Pest Prevention During COVID-19

Is COVID-19 Creating A Perfect Storm For Structural Pest Infestations?

As Massachusetts asks all non-essential business due to the COVID-19 Coronavirus, many families find themselves sheltering in their homes. This sudden change in human behavior, combined with the start of Spring, a season already known for heavy pest activity, may create a perfect storm for pest infestations to rise.

It is important to remember that Pest Control is an Essential Service all of the time. A temporary shutdown in people’s daily activities doesn’t mean pest control should be put on the back burner. Consider the fact that most viruses and dangerous organisms like the Coronavirus, are caused by human and animal interactions. everyone should understand the importance of pest control during these already challenging times. Imagine the added stress of a pest infestation on top of everything else.

How More People Staying Home Effects Rodent and Insect Pest Activity

Structural Rodent and Insect Pests are very adaptive and opportunistic.  There can be a lot more opportunity for pests when people stay home for extended periods of time. Most structural Pests rely on people for food, water or shelter.

The number one increased opportunity will be in the available food sources. People stuck at home, simply put, have a lot more food around. People storing extra food in garages, basements and other areas, and children home from school snacking in different areas of a home, can attract more pest activity. Ants will show up almost immediately 

In addition, Outdoor food sources like everyday garbage at local restaurants, parks or shopping centers for example may cease to exist now that human visitors are staying away.  Situations like that will often drive rodents like rats and mice into nearby homes and businesses in search of new resources. 

Another increased food source opportunity is the actual people themselves. Bed bugs, Ticks, Mosquitoes, Fleas and other parasite pests have way more opportunity to bite people when everyone is at home all day and night. Use the tips below to help prevent pest activity during the COVID-19 Outbreak.

Expert Pest Prevention Tips To Help Residents Prevent Pest Activity While Stuck at Home.

TIP #1 Properly Manage Food Storage!

Store ALL food and related trash in pest and rodent proof containers at all times! This means NO cardboard containers or paper bags. Tightly sealed Glass Jars, Metal and Hard Plastic Containers with appropriate lids are the best options for food storage. Be sure to inspect and rotate stored food items regularly.

Have rules in place regarding food consumption. All eating should take place in the kitchen/dining area only. These areas are easier to keep clean. Bedrooms, playrooms and other areas of the house are NOT a good place to snack. Crumbs and other food debris that end up in furniture crevices, under beds and other areas, may go unnoticed by people and quickly become a source for pest activity.

TIP #2 Clean Up & Reduce Clutter!

Deep cleaning is great for preventing the spread of virus but also for preventing pest activity. Focus on general surfaces for virus prevention and harder to reach crevices and tighter spaces where pest like to congregate.

Clutter provides pests with great sheltering opportunity. Clutter also makes it more difficult to notice the early warning signs of an impending infestation. While stuck at home, people should declutter closets, storage areas, basements, garages, under beds, cabinets and other areas where pests frequently go.

TIP #3 Seal Them Out!

Sealing off exterior entry points is a very effective way to prevent pests from entering the structure. Rodent-proof Door Sweeps, Metal Flashing, Steel-Mesh and appropriate sealants are excellent materials for rodent and structural pest exclusion.

TIP #4 Don’t Wait To Call A Professional!

Prevention is the best form of pest control. Exterior preventative treatments can greatly reduce infestations, interior activity and the need for interior service in the future. Existing activity is also much easier to eliminate when detected early.

Ultra Safe Pest Management is proud to provide these essential services during the COVID-19 Outbreak.

Pest Control Services Are Essential During The COVID-19 Outbreak

Ultra Safe Pest COVID-19

National Pest Management Association (NPMA)

The professional pest control industry, as an essential service provider, is responsible for the protection of public health, food and property.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have prepared a list of significant public health pests https://www.epa.gov/insect-repellents/list-pests-significant-public-health-importance, many of which are controlled by the professional pest control industry.  We play a vital role in protecting our nation’s public health and food supply.  Pests can spread diseases such as West Nile virus, Lyme disease, salmonellosis, hantavirus and encephalitis.  Stinging insects force half a million people to the emergency room every year.  Cockroach and rodent allergens trigger asthma attacks in children; rodents contaminate or consume about 20% of the world’s food supply and bed bugs can cause allergic reactions.   The importance of the pest control industry to the nation as an essential service cannot be understated.

Additionally, the pest control industry is trained, tested and certified in the use of personal protective equipment (PPE). Technicians routinely employ the use respirators, eye protection, gloves, and clothing to conform with safety requirements established by EPA and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration.   With over 135,000 service technicians on the ground in the United States backed by over 19,000 companies, we stand ready to continue our fight against pests and diseases.  With Covid-19 on the mind of all US citizens, and the world, we want to be sure we continue to serve the country in our battle with the diseases spread by pests. 

As an essential service industry, we will continue to service the nation’s food production facilities, grocery stores, medical institutions, multifamily housing units, warehouses, homes and businesses.  We cannot afford to have our medical facilities, groceries stores or homes uninhabitable due to pests and pest related diseases, particularly as we tell citizens to stay home.  There is not a segment of the food industry that could comply with federal sanitation and health regulations without an adequate pest control program.

As you consider next steps regarding emergency response and potential restrictions on business operations in your state, we respectfully request that the pest control industry be recognized as an essential industry, providing a service that is indispensable in the effort to protect public health and our nation’s food supply.

