Services & Maintenance: Keeping The Bugs Away | Facility Executive - Creating Intelligent Buildings

Successful pest management programs concentrate on preventive measures and professional help.
Successful pest management programs concentrate on preventive measures and professional help.

Services & Maintenance: Keeping The Bugs Away

Services & Maintenance: Keeping The Bugs Away | Facility Executive - Creating Intelligent Buildings

By Eric Eicher and Cindy Mannes
Published in the September 2004 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

Pests can greatly affect human health. Allergens from mice and insects can be transmitted to humans when aerosolized particles of urine, droppings, or remains are inhaled. Cockroaches have been found to trigger asthma in children.

Dealing with cockroaches, rodents, flies, and a recent resurgence of bedbugs continues to be an ongoing challenge for those charged with the care and maintenance of commercial buildings. But with some simple sanitation initiatives and help from a pest management professional, facility managers can be assured that their occupants will not be “bugged” by these pesky critters.

Integrated Pest Management

Integrated Pest Management (IPM), the latest approach in professional pest control, focuses on eliminating the main elements required for pest survival: food, water, and shelter. Because of their complex nature, successful IPM programs require full participation from facility management departments and other staff members. (For more on the top notch IPM programs, see the accompanying sidebar.)

In fact, employees should be well aware of pest control policies and proper sanitation measures as part of orientation and ongoing training. Some basic facility sanitation measures include:

Keeping food and garbage containers closed. Don’t leave food out or allow clutter to accumulate. Trash and debris serve as common pest harborages and food sources.

Keeping all spaces clean. Stay vigilant about break rooms, food service areas, common areas, and rest rooms. Make sure everyone watches out for crumbs and cleans up spills.

Limiting eating areas. Prohibit employees from eating at their desks.Eliminating all unwanted openings. Caulk cracks and other crevices.

Stopping unwanted water sources. Repair leaky faucets and drains and monitor sprinkler systems for overwatering.

Installing air curtains above exterior doorways. This is a simple and pesticide free way to keep pests out. The device consists of a squirrel cage fan (so called because it looks like an exercise wheel for small pets) that blows a constant current of air across the threshold, keeping out flying insects while the door is open.

Instructing employees not to feed birds around the building. Seeds, breadcrumbs, and other treats can attract unwanted pests.

Preventing vegetation from leaning or growing against the exterior of the facility. Rodents and insects can hide in greenery that grows too closely to the building.

The Right Approach

The aforementioned measures may be effective against many pests. However, some more serious situations are best addressed with specific techniques.

Cockroaches. Cockroaches thrive in dark, damp places. They hide during the day in warm, dark areas–under sinks, behind dishwashers, stoves, and refrigerators, and inside cupboards.

Cockroaches can feed on a variety of foods, especially starchy and sugary non-food substances including book bindings, photographic film, linens, leather goods. One of the common cockroach’s favorite meals is cardboard as well as the pastes and glues used in its production.

Cockroach infestation can be addressed by strict sanitation and cleaning schedules throughout the facility, nightly trash removal, and elimination of cracks and crevices. Kitchen equipment can be mounted on wheels to allow for easier cleaning access.

To remedy the problem, it’s essential to identify key harborage areas and introduce treatment methods. Bait systems, glue traps, and even vacuuming approaches can be used to control cockroaches.

Rodents. Mice are responsible for transmitting a potentially serious condition called hantavirus. It can cause dizziness, nausea, fatigue, dry cough, headaches, and possibly respiratory failure. Previously a health problem confined to the southwestern part of the U.S., hantavirus has now been identified in several midwestern and northeastern states.

Preventing rodent entry is the key to avoiding infestation. A rat can get through an opening the size of a quarter; a mouse, the size of a dime.

All cracks and crevices, even those that allow utilities to penetrate a wall, should be sealed. Doors should be fitted with weather stripping and kept closed when not in use. Ground covers, such as ivy, should be kept away from buildings.

