Included in the February issue is the winning photo and finalist photos from PCT’s annual photo contest. Below are other noteworthy photos from the 2012 contest.
Those of us who have business and research interests in termites have always had an interest in the timing and intensity of termite swarms.
The alates that make up the swarms are the adult reproductive caste of the colony, and they play an important role in keeping the genetic makeup of the species as diverse as possible. One of the interesting things to observe in nature is the synchronization of the emergence of adult insects in time and space to complete the reproductive processes. It is this genetic diversity that is critical to survival of populations through time.
Termites are among the most ancient of animals and have been on the planet for millions of years. Subterranean termites (Rhinotermitidae) have primary reproductives (swarmers), but also can produce secondary and tertiary reproductives where workers, or nymphs, can mature sexually, while never developing wings and going through the swarming processes (Miller 1969; Thorne and Forschler, 1998; Gold and Jones, 2000). This alternative form of reproduction has certain advantages for immediate survival of a colony, but, through time, the lack of genetic diversity (inbreeding) has major limitations.
One of the challenges of living and working in Texas is that we have four families of termites, each of which has a specific period in which they undergo swarming behavior. In general, the swarms start in the late winter and early spring with native subterranean termites (family Rhinotermitidae). These are followed by Formosan termites in early May (Mother’s Day swarmers). In late spring to early summer we have drywood termites (family Kalotermitidae) and dampwood termites (family Termopsidae). Finally, the desert and agricultural termites (family Termitidae) are in the fall. In the summer months, there are overlaps with the swarming of different species of termites, and so proper identification is critical to the proper diagnosis and treatment of termite infestations.
We undertook an initial investigation (Furman and Gold, 2002) to determine if there was a correlation between temperature, precipitation and region of the state (Texas is approximately 1,000 miles across at the widest points), as it related to native subterranean termite (Reticulitermes spp.) swarming behavior. This information has applicability to termite swarms throughout the country.
Collecting Swarm Data. Homeowners generally recognize that they have a problem with termites during the swarming season. It is often at this time that a homeowner first contacts a pest management professional for an assessment of the problem and a possible solution. Our interest in studying termite swarming was in response to pest management professionals who wanted to be able to predict termite swarming in order to provide focused advertising just prior to swarms. There have been other studies of termite swarming based on collecting and trap results (Howell et al. 1987; Scheffrahn et al., 1988; Henderson 1996; Howell et al., 2009).
We wanted to expand our data on termite swarms, so we collaborated with personnel from Orkin and reviewed the firm’s telephone contact information (call-in sheets) and the date of sales (sales closure sheets) for subterranean termite control contracts for several years. We were able to collect this data from nine cities in Texas including Corpus Christi, San Antonio, Houston, College Station, Waco, Tyler, Dallas, Lubbock and Amarillo. The concept was to recover data representing termite swarming from the coastal region up to, and including, the high plains of Texas. The climatic differences between these regions were dramatically different in terms of mean temperatures, amount of precipitation, as well as other criteria such as elevations, soil types and density of people and structures in the areas.
The data on swarming was based on the date that termite swarming calls for service were received, and the date that a service contract was purchased by homeowners. Two computer models were developed to display and provide statistical analysis of each data set. Temperature and precipitation data were collected from the Texas Office of the State Climatologist for a survey period of at least five years from each of the nine locations.
In order to use the temperature data, it was necessary to convert the mean daily temperatures into heat units (Higley et al., 1986), which were then correlated to the mean peak swarm dates. The accumulated heat unit model was started on Dec. 21 (the winter solstice) of each year, and up to, and through, the peak swarming dates for that year (Judd and Gardiner, 1997). We also set a base temperature of 4°C (39°F) (Veeranna and Basalingappa 1989) at which time positive heat units began to accumulate. Stated another way, heat units are like a bank account that fluctuates through time with an overall balance figured at the end of the reporting period. If the temperature is above 4°C, heat units were accumulated; if it was colder than this temperature, heat units were not added to the total.