U.S Department Of Homeland Security Memo:

For the purposes of this Order, “Essential Businesses” means:i. Healthcare Operations and Essential Infrastructure; ii. Grocery stores, certified farmers’ markets, farm and produce stands, supermarkets, food banks, convenience stores, and other establishments engaged in the retail sale of canned food, dry goods, fresh fruits and vegetables, pet supply, fresh meats, fish, and poultry, and any other household consumer products (such as cleaning and personal care products). This includes stores that sell groceries and also sell other non-grocery products, and products necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences; iii. Food cultivation, including farming, livestock, and fishing; iv. Businesses that provide food, shelter, and social services, and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged or otherwise needy individuals; v. Newspapers, television, radio, and other media services; vi. Gas stations and auto-supply, auto-repair, and related facilities; vii. Banks and related financial institutions; viii. Hardware stores; ix. Plumbers, electricians, exterminators, and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences, Essential Activities, and Essential Businesses.

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Sincerely

Dominique Stumpf

National Pest Management Association

Redfin’s Top 10 Home Improvement Projects to Tackle Before Moving Into a New House.

 

Congratulations on your new home! We all know that moving into a new house is stressful, and the last thing you probably want to do is add more things to your to-do list. However, it’s actually best to tackle some home improvement projects before all the boxes and furniture get in the way. So if you want to save money, time, and hassle down the road, here are 10 home improvement ideas to consider before making the big move.

  front of new house         

1. Change the Locks

First and foremost, it’s important to keep your family and your new home safe. So before moving in, be sure to call a locksmith and have your locks changed. You never know who might have a spare key and it just isn’t worth taking the risk. When the locks are being installed, don’t forget the back door and garage door locks, as well as any sheds or other buildings on your property.

2. Remove Popcorn Ceilings

Older homes may have textured “popcorn” on the ceiling, an unsightly trend that makes the interior of your home look dated. It’s also important to note that these types of ceilings may contain asbestos – which makes removing it an even greater priority. It doesn’t matter if you live in Phoenix or Atlanta – if your house was built before the 1980s and has popcorn ceilings, it is highly recommended to have a professional test and then remove it.

couple painting home improvement project

3. Paint the Interior

Adding a fresh coat of paint is a simple and affordable home improvement project that can add color and personalize your space quickly. It also helps defend your home’s surfaces from wear and tear. Whether you do the work yourself or hire someone to do it, it’s a lot easier to paint an empty room. Plus, redoing your walls before moving day means you don’t have to live with the smell of drying paint in your home.

Remember, choosing paint isn’t just about the color. The finish of your paint, from matte to gloss, can dramatically change the look of a room. If you have a paint color in mind, bring home samples with a few different finishes, to see which you prefer.

4. Make Electrical Upgrades

You can do these upgrades anytime, but everything is easier to get to in an empty room. If you’re moving into an older home, especially one built in the mid-‘90s or before, consider installing extra electrical outlets or upgrading the existing ones. Many older homes don’t have the electrical capacity for the number of electronics and powerful devices that many people use today. Additional outlets in your rooms can make it easier to arrange furniture, including computers, speakers, gaming systems, and will make room for everyone to plug in their phones. Consider also making electrical upgrades to allow for programmable thermostats and light fixtures.

       Living Room in Home Interior

5. Replace the Flooring

If you’re moving into a brand new home, you may not need to make any improvements to your floors. However, if you’ve bought a home with carpet or tile that you hate or hardwood that needs to be refinished, this is a perfect time to make changes. If you put it off you will have to deal with moving all of the furniture out of the way. And who wants to move furniture twice? When the flooring is being updated, the contractors can also replace baseboards and any other trim work to match.

6. Install Fencing

The house you’ve just purchased may not have adequate fencing for your pets or children. If so, this is a great time to consider adding it. Fencing can provide safety for your family, conceal a swimming pool or hot tub, protect landscaping, give you privacy, and much more. It’s also a desired feature by many. So when it comes time to sell your home years down the line, this home improvement project may increase its value and make it stand out in the local housing market.

7. Call A Pest Control Company

Redfin Tips For New Homeowners

Even if you don’t see bugs, mice, or other pests in your home, that doesn’t mean they aren’t there or that they won’t decide to move in. You can prevent ants, roaches, and other insects from making your home theirs by bringing in a professional pest control company. Here’s something you may not realize – if your neighbors all have chemical pest barriers, and you don’t, then colonies of insects may relocate to your house, simply because it’s more readily accessible.

You may also wish to have quarterly inspections for larger pests like mice or squirrels if you live in an area where they are prevalent. Besides the “ick” factor, these animals can be very destructive to your house, creating holes in the walls or roof, ripping out insulation, and leaving disease-causing droppings.

easy home improvement: upgrading your kitchen appliances

8. Deep Clean

Whether you do it yourself or hire a service, all homes can benefit from having every nook and cranny scrubbed, especially the bathrooms and kitchen. Don’t forget to include cleaning the cabinets and drawers, too. This may also be a good time to install shelf liners and any drip-protectors to preserve the life of the cabinets.

9. Add Storage Options in Closets

You may wish to replace wooden clothing rods with aluminum ones or install shelving and shoe trees. Pantries and storage closets may need extra shelving and organization too. If you have a tight space, additional shelves up to the ceiling can help you keep organized and your space less cluttered.

