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Robin Jade Conde

PODCAST: The dark side of pest control (with Scott Dorn)

The northern part of the USA has a different situation in terms of pests. Scott Dorn, the owner of BOGO (Buy One Give One), Pest Control , joins the show to talk about managing pests. 

Scott talks about the history and foundation of their company. He hates using poison, and suggests going over a checklist of all the different things that you have tried before resorting to poison. Reuben also shares how their partnership with BOGO started, which inspired them to participate in philanthropic work.

BOGO takes care of insects and rodents. Scott shares that the problem with mice is a consistent and common issue in the northland because of extreme weather; different insects also come out from varying temperature conditions. He discusses the entry points, trails, and management of mice, bats, spiders, etc. However, their company refers the management of some rodents and wildlife to a more specialized organization. 

Also, BOGO is dedicated to supporting Feed My Starving Children– an organization that coordinates the packaging and distribution of food to people in developing nations.

TRANSCRIPTION 

 

The following is a transcription from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases it may be slightly incomplete or contain minor inaccuracies due to inaudible passages or transcription errors.

 

Scott Dorn: It wasn’t too long after I got into the industry that I figured out that the customer base that I was servicing, it seemed like they all had ongoing mouse problem.

 

[music]

 

Bill Oelrich: Welcome everyone. You’re listening to Structure Talk, a Structure Tech presentation. My name is Bill Oelrich, alongside Tessa Murry and Reuben Saltzman, as always your three-legged stool, coming to you from the Northland, where we’re talking all things house, home inspections, and whatever else is going on in our heads at a given time. We are very excited today to have a guest, Scott Dorn, owner of BOGO Pest Control. I’m gonna get to Scott here in just a second, but I wanna tee this up first. We live in an area that I know we’ve got a lot of pests, but when people think of pests, I think they always think of termites for some odd reason, and…

 

SD: Right.

 

BO: Because termites are all over the place and they chew up houses and people get very terrified by termites. But we don’t have these problems up here, we’ve got other problems. And when I say up here, I’m talking Minneapolis, Saint Paul, the northern reaches of our country, right smack dab in the middle where it gets pretty extreme both ways, both hot and cold. So Scott, I’m just… I’m excited to have this conversation, and before we start digging into pests, I wanna first talk a little bit about your company and especially the name, because I know it means a lot to you, and instead of me stumbling all over BOGO and why it’s BOGO, first I wanna just say Hi and thank you for giving us the time. And let’s start by throwing the ball at you. Please explain BOGO.

 

SD: I will. First of all, thank you for having us today. I appreciate this opportunity. The name BOGO, the funny thing that every customer says to me or people on the street, they see me driving by with my truck, they’ll ask me, BOGO, what does that mean? You can see the quizzical look on their face too. They’ll turn to their friend, ’cause they’ve said it to me many times, what does that mean by one pest and you’re gonna give us another one? And then they’ll laugh. [laughter] But no, that’s not the meaning of it. We flipped the script on it. We use it for buy one, give one, and our customers by choosing our company are participating in the giving back to the non-profit organizations that we have chosen. Currently we are giving to Feed My Starving Children. We have been doing that from the inception of the company. We love Feed My Starving Children, they make such a difference in the world.

 

SD: And the money that you give to them, they’re very responsible with it. They’ve been voted in the top 1% of all non-profits, that’s over 8000 non-profits for the last 15 years in a row. So, that’s a track record I like getting behind, because we wanna make a difference with what we’re doing, it’s not just about getting up and making money. It’s about what can we do to give back. And also, in the meantime, make a difference in our local community by providing quality service. And that sounds so cliche, I can hear it coming out of my mouth and how it sounds, but might invite you to go on to all social media outlets. Look at Nextdoor, look at Google, look at Yelp or Facebook. Look at the reviews from the customers that have used our service, and that will speak for the angle we take and who we are. So, I don’t wanna brag about our company, but I am very proud of what we stand for and what we’re trying to do.

 

BO: Best part of a podcast, Scott, you can brag as much as you want, [laughter] because it is our air time and we can do whatever we want, so…

 

SD: Well, I think… Yeah, I know, but for me, words mean very little, it’s the actions that you put forth each and every day that add up. And you can see the track record over time with different companies and what they say they’ll do, and then the experience customers have in the end. That’s the beautiful thing about the Internet today. I can ask a customer, how did you find us? Well, they read a review, they’re informed, they’re doing this research, they’re checking it out, that’s our favorite type of customer.

 

BO: Well, let’s just explain this connection to Reuben and to Scott. So Reuben, I know you have a preferred contractors list and you make it a point to reach out to contractors before you put them on that list. Just to kinda measure them up a little bit, is that how this relationship started? 

 

Reuben Saltzman: That’s exactly it. We get a lot of people asking us for pest control. You know, you do a home inspection and you find out there is some nice, or whatever, and it’s like, Well, who can fix this? So we get a lot of those. And I can’t remember who we were using, but I just wasn’t thrilled with their service and it was time to find somebody else, and we don’t just ask around and say, Who do you know? It’s a matter of who do you know and alright, let’s follow up with them. And so, for Scott, I said, “Hey, I’ve heard good things about your company.” I think there’s somebody in my network group who knew you and said, “You gotta meet Scott.” So, I called him up out of the blue, I said, Hey, I’m looking to refer business to somebody. It doesn’t need to be a two-way relationship. I’m not looking for that, I just want somebody good to give our clients to, and he came out to our office and we sat down and we chatted for an hour or whatever. Just to learn more about him, his company, his values, what he believes in, all that stuff, and it was love at first sight.

 

[laughter]

 

RS: I mean, Scott was exactly what I was looking for.

 

SD: That’s so humbling.

 

RS: And I’ll tell you, Scott, you inspired me when you were talking about Feed My Starving Children, I had first done that probably 10 years ago, where you go and pack food. And I had done it a couple of times since, but I had never involved any of that with my business. And when I learned what you were doing, I was inspired, and I was like, dude, we should do this for Structure Tech, and…

 

SD: That’s so awesome.

 

RS: We’ve done that quite a few times now, where we get the team together, we pack food, and then we go out for happy hour together afterward.