Because termites are poikilothermic (cold-blooded), their physiological development is based on the temperature of their physical environment and when heat units are not being accumulated (below 4°C), their development is slowed or stopped. As the temperatures rises, the rate of the physiological and morphological completion of the swarmer caste is increased, and then when fully developed, the adult reproductives are genetically pre-determined to then go through the swarming process, if the proper environmental conditions are met.
Heat and Precipitation. The next phase of this work was to correlate the heat unit and precipitation (rain or snow) data with the estimated peak swarming dates from each of the nine areas of the state. What we learned was that the average earliest date for subterranean termite swarming was Feb. 23 in Corpus Christi, while the peak swarm in Amarillo was on May 6. In general, the swarm dates are later in the spring for the northern latitudes as compared to the southern. This is closely correlated with the Hopkin’s Law of Bioclimatics (Hopkins 1938) which correlated the phenological development of plants and animal to the “advance of spring,” which was predicted based on the relationship of elevation, latitude and longitude. In Texas, spring moves from south to north at the rate of approximately 25 miles per day.
There was a gradient in swarm dates within the nine locations, with a predicted date of swarming on March 15 for Reticulitermes flavipes (eastern subterranean termites) for the middle of the state. It was further determined that the minimum number of heat units accumulated for swarming was 602, with this accumulation being reached first in Corpus Christi and last in Amarillo. The next correlation attempted was that of amount of precipitation (rain and snow) to swarming. There was NOT a strong correlation in this regard, because of the large variations in annual precipitation amounts across the state. But, there was a good correlation to when it rained, and when termite swarming started.
Based on an in-depth analysis of 54 unique swarming events, after 602 heat units were accumulated, 24 percent of the swarms occurred on the day of rain, 48 percent within one day, 83 percent within two days and 91 percent within three days of a rainfall event. We all understand that there are changes in weather patterns through the years, but climatologists recognize that these variations follow cycles, which are somewhat predictable. With the use of huge weather data sets and predictive computer models, forecasting is very reliable for a specific area of the country. In general, weather patterns for a specific date and location are about the same, within about seven days. In this regard, there is an 80 percent chance of the weather being the same tomorrow as it is today; it is that 20 percent chance of change that makes life more interesting.
What it means. The information on termite swarming dates was summarized and presented to Paul Hardy, senior technical director for Rollins, and Orkin’s technical team. Hardy then replied, “What you are saying is that the subterranean termites will swarm within a few days of when they swarmed last year, if it rains.” Yep, that sums it all up very well! I guess that Paul’s 50 years of experience with termites really is important! (Authors’ note: We will really miss Paul as he prepares for his retirement later this year.)
While there are fluctuations in swarming dates (Scheffrahn et al., 1988), and the numbers of swarmers that emerge in any given year, termite colonies will swarm eventually, as they mature. The best way to anticipate the peak dates of the swarm for this year are for PMPs to check their customer call sheets and termite treatment records from the last few years, and then watch the weather for the predictions of first seasonal rains. It is these rains that trigger the swarming behavior due in part to the rise in humidity, which increases the survival of the alates. If dry weather occurs during the normal swarming season, the swarmers will hold in the tubes as long as they can before they begin to leave in small groups, return to the colony or die. In dry years, the end results are “poor” swarms wherein the alates emerge from the colonies over several days, rather than the dramatic swarms that keep our telephones ringing.
Another observation that our research group has looked at is that frequently, the first subterranean swarmers are called in by customers who received a termite treatment the past year. Sometimes these have been referred to as “panic swarms,” which has a double meaning. The first “panic” is on the part of the customer, who was educated about termites as a result of your sales contacts, and because they expected control of the termite populations. The other “panic” behavior occurs in many plant and animal populations when put under stress, due to unfavorable environmental conditions or sudden population reductions, which will then show a “biological panic” and put disproportionate resources into reproduction in the form of early seeds (plants), or in the case of termites, untimely swarmers.
Furman, B.D. and R.E. Gold. 2002. Prediction of spring subterranean termite swarms in Texas with relations to temperature and precipitation. In Proceedings, 4th Intern. Conf. on Urban Pests 4:303-318.
