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PMPs as ‘Public Health Protectors’ a Focus of Kentucky Short Course

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The theme of the 43rd annual University of Kentucky Pest Control Short Course, held last week, was “Pain, Pests and Pestilence,” and during the three-day conference a special emphasis was placed on the role of pest management professionals as protectors of health – both physical and mental.

Brad Harbison | October 7, 2013

LEXINGTON, Ken. — The theme of the 43rd annual University of Kentucky Pest Control Short Course, held last week, was “Pain, Pests and Pestilence,” and during the three-day conference a special emphasis was placed on the role of pest management professionals as protectors of health – both physical and mental.

“Besides being a nuisance, we know that pests can affect our quality of life and our health, but they also can mess with our emotions,” said University of Kentucky Entomologist and Researcher Dr. Mike Potter. “As an example, a recent survey found that nearly one-third of the population would rather have a root canal than a bed bug infestation in their home.”

To further illustrate the public’s bed bug fears, Potter shared with attendees an email he received from a Colorado homeowner, whose home was completely surrounded by floodwaters, yet he was more concerned about a bed bug he found in his bedroom. “He said, ‘I can deal with the flood. I’m pretty handy. But I can’t deal with the thought of having bed bugs.’”
   
Bed bugs once again took center stage at the Short Course. One of the highlights of the show was a “Bed Bug House of Learning” moderated by NPMA Technical Director Jim Fredericks. A makeshift bedroom, built by Mark Myers of Forshaw Distribution, provided attendees with a valuable visual training of what is involved in almost every aspect of bed bug work including: inspection/client preparation (presented by Wayne Wickemeyer, Permakil); canine inspections (Darren Bowman, Perfection Pest Control); monitoring devices (Scott Robbins, Action Pest Control); vacuuming, steam and encasements (Maria Miller, Paragon); heat treatments (Matt Blake, OPC) and pesticide treatments (T.J. Neary, Insect Technologies).

Relating bed bugs to the conference’s theme about pests impacting people’s mental and physical health was a session presented by Dr. Jerome Goddard, Mississippi State University. Goddard reviewed the human bed bug bite classification system created, and also how humans scratching bed bug bites can lead to skin trauma and subsequent infections such as MRSA.

A bed bug panel discussion led by OPC Pest Control’s Donnie Blake featured Erich Hardebeck (Permakil); Keith Smith (Action Pest Control); Kathy Heinsohn (American Pest); Tim Leatherman (Perfection Pest Control); and Shawn Rich (E-Town Exterminating). It also involved active audience participation. Among the frustrations shared by PMPs was a lack of client cooperation in not following protocols; technician burnout; and concerns about sustainability of bed bug work. However, it is still a service in demand and has helped many PCOs replace revenues lost from other services being down. The lively discussion illustrated that there is still no consensus on whether bed bug work is “a gravy train or freight train” for PMPs.

Other highlights included:
•    A Pest Alert from Ric Bessin, Department of Entomology, University of Kentucky. Bessin reviewed the spread of three pests to Kentucky and neighboring states: brown marmorated stink bugs; kudzu bugs; and spotted wing Drosophila (Drosophila Suzuki). While these pests are primarily devastating to crops and vegetation, they can be household pests and have shown the potential to become more widespread.
•    Eric Arnold, president of the Wildlife Control Technology Training Group, Sharon Center, Ohio, gave a presentation on bat management. Arnold stressed the importance of learning construction practices – not just for bat control but for all types of pest control. “We are in business because of failed construction practices. Find them and fix them,” he said. Arnold shared a variety of not only technical tips, but business management tips for PMPs. For example, he said a mistake PMPs can fall into is not properly listening to customers, so he created a “flowchart” to help with this process.
•    Jamel Sandidge of Rockwell Labs Ltd, and author of Brown Recluse Spiders: A Knowledge Based Guide To Control And Elimination, presented on “Battling the Brown Recluse.” In his presentation Sandidge noted that it is easy to eliminate large numbers of brown recluse spiders (90% will die following a standard treatment); however, unless the females are eliminated, control will not be achieved because they will be able to repopulate. “You have to eliminate the females and females are more sedentary and difficult to locate.”
•    Termites were another important focus of the Short Course. Paul Hardy, J. Paul Hardy Consulting, shared with attendees lessons from 50-plus years of termite work. Among Hardy’s advice for new managers was to communicate and be consistent with policies among employees. “Teach, show, let practice, critique and give recognition. Everyone wants to a be apart; they want to know if what they are doing is important; they want to be held accountable and rewarded accordingly. University of Georgia’s Dr. Brian Forschler also spoke on termites and provided attendees with some of his 30 years of termite observations. Forschler was asked about recent swarm activity and he noted that “We have the swarm data on (University of Georgia) campus for the last five years and I can tell you that it has about doubled from where it was in the early 2000s,” he said. Forschler said it is difficult to correlate swarm activity with weather conditions, but his guess is that conditions have not been optimum for swarming in many locales. For example, he said that in Georgia the flavipes species has been actively swarming from November to March, and swarming is most prevalent when temperatures are in the 60s to 70s during the day, following a rain.
•    Dan Collins, president of Collins Pest Management, Evansville, Ind., presented on “Rodent Control in the Trenches.” Collins related some of his experiences working with roof rats, a rodent found primarily in the Gulf Coast, but that Collins discovered in one of his accounts in Evansville. He believes the rodents originated from New Orleans and were brought to Evansville on a shipping barge. “They’ve become the dominate rodent in this facility and the interesting question is ‘How did they displace the more aggressive Norway rat?’” Collins said. Now that they have been established, they are difficult to control, Collins said. “They really do act like squirrels. I witnessed one the other night  scurry up a cable, about 120-feet vertically, and it did it in about 10 seconds.”
•    Potter said a record number of vendors were on hand for this year’s Short Course. Industry suppliers who sponsored special events included BASF (evening reception); Oldham Chemicals (evening reception); Zoecon and Bayer (breakfasts); Bell Laboratories, Dow AgroSciences, FMC and Syngenta (refreshment breaks). Additional sponsorships were provided by Atlantic Paste & Glue and Control Solutions Inc.

PCT will have additional coverage of the Short Course throughout the year. Next year’s Short Course is scheduled for Sept. 30 – Oct. 2, 2014.