Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Bats to beetles: Pest control staff head off animal infestations

It was about 3:45 p.m. Aug. 9. A co-worker on the fourth floor of the Shapiro Library told Jeremy Morse about the bat. She had spotted it swooping among the science stacks.

"My first thought was, 'I want to see that,'" says Morse, head of the publishing technologies group, University Library. He spotted the bat flying, then alerted co-workers via email to keep their doors closed, while another co-worker called Pest Management Services, part of Plant Building & Grounds Services.

  Matt Gabert of Pest Management Services prepares bait stations to be placed at the Power Center for the Performing Arts. (Photo by Eric Bronson, Michigan Photography)

Gail Gey, pest management specialist, soon arrived with a butterfly net. "It took her about 10 seconds to catch it. She put it in a Folgers coffee can," Morse says. Gey said she catches about two a day and releases them at Nichols Arboretum.

"We have calls that come in daily," says Terri Gleason, pest management supervisor and contract administrator, who works out of the North Campus Facilities Services Building on Baxter Road. "We receive a lot of bird-in-the-building calls. We have oriental beetles and crows in the fall."

Matt Gabert, one of six members of the pest management staff, says much of the job involves inspecting buildings for signs of insect and other pest infestations, and placing traps and approved animal bait as preventive measures.

But the most challenging calls involve raccoons in a trash bin that are unable to get out. "They don't like being messed with. Sometimes skunks can be a real challenge, too," he says.

Then there was the recent time a spotted fawn was unable to exit a rectangular construction trash bin. It did escape, once a bin door was opened.

Gleason says the goal is to capture animals safely, and release them in nearby wooded areas. Tools of the trade include telescoping 3- to 6-foot control sticks with adjustable loops on the end, protective gloves that extend to the elbow, rubber gloves, goggles and long sleeves.

Workers perform regular inspections of campus buildings for signs of insect infestations, and signs of opportunities for mice or other small animals to enter. On a recent inspection outside the Power Center for the Performing Arts, Gabert hauled four black bait stations — they resemble footstools — and set them on a cement ledge. Wearing latex gloves, he reached inside a plastic tub for bait to place inside the stations. They were placed at the foot of buildings, to stop mice from entering. After mice crawl through small openings in the station to eat the bait, they leave and later die from the poison.

The state and federal government-approved pesticides have clear directions on labels for safe application. "We use the least amount of chemicals possible," Gleason says.

Gabert says one way mice can enter buildings is through gaps in floor sweeps attached to the bottom of doors, or by entering through loading doors left open. Snap traps are used to catch mice inside a building. Gabert says he knows of no instance in recent years of a rat infestation in a university building.

Staff performing building inspections also look for signs of insects. "There can be pill bugs, cockroaches, ants; we get calls on wasps or bees. Flies are big this time of year; gnats hatch in drains," Gleason says. Evidence of cockroach infestation is their shed skins, often spotted between ovens and walls. Gabert says bedbugs have become an issue in recent years.

"Once you get a call you have to do a thorough inspection of every sofa, every bed frame and every single crack. You have to use a flashlight to see really small white specs of eggs. You have to go around all the seams and tufts on the mattress and box springs," he says. Steam cleaners that can heat the steam to more than 120 degrees are used to kill eggs.

To help manage roach infestations, Gabert says workers place a powder down drains that roaches absorb as they walk through it, often spreading the powder to other roaches, killing them as well.

The pest management staff urges the public not to feed wild animals, to allow no gaps in door sweeps or along buildings, to keep windows closed and to leave animals alone, particularly bats and raccoons, as they are more likely to have rabies.

Animal infestations can be reported 24 hours a day to the Plant Operations Call Center at 734-647-2059. Pest Management Services also serves the UM-Dearborn campus and outlying university facilities. Staff will design a custom Integrated Pest Management Plan for individual facilities on request.