 

SD: But…

 

RS: And it’s always a fun time for the company.

 

SD: Can I interject something quick there, Reuben? 

 

RS: Yeah.

 

SD: What’s so beautiful about that though, is there are literally tens of thousands of Minnesotans in all sectors, through all the types of businesses that volunteer their time to this organization. It wouldn’t be possible for them to… Right before COVID hit, they packed and shipped 368 million meals. That’s no small task. That’s humongous. They started it in 1987, but so many people in our region packed meals like you do, like we have with our team members, and that’s the only way it gets done. So it’s all of us working together, and that’s why I love being a part of it.

 

RS: Every time I go, in fact, my daughter and I… I was just telling you before the show, my daughter and I were there last night, that’s what she wanted to do for date night, where she wanted to go pack food.

 

SD: That’s so awesome.

 

RS: And every time I go, there’s always multiple groups, it’s companies…

 

SD: Yeah.

 

RS: And churches and other groups, it’s like big groups of people come together to do it, it’s so cool to see.

 

SD: Yeah, it really is. Yup. We need more of that, especially, more good news like that today. So, thank you for doing that and thanks for sharing that. Because I didn’t know I was inspiring someone else to do that, I’m just… And you have done it before, so maybe just a little reminder and we all need that. So that’s cool, really cool.

 

BO: Awesome. So Scott, how long have you been in the pest business? 

 

SD: I started in the year 2000, I started with a large name company, and it wasn’t too long after I got into the industry that I figured out that the customer base that I was servicing, it seemed like they all had ongoing mouse problems. The insect problems are pretty straightforward to control, but mouse problems were the consistent problem. And over time, I just discovered that, okay, they’re getting in the house, I would see all these… I mean, the things I would see with bait being used was disgusting. So I was trying to figure out how they were getting in on my own. We were only paid to be on site though for 15 minutes. So, I would go around, I’d identify access points, the ones that were common that were real standout-ish, you know, like an air conditioning line, wide open, going into the wall, right? That’s a pretty obvious access point. When I pointed out to the homeowner here, seal this area, seal these areas, but it wasn’t stopping the problem. I discovered at the office I had caulk, and I went and picked it all up, over time, I used it all, [chuckle] but I… It was fixing the problems, and…

 

SD: Because I figured in my head, I figured, okay, if I spend an hour, hour and a half on the first service, I seal up all of the access points. I might “lose money” on the first service because the time spent… This was under their structure, the services were like $80 a service at the time, so I would get 28% to be exact. I was getting paid 28% of whatever the ticket was, and that was 28% of $80. So for that money, I sprayed the house for the insects, but then I was also sealing up the holes. Well, then one day the owner found out that I had used all the caulk in the office. He was upset. [chuckle] He’s like, “Why did you do that?” I said, “Well, look, I’m trying to fix these problems.” I mean, he said, “Well, look, that’s the problem.” I couldn’t believe he said this, but he put his hands on his head and said, “I can’t believe you’re fixing them. I don’t want you to fix them, Scott, if you fix them, they’re gonna stop using our company.”

 

Tessa Murry: Wow.

 

SD: And I was like, that’s pretty crooked, and I said, people will be telling all their friends, we don’t know what we’re doing if that’s what we’re doing. I said, Why not fix them? They’ll tell everyone we know what we’re doing. I go, there’s no way we could fix all the mouse problems in Minnesota. And I’ve been working on it for 21 years, [laughter] so I know that to be true. So, no, we just… We butted heads on the a philosophy, and ultimately I ended up getting fired from the company. The judge from this employment office found out about what had happened, he interviewed me. I told him what happened. He was upset, he sued them for wrongful termination. They lost the case. I was one of two people that they lost that case against the state. I didn’t go on an unemployment, what I did was my father-in-law and I started a division at a tree care company, and we built a company to compete with them through market forces.

 

SD: And over time, just two years ago, the industry as a whole started taking on this whole concept of exclusion. Which is a term used to exclude pests from getting into a structure, using sealants, using flashing, any kind of structural barriers, cement. And so the industry, a large company, I don’t even have to name drop. But a large company went out of town into the South, bought a exclusion company, and after many decades of being in the business, now they’re “sealing homes.” So I’m really proud to have been able to affect the industry to change the way they operate. So that the outcome is that all my neighbors who may not choose my service, which is fine, get a better outcome with the service that they are getting. But unfortunately the common thread though that’s still happening is the use of poison in structures to control mice.

 

SD: I think it should be outlawed. I think that you should have to go down a checklist of all the different things that you tried as a pest professional first to mitigate the problem before resorting to poison, but that’s not there in place or whatever. We’re doing it through market forces now, so now I left in 2015, I resigned from that other tree care company, and I decided to start this company. I could see that it was a profitable division within the company, but the profits were allocated to tree related things, which I love the trees, I have nothing against the trees, but I wanted… I felt in my heart, actually just that I wanted to do something else with it. The timing came right, and I resigned in 2015, I’d say with honors. I walked away from the company after giving them plenty of notice and in fact filled my position and then started this company. Without any help, without any support starting from zero. My wife and I took our car down to a credit union, put it up for collateral, and with $10,000, I started BOGO Pest control. After a year and a half into it I reached out to my really good friend who helped me build the other company. He was such an instrumental force in making that company successful, and he could see the vision that I was building, we were all in.

 

SD: Him and I are now 50% partners, and from the day one, that was what I gave to him. He’s such a fantastic human being. His name is Mike Maske. I’d give him 75% credit. Maybe I’d take 20. I don’t know, I can’t take a lot of credit for our success. It’s hard to. I’m really thankful though, for what we’ve been able to accomplish in just six years of being in business. Yeah, if you look on social media, we’ve been able to maintain a five-star rating for six years in a row. And there’s no other pest control company that has over 10 reviews that can say that. So that comes from the public, and you guys have fantastic reviews too. You know that that does it. You can’t pay for that. 

 

BO: Well, let’s dig into this mouse issue a little bit. Is that our biggest concern up here in the Northern? 