10. Remodeling an Entire Room

If you’ve ever redone part of a home, especially an area that is used often like a kitchen or bathroom, you know that it can be a major inconvenience. You could end up cooking meals outside or having everyone in the family getting ready in one bathroom. So if you already know you will be doing some remodeling, consider doing so prior to move-in. Also, before moving forward with your remodel, be sure to discuss with your contractor if your home improvement project will require a building permit.

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Ultra Safe Has Another A.C.E Up It’s Sleeve!

Ultra Safe Pest Entomologist

Jeff Kilian is the company’s newest Associate Certified Entomologist!

Choosing a Board or Associate Certified Entomologist provides you with the peace of mind that you are getting a professional who stays current in their field and on top of the latest research and insect science.

Jeff recently became Ultra Safe’s 4th pest professional to complete the ACE Certification. Way to go Jeff!

2019 Super Service Award

Ultra Safe Pest Management is proud to announce that it has earned the home service industry’s coveted Angie’s List Super Service Award (SSA). This award honors service professionals who have maintained exceptional service ratings and reviews on Angie’s List in 2019.

“Service pros that receive our Angie’s List Super Service Award represent the best  in our network, who are consistently making great customer service their mission,” said Angie’s List Founder Angie Hicks. “These pros have provided exceptional service to our members and absolutely deserve recognition for the exemplary customer service they exhibited in the past year.”

Angie’s List Super Service Award 2019 winners have met strict eligibility requirements, which include maintaining an “A” rating in overall grade, recent grade and review period grade. The SSA winners must be in good standing with Angie’s List and undergo additional screening.

Ultra Safe Sentricon Certified!

Sentricon Termite Specialists

ABOUT THE SENTRICON® SYSTEM

Sentricon® is the No. 1 brand in termite protection. Developed through extensive research on termite behavior, Sentricon targets the whole termite colony. Installed and maintained by a Certified Sentricon Specialist™, Sentricon stations are placed in a protective ring around the perimeter of the home. Termites eat the bait in the stations and share it with the rest of the colony, eliminating the entire colony, including the termite queen. No queen. No colony. No problem.

PCT Magazine State-of-the Rodent Market – By Bell Labs

A Tale of TWO CITIES

Managing rodent populations in city environments can be particularly challenging, whether you’re working solo or in collaboration with municipalities. Here, two PMPs share a glimpse into their own experiences in urban settings, which have helped them come away with unique rodent control insights and strategies.

BOSTON

It’s nothing new for Vic Palermo to be approached by the media about rats these days. Boston is among the U.S. cities with sizable rat populations, and Palermo and his team at Ultra Safe Pest Management have been able to turn this trend into new business opportunities.

As rodent populations have increased throughout the decade, Ultra Safe has grown its rodent work to roughly 30 percent of total revenues, and now offers advanced rodent-related add-on services: custom exclusion methods to stop rodents from entering structures and specialized rodent debris clean-up services. (See “Hazardous Clean-Up Services” article on page 4.) “I saw it coming seven or eight years ago and predicted that rats would become the new bed bugs in Boston,” he says. “We’ve seen rats proliferate here over the past four or five years.”

Public health is of utmost concern to Palermo and his team. The company website warns the public about rat-borne diseases — plague, jaundice, rat-bite fever, cowpox virus, trichinosis, salmonella, etc. — and of the health risks of fleas, ticks and mites that rats can carry into a home or business. Taking that concern one step further, Ultra Safe works with city agencies to help control rodent populations in public parks, schools and neighborhoods.

“Municipal work can be challenging because there continues to be a low-bid procurement mindset, which doesn’t typically align with our customized, integrated approach,” explains Palermo. “To stay profitable and deliver desired results, we have to be selective about which projects we bid on. Generally, when circumstances include a serious infestation and there’s a lot of pressure from citizens — parents at a school, for example — municipalities are more receptive to an aggressive plan of action. We encourage our customers to break out of that lowest-bidder mindset and commit to a customized, integrated program that will actually work.”

Palermo’s team starts these engagements off with a meeting of the various stakeholders and people in charge — e.g., city officials, property managers, community leaders and residents. “The more leaders we can get involved, the better, because then everyone shares a common set of expectations and works toward the same goal,” he says. Local pest management professionals also work hand-in-hand with various health departments throughout the Boston area to educate restaurants and businesses that aren’t managing trash or other conducive conditions properly.

“We make sure our technicians are well-versed in public health protocols as it relates to pest management,” Palermo says. “We’re always incorporating new programs like the NPMA QualityPro Public Health Certification into our ongoing training. We recognize the importance of maintaining a high level of knowledge and expertise while utilizing the latest information and technology available.”

RODENT CLEAN-UP SERVICES: WORTH THE INVESTMENT?

Exclusion and rodent-proofing services are part of the standard rodent protocol for many pest management companies. But PMPs often draw the line at hazardous cleanup. In part, that’s because it requires an investment in equipment and insurance. What can be most cost-prohibitive, though, says Vic Palermo, president and entomologist at Ultra Safe Pest Management, is the time a cleanup crew needs to sink into the effort.

“This kind of remediation is extremely labor-intensive, plus it’s not the most pleasant kind of work,” he says. “We offer technicians incentives to make it worthwhile for them, but they really have to put extra effort into it, from training to the actual experience of prepping and cleaning the area. We don’t offer this to customers as a mainstream service, but some circumstances require us to go this extra mile.”

