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If It Crawls or Flies, It’s Probably Bad for Business | JP McHale
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If It Crawls or Flies, It’s Probably Bad for Business

A Primer on How to Detect and Control Bed Bugs, Roaches and Flies

As the old saying goes, no publicity is bad publicity. But if you’re a hotelier, restaurateur, food retailer or manage just about any kind of facility meant for human inhabitants, the converse is the reality when it comes to issues around pest control. There is zero chance that a publicized pest control issue is going to be good for your business.

Unfortunately, there is no surefire way to completely avoid pest infestation issues, especially in dense urban environments like New York City. According to a 2015 study by the (Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr)), 90 percent of all U.S. businesses surveyed suffered at least one pest infestation in the past five years. In fact, respondents reported pest infestations occurring on average just under three (2.8) times over that period. This equates to a troublesome one infestation every 20 months.

Like it or not, all businesses have to deal with issues related to pest infestation. And while any one infestation is not likely to be a fatal blow, it can certainly cause a host of problems. These could include issues related to maintenance and repair expense, the need to replace expensive stock due to the contamination of raw materials and ingredients, and even lowered staff morale. And if that infestation becomes public, the implications are even greater.

Three pests that are a primary source of headache for New York City businesses are bed bugs, roaches and flies. Thankfully, these unwelcome guests are fairly easy to detect and treat – and even avert with the right preventative program in place.

This guide is meant as a primer to help facilities managers structure an approach to pest control that can help to avoid potential issues – and reduce the likelihood of infestation and the problems that can result.

“U.S. businesses stated key concerns relating to pest infestation also include the loss of reputation (65 percent) and risk of compensation claims and fines (66 percent).”-Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr), September 2015

How to Spot and Detect Bed Bugs, Roaches and Flies

Bed bugs, roaches and flies…oh my. While they might be less deadly than lions, tigers and bears, they can certainly be costly to your business – especially if you don’t spot the issue until it’s too late. Catching the problem on time can be a minor inconvenience. Being too late could result in publicity issues which can be especially damarging if you’re in the hospitality sector of restaurants, hotels or retail food – and even worse if you’re a well known business and a perfect story for the 6:00 news.

To help you get a jump on the enemy and find them before they find you, lets review each of these pests as follows:

1. What do they look like?

2. Signs / How you can find them.

3. Reasons why they might be present.

4. Prevention Techniques

“U.S. businesses incurred an increase of $6.8 billion in their operating costs in 2014 as a direct result of pest infestations on business premises, and a loss of revenue of $13.2 billion.”-Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr), September 2015

Bed Bugs

Bed bugs have become a serious nuisance and earned a ton of publicity over the past decade. They spread easily due to their “hitchhiker” tendencies – and move place to place using clothes, bags, shoes, etc. With rising urban density, increased international travel and their growing resistance to certain pesticides, bed bugs’ problems are not going away anytime soon. In particular, they’ve been a nightmare to the hotel industry.

What do they look like?

Bed bugs are reddish brown with flat, oval shaped bodies. Adults are about the size and shape of an appleseed. They bite too, and because they feed only on blood, are easier to detect after a meal due to their swollen size. Despite their ability to travel, bed bugs do not have wings and cannot fly, hop or jump.

Signs/ How can you find them.

Because they are small, hide in cracks and crevices, and are mostly active at night, bed bugs can also be difficult to spot. They leave skin casings as they grow which can accumulate where there is a serious infestation. Additionally, after they feed, they will return to wherever they are harboring and will defecate, leaving clusters of dark brown or black spots of dried excrement. As blood feeders, bed bugs are usually found in places where people spend their time – particularly places where people sleep like mattresses, box springs, headboards, footboards or any furniture that is near a bed. They can also be found in cracks, crevices and gaps behind electrical outlets, as well as in carpeting (particularly when it’s close to a wall). Because of their smell, specially trained dogs can also be used to find bed bugs in a facility.

“… online reviews can do real damage to a hotel if there is just the slightest hint of bed bug infestation.”-The Atlantic, August 2015

Reasons why they might be present.Bed bugs can come from almost anywhere. As hitchhikers, the chance of an infestation is a constant and may not be related to anything you are or are not doing. As a facilities manager, guests and employees could easily be the source of a bed bug infestation – not your lack of maintenance programs.

Prevention techniques.Unfortunately, there is no surefire way to avoid bed bugs. People may unknowingly carry these pests into your facility at any time, especially in high-traffic urban hubs like New York City and the surrounding area. And once you have them, getting rid of them is no easy task. Early detection is critical and employee training is a crucial step in the early detection process. If you suspect that your facility has a bed bug problem, make sure you remove all clutter from the suspected area to make finding them easier and wash and dry any and all affected linens or fabrics using the hottest temperature permitted.


Cockroaches have been a nuisance in New York City for decades. With attached buildings, a subway system, constant construction, and issues related to things like broken drain pipes, cockroaches thrive in major cities, especially New York and especially during the warmer months. A serious urban pest, they can spread disease, contaminate food, and cause allergies, particularly asthma.

What do they look like?The 2 primary cockroach varieties that can be found in the northeast and New York City are the American cockroach and the German cockroach.

The American cockroach or “waterbug” as they are often called, are the bigger of the two species and can grow to upwards of 3 inches long. They are reddish brown in color and known to be moderate fliers.

