— This informational article by Jerry Cates (initiating author) and Adette Quintana (editor & contributing biologist) was first published on 30 April 2019, and last revised and expanded on 24 February 2021. Copyright Bugsinthenews Vol. 18:05(01)
This article began, in April of 2019, by describing the tentative improvements EntomoBiotics Inc. was introducing to better serve it commercial and residential clients, with emphasis on prevention and control of the greatest threat to human life and health, commensal rodent infestations.
Great strides have been made since this article was first published. Not only have our methodologies and devices improved, but so have our personnel. Adette Quintana, a biologist with special skills and an undying fondness for mankind’s companion pets, joined EntomoBiotics Inc. in mid-2020, and has been an inspiration to us all.
With each step forward, the content provided here has been revised to reflect the art, as we carry it out, in its present form. There is no better way to portray that than to use examples of real-life examples, so what you will see, below, are the details of how we handled commensal rodent infestations in (1) the scattered attics of a relatively new Texas home, and (2) the retail spaces and employee break rooms of two non-food venues at an established and somewhat aging Texas shopping center anchored by a modern supermarket. We do not identify where these are located, to protect the privacy of residential and commercial home and business owners.
These examples illustrate the intricacies and challenges involved with remedying major pest management challenges. The permanent solutions described here solved the rodent-and-insect-pest-related incursions at each site by placing and regularly servicing the EntomoBiotics Inc. E2M2C™ program.
For many, the two examples we use here may seem trivial, because the harm caused by rats and mice, in particular, is generally underrated. Ordinary people on the street, the world over, have since time immemorial considered rats and mice as no more than minor annoyances. This is reflected in the title of a satirical novel, written over 65 years ago by the Irish American author Leonard Wibberly, whose theme is as fresh today as when it was first penned. Both that title, “The Mouse that Roared,” and the thrust of its story — that the most minuscule nation of humans on earth can rightly be compared to a mouse — receives general acceptance even today, because we tend to think of mice and rats that way: they’re small, rarely seen, and — like all the other diminutive, practically invisible things in life — that makes them seem entirely non-threatening…
Published in the midst of the Cold War, the book was both a comedy and a polemic attack on then-current global politics. As such it touched on the nuclear arms race, nuclear arms in general, and the state of the American political system. Later the same author wrote a prequel, published in the Saturday Evening Post in 1958 entitled “Beware of the Mouse.” This was then followed by three sequels, “The Mouse on the Moon” (1962), “The Mouse on Wall Street” (1969), and “The Mouse that Saved the West” (1981). In each of these satires, a tiny nation is pitted against forces many times more powerful than itself and wins.
In 1959 the novel was made into a film by the same title. It followed the “Ban the Bomb” theme in vogue at the time, and its story began with the smallest country in the world, the fictional Duchy of Grand Fenwick, being forced into bankruptcy. That nation’s sole export — a much-sought-after wine that to that point had made their little country filthy rich — had just lost out to a cheap imitation produced by an American firm.
Starring Peter Sellers (cast in three different roles), the film portrays the fictional Duchy waging a sham war against America. The basic plot, cooked up by the Duchy’s leaders, had the Duchy declare war, whereupon its “army” of 20 or so soldiers, armed with nothing but longbows, booked passage on a tramp steamer to New York and, on arrival, carried out a mock invasion of New York harbor. Before their “invasion” resulted in casualties, however, they were supposed to throw down their arms, accept defeat, and surrender.
The Duchy of Grand Fenwick based its expectations of what would happen next by America’s reputation for treating the once-belligerent nations it had defeated in the past with unfettered compassion. The soon-to-be-vanquished Duchy fully expected its tiny Alpine country to be flooded with millions of dollars in foreign aid. America’s generosity would, they believed, quickly save them from their then-disastrous financial condition.
As the story unfolds, a series of comic errors takes things in a number of unexpected directions. The Grand Fenwick soldiers arrive in the middle of an air-raid drill. Nobody in authority, not even the police, can be found. This gives the fictional Duchy’s curious and naive soldiers temporary run of the city. Things escalate from there, nearly bringing the United States to its knees. This absurd turn of events results from vulnerabilities that lead American authorities to underestimate the power a mouse-like army can wield, particularly when, by accident, it comes into possession of a football-sized bomb (the cause behind the air-raid drill in the first place), one that is capable of destroying an entire continent.
Truth and fiction are never far apart…
Fiction often mirrors reality. In this particular case the analogies are almost too numerous to mention. Wibberly’s mouse-like nation gains free-run over one of the most populous of America’s cities, essentially unseen by its inhabitants, and soon carries with it a threat to life and limb capable of mass destruction. In the process it practically whips the most powerful nation on earth. Throughout human history, mice and rats have — albeit unintentionally — done the very same thing, the world over, time and time again. And still, most tend to think them to be only minor annoyances when we see one in our yards
With rats and mice in today’s America, the most crucial facts you need to know are at least two-fold. First, wild commensal rodents are present in large numbers in practically all American neighborhoods. Yet, though they are all over the place, we are scarcely aware of their presence. Second, because we rarely connect their presence with the maladies they carry and spread, the negative influences they have on our lives is seldom appreciated, even by those who are most affected.
Even most pest control firms treat rodent control as the ugly step-sister of the pest management industry. Because of the way regularly scheduled rodent control is usually carried out, it is a nasty, physically difficult, and thankless job. Most pest control technicians would much prefer to walk around spraying an entire yard with pesticide to squatting down and servicing a single rodent station. Yet, most client locations have a series of rodent stations, not just one, and that only multiplies the nastiness of the work.
Imagine this: most of the rodent bait stations placed around homes and businesses today soon become contaminated with rodent pellets and urine, because rats and mice usually defecate and urinate while feeding. Because rodents are typically infested with mites, ticks and fleas, a few of those parasites get left behind when the rodent departs. They then await the next warm body that comes near so they can resume their infestation once more. The majority of rodent stations also allow moisture to collect inside them, often leading to putrefying, moldy, foul-smelling bait products. In other words, just opening one of these stations exposes the technician to all kinds of nasty stuff, some of which can have a negative impact on the technician’s health. Sanitizing such stations in the field is a practically impossible task, so sanitizing never takes place.