Here’s what Palermo has invested to equip Ultra Safe staff for cleanups:

  • Training to educate technicians about protecting themselves and decontaminating areas without causing cross-contamination.
  • Specialized insurance policies to cover technicians faced with the unique hazards associated with this type of work.
  • Large HEPA vacuums (smaller, portable vacs often aren’t enough).
  • PPE including full-body protective suits and full-face respirators.
  • Air cleaning machines and scrubbers to filter dust particles and recycle the air.
  • Disinfectants

Additionally, Palermo has worked to build relationships with disposal companies to ensure his team has options for dumping waste materials. “The key to making a profit on cleanup is having the right equipment, staff and training, and setting clear expectations with the customer of our capabilities and what’s required to complete the job,” he says. “If they see the value, then we take the job.”

NEW YORK CITY

Tom Sieminski didn’t become “PMP to the stars” by getting mediocre results. His high-profile clients in the five boroughs of New York, as well as the Hamptons and New Jersey, have the utmost confidence in his long-term rodent control strategies, carefully honed since he opened Team Pest Control in 1991. In addition to these celebrity homes and oceanfront properties, Team Pest Control services government and business buildings, restaurants, and multi-million-dollar apartment and condo complexes — many in the heart of the city.

“The growing human population drives growing rodent populations, because there’s more food, garbage and harborage,” says Sieminski, who reports that 30 percent of his business is rodent “In some of the condos we service, the garbage is out of control. Residents dump their trash down a chute, where a compactor bags it, and then it’s stored until it goes out to the curb. So we have three hot spots for rats — the compactor room, the storage room and the curb.”

Adding to this particular challenge is the fact that Sieminski has to do his work “secretly,” because residents don’t want to be aware of potential rodent activity. So while he goes all-out with bait stations, tracking powder, glueboards and snap traps in the compactor room, where no one visits, he carefully hides bait stations in the curb area, inside the 4×4-foot square patches of soil where trees are planted. He baits in the storage room as well, but says that’s a tough spot: “The rodents aren’t too interested in the baits because they want what’s in the bags,” he says. Restaurants in the city pose an interesting challenge as well. “The back of the house tends to be an afterthought to a lot of operators; as long as they don’t have a front-of-the-house problem, they don’t want to hear about the need for sanitation in the back,” Sieminski says. “We’ll go in at midnight after they close and put out glue boards in a gigantic ‘X’ or ‘T’ in the kitchen and dining room, and then send technicians in at 5 a.m. to clear them out before the restaurant reopens. We do this night after night until we get to zero, but the issue inevitably starts up again because, no matter how many times we try to communicate the vital importance of kitchen sanitation, operators just don’t prioritize it.” Sieminski also has experience with tiny “ghost kitchens” located away from their parent restaurants. Teams come in at night to power wash the floors, walls and stainless steel equipment in these production facilities, he explains; unfortunately, rodent control devices can get washed away in the process. “I’ve learned to collaborate with these cleaning crews so we’re placing the glueboards after they’ve finished sanitizing.” “There’s no other restaurant culture in the world like New York,” he adds. “This city is its own animal.”

ABOUT THIS SURVEY

The PCT 2019 State of the Rodent Market survey was
sponsored by Bell Laboratories and compiled by Readex Research, a privately held research firm based in Stillwater, Minn. A sample of 8,713 owners, operators, executives and technical directors of pest control businesses was systematically selected from the PCT database. Data was collected from 459 respondents — a 5 percent response rate — via an online survey from July 30-Aug. 8, 2019.

To best represent the audience of interest, 20 respondents who indicated their companies do not offer rodent control services were eliminated from the survey. The margin of error for percentages based on the 439 respondents who indicated their company location offers rodent control services is ±4.6 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level. Charts
may not equal 100 percent due to rounding.

Behind The Scenes Look At Ultra Safe Pest HQ

Ultra Safe Pest HQ
Ultra Safe Pest Management HQ – North Andover Ma

Providing customers with ‘best in class service’ starts behind the scenes. Companies that offer a truly great customer experience, start by providing the people working hard everyday, a ‘Best In Class Work Environment’ and all the tools they need to succeed.

Behind every great company is a great staff, great materials and equipment, and most of all, a high-quality work culture. Ultra Safe Pest Management is a Boston based pest control company that takes a quality first approach in every aspect of the business.

 

Professionally Discreet Fleet!

Maintaining a fresh fleet of vehicles is a benefit to both staff and customers. Ultra Safe service vehicles are equipped with the latest equipment options to maximize driver safety and comfort. Advanced safety features include custom ventilation systems that keep drivers safe from chemical fumes and spill resistant floors that insure any leak is contained and wont end up in the environment or as a stain on a customers driveway.

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Best In Class Pest Control Facilities

Modern offices with advanced technologies, quality furniture and amazing views, are a few of the ways Ultra Safe shows staff that it cares. Customers rarely see these spaces, but happy comfortable employees are more productive and provide better customer service.

A Well Taken Care Of Staff!

Onboarding staff are often amazed, even overwhelmed at times at the way Ultra Safe values and rewards it’s amazing staff.  Best in class benefits like low cost, top tier health and dental plans, free life insurance, free short-term disability, 401k plans with a 5% company match, and performance/incentive bonuses are just some of the benefits offered here.

