Case Study

Spooky Tales from the Crypt

Pests have the innate ability to invite themselves to enter almost any commercial property. Bed bugs in a doctor’s office waiting room chair? No problem. Birds inside the rafters of a big box store? Too many times to count. Flies inside a crypt at a cemetery or mice in the embalming room of a funeral home/mortuary? Yes, it happened.

Pests do not make distinctions between which commercial properties they choose to infest. If the potential exists to access food, water and/or shelter, pests will try to gain access.

Sprague Pest Solutions delivers pest control programs in a wide spectrum of commercial properties and in doing so has encountered pests in locations one cannot believe.


One would not think cemeteries would attract pests. They are outdoor spaces, so aside from nuisance birds and wildlife, pest activity is low. But inside the structures located within cemeteries, pests can be a challenge.

In a recent instance a Sprague route manager was called to investigate a phorid fly, also known as scuttle flies, issue inside a crypt at a historical cemetery in Washington state.

The maintenance manager at the cemetery said the flies were quite noticeable during the warmer summer months and while there were no formal complaints, he could see visitors were annoyed. Getting to the root cause of the infestation, however, was going to be an impossible task.

Performing pest control services in sensitive properties like cemeteries, funeral homes or mortuaries requires discretion and professionalism. These are the final resting places for people’s families and friends and need to be treated as such. But the pests need to be managed.

Since the crypt building, while old, was in good repair with no obvious openings, the maintenance contact at the cemetery suspected the phorid flies were coming from one or more of the caskets entombed in the crypt. That assumption was validated during an inspection when flies were noticed on the casket-facing side of the spider webs inside the multi-story crypt.

What causes this? Since the crypt has been around for decades there was a reasonable chance some of the bodies entombed there were not embalmed or buried in caskets that met today’s requirements (i.e., sealed, lined, etc.). As a result, a decomposing body would produce decaying organic matter and fluids that could leak and attract scavenger pests including flies and beetles.

Another instance of pests invading a sensitive space took place in a funeral home/mortuary Sprague serviced. The funeral home was in an old three-story house that was located near numerous fast-food restaurants that offered abundant and readily accessible food sources for the mice that were infesting the embalming room and holding area.

Due to the structure’s age, there was uneven cement around the garage door where the funeral home parked its hearses. The garage provided direct access to the embalming and body holding room in the basement.

Aside from the mice’s curiosity and bold nature, what would attract them inside? Mortuaries can attract pests because of the presence of decaying organic matter which serves as a food source for various insects and scavengers. When a body is stored, prepared, or awaiting burial, it releases odors and substances that attract an array of pests. Additionally, the mortuary environment, with its temperature and humidity control, can create conditions that are conducive to pest activity.


Due to the sensitivity of both accounts, low profile but effective plans were needed. Sprague consulted closely with both clients on potential remedies and desired outcomes. They also offered recommendations on what both clients could do to help achieve lower or zero pest pressure.

At the cemetery crypt, performing a targeted treatment of the casket or casket area was out of the question. The most effective course of action to knock down the fly population was to deploy bait on the windowsills of the south facing windows where the flies were attracted to the sunlight.

In the funeral home/mortuary, leveling the cement and installing weather stripping on the door, combined with an interior trapping and exterior baiting program was performed.


In both instances, Sprague successfully knocked down the pest populations for both accounts. And in the case of the funeral home/mortuary the mouse issue was eliminated, and no additional mice sightings were reported.

Funeral homes/mortuaries and even cemeteries need to be vigilant against pests due to the nature of their work. Regular pest control services in addition to the facility staff following proper sanitation, storage, and exclusion practices, are crucial in mortuaries to prevent and manage pest-related issues.

Effective pest management is essential not only for hygiene reasons but also out of respect for the deceased and grieving families.