Protect Winter Woollies From Munching Moths

The days are getting longer, the sunshine’s warmer and we’re beginning to dress more lightly. But as you put those thick sweaters away, take care not to create a summer of packed lunches for moths.

Many of us associate pests with the dark, dirty worlds beneath the floorboards or in the kitchens of seedy cafes and restaurants. So it may come as a surprise to discover that Moths are often the subject of pest control measures.

They can be a problem in both domestic and commercial premises. And once they’re arrived, these tiny nibblers are often tricky to get rid of.

The adult Common Clothes Moth likes nothing more than to lay tiny, almost invisible, eggs on clothing or carpets. Being ‘butterflies of the night’, the moths prefer to do their business in dark, quiet spots, where they’re less likely to be disturbed.

The eggs soon hatch into minute, hungry caterpillars who start gobbling up any natural fibres they can get their little mouths into. Cotton, wool, linen, silk and furs are popular dishes and they’ll also make a meal of foodstuffs such as flour and biscuits.

Well-fed, the wriggling white worms are ready to pupate, or to become adults, within five to six weeks of hatching. But when food’s scarce they can take up to two and a half years to reach this stage. When that time comes, they crawl off to a quiet spot, form a cocoon around themselves, and emerge as adults three or four weeks later.

It is the caterpillars that do the damage to your clothes and fabric. If you spot the small adult moths with their golden wings, it’s too late. All they do is mate, leaving the females to lay their eggs to start the whole cycle again.

Probably the most effective way to protect your winter woollies from moths is to keep them in a light, airy place. Alternatively, they can be wrapped in plastic or stored alongside strongly scented moth repellents. There was a reason why Granny’s clothes always smelled of lavender.

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‘Mouse Sabotage’ Brings New Meaning to Pest Control

According to ‘The Chambers Dictionary’, a pest is a troublesome person or thing. Earlier this week a pizzeria owner in Pennsylvania decided this definition included his competitors, which led to him launching a unique pest control initiative.

He sneaked bags of live mice onto the premises of two rival pizza restaurants in what appears to have been a bid to discredit them. According to the report on the BBC website, his mistake was to drop off one consignment in full view of police officers, who made a swift arrest and promptly rounded up his rodent accomplices.

Apparently the perpetrator’s newly opened pizzeria had mouse problems of its own. He was facing the problem common to all catering establishments – food attracts both people and pests.

Restaurants and takeaways wage continual war against Cockroaches, Rats, Mice, Flies and a host of other invaders. Their owners don’t want the ignominy that comes with failing an environmental health inspection.

In a competitive market the news that the chef is sharing a kitchen with four and six-legged visitors is enough to send punters scurrying elsewhere. It can also come with a hefty penalty.

At the end of last year a Chinese restaurant in Southwark was fined nearly £5,000 because its pest control measure had failed. Inspectors spotted a live cockroach and mouse droppings during a routine visit. Incredibly, the remains of two cockroaches were found squashed in the pages of the food safety log.

Keeping pests out of kitchens and store rooms isn’t easy. They’re busy places with lots of comings and goings. All sorts of poison and traps can be laid but unless they’re regularly maintained they soon become ineffective.

It only takes a small number of cockroaches to find their way in, perhaps travelling as unintended passengers with a delivery of stock, to create an infestation.

Perhaps that’s what that Pennsylvanian pizzeria owner was trying to do – introduce a handful of mice into rival premises in the hope they’d breed and overrun the place.

What’s sad is that his own restaurant seemed to have the potential to be a great success. Online reviews say his pizza was ‘outstanding’- better than the competition’s. But his reputation, and perhaps his business, is the victim of an overzealous and misguided approach to Pest Control Services.

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Tips for DIY Pest Control

Last week saw feline Larry catapulted into the national headlines, when he was appointed ‘Mouser to the Cabinet’ and moved into 10 Downing Street. (Did you spot our awful pun? Sorry, couldn’t resist it.)

That set us thinking about what you could do, at home or at work, to deter common pests.

