Our latest interview is with renowned pest management expert Janet Hurley from School Integrated Pest Management, Texas. Janet shared with us some of the common misconceptions about pest control, what people can do to remain vigilant against pests all year round, and also how the A24 Rat & Mouse trap is a staple in her pest control arsenal.
Automatic Trap: We're joined today by Janet Hurley, extension specialist for the Texas Integrated Pest Management school program. They provide training and advice for school districts and other institutions in Texas and the southwest. First of all, we want to say thanks for joining us today, Janet. It's definitely a pleasure to have you here with us. Why don't you start off by telling us a bit about yourself, school IPM, and your current role there?
JH: Well, again, you for inviting me and chatting with me. I have been in my position since 2001. I was actually hired by the Texas A&M Agri-Life Extension Service to support an EPA grant for school IPM back in 2001 to establish what they called then, Southwest Technical Resource Center. And my main goal back then was helping schools to have the right resources. And from there it has really blossomed. One, Texas having one of the oldest laws on the book for school IPM, my role really expanded once the schools found out that they had a resource to go to for someone to help them out. But two, it's also because of my role and there's not that many of us around the United States that does this, I've been introduced and have been blessed with working with a lot of great people across the country. You know, not just learning about pest control, but being able to formulate such a niche of being able to work with more mammals than insects.
Automatic Trap: Well that must be great working with people from all over the country, but I do want to hear some of your perspective coming directly from Texas. From scorpions to bats to snakes, Texas definitely offers a landscape with a lot of different variety and a lot of challenges for pest management. So what is something that is uniquely Texas in terms of pest management, and may have factors including the Texan climate.
JH: Well, the interesting thing about Texas is we're such a diverse state. I mean, it can literally be snowing up in our panhandle and you can be in South Padre in a bathing suit and that's all in the same month. The other part is, is our pests never get a break. I talked to people who live north of Texas. I've got relatives up in the New England states. I deal with people up in Wisconsin and stuff. And they can kind of get a break from pests during the winter months. We get no break. And I will say that there's some unique stuff. I mean, especially with my school. The first time I got a call on, "Hey, we've got bats in our school building. What do we do?" I was like, "Well that's not a cockroach. Let me get back to you."
Automatic Trap: So there's no downtime. That's 12 months of the year, 24/7 kind of thing. There's no time to take back, strategize, take that 10,000-foot view. You're consistently beating back pests, I would assume.
JH: Yes, because if it's not ants, it's roaches. If not roaches, it's termites. If it's not termites, it's rats. Bed bugs. I mean there was always something going on. There is always a pest.
Automatic Trap: Well, that's a great segue into my next question. So I think everybody wants to know, is everything truly bigger in Texas?
JH: That's an urban myth.
Automatic Trap: Well, you know, we had to ask anyway. From a pest standpoint.
JH: From a pest standpoint, I mean, our cockroaches are no different than anybody else's, although my teachers will tell me that they are three foot tall. And I'm like, "If there's a three-foot tall cockroach out there, I'm out." But you know, our cockroaches are no different than anybody else's. Our rats are no different than anybody else's. It's just-
Automatic Trap: Of course.
JH: Like I said, there's always something, there's not a slow month.
Automatic Trap: Right. And that must be a huge challenge, being vigilant 12 months of the year. So what would you say is a common misconception that most people hold about pest management?
JH: Well, there's a popular commercial out there that's tagline is a product kills bugs dead. And I tell everyone that is a belief, and it's a well-honed belief by a lot of people. So you first have got to overcome that no, it just doesn't ... There is no silver bullet for anything.
Automatic Trap: Of course.
JH: You've got to know that pest and it's knowing the difference between species, and knowing what their biology and lifestyle are. Because most folks, you know, "Oh I've got a bug and you just need to come over and kill it."
Automatic Trap: Right. And I think that kind of speaks to this modern generation. You want to go to the grocery store, you want to go down the aisle, grab the product that ... You know, it's supposed to work, and boom, your problems solved. But that's not necessarily always the case. Right?
