In the following podcast, Paul Hardy, who is retiring this month after working for Orkin for 52 years, reviews how the industry has changed during his tenure and reflects on some of the highlights from his storied career.
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
|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.
In October 2012, our pest management firm found winged termites, known as alates, flying in a home in South Minneapolis, Minn. In accordance with our firm’s best management practices, we started by identifying the termite species.
Based on a close examination, we identified the termites as western drywood termites, Incisitermes minor (Hagen). Once the termite species was identified, we immediately conducted a thorough inspection to determine the source and the extent of the infestation. In places where winter temperatures can remain at or below 15°F for at least four days, drywood termites will not survive. Due to the cold winter in Minnesota, we doubted that drywood termites actually would establish nests in roof materials, wooden walls, under eaves or in dead wood accumulated around homes. Therefore, we decided to look for drywood termite signs, such as fecal pellets (hexagonal in shape, about 3/100 inch long), small round openings (kick holes, about 1/16 inch long) in wooden products and articles inside the house where extreme cold is unlikely to occur. (See photos below.)
The Source. After careful inspection, we located kick holes and an accumulation of fecal pellets below and around a couch placed in the living room. Since these signs were not found anywhere else in the house, we concluded that the source of the infestation was the couch.
Interestingly, the infestation probably began about 14 years ago, when the couch was initially purchased. Since drywood termites are not native to Minnesota, we assumed that the couch was originally made or stored in a warehouse in a hot spot for drywood termites, perhaps somewhere in the Southern states, where it could have become infested. Slowed development of these kinds of termites is not abnormal. Usually, it takes a colony of drywood termites four to seven years to produce swarmers. Besides low temperatures, the low nutrient content inside the couch makes the development rate of these insects even slower.
The Treatment. There are a variety of chemical and non-chemical treatment options for drywood termites. The sensitivity of the surfaces to be treated, the extent and severity of the infestation, the non-target’s concerns to pesticides and their residue, and the cost of treatment dictate the selection of the best feasible technique for remediation.
In our case, since we were dealing with drywood termites in a contained area (a couch), a heat chamber treatment was the safest and most convenient way to remove the pest in a fast and inexpensive manner. We placed the couch inside our indoor heat chamber and exposed it to hot air of 120°F to 140°F. Using wireless sensors, the heat process was monitored. After that, we held the core temperature of the treated couch at 120°F for at least one hour. This treatment can eliminate drywood termites without the need for pesticide applications.
Pest ID, biology, habits, thorough inspection and proper treatment are skills needed for a successful pest management approach — especially when you find a pest that isn’t typical in your service area — like drywood termites in Minnesota.
The author is technical training director for Adam’s Pest Control, Minneapolis, Minn. Contact him via e-mail at email@example.com.