While it may not feel like it quite yet, the cooler months are upon us and with COVID-19 still in the air, Los Angeles and the rest of California are continually being attacked by termites and pests both in our homes and workplaces.
Not only can these bugs cause damage to your property, but some strains of COVID have been rampant in rodents, and that can really put your household in danger.
Isaac Camacho, who is the Director at Accurate Termite and Pest Control, gave us an exclusive one-on-one interview where he talks to us about the pandemic, keeping our homes safe and what to be on the look-out for. His company was recently named Southern California’s top termite/pest company and when the new strain of the Coronavirus reached California, his company was the first one to get regulations passed at the State level to allow pest control professionals like himself to spear-head COVID-19-specific large-scale disinfections in community spaces.
1. How has business been during the pandemic?
It’s been interesting. Our regularly scheduled pest control services were virtually undisrupted. Our termite control services did see a sudden halt around March when counties and state agencies were publishing guidelines that at times contradicted each other. The barrage of mismatching information caused a peak in anxiety to the point that people did not want termite inspectors in their homes. Now that we understand better as a whole how responsible distancing, masks, and frequent handwashing can help keep the general public safe, our termite services are back with a vengeance. The total drop in termite work for a couple of months created a bottleneck that we are currently working through to catch up.
On top of that, we had to make the sudden changes to remote working protocols, virtual meetings, training, etc that a lot of companies had to deal with. We are lucky that we will finish 2020 strong in the end, but we certainly had to work for it.
2. Is it true that certain rodents and pests/termites can carry the virus?
Yes, in California, rodents have been experiencing a rodent-strain of Coronavirus for years. In fact, here in California, pest control professionals have been performing spot disinfections with products specifically designed to control Coronavirus. The pest control industry has been doing this anytime biowaste is present in a rodent cleanout service. The reason our industry has been explicitly disinfecting for Coronavirus is that we did not want to have a situation in which a human became exposed to a mutant strain that could thrive and be passed from person to person.
The virus is not carried by bugs but can inflict many types of animals. As long as animals continue to carry diseases, it will be necessary to have adequate measures to control those animals and outbreaks so the problem does not spread to humankind.
3. When the COVID-19 outbreak first hit California and here in Los Angeles, you were the first to speak with the government and get certain regulations in your industry adjusted. Can you explain to us what you got changed and why it was so important to do so?
Yes, in California we championed the effort to let the 20,000+ licensed pest technicians perform large-scale COVID19 disinfections. As mentioned previously, our industry has been performing Coronavirus-specific disinfections for years, making us the best trained, equipped and experienced workforce to perform Coronavirus disinfections.
However, regulations kept the industry from performing Coronavirus disinfections in large-scale amounts. The regulations surrounding Coronavirus disinfections did not anticipate an eventual outbreak and the need to perform Coronavirus specific disinfections as more than spot treatments.
This would mean that performing large-scale Coronavirus disinfections would fall to an untrained, unequipped, and inexperienced labor force.
Dangers of inexperienced labor forces applying Coronavirus disinfectants include ineffective mixing of hazardous products, exposing the general public to new health problems through over-zealous applications, excessive and unnecessary residual and runoff that would harm our environment and protected wildlife. We led the effort to have regulations changed to allow pest control professionals to take the lead in performing large-scale Coronavirus disinfections in the current context of COVID19 pandemic. We started with a public petition to temporarily change or alter the regulations, and within days had over a thousand residents supporting the effort. We were steady in contacting and educating key stakeholders about the issue. The governor’s office, environmental regulators, and key scientific communities soon agreed that California’s 20,000+ licensed pest control applicators were the best suited to perform large-scale Coronavirus disinfections.
Many elderly-care facilities, homeowners associations, and cities credit large-scale disinfections with minimizing the impact and stopping the devastating effects of COVID19 spread among their residents. We are always proud of being in an industry that contributes to the overall wellness of our community. We are especially proud to have been a significant part of the frontline fight against COVID19 in California.
4. What type of products does your company use, and why have you switched to more “green” ones?
Rather than focusing on brands or product names, we focus on the way products are designed to work. We avoid the use of quick-kill products or anything that uses a neurotoxin as its active ingredient.
Several pest control products used today, including most of the over-the-counter products, have active neurotoxins with long residuals. That means that the neurotoxin has a long half-life and can be ingested by a bug, animal, or person long after being applied. Because they are designed to be resilient, there is no telling if a person’s body will successfully break the neurotoxins down without causing some damage.
