My name is Michael.

Before training to become a pest controller my experience as a dog handler and breeder brought me into contact with pest control professionals dealing with rodents on my breeding premises. I was astounded at the amount that would be required to keep them under control myself.

I then looked into becoming a pest control technician, researched courses and booked myself onto one. I trained for 3 months on the theory and taking exams, then once completed I sent off my cv to all the local pest control companies.

AMES gave me the opportunity to put my theory into practice.  I had the knowledge but the practical side to it is just as important and more fun. I started in July 2013 as a novice on wasps. I was trained up for a number of days, was given my brand new equipment and brand new work’s vehicle, waited for my phone to ring and I away was.

The phone never stopped ringing. Job after job came through and I had never thought that I would be so busy. I was undertaking 10-15 wasp jobs a day. The first few jobs were a little nerve-wracking and I must admit I was worried about making a mistake but enthusiasm took over and soon got the hang of it.

After a few day’s I was full of confidence and I notched up about 30 wasp nests in 2-3 days. I felt like I had been in the job for years and was picking up new tips from colleagues all the time.

Even though I was predominantly on wasp jobs every treatment is different. You can be travelling to commercial or domestic properties, front or back, high or low, large roof tops or low confined spaces.

The Species

Even though wasps and bees may look similar they are different in a number of ways. They both have different behaviour, different characteristics and their habits vary. The wasps and bees follow a complete life cycle. These have four stages to a life cycle.

EGG — LARVAE — PUPAE — ADULT

The queen lays eggs in the hexagonal cells. She can lay 1000’s of eggs. Workers feed the larvae which are legless grubs in their cells and they take about 4 weeks to develop. The pupae develops within the cells and this process takes about 2 weeks to develop, they then become adults / workers.

A wasp is on average 10-20 mm long and is black and yellow. The nest is started from new every season by the hibernating queen and is built up quickly by the workers that are produced. The nest is made of a paper substance which is made up of chewed wood and saliva. Wasp colonies only survive 1 season.

Wasps are capable of multiple stings. The queen hibernates over the winter months if they haven’t been treated by a pest control technician already. They then hibernate until mid-spring onwards when the weather starts warming up. The queen starts a new nest from scratch each year, and an old nest is never re-used. She will lay eggs in the hexagon cells and start the cycle again. Wasps are feared by many for their ability to sting. A wasp can sting multiple times and although fatal reactions are rare, they can happen.

Wasps are beneficial to kill other garden insect/pests. They create nest’s made from chewed wood mixed with saliva. They are mostly found in lofts, roof spaces and cavities, normally in domestic houses. When the cooler weather begins wasps become sluggish and become a pest – looking for sugary food and become more aggressive and sting more randomly. They eat fermented fruits and become “tipsy/drunk” before the cold weather will eventually kill them off.

A bee is on average 12-15mm long and although they can look similar to a wasp, a bee is black with a duller colour of orange/brown. Whereas wasps only survive 1 season, bees can survive several seasons helped by feeding on honey over the winter months.

A bee is important to us as they are pollinators and also produce honey and wax.

Bees, unlike wasps, tend to swarm together and form clusters. They are usually found on trees and shrubs. Male bees cannot sting, only the females do. Once a bee has released its sting it will die and as a result a bee tends to only sting if it feels threatened.

Even though we treat wasps nests regularly as these are a real nuisance if we can help it we treat bees only as a last resort and after all other avenues have been considered.

Treatment

Treatment should always be carried out by a professional as self-treatment can be very dangerous. Full protective clothing should always be worn. Some people may watch an online video and think it is easy to treat a nest themselves but many regret it later.

A Wasp omits a distress odour and you can be under attack very quick by a large number of wasp’s . Always seek professional help.

Treatments are usually in a dust formulation. We treat the entrance to the nest as we need to kill the queen inside to have effective results and this is done by treating the entrance. Workers take the powder into the nest and contaminate the inside.

If a nest can be treated from the loft a careful incision into the centre of the nest is highly affective. Pest controllers are trained to be aware of their surroundings as a mistake can put them in a potentially dangerous situation. They are also trained on the importance of remaining calm.

We must give a 6 week cycle for the dust to fully take control of the nest as the workers and queen may die within a couple of days but the eggs which have been laid prior to this still need to hatch and then come into contact with the dust to kill these new wasps off.

We can also use a rapid knockdown spray which has an immediate effect. This has an affect on the nervous system. This helps in a few situations pest controllers come across where nests have not been found but wasps flying around a particular area have been spotted. These can be treated in mid air. This is useful for spraying an active nest with wasps on the outside and can be used to dampen the nest, with it sometimes even being removed shortly afterwards.

Wasp traps have been hugely popular and successful this year. It helps the customers without actually having to do very much. The customer can be hesitant as they initially fear that it won’t work but when put into practice they are amazed at the ease and speed of the traps effectiveness. They can allow hundreds of wasps to be caught daily whilst the dust you have used takes effect on the nest.

Health and Safety

When treating a wasp nest they sometimes occur in the hardest to reach places. Working off a ladder is essential sometimes but can also pose a risk. You must be mindful that 3 points of contact are essential.

Naturally customers want a pest controller to be in full control. If a pest controller is flapping around and scared this will transfer to the customer and effects the integrity of our profession. Extendable poles can make a situation easier. These are a very safe way of treating high wasps nest from a safe distance.

Chain of Events

  • Advertising or word of mouth
  • Phone call to our customer service team from a new customer
  • Office team send job to technician
  • Technician attends the property
  • Technician investigates the problem and treats wasp nest accordingly with the correct equipment and wearing appropriate protective clothing.  Conducting themselves professionally at all times.
  • Customer pays whilst they are given a fact sheet.
  • Customer is asked if they have any other questions and technician checks that they are happy with the service.
  • Job is finished

From novice to expert

As I mentioned before, this was my first ever role in pest control and working with wasps in particular. In my first four months I estimate that I treated approximately 1000 nests between my start date and the end of the season, maybe more.

The first one is always the hardest. I found a way that best suited me and I always had a second opinion waiting on the other end of the phone, either from another technician, Russell the manager or Alan the boss. Everybody is ready to give you information if you need it.

It isn’t wrong sometimes to need help, advice or a second opinion as we have all been there, but ultimately you have to find a way that suits you whilst working within professional guidelines. Back in July 2013 I was a novice……..

BUT NOW I’M AN EXPERT.