Gold R.E. and S.C. Jones. 2000. Handbook of household and structural insect pests. Entomological Society of America Handbook Series.
Henderson, G. 1996. Alate production, flight phenology and sex-ratio in Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki, an introduced subterranean termite in New Orleans, Louisiana. Sociobiology 28: 319-326.
Higley, L.G., L.P. Pedigo and K.R. Ostlie. 1986. DEGDAY: A program of calculating degree days and assumptions behind the degree day approach. Environ. Entomol. 15:999-1016.
Hopkins, A.D. 1938. Bioclimatics-A science of life and climate relations. U.S. Department of Agriculture Misc. Pub. No.280 (January 1938).
Howell, H.N., Jr., J.W. Austin, and R.E. Gold. 2009. Swarming dates and distribution of Zootermopsis laticepts Banks (Isoptera: Termposidae) alates in El Paso, Texas. J. Agric. Urban Entomol. 26(1): 11-21.
Howell, H.N., Jr., P.J. Hamman, and T. A. Granovsky. 1987. The geographical distribution of the termite genera Reticulitermes, Coptotermes and Incisitermes in Texas. The Southwestern Entomologist 12(2): 119-125.
Judd, G.J.R. and M.G.T. Gardiner. 1997. Forecasting phenology of Orthosia Hibiscui Guenee (Lepidoptera: Nocatuidae) in British Columbia using sex-attractant traps and degree day models. Can. Entomol. 129: 815-825.
Miller, E.M. 1969. Caste differentiation in the lower termites, pgs. 283-303. In K.Krishna and F.M. Weesner [eds.], Biology of Termites. Academic Press, New York, N.Y.
Scheffrahn, R.H., J.R. Mangold and N.Y. Su. 1988. A survey of structure-infesting termites of peninsular Florida. Fla. Entomol. 71: 615-630.
Thorne, B.L. and B.T. Forschler. 1998. NPCA research report on subterranean termites. National Pest Control Association, Dunn Loring, Va.
Veeranna, G. and S. Basalingappa. 1989. Nesting pattern of the termites Odontotermes obesus Rambur and Odontotermes wallonensis Wasmann (Isoptera: Termitidae). Insect Sci. Appl. 10: 169-180.
For more information on Texas A&M’s work with termites, visit urbanentomology.tamu.edu. PMPs’ questions, comments and suggestions are always welcomed. — Gold and Furman
Top Photo: David Cappaert, www.bugwood.org
Driving is one of the most dangerous things we can do while at work. Vehicle crashes are a leading cause of both work-related injuries and fatalities worldwide. Distracted driving has emerged as perhaps the top road safety priority in the United States over the past five years. In 2010 alone, more than 3,000 people were killed in crashes where distracted driving was identified as the primary cause — and many more perished in crashes where distracted driving was a contributing factor.
A driving distraction occurs any time a driver takes his or her eyes off the road, hands off the wheel or mind off the primary task of driving safely. Most of us can remember a time when we were talking on the phone while driving and could not recall how we got to our destination. Extensive research has been conducted to detail how much a driver’s safety is compromised due to distracted driving. For example:
- Drivers who use handheld devices are four times more likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves.
- Text messaging creates a crash risk 23 times worse than driving while not distracted.
- Using a cell phone while driving — whether handheld or hands-free — delays a driver’s reactions as much as a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent.
Armed with such statistics, most insurance carriers are now asking their clients to implement a distracted driving policy, which is an excellent business decision considering that fleet issues impact almost every organization. Even the smallest company often has a sales force that must get out into the field to meet clients, or has an office person drive to the bank on a regular basis. In fact, many businesses are developing policies on their own, as they are concerned about liability issues in the face of new laws and the potential impact on their bottom line.
Potential Consequences. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration law, which prohibits commercial vehicle operators from using handheld cell phones while driving, affects around 4 million heavy trucks and bus drivers, and millions of other lighter-duty commercial vehicles. Violators of the law face initial fines of $2,750 for each offense and the loss of his or her commercial operator’s license for multiple violations. And companies that either require or allow drivers of commercial vehicles to use handheld phones while driving face a penalty up to $11,000 per occurrence.
