Imagine yourself in a tight, dark space, damp from water and festering with thousands of cockroaches crawling all over you. You can feel the little legs running over your skin. It sounds like a scene from a nightmare.
Although this scenario isn’t a common occurrence, Tim Freels says he has found himself in the occasional “unnerving” situation. Purdue turns to its pest and rodent control technician for its occasional insect infestations. Freels said insects are not necessarily a major issue on campus, but with so many people and buildings, pest control problems do sometimes arise.
“They do pop up just for the fact that you’ve got over 40,000 students and 10,000 faculty and staff that are working on campus,” he said. “Everyone’s got food. You’ve got kitchens and all those sorts of things, so all that stuff is going to attract pests and rodents.”
Tom Turpin, professor of entomology and founder of Purdue’s Bug Bowl, said the presence of insects such as cockroaches on campus can be explained by the insects’ success living in industrial settings. “The steam tunnels are a primary breeding source for the American cockroach,” Turpin said. “We’ve got a perfect setup here that maintains a year-round temperature for them, since they are a tropical insect.”
Turpin said when people do occasionally see them around campus, it’s usually due to the warm weather. However, it can also be caused by pest control simply doing their job. “What oftentimes will happen, when (an exterminator) uses insect control in the breeding sites and the steam tunnels and things like that, the cockroaches can become fairly active,” he said. “Then you’ll see one laying on the floor with the feet up and many times, that’s when people on campus will notice them.”
Although the most common pest on campus is often believed to be the cockroach, Freels said many are surprised to learn it’s actually a much smaller and often unnoticed insect. “Ants are like our number one, as far as insects, that we deal with,” he said. “I mean we’ll get the cockroaches as well, but mainly it’s the ants.”
This time of year, Freels said yellow jackets also become an issue due to increased nesting sizes coupled with the trash generated by students and the football crowd. Freels stresses the importance of one simple step to help reduce the occurrence of issues pertaining to insects and rodents. “Sanitation, sanitation, sanitation,” Freels said. “That’s the biggest thing you can do is just to keep things picked up (and) swept up, and empty your trash often.”
Turpin said insects are indoors simply because they’re looking for the same things as humans – shelter, food and water. Like any animal or person who is hanging around, the best way to get them to leave is common sense. “Don’t feed them,” Turpin said. “If you don’t want a pet to be around don’t feed it. So that’s what I always tell people is get rid of their food sources and you’ll go a long way to having them leave.”