Rodents can even find their way into a facility through materials shipments, so everything should be thoroughly inspected for signs of infestation before the delivery is accepted. It’s essential to identify access points and consider effective treatment methods for those areas. Glue traps and bait stations are popular methods of rodent control.

Flies. More than just a nuisance, flies are filthy and can carry disease. They are also attracted to warm, moist substances, including human food and garbage. They breed in trash cans, compost heaps, and other areas.

Fly populations can be limited by regular cleaning of trash receptacles and drains. Bacteria based substances and drain products are effective in minimizing flies. Other fly control products use an enzyme to break up waste matter and other residues that attract flies to drains. It is important to identify the types of flies, and as with rodents, key in on entry points and appropriate treatment methods.

Bedbugs. Bedbugs have made a reappearance in hotels and other commercial facilities. They can hide in many places, including between mattresses, bedding and upholstery seams, and behind wallpaper.

Bedbug infestations are often noticed when small reddish or brownish spots appear on bed linens. These spots come from the insects’ fecal matter. Bite victims may also notice swelling around the areas where they have been bitten.

Bedbug problems are often temporarily resolved by a thorough wash of infested areas, but this will not eliminate entire bedbug populations. Professional pest management treatments are most effective against bedbugs.Reducing


In combating these insects and rodents, the excessive use of pesticides may be potentially hazardous. It could become a situation where the cure is worse than the disease. Reduced pesticide usage may decrease human exposure to unnecessary chemicals, negative impacts on the environment, and potential pesticide resistance among pests.

These alternative methods may include inspection of the problem, baiting, monitoring, and structural modifications. Such solutions may include using bait stations or foams. These methods stay in place, are relatively nonvolatile, and disperse minimally into the air.

The most advanced pest management programs using an environmentally friendly approach can successfully eliminate existing problems including infestations of cockroaches, mice, and rats.

Provider Qualifications

In order to incorporate this type of IPM, facility professionals will want to consult with qualified professionals who can identify the signs of potentially harmful infestations, understand how to treat them, or recognize when a particular treatment won’t solve a problem but instead may compound it.

Choosing the right provider is critical to the effectiveness of any IPM. To locate a qualified pest management consultant with the right kind of professional experience, visit

Facility executives should select a company that has not been fined by the state’s pesticide regulatory board (usually part of the Department of Agriculture). State departments of Agriculture are listed in the blue pages of the local phone book. The departments may also appear on the state’s Web site, usually found at www.state.[insert state abbreviation here].us. For example, facilities managers who live in Virginia would visit

Next, facility managers should inquire about the technician’s level of training and knowledge. Request a copy of the technician’s license and certification, and ask what sort of training he or she has undergone. Technicians should receive ongoing education and support from board certified entomologists and other technical personnel.

Once the inspection is complete, the technician should review the recommended treatment options with the client. Beware of “spray jockeys”–technicians who use excessive pesticides, particularly in spray form, in an attempt to eliminate a problem.


High end technology–such as bar code monitoring–can play an important role in reducing pesticides. Bar code devices can track pest activity, pesticide placement, and usage. The technology also allows professionals to track seasonal trends, make recommendations, look for degrees of compliance, and make adjustments.

Each monitoring device or bait station installed at a job site is outfitted with a “zebra stripe” bar code symbol. Using handheld devices, technicians key important information about the stations–such as structural, storage, and sanitation issues; service times and dates; pest activity; and pesticide usage–into a central database.

Such a program allows technicians to save time and eliminate the use of unnecessary pesticides. However, depending on the infestation, spraying may still be required as part of the overall treatment program.

An environmentally responsible approach may reduce the need for potentially harmful pesticides. This form of pest management combined with the latest technology, can comfort fellow employees with the knowledge that their company is keeping the building pest-free and yet it is enhancing the overall environment.

Eicher is president of the Charlotte, NC-based Pest Prevention Division for The Steritech Group, Inc., and Mannes was director of public affairs for the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), now based in Fairfax, VA. To learn more about Steritech’s services, visit; for more on the NPMA, visit

How have you been dealing with this issue? Are there any helpful hints you would like to provide? E-mail [email protected] with comments.




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