 

SD: It is a huge concern. I’ll put it this way, it’s a super common issue. And the main reason is because we’re right in the middle of the continent. We are away from the regulatory temperatures of the ocean. Which means that our temperature fluctuation day-to-day is more extreme here than anywhere on earth, except Siberia. But that’s because we’re right in the middle of the continent. Last winter it was… The wind chill got to 35 below wind chill, and that below zero weather was sustained for three weeks. And now this summer, we had the earliest 90 and longest stretch of… I think in the history of Minnesota. Maybe I might be wrong about that, but if it’s not the first, it’s the second or third at the most. This is one of the worst drought summers. Right now, the BWC is burning out of control because of it, especially the Northwestern sector of our state.

 

SD: A phenomenon, I have not seen this in 21 years. Little, tiny, tiny insects are showing up in everybody’s homes, they’re called as Springtail. And they’re a moisture-related insect and they’re driven into the structure because of the severe drought.

 

BO: There’s no water outside for them? 

 

SD: Well, now we’re just now starting to get rain, but leading up to this, it was so dry that they were not able to survive in the lawn, so they we’re coming in to the house, especially focusing around kitchens and bathrooms and bedrooms, offices, you name it.

 

RS: Scott, please describe this bug for me because just before getting on the podcast here, my son was showing me a glass of water, he’s like, “There’s a little bug in it.”

 

SD: Yes, they’re everywhere.

 

RS: What is this? 

 

SD: Okay, so these insects are called the Springtail. If you look at the insect right on the underneath part of it, they have an apparatus, a tail that comes up and there’s a little hook on it that keeps it in place under its body. It doesn’t have a mouth part, it doesn’t have a stinger, it’s only ability to defend itself is to release the tail, it springs them away from danger. They can hop. It looks kind of like a flea only they’re smaller than a flea, they’re so tiny. But I was at a guy’s house two days ago, and his desk was covered with them and he thought they were ants. I was like, “Oh well, let’s see where the ants are.” And we went down, they and we were looking at them, I’m like, “Oh sir, these are not ants. These are Springtails, and I wanna tell you that everybody, I’ve never had such a consistent complaint, everybody is complaining about Springtails.” Whether we treat or not, it doesn’t make a difference. Yeah, they’re the most abundant insect on planet earth. They’re like little tiny protein pallets for other insects to eat as a food source, much like an aphid is for ants and other insects, so…

 

BO: Wow, okay, well…

 

RS: Alright, good to know. I can tell my son what that was. I had no idea we were gonna get to this. That’s actually cool.

 

SD: I should give the solution though, the solution is run a dehumidifier. If you go on the University of Minnesota’s Extension Services website, which by the way is a great resource for homeowners, they have fact sheets on all common household insects that will infest your structure. If you read the fact sheet on Springtails, their recommendation is run a dehumidifier, because in doing so, you’re gonna eliminate their environment naturally.

 

TM: Okay.

 

SD: Spraying for ’em is unnecessary, so…

 

BO: Do you see the building scientist, this is great pod, but Tess is over there, her head is… It’s gonna give an exercise, up and down till she’s like, yes, yes…

 

TM: I love it.

 

BO: You started talking about extreme weather and pressure differentials and Tess’s just lights up like…

 

SD: When it comes to the extreme weather thing though, I should conclude my point there, when we have such extreme weather changes, it’s so important, if you have the opportunity to buy a poured foundation, that would be my recommendation. Because the system is poured in one day, typically, it’s all connected, it all expands and contracts together, and if it cracked and allowed a mouse in and it would have to telegraph all the way through the foundation, which is super unlikely. The cracks are usually hairline cracks, if that’s the case, it’s never something that a mouse could fit through, especially below grade. But anyway, cinder block foundations is where the issue is. They… Each block, it’s taking that extreme temperature change pressure. They’re contracting in the winter, or every night when it gets cold, they’re contracting and during the day they’re expanding and it’s 20 to 50 degrees every day, every day here. Our homes can’t hold up to that and over time, the sealants that were used, whether they be cement or caulk or whatever, will typically fail. Unless we’re talking about a home with cement siting and the installer had to be certified and everything, you had to be connected professionally, just right, and caulked just right, those homes hold up over time. But old style homes with the mortar lines it’s…

 

SD: It’s a real issue for why mice get into our homes. One other major point I wanna point out… This is something I’ve really noticed in the last couple of years, since I’ve given a talk. I’d say the biggest overlook, and I hate to give this secret away to my competitors, but I wanna say this because it’s the biggest overlooked access points for pest in a structure. Now, my competitors are focusing around the foundation, the ones that are looking to do that service. However, mice are major climbers, and they will almost always, once they get into a structure and make their way up to the attic and then walk out the attic through these soffits. Okay, so if you have a dorm, or a common back door, or say you have a roof plane. Let me get the angle correct here. You got the roof plane, then the soffit comes back to that roof plane, right where they connect, it should be code that that is sealed, and it blows my mind that it’s not code.

 

SD: But it’s not code because every roofer leaves them open, unless they’re a real high-end roofing company that’s paying attention to that. Or if I’ve instructed the homeowner, to say, “Okay, when you get your roof done, make sure you communicate to this crew that those soffits have to be sealed.” And a lot of times we’ll make the mistake of letting branches touch a roof, and especially crabapple trees. You have those branches on the roof, the mouse doesn’t need to go anywhere. It doesn’t even need to go to the ground. They’ll come out of the soffit, right over the crabapple tree, steal the crabapples and go right back in the house. So soffits are really overlooked. And climbing, the climbing issue, I have noticed that’s like my main focus on every house.

 

TM: I was gonna say… Well, Scott, I remember one of the things you mentioned… This was years ago. I remember your talk at an ASHE chapter meeting, because you were so passionate about this, and I learned so much from you that night. But you mentioned that mice can actually climb up the corners in vinyl siding.

 

SD: That’s a common entry point, yeah.

 

TM: Yeah.

