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From: Food Quality & Safety magazine, December/January 2012

Capitalize on Pest Technology

Use innovations and advancements to your advantage

by Ron Harrison

Motion sensor technology research can help pest management professionals more efficiently check tin cats and replace glue boards.

Technology is constantly changing the way we live our lives and conduct business. In the past, technological inventions like canned goods, pasteurization, and freeze drying allowed for widespread distribution of goods and long-lasting food preservation. These innovations in food processing supported a newly developing culture of convenience.

Because technology affects us daily, we constantly benefit from the upgrades that make our lives easier. However, as technological developments become available, we must assess how useful they are for our lives. For instance, a quality assurance manager must be aware of new technology that can make managing a facility easier, whether it includes new testing procedures for food quality that help operations run smoothly or technology improvements in pest management to better maintain food safety.

Technological advancements in the field of pest management can be a huge benefit, because insects and rodents jeopardize food quality. Pests can contaminate food and destroy products, making effective pest prevention and treatment vital to your facility. Because of new developments in technology within the pest management industry, a plethora of options to help manage pests, including forward-thinking ways to use heat and sound, are on the horizon.

Before you explore new pest management technologies, though, make sure you work closely with your pest management professional to adopt an integrated pest management (IPM) program for your facility. IPM is an ongoing preventive cycle that manages pests through a variety of methods, using proactive options, such as sanitation and facility maintenance, first. An IPM program can help minimize reactive treatments by removing items that attract pests in the first place.

By working with your pest management professional, you can handle pest problems before they endanger your product’s quality. Then, once your IPM program is in place, evaluate some of the environmentally friendly techniques and research, discussed below, that might work with your program to help prevent and reduce pest populations.

Turn Up the Heat

Heat treatment is an efficient alternative to chemical applications in sensitive areas like food processing facilities. This environmentally conscious process uses heated air to destroy stored-product pests and cockroaches.

During a treatment session, propane heaters and a portable duct system raise the temperature in a facility to between 140 and 180 degrees to kill infestations at all stages. Many treatment sessions only take a day to complete, making this a convenient alternative to fumigation or multiple chemical applications.

Heat treatment is also effective in helping to stop the growth of mold and bacteria, as well as deep-cleaning pollutants.

Sound Off

Pheromone Traps
Pheromone traps use pests’ biology against them by mimicking insect pheromones and attracting pests to a sticky trap.

Farms and villages have been known to use sound to control pest birds and elephants, which stay at a distance if they hear the sound of swarming bees. Now, pest management professionals can manipulate pests like rodents through a different use of sound.

One rodent control study used sound was used to mimic the cries of baby rodents in distress. Researchers found that the noise attracts concerned mother rats looking to comfort the young, as well as male rodents seeking to eat the young, leading them all into a trap.

A Sticky Situation

Years of researching insects and studying biology and reproduction have made mating disruption technology an exciting new development in pest management. This strategy uses pests’ own biology against them to attract insects to a sticky trap. Traps hang in your food processing facility, where they release pheromones into the air to confuse male Indian meal moths, which are then unable to detect females to mate with.

The immense concentration of released pheromones overloads the males’ antennae, causing them to follow false trails instead of the actual trails made by females. Less mating occurs, slowing the production of larvae for each mating cycle. The mating pheromones are nontoxic and can reduce the use of insecticides.

Smell into the Future

The use of ionization machines is a unique—almost futuristic—way to manage pests. The equipment releases an inert product containing negative ions into the air. The negative ions bind to pollutants in the air such as pollen, dust, and odors. The ions then remove the particles from the air in your facility.

Because the ions eliminate odors, which pests use to find food, this method can help to reduce a major pest attractant. This non-chemical treatment is a great fit for food processing facilities that produce strong odors from production.

Odors from dumpster areas and even inside production facilities can invite pests, but ionization machines are geared to removing this attractant.

Not Your Average Cat

Research on motion sensor technology could allow for a faster pest management process and, therefore, increased pest prevention. Tin cats, which resemble small tin boxes and are commonly used in processing facilities, contain glue boards. Depending on the size of the facility, there might be hundreds of tin cats for pest management professionals to check regularly for pests.

Tests on the new motion sensor technology, however, show that pest management professionals can identify which traps have captured pests. This not only saves time but also alerts you to where a possible infestation may occur and how to treat it in a timely manner.

Although these innovative treatments may be suitable upgrades for your facility, don’t abandon your current pest management program just yet. Consult with your pest management professional before deciding which treatments would work best for your facility. Take it a step further and get your staff involved in the process by teaching them how your IPM program works and explaining the importance of supporting the program. Introduce your staff to these new pest management treatments so that they have an idea of what may work for the facility. Remember, stringent sanitation and regular facility maintenance habits trump any new technology, so remind staff that these proactive measures can go a long way in helping to prevent pests in your facility.

Ron Harrison, entomologist, is director of technical services for Orkin and an acknowledged leader in the field of pest management. Contact him at, or visit for more information.



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