Consumers have seen the commercials, read the ads in SkyMall or watched the reports on the 6 p.m. news talking about bed bugs. They’ve also heard claims about the latest, greatest solutions to controlling these nasty critters.
Pest management professionals have experienced a similar situation when it comes to wading through the sea of new products designed to eliminate bed bugs from customers’ homes, hotel rooms or nursing home rooms.
“The market is better and worse off at the same time because of the new technology,” says Brian Hirsch, director of sales, industrial division for Protect-A-Bed, a global manufacturer of bed bug and allergy control mattress and box spring encasement products.
Hirsch says the bed bug outbreak created an attractive opportunity for pest professionals to drive revenue and grow market share quickly. The ensuing demand for products offering quick solutions for a pest that had all been but eliminated in the United States yielded a slew of products — some that worked and some that didn’t — being introduced to the market.
Pest management professionals have had to dispel numerous myths and misinformation customers have received from the media, and need to set realistic expectations for the products consumers see advertised that claim to control bed bugs.
This heightened awareness among consumers about bed bugs has actually had an additional benefit to pest professionals, says Hirsch.
“Emerging bed bug management technology, including new monitoring tools, has helped pest professionals sharpen their sales efforts, as well as their service protocols and procedures,” says Hirsch. “The days of showing up with a compressed air sprayer and a duster have evolved into PMPs providing detailed pre-service checklists and having multiple product options to consider.”
Good Time To Shop. With more bed bug management products on the market than ever, today’s pest professional has a lot to think about.
Hirsch says pest management professionals are smart about selecting bed bug products because they know consumers will demand results, especially when it comes to a pest that has such a negative connotation associated with it. He also says pest professionals have been relying on their product distributors to help them vet the pretenders from the contenders.
“If a new bed bug product isn’t carried by a distributor and yet claims to be the be-all, end-all solution, it probably is too good to be true,” says Hirsch.
As is the case with most products, pricing is important to pest professionals, especially when labor costs to perform an effective bed bug treatment are high. A bed bug service can require two or three technicians, spending multiple hours at the account and taking valuable equipment out of inventory.
“Pest professionals are looking for quicker, more efficient ways to service for bed bugs,” says Hirsch. “But questions about efficacy and product availability still remain.”
Leveling Off. While the bed bug market remains strong in the multi-family housing, hospitality and health care sectors, the growth is not as significant as it was four years ago at the height of the bed bug outbreak when high double- and triple-digit growth was the norm.
“Bed bug infestations are now moving outside of the major population centers and emerging in the flyover states,” says Hirsch. “However, just because they are spreading doesn’t mean the population density is there to support large account growth. These areas have less people and thus offer fewer opportunities for bed bug account growth.”
Landing A Knockout Blow To Bed Bugs
When Protect-A-Bed wanted to add to its stable of bed bug and allergy products it wanted to add something different.
The firm recently introduced its ThermalStrike line of products, which uses infrared heat to kill bed bugs. One of the first products available is TSA- and FAA-compliant luggage that uses integrated infrared heating technology to automatically bring the temperature inside the suitcase to 140°F and kill stowaway bed bugs before, during and after a traveler’s trip.
Once the fatal temperature has been reached (in about 2½ hours) ThermalStrike’s sensors automatically turn the unit off so as not waste energy. Unlike conventional heating methods, infrared does not require bulky fans, blowers or coils to heat the air, the firm says. Infrared heat uses wavelength energy to penetrate through objects faster and more evenly.
The ThermalStrike product line also features portable box containers that eliminate bed bugs on items placed into the unit including in clothes, shoes, luggage, backpacks, blanket and sheets. The units are offered in two sizes — the ThermalStrike Commuter (18 by 12 by 25 inches) and the ThermalStrike Expedition (31 by 17 by 21 inches).
Contents can be loaded right to the edge of the box and dual safety circuits monitor the temperature to prevent damage to the items. The system is reusable and the recommended length of treatment is four to eight hours, depending on the contents.
Brian Hirsch, director of sales, industrial division, Protect-A-Bed, says the product is being marketed to consumers currently, but that the company is looking to introduce a portable, industrial size version for pest management professionals later this year.
He says pest professionals are recommending the product to high-risk customers, such as shelters, where management can put transient residents’ clothing and bedding into one of the boxes for immediate treatment.
For more information, visit www.thermalstrike.com.
For PMPs in bed bug “hot spot” areas such as New York City and northern New Jersey, offering termite-style inspection programs for hotels, apartment complexes, condominium associations and dormitories is an option to generate consistent revenue streams and get ahead of bed bug infestations.
“With a regular inspection program in place, pest professionals are catching bed bug problems earlier and have the ability to practice preventive measures,” said Hirsch. “Large pest companies are doing as much bed bug business as they can handle right now.”
Hirsch also says pest management professionals have a greater level of confidence in the technology currently on the market. That confidence has led to more efficient delivery of bed bug treatments and a better understanding of the actual cost to get the job done.
“Things happened very quickly when the bed bug market took off and pest professionals did not fully understand how to use the technology available to their maximum benefit,” says Hirsch. “Now, as the market has matured, PMPs are getting more value and better results from the products on the market.”
From a supplier perspective, Hirsch says the introduction of new products like encasements, traps and monitors has leveled off as the market has settled and PCOs have inventory on the shelf.
For Protect-A-Bed, its 30 years of experience manufacturing and marketing allergy protection products such as mattress and pillow encasements, provided the perfect vehicle to enter the bed bug market, according to Hirsch.
“Our bed bug products are built on the framework of the allergy products with enhanced features including improved zippers and stitching,” says Hirsch. “We are able to meet multiple needs of clients from allergy to incontinence care, and now bed bugs.”
The author is partner of B Communications, www.b-communications.com, an integrated communications/marketing firm specializing in the needs of pest management professionals. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.