While the new law places responsibility squarely on business owners, some companies are not aware of their potential exposure. There are plenty of vehicles not owned by the company that can create exposure for unsuspecting organizations — an employee may be driving his or her own car for work. Now, that vehicle is a work-related vehicle.
A Proactive Policy. So what can you do? Education must be a priority.
As of today, no state bans all cell phone use — handheld and hands-free — for all drivers. However, progress continues to be made in that arena. Nine states currently ban the use of handheld devices, 35 states and Washington, D.C., prohibit text messaging for all drivers, and 30 states (including D.C.) ban all cell phone use by new drivers. Even within states that do not put restrictions on cell phone use, many local municipalities have enacted their own laws that must be followed.
As businesses educate themselves and their employees on these federal regulations, applicable state and local laws, as well as potential liability issues, the hope is that implementing distracted-driving policies becomes commonplace. Employers are at risk well beyond being fined, and a crash by a fleet driver can have a devastating impact on a company. Plaintiff attorneys are looking at cell phone use as a cause of motor vehicle crashes. The best practice for all fleets is to have some form of distracted driving policy.
In order for the policy to work, managers and supervisors must buy in and realize they may not be able to reach employees instantaneously. However, that minor inconvenience is well worth the lives and dollars that can be saved by implementing an effective distracted-driving policy.
The author is senior vice president with Weisburger Insurance. He can be reached at email@example.com.
An operating suite sometime in the not-too-distant future. On the operating table lies an unconscious PMP, barely clinging to life after overdosing on Purdue correspondence course study. A team of the world’s finest surgeons stands over her, discussing how to proceed. One of the surgeons, Dr. Corrigan, whispers emphatically to his colleagues: “We can bring her back, even better than before! We can make her a pest investigator!”
The other medical personnel, Drs. Frishman, Heinsohn, Sheperdigian and Koehler, slowly nod their heads in awe-struck agreement. Wordlessly, the decision is made and finalized, and the team swings into action.
Many tension-filled hours later, the patient is wheeled into recovery and slowly brought back to consciousness. When she is finally able to focus her eyes, she notices that one of her hands has been amputated and replaced by a powerful flashlight; the other wrist has a steel spatula grafted on where her fingers had once been.
In that hushed operating theater, a pest investigator has been born, though the patient’s lifetime passion for playing classical piano music suffers a major setback. She finds that she can no longer negotiate the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2, considering that her fingers are gone. Her carefully honed touch-typing skills are, alas, for naught.
She reasons, “Hey, piano prodigies are a dime a dozen these days, and Mavis Beacon owns the crown for typing excellence. The trade-off was worth it!”
Why Do We Inspect? Every rookie pest management professional can recite the fact that inspection is a vital component of Integrated Pest Management. But before starting, we should remind ourselves of why we do this time-consuming activity. After all, you can probably give a hundred examples of jobs you have done in which the inspection phase consumed almost all of the time spent solving the problem.
- We inspect to find pests. It is in pests’ best interest to hide from their predators, and they make it as hard as they possibly can to get caught in our line of sight.
- We inspect to find signs of pests — the damage they do; the droppings and cast-off larval or nymphal exoskeletons they discard as they move about; the tracks they leave in dust, soil or other surfaces; hairs, wings and other shed body parts; and the results of their feeding activity.
- We inspect to find conditions that are conducive to pests. We bring these conditions to the attention of our clients so that they can take preventive action to make the environment in and around their homes or businesses inhospitable to pests.
- We inspect to determine the location and severity of pest infestations.
- We inspect in order to evaluate the success or failure of our prevention and control efforts, and to gain information on how we can become more successful at eradicating pests and the conditions that foster them.
If you asked the author of this article — who is not a world-famous surgeon, possesses neither piano proficiency nor blazing-fast typing skills and is only a so-so pest inspector — which inspection tools are indispensable, he’d tell you our newly minted bionic PMP has a pretty good start with just a spatula and a flashlight grafted to her wrists.
