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Although honey bees are essential for the survival of ecosystems, swarms of them -- especially the aggressive Africanized bees -- can be hazardous. Several pest control companies are equipped to deal with removing bee hives, along with other pests. Photo courtesy of Corky's Pest Control

Worldwide, they outnumber us by a ratio of 200 million-to-one, according to entomologists. Each year, in San Diego County alone, they cause property damage in the millions of dollars. They can be a serious health hazard or a relentless nuisance. “They,” of course, are insects, vermin, arachnids and rodents -- collectively categorized as pests.

Pests are everywhere and cannot be completely eradicated, but they most certainly can be controlled, according to Corky Mizer, founder and owner of Corky's Pest Control, which services businesses and residences throughout San Diego County, as well as in Riverside, San Bernardino and Los Angeles.

“We service warehouses, industrial parks, any kind of food establishment and everything from dentists' offices to senior care facilities,” said David Mizer, Corky's son and an ACE (associate certified entomologist) pest-control professional. David Mizer is the technical adviser for the company's commercial division.

Corky's develops a customized, collaborative pest-control program for each of its commercial clients. David said that while spiders and rodents might be the bane of an industrial client, for example, fruit flies are among the biggest headache for clients in the food-service industry.

Many restaurant managers and owners incorrectly assume fruit flies to be just a normal part of their businesses, albeit an annoying one.

“Fruit flies are actually the big thing in restaurants that no other pest control companies have really attacked,” David Mizer said. “(Fruit flies) are not necessarily going to breed in the food. If you're going to ingest one, it's going to be because you happen to be yawning and one flies in your mouth. So, it is more of a nuisance, but it's also a pest that breeds between the four walls of the business, just like cockroaches or rodents.”

“The biggest problems that we encounter, and we use both pest control companies and our landscapers (to combat them), are gophers in our landscape,” said Lynn Hulbert, vice president of BOMA San Diego and a property manager for several office buildings in Carlsbad.

She said that treatment for gophers and moles is included with the service contracts she has with pest-control companies. “And we have them spray outside the buildings to try and keep things like ants, spiders, mice -- they use little traps for the mice -- to try and keep things from getting into the building. We don't have much problem with pests inside the building.”

Researching and developing new products and technology for use by pest-control professionals is a constant, ongoing process. They're always seeking a better mousetrap, as it were.

“The stuff that's coming out is just incredible -- not just technologically, but also a lot of green materials, more materials that are much lower impact (on the environment),” said Corky Mizer, who has written several books to help train career pest-control technicians and is on the board of trustees of the University of California, Riverside, which has one of the nation's top departments of entomology.

“Of course, we always turn toward green, but we are not going to give up control for green, because most of the stuff that we use -- even if it may not be considered green -- if you really look at the IPM (integrated pest management) to decide what you're going to use, you're never going to use anything that's going to put anybody in danger” Corky Mizer said. “I mean, it would be ridiculous to even think about that.”

The Mizers and Hulbert agree that effective pest control must be a 50-50 effort between the pest-control company and each client. Restaurateurs, building managers and tenants must take preventative measures that complement monthly treatment.

“Each problem really isn't difficult (to treat) from our point of view,” said David Mizer. “It all depends on how much of that other 50 percent the customer is willing to put in.”

“If (our pest-control technicians) notice things, like an infestation of snails, they'll say, 'Hey, maybe you don't want use this plant.' Maybe it's the colored plants that we put there, the type of plant that snails might be more attracted to. So they give us tips as far as that's concerned,” Hulbert said.

“I guess it's just like the common cold, if you don't wash your hands and do all that stuff, you'll have the same problem with a cold,” said Corky Mizer. “People are starting to learn that about pests, and what they have to do to help protect themselves.”

-Lovitt is a La Jolla-based freelance writer.

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