Mr. Meek

Security & Safety

Tell Pests the Pool Is Closed

By Frank Meek, International Technical & Training Director, Orkin, LLC

Summertime and the living is easy by the pool - unless guests are forced to swat pests while they tan. As warm weather brings mosquitoes, flies and stinging pests out in numbers, hoteliers need to prepare themselves to fight back and make sure their guests' relaxing poolside experiences aren't ruined by buzzing insects.

Take a Bite Out of Mosquitoes - Not Out of Hotel Guests

Known for their itchy bites, mosquitoes are one of the most familiar summer pests and probably the pest that receives the most attention. Ever since 1999, when West Nile virus first appeared in North America, transmitters of this virus have been kept under close watch - and for good reason. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 3,000 documented human cases of West Nile in the United States in 2005, more than 100 of which resulted in death.

Even though there are other methods of transmitting the virus, scientists believe that mosquitoes that feed on infected birds and then bite humans are the most common agents. Most people who contract West Nile never show any symptoms, but severe cases can result in flu-like symptoms, meningitis or encephalitis.

Mosquitoes will frequent a hotel pool for two reasons - breeding grounds are found close by and it's a buffet (of hotel guests). Mosquitoes can breed in any size of standing water, even as small as a thimble. While a swimming pool usually will not become host to mosquitoes because the water does not remain stagnant for long, any water that collects around the deck could become a breeding spot.

The best way to stop mosquitoes from becoming a problem is to prevent them from breeding. Hotel staffs should sweep away all water around the pool every evening and monitor flowerpots and gutters for standing water. After a female mosquito lays her eggs, it only takes a few days for them to hatch.

If there are other standing areas of water around the pool, such as ornamental ponds or birdbaths, pest management professionals can treat the water with insect growth regulators to prohibit mosquito larvae from maturing. Mosquito-eating fish, known as gambusia, also can be introduced into a pond to feed on any eggs.

Flying Furies - Flies and Yellow Jackets

Flies and yellow jackets try to join in summer pool fun because of the ready supply of sugar and protein sources. Wherever there are chips, cookies, soda or other food - especially syrupy sweet - there probably will be pests looking for an easy meal. Too many flies and yellow jackets certainly will be a nuisance to hotel guests, but yellow jackets can be a more serious problem, especially for those with allergies.

To keep flies and yellow jackets away from the pool, hoteliers should implement a strict sanitation program that prohibits these pests from accessing any food sources. Since most hotels allow eating by the pool, the area should have a number of garbage cans for easy disposal of food wrappers and waste. Of course, the staff also should make sure to clean up any spilled food from the deck immediately.

Just because food waste is in a garbage can does not mean that flying insects cannot access it. All trashcans should be lined and kept securely sealed when not in use. The trashcans also should be washed down regularly, along with the pool deck, to prevent any lingering food debris. The staff should empty all cans daily and move the waste to a dumpster far from the pool area.

Hoteliers should closely monitor the outside of their buildings for any signs of wasp nests. Yellow jackets typically build their nests in holes in the ground, but also can nest in walls, trees and structural voids. If such nests are found, it can be very dangerous to disturb them. Only licensed, experienced professionals should attempt to treat and eliminate them.

Keeping the Pests Where They Belong - Off the Property and Outside

Though hoteliers need to ensure that their guests do not find mosquitoes, flies or yellow jackets outside, they also need to take steps to protect these pests from finding their way into the lobby or guestrooms.

Proper lighting is one way to discourage flying insects from ever approaching the hotel. Fluorescent lights attract flying insects, which use them for direction. Sodium vapor lights, on the other hand, are less attractive to insects. Professionals recommend using fluorescent lights in areas away from the hotel, like parking lots, to draw pests away from the building. Sodium vapor lights are preferred on the building itself.

If pests do approach the hotel and linger around the pool, hoteliers should make sure they don't gain entry through opened doors or windows. All doors should shut properly and be equipped with door sweeps for a secure seal. Windows that open should be screened with #16 mesh, which prevent even the smallest pests from entering.

Positive airflow can impede the entry of flying insects by literally pushing pests out. To check the airflow in a building, hoteliers can use a lighter or match and open a door to see what happens to the flame. If the flame blows toward the outside, then the airflow is positive; if it blows inward, airflow is negative. Positive airflow will make it difficult for flying insects to enter, even when doors are opening and closing regularly.

Finally, partnership between the hotel staff and pest management professional is essential to keep pests away. Some providers will offer training to help the staff understand their roles in the pest management program, including sanitation efforts and monitoring for pest activity.

Guests will appreciate the efforts hoteliers take to keep the pool and grounds free of mosquitoes, flies and yellow jackets. Proactive methods that stop infestations before they start will allow guests to enjoy summertime pool activities in a lounge chair all their own.

An industry veteran, Frank Meek has been with Orkin since 1986. In 2003, he was named among the future leaders of the pest management industry in Pest Control Technology magazine’s “40 Under 40” ranking. Currently, as the International Technical and Training Director, Mr. Meek provides technical support and training in both sales and service to Orkin's international franchises, helping them grow and develop in their specific markets. As a board-certified entomologist, Mr. Meek teaches Integrated Pest Management principles and can explain how to use all available methodologies to prevent pest infestations in various commercial settings. Mr. Meek can be contacted at 404-888-2898 or Extended Bio... retains the copyright to the articles published in the Hotel Business Review. Articles cannot be republished without prior written consent by

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