 

SD: I just saw it today. I just sealed a home before this podcast, actually, but yeah, vinyl sided corners oftentimes are hollow. Some do come with a built-in insulation piece, and that’ll block ’em, but they can chew by that sometimes too. But yeah, almost always they’re open, and when they are they can be a vulnerable access point. And I didn’t discover that until a few years into doing this. There’s not training on how to seal up a house against mice, honestly. And there’s not a college course you could go and take. This has to be… I mean, because you guys know, you inspect homes. How many different types of homes are there? How many different types of materials are there? And one house next to another one, if they’re the same builder, could be built differently because of the mood the builders were in that day, or the weather. There’s so many variables that go into it, but the corner posts are a common climbing point. What I noticed after a couple of years was one day I walked by one of those, and it was pulled down enough from where I could see that there was a little natural square up there that allowed mice to get into the soffit.

 

SD: And once they get into the soffit, the soffit system’s set up as an air flow intake to the attic, and so that’s a natural progression for them to go. And if I haven’t said it yet, mice, they will not nest on the ground. You should understand. That is 101. They will not nest on the ground. If they can avoid it, they will always climb. If they can’t avoid it, they will nest on the ground, but if they can climb to any opportunity, they will take it, because on the ground they are on the bottom of the food chain. And the mom will find a place of safety up high, particularly the attic, or a basement ceiling, but it has to be off the ground, and that’s where they’re gonna nest. And that’s where they’re gonna head to. So they’re going to climb the exterior. If you have stucco, if you have brick, they are climbing the house. They are going up and getting the nuts out of the gutter.

 

TM: Oh my gosh.

 

SD: It’s not whether or not they might be, they are for sure climbing the house.

 

TM: They are.

 

SD: And that includes cable wiring. So you got the cable guy, he comes out, and he runs this cable up to the dish, but that wire comes all the way down to the ground usually, and that’s a favorite little runway. Your air conditioning line coming in, that’s a little favorite runway. Another tremendous access point that I find oftentimes is inside garages. If especially if it’s cinder block. If those blocks are open on the side walls, mice are ducking into those and going into the structure through that access point. Or they’re climbing up and entering the beams that are going into the attic, depending on how the sheetrock is finished up around each one of those 2 x 10’s, or 2 x 12’s, or the wiring that’s coming in. All of that is critical. It all has to be sealed.

 

TM: So what’s the chance that you can actually prevent mice from getting in an attic, because, as home inspectors, we see… It’s almost like every single attic that we go in to, it seems like there’s evidence of mice.

 

SD: That’s correct.

 

TM: And some buyers and homeowners are really uncomfortable with the idea of mice being in their attic. And especially if it’s a really bad problem that can reduce the effectiveness of the insulation and cause other problems, and so the recommendation is try and seal up the holes prevent mice from getting back in and potentially re-insulate, if it’s really bad. But what’s the actual likelihood of you being able to come in and prevent them from ever getting in the attic again? 

 

SD: Well, you have to focus on the exterior of the structure. That’s such a good question you’re asking, because I’ll get asked all the time. The kitchen. People don’t want them in the kitchen, so they’re, “How do we prevent them from getting in the kitchen?” Here’s my answer to all of that, is I always want them to be able to go where they can inside the house. You can’t prevent them from getting to the attic because these things can walk through a hole… Not walk through, but squeeze through a hole that you can fit your pinky into, the diameter of your pinky. If you can fit that into a hole, they can access it. And here’s a crazy thing, after doing this for all of these years, I just learned this, and I don’t know why I didn’t know this beforehand. But I got asked all my career, “We were moving in and the door was open, and I think they came in right through the door.” I get all of the time that said to me. But actually, a mouse won’t enter that way. They prefer to go through a hole that’s small enough barely that they can squeeze through because then their predator can’t come get ’em, and they know that. And for them, it’s all about a sense of safety. And a mouse does not feel safe unless they are following another mouses urine trail.

 

TM: Agh…

 

SD: And that’s the biggest thing to understand about a mouse, is they urinate everywhere they go, approximately, scientists say once every 18 inches. A micro-size droplet of urine, and this urine, it carries pheromones, it communicates to one another. The alpha is able to block off the range that they’re in to other mice entering the range. And a lot of that is determined by the level of the food source that’s available to the colony. If there’s not enough food the alpha will start eating the subordinates. I mean, they are the ultimate survivors. And I don’t wanna talk ’em up like they’re so great, ’cause I can hammer them all day long, and solved it all day long with homes. Where, yes. The answer is, you can seal up the exterior of the structure. That’s where your focus has to be, interior becomes irrelevant. You just want to know the pathway, the most predictable pathway is gonna be the furnace room. I like to call the furnace room, “Rome.” That’s where all the roads in the house, which are the pipes and wires, lead to Rome.

 

SD: They all lead to the furnace room, that’s the most common room they’ll come to. But, then they’ll follow the pipes and wires from there, up to the kitchen. So when I’m sealing up a house, I put traps, snap traps, in the furnace room and the kitchen. Cause it’s predictable, they’re gonna come to those two locations, if I have found all of their access points. I mean, there’s other really good people doing this. I’m not the only person doing this. I have great people on my staff doing it, and I know other people that I’ve worked with that are really good at this service. But if you get somebody that’s very thorough, they need to check this structure, literally, inch by inch around the exterior foundation. They need to be looking at the way pipes, wires, and vents are coming into the structure. They need to look at the possibility of climbing and then how vulnerable is the roof line, as well as the garage if it’s attached. You check all those boxes and you’re thorough, it’s not rocket science, it’s being thorough. That’s the key. And you can solve it.

 

SD: And you wanna use quality materials too, I should add that. I come across low grade foam that’s used all the time. This steel wall which is subject for the wet moisture to rust it out and then it becomes vulnerable to be pulled out. Or just flake out over time and then Great Stuff, expandable orange foam. It looks unsightly but it also gets you chewed out because it’s the poorest foam. We do have a foam product that we’ll use, it’s a high dense product that typically will not get chewed out. And more often than that we’ll reinforce that foam if we need to use that product. But you wanna use a quality product that they’re not gonna chew through. Because when I’m sealing a hole, there’s a pheromone trail leading up to it.

