Termites: Again to the Fundamentals – PCT

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It is monday morning. You get a call from one of your customers in the grocery store that a bird is flying around in the grocery department. They must remove it before they are fined by the health department. You have to make a decision.

From my point of view, you actually have to make one of three decisions. Do you tell the customer that this is not a covered pest and let someone else find it, use a subcontractor, or do the work “in-house”? Of course, grocery stores aren’t the only place indoor birds can be a nuisance. Other types of buildings that pest birds can “house” include warehouses, factories, and airport terminals. Any building with enough space for the pest bird to find all of its physical needs (food, water, and shelter) is a primary goal.

© urfinguss | iStock

WHAT TO DO? Let’s dive a little into the pros and cons of each of these decisions you might make:

To say no. Not doing bird repelling and just focusing on “general pest control” may be the easiest option, but it may not be the best option. You may be leaving your bum open to a competitor who understands the term “Vogel-only customer”. Your customer will now need to call another company that may be doing the same general pest control as you are. Your customer will likely tell you, “I just need a quote for the bird work, for everything else I’m happy with my current supplier.” If your competitor is smart, they will say, “OK, that’s fine.” Do you mind if I check with you every few months to make sure that you are still satisfied with your current provider? ”

You can already see where this is going. The only exception to this option is when you receive a call about a bird of prey. All pest birds that we deal with as pest controllers are birds of prey, unless we are also experts in birds of prey such as hawks, hawks, owls and eagles. Birds of prey are outside the wheelhouses of most PCOs, myself included. If the bird is a bird of prey in your client’s location, the best thing to do is to refer them to a specialist with whom you should already have a relationship.

Submit it. Working with a subcontractor is the best option when you simply are unable to do the job effectively yourself. Of course, I recommend working with someone who you trust and who does not (or will not) offer your client the same services as you. Before you call on Monday morning, try to set pre-determined prices and expectations with both your customers and the subcontractor.

Make sure your customer understands the importance of calling you right away before the pest bird (s) establish themselves in their facility. Set reasonable expectation for the response and allow a few days before reacting to allow for the occasional “bird got out of it” scenario. It is a good idea to have a “don’t overrun” preset cost estimate to minimize wasted time with approvals. This type of job is specialized and is usually done by someone with different skills and personalities than a track technician. Consider travel time and costs, especially for remote locations. This is not route work, this is not a covered pest. Someone with very specific skills and equipment needs to travel to the site for a one-off job.

Do it yourself. Keeping the work “in-house” is the preferred option, of course, but not at the expense of your relationship with your client as your company cannot resolve the pest challenge in a reasonable time and at a reasonable cost. As with all other “special” services, such as bed bugs or mosquitoes, you cannot simply join the bird service without bringing your team up to date with the right training and equipment.

Bird labor is the next specialization because pest birds add multiple levels of complexity including legal protection, mobility, intelligence, and my favorite, what I call the “bird yin / yang”. Then someone says, “I love the birds, but I hate their droppings.” Birds are the pest that is most pushed back by the public with questions like, “Why do you need to remove the birds? What are you doing with the birds How do you sleep at night? “The people who love the birds who are a pest are usually not the same ones who have to clean their droppings and deal with the risks. If you do this type of job make sure you know what you’re getting into and how you’re going to do it.

Birds in grocery stores are of particular concern as their droppings end up on food. Are you ready to offer your customers bird repellent in addition to general pest control?

YOU ACCEPT IT. So let’s say you proceed with either of the latter two options. Whether you are subcontracting or doing it yourself, you still need to know how to manage the relationship with the customer and know enough about the work to be able to speak intelligently to both the subcontractor and the customer.

You will also need to train your team to deal with the “Bird Yin / Yang” problems. Some species of birds are not protected and may need to be euthanized in a humane way. You will be surprised how many technicians have no problem sending a rat but shy away from the thought of doing the same with a pigeon. In addition to training your team, you need to educate them as well.

The difference between training and education is understanding the “why”. Make sure everyone understands the risks associated with these pest birds in your client’s locations, especially food-handling locations. Also, never lie to your direct customer contact about the details of your solutions. What they tell their employees and customers is their business. So only discuss the details of your solution with your customer contact and pass everyone else on to them.

It’s also a good idea to have a number of questions that your team members can ask the client when they call you to remove pest birds from inside a building. Here are a few:

‘Baby talk

One of my favorite bird yin / yang problems is when someone in our industry calls a young bird in a nest a “baby bird”. Do we say “baby cockroach” or “nymph”? As with invertebrate pests, please use the correct colloquial language. PMPs should use words like nestling, fledged, young, or even juvenile. Oh yes, and please don’t call your parents “mom and dad” either.

  • Who can we call before arrival to perform the service and what is their direct mobile number? This saves a lot of grief as most of this work is done outside of regular business hours.
  • Do you know the bird species and roughly how many birds are there in the building? If not, can you send me a picture or describe the bird? While most birds are protected, those that typically get into buildings are not.
  • Train your team on proper identification and legal protection.
  • How long have the birds been in the building and what has already been tried to get them out?
  • What time of day and where are the birds most active?

One of the most effective solutions to removing unprotected pest birds from inside a building is to have a highly skilled technician using a special air rifle. However, it is also one of the most controversial solutions. Make sure this option is legal in your area and that the customer has given written approval. When using this option, you make sure that everyone involved knows the details of your service and as few people as possible at the same time. When I say everyone I mean branch manager, branch security and most importantly the local police.

Make a habit of calling the local police emergency number at least an hour before arriving at the location. Tell them who you are, what you will do and where. Do this even if your service is only indoor. Someone may see you through a window and mistake you for doing bad things. I promise you that you will not want to be on the wrong side in this confrontation. When I say as few people as possible, make sure that only people within the site know what you are doing, what you are doing.

Other effective solutions for removing pests from inside a building are fog nets and special bait traps. I find a lot of polarity when it comes to fog nets; PCOs love them or hate them. The people who often “hate” them just need the right training. They’re pretty easy to use and very effective once you know a few basics. When it comes to catching, you need to consider what is readily available and what the bird is looking for. Should you bait with nesting material or food, for example?

FINAL THOUGHTS. Any interior pest removal service, whether by you or your subcontractor, should include an inspection and report for you to let the customer know of the favorable conditions that led to the pest intrusion in the first place. As with most other pests, open doors are a big problem, but so is damaged dock doors and seals. Storing pallets or other equipment near doors is also problematic when it comes to pest intrusion. Add value to your bird removal services by educating the customer about the reasons they needed the service in the first place.

Rolando “Rolie” Calzadilla is the owner of Pest Wildlife Pro in Miami, Florida. His company provides specialized wildlife services to birds, bees, bats and iguanas throughout South Florida. Calzadilla is dual licensed in Florida as a PCO and general contractor. He also serves as Secretary of the Board of Directors of the National Wildlife Control Operator’s Association (NWCOA). He can be reached by email at rolie@pestwildlifepro.com.