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Cockroach problem in Prince George 'has exploded,' local pest expert says

"In the last four years it has exploded. It’s like a hockey stick graph and it’s phenomenal the amount of calls I’m getting for roaches.”

You might have heard the make-your-skin-crawl rumours recently of a restaurant infested with cockroaches in Prince George.

What? There’s no cockroaches here, are there?

Absolutely yes, there are cockroaches in Prince George.

They are a carry-in pest so that means they come in from other parts of the world on people’s clothes, in their luggage, or in cargo shipped here.

“Most pests from Timbuktu that get imported to Canada – let’s say in a container on a ship – they die off because it’s not the right humidity, they don’t have the right food source, so once you take them out of their natural habitat they have a low survival rate,” Mike Jaenicke of Central Interior Pest Control said, a man who has been in the pest control business for 35 years.

“Cockroaches have a high survival rate because they are very adaptable so they do quite well in Canada. Years ago I would spray for cockroaches once every two or three years. In the last four years it has exploded. It’s like a hockey stick graph and it’s phenomenal the amount of calls I’m getting for roaches.”

How do you know if you have a cockroach infestation?

“They are a nocturnal pest so when the numbers get larger that’s when you’ll see them,” Jaenicke said. “In the early stages you’re not going to see them. The only way you’ll see them is if you go into your kitchen in the middle of the night and turn on the light and see them scurry away.” 

Bedbugs

Bedbugs started to become a thing in Prince George about a dozen years ago, Jaenicke said.

“Previous to that they weren’t really a common call up here in Prince George,” he added. “But about a dozen years ago I started to get a noticeable increase in calls for bedbugs.”

Wasps

Wasps are becoming an increasing hazard, too.

“We’re not getting the winter kill we used to,” Jaenicke said.

The way a wasp colony works is that as it develops and thrives there are a dozen or more queens are produced, he added.

“They are impregnated queens and they hibernate through the winter and then when they come out in the spring they build what I call golfball nests,” Jaenicke explained. “The queen builds that, lays the eggs and tends to the young until they are full-grown workers and then they abandon that nest and go off and build the one they will use for the season – the one that gets the size of a basketball or bigger.”

What used to happen was the cold during the winter months would kill most of the queens off but now that the winters are more mild there’s a problem and it’s been growing for about 15 years, Jaenicke added.

“About 15-16 years ago in one year I got more calls than I did in the previous 20,” Jaenicke said. “Some summers I’m getting 10 calls a day for wasps. And, of course, people always find them in the most inconvenient places. Wasps really like it underneath concrete stairs because they heat up in the sunshine, so basically they’ve got a solar-heated nest.”

Ants

“Ants are the biggest pest problem we deal with in Prince George,” Jaenicke said.

The worst home-invading ant?

“The cornfield ants – everyone calls them the sugar ants, “ Jaenicke said. “That’s the most common to get in a home because all of their nesting in your yard is found under things. So you can’t fight something that you don’t know is there.”

There are three other species of ant that are common to the area, including odorous black house ant, the carpenter ant and the thatching ant.

“If you ever take a stroll through Moore’s Meadow you’ll see the thatching ants’ huge mound nests and they are very aggressive. They bite and it hurts when they bite – it’s halfway to a bee sting – and they are very common for people on greenbelts,” Jaenicke said.

And then I had to ask. Are there rats in Prince George?

“The only rats I’ve seen in Prince George are people’s pets,” Jaenicke said. Whew.

“And I’ve only seen three of those in my 35 years here. Mice have been a bit of a problem in the last two years.”

A lot of pests have what Jaenicke calls cycle years.

“Those are years where populations peak out much higher than previous years – like earwigs – they’re like that,” Jaenicke said, causing a shiver up my spine. Ew.

“There’s a guy in Fraser Lake that calls me every few years – I don’t know why but Fraser Lake seems to be a hotbed for earwigs – and he called me about every four or five years to spray his house – he told me one year he said ‘you know, Mike, the years I don’t call you I see 10 earwigs a month, the years I call you, I see 10 a day,’ so the numbers can peak out much higher.”

And the most alarming thing he encountered in Prince George?

“I had to hunt for a tarantula once in an apartment building,” Jaenicke said.

And we have a winner.

“I did find it,” Jaenicke said. “I caught it and I actually found someone to take it as a pet.”

His best guess was how it got in the guy’s apartment who was just trying to make his coffee one morning was that it was someone’s new pet and they didn’t know how to confine it properly.

“So it crawled under this fella’s door and he looked over and saw it and he freaked out and I actually met this fella at the building manager’s office because he refused to go back into his unit until it was found. I didn’t blame him!”

Jaenicke kept the spider in an aquarium at his house for about a month before he found a permanent home for it.

“I didn’t dare touch it myself and I came home one day to find my 15-year-old son and his friend sitting there letting it crawl on their faces and arms taking pictures,” Jaenicke said. “So apparently those pink-toed tarantulas are very docile but those turkeys didn’t know that!”

 Advice from the expert

“If you get carpenter ants, don’t try to tackle them on your own,” Jaenicke said. “Don’t fool around with them. They are like termites, they’re house wreckers – you’ll make the problem worse. If you get carpenter ants get a professional in.”

And with roaches and bedbugs?

“Same thing – you’re never going to get rid of cockroaches or bedbugs on their own – you need them properly treated – they’re hard enough for us in the industry to get rid of them. You’ll never get rid of them with over-the-counter products. Here’s an example – if you get cockroaches in a 40-unit apartment building, that’s it they are there for the life of the building. We can get rid of them in houses, six-plexes or even a 12-15 unit apartment building but anything larger than that you’re never going to get rid of them. So as soon as you see your first cockroach, get a service in there as soon as possible.”

Jaenicke has some final warnings.

“Bedbugs and roaches are carry-in pests so they are avoidable,” he said. “To avoid bedbugs, don’t buy used furniture. I wouldn’t touch a used couch if you paid me. And for roaches, be care where you’re getting packages from, be careful about where your houseguests are from because the cockroaches are coming with them in their luggage.”

And for the restaurant that has an infestation of cockroaches in Prince George

“They’re not my clients and I’m thankful because it’s a nightmare to get rid of them,” Jaenicke admitted. “There is such a food source available in a restaurant and cockroaches can eat anything – grease underneath equipment, spillage anywhere – they will go to town in there. They will have a major battle getting rid of them there. But it can be done. And most likely the roach came in on someone’s backpack. Cockroaches are a filthy, filthy insect. I mean, there’s a lot of insects out there that if one of them would walk across my supper plate I wouldn’t care – I’d keep on eating. They’re not dirty. But cockroaches carry viruses and diseases. They’re feces are known to cause asthma in small children. Yeah, they’re disgusting little critters.”

And what creeps out the pest control expert after a long day of dealing with all those critters?

“If I’m laying in bed at night and I feel a little itch I will get up in the middle of the night and tear my bed apart making sure I’m not finding bedbugs,” Jaenicke said.