 

SD: Any and all the next mice coming to that house, are gonna follow that urine trail, to that hole and test it. And the mice that are trapped inside, well now they no longer have access to all their favorite food. The helicopter seeds, the acorns, the crab apples, and if they don’t have access to that. They can create another hole coming out of the house, to go get it again. Then, that’s where we put a two-year warranty on the house, it’s an unlimited warranty. If we can get to your whole exterior, then we will marry your mouse problem until it’s gone. So we put our stamp behind it for two years, so…

 

TM: Scott, I need your help out at my parents house. They have some sort of rodent in the attic that has been scratching non-stop for like the last month. And they have… You know how you describe that detail; the soffit, intersecting the roof? 

 

SD: Yep.

 

TM: They have this kind of complicated roof line, where one side of the roof kinda drains into the side of a wall. It looks like it’s been patched before many times. Personally, I haven’t been up on this roof yet to look and try and find those little holes. But it’s gotta be a squirrel that’s up there because, it’s super loud.

 

SD: Well, okay, so I love the way you’re asking about that and what you’re saying. Because what you’re describing is the comments I get from a lot of customers, will say it to me, “Scott, it’s really loud, it has to be a squirrel”. I get this all the time.

 

TM: Yeah.

 

SD: In fact, the first question you always wanna ask is, what time of the day did you hear this activity? Because there’s activity that’s gonna be nocturnal and then there’s gonna be diurnal activity. And particularly, what times of the day make a difference. If it was squirrels I would expect, as a homeowner, to hear that particularly early in the morning. That’s the female leaving the nest site going to forage for her young. And she’s going out to get busy and get food and she’s gonna come back. But the loud noise will occur early in the morning and right before dark. And if it happens like that, and especially the other thing I’ll ask too, is about the noise. If you’re listening to the attic where the noise is occurring, are you hearing a running like a, ‘tututut’ quickly across this surface? That’s a squirrel. If you’re hearing a scratching, that’s a mouse or a bat, but more often than not, a mouse.

 

SD: And the loud noise would not be from a bat, a bat will only make a squeaking noise and a scratching noise. Whereas a mouse will oftentimes, they can be moving in the space, and where they’re in is a hollow space and the surface they’re hitting is like hitting a drum. And it creates a magnified sound to the listener, making it sound much bigger than it is but it almost always turns out to be mice.

 

[laughter]

 

TM: Oh my gosh, you are just such a wealth of knowledge, Scott. I could just listen to you all day long.

 

RS: Yeah. You’re the rodent whisperer.

 

[laughter]

 

TM: I was gonna say, like an encyclopedia of knowledge.

 

SD: I get called everything, depends on the pest I am out there for, but, yeah.

 

TM: Oh my gosh. Well, yeah, I don’t know. Stay tuned, you guys, I’ll let you know once I figured it out what it is, but the noise happens usually early in the morning, and then sometimes throughout the day.

 

BO: I know somebody you could just call.

 

[laughter]

 

SD: No, seriously. Well, actually, I’m glad you brought that up because people get confused about what types of pests that we control. We take care of structural pests that are insect or mouse or rats. We do take care of rodents in the yard but we do not do squirrels. We do not. Falls into a wildlife category. If squirrels, when they get into the house, the precursor to that is, it’s a female typically, that is pregnant and needs to have a shelter to have her young. And squirrels will have two litters a season. They’ll have one between, normally, June and July, then another litter between December and January, in the winter. So that’s usually what causes them to break into the structure. So they would need to be trapped out, relocated or euthanized depending on the type of company you pick.

 

SD: There’s a great company called Nuisance Wildlife that works out at Big Lake, Minnesota. Owner’s name is Dan, he’s got methods, he’s been doing wildlife for over 30 years. He uses a trap system that he’ll put over the hole, where they chewed their way into the house. It allows a squirrel to get out, but then it closes back down. The squirrel would turn around, try to get back into the hole by chewing on to the device. It’ll spend, he said up to two weeks doing that. It’ll get frustrated and then move into the trees. This is what he does. This is the only person I know that does this method. He’ll cause them to nest in the trees. Well, rodents are very territorial. So squirrels will go in the tree and, now, make sure no other squirrels come into its range, which protects the house from any future squirrels getting into it.

 

SD: Plus, he’s not killing the squirrel, which I think is awesome, so that’s a cool method, but a lot of companies will live trap them out of the structure for a cost per squirrel. It usually is like 700 to 900 for that service… And that doesn’t include the exclusion work that needs to be done to seal the hole, that usually takes a couple of weeks of visiting that structure every single day. And it doesn’t fit in with our business model. We can’t tie ourself to a structure where we go to it every day for two weeks straight, we’re servicing homes all over the Twin Cities. So wildlife specialists hire a guy that he just runs a trap line, that’s all he’s doing every day is just checking traps.

 

TM: Wow.

 

SD: So we refer that to wildlife specialists. Another great company is BEAST Wildlife, B-E-A-S-T. They’re fantastic, they’re kind of high-tech, they come in with cameras, so anyway. Yeah, so we refer wildlife, they do bat work, both of them do bat work, so all that, raccoons, that kind of stuff.

 

TM: Can you speak to bats really quick, because bats… Aren’t bats protected? 

 

SD: They are protected. But it’s not against the law yet to seal them into a structure and knowing you’re gonna kill them, which is heinous to me, most anybody that’s ethical that does that service will actually wait until… I believe it’s June, there’s a certain point where they know that the mom bat has weaned her pups, her young, and then now they’re ready to fly, and so then they’ll put up a one-way device that allows the bats to fly out. Usually it’s the soffit point that we talked about where the soffits meeting the roof, that’s a bat access point, so they’ll come and go from there… Or they’ll put that one-way device up, allowing any bats in the structure to get out. That same day, they seal up every other potential access point, because bats will live on average for 20 years. They’re very territorial. There’s six different kinds of bats that we have in Minnesota, you can look them up on the DNR website. The two most common are the small brown bats and the large brown bats.