“Fortunately” for the technician, the client rarely has a key to these stations, and few clients even care to know what the stations look like inside. Clients have no reason to question if those stations are contaminated with rodent feces and urine, or if they are provisioned with rodent bait product in a form that rodents are willing to consume. So — in general — the client is almost never the wiser if these stations become virtually useless as rodent control devices. When rats and mice start being seen in the yards, or heard in the attics and walls of homes or businesses that have these stations around them, the typical reaction is “well, that happens…,” followed by a service call to the pest control company servicing the stations, resulting in a special rodent extermination at additional cost that should never have been needed.
Here is a truth many pest control companies don’t want their clients to know: If rodent control is being performed properly, rodents should almost never be seen outside, and should never be present in sufficient numbers that cause them to gain access to a home’s or business’s attics, subfloors, or walls.
That truth is of utmost importance. The risks attending these small, seemingly harmless furry animals are anything but trivial. They pose the gravest risks to humans and our companion pets of all the wild animals, snakes, spiders, and insects we encounter in life.Those risks emanate from the long list of dangerous diseases they carry, both directly in their flesh and blood, and indirectly in the ectoparasites that inhabit their bodies.
It should probably be said, somewhere in this narrative, that rats and mice don’t do us harm out of malice. It isn’t their fault that Mother Nature endowed their furry little bodies with the ability to harbor a long list of pathogen-laden parasites, or that their flesh and blood naturally possess an uncanny ability to carry a long list of dangerous microbes capable of sickening, maiming, and even killing humans and our companion pets.
In fact, because their blood streams have this unusual quality, domesticated versions of wild rats and mice have long been bred for use, in the laboratory, to study the microbes that harm humanity. It is not a stretch to say that the contributions these laboratory animals have made to the advancement of medical science have saved countless lives just in the past century. Still, the death toll from rodent-borne diseases over the past two millennia — which runs into the millions — is so high that, on balance, the lives saved by advances aided by the use of lab rats comes nowhere near the number of human lives their wild relatives have destroyed in the past and are continuing to destroy today.
One thing is certain. In today’s American neighborhoods, wild commensal rodents still pose a greater risk to human health than anything else in our environment. Their propensity, for carrying and transmitting so many zoonotic diseases, explains why their presence in our yards, homes, and businesses is so problematic. Ironically, though, the fact that we usually are unaware of their presence, coupled with the fact that the diseases they carry are propagated by even tinier organisms — bacteria and viruses that cannot be viewed except under the most powerful of microscopes — causes most of us to ignore the risks they pose.
Zoonotic diseases: diseases passed from animals to humans. They are caused by infectious pathogens, carried by non-human animals, that are transmitted by those animals to humans. Transmission may be direct — by biting or other means of close contact — or indirect — via contact with their urine, feces, and/or their ectoparasitic fleas, mites, and ticks.
Only bats carry more zoonotic diseases than rats and mice. Unlike rats and mice, however, bat/human contact is limited. Rat/human and mouse/human contact is so common, by comparison, that the lives of all Americans, today, have likely been touched in a negative way by rats and/or mice, most as recently as within the past 72 hours.
Microbial loading: a measure of the volume of generally pathological microbes (bacteria, viruses, microbial parasites and fungi) present in a product or within certain zones of established ecosystems. The presence of rats and mice in the grounds of a residential home or a business contributes, by the constant shedding of microbes in their urine and fecal pellets, to the microbial loading of those locales in ways few other organisms can. In the process, by allowing populations of these animals to rise and remain high there, human health is put at risk to a degree practically unrivaled by any of the other environmental concerns humans and their pets encounter.
Lessons from the Marshall Islands…
FACT: The most recent research confirms that rats and mice efficiently carry and transmit over 55 pathogens affecting humans and our pets. Eliminating the risks posed by these animals is challenging, partly because they are — at their core — adept at surviving practically everything nature, with the help of their most persistent nemesis, humanity, puts in their way.
That truth is nowhere more poignantly illustrated than in the Marshall Islands. There, over a period of nearly two decades the United States tested most of its nuclear weapons, beginning in the late 1940’s, and continuing through much of the 1960’s. Of all the mammals that were surveyed on the islands affected by those blasts and the high-levels of residual radioactivity they left behind, only rats managed to maintain a near-constant presence.
Eliminating Commensal Rodents Entirely…
It is true that examples can be found of isolated spots on planet Earth where commensal rodents (house mice, Norway rats, and roof rats) have been completely eliminated. For example, the entire province of Alberta, Canada is one of those.
So, too, is Native Island, in Southland, New Zealand.
In both, strenuous efforts were taken to locate and exterminate every rat that could be found. Owing to the presence of natural barriers and climatic conditions that enabled the unique programs devised in each locale to succeed, both have been at least nominally rat-free for some time now. New arrivals of commensal rodents do occur regularly in both places, but rigorous programs remain in place to ensure they are swiftly neutralized.
Little of the North American continent below Canada is amenable to either of the rodent control methods that work in Alberta or at Native Island. While commensal rodent populations can be reduced, eliminating them entirely is beyond our present capabilities. They reproduce prodigiously. A single mating pair, in an environment supplied with ample food and nests, can produce — with the help of their equally fertile offspring — thousands of new rats in a single year. Worse, they do this while remaining largely invisible to their human hosts.
Don’t Underestimate the Dangers that Commensal Rodents Pose…
The dangers commensal rodents pose to us and our pets deserve both our attention and respect. Those dangers are almost impossible to avoid entirely, except in the few locales on our planet where they cannot survive, such as the frigid environments of the arctic and antarctic subcontinents. Even in those rare places like Native Island and Alberta, where authorities claim they’ve been eradicated, they remain rat-free only as long as diligent surveillance and reporting, coupled with fast-working, efficient neutralizing programs, are kept in place and rigorously carried out. Frankly, knowing how well commensal rodents hide their presence, it is likely that — regardless of the candid claims being made for those locales — a few commensal rodents have escaped notice and are multiplying, unseen, even now.
Still, where rats and mice cannot be eliminated entirely, and even in places where their populations are unusually high — such as Chicago, New York City, Houston, Austin, and Dallas — the risks they pose can be mitigated. The goal of the E2M2C™ program, as applied to rodent-borne disease risk management, is to reduce the potentiation of zoonotic infections spread by rats and mice, in individual homes and businesses, to a level at or below that posed, on average, by all the other environmental dangers the inhabitants of those cities and their suburbs face.
