[Pest Perspectives] 2012 State of the Industry: Gloom or Boom?

Columns - Pest Perspectives

July 31, 2012
Kim Kelley-Tunis

Editor’s note: Greg Baumann, former “Pest Perspectives” columnist, recently took on new responsibilities as Rollins’ vice president of training and technical services. As such, Rollins’ Techinical Services Director Kim Kelley-Tunis takes over this quarterly column this month. E-mail her at ktunis@giemedia.com.

It seems as though you can’t turn on the TV or listen to the radio without some passing reference to the end of the world. As you may have heard, according to the Mayan calendar, Dec. 21, 2012, is the beginning of the end. The world as we know it will cease to exist, so they say. How-ever, I am an eternal optimist! I believe 2012 has started strong and, from a pest perspective, will finish strong leading into 2013.

2012’s Good News. This year has brought about the much-anticipated increase in termite business to many parts of the United States. Following on the heels of an unseasonably warm winter, the traditional February launch of the termite season extended far beyond the southern part of the United States. In fact, the February termite activity and swarms were reported as far north as Maryland. This earlier-than-normal activity has provided a much-needed lift to a segment of our industry that has seen little growth in recent years.

The bed bug business continues to grow and now encompasses a larger, and in many cases, a more profitable segment of revenue for many pest management businesses. As universities expand upon our basic knowledge of this once-forgotten pest, the industry is using this knowledge to investigate more effective methods for their monitoring and control. The introduction of new technologies, including bed bug monitors, DNA swabs and improved heat equipment, allow the pest management professional to provide a quality service to our customers. While control of bed bugs in the hotel and retail industry thrives, we are beginning to see an increased emphasis on bed bug programs for multi-family and low-income housing units. Many state and local agencies that oversee these subsidized communities are looking at ways to partner with local businesses in developing programs designed to reduce the overall infestation rate of bed bugs within these places while also striving to overcome the stigma and fear associated with a bed bug infestation.

This year also has brought a positive outcome in a battle between the Environmental Protection Agency and the pest management industry over the use of second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides. In 2011, the EPA mandated changes to the rodenticide label that greatly inhibited the pest management professional in their use of these products on the exterior of buildings. However, through countless meetings and negotiations, a group of dedicated PMPs representing the industry was able to work effectively to have EPA amend the label language on the rodenticide labels. The new label language allows for greater clarity by replacing the word “building” with the phrase “man-made structure” to indicate areas where rodenticides can be used. It also extends the baiting distance from a structure from 50 feet to 100 feet, allowing for increased flexibility.

The Flip Side. 2012 has not been without its challenges. The greatest of these is the language change that is now required for all products that contain pyrethroid as an active ingredient. These changes, made to help reduce the impact to ground water, will greatly impact how PMPs are able to use the products. The most significant change greatly reduces the exterior area of a structure that can be treated and further restricts the types of applications to spot and crack and crevice applications only. While this change may hamper how firms chemically treat structures for many occasional invaders, such as boxelder bugs and cluster flies, it may open up areas for additional management options and ancillary services.

The Coming Months. As for the rest of the year, I can only guess. The warmer-than-normal spring and ideal weather conditions prompted many outside of the industry to warn of above-normal tick and mosquito numbers. Ants, once again, are poised to be the most sought-out topic on various Internet search engines and to become the number one target pest for 2012. And we can’t forget about the flies! I am an optimist.

I am not concerned about Dec. 21, 2012, and, in fact, am looking forward to Dec. 22, 2012, with great anticipation. I believe on that date I will be looking forward to 2013 and hoping that the upcoming new year will be as prosperous as the old one.


The authors is Rollins’ technical services director. She can be reached at ktunis@giemedia.com.