JH: That is exactly true. I mean, you've got to know what you're dealing with. And even though, yes, marketing is a great thing, for pest management professionals, our biggest hurdle is making the customer understand that we're here to solve a problem, not just kill that bug.
Automatic Trap: So you would say there is a massive part of this that is education. It's not just killing the bug, but I mean on the other hand there is prevention, there is knowing why the bug is there, and how to responsibly and ethically remove of it.
JH: It's proper past identification. One of the things that when I'm dealing with ... So a lot of times I get asked to come in and audit. Audit a school, audit a pest control company. I look at their records, I look at those application use records. And I'll see them write down ants or roaches or mice, and my comment to them is, "They're not just an ant. What kind of ant are you dealing with? What kind of Roach?" German cockroach versus an American cockroach, well, German cockroaches only live indoor with man. You know, they're transported from human to human. They don't come ... Like an American cockroach, well they can be living outside in your flower bed or your compost pile or in a sewer drain, and they may make their way inside. So I tell everybody, know thy enemy and know it well.
Automatic Trap: It kinda sounds like somebody that's going fishing and they just say that they're going fishing for fish. Right? Whether you're going for tuna, bass, salmon, you need different lure, you need to know what part of the water you're going after.
Automatic Trap: Well, there you go. There's a metaphor or simile that you can definitely use on your next-
JH: I just might. I like that one.
Automatic Trap: Okay, well consider it yours. So I also wanted to talk today about increased rodent activity. So across North America, in major urban centers, we're seeing increased rodent activity across the board. What would you say are some of the contributing factors that are leading towards this?
JH: It's humans. And I say that with meaning that if you look up the definition of commensal rodent, the commensal names "to live with man". And I tell everybody, human, be it, man or woman, we're our own worst enemies. We create a lot of garbage. We love to have clutter. We have things around our homes, dogs, cats, birds. We do everything we can to invite the invite the rodents to our own backyard. And even when you're the most diligent of people that being me, they're still going to come because we have so much to give them.
I just look around, even in the area within which I live, I've watched our area increase in population, increase with homes, apartments, shopping areas, and the rats aren't going away and everybody contributed it to construction. And I'm like, no. The construction people may disturb the area, but they also invite it. Because again, they've got their garbage from Doritos and your soda can, or you know, we don't use organized trash, so we've got trash pile buildup, or I have a woodpile and they can go make a home in a woodpile. It's everything. Humans are our own worst enemies.
Automatic Trap: And it's been like that I guess since we industrialized, flourished and started traveling to all parts of the globe, I guess.
JH: Yes, it's ever since we've had an industrial lifestyle. And if you go back to our history from agricultural to the industrial, the minute humans started living in a centralized location is when we saw rodents increase, and it is anywhere from the Middle Ages up till the 21st century.
Automatic Trap: So if they really don't have anything to offer us then why is it really important for us to focus on dispatching rodents in an ethical and responsible manner?
JH: Well, the majority of people who don't like rats, but they also don't like the way that we've killed them in the past. There are a variety of snap traps, but some snap traps that are used take a long time for the rat to die. I mean, I've seen it with my own two eyes. It's not easy to just go pick up a rat and go, oh, it's going to be easy to kill. So coming up with more humane ways to get rid of them, and also cleaner ways to get rid of them. I mean, rats can carry up to 63 different types of diseases. So keeping them localized and close to where they are dispatched actually helps with not spreading diseases as well.
Automatic Trap: Absolutely. That's a great point. So what would you say to maybe a business owner, homeowner, property management, some tips, tricks maybe, for prevention or dealing with a rat or mice infestation?
JH: Well, so this is the interesting part. I love watching home improvement shows, but I have yet to see a home improvement show go through and say here's some simple steps that you need to remember as a homeowner or even apartment dweller. You know? How well sealed are your doors? And I'm talking about the doors too, if you're living in an apartment complex, out to the hallway. What about your patio door? Homeowners, how well are your doors sealed? Some people think about it from an energy standpoint. And that's good, at least they are thinking about it. But most people don't realize that if a mouse can get through the size of a hole the size of a dime, or a quarter of an inch, or like I tell everybody, the size of your index finger, then that needs to be sealed up.
