FREDERICKSBURG, Va. — Last week, Virginia pest management professionals converged in Richmond, Va., at the Sheraton Park South for the 5th annual Virginia Pest Management Association (VPMA) State Technical Meeting.
The meeting is structured to provide a full day of business management training, followed by a full day of technical training by nationally renowned speakers. This year’s attendance was up by 25%, VPMA reports.
Headlining business management speaker, Joel Mick (Residex) led a session on developing a culture in a company. Using Residex’s current process of developing a culture as a model, Mick addressed the challenges inherent in the process, and the benefits to implementing a well thought out culture.
Richard Spencer, vice president of Technical Services and Quality Control, Arrow Exterminators, wowed the participants with his energetic presentation about ladder safety and fall arrest. Aside from protecting your employees, using a fall arrest system allows a company to take on the big jobs, and charge accordingly for them, that other companies could not do.
Two panels of VPMA members shared their real world experience in efficient operations and reducing risk and avoiding the pitfalls of purchasing insurance. The efficient operations panel covered three operations topics: online business tools, efficient routing and handheld technology. The panel members shared their time-tested results, and the challenges they faced in implementing them. The insurance panel covered the three main types of insurance that business owners are concerned with: worker’s compensation, general liability and automobile.
Getting into wildlife management as a new business opportunity was another session given by Dr. Scott Barras with the USDA Wildlife Service and Mike Fies with the VDGIF. “It is important to our membership that VPMA help our members explore opportunities for business expansion, while staying in compliance with all regulatory requirements,” explained Jerry McLawhorn, VPMA’s immediate past president.
Bob Rosenberg, senior vice president of NPMA, rounded out the business management training with a realistic look at the regulatory environment that faces our industry in the near future. With personnel and regulatory changes at EPA, including the Clean Water Act, endangered species-related pesticide restrictions and new safety parameters for pesticide use, it is important that business owners understand how the “new” EPA will impact their day-to-day operations.
VPMA held its annual meeting and Pest Fest following the first day of training. The evening’s event was anchored by the extraordinary barbeque talents of Harry Bryan, with Nisus. Having driven his “Q” rig up from Tennessee, Harry engaged in a BBQ throw down with the Sheraton’s Chef John – and came out on top based on a three member judging panel. The entire evening was a great success. It featured the Association’s annual meeting, election results and the awarding of the 13th annual VPMA Industry Lifetime Stewardship Award to Ron Chaney, VPMA past president and long time board member.
In addition, VPMA made scholarship awards to four students doing research at the Dodson Urban Pest Management Lab at Virginia Tech, under Dr. Dini Miller. Beth Duncan, Chair of the Scholarship Committee shares, “VPMA is in a unique position to financially support the VT students who are doing the research that will benefit our entire industry – this is research that Dr. Dini Miller is presenting all over the country.” On top of the business of the evening, the Association raised over $5,500 for the VPMA Scholarship Fund to support ongoing research of graduate students at Virginia Tech.
The hallmark of the State Technical Meeting is the second day’s technical training. With an all-star cast of speakers from around the country, VPMA provided the nearly 200 people in attendance with a unique opportunity to learn from the nation’s leading entomologists. Dr. Phil Koehler (University of Florida) kicked off the day with his keynote, The Future of Pest Control. His fast-paced presentation gave an optimistic overview of our industry in the coming years, relying on the fact that bugs are here to stay, and that the people in the pest control industry are adaptable and innovative in their approach to maintaining and building their businesses. Later in the day, Dr. Koehler also shared his expertise on the return of ticks and fleas to the forefront of pest control. The building resistance to topical veterinary pesticides that these insects are developing, opens the door to PMPs to fill a need to eradicate these pests from their customer’s living space.
Heavy hitter in defense of spiders, Dr. Rick Vetter (UC Riverside) tried to dispel the myths surrounding the Brown Recluse Spider. Neither native to nor common in Virginia, they are nevertheless blamed for alleged bites and subsequent pain and infection. Even in the documented recluse zone (largely in the mid Western US), brown recluse spiders are quite common, yet their bites are not common.
The State Technical Meeting featured Virginia’s favorite entomologist, Dr. Dini Miller (Virginia Tech) and three of her graduate students, who are also VPMA scholarship recipients, all speaking on bed bugs. Research is being done at Virginia Tech on bed bug behavior, biology of the modern bed bug and pesticide resistance in bed bugs as a function of the thickness of the cuticle. Dr. Miller spoke on the relationship between PMP’s and the managers of the multi-unit housing structures in the whole bed bug equation.
Dr. Eric Benson (Clemson University) spoke on termite biology, behavior, recent scientific findings and how it all relates to current management practices. His treatment of an ages old topic was dynamic and invigorating – reminding us all that termites are a pest that we can hang our hats on!
“VPMA can provide this caliber of speakers as a result of the heavy sponsorship provided by supplier members of the Association,” said Jeff Johnson, Education Committee Chair, and newly elected VPMA president. “The highest level of sponsorship is provided by BASF, Bayer, Bell Labs, CNI & Fireman’s Fund, Forshaw, Nisus and Residex.” In addition to these “Gold” sponsors, VPMA reports dedicated sponsorship by “Silver” sponsors: Dow, DuPont, Ehrlich, Ensystex, FMC, LiphaTech, Univar and Zoecon.
Conference attendees had several opportunities to visit the 26 exhibit tables throughout the two-day conference. Sponsors and exhibitors used this time to share new products and services, as well as promote tested products that have served our industry well over the years.