Simple Economics: Keep Costs As Low As Possible…
It is imperative to realize how impossible it is to reach that goal without using economical methods and devices. The costs, to home and business owners alike, must fall within the budgetary constraints of average Americans, small businesses, and cash-strapped municipalities. No matter how important any goal may be, it must first be affordable or it cannot be reached. At the same time, effectiveness must not be sacrificed for economy’s sake: if quality is cheapened in the bargain, the result is not worth the effort, so a balance must be struck that secures both. Getting there takes time, dedication, and perseverance.
Making effective rodent control affordable has been the focus of the rodent-management work carried out by EntomoBiotics Inc. over the past decade. Our answer, the E2M2C™ program, allows us — in cooperation with our clients — to overcome all the challenges commensal rodent infestations represent. Furthermore, it does this more quickly, and at a lower cost than traditional rodent control methods. The E2M2C™ program’s track record tells the story well. This program does not have to be pitched; it sells itself, based on solid results, without a trace of hyperbole.
Let’s have a look, then, at the nuts and bolts of the rodent control challenge. To do that right we’ll have to dig into the details of rodent biology — with an emphasis on rodent behavior — along with pertinent elements of the environment, and ways that rodents can and should be neutralized without harming non-target organisms.
The Greek root οἶκος, and its derivatives…
First, the environment…
We all live, work, visit and play within unusually complex ecosystems. That’s easy to say, but what does it mean? We’ll explain below, but first notice that this article uses at least a little scientific terminology. It does so for precision and expressivity. The initiating author is often told he uses scientific terms so much that some readers might become exasperated and stop reading. Maybe that’s true, but then again, maybe it’s not… Besides believing you are smarter than that, this author knows those who read on will be rewarded, in important ways that a less rigorous approach cannot provide.
Next you need to know, up front, that while the truths we discuss here are important they are also, in many cases, counter-intuitive. In other words, they sometimes buck traditional beliefs of long standing. Whenever that happens, you deserve to know why. Explaining the “why” using everyday terminology usually won’t work. Certain elements behind the “why” may even require you to suspend disbelief, at least temporarily. This is because some of what we’ve been told all our lives about rats and mice simply isn’t true. Many so-called scientific truths about rodent behavior, some of which have been taken for granted for centuries, are simply incorrect. You’ve probably heard some or all of these untruths since childhood, so getting past them to the real story of how rodents behave may be difficult. Still, we do our best, here, to make your transition from myth to reality as easy as possible, but we don’t want to gloss over the facts, and ask you to go on faith alone. Instead we make this paper as readable as we can, by providing genuine, real-life illustrations that back up our conclusions.
So, what follows may contain a few scientific terms that are unfamiliar. In this narrative we explain each term’s meaning, and how to pronounce it as well, in a way that attempts to avoid insulting your intelligence in the process. We mention taxonomical names, in addition to common names, and provide a suggested pronunciation. Keep in mind, however, that taxonomy is a written language, not a spoken one, so pronunciation often varies from one source to another, and few of those variants are considered sacrosanct. In other words, you can generally pronounce a taxonomical term any way you wish, so be brave and never allow the multisyllabic terms you encounter intimidate you. Understanding all these words, and being able to say them out loud gives you ownership over them. That turns each one into a valuable guide to a deeper understanding, and makes this exercise in learning more powerful.
Let’s start, then, with the word ecosystem. It’s prefaced by an anglicized version of the Greek root οἶκος, (pronounced EE-kose), which can be loosely interpreted as the English word “house.” To the ancient Greeks, the meaning of οἶκος extends well beyond the structure one occupies, to include its associated appurtenances that, together, make it fully livable. Today we’d call that the environment, embracing not only the yard and its landscape, but the nearby surroundings as well.
A modern derivative of οἶκος, ecology (ee-KOLL-uh-gee), is defined as the study of compact three-dimensional spaces within which plants and animals — including humans — live and interact. Such studies make use of the 4th dimension, time, to learn how specific interactions ripple through various ecosystems within certain temporal (that is, time-related) intervals.
Based on the foregoing, it is easy to see most of the meaning of that other modern οἶκος derivative, mentioned earlier: ecosystem. It’s like ecology, on steroids, since it refers to a number of three-dimensional spaces, together, that contain plants, animals and inanimate matter. That collection comprises a system, i.e., in the form of a somewhat arbitrary assemblage of such spaces.
Figures 1A, above, illustrates both an ecological zone (the home and its yard), and an ecosystem (the home, its yard, and some or all of the immediate neighborhood). Sometimes the ecological zone is its own ecosystem, but in this example, as explained later, the challenge faced here required consideration of much more than the home and its yard alone.
What are ecosystems, and why do they matter?
You may not consider yourself an ecologist, a forensic investigator, or — better still — a combination of the two known as a forensic ecologist. Yet, you probably observe the world around you with some degree of specificity. From time to time, you can’t help but notice how even small — but important — changes in one place, with one or more of the things located there, often appear to cause consequential changes in other places and the things located over there. If you then consciously take that evidence and use it to figure out how the two observed changes are related, you are definitely thinking and acting like an ecologist.
Most observant, sentient people find themselves constantly making logical connections between disparate events as they go through life. Some even take it further. If you go to the trouble of collecting, recording, and measuring everything you can see, hear, and uncover evident that seems relevant to those changes — in both of of the places involved — you are not a victim of OCD, but are simply thinking and acting like a forensic (foh-REHN-sik) ecologist. And, yes, though we just used the term OCD in a jocular way, in this line of work it is likely that a modicum of non-clinical obsession may actually be a job requirement.
While on the subject of word meanings, let’s explore the definition of that other term, forensic, in some detail…
You might be surprised to see “forensics” used in the pedestrian manner applied here. A more common application — across all the forms of the popular media we are exposed to daily — namely to the analysis of crime scenes, leads most people to the automatic linkage of forensics to criminal investigations. That is neither the only, nor the best way the term can or should be used.
