Out-of-control tales from some of the worst cockroach service calls.

Rotten Food = Forgotten Roaches

When a landlord called Betts Pest Control in Wichita, Kan., to report a roach problem, owner Chad Betts was prepared to go in and perform his usual service protocol — but he was definitely not expecting what he discovered. “I noticed roaches around the doors of the refrigerator and freezer,” he describes, noting that the apartment had been empty for some time yet “junk” had been left behind from the previous tenant, including food.

“When I opened up the fridge, it was so full of roaches — you couldn’t have fit another roach in there, and they all dumped out on the floor, thousands of them,” Betts relates.

Apparently, the electricity was cut off when bills weren’t paid, and the leftover food had gone bad. Betts immediately used a spray then shut the refrigerator/freezer doors. “That killed a bunch of them, and then I called the landlord and asked him to remove the rotten food out of the fridge before the second treatment,” he says.

Betts estimates that he could have filled a couple of 5-gallon buckets with the roaches he removed from the site 10 years ago. “Roaches are almost impossible to control if you don’t get sanitation issues resolved,” he says.

At another account, he discovered heaping bowls of cat food placed throughout a home. Litter boxes were overflowing. Water dishes for the pets had splashed all over the floor — and the place looked as if it hadn’t been cleaned in years. Because the home was a duplex, the call actually came in from the next-door neighbor. “He was providing the neighbor with an unlimited supply of roaches, and I said, ‘I’ll see what I can do to help you, but until the landlord gets the other tenant to clean up, it’s a lost cause,” Betts relates.

In spite of regular treatments, the roach issue persisted because the tenant could not follow Betts’ suggestion to keep cat food in a sealed container and to not leave the food out 24/7. Eventually, the tenant was evicted. A few weeks later, the roach problem was under control with several thorough treatments.

Help Me Help You

The head chef at a restaurant Carl Braun was servicing enjoyed his bourbon after hours — during the time when Quality Pest Control of Omaha, Neb., performed service. “I wasn’t able to get control — but the bigger problem was, I could not get the message across that unless you keep the area clean, there will always be pests,” he says.

The 4 a.m. service calls when Braun would crawl on hands and knees to place bait felt unproductive. The chef’s attitude was, “I have you, why do I have to do anything?” he says.

Braun decided, “We were not the best company for him. He refused to have any accountability.”

It’s never easy to “fire” a client, but when there’s no cooperation and service is not a success, continuing is a waste. “Sometimes, we need to say, ‘We are not able to help you,’” Braun says.

Drop Ceiling Disaster

The voids above drop ceilings are a common “living room” for roaches. Curtis Rand, vice president of operations at Rose Pest Solutions based in Troy, Mich., knows to look up during an inspection. What he uncovered at a local restaurant during a service call is a constant reminder.

“You typically do not want to see drop ceilings in a restaurant kitchen — so I opened it up and it seemed like 10,000 German cockroaches fell on my head,” he says.

Fortunately, Rand was wearing a zipped-up crawl suit.

Rand and crew spent two-and-a-half hours vacuuming the roaches from the space. “That was a lot of emptying,” he remarks. “Three of us were there and we each had a large HEPA filter vacuum. Each of us emptied those seven or eight times.”

Then, they spent another good hour placing gel bait.

For the next three days in a row, the team returned to the restaurant for follow-up treatment — more vacuuming along with emptying and replacing bait. As the roach infestation dissipated, Rand could identify the source of the problem, and it wasn’t the drop ceiling. “It was the employee locker room where folks were bringing in roaches from the outside,” he says. “You could see them in lunch bags, clothing.”

The restaurant provided employee training on how to look for roaches at home. Rand says, “Once you find the source, it’s not necessarily easier to control but then you can really solve the problem.”