 

SD: The difference between those two species is the large brown bats are 12 to 14 inches in their wingspan whereas the small browns are 10 to 12. They’re just slightly bigger than the small browns, they have the name large brown, it’s just a name. But they have the ability to hibernate, so they will lower their heart rate down to four beats per minute. They’ll usually live in the peak of the attic during the summer, but unless it’s too hot up there, then they’ll lower themselves down, they operate off the same body temperature as you and me, 98.6 degrees. So they’ll find that optimal. Wherever we would be comfortable, they’ll be comfortable and where we would be uncomfortable, they would be uncomfortable. So in the middle of the summer, they’re not in the peak of the attic, they’ll go down in the insulation, and then the homeowner will hear scratching. So they’re getting down under that insulation layer, to be protected from that high heat, it’ll be 160 in an attic or whatever.

 

TM: That’s why I found bats underneath fiberglass bat insulation before, in the summer.

 

SD: That’s exactly why, and they’ll die there and succumb to the elements of that attic, if it’s too extreme. And the same is true when it gets cold in the fall, a lot of times we’ll start getting calls in October when the nighttime temperatures change, that’s the key. When the nighttime temperatures change then we’ll start getting calls, ’cause bats are now moving from the cold attic to an optimal wall or some inner place within the house where they can… Now they’re not gonna use all their stored body fat on trying to keep warm. They’re gonna be optimally warm, they’re gonna be able to make it all through the winter like a bear, and they’ll occasionally wake up and lick the dew off a pipe or eat some insects that are in the wall. But they don’t move much in the winter, and then in the spring… And subsequently too, large brown bats don’t colonize like small brown bats do.

 

SD: In other words, in a structure, you could have hundreds in an old structure from the late 1800s to early 1990s, you could have hundreds of small brown bats. But you could only have maybe a dozen or half a dozen large brown bats, they’re totally different in how they’ll colonize a house. But the small brown bats, they feed on flying insects, both small and large browns, so when the flying insects are no longer available in October, they’ll leave Minnesota. They’ll actually fly all the way south… Even down to Mexico, they’ll overwinter there, which I gotta add, I think is so fascinating that those bats… They found out scientists, but they were wondering, “Okay, millions of bats,” they’ll spend over an hour exiting this cave, just millions of them. And they wonder how are they surviving, what are they feeding on, so they put these trackers on them, and they found out they fly three miles up into the upper atmosphere and they intersect clouds of moths and that’s their main food source is the moths. Which are in clouds three miles above our earth’s surface…

 

TM: That’s crazy.

 

SD: There’s so much going on on this planet that we have no knowledge of. You wouldn’t even think that’s possible. And it reminds me like how a moose will go 40 feet down to get kelp off the bottom of the floor of a lake. How’d they know that’s here, and how’d the bats know that the moths are way up there, that’s just…

 

TM: Yeah. That’s crazy.

 

SD: And how does a bat go to Mexico and then turn around and come straight back to the house it was born in? Even if a service was done on the house to exclude them, they come back annually, they believe to check that structure, to see if they can get in. And here’s what checking the structure mean, that means they crawl around like a mouse around the roof line and check every way back into it. So, whoever does that service, you’ll see a lot of people, a lot of these companies will come, they’ll give a warranty and then they go out of business because the amount of knowledge that goes into getting these things sealed up around the roof line, knowing they can enter through where you can stick your pinky and then stand behind it, that warranty, that’s what Nuisance Wildlife and BEAST do. And a few other places in town do that too, but…

 

TM: So if anyone’s listening and they’ve got a bat problem, they’re really freaking out now because… [laughter]

 

SD: Right. But bats really do enter the structure, it’s actually they’re lost when they get into the structure. They know where you’re standing within a hair’s width, they send out sonar and they know exactly where you are standing. If you move quickly, you can get into their pathway, so I’ll just stand there, and they’ll fly and know right where you are. And if you open up a window, usually they find their way right back out of your house or a door, they’ll find their way out. Sometimes it takes some time, but they’ll find their way out so…

 

TM: So, it sounds like it can be pretty expensive to try and have bats removed? 

 

SD: It is, for a quality service, yes. It’s typically over a 1000, most of the time it goes, I’d say 1500 to three grand, it’s probably a real common range for that service, so…

 

BO: Minds are blowing. It’s insane. Question back about mice, are they jumpers? I noted when you were talking tree company and pest control, and I was thinking, “Well, are these guys climbing up trees and then just launching at houses?” And once they’re on a roof, they’re like, “This is free game. This house is mine.”

 

SD: That’s true, but normally they do have the ability to jump, they say four feet, but they don’t do that though. Think of them like this, they will usually… They’re an opportunist, they’ll take a branch that’s resting on the surface, they’ll utilize that, ’cause they can count on that every day. Jumping from the roof line to a tree four feet, that’s too much risk. They’re not going to do that. If you have arborvitae coming right up through the roof line, you wanna cut that down. You wanna cut that away. You have branches resting on it, you wanna cut that away. You have vines climbing up the wall, you’re creating a ladder for them to come up. But don’t worry if you have a chimney coming up the side of your house, it’s still a ladder anyway. It’s so key to have the roof line sealed.

 

BO: Oh my goodness.

 

SD: Yeah, and that chimney thing is overlooked all the time. They’ll be like, “No, there’s no way they can get up”. Well, you’ve got a chimney on the side of your house, it’s brick. Mice can run up brick sideways. They can run on a cinder block wall, sideways. Run. I mean, that’s their ability.

 

TM: Fascinating. Fascinating.

 

SD: And there’s very little texture to a cinder block for us.

 

TM: Phil’s just shaking his head right now.

 

BO: My neighbors are gonna find me outside with a flash light looking at the side of… My neighbors with stucco, I can only imagine their house is just infested with mice and…

 

SD: Yeah. Well, the cool thing on stucco is oftentimes, you can actually see that pheromone trail that they create. Over time, their urine collects dirt, plus they have grease on their fur that will rub off on the surface. On stucco walls, I’ll commonly see it from the ground going all the way up and then going right around the gutter. If you just look at the way the gutter intersects with the wall on a stucco house, right there, you’ll see the climbing and it’s about a pathway about this wide usually, and you’ll literally see it going up. And another way they’ll do it too is behind down spouts, they’ll leverage their body, they’ll push against the house onto a downspout and then climb it.

