ou're walking around looking," starts Joe Edwards intently, explaining the behavior of "nervous" rats. "You bend down under a table looking for them and they shoot out right at your face."
That's something you never get used to, Edwards explains, even after 26 years as a pest controller for Rose Pest Solutions-a pest control service with offices throughout metro Detroit and the Midwest.
In all his years, he's encountered the full gamut of "hairy" situations.
"You never expect a rat to jump off a pipe and land on your shoulders or the top of your head," he says. Edwards, a route manager, currently works in east Detroit, including Eastern Market neighborhoods and commercial and business properties, where he says the biggest problem he deals with is rodents.
"I can catch anywhere from, sometimes, seven to 20 mice or three to four rats. It depends on the location," he says. "If they're near vacant areas or water, buildings like that, you get more activity."
The most spine-chilling story, he recalls, comes from a restaurant.
"The rats were coming out at night, walking on the tables and eating up all of the sugar packets. This was every night." Soon they burrowed their way into the refrigerator. Their preferred treat? Hot dogs.
"We could not figure out how they were getting in until we ended up putting (in) a black light and started recording them," says Edwards-and there was more. "Then to open up a bench where people were sitting at, and to find 15 to 20 babies living under the bench-while people were sitting there."
The calls usually come when the problem has become unbearable, says Edwards. After identifying the issue, he puts customers on a regular maintenance program. Everything has to be done with the customer's participation.
"You need their help, because if they're not going to fix a hole, put a screen up or close a gap, it's just putting a Band-Aid on cancer. It won't work."
Before he began this gig, Edwards was a chef who sometimes catered to meetings for another pest control company.
"It just so happened that the company I worked for closed maybe two weeks later," says Edwards. "So, I put an application in to that pest control business. I was scared to death of roaches, but I put an application in that morning and was working the next day."
The rewards of the job outweigh his fears.
"The customer expects you to be their doctor," says Edwards. "They expect you to solve their problem. They want you to fix them because they're broken. They want you to tell them what's wrong."
Although Edwards has been in the pest control industry for almost three decades, he says he still "can't say I love bugs." But he does love his job.