“Forensic” is derived from a Latin root that means “to the forum.” In proper usage, it broadly refers to the collection and assembly of verifiable evidence in a special, but — when done right — unbiased way. It’s a piece of a puzzle. Once it is studied, so that all the connections and loose ends are well-defined, the resulting analysis either supports, denies, or offers no more than a neutral opinion with respect to the narrow hypothesis it addresses.
Here’s another word we should explain: A hypothesis (hye-PAW-thuh-sus) is a tentative explanation for an observation, a phenomenon, or a problem whose cause is under investigation. It’s a theory about what might be a yet undiscovered causation, and is created for the sole purpose of testing to see if the evidence points toward, or away from that theory.
When confronted with a vexatious problem wanting a solution, one of the first things a scientist does is construct a hypothetical explanation for it. Not to pretend to know the answer, of course, but to pose a possible one that can be tested. The initial explanation may be quite ridiculous, but even one of that nature can be useful, simply because it offers a target at which to throw darts (in the form of collected evidence) to see if anything sticks.
As darts get thrown, some will miss by a mile, while others might angle — either slightly or more directly — toward the bulls-eye. In the process the initial hypothesis gets modified to conform to what the evidence seems to suggest. Ideally the weight of the accumulating evidence and the legitimacy of the evolving hypothesis converge. This often directs the investigator to collect additional evidence relating to specific issues of concern until, finally, the emerging hypothesis is either confirmed, debunked, or brought to a stalemate.
The support, denial, or neutrality that the assembled evidence provides with respect to a given hypothesis must be logically connected. These connections must be amenable to articulation in a manner that can be defended before a court of authority. Which court? Well, it just may be the highest legal authority of the realm. More often, though — especially for us — it is a worried home or business owner with concerns about conditions taking place where he or she lives, works, visits or plays.
The Arbitrary Assemblage…
We noted, above, that an ecosystem comprises a somewhat arbitrary assembly of ecological spaces. Perhaps now it is easier to understand the generally arbitrary nature of those assemblages. They are arbitrary because they’re not natural assemblages likely to be useful for other purposes. Instead, each has been assembled for a singular use, and once that sought-for utility is achieved and reported, the value of the assemblage expires.
In other words, we have important things happening in one ecological space over here, which seemingly affect what happens in another ecological space over there. We attempt to connect the two, usually including all of the ecological spaces between them, to focus our study and get to the bottom of how those interactions took, and are taking, place. If those changes turn out, in fact, to be connected, we eventually uncover the “how” and the “why” of the connections. If they are not connected, but are only coincidental, we learn from that, as well, often as a prelude to reorienting our investigation to seek alternative conclusions.
In the example shown in figures 1A & 2, the changes we observed consisted of (1) noises in the attic that were not present in the first few weeks after the home-buyer moved in, plus the presence of fresh rodent pellets in the same attic space that were not there earlier, and (2) a noticeable amount of damage to the newly installed insulation and wrap covering the HVAC high and low pressure lines where those lines entered the outside wall of the home. The conjunction of these two bodies of evidence, collected from two separate ecological zones, appear conclusive: rats have invaded the attic, and they did so by exploiting a weakness at the HVAC compressor unit, outside.
It would have been natural to think the attic-based rodent infestation at that home in Central Texas would be easy to resolve in only two steps: (1) simply eradicate the rodents, and (2) seal the active port at the HVAC compressor. Were that true, the only ecological zones of concern would be the attic, and the tunnel from the ground-level HVAC compressor into the home’s exterior wall.
Those two zones, together, comprise a limited ecosystem that would cease to be of concern once the two steps described above had been carried out. That’s the way some pest management firms perform rodent control. Sometimes it works, at least for a while.
Most of the time, however, it fails. This is true even for homes and businesses where $thousands have been paid for professional wildlife exclusion work, but it is also true of cases where the homeowner tries to tackle the job as a DIY project, usually employing the same logic some pest control companies apply. The example of presented here — involving rodents in the attic of a home in Central Texas — is instructive of this kind of failure, though we are not sure who was involved in the earlier rodent control project.
Viewing the existential rodent infestation in this home’s attic as the primary and only issue typified that earlier rodent control program. The previous owner, possibly with the assistance of a pest management firm, had concluded that the previous rodent infestation there had been halted. New evidence has surfaced, however, to indicate that conclusion was premature. Now what? Since the steps previously taken were somewhat in keeping with established pest management protocols, the usual response to a failure of this nature is to redouble the effort, repeating the same two steps again, and again, and again.
The Definition of Insanity, at Work…
We at EntomoBiotics Inc. are often called to homes and businesses where those two iterative steps have been repeated for years, without ever solving the underlying conditions. In some cases a previous exterminator had informed the home or business owner that nothing more, beyond repeatedly carrying out the temporary-relief measures of the past, would now be possible.
Some infestations, they exclaim, cannot be fully cured… and since the regular incursion of rats and mice into that home or business “cannot be helped,” the home or business owner will just have to “live with it” while continuing with the old, prescriptive process now in use, ad infinitum.
Some home and business owners think they have little choice but to accept that verdict when it is rendered, but isn’t that a popular definition of insanity? It is, but more seriously, it is just a sign of giving up. Lots do that. Others, the smarter ones in particular, never give up. Those with a background in Latin might be heard to exclaim Non Deficere! or Numquam renuntiabit! (as a testament to the characters displayed by the ancient Romans, there are lots of ways to say Never Give Up in Latin). We try to be their undying champions.
Still, many home and business owners just avoid ever being told their rat issues cannot be helped, or that they have to live with having rats in their attics from time to time. Those who call us first, before getting trapped in an endless series of unsuccessful rodent exclusion projects, trapping exercises, or rodent poisoning episodes, fall into that category. The expressions “It cannot be helped,” and “Live with it” are not included in our lexicon, period.
Once our E2M2C™ program is in place, most existing rodent infestations are cured, in the summertime, in 3-7 days. Sometimes it takes a few days longer, but rarely does it take more than a month, though in the cold of winter it can take up to 45 days. Then we keep things that way, for as long as the home or business owner wants us to do so.
How Long Is Forever?
For as long as the home or business owner wants us to do so… that’s how long forever is. But, isn’t that really … well … forever?
It should be.