In addition to these core benefits, Ultra Safe Staff Members are rewarded with perks that are rarely seen in the Pest Control Industry. Extremely flexible and weekend-optional work schedules, company Bruins Tickets and paid getaways to world-class professional training events and conferences around the country, provide staff access to advanced training in a more social, team bonding type of environment. 

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Go B’s! Ultra Safe employees experience Bruins games in the company’s premium club seats. The new Garden Society Club offers our staff an exclusive experience. Last year, some of the top-performers got to enjoy Stanley Cup Playoff action including that heartbreaking game 7!

The Payoff!

This type of work environment has paid off ten-fold in the way our staff services our customers. There is nothing more rewarding than getting thank you messages from both staff and customers alike, thanking you for a truly great experience.

Ultra Safe Rat Exterminators Featured In Boston Magazine

Boston’s Rats Are in Charge. We Just Live Here.

They nest in our homes. They feed on our garbage. They breed faster than rabbits and can clear out a restaurant like a four-alarm fire. Boston Rat Exterminators battle a growing problem!

Rats

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Boston Rat Exterminators

It’s approaching midnight on a blustery Friday in late fall, and Boston Common is nearly silent. The golden dome of the State House gleams in the moonlight as the nabobs of Beacon Hill doze in their multimillion-dollar homes. Nearby restaurant workers are lugging heaps of trash into alleyways. And me? I’m in hot pursuit of a burly brown rodent that’s hauling ass through the park.

In the beam of my flashlight, the rat looks to be as long as a grown man’s slipper and as agile as a sports car. It veers left across a paved walkway before scampering under a bench and then hugging a stone curb in an all-out sprint. As the little guy nears an ailing oak tree, three more rats dart out from the shadows, and together they vanish, like magic, into the gnarled roots.

Rats! “Rulers Of The Night”

On any given night, thousands of rats are running wild through Greater Boston, gnawing their way into historical brownstones, defecating in popular eateries, and having ungodly amounts of sex in our public parks. Every time you walk through the Common, for instance, you’re stepping on top of a hidden world, complete with pecking orders, partnerships, and rivalries—just like us. Unlike people, though, rats use pheromones in their feces and urine to identify one another and communicate, and they smell each others’ breath to know which food is safe to eat and which isn’t. They decorate their nests with candy wrappers, memorize shortcuts to zip around the park unnoticed, and fortify escape tunnels for when exterminators come calling. It may sound whimsical, like something out of Ratatouille, but believe me—it’s not.

For centuries, Boston has been waging war against these vermin. In recent years, though, it appears that the rats have gone on the offensive, growing their ranks at an unsettling rate. In 2016, the city’s Inspectional Services Department logged more than 3,500 rodent-related complaints—a nearly 30 percent increase over the previous two years. Then a Jamaica Plain restaurant made headlines when one of its workers came down with a case of leptospirosis, a potentially fatal infection usually caused by exposure to rat urine (a disease rarely seen in so-called first-world countries). But the most shocking news—and what sparked my curiosity to check out the Common in the first place—arrived this past summer when Governingmagazine dropped a bombshell report showing that Boston had officially surpassed New York City in the number of in-home rat sightings, putting us in second place nationwide for this dubious distinction, trailing only Philadelphia. Culled from U.S. Census data, the findings revealed that about one in six Boston homes had disclosed close encounters with the rodent kind.

When I mention the study to a friend who lived on a particularly ratty street in Brooklyn before moving to Boston, he’s hardly taken aback. He currently lives across from the Public Garden and tells me that stepping outside for a nightly cigarette often leads to a stare-down with our furry fauna. “Boston rats are way more brazen than any New York City rats I’ve ever known,” he tells me. “Twice I’ve actually run away from them. Twice!”

Nor does news of the city’s rat problem surprise Bobby Corrigan, an internationally recognized expert with a PhD in urban rodentology who consulted on rodent-control programs for the Big Dig. Corrigan has studied infestations around the world and says old port cities like Boston have some of the worst. The nest I found near the retaining wall, he explains, is probably home to a family of 10 or so rats. That family is part of a colony, which can have between 60 and 100 members. In an area the size of the Common, Corrigan estimates that there are likely four distinct colonies. Like the Hells Angels and the Pagans, these colonies engage in turf wars, clashing over resources. “They’re very aggressive toward one another,” Corrigan says. “And as that park becomes too crowded, the rats of Boston Common become the rats of Beacon Hill.”

It’s easy to dismiss rats as just another cost of city living, but make no mistake

They’re shockingly destructive pests, teeming with harmful, disease-spreading bacteria and, according to one study, inflicting $19 billion worth of damage across the U.S. each year. Their relentless burrowing can erode a building’s foundation; their urine spoils tons of food each year; and their front teeth are like diamonds, strong enough to gnaw through wood, brick, and cement—not to mention live electrical wires, which can spark costly fires.

In response, Boston has ramped up its extermination efforts, while Cambridge and Somerville have formed special rodent task forces. City employees and private exterminators regularly hit the streets before dawn with buckets of poison, bait boxes, and snap traps. Though these tried-and-true methods may be effective, none is foolproof—and attempts to build a better rat trap have faced unexpected setbacks. One of Boston’s most recent experiments—which involved using dry ice to suffocate the little buggers—proved highly successful before the Environmental Protection Agency shut the program down.

