Bedbugs, rats and pigeons – A day in the life of a pest controller – Birmingham Live

Two decades ago Gary Jakeman was a driving instructor who taught people how to pilot cars, trucks and motorbikes.

Now, he heads up Pied Piper, a family-run pest control and wildlife management company, serving residents across Solihull and Warwickshire.

The majority of his work is around Kingshurst, Castle Bromwich and Chelmsley Wood. The firm has also secured large commercial contracts with big-hitters such as Jaguar Land Rover and Birmingham Airport.

Read more: Solihull's rat hotspots mapped out - a huge problem for these postcodes

While most of us might pray we will never have to use their services, thousands of people call upon pest control teams every day.

We recently revealed the scores of requests received from council pest controllers in Birmingham and Solihull, which contain areas among the West Midlands' hotspots.

And when locals are up against wildlife-related woes, from rodent infestations to rogue birds, it is these experts that come to the rescue.

But what do they actually do? Well, quite a lot, it turns out.

Gary told BirminghamLive that running a pest-control business was "very varied and interesting" which meant he was on call 24/7 and working around a dozen jobs a day.

Alongside wife Angela, 54, who is in charge of the admin, and son James, 28, the trio are called out to issues relating to rats, mice, moles, foxes, rabbits, wasps and even pigeons.

For Gary though, it's the variety that makes the job worthwhile after he changed careers almost two decades ago.

"This job is not monotonous," the 56-year-old said. "In this job I see something different every single day. And it taxes the mind, that's what I like."

A lot of Pied Piper's business comes through word of mouth and the firm often gets called out to council tenants who are not prepared to wait for the local authority to sort their problem. Around 90 per cent of most jobs, Gary says, focus primarily on investigation.

"A lot of the time, there's a reason why you are getting rats," he explained. "Rats need three things to survive - food, water and somewhere to live. So when you take away one of those you can basically control the rat situation itself."

As well as dealing with "all kinds of pests", the Cooks Lane business, which was set up with the help of Solihull Council in 2006, does a lot of hygiene-related work.

Gary and his family were classified as key workers during the pandemic so continued going to residents' homes and helping local businesses.

"We'll get up in the morning, go into the office and pick up all the day's work," he added. "And that can range from doing a wasp nest first thing in the morning to bedbugs to fleas and then back to a wasp nest."

And while wasps "sting for fun", it may surprise some to hear the firm will never touch bees. Gary said they were too important to the pollination of crops and fruiting trees.

When asked about his favourite type of job, Gary quickly replied anything that "taxes the brain".

Complex questions often spring up, such as how bedbugs have gotten into a particular room but not others and how homes can become infested with fleas despite having no pets.

This means that despite having a growing business and several subcontractors he likes to be out on jobs himself and meeting people.

"You need to find out how it's happened and why it's happened," he went on. "And then you need to make sure that you clear the problem and ensure it doesn't happen again by advising the customer."

But it must be difficult running a business with no repeat sales?

"I don't think we'll ever run out of pests," Gary added. "As humans, we provide a lot of the habitat for pests and hygiene is a big problem. Where hygiene lacks, that's when you get the pests coming in."

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Bedbugs, rats and pigeons - A day in the life of a pest controller - Birmingham Live

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