Termites cost homeowners in the United States more than $5 billion in property damage each year. Commonly referred to as the “silent destroyer,” this pest has the ability to cause devastating damage to homes without being detected. Consider this: Many homeowners’ insurance plans will not cover any of the costs associated with termite damage. With that said, it’s easy to see that having no termite protection in place can lead to big problems.
There are several factors that attract termites to homes, and unfortunately, every home, regardless of construction type, provides these things: food, moisture, shelter and optimal temperatures. The good news is there are proactive measures you can take to help your customers eliminate attractants. One of these is creating and maintaining a termite-proof landscape year round.
Many homeowners only associate landscaping with the spring and summer months, but it is important to also be thinking about landscaping in the winter months. During winter, termites may seek refuge deeper in the soil, so taking time now to address landscaping will have you better prepared for the warming soil in the spring.
Work with your customers to eliminate or modify conditions around the home and yard that attract termites and reduce their access to moisture, food and shelter. Here are a few landscaping tips to work on with your customers.
Remove Food Sources.
Termites eat cellulose, the main ingredient in plant matter. This means that any wood materials found around the home and yard can serve as a food source and attractant for termites. To termite-proof the landscape, work with your customer to implement the following tips:
- Remove rotting stumps, dead trees and roots, and other wood debris in the yard.
- Move firewood and woodpiles at least 20 feet away from the home and store off the ground, if possible. When stacked against the foundation, firewood and lumber offer hidden entry points into the home and may allow termites to bypass a protective soil treatment.
- Keep wood mulch to a minimum and avoid using it near the foundation of the home. Mulch not only serves as a source of food, but also retains moisture, which is conducive to termite activity. If mulch is used, keep the level of the mulch several inches below the siding and wooden parts of the home’s structure. Consider replacing mulch with gravel.
- Monitor mulch for signs of termites. Look beyond the surface and dig down into the mulch bed since termites will not always be close to the surface.
- Avoid planting any vegetation near to the home, including groundcover. If possible, keep vegetation 3 to 4 feet away from the exterior of the home.
Termites are dependent on moisture to survive and they thrive when given access to areas with excessive moisture. As a result, it’s important to ensure that there is proper drainage around the home to avoid water accumulation. The following tips can be implemented to ensure proper drainage:
- Homeowners should immediately repair leaking water pipes, faucets and air-conditioning units.
- Remove excessive plant cover and wood mulch.
- Make sure there is no standing water on the roof.
- Grade soil away from the foundation of the home.
- Divert rainwater away from the foundation by installing down-spout extenders and splash blocks and maintaining clean gutters and downspouts.
- Divert lawn sprinklers and irrigation water away from the foundation.
Protect Protective Barriers.
Termite barriers serve as a first line of defense against infestations. Liquid termiticides create a treated zone in the soil in which termites forage and bring termiticide back to the colony. These barriers can be disturbed, however, when homes are re-landscaped or re-graded. When new soil is brought into the yard for these purposes, it will not be treated. This can render the home vulnerable to infestation. If you have a customer whose property has been treated for termites previously, make sure they are aware that soil will need to be re-treated if new soil is brought in. New soil also may affect baiting stations placed throughout the property if they are buried or compromised.
Keep this in mind if you have customers who are adding on to their homes also. If an addition is made to the home, any termite barriers should be reapplied around the addition and at the junction of the original structure and addition.
Termite barriers also can be compromised in times of flooding. This was the case for many homeowners along the coast of New Jersey in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. The following conditions have the potential to damage or ruin termite treatment efforts:
- Bait stations may wash away due to flood waters.
- Soil erosion may have removed protective treatment zones or soil may have been deposited around the house. If this is the case, protective treatment zones may now be under several feet of top soil.
- Previous soil treatments that were more water soluble may no longer be effective enough to protect the structure from potential termite invasions.
Landscaping can go a long way in reducing a homeowner’s risk of termite infestation. Work with your customer year round on landscaping tips and remind them to keep an eye out for signs of termites any time they spend time in the yard or garden. Proactive measures are the key to mitigating the risk of termites and the headache they can cause.
Hope Bowman is a technical specialist and board certified entomologist with Western Pest Services, a New-Jersey based pest management company serving residential and commercial customers throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. Learn more at www.westernpest.com.
In this day and age, content marketing has become the heart and soul of many successful digital marketing strategies. The right content can help a business build brand awareness among current and prospective customers, boost search engine results for websites and increase social media engagement. But, let’s face it: producing relevant and intriguing content on a regular basis isn’t always easy. In fact, nearly half of all marketers are lacking a content strategy, according to a recent study by the Content Marketing Institute (http://bit.ly/1btExF0).