1. Get a cat. This seems an obvious place to start. If it’s good enough for David Cameron’s rat problems, it’s good enough for yours. But not any old cat will do. Larry has a ‘high chase-drive and hunting instinct’, according to Downing Street.

Of course, if your main pest problem isn’t rats or mice, but something like woodworm or wasps, a cat won’t be much use. But stroking it will help bring down your stress levels, which is always a good thing.

2. Tidy up after yourself. Many pests are attracted to mess, particularly if it includes things they can eat. Rodents, Cockroaches, pigeons, Flies and Fleas all thrive in dirty, untidy settings. The other really good thing about tidying up is that it doesn’t have to cost you a penny.

3. Don’t ignore the warning signs. Your eyes are the best pest detectors we know of. Even if the vermin remain out of sight they often leave evidence you should spot – such as droppings, itchy bite marks, or small holes. If something suggests there’s a potential problem you should act quickly before it becomes more serious.

4. Deter rather than destroy. It’s better to keep pests away than to clean up after them. A good place to start is by stopping up any small holes that they might use to come inside your home or workplace. If birds, particularly Feral Pigeons, are a problem you could install anti-roosting Bird Spikes or Netting.

Some pests are put off by noise. If you think Rats or Mice might be snuggling down in your compost bins, give the sides a sharp whack with a stick when you pass – they don’t like noisy neighbours.

5. Call a professional. Yes, we know this isn’t strictly a DIY tip, but if there’s a problem you need help with, it’ll be you that needs to make the call!

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Passionate Pests and Reproducing Rodents

One of the distinctive features of pests is their ability to reproduce. We thought it only fair that as it’s Valentine’s Day we should do a little research into the love lives of the creatures we’re commonly called to deal with.

Brown rats – There’s no shortage of sex in the city among these ubiquitous rodents. When they’re not rummaging through rubbish and scurrying around sewers, they’re probably hard at work creating the next generation. The average female Rat can turn out a brood of up to 14 ugly babies in just three weeks.

Wasps – Frustration might be high for the black and yellow scourge of the summer picnic, because in their world sex is a pastime reserved for royalty. The queen only equips selected males with what they need to pursue the relatively small number of females.

Cockroaches – An intimate dinner for two isn’t quite the same if you’re sharing a table with one of these closet romantics. Unseen by us they can engage in complex courtship rituals involving bold posturing and making distinctive sounds by rubbing their body parts together.

Fleas – Apparently the male flea is supremely well-endowed and his equipment also includes two antennae with what look like sink plungers on the end. It’s thought these help him to hang on to the female because when she jumps it’s with a rate of acceleration equivalent to a space rocket lifting off.

Bedbugs – A life between the sheets hasn’t made the average male Bedbug very discerning. They’ll try to mate with any bedbug smaller than themselves, which causes predictable problems. Once they’ve caught up with a female, she’ll lay around 3-4 eggs per day.

Lovebugs – Okay, we don’t come across these in London, but we couldn’t resist including them. Lovebugs, or honeymoon flies, are found in the southern United States where they are, at certain times of year, a pest. They’re also, as their name implies, intensely amorous. When they mate the couple remain bonded together for days, even flying while entwined.

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Thieving Squirrels Steal Your Attention

If you’re an urban bird-lover you’ll know what a Pest Squirrels can be. You refill your bird-feeders with nuts and seeds and before you know it, a grey, furry-tailed Rodent is helping themselves.

We were going to blog about how your friendly neighbourhood squirrel can cost you more than a few stolen nuts. You need to know how much damage they can do once they start gnawing through timbers and wires in your home.

But then we started watching squirrel obstacle course videos on YouTube. And we have to admit that we got distracted. So we thought we’d share some of our favourites with you.

It started when someone said: “Wasn’t there a squirrel assault course in a TV ad years ago?” Seconds later we’d tracked down the Original Carling Black Label advert, complete with the compelling ‘Mission Impossible’ soundtrack.

We’re not sure if that’s the first squirrel obstacle course on video, but it’s one of the most memorable and has inspired stacks of imitators. We also like this one, or should we say, two. Don’t switch off after the first squirrel finds the nut!

