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Promising Tool In Keeping Down Boston's Rat Population Gets The Cold Shoulder

31 Jul 2018

Posted by John D. Stellberger

Using Dry Ice To Keep Down Boston's Rat Population

It’s a steamy summer day and John Stellberger is standing in a parking lot next to a reeking, oversized dumpster. He's staring at a series of fist-sized holes in the ground: rat burrows.

The dumpster is, in theory, closed — but barely; it's easy to see how an intrepid rat would gain access to the bounty inside. And for a rat, it's a bounty indeed.

"So they come out, they climb up, it smells of food," Stellberger says. "There's plenty of fresh stuff in here. They like fresh stuff, they don't like putrified stuff. Look at all the droppings."

Stellberger is founder and president of Environmental Health Services, a pest control company. He's an environmental health specialist — he does not use the word exterminator. He respects the animals he works with.

"They'll actually pull in plastic bags sometimes as a wind block in the winter, believe it or not, they make kind of a shield," says Stellberger. "I admire rats. They're complex, they're intelligent."

But part of Stelleberger's job is, indeed, to kill rats. A few years ago, he stumbled on an innovative way to do that — one that's effective but also, he says, humane and environmentally safe.

Stellberger kneels over a rat burrow and starts pouring white chalk-shaped pellets into the hole from a plastic carton he took out of the back of his truck.

He's using dry ice — the same kind you might find in a a party supply store, or chilling a fancy cocktail.

Dry ice is just carbon dioxide in a solid form. Exposed to air it becomes CO2 gas, which is harmless on its own. But concentrated in a tiny confined space — like a rat burrow — it becomes lethal.

In other words, the rats asphyxiate.

Dry ice has been used for years as a means to humanely euthanize rodents used in laboratory research, and the American Veterinary Association endorses the method as being a more humane way to, if necessary, kill rodents.

Stellberger was an early pioneer in experimenting with using dry ice for wild, urban rats.

His work earned the blessing of self-described urban rodentologist extraordinaire Bobby Corrigan — probably the closest thing there is to a guru in the larger world of urban rodent control techniques.

"[It] basically replaces all the oxygen in the burrow," Corrigan explains. "The rats simply go into a kind of a sleep and they simply don't wake up."

Corrigan advises cities from Boston to Washington, D.C. to New York on rodent control techniques and is famous for his days-long rodent control "academies," in which he will instruct entire rodent and pest control divisions the best practices in smart rodent control techniques.

A couple of years ago, the city of Boston started employing dry ice to fight rats.

William Christopher heads the city's health and sanitation division and early on touted dry ice as a valuable tool in the city's efforts to control rat populations.

"We were actually one of the first to really start trying it and it got really good notoriety," Christopher says. "We promoted it, the concept of it, [and] other cities tarted using it."

Cities like Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C. began using dry ice too.

But then, in 2016, Christopher ran into a problem.

"One day we get a letter saying that we cannot use it," Christopher recalls, "because it does not exist on the insecticidal lists per the EPA."

The federal Environmental Protection Agency said that dry ice, despite being non-toxic and safe enough to put in a cocktail, was not an EPA-approved pesticide. So Boston and other cities had to stop using it.

That changed earlier this year, when a major scientific research company, Bell Labs, secured the first EPA-approved dry ice product — they call it "http://ehspest.com/rats.htmRat Ice" — and now it's the only dry ice that's legal for cities like Boston to use on rodents.

Dry ice is, again, just solid carbon dioxide. And Rat Ice is, well, just dry ice with an EPA-approved label.

"Basically it's not different than anything else," Stellberger says. "Just now, this layer of complications has been added ... we need to buy it from a local place that has become a recognized EPA establishment."

Stellberger had been purchasing his dry ice from a local vendor — now, he says the only distributor selling EPA-approved dry ice is in Rockland, Massachusetts — about 20 miles away. And it costs about three times as much, he says.

Boston officials, meanwhile, have held off on using dry ice (or Rat Ice), hoping to negotiate an easier, less-expensive way of obtaining the material.

"It's a bit of a hassle. So I see where the city of Boston is coming from," Stellberger says. "But, you know, I'm just happy we can use it."

He's happy because, remember, he likes rats — if he has to kill them he wants to do it humanely. And he'd rather focus on teaching humans to be more responsible.

That is John Stellberger's larger mission.

As we pack up and Stellberger heads off to another site, he gets emotional as he talks about that mission, one he shares with rat expert Corrigan.

"I'd like to see some of this industry change to become kind of more preventive and more solution-based," Stellberger says, his voice catching a little.

