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Mark Loffredo (pictured) runs Post Exterminating, a family-owned business on Staten Island specializing in bed bugs and termites in the NY metro area.
Are people less freaked out about roaches now that bed bugs are back?
Absolutely. They can live with roaches, but cannot live with parasites like bed bugs. And with bed bugs, everything must be prepped and stripped down, which is different from dealing with roaches. Bed bugs get in headboards, in light fixtures, artwork, alarm clocks, and phones.
What do you like about being an exterminator? What don’t you like?
I really enjoy seeing all different parts of the city. Another thing that I find encouraging about the industry is while it is traditionally very competitive, since the bed bug invasion there has been real cohesion in the industry for the greater good. We are all sharing experiences about this. Bed bugs need humidity and in colder weather they slow down but they are going to start emerging now due to spring. The industry as a whole is educating themselves, working together and preparing.
As for things that I don’t like: restaurants and larger institutions in at night can be downright dirty. Also, one of my biggest fears is bringing something home during inspections, particularly bed bugs. The one thing I wouldn’t want is a bed bug problem. The psychological effect is huge. Bedrooms should be restful and not stressful. To be aware there are parasites touching you is disconcerting. When we enter an area we suspect has bedbugs we wear Tyvek suits that are disposed of immediately after our inspection.
What three or four types of pests are you most frequently called to deal with these days? What do people find most upsetting?
Right now bed bug activity is at an all-time high. It is the mainstay of the industry and truly a monstrous situation which will just get worse. The local and state governments have banned tons of pesticides for these problems that we used to use so it is more difficult to contain the problem. The last major outbreak of this kind was 40 years ago and the types of work done then was much different than what we are allowed to do today. Back then we could use broadcast treatment, meaning we could go in and spray down whole theaters. This is no longer allowed so it is a different ballgame. This is the one problem that has people the most distressed.
In winter we get many rodent calls. This winter in particular was very harsh and rodents’ habitats were disrupted due to moisture from rain and snow. When their burrows are flooded they want to go indoors where it is warm and cozy. In fact, I just picked up a chain of restaurants inundated with a rodent problem in the metro area.
In warm weather, believe it or not, stink bugs are a huge problem all throughout the metro area. It is a cyclical situation every couple of years. Stink bugs, also called shield beetles, give off a pungent odor as a defense mechanism to ward off birds and other insects from attacking them. They are highly annoying to home owners and apartment dwellers.
Are there certain neighborhoods or types of buildings that seem more prone to certain types of problems (roaches, bed bugs, silverfish, water bugs, mice, rats etc...)?
Wherever you get a large population of humans you have an area primed for pests. Lower income areas tend to get roaches and rodents because there are too many people in one unit making it harder to keep it sanitary.
Water bugs tend to get into buildings in older neighborhoods because they get in sewer pipes. Brooklyn has areas that are 150 year-old communities as does Manhattan. Warm and wet environments attract water bugs which will eat each other if they have to in order to survive.
Silverfish are in the scorpion family and are considered an outside insect that adopted our environment and can eat anything. We rarely get calls on that though.
In Brooklyn and Queens we get calls about possums, raccoons, and squirrels. If you are by Central Park you may have the occasional possum issue because those animals are curious and can find their way into a home.
What's the dumbest thing you ever saw an apartment dweller do to get rid of mice?
A guy had an apparatus called a sticky board all over his walls and floors and he kept stepping on them and getting stuck.
To get rid of cockroaches?
We had a guy in Queens a few years ago who used ten over-the-counter aerosol bombs and blew up his building by mistake, blowing out all the windows.
The biggest mistake I see in bed bug treatments is when people try to treat the issue on their own; they always make it so much worse. In Manhattan it is a big problem because if one person sprays the wrong product it ends up making them spread to all the apartments throughout the building. Prep by a professional is the essential part of the job.
What's the funniest or oddest thing that's happened on the job?
While snake calls are a rarity, it was pretty funny to see big construction guys scared to go into a steam pit—a hole in the ground-- because there was a harmless garter snake down there. They were petrified.
Have you ever met a female exterminator? Why do you suppose there aren't more women attracted to the field?
We had hired one about 15 years ago and she worked for two years before moving. Several women in the area own extermination companies; two sisters in Long Island have a well-known firm. It’s simply not a glamorous operation and women tend not to be able to tolerate repulsive stuff.
10 Minutes With is a series of conversations with New Yorkers who aid and abet vertical life in the big city.