Monthly Archives: January 2011

Pigeons – More Than Fowl Vermin?

The robin and pigeon both enjoy an iconic status in Britain. The cheery, red-breasted chap brightens our winters inside and out. He’s a common sight in our gardens and on our Christmas cards.

His larger cousin, the feral pigeon, has pecked itself into a symbol of city living and formed an unassailable bond with a national institution, Trafalgar Square. When Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London at the time, tried to evict pigeons from the landmark in 2000, he met with unexpected resistance from the birds’ human supporters.

Feral pigeons in LondonIs the little bird who visits your home or office a pest or a pleasure? A bold little robin is entertaining the folk of Aberdeen this winter, popping into his local Co-op for a daily breakfast of crumbs. But he might not be so welcome if he were a Feral Pigeon. Despite having a small, vocal fan base, feral pigeons are not popular with most city dwellers. They’re called ‘rats with wings’ by many of us. They make unwelcome visits to homes and commercial premises across our cities, perching on window sills and roofs and leaving unwelcome and damaging deposits. Their acidic droppings eat away stone surfaces and car paintwork.

Pigeons are often the target of pest control measures, designed either to deter them from moving in or to persuade them it’s time to move on. The brand new Ordnance Survey building in Southampton has a kite flying from its roof, which carries the image of a bird of prey. So far it’s proved an effective pigeon deterrent.

Unlike the little robin, who usually travels alone, feral pigeons move in packs. Well, flocks to be precise, but that term doesn’t capture the arrogant swagger of fat grey birds with aggressive territorial ambitions. They appear to eat almost anything and it’s by living off our rubbish that they’ve earned their reputation as aerial vermin.

Feral pigeons are descendants of the Rock pigeons that we domesticated hundreds of years ago. While we might now despise these grimy, ungainly birds, they’ve been dependant on us for food for generations. But that’s not to say we should have to accept their mess and nuisance.

Effective pest control measures have significantly reduced the number of feral pigeons in London. The 4,000 in Trafalgar Square have been cut to around 200. If they continue to become less common, they might even win back a place in our affections, alongside the round, red robin.

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Confessions of a social media newbie

So, here we are. Bypest has arrived in the digital era with a bang! In recent months we’ve been working on our search profile, setting up a Twitter account and, of course, adding this blog to our site.

We’ve had a website since we started trading, and achieved solid search rankings for our target terms such as ‘Pest Control London’. But now we’ve recognised that we need to take things to the next level – not just to stay in the search-engine race, but also to give our customers the chance to interact with us in new ways.

Brave new world

We have to admit to feeling a little bit daunted by the whole digital marketing landscape. It seems like there are so many different elements that go into the mix. And it’s obvious that they all have to work together, not just in isolation. That’s why we’re taking things relatively steadily, aiming to build up our blog and Twitter before we move on to other channels such as Facebook.

As a London business serving local consumers and businesses, one of our key concerns is our Google Maps listing. Now that Google has decided to make its ‘place pages’ much more prominent in local searches, we need to make sure we’re appearing when people look for us. Most of our business comes in via telephone calls, so getting a prominent Maps listing is a key part of generating new business via the search channel.

Right now, the problem is that it’s so difficult to get a handle on what different users in different areas of London are seeing in terms of their search results. On top of that, it seems that SEO experts haven’t quite worked out what websites really have to do in order to optimise for Google Maps! Watch this space as we grapple with this problem and share some of the things we discover.

Late to the party?

In terms of social-media content, it’s clear that we’re not the first to the party. But we’re not the last either – a large number of pest-control companies have yet to add any sort of dynamic, interactive or regularly updated content to their blogs. It seems that many sole traders in our industry have already taken the plunge, and we’ve already hooked up with quite a few pest control experts from around the world on Twitter. It’s great to hear what they’ve got to say about pest control – and we’re looking forward to seeing how they approach the challenge of building a loyal following too.

Why is it a challenge? Essentially because pest control is one of those things that you don’t really think about until you need it. But when you need it, you really do need it! Unlike ‘fun’ brands like McDonald’s or Pepsi, we’re not really selling a product that people fall in love with – sad but true! So our main aim is to make as many friends as we can through social media, while putting ourselves in prime position to be the pest-control company that Londoners call first when they have a problem with pests.

Lessons from the leader

One model for social-media success in our sector is industry leader Rentokil. When they first started using Twitter, they were accused of ‘follow spam’ – following loads of people on Twitter, who then became confused about why Rentokil was following them. This was largely because of the negative associations of pests – as we’ve said, pest control is something you don’t really want to think about until the time when you really need it.

Of course, people didn’t have to follow Rentokil back, so they wouldn’t have a load of stuff about rats and mice in their feed unless they wanted it. But the outcry forced Rentokil to write a blog post called ‘Why is @Rentokil following me?’ in which they explained the thinking behind their approach.

Unfortunately, the tone of that post didn’t really help matters. As the furore intensified, Rentokil became a case study in how NOT to do social media – as documented in this Econsultancy article.

Nearly one year on, Rentokil has sorted itself out and now has an enviable blog featuring interesting pest-control stories from around the world, as well as 915 followers for its Twitter account (at the time of writing). They’ve even been covered again in Econsultancy, this time in a much more positive light – see the article here.

For our money, Rentokil is a great example of how to offer interesting, engaging content while promoting a service that people aren’t necessarily thinking about day in, day out. We’re hoping we can learn a lot of valuable lessons from them.