While Boston is no stranger to rats, suddenly it seems like the little critters are staging the greatest comeback of their career. Many suggest that the development boom—with its endless groundbreakings, jackhammering, and excavations—has unleashed a biblical swarm of rodents and driven them toward the light. Others pin it on the mild winter of 2017. Or perhaps, as city officials insist, the uptick in sightings is merely the result of better reporting and data collection. The bigger question, though, is can anything be done to stop them? Because at this point, the only thing that seems certain is that as Boston keeps growing, so will its rat problem.

Talking About Rats

When it comes to talking about rats, combat metaphors often abound. And as anyone who understands the principles of war can tell you, rule number one is to know thy enemy.

In this case, that’s Rattus norvegicus, known better as the Norway rat or brown rat. At first glance, it is an entirely underwhelming animal: A typical adult measures up to 15 inches from snout to tail and weighs about a pound and a half, and these rodents live only about a year in an urban environment. Otherwise, though, it’s arguably Mother Nature’s most successful beast.

Behavior Of Norway Rats In Boston

Rats spend most of their life scurrying through the streets in search of water and food; an adult can consume as much as one-third of its body weight in a single day. Because they need to eat so much, they can’t afford to be picky and will feast on roaches, doughnut crumbs, week-old Chinese takeout—anything they can get their tiny mitts on. Rats are also highly intelligent, able to master puzzles, run through mazes, and express empathy to fellow rats—all reasons why scientists often use them in psychological experiments to learn about humans. Believe it or not, rats are exceedingly clean, keeping their nests tidy and fastidiously grooming themselves like cats. They’re also super-breeders.

Over the course of their short lives, male rats will hump just about anything in sight, including other males and dead rats, in hopes of procreating. But it’s the female rats that have among the most remarkable reproductive capabilities in the animal kingdom. After reaching sexual maturity a few months into life, their gestation period is only 21 to 24 days, and they can have up to a dozen pups in a single litter. Then, within 24 hours of giving birth, a female rat can ovulate, have intercourse, and become pregnant again. In other words: In a single night, two amorous rats can single-handedly trigger a domino effect that will spawn generation upon generation of offspring in a matter of months. “If everything is perfect, if you do the math, exponentially you can get up to 15,000 descendants in one year,” says Brandy Pyzyna, vice president of scientific operations for the pest control company SenesTech. “That’s why infestations can rebound so quickly.”

The brown rat’s origin story begins somewhere near Mongolia about 2 million years ago, long before the dawn of human history. Once Homo sapiens entered the picture, wherever people went, rats followed—eating their debris and garbage along the way. They trailed nomadic shepherds on the Grain Road through Central Asia and followed the merchants of the Silk Road west toward Europe. They even hitched a ride to the New World as stowaways on ships carrying early European immigrants.

History Of Rats In The US

The first reports of brown rats in the American colonies date to 1775, and the animals quickly became regular residents in filthy, crowded industrial centers such as Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. They weren’t the first rat species on the scene, however: Rattus rattus, the smaller black rat—historically loathed as a transmitter of bubonic plague—had arrived more than a century earlier. But the larger and more-aggressive brown rat, better suited for cold winters, easily bullied the black rat out of town and before long claimed the Northeast as its own.

Rats Living Underneath Boston

Beneath Boston today is a veritable graveyard of colonial-era rats, says city archaeologist Joe Bagley, who’s found evidence of rat tunnels on Paul Revere’s property and once even unearthed the skeleton of a rat in the North End that died next to a 19th-century Catholic Miraculous Medal. Nothing, however, can compare with the grisly discovery Bagley’s team made in a garden at the Old North Church in August 2016. They were digging six feet below ground near a cistern when the first rat skull surfaced, followed in quick succession by a second, a third, and a fourth. “We couldn’t quite figure out what was going on,” says Liz Quinlan, a zooarchaeologist who was on site that day. “We were essentially pulling out buckets of rats.” By the end of the project, they had removed 747 rat bones (“which is insane,” she assures me). While Quinlan suspects that the rats drowned in the latter half of the 19th century, she can’t yet say if they all perished at the same time.

Until the late 1800s, the most sophisticated way to kill rats was to set dogs on them. By the turn of the century, however, Americans had finally started using technology to get serious about extermination. As cities grew, so did rat populations, and pest control emerged as a social justice and public health issue. The opening salvo came in 1894, when the U.S. government issued the first patent for a spring-loaded trap. While a welcome addition to any Victorian exterminator’s arsenal, the design had one glaring flaw: Each trap could kill only a single rat.

Soon, Bostonians began taking matters into their own hands. In 1917, the Boston Women’s Municipal League, for instance, sponsored a derby-style competition, dubbed “Rat Day,” in which participants earned cash in exchange for dead rodents. The winner, a Mr. Rymkus of Brighton, slaughtered a remarkable 282 rats (and earned $150 in prize money, the equivalent of $3,100 today).

It wasn’t long until poisons entered the picture, and in the 1940s scientists discovered that warfarin (which today is best known as the heart medication Coumadin) was great at killing rats by thinning their blood to the point where they essentially drowned. Today, these anticoagulant poisons remain a popular choice for pest control, along with neurotoxins and other deadly chemical compounds. Yet in the fight against vermin, Boston is still trying to make a dent. Yes, the problem is less visible than a hundred years ago, but that doesn’t mean we’ve solved it. Not only are the rats still here—they’re flourishing.