To the uninitiated, that seems like a self-serving statement. The longer the E2M2C™ program is kept in place, the more we collect in on-going service fees. But that’s not why we push so hard for continuity. Our clients who take the time to study the problems that ensue when the E2M2C™ program is brought to a halt know the real reasons, and they never let that happen. The problem is, getting to that understanding is not an easy task. It takes time, dedication, a serious love of the environment, and of the vulnerable, beneficial creatures within that environment.
Thinking like rats and mice…
Understanding rodent biology teaches us how to think like they do. That’s the first step in finding a solution to infestations caused by any pest organism, and it goes double for rodents. That may sound preposterous. How could a human ever think like a rat? Ask Robert Sullivan. He wrote the book “Rats: Observations on the History & Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants,” published in 2004. Here would be his reply, as expressed so well on pages 1 & 2 of the first edition of his book, in paperback:
“Rats live in the world precisely where man lives, which is, needless to say, where I live. Rats have conquered every continent that humans have conquered, mostly with the humans’ aid, and the not-so-epic-seeming story of rats is close to one version of the epic story of man: when they arrive as immigrants to a newfound land, rats push out the creatures that have preceded them, multiply to such an extent as to stretch resources to the limit, consume their way toward famine — a point at which they decline, until, once again, they are forced to fight, wander, or die. Rats live in man’s parallel universe, surviving on the effluvia of human society; they eat our garbage. I think of rats as our mirror species, reversed but similar, thriving or suffering in the very cities where we do the same. If the presence of a grizzly bear is an indicator of the wildness of an area, the range of unsettled habitat, then a rat is an indicator of the presence of man…”
Perhaps, then, it is not all that difficult for man to think like a rat. We and they are a lot alike, in many ways… So, assuming the marriage of rat and human thought lies somewhat within the realm of possibility, how would we, by thinking like a rat, deal with the situation at the house in Fig. 1A?
To begin with, we’d have to recognize the ubiquity of rodent life in our midst. On doing so we’d realize that merely carrying out the two prescriptive procedures described above (exterminating the presently existing rodents, and sealing the entry port) does not fix that home’s rat problem. That would only resolve the acute infestation in the attic, and ignores the chronic infestation in the yard, which would be a mistake of grievous proportions. Unless the rodents in the yard are also brought under perpetual control, rats in the attic will never be permanently eradicated.
The Conditional Permanence Provided by the E2M2C™ Program…
A temporary fix of that kind is almost inevitably followed by a constant series of vexing relapses. To us, that kind of fix is a terrible waste.
The E2M2C™ program, when used properly, provides a permanent cure to rodent infestations. However, like liberty, its permanence is conditional. If you wonder how so, hear what the Irish lawyer and politician John Philpot Curran said on 10 July 1790 “The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance.”
Many if not most rodent control programs are conceived and executed in an incomplete fashion. Even the manufacturers of most modern rodenticides miss this point, because the label instructions for their products propose applications of rodenticides to a rat infestation for no more than a certain number of days (usually 15) and, once the immediate evidence of rat activity has ceased, the work of the exterminator is done.
Fortunately, a few lines later in the label, they usually add this pithy advice: “Where a continuous source of infestation is present, establish permanent bait stations and replenish as needed…”As if there exist places where a continuous source of rat infestation is not present. Frankly, we don’t know of any.
Rat Infestations are Not Like House Fires…
So, those who believe such places exist see wisdom in killing your rats without fixing your rodent problem. Who thinks like that? Not just those who manufacture rodenticides… Many home and business owners, and sometimes even the exterminators they hire, tend to think rodent infestations are in the same category as house fires. Put out the fire (kill the rats) and voila! The crisis is over.
But, no house fire is really out until all the embers are extinguished. Ensuring all, including every hidden ember in the burned-out debris, are out is a process known as overhauling the fire scene. Members of every good fire department practice rigorous overhauling techniques, carried out by a special crew that springs into action after the visible fire is out. Its job is to carefully inspect for and quench every hidden ember at the scene. Those embers constitute a finite set of risks that experienced overhaulers know how to find and extingish. Once that work is done, the overhaul crew heads back to the station, confident the fire cannot re-start after they have gone.
Finite Embers, Infinite Rats & Mice…
Similarly, though permanent rodent control starts with exterminating the rodents in an all-out effort to bring the immediate crisis to a halt, it cannot stop there. Like overhauling a house fire, it continues until all traces of the infestation have been addressed, but that’s where the similarity to a house fire stops. Like embers, the neighboring mice and rats are hidden nearby, ready to invade, but — unlike burning embers — they are not present in finite numbers.
Commensal rodents are always close at hand, in the surrounding neighborhood, constantly expanding their numbers and threatening to contaminate our immediate environment. They sneak into our midst with stealth, and then — unless measures are perpetually in place to automatically neutralize them — they multiply right there, until their numbers overflow into our homes and businesses.
The E2M2C™ program automatically neutralizes every rat and mouse that ventures into your yard. Non-target wild animals, such as squirrels, raccoons, opossums and skunks are not affected. Furthermore, having the E2M2C™ program in place at a home or business provides protection against rodent-borne diseases, guarding the health and well-being of the humans and their pets that visit, live, work, or play there.
The Example used here is More Common Than Many Believe…
A number of environmental variables affected the nature of the rat infestation at the home used as an example in fig. 1. It is customary to refer to examples like this as unusual, but in fact they are somewhat typical. Rat infestations in homes and businesses are more complicated than they appear on the surface.
At this home, without investigating the entirety of its yard, the neighbor’s home and yard, and the subdivision’s storm sewer with its connecting infrastructure, rodent infestations in its yard and attic would have continued, at some level, long after the known rats were eliminated and the obvious egress port at the HVAC compressor was sealed.
The home’s owner would not have noticed the infestation’s continuance at once, because most rat infestations are, by their very nature, cryptic and difficult to detect. But it would have remained, nonetheless, under the radar.
As we study specific environmental challenges — like the example we’re using here — we refer to the assembly of ecological spaces we’ve put together as an ecosystem. If we are concerned about a different set of interactions, the specific set of ecological spaces we put together to study might be quite different. That can occur simply because we are limiting our study to those ecological spaces associated with the focus of our concerns.
Ecologists, Forensic Analysts, and Forensic Ecologists…
Who are the “we” in this drama? At least two kinds of students are involved, though both kinds may occupy the same human bodies. Those humans, working as ecologists, conduct exhaustive studies of the communities of living plants and animals (biotics), interacting together, within a common environment made up of non-living chemicals, gasses, liquids and solids (abiotics).
