Pest management is year-round challenge

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Heather Heiney
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
Pests squirm, slither and scurry across floorboards and nestle themselves inside walls, ceilings and dumpsters. Even the word pest sounds like a coiled snake poised to strike. For Philip Remel, pest management supervisor, and Jamie Hopkins and Mike Thomas, technicians, pest control on Keesler is a year-round endeavor.

"There is no off season," Mr. Remel said, "just a higher demand for certain pest treatments for each season during the year."

The pest management office deals with everything from the standard ants and cockroaches, to wily coyotes and raccoons stuck in dumpsters.

The process they use is called integrated pest management. Mr. Remel said that IPM focuses on long-term prevention of pest problems through various techniques. These techniques include monitoring for the presence of pests, establishing treat-ment thresholds, using nonchemical practices that make areas less likely to be infested, improving sanitation as well as using mechanical and physical pest controls. Pesticides have become almost a last resort and are used after careful monitoring and only when they pose the least possible hazard and have minimal risk to people, property and the environment.

"The IPM process is mostly common sense," Mr. Remel said, "The challenge lies in having enough patience and skill to gradually replace old attitudes and habits."

Mr. Remel said that no matter the size, each pest problem can be broken down into six basic tasks -- understanding and educating the customer; analyzing the pest problem; taking short-term, corrective action; implementing long-term, preventive action; monitoring, documenting and evaluating results; and getting back to the customer.

Understanding and educating the customer involves explaining whether or not the customer's pest concerns are warranted and if their expectations are attainable.

"As in any service occupation, the ability to listen and communicate with people is absolutely essential," Mr. Remel said.

He also said that analyzing each pest problem is fairly simple, but having an understanding of structural engineering and design helps in determining where the infestation is coming from.

Short-term, corrective action often involves the use of pesticides.

"Although IPM emphasizes a preventive maintenance approach to pest problems, the real world often demands immediate corrective action," Mr. Remel said, "However, all concerned must understand that every corrective action will employ the least toxic method."

Long-term, preventive action involves creating "built-in" measures that reduce infestation by minimizing a pest's food, shelter and access to a building.

"These actions are the heart of the IPM process and a fundamental measure of its success," Mr. Remel said, "For IPM to work, those responsible for sanitation and building maintenance must cooperate with the pest controllers."

Monitoring, documenting and evaluating results shows the pest management team the effectiveness of each method and helps them determine future needs.

Getting back to the customer involves determining what they think of the pest management results.

"The pest controller's own performance evaluation may not totally coincide with the opinions of others who are more directly affected by the pest problem," Mr. Remel said, "Customer satisfaction is a prerequisite for program support."

For more information or to report a pest problem, call 377-7771.