J&J Exterminating of Louisiana has found an innovative way to defeat a sizable infestation of red wasps nesting on the heliport of Lafayette General Hospital.

J&J’s Howard Matlock, the primary service technician for the hospital, decided to install a unique remote-controlled misting unit on the heliport after receiving numerous calls from the hospital about wasp issues when transporting patients. Due to the time-sensitive nature of helicopters coming in, and with Matlock not always available to make a trip to the hospital, the misting system offered the perfect solution, he says. When a helicopter is arriving with a patient, inbound flying security is notified. Staff inspect the area to make sure it is safe to use the system before remotely turning it on 15 minutes prior to the helicopter landing. The system repels wasps in the area, ensuring that the patient is brought in safely. Since the misting cycle takes place before the helicopter arrives, there are no residual effects, Matlock says.

“It’s unique. If the wasps find an ideal place to establish their nest, they’ll reestablish their nest. You could control the wasps another way, but they could come back and reestablish a nest,” said Robert John Sr., founder of J&J Exterminating.

“Sometimes you have to go a little outside the box (to solve a pest problem), just not too far outside!” Matlock added.

UNDER ATTACK. Lafayette General’s heliport hangs out over the 10-story building; the space presented the perfect area for a colony of wasps to nest.

“It’s like the perfect storm because the way it extends from the building, there was no way we could get up there to use a contact spray,” John said. “The only thing we could do was repel them.”

Howard Matlock (left), J&J Exterminating’s primary service technician for the hospital, and Robert Thibodeaux, supervisor for pest control, J&J Exterminating.

The heliport offers a trench area and is graded off, offering plenty of cover for the wasps to build paper nests. During the day, the wasps headed under the building for moisture and for protection from the cold.

Red wasps, also called paper wasps, come in many varieties, colors and sizes. They sting as a defense mechanism to protect their nests when they are agitated. On the heliport, vibrations from the helicopter and people talking triggered this defense mechanism, causing the wasps to lash out at doctors, nurses and patients. One of the helicopter pilots reported thousands of wasps, and the infestation became so severe that when the medical staff attempted to take patients out of the helicopter, everyone would be stung. It became almost impossible to use the heliport; EpiPens needed to be available at the hospital in the event of an allergic reaction.

Matlock, who’s been with J&J for 10 years, said this project centered on the importance of improving the safety of the staff and the patients, and everyone involved had to determine the logistics of the system once the idea was presented. The J&J staff had to visit the hospital and see if it was a viable option for controlling the wasp population; they hoped it would reduce callbacks and cut down on instances of people being stung on the heliport.

“It was one of those little brainstorming ideas to help them out and offer as much protection as possible to the staff there and the patients coming in,” Matlock said.

After settling on the misting system plan, Matlock and other J&J team members spoke with the hospital staff and got approval from the office to present the idea to the administration. They also had to clear the plan with hospital security and explain the precautions needed to use the system. Once the project was approved, J&J got to work on the installation.

NUTS AND BOLTS. The misting system installed around the perimeter of the heliport is similar to the misting systems J&J installs around houses to control mosquitoes. It consists of several nozzles that mist a water-based product solution. The remote-controlled system is electrically powered and is connected to the hospital’s water line. The system’s ability to be activated remotely means that there is little risk to patients and staff, J&J says.
The remote-controlled misting system is successfully keeping stinging insects away from patients and staff at the hospital heliport.

Technicians have to check on the misting system periodically, performing light maintenance when necessary. They must check the product level and ensure that the mix tank is working properly, as well as make sure there is enough concentrated product for the system to pull from. The technicians also routinely check the water system for leaks, and check the nozzle tips to ensure they are working and are not clogged. Occasionally, there can be a line build up, as bacteria forms in lines like these that are not constantly running. Routine flushing and cleaning is required, but with proper care, the system can continue to function properly, according to Matlock.

Matlock said the product works for a variety of insects, and is especially effective for wasps. It offers residual properties when used over a period of time, which provides good knockdown and control rates. Matlock said the misting system will be effective year-round in helping to control the wasp population in the area.

Both Matlock, and Robert Thibodeaux, supervisor for pest control at J&J, said this remote-controlled misting system could be applied to other pest control situations that are not easily cured through conventional methods.

“We are constantly trying to meet the needs of our customers and do what’s best for them,” Matlock said.

The author is a contributor to PCT.