Here’s what the modern war on rats looks like from the front lines with Boston Rat Exterminators

It’s a few minutes past 8 a.m. on a cold Wednesday in November, and Jeff Kilian is pulling on a pair of black latex gloves outside of a Brighton gas station. Before heading inside, he grabs a paint bucket full of rat poison—it looks like red-speckled chunks of Play-Doh—and begins pointing out signs of rat activity. Once you know what to look for, he says, you see the signs everywhere: black droppings the size and shape of fennel seeds; dark, greasy streaks on the pavement that indicate a favorite path; and plastic trashcans with holes gnawed through the bottom. He steps into the convenience store, slides a black plastic bait box from under the soda cooler, pops it open, and reveals a handful of desiccated rodent carcasses. It’s an olfactory nightmare. Over in a storage room, he pulls out two snap traps, each of which has a furry dead rodent in its clutches, and drops the corpses in a plastic bag. “Think about what my truck smells like at the end of the day,” he says.

Then it’s on to the next assignment. As Kilian, a Boston Rat Exterminator who works for Ultra Safe Pest Management, weaves through Storrow Drive gridlock on his way to South Boston, he politely informs me that “exterminator” is something of “an archaic term.” After all, he’s licensed by the state, takes continuing education courses, and can talk in exquisite detail about the life cycles of bedbugs, Asian long-horned beetles, and, of course, rats.

Rat Exterminator Boston Magazine

Pest-control expert Jeff Kilian of Ultra Safe Pest Managment / Photograph by Jeff Brown

Kilian shows off the arsenal of weapons he uses against rats in alleyways and basements across Boston. / Photograph by Jeff Brown

Jeff Kilian Of Ultra Safe Pest Management

Thirty-seven years old, with hazel eyes and a goatee, Kilian didn’t grow up dreaming of a life in pest control. He was born in South Boston, worked construction with his father as a young man, and took odd jobs along the way. Then, about 15 years ago, he came across a help-wanted notice in the classifieds. The listing was short on details, but said applicants should be comfortable with heavy lifting and digging. “That’s me all day,” Kilian thought. He called the number, only to find out it was a pest-control company. A few days later, he had a phone, a truck full of poison, and a list of needy clients.

At first, Kilian says he suffered a crisis of conscience. Killing creatures all day long took its toll. Rats began polluting his dreams. For a while, he couldn’t walk into a restaurant without scanning it for telltale signs of infestations. Today, though, having spent most of his adult life in the trenches of urban-animal warfare, he’s got the thousand-yard stare to match.

As far as rat stories go, Kilian’s can hang with the best of them. Some of his most harrowing moments have come after getting a call from a fancy restaurant. He claims he’s caught a 5-pound rat at an eatery on Beacon Hill and seen a whopping 7-pounder in the sewers beneath a Back Bay dining room. But the craziest thing he says he’s ever seen? That occurred in the early 2000s along the seawall that separates the North End from Boston Harbor. Hundreds of rats had set up shop and were constantly raiding nearby restaurants, chewing through the floors and walls. One day, as Kilian was making the rounds by the waterfront, he glanced over and saw a swarm of rats overtaking a seagull. “It was eaten alive,” he says, matter-of-factly. “I saw it get devoured.”

After battling traffic for another 20 minutes, we finally arrive at the next job: a massive industrial brick building in South Boston. Kilian is no stranger to this address. “I’ve killed so many rats here, it’s ridiculous,” he says. Before going inside, he leads me over to an alleyway near the loading docks and starts stomping on the muddy gravel, the best way to find his quarry. Sure enough, his construction boot sinks through the ground and he’s ankle-deep in a rat burrow. Properly rat-proofing a business is akin to a small-scale construction project, requiring concrete work and retrofitted doorways with stainless steel sweeps. Oftentimes, though, getting commercial property owners to commit to that type of work is difficult, if not impossible.

Kilian’s client, who works below the ground floor, is in the food-services industry. He understandably doesn’t want to be identified, but he keeps a vigilant line of defense against rats, fearful that a smattering of turds could compel a health inspector to shut down his businesses indefinitely. Yet no matter what he does, he feels as though countless forces are working against him. The landlord, he says, is responsible for repairing the loading dock and patching the building’s foundation but hasn’t done it. Meanwhile, he tells me, the tech company upstairs has no rodent control in place, as evidenced by the rat that ran across its floors earlier this morning.

Ultra Safe Rodent Expert

Photograph by Jeff Brown

When Kilian finishes his inspection, his client, visibly flustered, tells him to go ahead and schedule the necessary concrete work to rat-proof the business, and to take care of it as soon as possible. He’d rather pay out of pocket and hound the landlord for reimbursement than risk a rat breaching his perimeter. As he walks us out the front door, he points to a sprawling construction site directly across the street. It’s a common scene in the city these days: a former industrial site being razed to make room for a new plot of luxury condos. Kilian’s client insists that ever since the bulldozers arrived, the rat problem around his building has gotten worse. “Someone should drop a dime on them,” he says with a smile.

As we pile back into the truck, Kilian begins chatting and says he’s going to stop at the nearest Dunkin’, but it’s all I can do to keep my mind off the stench of dead rodents emanating from inside.

After saying goodbye to Kilian, I couldn’t stop thinking about what his client had said: that construction was stirring up the rats. Over the course of reporting this story, I repeatedly heard that the city’s current building boom is fueling the rat problem. The argument goes that ripping up the streets to make way for our tony new high-rises in the Back Bay, the Fenway, and the Seaport is surely displacing rat colonies and forcing rodents above ground.

