On the road with pest control

‘Student houses aren’t all that gross’

Mice behind the fridge, wasps in your room: many student houses are infested with some kind of pest. Pest control operator Luuk Riensema is there to help. UKrant joined him on the job for a day.
12 October om 11:18 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 17 October 2022
om 11:38 uur.
October 12 at 11:18 AM.
Last modified on October 17, 2022
at 11:38 AM.
Avatar photo

Door Tim van de Vendel

12 October om 11:18 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 17 October 2022
om 11:38 uur.
Avatar photo

By Tim van de Vendel

October 12 at 11:18 AM.
Last modified on October 17, 2022
at 11:38 AM.
Avatar photo

Tim van de Vendel

Driving through the city, Luuk Riensema keeps pointing out different places. ‘I got rid of some rats over there. That place had a wasp nest.’ He’s been working for the municipality of Groningen for twenty-five years as a pest control operator, helping people get rid of unwanted critters in their homes. ‘I’ve been to pretty much every house in the city.’

Today, his first assignment is with a student from Academie Minerva, who lives at the Damsterkade. It’s not the first time he’s been here. ‘A few weeks ago, I was here to shut out some mice’, he says. There is a remarkably large hole in the outside wall. ‘That’s where they came in, so I closed it up.’

The back of the hole is filled with a large amount of steel wool. ‘It’s really tough and hurts them when they try to chew through it. You shouldn’t use cork or anything like that; they’ll eat right through it.’

Today, he’s checking two traps he set in the small studio apartment. ‘I also had a job in the alleyway next door’, he says after ringing the doorbell. ‘The rats were climbing the walls because there was so much food for them to eat.’


The student opens the door and Riensema can check whether her problem has been resolved. With some effort, he pushes her fridge to the side. ‘I’d prefer to have a partner on the job, but that’s impossible unfortunately.’ It’s just him and three other colleagues trying to control all the pests in Groningen. ‘It’s hard work, which makes recruitment difficult.’ 

Mice love getting behind fridges. There’s a little container that collects water

The first trap is empty. ‘Mice love getting behind fridges’, he says. That’s because there’s a little container on the back of fridges that collects water. ‘It’s a great place for them to drink from.’

The second trap is hidden behind a stack of paintings the student made herself. ‘My daughter went to art school, too, so they caught my eye.’ 


The best part of his job is meeting all kinds of different people, Riensema says. ‘One moment, you’re in a professor’s house, the next, you’re meeting a drug addict.’ He’s very good at building a relationship with his clients. ‘People just tell me their entire life story.’

That does get pretty intense at times, however. ‘Some people aren’t doing that well, or they’re very emotional.’ No matter what’s going on, he always tries to help them. ‘But I do need some time with my wife to decompress after I come home.’

The second trap is empty of mice as well. Riensema is happy. The mice haven’t returned, which means he did his job. Time to put everything back as it was. ‘I like to tidy up at the end.’


It’s time to move on to the next job. He doesn’t need a GPS: he knows the streets of Groningen like the back of his hand. Riensema’s vehicle is a red municipality van filled to the brim with everything he needs: ‘I’ve got traps, poison, protective gear, and tools.’ However, if you think he only uses poison as pest control, you’d be wrong.

I don’t just throw poison around or kill pets

‘It’s wrong to think that all I do is kill pests’, he explains. ‘I don’t just throw poison around.’ He always wants to get to the bottom of the issue. ‘There’s always a reason someone has pests in their home, and the first thing we do is try to stop them from getting in.’

But when he gets to the large student house in the Westerhavenstraat which has called him to take care of a large wasp nest, he sees he needs to take a different approach. Riensema gets a hero’s welcome. He effortlessly navigates the house’s small hallways to get to the room where the nest is located. ‘I was here a few years back, too.’

Below the window are a bunch of dead wasps. ‘I killed them with my shoe’, the girl who lives in the room says. Riensema locates the nest in seconds: in the gutter outside the window.


‘Are you allergic?’ he asks the student. ‘Yes, and I’m pretty scared of them, too’, she says. Riensema immediately grabs his poison. Normally, this is only a last resort, but allergies are nothing to mess with.

He gets his protective gear from his bag and grabs a large sprayer which contains talcum powder laced with insecticide. ‘Do you guys maybe have something I can stand on?’ It takes some doing, but hanging from the skylight, Riensema can just reach the nest. The students watch him work in suspense.

After a few minutes, the job is done. ‘Some of the wasps are already leaving the nest covered in powder, so that’s a good sign.’ But work isn’t done yet: part of his job is advising residents.

He tells the student who’s allergic about the ‘wasp therapy’ the UMCG offers. ‘They have a wasp sting you to build up immunity.’ He also tells her how to close the holes in her room to prevent any wasps from coming in.


‘Now that you’re here, we also have mice downstairs’, one of the other residents says. That’s no problem for Riensema, who follows her into the cramped kitchen. He sets up a couple of traps and tells the students they should clean the place thoroughly. ‘I can see a lot of breadcrumbs under the cabinets here’, he says. ‘Mice love those.’

It just feels great to help people when they’re having a tough time

He says the rest of the house is actually relatively clean. ‘People always think student houses are really gross, but it’s not all that bad.’ Riensema finds unwanted critters anywhere, and he doesn’t see more students than regular people.

He has seen some extreme cases, though. ‘I was once on a jury that was tasked with finding the dirtiest student house in Groningen’, he says. ‘In the end, they didn’t announce the winner, because it was too gross.’

Studio apartment

He thinks the whole thing is kind of funny. ‘Students’ frontal lobes tend to develop during their third year’, he jokes. ‘That’s when they get their own little studio apartment, for instance, and learn more about cleanliness.’

The extra advice he’s doled out means this job ran a little long, so has to rush to make it to the next one in time. Two more and then the day is up. He can’t imagine having any other job. ‘It just feels great to help people when they’re having a tough time.’

He’ll be home a little later than usual tonight, but he’s used to it. ‘Every day is different. I can never predict what time I’ll be home. The only thing is that I won’t be able to prepare for my spinning class tonight’, he jokes.