 

TM: Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! I wish everybody could see you re-enact this Scott.

 

SD: Sorry.

 

TM: On the podcast.

 

[laughter]

 

SD: Giving you all the visuals. And the other thing too, this last year, a lot of customers have ring videos. They have the ring cameras on the house. I’m on video probably all across the Twin Cities, but what I’m getting though from customers is all these ring videos. Which are so fascinating to see mice climbing a structure. I saw a mouse climb the J-channel on vinyl siding. Their abilities are uncanny to climb. So yeah, the roof line. I don’t know if I’ve emphasized it enough, but I’ll get off the soapbox about it.

 

BO: I feel like I’m at a disadvantage against the mouse. They’re just… They’ve got more will than I do.

 

TM: If they want to get in, they’re getting in, it sounds.

 

SD: Well, unless it’s… If it’s sealed properly… Over time something can be compromised, but you can get it to the point where no, they have no way in. They’re out. I’ve solved, not to brag, but thousands of homes, we’ve mouse-freed them. And there’s still lots of them still mouse-free.

 

TM: Wow. That’s amazing. Well, so I was going to ask you, is it okay if we move on from mice? ‘Cause I really wanna make sure we’ve got time… I really wanna ask you about spiders. Because, spiders are even smaller than mice, but it seems like this time of year when it starts to get cooler out, spiders always make their way inside. And I found a couple of really big, fuzzy ones this year. And is that a common problem? And what can you do to keep spiders out? What’s the best way to prevent that? 

 

SD: Really great question. So, this year I’ve noticed spider activity is really higher than normal. I think this drought has driven a lot more insects to our structures than normally would come to our structures trying to find water. When you get either centipedes or spiders, you’re dealing with something that their food source is insects. So, you wanna look at, why is this here? They have food to eat, which is an abundance of insects. So, the number one thing I always start with with any structure is the landscaping coming up to it is the most important thing. If you have plants touching the wall, you are creating an environment. You have to understand when it comes to insects, insects dessicate in direct sunlight, most of them do. Most of them cannot maintain their body moisture in direct sunlight. So, they won’t… Wasps can and a number of insects can, but like ticks cannot. Mosquitoes cannot. So, if they get in direct sunlight, they dessicate. So, if I’m an insect and I need moisture, I’m gonna hide in plants.

 

SD: In Connecticut, where there’s a tremendous Lyme disease problem, or it started. They did tremendous studies on landscaping and found out that, for an example. A Japanese barberry bush, they wanted to know how does that link to the number of ticks in an environment. And they found out that a Japanese barberry bush, and many other bushes, will maintain 80% humidity, 23 out of 24 hours of a day. So, when you have a bush there, no matter if it’s dry climate, the insects will survive within that humid… Humidity within the plant. So, if you have those plants right to the wall, you have created the environment perfect for insects to come right to your house. Now you’re dealing with expansion and contraction, cracks are developing. The internal atmosphere of the house, whether it be AC in the summer or heat in the winter, is escaping out of these cracks. You’ve brought the insects right there. They are looking for that optimal temperature, and so they’re drawn into the house. Now the insects come in, most of it’s brought on by either plants or leaves around the foundation.

 

SD: Leaves are decaying vegetation that sowbugs and millipedes feed on. They’re in the crustacean family, but they feed on this decaying vegetation, and the decaying vegetation is holding moisture and it’s damp and dark and it’s perfect. So, if you eliminate that away from the house, especially in the window wells around the basement or around the structure, you maintain a clearance. Even if it’s just a foot where your plants are not starting until a foot away from the wall. And you don’t even include that branches encroach that space. If you allow sunlight to hit the foundation, you have created the perfect anti-pest scenario naturally. And that will cut out 90% of the pests that come in, the insects that’ll come in, which naturally reduces the spiders. But that all being said, if the home is in an environment that is surrounded by moisture like a marsh, a lake, a wooded area where it’s heavily shaded, you’re gonna have more pest pressure in that area, and in order to keep spiders out in those areas, you have to maintain a chemical control around the exterior.

 

SD: And depending on the products that are used, I mean I could touch on another subject, the ones that are really just, I’d say campaigning door-to-door. They have a model where it’s “Get as many customers as you can and spray the cheapest possible product on the house.” A product that they’ll use may cost them $40 a gallon or around there, it’s not that expensive for the product, but it doesn’t last in the environment. They’ll have ’em on a schedule where they come out once every three months, but they’ve only applied a product that’ll last one month. So, there’s two months of no control, and then the spiders build back up on that house and get in the house. We put a home on a control program where… That’s in that heavy pest pressure area, we put it on a program where we treat it on the exterior with a product that costs us $440 a gallon…

 

TM: Whoa.

 

SD: Ours is based on science, it’s based on the product that we’re using. The product lasts for two months, so we re-apply it once every two months, so we come out April, June, August, October. We treat the exterior with that product and it will keep the house insect-free, including spider-free and web-free inside and out. So, it’s a nine-day difference, but it’s not a sales model. And then I’m proud that none of our customers are on a contract, not one of them, we don’t have contract. If you sign up on our insect prevention plan, you sign up and you can cancel any day that you want for any reason. But most of the people that come with us, stay with it because it actually produces results. So…

 

TM: Well, I appreciate your ethical practices and just your knowledge of everything, and so fascinating listening to all of these facts and information about pest control, I had no idea.

 

SD: Yeah, thank you. No, I appreciate the opportunity to talk about it. I am passionate about it, I love what I do because it makes a difference for people. I’ll face people that are both men and women honestly, that are crying, literally crying about what they’re dealing with. I had a lady recently that, she was a new mom and her child was getting bugs in the bed. And it was such a crazy way to figure it out, it turned out to be these carpet beetles, but the origin was crazy. They had a part of the vent system in the air ducts was closed off, not properly opened, so hair from the animals was collecting in this vent and not circulating out of it. And enough collected in there where these carpet beetles naturally started breeding off of it…

 

TM: Oh my god.

