Safeguard Pest Control provides solutions
When Juan Martinez returned to the Valley after serving in the Marine Corps, he found a job with a pest control company. He enjoyed the work, moved up the ladder and eventually managed the business.
In 1991, he started his own company, Safeguard Pest Control, with his assets of a pickup truck, experience, a strong work ethic and a Pest Control Structural license from the Texas Department of Agriculture. Now the largest independent pest control company in the Valley, Safeguard is run by his sons, Frank and Gabriel.
“I started working here the day he opened the business,” said Frank Martinez, general manager. “My brother and I started from the bottom and have done it all.”
Gabriel is sales manager and lead tent manager, overseeing the critical work of tenting buildings for fumigation. The senior Martinez, now retired, remains president and advisor to his sons.
“The Valley is unique, because there is so much wildlife,” Frank Martinez said. “Each insect and animal has a purpose. We get into the picture when they become pests.”
Encounters with bees, for example, have become more frequent and present a special problem.
“We hate to kill bees, but if there’s a situation where a person could get hurt, we control them,” Martinez said. “We would like to save more bees because of their importance for agriculture and the environment.”
But few people are willing to take the hives since feral Valley colonies have been hybridized by African bees. In Safeguard’s spacious La Feria offices, a bee suit hangs behind him and the protective gear is standard equipment on every truck.
“Every home we visit can have bees, and we want to protect our employees,” Martinez said.
Ants (sugar, fire, harvester, crazy and ghost ants) and roaches rank as the Valley’s top pests year-round, Martinez said. But Safeguard’s scope goes way beyond those pests and seasonal invasions of fleas, ticks and rodents. The company’s wildlife management capabilities include controlling possums, skunks, pigeons, snakes, armadillos and bats.
Martinez tells people that bats are beneficial and natural pest controllers, along with toads, spiders and lizards. Safeguard humanely removed a bat colony from a Brownsville building with a device known as a bat cone. The company handles snake control (via glue boards) at a manufacturer’s warehouse that faces infestation by young rattlesnakes seasonally.
Heading an integrated pest management operation, Martinez tries to use non-toxic methods before resorting to chemicals. For example, when a school has a fly problem, Safeguard techs first attempt to control the situation by eliminating the source. Where are trash cans? Is sanitation what it should be?
“We are licensed in all categories, including structural fumigation and commodity (vegetables and pallets) fumigation,” Martinez said. For years, they have provided pest control services to universities, school districts and government buildings. They have a contract at the Port of Brownsville to inspect dunnage that arrives from Brazil. Nevertheless, commercial contracts account for only 30 percent of their work.
Martinez said Safeguard’s focus is on pest control service, with the emphasis on service. Thirteen licensed technicians are among the 18 employees responding to customers’ calls from Roma north to Falfurrias and east to Sarita down to Brownsville.
Yet things have changed from 25 years ago. “Our growth is not as good as it was because more one-man pest control companies are out there. But we are still seeing growth. We specialize in things others don’t,” Martinez said.
That reputation for expertise requires an understanding of state and federal laws, as well as completing continuing education courses to stay on top of industry trends and learn new procedures.
Martinez said the Valley only has two types of homes: those with termites and those that will have them because termites thrive in the Gulf Coast region.
“Any type of structure, even concrete, gets termites if it has cellulose in it. No home is immune,” he said.
Besides four different species of termites, the Valley has wood-destroying insects, bees and beetles. Tent fumigation is not always the solution since some termites are better controlled with liquefied barriers and bait. And not all termites digest wood: the desert termite, which recycles dead grass and leaves tiny dirt towers behind, is not an economic threat.
Safeguard is definitely a family-friendly operation. Martinez’s 17- and 14-year-old sons have been laboring this summer prepping for tent fumigation and other chores. The lobby has a crib where the cleaning lady puts her baby while she works.
Martinez recommends having your house inspected annually by a professional pest controller, whose trained eyes can spot insect shelter tubes, frass and damage. The service is typically free unless it is for a realty transaction or other procedure which requires documentation.