In the example cited here, the relevant biotics include not only the rodents, but their wild animal predators. Wherever rodents thrive, so — at least in Texas — also thrive such animals as coyotes, feral cats, raccoons, ringtails, opossums, skunks, fox, rabbits, and armadillos.
Most of those rodent predators occupy and nest somewhere within the same voids used by the rodents they prey upon. Some may even be present in surprisingly large numbers, yet exist there entirely unseen by their human hosts (see fig. 5). All carry one or more members of a long list of ectoparasites, including fleas, mites and ticks, that escape their bodies and hunt down fresh hosts (including humans, pet dogs, and pet cats).
All of these animals deposit feces and urine containing pathological bacteria, viruses, and parasitic fauna. Most, if not all of these latter organisms are capable of directly or indirectly causing disease in humans and our companion pets. Many of those diseases are life-threatening. Practically all are life-changing in terms of the lasting effects they have on their victims.
Next, while acting in the roles of forensic investigators and analysts, those same humans may take precise measurements of the evidence these interactions leave behind, and apply those measurements as a means of drawing defensible conclusions. Ecologists who perform such analyses are forensic ecologists.
All the field personnel at EntomoBiotics Inc. are, at their core, forensic ecologists. Further, our laboratory personnel function as forensic analysts, collecting and recording data gleaned from investigative devices that are retrieved from client sites for laboratory analysis. When confronted with an environmental challenge that threatens a client’s health and well-being, our focus is on grasping the big picture, and understanding the causes beyond the visible scene, as a first step towards arriving at the safest, most expedient, effective, and long-lasting solution possible.
Students Who Never Stop Learning…
Environmental biotics and abiotics together, within a well-delineated collection of 3-dimensional spaces, comprise the specific ecosystem included within a given study. How that ecosystem is delineated depends on the needs of a particular case or client’s needs. For that study to bear useful fruit, both forensic investigations and ecological studies must be carried out to document the causes behind the important interactions of concern.
Those properly engaged in that work are, as previously described, students, in every sense of the word, who never stop learning. A student, as you know, is an individual engaged in an organized course of study, undergoing a learning process, with the goal of acquiring academic and practical knowledge in the development and furtherance of a particular field.
When conducting a forensic ecology investigation, it is crucial to maintain a high degree of academic scholarship. Professional forensic ecologists constantly connect the theoretical implications of what is learned from each practical exercise they conduct. They then apply those implications, broadly, to similar cases under study, to keep their analyses on track. At the same time, the practical implications involved must be taken into immediate account, to ensure that the data collected is applied narrowly to the specific observations within the ecosystem under examination.
Consider the home in Central Texas with rats in the attic, depicted in fig. 1. Even what appear to be simple ecosystems tend to be more complex than at first glance. It is often difficult to quickly tie down, and take into consideration, all the influences that figure into a given set of observed interactions. The experienced forensic ecologist must draw upon a well of knowledge, acquired from a host of studies, in order to reach responsible, worthwhile conclusions.
Specialized Ecosystem Delineations…
In some cases an ecosystem is delineated for analysis because negative changes or issues occurring outside that ecosystem are suspected to be caused by conditions within it. When this is done, the usual object of the investigation is to determine if, within an acceptable degree of certainty, the suspected effect can be traced back to that ecosystem. It should be clear that the analyst who renders a judgment on such matters ought to do so only on the basis of indisputable facts.
If the evidence leads to an affirmative conclusion, those responsible for conditions within that ecosystem can be appraised of the investigation’s findings, usually accompanied by recommendations having a high expectation of mitigating the specific conditions the study uncovered.
Trivial ecosystems may contain only a few relatively simple things, like a small enclosed office with a desk, a chair, and a book. More complex ecosystems contain so many things that the list of components can hardly be counted; think, for example, of every connected room within an ordinary home’s interior, and the abiotic and biotic components within each room. Often, the things within a particular ecosystem are too numerous to quantify. Those kinds of ecosystems are all around us; consider, for example, the entirety of a typical home with its rooms, attics and subfloors, its garage and crawlspace, along with its yard and landscape, all together.
Regardless of the complexity of the delineated ecosystem, assigned ecologists and forensic analysts focus on only those components therein that appear to be logically linked to the conditions of concern. Learning to do this comes with experience and practice.
For example, a home or business infested with rats comprises, in its structure, grounds, and the environmental surroundings proximate to that home or business, a highly complex ecosystem. However, insofar as the prime concern is limited to an infestation of rats, only a few components in that ecosystem need be studied in depth.
One of these is typically the quantity, quality, and spatial placements of habitat suitable for rodents. Another is the quantity, quality, and placement of accessible nutrients and water.
A third component common to such ecosystems tends, in many cases, to be more difficult to pin down. Here we refer to the ability and willingness of management or ownership at the site to cooperate in making needed corrections and improvements. That cooperation typically involves enforcement of existing laws and rules, along with formulating new procedures regarding the handling of waste nutrients, the storage of food products in situ and transit, the cleansing of man-made debris, and the proper maintenance of natural habitat to eliminate dense ground cover and weed overgrowth.
In most cases rules alone do not suffice, but must be augmented with additional infrastructure and expendables. Think here of commercial compactors supplemented with deodorizing accessories, lockable steel cabinets in which to store sacks of flour, and hard plastic containers with snap-closable lids in which to secure packages of rodent attractants, such as cookies, chips, and grain-based cereals, out of harm’s way.
Why Ecologists and Forensic Analysts Do What They Do…
The ecosystems in which we live, work and play affect, in important ways, how we enjoy, utilize, and benefit from the time we spend there. Those effects can be uniformly good, egregiously harmful, or — as usually is the case — somewhere in between. Ideally the ecosystems we frequent will provide maximum utility for their intended purposes, while causing little or no harm in the process. Moving mankind closer to that ideal is the object that drives the forensic ecologists at EntomoBiotics Inc. to do what they do.
To be a legitimate forensic analyst, one must first be dedicated to the fastidious collection of pertinent evidentiary matter regarding the subjects under study. Beyond that, the analyst must insist on, and capable of, conducting an objective analysis of that information.