 

SD: But she was finding them in her kid’s bed and nobody could figure out why. And she’s feeling like “I’m supposed to protect my child from these pests,” and she felt like it was a derelict of her duty, like she’s failing and… She’s probably, the stress of a new mom and all of it going with it, but you walk into those situations and it’s not just, “Hey, I’m here to spray and how much money can I get from you?” To me that’s egregious, that’s simply unacceptable. All these customers are… I look at ’em… I was born and raised in Minnesota. And if you don’t treat people that are in Minnesota like they’re your neighbor, you don’t belong here. You shouldn’t be doing business here, these are people that you should be taking care of, not trying to take advantage of, so anyway.

 

BO: So Scott, you gotta come and check out my house…

 

SD: Any time… Yeah. Let us know.

 

BO: I’ve got bait buckets or bait things around my house. Occasionally, I found little feet sticking out of crevices where they got stuck. And my mouse problem is they’re killed on a regular basis, I guess by something, but it’s not fixed, so I’m gonna have you come out and fix my mouse problem.

 

RS: I gotta ask you, Scott, I am sure anybody listening to this podcast, it’s quite clear that you know your stuff.

 

TM: Yeah.

 

RS: And so, it just begs so many other questions, and I’m wondering if we could do like a part two.

 

[laughter]

 

SD: Absolutely. No, honestly, I would love to, I would love to. I take the time honestly to educate every single customer. I’ll literally… And I’ve trained all of our staff to do this too. Getting the word out about really what is the science. My industry currently, honestly, for the last 10 years has been hijacked by a sales model out of Utah that has caused door-to-door pest management, it shames me to see this, that people… We gotta learn that when you pay for something, you’re getting what you paid for, and you can’t just take somebody coming to your door without doing some research.

 

SD: But thousands of people are signing up for this. And they’re locked into a contract too, but once that expires, they do end up coming to us and other companies. But I just wish that I could get the word out that, it’s not… Really look into what you’re buying and check out the science behind it, and look at the results too, look at the reviews. You will see what customers are saying about what any company is doing. Really take your time to do your homework, I invite you to do that. And if you have questions, call our office, we’ll be happy to spell out what you’re dealing with. We give free advice every day, all day, because if I wanted to, I’d honestly duplicate that model, that door-to-door model. That’s highly successful, it’s worth multiple millions. But that’s not that… To me, that doesn’t make sense why you would spend your life pursuing money. If that’s the goal of your life, then you have not understood anything about why we’re supposed to be here.

 

SD: With our employees, I share our profits with our employees too. Because it’s not just Feed My Starving Children, that’s very important to us, it’s super important to us, but what you’re talking about, can’t be motivated through a conversation. I can’t motivate my team through lip service. I have worked for so many other companies where the owner of the company gave me lip service, and then in the end, I found out how financially I was just getting screwed over. We provide profit sharing with our team, our team gets that when we say something, we do what we say we’re going to do, we stand behind them. We don’t micro-manage anybody, we don’t have GPS things on our trucks to track where they go. We don’t micro-manage any part of their day, they are adults, they show up at the home, and their intention… If we come across, and I’ll even say this, if we come across people that are financially destitute, we do the service for free. If we have to, we do it at a reduced rate.

 

SD: If I come across a widow that just lost her husband, I try to do the service for free because it’s gotta change in America, and I could get really emotional about this, but it’s gotta change where these corporations are just… All it is is money, all it is is power over people, and people are just walked on. If you don’t provide a decent living wage for your employees, you shouldn’t be in business, period. You should not be in business. You should stop calling yourself an entrepreneur. You should give it up. That would be what I’d say about it. If you give a living wage, your employees will care, they’ll actually go to the house, and if you instruct them to not look at your customer like they’re a money bag that you can just get whatever, extract whatever you can from them. If you say, “Care about them, take your time with them. Explain what you’re doing,” they will.

 

SD: And then you know what the customer will do? They’ll tell all their friends, and you wanna know how we’ve grown? That’s exactly how we’ve grown. We do a little bit of Google Ad thing with Google, a little bit of Facebook, whatever we have in six years. But such a small fraction of our money is spent on advertisement, it’s all word of mouth primarily. And people just in the middle of night, I got a mouse problem, and then they google, “Get rid of mice.” And then they’ll look, and the ones that take the time and they read the reviews, they figure it out. “This company actually is gonna try and seal my house, jeez. That’s different from just throwing poison all over the place or making me sign up for this quarterly plan, or not standing behind your word for more than six months.”

 

BO: Wow.

 

TM: Yeah, we need more Scott Dorns and BOGOs in the world.

 

RS: Yeah, we gotta be on for a follow-up to do Q&A, just let people write in with questions about pests.

 

BO: You know, we didn’t even scratch the surface.

 

SD: Yeah. Whatever you guys wanna talk about whenever. If anyone’s watching this and they see this before, third or fourth week of September. I would urge you to watch the southwest of your home, and if you see a lot of boxelder bugs on your house, all of them are going to overwinter with you. You can prevent that by having an exterior treatment on your house with a product that will last for two months, any bugs that touch it will die within 30 minutes. It dries within an hour, it’s safe to touch after we apply it, it won’t hurt your plants. It dries colorless, odorless, but it protects your home for two months from the time the bugs start coming all the way up to winter hitting, so…

 

RS: Well, Scott, I gotta say, this podcast probably won’t air until mid-September. Is it too late? 

 

SD: No, that’s perfect.

 

RS: Okay good.

 

SD: That’s actually perfect. Yeah, you can do this service even into October, but the most ideal time to do it is the end of September.

 

RS: Okay, got it. Cool.

 

BO: There you have it. Scott, this has been awesome. The information you provide is… It’s just unbelievable. I’ve never heard anybody talk about pests with such passion, but yet, we all have to deal with them on a regular basis. Unless they talk to somebody like you. So, thank you very much, we appreciate your time, and this is part one, because there’s too much ground to cover here in just one episode, so thank you.

 

SD: Hey, thank you.

 

BO: Everybody, you’ve been listening to Structure Talk, a Structure Tech presentation. My name is Bill Oelrich, alongside Tessa Murry and Reuben Saltzman. We will catch you next time. Thanks for listening.