretty sure the room was clear, the service person involved went into the room and slept on the floor. There was nothing in the hotel room except for a carpet, the service person’s sleeping bag, and a ring of sticky traps [designed to trap an incoming horde] around him.

“When he woke up, he was surrounded by well-fed bedbugs. They’d hid in the fibers of the carpet and had fed on him while he slept. “After that, we decided against asking a pest control person to offer his own blood up as a sacrifice, and we went out a bought a guinea pig, whom we named Bedbug Bart and gave the job of proving that an account was free of bedbugs.

“But with a guineau pig, you have to feed it and keep it company and keep it happy, so we developed the virtual guinea pig, which consists of an electric heating pad for warmth, and a balloon filled with carbon dioxide to simulate the effect of respiration — breathing and exhaling.”

Bedbugs, says Bruesch, “key in on body warmth and carbon dioxide, which both mean that a warmblooded animal is sleeping nearby.” In order to alleviate worries about blood loss in the name of extermination, the fake guineau pig is placed on a sticky pad, and any remaining infesters are caught up on their way into feast on illusory warmth.

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Written by patiomensch

March 4, 2007 at 1:44 pm

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