Not everyone can handle this work. In today’s culture, sadly, lying, prevarication, and fabrication of bogus “evidence” out of thin air have all become elevated to the status of an art-form. None of that can ever be allowed to infiltrate the work we do at EntomoBiotics Inc. Our ecologists and forensic analysts must be endowed with well-developed and non-negotiable moral and ethical underpinnings. These traits must then be combined with a competent grasp of deductive logic. Together, all are necessary prerequisites of an ingrained mindset that, ultimately, enables the analyst to put aside preconceived notions, take nothing for granted, and finally, allow the assembled evidence, and that alone, to lead onward to the formation of reasonable, responsible, and defensible conclusions.
If sufficient evidence is wanting, the analyst must admit the presence of gaps, and must have the courage to recognize when those gaps preclude formulation of a judgment. Speculation cannot be offered as a consolation, but must be avoided altogether. Induction is never acceptable, because it obviates objectivity, and disincentivizes the search for further evidence that should, in due time, fill important gaps to the point that a defensible judgement can be made.
Those who fail to heed this advice soon regret it. They not only reap bitter, lasting lessons, but are prematurely drawn away from the purity of the investigative process. We know, from hard-won and sometimes painful experience, that process to be the only means of achieving honest, lasting, and truthful conclusions. Judgments of that character are seldom overturned, even as new evidence surfaces — as it usually does — over time. Speculations not supported with experiential knowledge, by comparison, are either soon consigned to the trash, or have the nasty effect of leading others astray, sometimes for years.
The Conclusions We Seek…
We seek conclusions that lead us to formulate a proper management and control scheme within specific ecosystems. It is common for an unmanaged or mismanaged ecosystem to fail to deliver on one or more of the goals we described earlier. In fact, most ecosystems that are not properly managed are prone — by their very nature — to cause its human occupants discomfort, make them sick, distract them from productive work, and waste their precious time and resources.
Often, those failings are stoically viewed as “part of the territory,” and so the human occupants shrug their shoulders and carry on despite them. That’s understandable, though — if it is possible to mitigate some if not all those failings economically — it is a terrible waste not to do so the moment the need is realized. Just as often, though, those involved don’t recognize the failings for what they are, much less for the damage they cause. Again, this is why ecologists and forensic analysts do what they do. What many people cannot see, we recognize at once as the source of vexing problems that seem to the uninitiated to be unrelated.
Proper Ecosystem Management Can Be, and Often is, Quick & Easy…
If the foregoing leads you to think that what we do is super complicated, unusually expensive, and probably beyond the budgets of ordinary home or business owners, rest easy. Most ecosystems are plain vanilla copies of scores that came before. As such, they require nothing out of the ordinary to bring them into compliance with the needs of their occupants. Those cases are handled like regular pest control services, but at less cost to the client than is charged for typical pest management programs. In most cases, you will see us only once in a while, when we come by to swap out our monitoring and management devices (typically only three times a year).
At other times, in other ecosystems, special complications enter the picture that do lead to higher costs. Some require placements of extra monitoring and management devices, in addition to those already placed there. In other cases specialized devices and monitors not needed in ordinary ecosystems have to be deployed. We explain why these re needed when that happens, and you decide if it makes sense, with your budget and expectations, to continue going forward with our program.
In every case, though, the object is to ensure your ecosystem is made into the most effective, comfortable, safe and useful living, working or playing venue possible. We go out of our way to show you why the data we have collected has led us to the conclusions we present for your judgment.
Again, that’s why the ecologists and forensic analysts at EntomoBiotics Inc. do what they do. The more we research the complex interactions taking place within the various ecosystems for which we are responsible, the more we learn about serious but esoteric consequences that escape the scrutiny of the common homo sapien. When those consequences can be eliminated by changing the ways the various “things” within the ecosystem are allowed to interact, everybody benefits.
That’s what truly dedicated ecologists and forensic analysts dream about. But getting there is not easy. To grease the skids, so to speak, a lot of research must first be done. To do that, we need specialized tools and methodologies that can be trusted to collect and record the complex interactions going on.
The EntomoBiotics Inc. Raison d’etre…
The management and staff personnel at EntomoBiotics Inc. are not simply pest management professionals. Oh, yes, they are experienced in the pest management field. Some have been licensed in that field for decades. They have also amassed a wealth of experience in entomology (the study of insects), mammology (the study of most wild animals in general), rodentology (the study of rats and mice in particular), arachnology (the study of spiders, scorpions, mites, and ticks), and herpetology (the study of snakes). Furthermore, they know how to eradicate the bad ones, and preserve the good ones in each of those categories.
But pest management is not their first love. Ecosystem management is, and performing the work of ecologists and forensic analysts is how we get there. That’s where the real rubber meets the road, because our research consistently reveals that today’s typical pest management program actually causes more pests than it prevents.
Typical Pest Prevention Tactics Actually result in Pest Creation…
When the typical pest management firm promises to prevent pests from getting into your home or business, be very careful. Though not usually their intent, most of the time the tactics they propose have the effect of killing more beneficial organisms (that are already keeping pests down in your grounds) than anything else. Once that happens, actual pests of every stripe will have carte blanche to wreak havoc everywhere. it may not happen at once, but in most cases it’s only a matter of time. If, in fact, they do manage to “kill all your bugs” to the point that you never see one, maybe you should be worried about how they’ve performed that “miraculous” feat.
It does no good to never have to see a bug if your health is risked in the bargain. Unfortunately, wherever pesticides are applied, that risk can never be fully ruled out. We realize that, for some people — especially those who suffer from entomophobia (an unusually robust fear of bugs) — only a pest management program that claims to “kill all your bugs so you never see another one as long as we service your account” will do. For such people, we try to make it clear that we never make that claim. For those who must have that done, our service will not fit your needs. We prioritize preservation of your health, and that of your family, employees, and visitors, above all other considerations, and killing every bug in your environment does the exact opposite.
Pesticide Avoidance to Achieve Genuine Pest Prevention…
Based on that priority, we do everything we can to avoid using pesticides anywhere except when and where they are absolutely necessary. In the process we practice what could be called genuine pest prevention. That, in our judgment, focuses on pesticide avoidance whenever possible, because it protects all the beneficial organisms around you. Done right, it helps them — the beneficial organisms in our environment — to do their job even better.
