‘A Meeting of the Minds V’ Includes Sharing of Knowledge and Best Practices

‘A Meeting of the Minds V’ Includes Sharing of Knowledge and Best Practices

The one-day conference, sponsored by the Greater Chicago Pest Management Alliance (GCPMA) was attended by more than 300 pest professionals.

November 18, 2011
Mark L. Hendrickson

TINLEY PARK, Ill. — Nearly 300 pest management professionals and more than 25 industry exhibitors attended “A Meeting of the Minds V” on Oct. 27. The one-day conference, sponsored by the Greater Chicago Pest Management Alliance (GCPMA), was held at the Tinley Park Holiday Inn and Convention Center, and continued GCPMA’s tradition of education and sharing of best practices in pest management.

Attendees learned from four nationally recognized speakers that included Grzegorz Buczkowski, Bobby Corrigan, Steve Jacobs, and Dini Miller. Topics included bed bugs, rodent control, ants, and an update on the stinkbug invasion. A few highlights.

Steve Jacobs, a senior extension associate with the Pennsylvania State University Department of Entomology, described a new invasive species of concern to pest management professionals: the brown marmorated stink bug.

Jacobs noted that the bug first appeared near Allentown, Pa., in 1998. At the time, few thought it would become a big problem, but that has changed. “They are coming and there is no way to stop them,” he said. Jacobs said that stink bugs are native to Asian countries where they are an occasional nuisance pest. They do not build up huge populations in their native lands because of predators. In North America some species will attack them, but only get up to 5 percent of the eggs, Jacobs explained.

Just how the bugs are affecting U.S. crops is still being studied. Jacobs said they became a real problem last summer in the U.S. feeding on blackberries, corn, apples, and other fruits and vegetables. Jacobs said he has seen as many as 60 stink bugs on one ear of corn. They have the potential he said, “to go from a nuisance pest to a problem pest to an economic pest.”

Stink bugs are being dispersed widely and they appear to get free rides on many travel trailers and motor homes. “In Pennsylvania, when it gets cold many people head south. Stink bugs have crawled inside motor homes and they go along. We can map Interstate 81 from New York to Virginia and we can read reports along this corridor of where they are being reported,” he said.

Jacobs noted that immature stink bugs tend to be more susceptible to treatment measures than adult bugs, and that pyrethroids appear to be most effective. Jabobs reported that in lab tests stink bugs may be highly susceptible to Bifenthrin, lambda-Cyhalothrin, and Cyfluthrin.

For more information on stink bugs and how the invasion is spreading, Jacobs suggested visiting the web site www.stinkbug-info.org. Dini Miller, an assistant professor of entomology at Virginia Tech, provided an update on bed bug biology and control. Miller noted that 35,000 years ago bed bugs lived in caves and were ectoparasites of bats. When humans moved into caves, bed bugs began feeding on them and since then humans have transported bed bugs throughout the world. “Dogs and cats have fleas. We have bed bugs. This is the way it was intended to be. Strangely, this does not seem to comfort anyone when I tell them this,” Miller said.

Why are they back? Miller said that bed bug populations have become increasingly resistant to treatment protocols, and international travel can bring them home from distant lands. In addition, misidentification was an issue early in the epidemic.

Miller provided a few basics of how bed bugs live and feed.
-    They aggregate in cracks and crevices all day.
-    They get hungry between midnight at 5 a.m. but this is quite variable.
-    Bed bugs are stimulated by sensing CO2 in the room.
-    They will probe the skin to find capillary space that allows the blood to flow rapidly, and they may probe the skin several times before feeding.
-    Bed bugs will feed for 5-10 minutes, and will feed every 3-7 days.
-    A single mated female can cause an infestation.
-    After taking a blood meal, a female can produce 5-20 eggs over 10 days.
-    An average female will produce 131 eggs in her lifetime and about 97% of eggs will hatch successfully. Under optimal conditions, a bed bug population can double in 16 days.

Miller continued by describing bed bug bites, the social issues surrounding the epidemic, various methods of treatment, and why we don’t yet have the answer for dealing with them. “Most products will kill some bed bugs if you apply it to them directly. But consumers do not realize that killing bed bugs that we see is not the problem. Our problem is stopping the infestation,” she explained.

