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Pest Control in Theaters and Entertainment Venues

The seating area of a theater, looking down at the seats

Most people have no idea how challenging it can be to maintain a pest-free environment at a theater, entertainment center, opera house, amusement park, or other recreational or artistic establishment. That's probably because people go to those places to enjoy themselves and forget about things like pests and exterminators. And that's fine. That's what you're there for: to help people forget about their day-to-day problems and have fun for a while.

You, however, don't have the luxury of not worrying about pests and pest control. One of the quickest ways to drive patrons away from your business is for word to get out that you have a problem with cockroaches, bed bugs, mice, or other vermin.

In a way, your job (and ours, if we're your pest control company) is to do the impossible. Obviously, your patrons want and are entitled to a neat, clean environment. Unfortunately, all too many of them will spill popcorn and soda pop on the seats, toss candy wrappers on the floor, and wipe their buttery hands on the upholstery. But the next audience will still expect the venue to be neat, clean, and pest-free 15 minutes later when the coming attractions start to roll.

It seems like an impossible task. At best, it's a challenging one. Fortunately, we're up to that challenge.


Common Pests of Theaters and Entertainment and Amusement Venues

Theaters and other indoor entertainment businesses are susceptible to literally any pest problems facing other buildings. The pests most commonly found in and around theaters, however, are cockroaches, mice, rats, and bed bugs.


Theaters and other entertainment business are susceptible to all four of the common cockroach species found in Dayton and throughout Ohio. German Cockroaches typically are found in the snack bars and other food preparation or food service areas, as well as in the rest rooms. Brown-banded cockroaches are more likely to be found in the seating areas or in dressing rooms in theaters that have them. American cockroaches prefer the relative solitude of mechanical spaces, but may forage for food in patron areas when the lights are turned down. Oriental cockroaches prefer living outside during the warmer months and are least-often encountered in theaters, but sometimes become problems in the fall when they seek a warm place to overwinter.

Mice and Rats

Norway rats are common pests outside theaters and other entertainment venues, especially those that also serve "real" food (such as play establishments with dining areas). They usually don't get inside the buildings, but when they do, they can be a real challenge to find and get rid of. House mice are much more commonly encountered inside theaters and can also be very difficult to eradicate. They can also be a major turn-off to patrons when they come out looking for spilled popcorn during the main feature. Probably the only thing that can cause as much pandemonium in a crowed theater as a fire is a mouse running across a patron's foot.


Bed Bugs in Theaters

Close up of a bed bug on someone's hand

Bed bug are relatively recent arrival to the list of pests infesting theaters, but they're a serious and rapidly-growing problem for theater owners in Dayton and throughout the country. In fact, the problem is becoming serious enough that it deserves some special attention here.

Bed bugs are small, flattened, wingless insects that feed on human blood. They're called "bed bugs" because they've adapted to living in the areas where humans sleep and emerging at night to feed on their blood. They seem to be attracted to both warmth and to the carbon dioxide that we exhale, and they prefer darkness to light.

Although bed bugs don't actually live on people's bodies, they do often "hitch-hike" on people's bodies and clothing and in their purses and other belongings. That's how they wind up in theaters. Once they arrive, they find an ideal environment that's rich in the only two things a bed bug needs: places to hide, and people to feed on.

The simple needs of bed bugs are the reason why they're rapidly becoming such major pests of theaters. Once they're in, they have everything they need. And unlike most other pests, there's not very much you can do to prevent them from getting in short of banning people from your theater, which is kind of bad for business.

Preventing and Controlling Bed Bug Infestations in Theaters

Theater owners aren't completely at the mercy of bed bugs. There are some things that can be done to at least make life more difficult for them.

Although bed bugs aren't attracted to filth like some other insects, frequent and thorough cleaning and vacuuming can physically remove bed bugs before they become established. Regular shampooing and vacuuming, with with special attention paid to carpeting, upholstery (especially the crevices), and cracks and crevices in general, will go a long way toward preventing bed bugs from becoming established in your theater.

Routine spraying for bed bugs is not usually recommended as a preventative strategy against bed bugs in theaters. It's appropriate in some cases when the frequency of infestation justifies it, but those situations are the exception rather than the norm. Bed bugs feed on blood, so they don't readily ingest residual insecticides, making them only marginally effective. Thorough cleaning and as-needed spot treatments are usually the better, more economical, and more effective option.

When spot treatments are necessarily, we usually prefer heat treatment to chemical treatment. We have special high-temperature, high-pressure steaming equipment that penetrates deep into seating and upholstery to kill bed bugs, while leaving no residue or odor. The seats usually dry pretty quickly, as well, so they can be used within an hour after treatment.

Treating an Entire Theater for Bed Bugs

Sometimes a bed bug problem at a theater is so widespread that the entire theater must be treated. There are two approaches to whole-theater bed bug extermination.

When possible, heat treatment is the preferred method of bed bug control. This non-chemical bed bug control approach consists of heating the entire inside of the theater to a temperature that sufficiently disrupts the insects' metabolism to kill them. Contrary to some urban myths, we don't "cook" the bed bugs, and there is no smell of burning bed bug flesh. We just heat their miserable little bodies to a temperature outside the narrow range within which their metabolism can function.

Heat is always the preferred way to control bed bugs, but it's not always practical in theaters. The biggest determining factor is the size of the theater. Large theaters with high ceilings can be impossible to heat treat. Smaller theaters are usually better candidates for heat treatment. Individual rooms within theaters (such as dressing rooms) can also be treated using heat if the infestations are localized.

Larger theaters with widespread bed bug infestations can be treated using steam, insecticides, or a combination of the two methods, as well as vacuuming and shampooing of carpeting and upholstery (which should be done in any event).


Pro Zone Pest Control provides complete pest control services for theaters and entertainment venues in and around Dayton, Springfield, Northern Cincinnati, and throughout Ohio's Miami Valley. Please contact us for more information about how we can help you maintain a pest-free environment at your venue.