By Maya Rodgers
Most little girls dream about being ballerinas, doctors, teachers, and a number of other things, but what I wanted to be was out of the ordinary for little girls. When I was in elementary school, you could find me on the playground with the boys; we were always looking under rocks, playing in the creek, and digging up worms to go fishing. We would gather up new bugs and bring them to my dad, who was in pest control, and ask the “bug pro” what type of bug it was.
As I got older, I became more and more interested in different species of bugs and decided to follow in my dad’s footsteps. I wanted to be one of a small but growing percentage of women in pest control.
So today, here I am. I am a wife, the mother of two children, and a pest control consultant. I couldn’t be happier!
A day on the job begins by driving the Terminix truck, which sometimes looks a little odd. I’m a petite woman driving this ginormous truck with a ginormous bug on it. I usually try and embrace it and get a little laugh out of myself when I see drivers glare my way.
When I get to either the homeowner’s or commercial property I begin with a consultation in order to figure out what the problem is and how I need to go about solving it.
Then comes the fun part—the extermination. This is different every day which makes my job exciting and refreshing knowing I will walk into a new problem every day. Sometimes I crawl under homes, go up in attics, or just stay on ground level.
My most horrifying experience was when I found a bed of snakes. I approached the foundation of a home and prepared to encounter a family of cockroaches needing eviction, but instead I came across several snakes who were making themselves welcome underneath this family’s home.
When I saw the snakes I screamed. It’s not every day you hear a pest control consultant scream, since we usually deal with the worst of creepy crawlies. The family ran out of their home probably thinking I sprayed roach killer in my eyes and needed serious medical attention. Instead, their reaction was just as shocking as mine to hear they had snakes living under their home all this time.
I have no problem with exterminating anything with legs: bugs, beetles, cockroaches, rats, mice. You name it—and I probably don’t mind it. But this was completely different. I was terrified. Luckily my co-worker didn’t mind, set out traps, and even got close enough to take a picture. Warning: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. We were very cautious and made sure the family stayed inside while all traps were placed and the snaked were removed.
Fortunately, to this day I have not had to deal with so many snakes, but this experience goes to show every day is different working in pest control. My most common encounters are bed bugs and cockroaches, but there are definitely other run-ins with animals that are one of a kind and have their fair share of stories.
Working in pest control is fun for me as I enjoy learning about insects and other animals, but women in pest control jobs are not very common. I do have female coworkers, there are just very few of us. Gender roles in the work field are changing and with that so are the gender roles at home. When I began working, I was one of two women in pest control at my office. Today I work with over five women, so I can even see the changes occurring right in front of my eyes. It is very encouraging every time we get a new woman on the team.
The gender roles at home are changing as well. My husband and I are raising our two children to understand that both mommy and daddy work and both mommy and daddy have to help around the house. I was raised in a household where my father worked and my mother took care of the house (which there is nothing wrong with this—but this isn’t always an available, or even wanted, option anymore). I think it is important for children today to understand that both men and women can work and that they both can help around the house too.
Our goal isn’t about teaching gender roles but it is about teaching that everyone needs to help out in a family.
Teaching children to be open about career paths is very important. There are too many times when girls and boys are siloed into career paths that fit their gender role instead of what they actually want to do because they are taught to be more feminine or to be more masculine. As parents we need to give guidance but we cannot over guide our children down a path. I am thankful for my parents supporting and allowing me to follow a career path that was not so common for a young woman at the time and I look forward to doing the same with my children.
Maya Rodgers is a mother, pet owner, and animal lover. She makes a living helping others combat fleas, but mostly aids people in pest consultation.