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Pest Control CSI – Why It Takes a Pro

By Chris Williams on March 23, 2012.

When the church secretary called she sounded more frustrated than anything. We keep finding these tiny brown insects, they look like little beetles, in the main entrance hallway of the church. The pastor is worried that they’re going to damage the carved wood in the altar or the antique wood in the baptismal font. They must be coming from infested wood somewhere in the church.

In order to solve this pest control mystery, the technician started with a thorough inspection. Part of that process involved getting the details and the facts from individuals on site. He discovered that:

1)   The beetles had been found almost exclusively around the windows at the end of a dark hallway just off of the nave or main worship area of the church. The windows were kept closed.termites

2)   The cleaning lady had been sweeping up dead and dying beetles in the front hallway on and off for about two months.

During his inspection, the technician discovered that an opposite wing of the church housed a daycare center. The church kitchen was in the lower level of this wing. No beetles had been found in the daycare/kitchen wing and there was no evidence of infestation there. He found no moisture problems, beetle exit holes in wood, beetle frass, or any other evidence of wood-boring beetles in the church.

The technician collected beetle specimens that were identified by an entomologist as drugstore beetles, not wood-infesting beetles after all. Despite the name, drugstore beetles are primarily pests of a wide variety of stored food products. They also can infest dried plants, books, leather, tobacco, and drugs (hence, the name).

The technician explained to the church staff what the beetles feed on. He further explained that, during his inspection, he didn’t find any beetles associated with the kitchen or daycare, the only areas where food was stored. The drugstore beetles seemed to be limited to the main wing of the church. He asked if there were any dried flower arrangements in the church or any other food stored in the church. Just the communion wine and wafers, the pastor’s assistant said. Bingo! The thin consecrated wafers, or “host,” that are used during communion services are made of unleavened flour and are commonly kept in the vestry near the altar.

Sure enough, when the communion wafers were checked, several packages showed evidence of drugstore beetle infestation. The church had been buying the wafers in large quantities to save money, so packages were stored for several months. Since the church was dark most of the time, the technician explained, the adult beetles emerging from the packages were flying to the nearest light which happened to be the windows in the front hallway.

The technician discarded the wafers, including new packages, since the beetles can even get into unopened packages. He recommended a thorough cleaning around the area where the wafers had been stored, and that wafers be stored in tightly sealed containers. He treated around the window frames in the front hallway with a pesticide to knock down existing beetles and to kill any remaining beetles that might fly to the windows. Just another pest control mystery solved.

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