Beyond that, inspection tools and equipment can be divided into three categories (the first category is discussed on the following pages; you’ll have to wait until next month’s issue of PCT to read about the other two):
- Those things you must carry with you on every pest inspection
- Tools to which you should have access, though your company doesn’t have to purchase one for each person; and
- Specialized tools that you don’t know you need until you need them.
Until the day when human inspection tool-implants are possible, we must continue to outfit ourselves with the inspection tools that help us ply our profession. Let’s explore these categories, starting with the non-negotiables; references will be provided at the end of next month’s article for where to source the inspection tools mentioned. (Author’s note: For the sake of brevity, monitoring, a sub-set of inspection, will not be covered in this article.)
Tools for All Inspections. These are the “non-negotiables” for a PMP performing an inspection.
Inspection Kit. If you show up at your client’s door with a sprayer and not much else, their confidence in you as a professional will correspond with the image you project. On the other hand, if you arrive with an inspection kit instead of bringing on the sprayers, dusters and bait applicators right away, you send the message that you are a professional, and that you are going to diagnose exactly what the problem is before you prescribe any remedial action. Keep your inspection equipment (described as follows) in a neatly organized tool bag or toolbox.
Spatula. Unlike the fictitious Dr. Corrigan of our story, the real Dr. Bobby Corrigan, of RMC Pest Management Consulting, has never laid scalpel to human flesh. But he wisely points out that pests and the signs of pests often reside in tight cracks and crannies to which our eyes and fingers do not have access.
Drrigan advises that all PMPs need a rugged, rust-proof, flat blade that they can insert beneath wall sills, into cracks beneath the bases and piers supporting processing machinery, and into every other kind of crack and cranny you can think of. Get a baker’s cake-frosting spatula 8 to 10 inches long, preferably with an offset (“dropped”) blade so that you can reach cracks that are flush with the floor without skinning your knuckles. Using the spatula, you can dig out termite wings, pests, droppings, rodent nest material, “guck” from drains, frass, cast larval exoskeletons, and other evidence of pests that might be hidden from plain view, or might have been removed by normal cleaning operations. No need to have this surgically grafted to your arm, but you should have your spatula in hand almost constantly while inspecting for pests and the evidence they leave behind. Spatulas should have plastic handles and steel blades if intended for use in food plants.
In addition to being used to dig material out of cracks and tight spaces, a spatula also can be used to thinly spread debris, grain or flour dust, in order to look for live insects or other evidence of pest activity. In short, they’ll help you become the pest investigator that Dr. Corrigan exhorts us to be.
Flashlight. This is the Golden Age of flashlights. No longer do we have to make do with underpowered incandescent flashlights that burned through D-cells in no time flat, leaving us to squint into dark spaces by the dim yellow light of a dying Ray-O-Vac. Halogen-bulb lamps came along in the 1980s, bringing us the capacity to see more, see farther, and inspect more effectively. Today’s vast array of LED flashlights combine blinding brilliance, ridiculously long bulb and battery life, and are light weight to create an inspection tool that is affordable, effective and absolutely indispensible. Some LED flashlights provide a focused “spot” beam for looking up into rafters and into hard-to-reach corners; others give a bright, flooding light that will easily illuminate cabinets, dark corners, machinery and other close-up locations. You either need one of each, or you can get a flashlight that can be adjusted to provide both types of beams. Actually, today’s flashlights are too bright sometimes. When inspecting, learn and use the technique of shining the light diagonally across surfaces; insect or rodent tracks will show up better in the shadows created by an oblique beam.
Multi-Tool. Inspection is all about gaining access. You have to look where you need to look, and sometimes this means you have to unscrew a machine cover, lift up a drain grate, pull up a section of carpeting to inspect for ant trails or bed bugs, or cut open a carton to look for pest evidence. Whether you have a Gerber, a Leatherman, a SwissTool or any other brand, don’t go into inspection mode without an effective multi-tool blazing the way for you. A word of caution: Don’t remove any machine guard without first de-energizing the machine and securing lockout-tagout of the equipment. Your client will help with this. Also, be certain your multi-tool stays clear of electrical contacts; electrocution is not the most fun you’ll have on the job.
