READSBORO, VT. — After 30 years of busting bugs and wrangling critters, Action Pest Management continues to protect homes throughout Berkshire County and Southern Vermont from uninvited guests.
Siblings Shanah and Caleb Miner are part of a family business. But instead of running a cash register at the family store, they are exterminating termites and chasing bats out of steeples.
Caleb said his father, William Miner, was a bit of an entrepreneur and in the mid-1980s, after visiting a friend in Boston in the pest control business, he started his own practice back home.
"I remember when I was younger, dad's package came to the door with all of his new equipment he needed to start up," he said. "Our dad had to support three kids at home so there was a drive there."
General Manager, master technician and bat exclusion expert Dereck Darling said he has been with Action Pest for 26 years and that it wasn't always easy in the beginning.
"I can recall Bill Miner would work day and night. He would pick me up at 6 in the morning and we worked all day long," Darling said. "We worked like 19 hours straight and we did that more than once. Still when someone calls in the middle of the night and they need us to come, we answer."
Caleb Miner said this kind of support and dedication to helping the customer was always important to his father.
"When we get those late calls, we can literally hear dad say 'you can't leave them like that you have to take care of that,' " he said.
Even though William Miner passed in 2015, the family still runs the business as he would have wanted.
Shanah Miner said they have serviced homes and businesses throughout Berkshire County and Vermont and many of these businesses have relied on Action since the beginning.
"Our customers really like us and we have had customer that have been here since the beginning," she said. "These businesses support our families and we want to support them."
Darling said Action Pest Management can be much more flexible than some of the larger companies and attributed this to the business's success. He said while the larger pest control companies will not alter their methods, Action customizes their procedures to meet the individual case and homeowner's needs.
Caleb, who oversees commercial extermination, said much of the time a problem can be eliminated by just finding the source.
"Dark-eyed fruit flies are the No. 1 problem in restaurants right now," Caleb said. "What I have to do nine out of ten times is SOS, 'search out the source.' I find where their breeding source is which could be a small spot of curdled milk underneath something that is creating 500 fruit flies."
Darling said a lot of the time if they can isolate the source they do not have to use chemicals.
"Reducing the amount of chemicals is a big part of our responsibility and job ... most companies want to spray everything, which kills a lot of good things," he said. "If we can eliminate a pest problem without using any chemicals we will and if we do, we apply it only as needed."
Darling said Action employs environmentally friendly baits that get rid of pests. He said the business also sells "Tick Tubes" that are filled with cotton that have an environmentally safe tick-killing agent on them. Mice make nests with the cotton and ticks are killed at the source.
Shanah said another important aspect of the job is educating people.
"A lot of the time people create the own problems and it is an important part of our job is to educate the customer," she said. "I get calls and sometimes people try to do it on their own and it can make it worse. That's why we say call a professional."
Darling agreed and said the biggest culprit is often bird feeders.
"It attracts everything and there is no sign that the animals can read that says bird seed," he said. "It attracts mice, rats, raccoons and skunks. I see so many people creating their own problems."
Shanah said the business has always been family oriented and has relied on a core group of employees to meet the pest control needs of the region.
"We have really good group of core guys," she said. "Our company is built on having a strong team and that is what has helped us."
Shanah said an important part of the business is the ability to be able to adapt to changing regulations, technology and customer needs.
Darling said the equipment has become far more sophisticated and the science behind many of their removal methods is quite advanced.
Darling said even the pests have changed.
"Because of climate change, there are several new insects that weren't here when I started," he said. "When I was a kid I would play hide and seek and cover myself with leaves. I wouldn't even consider that now with the tick population. People say they live up in the mountains and don't have ticks and I tell them enjoy it while it lasts because they are coming."
He added that the rats seem to be getting smarter and bolder.
"The rats are smart to begin with and they are becoming more common and domesticated," he said. "You can find them everywhere even in the nicer neighborhoods it doesn't matter how clean you are."
He added that bed bugs seem to be more prevalent now with more people traveling.
"I went into an apartment and the gentleman was complaining about being bitten by spiders and I pulled back his bedding and I jumped back because there were thousands of bed bugs," Darling said. "This gentleman slept in this bed the night before ... I get itchy just thinking about it."
Action Pest Management will run special deals for its 30th anniversary and looks forward to 30 more years.
Caleb hinted that a new generation may be interested in the business.
"It's funny because [Shanah's] daughter works in the office and my son is out trapping," Caleb said. "He is all about catching squirrels so there is a good chance there will be another generation."
Action Pest Management is based in Readsboro and can be reached at 800-529-8309 or online.