Into the future

What does the future hold for Bypest in social media? At this stage, we really don’t know. We’ve got some things we’d like to achieve, but we’re open to seeing where digital channels take us too. Although we waited a while to get involved, we’re hoping that we’re in a good position to learn from what others have done. It’s an exciting time!

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Billions to be Poured Into London Super Sewer

Most of us picture London’s sewers as a network of brick-lined tunnels infested with rats and other unsavoury pests. It’s a fairly accurate image but plans are afoot to construct a new super sewer that could run beneath the streets of Southwark or Tower Hamlets.

The huge drainpipe is being designed to capture the overflow from the existing sewer system, which regularly reaches capacity and spews raw waste into the River Thames. The project is going to cost over £3.6 billion and the tunnel will run deep underground for over 20 miles.

The exact route hasn’t been decided yet and part of the process to help determine where it will go was a public consultation, which closed recently. The most expensive option is to run the tunnel beneath the Thames but it could be diverted to cross either Southwark or Tower Hamlets.

When the route is chosen, the planners will get to work, followed by the builders. It’s a massive project that will take years to complete and the tunnel won’t be ready before 2020 at the earliest.

The notion that a sewer is home to countless rats should be dispelled by this twenty-first century scheme. Numerous pest control measures will be incorporated into the design and many of the materials used will be rodent-resistant.

Environmental health officials from across London will want to be sure that this new channel for waste won’t become the breeding ground for more vermin. They’ll want the confidence that increasing London’s capacity for handling sewage won’t also boost the local rat population.

Unfortunately, the new super sewer won’t replace the existing and aging Victorian tunnels. It will supplement them but the old network, with its millions of holes and crevices that make ideal homes for rats, will remain. This means that even with its new super sized flushing mechanism, London’s problems with pest control will remain.

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Rodent Bites Can Hurt More Than Your Pride

It’s bad enough being bitten by a rat. But it’s particularly humiliating and distressing to be bitten on the penis.

That’s what an American claimed to have endured recently, when he’d been locked up for a short spell in a rodent infested prison cell near New York. He said that the rat came out of a mattress and bit him twice, once once on his hand and once in a much more intimate location.

He was probably attacked by the extremely common Norwegian or Norway Rat, also known as the Brown Rat. These are the dirty, unpleasant rodents that thrive on the rubbish we too often leave around us. With their sharp teeth these sewer-loving vermin are a major pest control problem, gnawing through wood and thick plastics on their relentless search for something to devour.

The chances of being bitten by a rat are relatively low in Britain, if official statistics are to be believed. But rats aren’t the only pest that can attack with their teeth.

We were all shocked by the headlines, last June, which reported how an urban fox viciously injured twin baby girls as they slept in their Hackney home. More recently a female lawyer lost part of an ear to a fox in Fulham and woman from Sussex had the tip of a finger bitten off by one as she slept.

Other furred vermin, such as Grey Squirrels and Mice, can also inflict a nasty injury with their teeth. But quite aside from the shock and pain of being unexpectedly bitten, victims also risk catching something very unpleasant from their attackers.

The American man who suffered the unfortunate bite complained that he’d subsequently been forced to endure a series of injections to protect him from rabies. While British pests are highly unlikely to carry this disease, they can transmit a host of other potentially fatal conditions including Weil’s disease, salmonella and tuberculosis.

Anyone unlucky enough to be bitten by a Rodent or fox should get medical help. In 2007 a Sussex businessman died after he was bitten by a pet rat and ignored advice from NHS Direct, who told him to visit his doctor.

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Pest Control Takes on Invisible Threats

If you’ve ever had the misfortune to encounter a cockroach in your home or at work, it’s an experience you’re unlikely to forget. These ugly brown beasties have got ‘pest’ stamped all over them.

Unfortunately not all household nasties are so easy to spot. Take Bedbugs, for example. Infestations of these night time nibblers are on the increase and pose a particular problem in the hospitality industry.

Customers paying for a night in a hotel or bed and breakfast probably won’t realise that they’re sharing a bed with the blood sucking mites, which can grow to about 6mm in length. But they’ll know the following morning, when the bites start to itch, and that’s when the complaints will begin.

We regularly deal with bedbug problems across the London area. As with all our work, it’s handled quickly and discreetly.

Another micro pest that adores people and their pets is the humble Flea. The British passion for wall to wall carpeting in centrally heated houses has created the ideal environment for fleas to multiply. While the human flea is relatively rare these days, cat fleas and dog fleas are a regular problem for animal lovers.

The adult fleas cling onto their living hosts but their eggs are laid in carpets, cracks and crevices around the home, where they lie unnoticed. We’re used to dealing with flea problems in both domestic and commercial premises.

Yet another hard-to-spot pest is woodworm. We’re all familiar with the clusters of tiny holes in old timber which mark the exit holes of these wood boring creatures. What we often don’t see, until too late, is the damage they’re doing to the wooden beams in our homes.

Older buildings are particularly at risk from a variety of different wood boring beetles, all of which have a taste for seasoned timber. The name ‘woodworm’ describes the larval stage, when tiny grubs carve networks of tunnels in the wood, sometimes for years. Eventually they emerge as beetles, creating the trademark woodworm holes, and then lay the eggs which become the next generation.

Prevention is better than the cure with woodworm, but often by the time we’re called in, significant damage has been done.

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