Bobby Corrigan, a city scientist with New York City’s Department of Health, presented Rodent Biology, Behavior and Control. Corrigan began by discussing how fast things change in the pest control industry. “Everyone in pest management in this room deals with complex living organisms. Overnight things change for us. When we get more and new scientific-based information, we have to adjust our practices and approaches,” he explained.

Pest management professionals also must be current on rules and regulations. “If you use rodenticides, you need to learn about risk mitigation, which is all about reducing rodenticide exposure to non-target groups,” he said. Corrigan referred to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “Final Risk Mitigation Decision for Ten Rodenticides”. The new safety measures are designed to protect children from accidental exposures to rodent-control products, and reduce the risk of accidental poisonings of pets and wildlife.

Corrigan said that the new recommendations allow for placing rodent baits a realistic distance from buildings based on recent research of a Norway rat’s home range upwards of 450 feet in an urban environment. “The new wording mandates that all exterior bait stations be of tamper resistant materials and that the bait inside the station be secured to reduce the chance of it being removed or tampered with,” he said. Corrigan said the recommendations address and correct the most environmentally insensitive and risky practice of stuffing bait packets down rat holes.

He said that the cornerstone of effective rodent integrated pest management should be monitoring via visual inspections, and using new non-toxic bait technology or traps. “Trapping and rodent proofing will be a huge part of our future in rodent control,” Corrigan said.

For readers interested in learning more about EPA’s risk mitigation standards, visit

Grzegorz Buczkowski, a research assistant professor in the Department of Entomology at Purdue University discussed the ecology, behavior and genetics of urban pest ants, with particular focus on carpenter ants and odorous house ants.

A common misconception of consumers is that carpenter ants eat wood. “They do not” said Buczkowski, “and only chew wood to make a nest for the colony.” He said there are more than 1,000 different species of carpenter ants, about 50 species in the U.S. of which 6 species are pests. The black carpenter ant is the most common in the Midwest, but carpenter ants can be nearly any size, shape and color.

“When inspecting it’s important to know the difference between termite and carpenter ant damage,” he explained. “For ants, tunnels are smooth but will often have wood shavings present. Termite tunnels are relatively narrow and there will be no wood shavings left behind.”

Prevention is a key strategy in dealing with carpenter ants, he said. Tactics include: inspecting firewood and keeping it away from the house and from the ground; identifying and correcting all water and leakage problems, especially in crawl spaces; keeping gutters clean; locating nests and looking for trails, food, and bits and pieces of wood.

Buczkowski described an ongoing study at Purdue of carpenter ants infesting trees on the campus. Over the last 6-7 years, he and colleagues have studied a square mile on campus, looking at every tree 3” in diameter or larger. Of more than 1,100 trees studied, about 32% had carpenter ants. They also learned that colonies rarely nested in one tree, and the average number of workers per tree was 45.

In terms of treatments, Buczkowski said that chemical controls — liquids, baits and dust — work well when directed at the carpenter ant nest. If the next cannot be located, he recommended using baits or sprays around suspected nesting locations.

Buczkowski continued his presentation with an overview of the number one nuisance ant: odorous house ants. These ants are native to North America and have a wide geographic range. Colonies range from small to extremely large and colonies spread by the movement of mulch, dry leaves and trash. Interestingly, Buczkowski said that in natural areas odorous house ants have small colonies with a single queen and single nest. In urban areas, however, they form large super colonies with multiple queens and millions of workers.

“There is a super colony on the Purdue campus. It’s right around the buildings where the Purdue conference is held,” Buczkowski said. “We have mapped this colony and there is an entire network of trails that connect all the nests. The colony consists of more than 100 nests with 25 queens and 5 million workers,” he said.

Exterminating such colonies is extremely difficult, he said. In another study, Buczkowski and colleagues learned that bait was only dispersed along a foraging trail. “Even a short distance away, we did not see bait ending up in nearby nests,” he said.

Buczkowski offered the following tips for effective treatments:
-    Make many smaller bait placements rather than dump a large amount in one location.
-    Spread bait along foraging trails.
-    Numerous bait stations may be needed to target all nests in a colony.

GCPMA was established in December 2004 to serve the needs of pest management professionals in the Chicago metropolitan area. The organization plans and hosts its annual “A Meeting of the Minds” conference as well as recertification seminars throughout the year. For more information visit www.gcpma.com.