Magnifier. As a pest management professional, you have a large store of information about pests that will help you find, outsmart and eliminate many different kinds of pests. But you can’t use this information until you know exactly what pest you are dealing with. No pest management professional should ever be without a good-quality magnifier. 10x magnification is probably the minimum acceptable power rating required in order to see the antennae, mouthparts, body markings and other distinguishing features that will tell you what kind of pest you’re looking at. 16x or 20x is even better. Much higher magnification than that is difficult to hold steady in field-inspection situations, though it’s certainly handy if there is a powerful stereo microscope back at your office for confirming the ID of difficult specimens. If what you’re calling a magnifier is one of those drugstore reading glasses that magnifies to 2x, give that to your grandpa and go get yourself a real magnifier. Magnifiers do not have to be expensive; you may be able to get them gratis from your company’s vendors, or you can purchase them at hobby and science stores. Companies wishing to buy high-quality magnifiers in bulk can prowl the Internet for bargains. You can often find bulk-quantity magnifiers on eBay or other Web retailers for around $3 each.
Knee Pads. Raise your hand if you are a PMP under 19 years of age. If so, you don’t need knee pads. Keep your hand up if you don’t mind cutting up your knees on broken glass, sharp-edged bottlecaps and other debris that we encounter when inspecting. The fact is, knee pads ensure that we will get down low and look into those areas we cannot see when standing flat on the soles of our shoes. They’ll keep us comfortable and our clothes clean. You need knee pads. Get some and wear them.
Spiral Notepad. You have a smartphone with a voice recorder? Good for you. If you’re half as smart as your smartphone, you left it in the truck where it won’t fall out of your pocket, get lost, scratched up and won’t interrupt you while you’re with your client. Carry a plain old paper notepad on which you can write notes about what you are seeing, finding, doing and planning. In this way, you’ll have an easy reference when you talk to your client at the end of the service visit, and you’ll write a more thorough service report. Your memory isn’t perfect, and if you found a gap under the door near the southeast corner of the warehouse, your client needs to know this. A notepad remembers everything you tell it to remember.
Collecting Vials or Dishes. You might be able to identify several dozen pests on sight, or maybe even a hundred or more. Some pests might be too small to identify on the spot, or you might not recognize them. Keep plastic vials or Petri dishes with you for this purpose. If you don’t, you’ll end up having to improvise, putting the specimens in anything that’s at hand — a cellophane cigarette wrapper, a piece of masking tape, a Dixie cup — and the specimen may or may not make it to your staff or extension entomologist intact.
Telescoping Mirror. A polished-steel inspection mirror enables you to see under edges of things and into tight spaces where you cannot aim your vision. You’ll be able to see beneath and inside of areas where it would otherwise be impossible to see. It’s best to use an all-steel mirror, to avoid the hazard created by broken glass if the mirror should fall or break. Place the mirror into the tight space, shine a bright flashlight into the space and new vistas will open up to you. Plus, using a mirror impresses the heck out of your customer.
Flushing Agent. The use of pyrethrin flushing aerosols almost seems so old-fashioned these days. We used to rely on flushing bombs to help us find cockroaches’ hiding places. Nowadays, other flushing agents are in use. For example, you can flush roaches out of hiding with a single puff from a can of compressed air of the type used for cleaning dust out of computer equipment. A small bicycle tire inflator with a CO2 cartridge can be used to flush bed bugs out of their hiding places: Release some carbon dioxide, which bed bugs detect and interpret as a sign of the presence of a warm-blooded animal, in an area of suspected bed bug activity, put the inflator away, and wait a few minutes to see if any bed bugs have been enticed out of their hiding places and are approaching the source of the CO2.
In many cases, your spatula will be the most effective “flushing” tool available. Dig?
