Last week a customer (let’s call him Bill) called me with a concern about a potential subterranean termite issue at his home in Nampa. Bill’s story illustrates several lessons that are important to understand about pest control, lessons that can save you money and a lot of anxiety. Here’s the story:
A few years ago Bill was renovating a bathroom. As his contractor was doing the demolition, the contractor noticed something strange about the way a wooden stud looked behind the drywall. The stud looked like it was being eaten by some insect. Sadly and unbelievably, Bill or the contractor either misplaced the wood or threw it away, leaving no evidence of the damage. Bill called a pest control company (not Barrier!) to give him an assessment of what the problem might be. Between the time it took to call a pest control company and have them get out to his house to get a look, the stud was gone and the contractor had already closed up the wall cavity and finished the renovation.
The pest control guy still performed an intensive inspection of the house, but found no evidence of termites. He questioned Bill as to what the damage on the board looked like, and promptly concluded that it was a termite problem, and gave him a price quote to eliminate his “termite” issue. I’m not saying that the pest control guy in this circumstance was doing anything malicious. I’m simply saying that I’ve seen people play the ‘telephone game’ (you know, the one where you tell a person a phrase or sentence and they whisper it to the person next to them, and so on a so forth until the last person in the line tries to repeat the original phrase) to know that when people are far removed from primary evidence there is much left to interpretation, and almost invariably something gets lost in translation.
Now we come to the moral of the story: Whenever you encounter a pest problem, ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS save the specimen! We see this all of the time, particularly with Termite and Bedbug issues. People see something that appears to be a bedbug, and being disgusted, promptly vacuum it up or flush it down the toilet. Then they call a pest control company and say they think they have bedbugs. The problem is that they might not actually have bedbugs; it might be some other insect that looks or acts similar. Worse, it might not be similar at all but for the imagination of the frenzied mental state that occurs when you see a bug in your bedroom. Then the pest control company jumps on opportunity to sell a $1800 bed bug treatment to a customer who might not have ever had a problem in the first place.
All of this is not to say that you might not actually have a bedbug problem or a termite issue. It is to say that by doing some very simple work at the beginning of your problem could save you time, anxiety, and a whole lot of money.
If you see a potential issue at your house, get a piece of clear tape and capture the bug with it! Or get a ziplock bag and put your insect in it. Or take really good pictures. Or whatever so long as you save the specimen for identification BEFORE doing anything else. A good pest control company should be able to quickly and positively identify your issue and give you an appropriate treatment plan to get you taken care of. You can also get second opinions to confirm the identification. This is important because a simple carpet beetle issue (carpet beetles are very commonly mistaken as bed bugs) costs typically hundreds of dollars less than bed bug remediation.
In Bill’s case, the stud may have previously been infested with termites, but with no active problems. It could have been that the stud was simply pocked with wormholes, or have some other wood destroying beetle. It may even be that there was no issue at all with the stud, that the contractor and the pest control technician simply misidentified the problem. In each of these scenarios the solution to the problem could be much less expensive than the alternative: A costly Termite treatment.
Again, save your specimens! At Barrier Pest Control, we can help with your identification needs! We’ve been at it awhile, and most times we can get you an identification with the naked eye. In circumstances that require a little bit of magnification, we have a wonderful digital scope that gets us great magnified images of insects and spiders. Let us know if we can help!