This past week my family and I had the most wonderful time playing in the theme parks of beautiful Orlando Florida. Either I’m getting older or the rides are definitely pushing the envelope because I’ve never felt more G-forces in my life. If you get a chance you have to try out Sea Worlds new Manta ride and you’ll see what I mean.
As I’ve done for the past 25 years I always look around for signs of pests, pest control and what companies are servicing the area I’m visiting. This trip was no different and my family’s reaction is always the same. They keep walking and pretend they don’t know me as I’m inspecting the exterior rodent station or other evidence I see along the way.
What amazes me about these huge complexes is the complete lack of bugs. Sure Disney has a huge mouse problem but that critter is about 6’3 and I leave him and his wife alone. But as I sit on a bench or walk the grounds I see no ants, earwigs, crickets or roaches of any kind. What’s more I see very little evidence in the way of pest control service at all.
A few years ago we did the Disney parks and my brother in law wanted to take a tour behind the scenes of a hydroponic garden. It was there that I learned some of the secrets of how they keep the grounds virtually pest free.
Part of the pest control program was grown right there in small tanks in a back room. Parasitic wasps were being raised and let go to take care of all sorts of pesky insects that otherwise would populate out of control and make the guests stay miserable. These beneficial insects are harmless to humans and seek only their prey and soon die off. UN noticed by the millions of visitors per year they kill untold numbers of bugs and no one is the wiser. In our tour I did notice a few Max Force ant bait stations which gave me hope that I wasn’t too far out of their league in the pest control world.
For this year’s adventure we did mainly the water parks and Sea World and it was pretty much the same. Near ‘City Walk’ however we did come across a budding horde of bees which was being handled quite nicely. Instead of calling out the National Guard and exterminating the beneficial bees they simply roped off the area and put in a large cardboard carton type pot. The bees took to it right away and showed no sign of wanting to leave. I’m sure once established they would remove the carton and spare the bees from a toxic fate while giving the guest’s a safe photo op during the time they were there.
The only other evidence I saw this time of pest control service was while I was on top of a huge water slide. Down along the fence line I could make out large rodent stations placed about every 50 feet or so. Once down the slide I couldn’t see any stations, only the beautiful landscaping and surroundings.
I’m sure no one has counted the hundreds of thousands of ice cream cones that have hit the sidewalk and the little children who begin instantly crying for Mom and Dad to shell out another $ 4.00 for another one or the 20 tons of pizza crumbs that fall to the ground each week. You might have an easier time counting the ants that come out of the wood work heading to clean up this bountiful feast. That would be, zero and even if there were the grounds crew are right there cleaning it up even before it begins to melt. Even as I sat relaxing on the beaches of Discovery Cove waiting my turn to swim with the dolphins there was neither an ant to be seen nor a mosquito to swat at.
I did see a few birds that found refuge in the rafters of Shamu stadium and the ‘no roost’ wiring to keep them away but I’m sure that won’t be for long when the secret pest control operators find the breach in their control techniques. Pigeons are considered ‘rats with wings’ to most who know of the disease and filth they carry but I did not even see one of them. (Seattle could take a lesson)
In the behind the scenes tour I asked who did the service at the Disney parks and they would only say that “they had a program in place” and used only natural means of pest control. Sea World employees were equally ‘mum’ on how or who it was done by. My guess is that they have their own in house crew headed up by some extremely sharp people and perhaps contract out only when needed. I’m also convinced that they rely heavily on the skills and efforts of the parasitic wasps. With so many different people from around the world who have different allergies, tolerances to pesticides etc. they would be required by law to post signs of pesticide applications and I have never see a single posting. While any traditional service would be done after the parks closing their natural methods could be working all day long with no ill effects to anyone.
The only thing I can think of that traditional pest control operators have done on the same scale would be the recent Olympic Games in China. Rentokil which is the 3rd largest pest control company in the world was hired to keep the games pest free and it was quite the under taking. The service actually started the previous year and measures were taken to kill immature stages of insects before they could complete their lifecycle and come out right around the time the torch was lit. Many natural methods were used and even some of the largest air dam doors were installed at the stadium entrance where the marathon runners would enter for the last leg of their race. Hundreds of technicians were flown over and even some were sub contracted from other companies. They worked hand in hand with Chinese employees and together this mammoth job was done with very few outbreaks.
I’d like to commend the technicians and the people behind this hugely successful job and tell them how impressed I am that given the sheer numbers of insects that live and breed in Florida that they are doing the impossible. I wouldn’t mind taking a leave of absence from my work to go and learn just how they do it. I’m sure I wouldn’t impress them much with my knowledge of glue traps and how I can hide them so only a mouse will get caught or how my baiting techniques for roaches are better than most. I’d love to shake their hands to say a job well done but I can’t.
I can’t because for the most part, these pest control professionals are invisible and their hands are really small.