Personal Protective Equipment. Protect your hands and head. Gloves and a bump cap are a must, as are safety glasses. A protruding nail in a crawl space or attic can cause serious pain, or even land you in the emergency room, awaiting a tetanus booster while looking at worn-out copies of People magazine. Wearing a coverall can protect you from scratches, plus it’ll keep your clothes neat and tidy.
Editor’s note: Look for part two of this article in next month’s PCT, where Bruesch will discuss the tools you should have access to and various specialized tools.
The author is technical director at Plunkett’s Pest Control in Fridley, Minn. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the 2012 Republican Party Vice-Presidential nominee, will be speaking at Legislative Day.|
While the goal of those attending NPMA’s 2013 Legislative Day remains the same — to raise awareness with their legislators about issues impacting the pest control industry — what’s different about this year’s event is that there are real opportunities to make inroads thanks to a new-look Congress.
The 113th Congress includes a U.S. House of Representatives with one-third of its 435 members having less than three years experience. In 2010, 96 freshmen were elected, followed by the victorious campaigns of 84 newcomers last November, totaling 180 new members the last two election cycles. The Senate has seen similar turnover, with 12 new senators being elected in 2012 on top of 13 freshman senators that won election in 2010. Also, many of the House members elected in 2010 and 2012 will soon chair key subcommittees that have jurisdiction over issues that impact the professional pest management industry.
“We have an increased opportunity to establish relationships with people who will, in just a few years, hold major positions of influence,” said Gene Harrington, director of government affairs for the National Pest Management Association.
Harrington added that there also is a generational shift in Congress. Long-serving members such as Ted Kennedy, Arlen Specter, Bob Dole and Daniel Inouye are gone. In fact, only one member of Congress (Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, D-N.J.) served in World War II.
“It’s a new day for Legislative Day, too,” said Harrington. “For those who attended Legislative Day in the past and were frustrated by their visits, they should know that there truly are opportunities with this Congress, but Bob [Rosenberg, NPMA executive vice president] and I can only do so much. We really need Legislative Day attendees to extend our [reach] to places we don’t have the time and ability to get to, and establish relationships.”
In addition to developing these relationships, Legislative Day attendees will be raising awareness about the following issues impacting the pest control industry.
PESTT Act. Legislative Day attendees will be asking their legislators to support the PESTT (Pest Elimination Services Transparency and Terminology) Act. Introduced in the House late last year by Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) and Rep. Kurt Shrader (D-Ore.), the legislation aims to limit USDA-Wildlife Services competition with the private sector for rodent, nuisance bird and wildlife work.
The issue stems from a 1987 law that authorized USDA-WS to work at non-agricultural settings. Although the main intent of the legislation was to permit USDA-WS to control birds at airports and engage in rabies control initiatives, the language was written very broadly. Today, there is virtually no type of nuisance bird and wildlife management work that USDA-WS does not perform — regardless of whether area businesses also provide the same services. The only type of work WS is not authorized to perform is “urban rodent control.” That term, however, is not defined in statute or regulation.
Harrington said PCOs have long complained about these types of conflicts.
Ohio County Moves Forward with New Pesticide Use Measures
In April 2012, the Cuyahoga County Council passed pesticide use restrictions that apply to the county’s 66 buildings (including interiors), their lawns and the wide swaths of open space at Whiskey Island and the Cuyahoga County Airport.
While these type of ordinances are not out-of-the-ordinary, what is unusual is that Cuyahoga County (which includes the city of Cleveland) has taken the next steps by implementing the ordinance and contracting with a pest control company that undoubtedly bid the work at a much higher cost (because of the pesticide use restrictions).
According to Gene Harrington, director of government affairs for the National Pest Management Association, “The Cuyahoga County issue was interesting because (a) they were willing to pay the increased costs; and (b) it was so broad. What usually happens is that when local governments pass these types of ordinances they get ignored or never implemented, but in this case Cuyahoga said, ‘We’ll go ahead and pay many more times what a normal pest control contract would be.’” Additionally, council approved a partnership with the Cleveland arm of Emerald Cities, a Washington, D.C.-based group that promotes environmentally friendly initiatives. — Brad Harbison
Mike Givlin, vice president, North American Bird Program, The Steritech Group, said, “They are a regulator that also competes head to head with us. It is incredibly hard to get business or maintain business when the regulator is also providing the service. It is an inherently unbalanced playing field.”
