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Have you ever wondered what goes through the mind of an experienced pest professional when he’s challenged with solving a pest problem he’s never seen before? This week I’ll show you.

I recently got a call from a man who said, “Mike, I’ve got a Golden Chain tree and the leaves are being chewed up by something. Help!” Though I’m not familiar with those particular trees, over the years I’ve seen thousands of novel pest problems, so I’m no rookie at being a rookie. I agreed to take a look.

I know from experience that smart pest management starts with an inspection, so I drove to the home and inspected the tree. I got lucky and immediately found caterpillars eating the leaves. I didn’t know the exact species, but again, I knew from experience that I likely didn’t need to know—caterpillar control on leaves rarely varies from species to species.

You might think my main concern at this point was eliminating the caterpillars, but it wasn’t, because I have learned from unforgiving experience that an improper pesticide treatment can kill leaves. My main priority was not hurting the tree. 

I needed a product to safely treat the leaves, so once again, I drew from experience. I grabbed the container of the product I use to treat oak leaves for leaf rollers—which are caterpillars—and carefully read the label. It indicated that I could safely treat “ornamental trees” for “leaf feeding caterpillars.” Bingo! I mixed the product according to the label instructions, treated the leaves, and said goodbye to my new customer confident I’d solved his problem. A week later I inspected the tree and voila, no more caterpillars. That’s a satisfying moment in the life of a Home Defender.

So what goes through the mind of an experienced professional facing a new pest problem? He thanks his lucky stars he’s not a rookie anymore!

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