Howard's tales of yore

Managing Director, Howard Taffs shares his favourite stories and anecdotes from his 30 years in the Pest Control control industry. While these are all true, peoples names have been changed to protect them.

Are beetles that bore into wood always woodworm ?

A "Lord of the Rings" themed restaurant had discovered woodworm in their wooden tables and called me in to treat. I noticed that the holes were always in the grooves in the middle of the tables and never in the legs so I suspected that something odd was going on. I eventually found a live beetle (about 2mm long) and realised it was not woodworm but the very similar, Biscuit Beetle Stegobium paniceum. These can live in old bread rolls which have gone rock hard as well as other hard items such as the 19th C ships biscuits: hence the common name. This restaurant, however was spotless with no obvious food source. It took me two and a half hours but I eventually found them living as larvae (grubs) in some dried sunflower heads used as a wall decoration. Time well spent and one to remember for the future I thought. But, in 16 years since then I have never come across anything similar.

What's in your loft?

Over the years I have been into thousands of people's lofts and seen a few odd sights. One of the oddest was in Bristol in a house owned by an 83 year old man. The loft turned out to be quite large but even so I was not expecting to find a Triumph 650 motorbike in working order up there. The owner was unwell at the time so I never got the chance to ask either of the key questions, Why it was there rather than the garage? and most importantly, How did you put it through the loft hatch?

On another occasion I was moving some boxes in a loft to get at the far end and discovered a trove of platinum discs awarded to a boy band. These were scattered around at the rear of the space. The householder had only recently moved in and had never been up into the attic. She was thrilled at the discovery but like me, baffled as to why they meant so little to the previous owner. 

Mice scare big cat !

got a call from a lady in Kent asking for help as the mice in her shed were "scaring her cat" she explained. Having found the large detached, (and isolated) property I rang the bell. Mrs Ootsira took me down to her shed to show me the problem.I noticed that the shed was considerably larger than usual but didn't think to ask why. When I went in I was fully intending to go straight into my survey to discover where the mice were living and why they were a problem. However something stopped me.... I turned round and closed the door from outside to speak to the lady again. "Silly question I know" I said; "but you are presumably aware that your cat is a full grown Leopard". "Oh yes, of course" she answered, "I got my husband to buy it for my birthday but its afraid of mice"

After I had surveyed, somewhat timorously I admit, and come up with a safe solution I took my leave. As I left though I asked one more question. "Why is the Leopard confined to only one half of the shed Mrs Ootsira?" "Ah" she said, "That's to make room for the Tiger"

Which is the most dangerous, a Lion or a Wasp?

Usually the answer to this question depends on where you are. In the past I have been “mildly remonstrated with” for wandering off along a river bank on my own to look for birds. This apparently is not wise in African game reserves. However I was not eaten by lions so it must be OK then.

Wasps, however have attacked and stung me quite often when dealing with nests. The worst experience was definitely when they found a way into the face section of my bee suit. The mesh at the front does usually keep them out but I can report,with feeling, that it most certainly keeps them in once they crawl up there from your ankles.

The only time I have had to make a serious decision as which is the most dangerous, of course is when treating a wasp's nest inside a lion enclosure. At that point the idea of “eyes in the back of your head” becomes less of an old proverb and more of a “Must put it on the Christmas list”. Which way should I look most of the time? I wondered

In the end I reasoned that (in Britain at least) far more people are killed by wasp stings each year than Lions so I concentrated on the wasps and lived to tell the tale.


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