One solution to help manage the content marketing process (and its ever-changing parts) is to create an editorial calendar. Simply put, an editorial calendar is a schedule of content to be published on different channels throughout the year. While the thought of creating a 12-month timeline of content may be a bit overwhelming, it will help you remain organized and avoid writer’s block down the road.
How to Build an Editorial Calendar.
There are five steps to building an editorial calendar:
Step 1: Choose a Format
The beauty of an editorial calendar is that it can be as simple or detailed as you wish. However, all editorial calendars should be organized in a clear and concise manner. There are many programs available to help format an editorial calendar depending on your needs, but a Microsoft Excel sheet or Word document should suffice. WordPress and Google Docs are also popular options because they are easily shareable among a group of people.
A basic editorial calendar should be broken down by month and include the following information:
- Content type
- Theme or focus
- Due date
- Publishing date
Step 2: Determine the Content Type
After you have created a calendar template, you need to determine the type of content you want to publish based on your marketing goals — articles for a website, blog posts, press releases, newsletters, Facebook updates, etc. In addition to written content, consider mapping out a plan for visuals, such as infographics, photography and videos.
Step 3: Identify a Monthly Theme
One of the most effective ways to fill in an editorial calendar is to come up with an overarching theme for each month. Make a list of holidays, awareness weeks and months, industry events and company milestones that you can use as anchors for upcoming content. For example, a good theme for November is pantry pests, as many consumers spend extra time in the kitchen preparing Thanksgiving feasts.
Also, take into consideration the seasonality of pests. Stinging insects are most aggressive in late summer and early fall, so consider covering hornets, wasps and bees in August. Rodents are also a timely option for winter content, helping to keep pest control top of mind for consumers beyond the busy spring and summer pest season.
Author’s tip: Special observances are a great option for pest control companies to consider when building their editorial calendars. Our industry has formal designations for Termite Awareness Week (March 16-22), National Pest Management Month (April) and Bed Bug Awareness Week (April 20-26). Other observances like National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month (May) and National Homeownership Month (June) can also be used to leverage pest news.
Step 4: Brainstorm Topic Ideas
Once you have nailed down an overall theme for each month, you will need to brainstorm specific topic ideas, which is often the most challenging and time-consuming step. It is important to think like your customers and focus on what content you believe they would find valuable. If you decide to highlight stinging insects in August, you could write a blog post about keeping picnics pest-free or distribute a release focusing on ways to prevent West Nile virus.
Author’s tip: An editorial calendar should be looked at as a working to-do list. It is okay if topics and publishing dates need to be rearranged to account for unexpected company or industry news during the year.
Step 5: Create a Publishing Schedule
When developing an editorial calendar, be realistic about deadlines and publishing frequency. While you may not be able to post a website article every day, content should be added on a fairly regular basis to keep channels looking fresh. For a website, aim to create one new content piece each week, or four per month.
If you work with a team, you will also need to decide who is responsible for writing the content, who will edit it and who can give the final approval. Then, you can assign a deadline and publishing date to keep everyone accountable.
Author’s tip: Factor in about one week for reviews and possible content revisions.
Stay Ahead of the Game.
Creating an editorial calendar is only half of the battle. Now that you have a content plan in place, make sure to stick to it and track your progress. You might be surprised to find out how much easier content creation can be when you plan ahead.
The author, Missy Henriksen, is executive director of the Professional Pest Management Alliance and vice president of public affairs for the National Pest Management Association. She can be reached at email@example.com. For more information about PPMA, visit www.NPMApestworld.org/PPMA.
Editor’s Note: The following article appeared on Mike Merchant’s blog, “Insects in the City,” which can be found at http://insectsinthecity.blogspot.com. The blog offers readers news and commentary about the urban pest management industry and is excerpted here with permission of the author.
I’ve always appreciated the creativity that goes into vanity plates — even if they are sometimes, well, a little vain. But you have to love the entomologists’ license plates submitted to the first-ever BugMobile contest sponsored by the Entomological Society of America late last year.
Members of ESA were asked to submit photos of creative, insect-themed cars or license plates. Most sent in insect-related license plates that they own or see around town. People visiting the Facebook site were then invited to “like” their favorites, and the plate with the most “likes” wins.
The winner was a cool-looking, University of Arizona-themed license plate with the not-so-original (in my opinion) text, DRBUG. Much more original (in my opinion) was the plate that must have belonged to a pest management professional, DBUG4U. Also way cool was the yellow-with-black-racing-stripes Chevy Camaro, with the Iowa plates reading BMBULBE.