The German cockroach can be identified by their light brown or tan coloration – and by two black horizontal stripes located immediately behind their head. Although they have wings, they rarely fly and prefer to run. They are prodigious reproducers – a single female and her offspring can produce up to 30,000 cockroaches in just one year.

Signs/ How can you find them.

Droppings are usually the first sign of infestation and are fairly easy to spot. American cockroaches leave droppings in dark places like basements or behind appliances. These droppings can be mistaken for mouse droppings. Egg cases are dark-red or blackishbrown and are found where you also find their droppings. American cockroaches produce a pheromone to keep their groups together that causes a musty smell.

German cockroaches leave droppings that look like small, dark grains of pepper and can be found on countertops or in drawers. Stains from fecal matter will show as dark spots or smears and will be seen in room corners, along door tops, and anywhere there are cracks. Like American cockroaches, they also leave a “musty” odor if present in large numbers.

Reasons why they might be present.

Cockroaches travel in search of water or food and enter facilities anywhere there are openings in that quest. Accessible garbage or trash are your biggest enemy – and not just food waste. German cockroaches will feed on toothpaste, soap and even bookbindings and are frequently brought into a facility via cardboard containers.

Prevention techniques.You can reduce cockroach issues by removing or securely storing all food, as well as by eliminating unnecessary water sources. Additionally, the three steps below should be done regularly:

Exclusion: seal all cracks and crevices in potential problem areas such as pipe entries, cabinets, cracked tiles or any additional crack or crevice that would allow entry.

Drain Maintenance: all drains should be clean and free of debris and should always have water in the trap. A dry drain allows cockroaches to climb up the pipe and through the drain.

Inspections: periodic walk-throughs of boiler rooms, injector pits and other areas where there is heat and moisture – the perfect cockroach breeding ground.


Flies can be a horrible nuisance to employees and customers. They can inflict painful bites, transmit diseases, contaminate food stock and exposed surfaces, and are just unpleasant to deal with. They’re able to easily spread disease as they quickly move from rotting garbage to exposed human food or utensils. Typical fly varieties in urban areas like New York City include phorid flies (or filth flies), fruit flies and the common house fly.

What do they look like?Phorid flies are small, about ⅛” long and are often mistaken for fruit flies (fruit flies have red eyes, phorid flies do not). Rather than fly away when you swat at them, a phorid fly will initially run along a surface away from you.

House flies, familiar to most people, are typically grey with four black stripes on the thorax and have red eyes.

Fruit flies are a species of the common housefly and are distinguished by their red eyes and small bodies consisting of a tan thorax and black abdomen.

Signs/ How can you find them.Phorid flies are most abundant where there is decaying plant and animal matter, and can be found breeding wherever moisture exists around plumbing and drains in bathroom and kitchen areas, garbage containers and disposals, crawl space areas and basements.

House flies are mostly noticed by the appearance of adult flies, and are typically found around garbage where they lay their eggs.

Fruit flies love drains and garbage too – and are particularly attracted to empty beer and soda bottles or cans, as well as soppy mops and buckets.

Reasons why they might be present.Flies love moisture and garbage. If your facility is not kept consistently dry and clean, you can develop problems with fly infestations. Drains must be kept clean on a routine schedule. You may also have exclusion issues where flies are gaining access through cracks, crevices, and grout lines. As the name implies, fruit fly problems can occur wherever there is ripening or rotting fruit which serves as a food source and a place to lay their eggs.

Prevention techniques.Preventing flies from becoming a problem in the first place is focused on a single core maxim – maintain a dry, clean environment. Flies thrive in moist environments. These tips are your best bet:

  • Mop floors – don’t hose or power wash
  • Use floor fans to more quickly dry floors and prevent moisture
  • Clean trash areas and always use a lid
  • Scrub and clean drains on a routine schedule
  • Avoid bleach – use a soap detergent with an enzyme and odor neutralizer to break down organic matter.

For fruit flies in particular, an enzyme based bio-cleaning solution such as Invade Hot Spot should be used to clean all breeding sources including drains, under appliances, under floor mats, around plants, dumpsters and in cracks and crevices.

When to Call the Professionals

Despite all your efforts, sometimes preventative treatments just aren’t enough. After all, humans have been trying to eradicate pests for thousands of years. And yet they’re still here, constantly adapting – thriving even – to the new environments we keep creating for ourselves and that end up being just great for them too. When you reach the point where it’s time to call in the pros, make sure you work with trained, licensed pest management professionals who can deliver innovative, effective solutions to eradicate existing infestations competently and efficiently and offer services like the following.

Quality Assurance Inspections

In addition to a good preventative maintenance program of your base building – specifically basements, subbasements, boiler rooms, mechanical rooms, and sewers – a professional pest management company can work with your team to inspect and treat other less frequented areas in your facility like plumbing, access pipes and wall voids

Intensive Treatments

A licensed, professional pest management company can provide aggressive treatments focused on the most common areas of pest activity like basements, boilers, injector pits, and sewer pipes. This can also include complete pest elimination, including ultraviolet insect light traps (ILTs) and bioremediation.

Drain Maintenance Programs

Monthly inspections and cleanings are critical to ensuring that drains are clean of debris and always have water sitting in the trap.

If you think your facility has a pest infestation, don’t wait – call professionals who can help make your business healthier, safer, and free of pests.

“Twenty-five percent of those businesses suffering a pest infestation incurred increased maintenance and repair costs, while between 10 percent and 18 percent reported replacement costs due to damaged equipment, materials or finished goods.”– Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr), September 2015