For example, Givlin said Steritech might handle an account’s pest control services, but USDA-WS will be under contract for the bird work. Steritech would have a difficult time outbidding USDA-WS, a not-for-profit service organization.
Dan Master, Critter Control of Greater Boston, related the following conflict: Master was called to remove 50+seagulls from the roof of a large retail store so the AC units could be serviced during a heat wave. Master called USDA-WS, which informed him that he would need a depredation permit, which would take 30 to 60 days, “but (the WS employee) could come out and pick up the eggs and nests on his ‘emergency permit’ for a fee (about $800),” recalled Master, who proceeded to pay USDA-WS the fee. Master has since applied for and received the permit. “When [the USDA-WS employee] called to tell me my permit was in, he said that if I wanted him to keep doing the depredation, he would do it for $200 a trip if it was on my permit. So, when they have a monopoly on the permit, they price gouge; when the job is open to competition, they are competitively priced.”
Harrington said NPMA has tried for many years to address these conflicts administratively with USDA prior to seeking this statute change.
The two key components of the PESTT Act are: (1) to define the term “urban rodent control”; and (2) to direct the U.S. Government Accountability Office (U.S. GAO) to write a report identifying activities WS performs that the private sector has the capability and capacity to perform and recommend ways to avoid competition between WS and the private sector, including further statutory changes.
Harrington said the original PESTT Act died when the 112th Congressional session ended, but Mulvaney and Shrader are expected to re-introduce the PESTT Act in February with additional co-sponsors.
Sulfuryl Fluoride Food Uses. Legislative Day attendees — specifically those involved in fumigation work — will again be making their representatives aware of what NPMA and others believe is U.S. EPA’s misguided proposed order cancelling the food uses for sulfuryl fluoride,
The product has come under attack from the activist group FAN (Fluoride Action Network), which has waged a lengthy campaign to remove sulfuryl fluoride usage in food-processing facilities, and in January 2011 EPA announced it was taking steps to begin a phased-down withdrawal of sulfuryl fluoride. But even U.S. EPA acknowledges that sulfuryl fluoride contributes no more that 2-3 percent of the public’s exposure to fluoride.
Harrington said that this issue is essentially in a “holding pattern,” as EPA is in the process of reviewing comments.
Paperless Reporting. In recent years, many pest control companies have gone paperless in order to save costs, increase efficiencies and promote professionalism.
A barrier PCOs have run into is that some states mandate they provide a hard copy consumer information sheet (e.g., pesticide records, use reports, consumer info sheets, etc. ) at the time of service, or after service. “A lot of these requirements were written in the 1970s and 1980s, before people could imagine the technology of today,” said Harrington.
The end result is that many companies have invested large sums of money to go paperless, yet they are unable to do so completely, because the state(s) they operate in have mandated they provide hard copies. Some companies have asked their state regulatory authority for clarification, but NPMA and its members believe this issue needs addressed federally. “At Legislative Day 2013, NPMA members will be seeking support from federal lawmakers for legislation that would permit — not mandate — pest control operators to convey and retain pesticide records, use reports, consumer info sheets or others, electronically.”
Featured Speakers. As in years past, Legislative Day will feature a top-notch speaker lineup, including Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the 2012 Republican Party Vice-Presidential nominee. Another featured speaker is Laura Ingraham, the radio host and political analyst. Her presentation is sponsored by FMC Professional Solutions.
Attendees will also hear from Chuck Todd, NBC News Political Director and Chief White House Correspondent. The political journalist, will provide his political perspective in a session sponsored by Dow AgroSciences.
For more information about Legislative Day visit www.npmapestworld.org.
The author is Internet editor and managing editor of PCT magazine.