For me it seems like just last month I was waking up every morning and scurrying across the still sleeping city of Baltimore on my way to my first of 20 accounts. With my B&G in one hand and my big stainless steel box in the other I would be met at the door by a man with shaving cream on half his face or a woman in her robe and undoing her curlers. “A mouse in the basement and some bugs at the back door” were the instructions I’d get as they quickly walked back to the bedroom to finish getting ready for work. I only had about 20 minutes to get the job done before they’d be pacing by the front door anxious for me to ‘get out’. That was Ok with me because my schedule at that time was on the 1/2 hour and just down the street was another half shaven man expecting me promptly at 6.
In those days exterminators weren’t looked at so much as professionals in my opinion. No one cared that I spent 3 solid months watching videos, reading books and riding with managers and other technicians before I ever did my first account. They didn’t see that we made our own mouse bait in a large cement mixer or practiced folding our cardboard mouse stations just so we could meet our 20 minute deadlines in their homes. No one knew that in my shiny box I actually carried Zinc Phosphide that was labeled with the skull and crossbones you rarely see today. The services had to be quick above anything else and consumers knew the bugman had the good stuff and for that they were willing to pay $22.00.
Our tools were so limited in those days and every advancement seemed to be a let down and rarely delivered what was promised. Baits came out for roaches but were no match for Dursban LO and a puff duster filled with Drione. Ant baits were sold as the next greatest thing but every tech carried cut up drinking straws and the homemade mix of Kero syrup and boric acid for pharaoh ants. Flea treatments were sold with a 14 day automatic follow up because we didn’t have growth regulators and there was no such thing as a million dollar repair guarantee for termite work even with the application of 200 gallons of chlordane.
To be successful in those days a pest control technician had to be well versed in his craft and I believe we were even beyond todays standards. Don’t get me wrong, we have more information in 2009 then we’ve ever had about roaches, termites and the habits of fleas. But with the amazing progress of our chemicals and equipment I wonder if our technicians savvy has become weaker. Any unskilled person can dig a trench around a home and apply Termidor and almost over night an entire colony of termites is dead, even those that never set foot in the treatment zone. Waves of ants and blood sucking fleas can be diminished with just a few ounces or milliliters of active ingredient and all that’s required from the company is 5 days training for them to send out a man to your home. I consistently hear of misinformation that tech’s give out about even the most basic things. Who can blame them I guess, it’s been 26 years for me and I’m still learning so to get it all in 5 days might be a stretch. Still, the work is done and for the most part successful but moreover it’s because the bait that’s transferred by the work of the insect rather than the skill of the technician. The spray can be haphazardly put down and tens of thousands of ants will die regardless.
It may sound as if I’m down on my industry and that any old yahoo could do our work but that is far from the truth. So many pest control professionals still take pride in their craft and realize that our most valuable weapon is our knowledge. It only takes a few moments of listening to or watching a true professional at work to see the difference. Even with the ‘silver bullets’ we’ve been blessed with the insect world has not been sitting idly by. They’ve been around for millions of years and have seen it all, adapted and survived. I just hope our newer professionals in waiting will take the same cue and not rely solely on the ready mixed prepackaged no brainer material to do their jobs for them and catch up to the service of not so long ago.