09 November 2021

Dust, up to snuff? Maintenance tips for pressure dust applicators and storing pesticides


A bad workman always blames his tools, but are we doing everything in our power to make sure our arsenal is fit for purpose?

We asked Darran Lebeter, Sales Specialist at BPCA member company 1env Solutions, to give us a rundown of his best tips for keeping your equipment up to snuff.

Maintenance tips for pressure dust applicators and storing pesticides

When I was approached and asked to put something together on ‘maintaining pest control equipment properly’, I immediately started to pull apart a DR5, looking at all the seals, valves, nuts and bolts.

But that got me thinking.

Do these guys want me to go on about the internal parts of a pressurised dust applicator or sprayer?

We all know how important these bits of equipment are to us, and in order to optimise our productivity and performance, regular maintenance is essential, so I will spend some time looking at this.

But my thoughts led me to think about ‘equipment’ more widely.

The definition of ‘equipment’ is: ‘(noun) the necessary items for a particular purpose.’

It struck me that this widens our interpretation of ‘equipment’, the maintenance of which could be considered as important as the aforementioned application method. One could argue that it matters little how pristine your pressure sprayer is if your bottle of insecticide has been stored in the freezer!

The emphasis seems to be given largely to the applicators, and not so much the preparation, which is equally as necessary as a piece of ‘equipment’.

I’m going to touch on the importance of correct storage, preparation and application which could also benefit the tools we all use to apply any particular product.

Pressure dust applicators

Let’s now take a look at some specific examples, starting with what most of us hope will be our most important piece of application equipment during the summer months: our pressure dust applicators.

This piece of relatively inexpensive equipment can be our best friend and most loyal ally during a busy wasp season. That being said, I suggest that a large percentage of us may have had issues with these at least once during our careers as pest professionals.

Now, without wishing to teach people how to suck eggs, I would ask you to indulge me for a few paragraphs while I highlight some of the key ‘do’s and don’ts’.

These dust applicators require pressure to be built up within the tank. When we activate the trigger, the dust is drawn through the hose, through the trigger itself, the length of however many extension lances that may be attached, through the spike and only then into the wasp nest (or entrance of the nest).

In some cases, this can be a total distance of eight metres. This requires a lot of pressure.

With this in mind, I would like to look at a few of the seals that, in my opinion, are the components most likely to fail at some point which would either prevent us from being able to generate the required pressure or, not enable the duster to hold that pressure.

This part of the applicator has three essential seals/washers that will require particular care and attention. The o-ring at the top of the thread, the valve at the base of the pump and the internal washer.

Another issue that will have caused issues for most, I’m sure, is some form of blockage within the dust applicator.

Discounting a manufacturing fault, which is possible, there could be a number of reasons for this, the most common of which would be:

  • Moisture within the applicator and/or dust
  • Overfilling and/or over pressurising the tank.

Every effort should be made to keep all parts of your applicator, including extension lances, free of moisture.

The inert carrier for all insecticidal dusts is a very fine talcum powder (some of which are finer than others).

If there is any build-up of moisture, this can create a ‘clump’ of powder which could seriously diminish the performance.

With regards to the amount of dust put into an applicator, there is no definitive or legislative amount recommended. Different strokes for different folks, I think is fair to say.

That being said, I advocate not exceeding a quarter full of powder for a couple of reasons. As we know, we need to generate enough pressure to send the product a potentially long distance.

This pressure can only be generated in available space within the duster.

If the tank is three quarters full, that leaves limited space to build pressure.

What can also occur as a result is compacting the dust in an effort to gain the pressure we need.

As mentioned before, roughly 98% of the contents of your tub of insecticide dust is a fine talc, over-pressurising can lead to blockages just as easily.

At the end of the season, we need to empty the contents of the duster, ensuring it is as free of dust as possible including the hose and extension lances. Any remnant of powder in these units can harden over winter.

There is also value in considering having a ‘back-up’ sprayer and duster.

This is not a selling pitch, but would I need to ‘sell’ you a spare wheel for your van? The hope is you’ll never need to use it, but it’s there to get you out of trouble if you do.

Accidents can happen so let’s mitigate the potential impact and lost revenue by having something there to fall back on.

A new duster for free?

If you have owned a duster for a few years and have never taken any of the steps shown below, I would urge you to do so. Believe me, it’ll feel like you have a new duster!

2 the o-ring creates a seal at the top of the thread to prevent loss of pressure in the tank

The o-ring creates a seal at the top of the thread to prevent loss of pressure in the tank.

2 the valve at the base is one-way allowing air to be pumped into the tank without drawing dust into the pump

The valve at the base is one-way – allowing air to be pumped into the tank without drawing dust into the pump. Both of these can be replaced in a matter of seconds, and if either fracture or break down, this would render the applicator useless.

3 The internal washer is also vital this pushes air through the pump which then passes

The internal washer is also vital – this pushes air through the pump which then passes through the valve to build the pressure. Rarely does this washer fail, but it is not uncommon for them to lose efficiency. The application of a small amount of Vaseline or WD40 around this washer will ensure a smooth action through the pump mechanism.

4 Another seal that could do with attention at some point is that around the pressure release valve

Another seal that could do with attention at some point is that around the pressure release valve. As the image shows, this again can be changed within a couple of minutes.

5 Complete seal kits are readily available for all industry dust applicators

Complete seal kits are readily available for all industry dust applicators.

Pesticide storage

Consider those eggs sucked, now for our second course. More eggs I fear but please indulge me.

The storage of pesticides generally, whether insecticide or rodenticide, is also something that we should all pay particular attention to, especially when it comes to temperature extremes.

This is particularly important with oral feed preparations.

I will pick an example: rodenticide paste bait in a caulking tube.

These are preparations designed for ease-of-use and pinpoint application. If our ‘store’ is our vehicle, it is important we are mindful of the temperature.

In the depths of winter, with minus temperatures, the paste can harden. The reverse can happen when we are in the midst of a hot spell, not that this happens often!

Some of the components such as lard and/or oil can become overheated, start to separate and loosen the paste significantly.

This is just as applicable with insecticidal gel baits as well but must be considered for all chemicals we carry. A major frustration is taking your tube of cockroach bait only to find it is leaking from the reverse of the tube and not in the stable condition we need.

Every chemical has a safety data sheet (SDS), on which, under section 7.2, the storage conditions are specified.

While most do not specify a minimum or maximum temperature, the overwhelming majority state ‘store in the original container in a dry, cool and well-ventilated area’.

Please bear this in mind for everything carried. The better our essential chemicals are stored, the better our chances are of getting the most effective and efficient treatment.

I think that’s enough eggs for now. Thank you for taking the time to read through this piece and I hope that it has, at least, given some food for thought.

Want a follow-up?

Would you like some additional pest control equipment maintenance tips and tricks? What equipment should we cover? What issues do you have to deal with in the field?

Send us your suggestions or your own equipment maintenance tip and we might cover them in a future article.

Source: PPC105

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