Making a squirrel obstacle course isn’t just for the professionals. All you need is some wood, rope, plastic tubing and a squirrel. And some nuts, obviously. This guy treated his squirrel to a course that became increasingly more complicated over 23 days, and videoed the results.

It seems that squirrels will go to almost any extreme to get those nuts. They’re not afraid to take on someone bigger than they are. This great little video shows what can happen when a squirrel knows what it wants!

The star of the show so far has been the ubiquitous grey squirrel, a foreign invader that carries a disease fatal to Britain’s smaller, native red squirrel. But the reds are equally agile and determined, as this excerpt from a BBC documentary reveals.

Finally, we discovered one squirrel story that would have made a great video but unfortunately wasn’t captured on camera. A New Jersey squirrel managed to destroy an entire car in 2007. It decided to chew on some overhead power lines, with the predictable explosive result that took a Toyota Camry with it.

Fortunately most squirrels don’t do that kind of damage!

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The ten greatest songs about pest control… ever!

Most people prefer not to think about Pest Control until they actually need it. But pests have been on the minds of plenty of pop’s greatest songwriters through the years – as our pest control top 10 shows…

  1. UB40 ‘Rat In Mi Kitchen’ (1987) This loping reggae tune reached number 12 in the UK charts. It’s a safe bet the Birmingham band, famous for their political lyrics, weren’t really talking about Rats.
  2. Aimee Mann ‘The Moth’ (2002) This is a typically melancholy acoustic pop number from the LA singer-songwriter. In the lyric, the eponymous Moth makes for a flame rather than devouring Aimee’s stage outfit.
  3. U2 ‘The Fly’ (1991) Having exhausted the expansive stadium rock that was their signature in the late 1980s, U2 took an abrupt left turn into abrasive, industrial and urban sounds with Achtung Baby. During recording, Bono took to wearing 1970s wraparound shades, in character as ‘The Fly’ – a leather-bound egomaniac. The song reached #1 in the UK, but only managed #61 in the US.
  4. Herb Alpert ‘Spanish Flea’ (1965) As an instrumental, this jaunty, instantly recognisable Latin number was used on the long-running American TV show The Dating Game. The lyrics concern a Spanish Flea who makes it as a singing star.
  5. Queen ‘Great King Rat’ (1973) A fast-paced rocker from supergroup Queen in their prog years, before Bohemian Rhapsody turned them into superstars. Features a barnstorming vocal from Freddie Mercury (who wrote the song), and evocative lyrics that are very much ‘of their time’.
  6. Elton John ‘Skyline Pigeon’ (1969) This piano ballad appeared on Elton’s very first album, several years before he found international stardom. Bernie Taupin’s yearning lyric decribes the Pigeon flying away to reach his dreams, rather than scavenging for pizza crusts or damaging buildings with his droppings.
  7. Echo & The Bunnymen ‘Bedbugs and Ballyhoo’ (1987) The third single from the Bunnymen’s debut album, this is a moody affair that mixes soundtrack strings, shuffling drums, Duane Eddy guitar and Ian McCulloch’s trademark soaring vocals. The psychedelic lyric, unsurprisingly, glosses over the difficulty of eradicating bedbugs from hotel rooms.
  8. Monty Python ‘Eric the Half a Bee’ (1972) A surreal love song to a bisected insect from the Pythons. One of John Cleese’s favourites, apparently.
  9. The Doors ‘The WASP’ (1971) The Doors’ swansong, L.A. Woman, included this bluesy spoken-word number – Jim Morrison’s tribute to Mexican pirate radio stations of the 1950s.
  10. Adam & The Ants ‘Antmusic’ (1980) Adam explored one of the strangest avenues of post-punk with his swashbuckling band of pirate highwaymen, driven by two drummers. The lyrics offer an important warning if you’re thinking of calling pest control: ‘Don’t tread on an ant/He’s done nothing to you/Might come a time/When he’s treading on you!’

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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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