Controlling Cockroaches – The IPM way
Cockroaches are highly adaptable insects; they are omnivorous in their food habits, can go without food and water for long periods of time and can withstand extreme temperatures. They are also prolific breeders given the right conditions. From living on organic debris and similar food, they have adapted to human environments, which have provided them with a perfect habitat: plenty of food, water and shelter, but without predators, who in natural conditions would have kept a check on their population. They contaminate food through microbes transported on their body surfaces and also through their droppings which contain bacteria. They are known transmitters of allergens that cause asthma and also emit an offensive odour which is very evident in heavy infestations.
Lack of hygiene is a big factor together with typically sub-standard work finish and design of storage which provide for undisturbed conditions with plenty of food and numerous hiding places in the form of gaps, cracks and crevices. The fact that food is being handled by humans, always means that there is plenty of food around for cockroaches as well: Spills, waste which is often washed down sinks, and lack of hygiene, almost always lead to one conclusion: cockroach population becomes well established in kitchens and similar food preparation, handling and serving areas, whether in a domestic or commercial situation.
IPM for domestic & restaurant kitchens
The basic philosophy remains the same in both, but the scope and scale of treatment vastly differ comparatively. First, it is important to understand the meaning of the term “Integrated Pest Management”. Why IPM and not just “Pest Control”. Control means the use of chemical or mechanical means to kill or physically remove a target pest from the treated area. Simply put, this would mean using an insecticide to kill all pests or use glue boards to trap and therefore, physically remove all of them from the area, something which is not practical or feasible.
For one, there is no way of knowing exactly how many cockroaches are present; we can only make an estimate of the numbers based on our experience and knowledge of cockroach behaviour, which enables us to see the signs and make this judgement.
Secondly, even if we are able to kill all cockroaches in the area (theoretically), what is preventing more from coming in and taking up residence in this cockroach real-estate heaven? It thus becomes necessary to “devalue” this piece of cockroach real estate by ensuring that all hiding places are discovered: all gaps, cracks and crevices need to be sealed. A regular cleaning and hygiene programme needs to be put in place so that these insect squatters are not able to find undisturbed areas and easy means of food. All this needs to be supplemented and complemented by chemical control measures, which quickly get rid of any chance visitors that might arrive on the spot, whether by hitching a ride on the neighbourhood grocer’s delivery bag or material delivery tempo. Therefore, an IPM programme for cockroach management intends to “manage the population of cockroaches in a particular area through the use of both chemical and non-chemical means, including a regular hygiene and maintenance programme” which is critical for its success.
As mentioned above, an IPM programme for a home kitchen differs in scope and scale of operation from that for a commercial kitchen. For example, a typical home kitchen usually caters to two-three meals a day, whereas a hotel kitchen for a 24-hour coffee shop is a non-stop food churner. Here, the method of implementing a pest management programme would be very different to carrying out treatment in a home kitchen. Right from material and staff ingress to food process requirements – shifts, customer demands, nature of food batches (how many food units and their constituents, for example in a flight kitchen), nature of food products stored, handled or prepared, the hygiene and cleaning programme, surrounding area and its hygiene levels – every little factor is taken into consideration when preparing a suitable IPM programme.
Another important aspect is the adherence to local and international food safety standards and laws, such as Food Safety & Standards Act, Food & Drug Administration, Municipal Health Legislations, HACCP, GMPs, etc., which mandate certain procedures that are to be followed in the facility.
The professional pest manager (PPM) has to have intimate knowledge of not just pest management, but also these legislations and requirements along with the nature of work of the facility itself. Market reputation is a big factor for commercial kitchens. Any regulatory issues and or resulting bad press can have huge negative effects on business. Animal and insects (whole or in part) are included in the list of various possible direct contaminants and can also indirectly contaminate food through transmission of disease causing organisms and also by feeding on and infesting raw materials, finished & packaged food products. Not just cockroaches, but flies, rodents, birds, lizards, all form part of this list.
In addition, the PPM also needs to look out for pantry pests such as moths, beetles and weevils which can play havoc with raw material as well as finished food. Added to this list is regular interaction and education of staff on pest management and its integral part in the food safety programme. In short, the entire package for a commercial kitchen can be condensed into a simpler, less elaborate yet, equally effective treatment programme for a domestic kitchen.
Are domestic kitchens better manageable compared to restaurants?
Logically one would think that a home kitchen is more easily managed compared to a large commercial kitchen. This is usually the case, simply because there are less variables involved – just one decision maker and implementer, smaller area, less demanding work environment and food production scale.
However, an ideal commercial kitchen with good design (to ensure no harbourage for pests) together with a solid food safety, hygiene & pest management programme can be easier to manage compared to home kitchen with very low levels of hygiene, bad design or location and non-cooperative customers. If food and leftovers are constantly being thrown down the sink, garbage cans are not emptied out or cleaned regularly and the kitchen platform and appliances are always dirty, then no amount of treatment or multiple visits are going to the solve the cockroach problem, because a conducive environment is constantly being maintained for cockroaches to thrive in and not the other way around!
Since the operating dynamics of home and commercial kitchens are different, pest management programmes for each are also tailor-made to requirement as mentioned in the earlier paragraphs. A typical contract would be valid for a year – the components of the package, frequency of treatment and supervision also varies accordingly. For homes, a typical contract provides for three-four visits a year, for many commercial kitchens (for example in a hotel) a technician is stationed round the clock as well.
The Hymenoepimecis argyraphaga wasp paralyses a spider for long enough to inject its eggs onto its abdomen. The egg hatches into a larva which then sucks blood from the spider through tiny holes. The spider doesn’t notice and goes on about its daily business, probably wondering why it’s feeling a bit faint in the afternoon. This carries on for the next one to two weeks. When the larva is ready, it injects the spider with a chemical that makes it build a web that’s completely different from any it’s ever designed before. The spider then sits eerily motionless in the centre of its web until the wasp kills it. The wasp sucks the spider dry then builds a cocoon to hang from the special web whereupon it pupates and emerges to mate. Rinse, repeat for maximum evil points.
Fine dining with Ants
There is one particularly talented type of ant that likes its dinner well prepared. To this end the Dalmatie ant will chew the meal of choice into teeny tiny patties and then lay them out on a hot surface so they can bake in the sun.