What’s Bugging You: Bug Trouble

10 November 2011 By Kelly Sanford

Does your yacht have a strategy for battling bugs? These tiny interlopers can come aboard and do more damage than the rowdiest charter guests. Peg Nusser of Fort Lauderdale-based Ladybug Pest Control has a unique specialty: pest control in a yachting environment. Yachts from around the globe rely on this pesticide-wielding gladiator to eliminate and prevent infestations among the fine fabrics, priceless works of art, high-tech electronics and varnished surfaces of a yacht’s interior. Nusser shares signs that you vessel could be in bug trouble and a horror story, or two.

Of course, spotting a bug on the boat is an obvious sign. Finding a single bug may not be cause for concern, but when you’re finding bugs with any frequency, well, that usually means trouble.

Blood-drinking bugs will make their presence known by biting the crew and guests. But not all bug bites mean mosquitoes. Bedbugs have made a comeback, but we’ll get to than in a later article.

Some pests can be very elusive. Although you may not be stumbling upon the bugs themselves, you will likely find traces of their presence. Bug droppings often resemble gunpowder or coffee grounds — dark in color and granular. Droppings that resemble rice likely mean there’s a rodent aboard.

Cocoons can appear cotton-like, woody or even plastic. The resulting moths and their larvae can be voracious and cause significant damage, especially to linens, furniture and the owners’ or guests’ extremely expensive wardrobes.

Fine Powder and Sawdust
Finding talc-like deposits and small piles of sawdust could mean wood-eating insects. Since these pests burrow in the wood, you may not see the bugs themselves, but their tailings will certainly indicate their presence.

Another sign of wood-eating bugs are tiny holes in woodwork, cabinets, furniture, artwork, crafts, baskets or even dried flowers. Holes in fabrics and carpets usually indicate that moths are aboard.

Funny Stains
Check bedding and upholstery for small, rust-colored stains. This can be a sign of bedbugs.

Nusser has seen quite a lot in her years as the yachting industry’s pest expert. Here’s just one tale of horror:

I got a call from the captain of a hundred- foot motor yacht, saying he had some bugs on board that he wanted me to make sure wereeliminated,” begins Nusser. In talking to the captain, heexplained that the owners had purchased a hand-carved statuette of an iguana while down island. The iguana was used as a table decoration on the aft deck. The stewardess and mate had both occasionally noticed that a powdery dust would come off the statuette, but it never struck them as odd, since it was, after all, a hand-carved figurine.

At the end of the Caribbean season, the crew returned to Fort Lauderdale for some yard work. The statuette was wrapped up and put into storage. When it came time to put the boat back together at the end of the yard period, the stewardess pulled the statuette out of its plastic bag and discovered that one of the iguana’s legs was missing. She looked down in the bag, but could not find the missing leg...only what appeared to be fine talc.
“Well,” says Nusser, “it’s a good thing that they had stored the carving in a contained environment. Because the leg had not broken off – it had been eaten off by a voracious and aggressive wood-eating insect called a lyctus beetle.” Also known as a powderpost beetle, had the bugs not been confined to the statue, they are capable of damaging and, in extreme cases, tunneling out and destroying all exposed wood on the boat, including the furniture, structural wood and paneling.

If that isn’t enough to scare you into vigilance, try this story on for size:

The epicurean ham and the parasiticred-legged ham beetle
If the title of this tale does not gross you out, the story certainly will. An owner had recently taken delivery of new yacht launched in the Med. During the christening celebrations, a guest had given the owner a very expensive dry-cured Spanish ham. “The guest had paid well over a thousand dollars for this ham, which is considered a delicacy. It still had its hoof and some of the fur intact, but clearly there was something special and very desirable about these hams,” says Nusser.

The catch, however, was that the dry-cured ham could not be refrigerated. It simply needed to be hung in dry stores. The chef decided that a soda locker under a stairwell leading to the crew quarters would be the best place to store this pricey piece of meat. Several weeks later, the crew began finding these odd, tiny green beetles in their cabins...soon the beetles were turning up everywhere.

“Here’s the rub,” says Nusser. “The soda locker was fine while the boat was in the Med and sitting in cold water, but as they cruised into warmer waters, the parasitic larvae in the ham began to hatch. When the chef pulled the ham from the locker, it was literally crawling with maggots.” Not sure what he should go, the chef then tried to salvage the ham by scraping away the meat with the maggots in it. “Huge mistake,” says Nusser. “In fact, I think the chef was fired for it.” This beetle is a parasite, so if he had served the meat to anyone, there is a good chance they could have been infected.”

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