If you've got areas where pests can come in, then those are some of the things. Doing some of these great remodels is great, but let's think about this from I'm a cockroach or I'm an ant or I'm a mouse or a rat. How do I get in your house? I mean, I literally had to go back in and reseal up my mom's house because I took that over several years ago because the rats and the squirrels were having a heck of a time getting into the attic. And my first thing was, no, no, you're not living with me.
Automatic Trap: Right. No need for new roommates. Okay. So I guess it's shameless plug time. You've posted a lot about the Goodnature A24 trap. What do you like about it, and how have you used the trap?
JH: So when I first found this product I was just amazed that it was quote-unquote the better rat trap. Because you've always heard if you build a better mousetrap, they will come. Well, this one was really something different. And when I installed it, and literally it is installed on my back porch and has been there since the summer of 2017, I refer to it as my passive monitoring get 'em. And the reason I say that is is it's there. It's there if I'm at home. It's there if I'm on the road, it's there no matter what. I change up the bait. Yes, I do use the ... I try to freshen up the bait.
But what I liked about it, and this was really important, I had gone away for Christmas break. I came back, looked, I was opening the door, actually to let my dogs out and noticed the fresh rodent droppings. And with that, I had this huge sigh. I'm like, ugh, really? But the way I have my A24, it's in a corner so that the dogs can't get to it, but it's easy for me to inspect. So then I walked around and looked, and I looked down and I went, well I have two dead rats. I had fresh droppings and I had to fresh dead rats. So for me, that was great because that meant they weren't trying to get into the house, they weren't getting into the plants, and it did its job even though I wasn't there.
So for me, this is a level of peace of mind, constant control because it's in the active area. Before I placed the trap, I literally watched the game cameras to see where their ... I kinda knew where their hotspots were, but the game cameras allowed me to say, okay, this is where I'm going to permanently place it. And I have not moved it. People have talked about, well, you should move it. I'm like, nope. Unlike other traps, you know, the wooden snap traps and some of that, where we talk about trap shyness and stuff, these rats don't have it in them to know that they're supposed to be afraid of this, because when they go to explore it, they die. In a humane way, but the rest of the family doesn't know.
They just know that Joe the rat didn't make it home that night. Okay? They just know that this is the area they smell, you know, I'll make sure that it's fresh. I'll make sure that the bate is fresh. I just let it go because I know that I'm going to see rats 12 months out of the year in my house.
Automatic Trap: Yeah. And you know, we've said it many times before, that's definitely a challenge. So we're really happy to hear that you're having a lot of success with our traps. That's actually it, Janet. So we again, want to thank you for coming on today. Lastly, why don't you let everybody know what's in store for school IPM, what's going on with you, and where people can find you online.
JH: Well, school IPM is alive and well in Texas. It is a law and it's something I'll be doing. I enjoy doing the training for school IPM. I also, like I said earlier, my fascination is with rodents and with bats, so I'm planning for our spring rodent academy in March and then we'll do another one in the fall. And then I'm easy to find because if you look me up on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, I'm there. I'm pretty much ... I've got a good profile out there. But then we also have our school IPM website, which is schoolipm.tamu.edu. And then for my pest management professionals, we have our professional site which is called The IPM Experience House, which is where we do all of our pest management training, like the rodent academy and we do bedbugs and everything else, and that one is ipmhouse.tamu.edu.
Automatic Trap: Definitely no shortage of ways to get in touch.
JH: Yes, there is ... I put myself out there, but I enjoy it. I enjoy talking to people about their problems, because I think that's the part we forget to talk to people about it, I'm a problem solver. No matter what it is, I'm going to try and help solve your problems. It may not work the first time, but I'm one of those persistent people. I'll just keep going.
Automatic Trap: Right, and that's the main thing in this industry, is pragmatism, right? Well, we want to say thank you again for joining us today and we look forward to chatting with you in the future.
Janet Hurley: Well, I can't wait to talk to you some more and good luck to you guys as well.