A trail of ants happily meander along the doorframe of Mark McDonald’s home.
‘‘They don’t bother me, they don’t get into the kitchen or anything so I just leave them all alone,’’ he says. ‘‘If I get spiders inside my home I’ll just put them outside – I don’t kill things unnecessarily.’’
It’s a surprising stance for a man who makes a living as Auckland’s ‘‘Bug King’’. The Panmure pest control director is responsible for ridding homes of rodents, cockroaches, fleas, spiders, wasps and flies.
It’s not the most glamorous of jobs and a far cry from his previous career in telecommunications.
‘‘There are a whole lot of pests out there and people don’t like them for whatever reasons, so somebody’s got to do it and it might as well be me,’’ he says.
Pest control technicians must qualify for a license to handle the products they use.
McDonald decided after 30 years of working for somebody else to set up his own business five years ago.
He found a gap in the market for residential pest control and the Bug King was born.
‘‘When I first started there definitely was that squeamish factor but now I’ll pick up a female cockroach and put it on my hand to show someone the egg sack.
‘‘I’m holding it up and they’re going ‘ get it away from me’.’’
While spiders and rodents make people cringe, bed bugs and fleas tend to bug people the most, he says. ‘‘They really get in people’s heads, they really, really upset them because you can’t get away from them.’’
McDonald says people are always relieved when he turns up at their door.
‘‘Solving people’s problems is my favourite part of the job – we sell peace of mind. People don’t ring us up because they’ve got bed bugs, they ring us up because they can’t sleep at night and they’re stressed out.’’
All species of cockroaches tend to get tarred with the same brush but it’s the smaller German cockroach that people need to be wary of, McDonald says.
The disease-spreading critters usually infest people’s kitchens.
You’ve got a very bad infestation if they spread throughout the house, he says.
That’s what he found after getting a call to attend a vacated rental property.
‘‘I opened the front door and it rained cockroaches from the top ledge of the front door; they were visible on the walls; every time you opened a door you could see them running everywhere.
‘‘We fumigated the house and when we returned the next day I literally couldn’t see the carpet because there were so many dead cockroaches.’’
McDonald expects to get a bumper load of calls about rats this winter as populations grow due to last year’s mild winter and a good summer.
Rodents are always the main problem in winter but during summer it’s flies and wasps.
Fleas and bed bugs bother people year-round.
‘‘Bedbugs are becoming more of an issue in New Zealand and that’s because of international travel,’’ he says.
‘‘They’ve got nothing to do with hygiene – to get a bedbug you have to stay overnight somewhere that’s got them or buy secondhand furniture with bedbugs in it.’’
McDonald advises people to make sure they don’t leave any food lying around, clean up any spills and have well-sealed bins to help keep pests at bay.
‘‘Pests are exactly like us – they need something to drink, eat and somewhere to live, so if you take any of those things out of play you’ve solved your pest problem.’’