One entomologist advertised his or her enthusiasm about entomology with the plate N2BUGS. I liked that.
Some plates only an entomologist would love, or understand, such as the Colorado plate reading SCARAB2, suggesting an enthusiasm for beetles in the family Scarabeidae (and implying that she is not alone, assuming SCARAB1 had already been taken). Even more of an insider plate read BUP DR, which I might not have recognized as an entomologist’s plate in another context — BUP referring to the beetle family Buprestidae. And BTLEMAN. And HISTERS and SCARABS (beetle families Histeridae and Scarabeidae) in the same driveway no less. I’ll bet I can guess what dinner table talk is like at that home is like. What is it about beetle guys and their vanity plates?
Some of the references were too obscure for me. CANTHON turns out to be another dung beetle. CY BUGS...cyborg bugs? SP NOV is entomologist code for “new species” in Latin...representing a dream of every entomologist to name a new bug species.
I got BUG DOOD, TSETSE (for the African Tsetse fly — carrier of sleeping sickness) and BUG ACE (which I suppose is proudly displayed by an Associate Certified Entomologist).
As for my car, I do have two bumper stickers that I’ve never displayed publicly. They read “Have You Hugged Your Exterminator Today?” And, “Entomologists are Good for What Bugs You.” Maybe someday I’ll be bold enough, or vain enough, to advertise my inner bug nerd.
If any of you have a photo that you’re especially proud of, I’d like to see it. Just email me a copy at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or post it to PCT’s Facebook page (search for “PCT magazine”).
How many times were you asked this winter, “So, is this cold weather going to kill all my bugs?” (And how many times did you roll your eyes?)
Don’t blame your customers. Just like they have — and I’m sure you have — I’ve seen this discussion everywhere the past couple of months. (In fact, I received a letter at home the other day from a lawn care company telling me, “Your lawn is trying to recover from cold weather injuries.”)
One reason this has been such a hot (ha-ha!) topic is because of a widely distributed report out of Virginia Tech in which researchers found that stink bugs have a freezing point — and this winter we hit it.
According to an article in the Washington Post, the Virginia Tech project found about 95 percent of the stink bugs the researchers were watching were killed in the cold weather in January. “As a result of the high kill rate, (Entomology Professor Thomas Kuhar) concluded, ‘There should be significant mortality of BMSB (brown marmorated stink bugs) and many other overwinter insects this year,’” the Post article said.
And although they’re pests that most PMPs don’t deal with, Emerald Ash Borers were in the news frequently too. A report titled “The Upside of the Bitter Cold: It Kills Bugs That Kill Trees,” ran on National Public Radio’s Jan. 10 episode of All Things Considered.
But, just like with many other things in life, if you ask someone else, you get a different answer. According to some entomology experts, the cold weather could actually help certain insect pests (and barely affect others).
Richard Levine, communications program manager at the Entomological Society of America and editor of the Entomology Today Blog, wrote on Jan. 13, “Ironically, the recent cold spell could actually end up helping the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) in certain areas because the freezing temperatures might harm EAB predators.”
And a news report in Texas quoted Wizzie Brown, an entomologist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, as saying fire ants and mosquitoes will certainly survive this winter’s cold stretch. “There are insects that can actually withstand freezing temperatures for short periods of time,” Brown said in the report. “And then we have other ones that actually have kind of an antifreeze in their body that allow their bodies to completely freeze and then they will thaw out when the temperatures get warmer.”
This month’s cover story, “On the Move,” (page 32) discusses how increases in temperature — no matter how subtle — can affect insects’ range. “Insects are sort of like a canary in a coal mine,” says Mike Potter, professor of entomology at the University of Kentucky. “They sometimes reveal subtle changes in the environment through their abundance and distribution.”
And in an article about this year’s Polar Vortex (page 46), Jan Nyrop, a professor of entomology and senior associate dean of Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said, “The weather will give insects a temporary setback, but as soon as the weather warms up, they will take off again.”
So what does all of this mean for your business?
I think the takeaway message from this month’s cover story is this: Climate change is a long-term factor that may affect insect populations. But, nothing matters more to pest populations than annual weather trends, i.e., what’s happening right here, right now. It means depending on how quickly spring warms up your area of the country, and how much rain your area gets, insects could be a little slow making an appearance. But does it mean they’re gone forever? Not a chance.
In this month’s Polar Vortex article, we write, “As for 2014, you could see delays in the emergence of termites but other than that, pest management businesses should feel minimal impact.
‘We are not going to win the war against insects no matter the temperature,’” said Texas A&M’s Dr. Roger Gold.
Truer words have never been spoken.
The author is editor of PCT magazine.