"Our mission isn't to become pesticide sprayers, or just bait box checkers. ... Why do we have to kill things that we don't have to, you know?" he says. "We're better than that."

Source: wgbh.org

Baltimore has worst bed bug infestation in America, according to study

30 Jul 2018

Posted by John D. Stellberger

For the second year in a row, Baltimore ranked as the worst city for bed bug infestation.

This is one superlative no one wants their city to win. Pest control company Orkin recently released its Top 50 Bed Bug Cities list, compiled with data of the places where Orkin performed the most treatments for bed bugs from December of 2016 to November of 2017.

The reality is that bed bugs have shown up in cities and towns all across America, from mansions to cramped apartments. They’ve been increasing in number in the United States since the turn of the century due to increased travel and limitations on certain insecticides, but numbers have been especially high in these cities.

There’s not too much you can do to stop them; early detection is critical since there is no foolproof way to keep them out of your home. Here are the warning signs you’re about to have a bed bug problem.

Taking first place on the list for the second year in a row was Baltimore, followed closely by neighboring Washington, D.C. Chicago, Los Angeles, Columbus, Cincinnati, Detroit, New York, San Francisco, and Dallas all made the top ten.

New York, infamous for bed bugs, dropped four spots to eighth place, while Los Angeles, Cincinnati, and Dallas all rose in the ranking, as well as Atlanta, where Orkin is based. New Orleans and Flint, Michigan made the list for the first time.

So if you live in or are visiting any of these cities, it’s wise to be a little more vigilant about your susceptibility to bed bugs. According to the CDC, bed bugs often come into contact with people by way of luggage, bags, clothes, bedding, furniture, or anywhere they can easily hide and hitch a ride.

Always inspect hotel rooms or any place you might be staying—here’s a guide to how to do so properly. Now, check out these secrets that bed bugs don’t want you to know.

To learn more about how to prevent bed bug infestation, contact EHS Pest.

Source: fox news

Oregon Woman Dies From Rare Disease Spread By Rodents: What Is Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome?

23 Jul 2018

Posted by John D. Stellberger

EHS Pest Rodent Expert

by: Aaron Mamiit

A woman from Oregon died from hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, several days after contracting the rare disease that is spread by rodent droppings.

Health officials have previously issued a warning on hantavirus infections, which requires immediate medical attention to improve the chances of survival. What are the hantavirus signs and symptoms, and how can people protect themselves from it?

Woman Dies From Hantavirus Infection

Lindy Farr, a woman from Deschutes County, Oregon, recently passed away due to the rare and incurable disease named hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. The Deschutes County Health Department confirmed that the sickness was Farr's cause of death.

According to a report by The Bend Bulletin, Farr went to Culver, Oregon before Memorial Day, May 28, to prepare their other home for a family visit. She took with her a vacuum cleaner to clean a loft in the barn, but Farr did not wear protective gear.

Sheila Hunt, Farr's neighbor and friend, said that on June 4, she came down with what they thought was just the flu. However, by June 7, Farr was finding it difficult to stay awake, prompting her husband to call 911.

Farr was confined at the intensive care unit at the St. Charles Redmond hospital in Oregon, and was placed on a ventilator by June 9. She was transported by air to the Oregon Health & Sciences University in Portland the following day.

On June 13, Farr passed away. She was 67 years old.

"She was in good health," said Hunt. "You would have never in a million years thought she would have been gone in a week."

What Is Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome?

Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, one of the many diseases from rats and rodents, shows signs and symptoms similar to the flu after one week to eight weeks from inhaling dust contaminated by rat and rodent droppings.

Fever will be accompanied by muscle pain, headache, vomiting, nausea, and fatigue, before escalating into breathing problems. It should be noted that a third of people who contract hantavirus pulmonary syndrome die from it.

To prevent infection, people who are entering areas that possibly contain rodent droppings should be very careful, and wear protective gear if necessary. Instead of sweeping rodent droppings and opening up the risk of getting them in the air, the recommendation is to spray the droppings first with a 1:10 bleach and water solution.

Hantavirus is rare, and Farr's case was identified as just the 23rd infection of the disease in Oregon since 1993 and the seventh in Deschutes County.

Other reports of deaths caused by hantavirus infections this year involve a 9-year-old boy from Colorado and a 27-year-old woman from New Mexico. While the fatalities are tragic, hopefully they raise awareness regarding hantavirus pulmonary syndrome so that people may protect themselves from the disease.

To get rid of rats and rodents safely, contact EHS Pest

Source: techtimes.com

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