We lean heavily towards non-neurotoxin social killers. Social killers are products that are ingested and carried by bugs for a period of time. Because these products are not highly toxic, these products are shared and transmitted from bug-to-bug. Over some time, the products disrupt the target pests’ ability to sustain life or reproduce. Because the products are shared across a colony, you are much more likely to reach the bug problem’s source rather than just push it into another room. Since there is no lingering neurotoxin to worry about, this is the best choice to avoid an adverse effect on your family or the environment.
Responsible pest control is necessary to maintain the enjoyment of your home and, most importantly, to keep your living conditions sanitary and disease-free. However, it’s not worth making your family sick, introducing toxic products into the environment, or contaminating water to keep your home bug-free. We are committed to using products that achieve the desired balance between our living spaces and that of the animal kingdom without introducing problems that future generations will regret.
5. What should people be on the lookout for in their homes and businesses that would signal a quick red flag that they need a spraying?
If you are waiting for bugs to swarm, then you are almost waiting for it to be too late to prevent an infestation. Remember bugs are tiny and they want to remain undetected by nature. If you wait to have pest control done until the problem seems large, you are essentially allowing bugs to multiply and propagate to such levels that they can no longer hide their presence from you.
Of course, if you see bugs inside your home, you should call a professional. Even the presence of one bug at home could indicate the presence of a colony or large infestation somewhere in or around your house. Besides that, look for any kind of dirt or dust that seems unexplainable. As mentioned, bugs are tiny and do not want to be found, so the evidence they produce initially is tiny and goes mostly missed. If you find piles of dust or dirt that do not have a reasonable explanation, consider that it may actually be waste matter from a bug. Like all living things, bugs create waste. And, small bugs make small waste matter. Most reputable pest control providers in the Los Angeles area offer free inspections and assessments so you really have nothing to lose. The worst-case scenario is that it is actually nothing. Or, you have prevented a significant infestation and headache trying to get rid of a colony or colonies of bugs that have moved into your home.
6. With people generally being more cautious these days with being clean, what future trends do you see?
I think people are starting to realize that keeping pests out of your home is about more than just getting rid of nuisances. Everyone is being forced to reckon with the fact that we are not meant to closely share spaces with the animal kingdom, and that a little virus from their world can bring ours to an absolute halt.
We are already seeing evidence of more people making regular pest control part of their home’s maintenance. I think that people will continue to prioritize general pest maintenance at home more than they have before. Once we have COVID19 under control, rodents will still be able carriers of diseases like hantavirus, typhoid fever, hepatitis, and others. Insects will still exasperate asthma and other respiratory issues and carry diseases like the Zika virus, West Nile virus, Lyme disease, etc. The lingering trauma of the COVID19 pandemic will continue to be a motivating factor in keeping pests away from people and homes.
7. Here in Los Angeles, what have been some of your team’s biggest projects?
Perhaps the most recent large project was when we fumigated (aka ‘tented) a large condominium complex two blocks from Walt Disney concert hall. The complex consisted of five and six-story buildings containing residential and office use units. It was just under 5,000,000 cubic feet of building that we fumigated to eradicate drywood termites. We are proud that we completed this like every project, on time, on budget while offering our unmatched project managing and online tools.
8. On a personal note, what about Los Angeles and Southern California do you love so much about?
Hands down it’s the diversity and community-culture. I grew up in Mexico City and Dallas, and I’ve lived in New York City and Salt Lake City. All of these places have some really amazing aspects, but Southern California is where I’m home. Los Angeles and the surrounding areas have such a diverse mix of people, cultures, food, art, and lifestyles that you could never be bored. Granted NYC is quite the melting pot as well, but in NY you feel trapped in the fast-paced hustle and bustle that you tend to stay in your own bubble. Here the pace is just fast enough to keep you motivated; you feed off the energy of what’s going on around you. But, for the most part, people aren’t really trying to “go Wall Street.” The Southern California vibe encourages you to unwind, explore, and have new experiences. Moreover, I love the community-feel in family neighborhoods and that the block party is still very much alive in Southern California.
9. What things around town have you been doing during this pandemic period?
We’ve taken up hiking a little more than we used to. We’ve discovered some beautiful trails and waterfalls not too far from home. We have been extra careful to avoid large crowds, but we have made a point to find not-so-crowded beaches any chance we can. I’m still very much going through the list of about 400 taco places to try in the greater LA area that LAist published about a couple of years ago.
10. Any other thoughts you want to share with us?
We’re hiring! Our client list keeps growing and we need a few awesome Angelinos from all backgrounds, experience levels, and interests to help support our growing team. We’re a family of community-devoted locals working to keep that pest-people balance and making sure people can enjoy home. If you are a quality individual looking to grow, hit us up.