Sometimes, there are things about the workplace that can really bug you.
And when that happens at LCA, we call on Lester Lee and David Gutierrez-Diaz. You might even call them our “swat” team.
Lester, who’s been with LCA for two years (wearing the LCA hat and bright yellow shirt), and David, who’s worked with us for six years, are electricians for our Suburban division, but what they really get a charge out of is eliminating pests, of the four-footed and winged, stinging variety.
Of Mice and Men
It all started when Lester’s boss, Tom Williams, mentioned a mouse problem at an LCA garage. “I can help with that,” Lester told him. A few days and a few full mouse traps later, and Tom was convinced.
It turns out that before starting at LCA two years ago, Lester was once a technician with a regional Viking Pest Control branch. A Bronx, N.Y., native, he moved to the Lehigh Valley in 2009 when he brought his grandfather here. “Growing up in New York City, I wasn’t exposed to a lot of bees, wasps, things of that nature. I actually had a fear of stinging insects,” he says. But he needed a job, and says he managed to impress Viking’s hiring manager into giving him a chance. “I learned about the habitat and biology of insects … there’s a lot of reading and studying … and became their top technician.”
Fast forward to his time at LCA, and Lester says he knew he could make a difference battling pests. While LCA already has a pest control plan in place, Lester and David supplement it and help address immediate needs across our many facilities. And after his success eliminating mice from the first garage, he was asked to tackle even more locations—including well stations and the generators that power them.
Pests can cause damage to our equipment, and make facilities unsafe for employees. In one instance, the pair eradicated mice that had chewed through generator wiring, which had to be replaced before the generator would start. “David and I implemented a plan to service all of our well stations … and we haven’t had a problem since.”
To date, he says, he and David have eliminated well over a hundred mice. The pair have also battled all kinds of stinging insects, some of which have been showing up in strange locations. In the accompanying photo, Lester and David display the interior of a hornet’s nest they removed.
What’s all The Buzz About?
“Just the other day as we were leaving work and they were closing the back gate behind us, a worker started running and yelled, ‘There’s yellow jackets!’ and they were embedded in the hollow of the fence!” Lester says.
Yellowjackets are an aggressive, territorial wasp, and can be particularly nasty if their nest is disturbed. They are capable of inflicting multiple painful stings, which can trigger allergic reactions and even cause hypersensitivity to future stings.
While they usually nest in the ground, reusing holes dug by other critters, they are opportunists and will also nest in enclosed spaces—such as the hollow pipes of a chain link fence, or in cabinets that house electrical equipment. And that can become a big problem for an unsuspecting worker who opens the cabinet to perform maintenance … or closes the gate that the wasps have decided to call home.
Even though it was the end of the day, the dynamic duo suited up and eliminated the angry, stinging pests. “It took us about a half-hour to 45 minutes to smoke them out,” Lester says. “I don’t want to see anyone get hurt.”
In the accompanying photo, David uses a vacuum pack the pair created to suck out and control swarming yellowjackets from a ground nest.
Poking the Hornets’ Nest
The duo also frequently encounters and removes paper wasp and bald-faced hornet nests at LCA sites. They recently tackled a tricky infestation at our Heidelberg Heights reservoir. A hornet’s nest was built about 15 feet up inside a ladder enclosure that workers need to pass through to reach the top of the reservoir. David and Lester set up an external ladder alongside the enclosure, then suited up and got to work. “It was a huge bald-faced hornet’s nest in the middle of the reservoir,” Lester says. “It was very challenging.”
Removing pests safely around a water supply can be tricky, and the duo uses extreme caution to prevent any contamination. “I consider myself and David as stewards of the environment,” Lester says. “We don’t use any chemicals inside any of the stations, or where it can reach a water supply.”
In the accompanying photo, the pair deal with a yellowjacket nest at Well 11.
Lester says that although “pest control” isn’t in their job description, “We want to go above and beyond and help out. … David and I, we don’t just come to work and do the minimum. We go the extra mile. We want to go another week where we know no one’s getting hurt.”
We’re thankful to have dedicated employees like David and Lester, who look out for the safety of the entire hardworking LCA team. In fact, we couldn’t “bee” prouder. See the video below for an exclusive behind-the-scenes look as they tackle the Well 11 infestation.