Doing that right focuses first on ecosystem monitoring, management, and control. It is not performed by exterminators, but by forensic ecologists who rely, first and foremost, on monitoring the ecosystems where you live, work, and play. We apply pesticides only as a last resort, so your ecosystems can deliver on their promises to protect, entertain, and comfort you and yours.
To do that effectively, our forensic ecologists must have the right tools with which to collect and analyze pertinent information about your ecosystems. What is needed is hardware, to collect and assemble the information, and a methodology that ensures the right data is collected, and that, once collected, that it is properly analyzed. That’s where the EntomoBiotics Inc. E2M2C™ program comes into play.
The E2M2C™ program…
The E2M2C™ program uses specialized devices and methods to monitor, manage and control a specific ecosystem’s habitats and the organisms it hosts. It does this via professional consultations, client involvement and cooperation, habitat modification, and the deployment of specialized E2M2C™ devices.
All these components work in concert. Within the ecosystems where the E2M2C™ program is conducted, the safe and healthy enjoyment of homes, places of work, and all the scattered nooks where people and their companion pets visit, rest and relax is maximized.
A New Paradigm for Human Safety and Comfort...
The ecosystems humans frequent often are impinged upon — sometimes temporarily, at other times on a semi-permanent basis — by a wide range of unfriendly organisms. Some merely annoy, but others bite, sting, contaminate food and other articles, damage infrastructure, or spread disease. These organisms come and go based on a variety of factors, many unique to the ecosystem involved. When out of control, they limit our enjoyment of life’s gifts in important ways.
Fortunately, healthy ecosystems host a variety of friendly, beneficial organisms that keep their unfriendly counterparts in check. Besides the friendly organisms that nature provides, others can be added by man. Natural conditions that help the “friendlies” thrive can be preserved and improved. Further, habitats can be modified, and new habitats created, to boost an ecosystem’s natural ability to magnify the range and number of its beneficial organisms.
Maintaining and Improving an EcoSystem’s Natural Health…
The E2M2C™ program works to facilitate an optimal balance of the friendly and unfriendly organisms within the ecosystems it serves. As a result, the general health of the ecosystem is enhanced, and the humans who live, work, visit and play there benefit the most.
In the past, attempts to accomplish this kind of balance came with a high price tag. This results because those offering such services tend to follow a model that does not require the direct involvement of their clients. Often the client insists on being left out of the picture, which explains why that model, though unworkable for most ecosystems, has managed to survive to the present. Our research has shown that model to be unsustainable for all but the most highly capitalized clientele. For all the rest — which comprise more than 99% of our clients — sustainability is effected by bringing the client into the picture in important ways.
E2M2C™ clients become, themselves, crucial components of the E2M2C™ program. As a result it costs them much less, not lots more. EntomoBiotics Inc. was founded on the philosophy that the only workable approach to ecosystem management keeps things real, manageable, economical, and effective. The reasoning behind this philosophy is imminently practical: No matter how hard we try, no other model actually works. The E2M2C™ program not only embraces that model, it exemplifies it. Our residential and commercial clients cheerfully attest to that fact.
What This Means to You…
When you find a site where the E2M2C™ program is in place, rest assured. The homeowner, manager, business professional or proprietor responsible for that site cares deeply for the safety and comfort of all who tarry there. Their concern is not mere lip-service; it is genuine and sincere.
The E2M2C™ program is not deployed just anywhere. E2M2C™ clients must surmount a high bar to be accepted into the program. This is because, having responsibility for the day-to-day functioning of the ecosystems involved, they are active participants in its success.
Much of what makes up the E2M2C™ program is invisible to the casual observer. What may be visible — e.g., the E2M2C™ devices you can see — are only a small part of the overall E2M2C™ program.
Empowering Nature in Special Ways…
All the various E2M2C™ devices in use with this program — some in plain sight, others unnoticed or out of sight — function according to a comprehensive, science-based plan. That plan is based on the accumulation of decades of environmentally-focused research.
That research, for its part, has been tested and proven through a covey of field trials and evaluations. The conclusions we reached from that work led us to focus on doing everything we could to free up and empower the natural components of each ecosystem in a special way: enabling nature, itself, to work tirelessly for one purpose, to further mankind’s safety and health without causing harm…
You may recognize the connection between this philosophy and one of the principle precepts of bioethics. That precept, embodied throughout the language of the Hippocratic Oath, is succinctly expressed by the Latin phrase Primum non nocere, which means “First do no harm.”
The E2M2C™ program takes the language of the Hippocratic Oath one step further. For reasons that made sense in his day and time but are considered less plausible today, Hippocrates sought to keep the healing arts secret and taught only to a few. By contrast, the E2M2C™ program teaches its clients everything they need to know to become active participants in its success.
Understanding the E2M2C™ Program Devices You Can See…
If you arrived here by seeing an E2M2C™ device in place somewhere, please note that each device is digitally serialized. Its unique identification number is recorded in our database. That database contains historical information that tells us where that device has been in the past. it also tells us where it is supposed to be now.
No E2M2C™ program devices are ever sold; all remain the property of EntomoBiotics Inc. at all times, forever, without fail. All devices deployed in the E2M2C™ program are inspected, assayed, and serviced on a regular basis by professionals at EntomoBiotics Inc. During each service event each device is professionally cleansed and sanitized. The assay tells us how well the device is functioning within the ecosystem it serves, and guides the proper re-provisioning of its contents for maximum effect. Sanitizing removes accumulations of environmental contaminants.
Each E2M2C™ program device is physically and digitally secured against unauthorized tampering. A security label is placed over the keyway of the device’s physical locking mechanism each time it is serviced. When you see this security label in place you can be assured the device you see has not been tampered with.
Remember, as mentioned above, E2M2C™ program devices are never sold to the clients within whose ecosystems they have been placed, but remain the property of EntomoBiotics Inc. They are serviced, assayed, sanitized, and re-provisioned solely by licensed professionals employed by EntomoBiotics Inc. and cannot be utilized outside of that program.
Call us at once at 512-331-1111 to report an E2M2C™ device that appears to have been stolen, misused, vandalized, or discarded. Do not disturb, touch, pick up, manipulate, or otherwise handle any E2M2C™ device.
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