It sounds logical—yet William “Buddy” Christopher, commissioner of the city’s Inspectional Services Department, says it’s simply not the case. “We don’t see anything that’s tracking along those lines,” he tells me. “The Seaport is probably the area with the most big-building development, and we don’t see a drastic increase of rat populations over there.”

Corrigan, the rat expert, agrees and notes that construction has long been a scapegoat for cities’ rat problems. “There’s this urban myth that construction causes rats,” he says. That doesn’t mean, though, that rodents aren’t attracted to construction sites. After all, the plethora of debris and building materials provides ample shelter, while construction workers and their lunches produce plenty of garbage for vermin to eat. But Corrigan insists that jackhammering isn’t going to trigger a rat-pocalypse—especially in Boston, thanks to our stringent regulations for new buildings.

In order to begin construction here, builders and developers have to put together a rodent mitigation plan before a shovel ever hits the ground. Also required are monthly reports once construction gets under way, followed by a post-construction report when the project is finished. It’s a policy with roots in the Big Dig, when residents and city officials feared extensive tunneling was going to unleash a rat tsunami. To ease anxieties, city officials developed a systematic strategy that pinpointed where the rats were and attacked them well before construction began. While it might sound like common sense, the idea turned out to be revolutionary, and Boston’s approach has since been heralded, according to one report, as the world’s first “comprehensive and centrally coordinated rodent control program” linked to a major construction project and has served as a model for cities around the word.

So if the construction boom isn’t fueling Boston’s rat problem, what is? Christopher, of Inspectional Services, doesn’t deny there are rat troubles, but he insists that the soaring number of complaints is misleading. The city’s 311 system, which launched in 2015, makes it so easy to report rats, he claims, that it’s not uncommon to get multiple complaints for one location. Before 311 launched, reporting a rat was a cumbersome process, Christopher says. Now, residents can do it from their smartphones within seconds of spotting a scaly tail.

That’s not to say Boston is idly twiddling its thumbs. Every day, teams of pest-control experts hit the streets to bait sewer lines, patrol public alleyways, and follow up on reports. Some nearby cities are pushing the war on rats into uncharted territories. For instance, Somerville recently worked with the company SenesTech to test a new poison that not only kills rats, but also makes it harder for them to reproduce. While the cutting-edge chemicals—which are associated with infertility—proved mostly effective, Somerville has not committed to the approach. After all, as Boston city officials recently learned, deploying new weapons against rats isn’t always easy, and there are rules of engagement.

Dry Ice For Rodent Control

In 2016, Boston Inspectional Services teamed up with researchers at Harvard and MIT and began packing large rat nests with dry ice, which evaporates into carbon dioxide and suffocates the animals. The city tested the method on infestations in overgrown cemeteries and even used it on a massive burrow in the Public Garden. “It was amazingly effective,” Christopher says. “Probably the most humane way to deal with rodents.” But then the federal EPA got wind of what was going on and told the city it was not allowed to use dry ice because it was not an officially registered pesticide. Since then the necessary agencies have been working together to remedy the problem, but it’s a complex process that includes the EPA, the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, and the city. While the agencies wade through a sea of red tape, an untold number of rats have surely spawned in these same areas.

Ultimately, though, controlling rats isn’t really about coming up with new ways to kill them. It’s about effectively managing the endless stream of trash that flows from our homes and businesses, along with making it difficult for the animals to find warm, safe places to nest. It means that residents shouldn’t dump garbage on the sidewalk and that parks departments should know which type of ground cover is hospitable to rats and which isn’t. It means that restaurant owners should seal up their dumpsters every night and that landlords should quickly call an exterminator when a tenant complains. Needless to say, these are lofty ambitions for a city where neighbors get in fistfights over parking spaces and absentee landlords abound. Even if we do everything right, the simple fact is that rats are here to stay—and they are poised to spread farther and farther into the suburbs. “Rats follow rail lines and sewer lines,” Corrigan says. “They follow sprawl.”

We’re already seeing that scenario play out: This past fall, the sleepy bedroom community of Belmont was shocked when town officials closed a popular playground due to a rat infestation. Naturally, I had to check it out. When I arrived, the quaint little park—which sits next to an elementary school—was pitch-black and eerily quiet. The slides, swings, and jungle gym, which the rats had burrowed under, were cordoned off behind a makeshift wooden fence on which hung a metal sign that read, “Park Closed for Maintenance.” I scanned the ground with my flashlight, but apparently the rats had already packed up and moved along.

After wandering around for several minutes, I bumped into John Analetto, who has lived across from the park for decades. In all that time, he says he’s never once seen a rat—not on his property or in the playground. He found the news of the infestation deeply upsetting. It’s an incredible park, he says, and there’s nothing he loves more than the sound of parents and children playing in it. “Nobody likes a rat,” he tells me before heading back to his house. “The only good rat is a dead rat.”

Ultra Safe Problem Animal Control Agents Achieve NWCOA Bat Standards Certifications!

Ultra Safe Certified Bat Removal Experts

NWCOA Bat Standards Certified Professionals have undergone advanced training to become Bat Removal Specialists.  The training discusses advanced bat behavior, population dynamics, latest Bat Exclusion methods, materials and more. The two most recent Bat Removal Experts to become certified, brought the total Certified Bat Removal Professionals at Ultra Safe Pest Management to seven! Ultra Safe Pest has become a leading Bat Removal Company here in Massachusetts.