Bayer Marketing Manager Norman Barclift said the botanical market represents an opportunity for PMPs to grow an underserved segment of the pest management industry.
New York City is home to some of the most challenging pest problems in the world. With thousands of food-service establishments, hundreds of miles of subway lines, millions of square feet of office space, and tons of trash left on city streets every night for pick-up early the next morning, Manhattan is the ultimate “playground” for a wide array of insect and rodent pests.
Despite its complex pest challenges, however, residents of the “Big Apple” possess an environmental sensibility that demands an IPM approach to structural pest control, perhaps because more than 27,000 people occupy every square mile of New York City.
It is against this backdrop of intense pest pressure and the public’s growing desire for “sustainable” pest solutions, that Environmental Science, a division of Bayer CropScience, recently invited more than 60 PMPs to a Times Square hotel in midtown Manhattan to introduce Harmonix Insect Spray, the company’s first botanical insecticide in the “naturals” category.
“What better city to talk about innovation than New York City,” said Bayer Marketing Manager Norman Barclift, in reference to a region of the country where change is constant and generations of Americans have launched successful businesses because they not only understood — but embraced — the economic imperative to innovate, a quality shared by Barclift’s colleagues at Bayer.
In welcoming PMPs to the two-day event, Director of Professional Pest Management Chris Pienaar said Bayer has “a proven tradition of scientific innovation. We were the guys who revolutionized the bait category. We introduced the first non-repellent termiticide to the pest control market. We created Suspend PolyZone. Creating healthy, pest-free environments where we live, work and play is at the core of our mission,” he said, and that requires a commitment to innovation, including the introduction of “next-generation” products like Harmonix Insect Spray.
Harmonix Insect Spray At-a-Glance
New Harmonix Insect Spray is made with pyrethrum, a botanical insecticide derived from the chrysanthemum flower. It provides long-lasting residual and fast knockdown, according to Environmental Science, a division of Bayer CropScience.
Other key features include:
R&D Drives Innovation.
The New York event was actually the culmination of more than four years of “behind-the-scenes” R&D work by Bayer scientists to develop a botanical product that would meet a largely unmet market need, according to Dr. Byron Reid, senior principle scientist.
“As a product manufacturer, we asked ourselves, ‘How could we help PMPs advance into this space with non-traditional services?’” Reid said. “How could we apply our scientific capabilities to make a botanical product that was better than anything developed for the pest control industry in the past?”
Given those rather broad parameters, Reid said the company’s R&D staff was given the assignment to develop a “botanical” insecticide based on pyrethrum extracts without any insecticide synergists, yet the product would still need to provide at least 28 days of residual control and generate rapid knockdown of a wide array of pests…a tall order even by Bayer’s standards.
Based on those requirements, Bayer scientists set out to create a formulation that would protect natural pyrethrum from the various environmental factors that typically degrade pesticides, including sunlight, volatility, moisture and sorption. The proprietary formulation they eventually came up with is “not a microcap or the formulation used in Suspend PolyZone,” according to Reid, but a formulation developed specifically for Harmonix designed to extend the residual life of the product.
The concentrate formulation of Harmonix Insect Spray contains 0.5 pounds of pyrethrins per gallon. PMPs can apply the non-staining solution where pests have been seen, found or take shelter, in addition to in and around buildings and structures. The product also is labeled for broadcast or spot treatments to floors, floor coverings, carpets or rugs for flea and tick control. It may be tank-mixed with insect growth regulators and re-applied at seven-day intervals (see related stories at left and on page 86). Harmonix is not registered for commercial food-handling areas.
Reid says Harmonix is “game-changing technology” that will allow PMPs to service homes or businesses on a monthly basis with a low-impact botanical insecticide, adding significant value to the marketplace, a message reinforced by Barclift, who indicated innovation always leads to enhanced revenue opportunities for pest management professionals.
In a well-received presentation on the role of innovation in creating new markets, Barclift pointed out that it wasn’t that long ago that coffee had become a commodity as a result of “lots of price cutting” among the key players in the marketplace (i.e., Maxwell House, Hills Bros., Folgers). That is, until Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz came on the scene and changed the consumer’s perception of the ubiquitous morning drink, making it “an experience” rather than a commodity.
Likewise, Barclift thinks Harmonix fills “a gap” in the PMP’s portfolio, creating a potential new market for monthly pest control service in sensitive accounts featuring a long-lasting botanical insecticide. “Our customers need a botanical product that performs, and with Harmonix Insect Spray, they can confidently provide applications without compromising their service efficiency,” he said.
“The only way to expand the market is to bring new kinds of products to the marketplace, products capable of transforming the future of pest management,” Reid added. “Harmonix is just such a product. We’re convinced this is going to be an increasingly important segment of the population that we’re not going to be reaching as an industry with our conventional pesticides. We are convinced there is an opportunity for new revenue with this customer group.”
About the Label
What is Labeled
But before bringing Harmonix to market, Bayer had to be sure it worked, and not just in the laboratory but in actual accounts, according to John Paige, field development representative. In a session highlighting the company’s field work, Paige said once Bayer’s R&D staff thinks they have a viable product it’s his job to “kick the tires” to determine how it works in “real-world” situations. “Lab data alone cannot tell the true story of product performance,” he observed. “You must go into the field, against real pest infestations, to find out what your product can do.”
So, in 2011 and 2012 Bayer conducted 32 field trials against a wide range of pests, including ants, spiders, German cockroaches, fire ants, ticks, paper wasps, bed bugs and cat fleas. What they learned is Harmonix provides excellent efficacy against German cockroaches, cat fleas, bed bugs and spiders. In addition, the product provides fast knockdown of paper wasps, with “complete control achieved” and “no recovery even without a synergist,” Paige said.
It also provides excellent knockdown of ants, but not particularly good long-term control. “This is not a standalone product for ants,” Paige said. “Maxforce ant baits are a much better management option for most ant pests.”
In concluding his remarks, Paige said, “In all of these field trials we achieved good (>80%) to excellent (>95%) control, typically lasting four weeks or longer.” Regarding specific pests, he said Harmonix is a “very serviceable” spider control product and a “new option” for broadcast application indoors for flea control.
“Harmonix delivers the results your customers expect from a professional pest management service without compromising their desire for a sustainable insecticide,” he added. Additional field testing is planned for 2013 and 2014.
A Changing Marketplace.
Former pest control technician Joe Barile, a longtime field representative for Bayer, says public perceptions about “green” products are changing for several reasons, including a mainstream media that perpetuates anxiety about traditional pesticides and a “new political reality” that is resulting in laws and local regulations that are supportive of “green” technology.
While public attitudes about pesticides are changing, what hasn’t changed is the absolute necessity that whatever product the PMP chooses to treat an account, it must be effective in controlling the target pest. It’s not enough just to be “green” and “sustainable,” Barile said; it also must be effective, economical and convenient.
That’s a tall order, but it’s the marketplace product suppliers find themselves in. While Harmonix isn’t appropriate for every situation, Barile said, it does offer “high-impact performance from a botanically derived active ingredient” that is “perfect for sensitive accounts.”
Ray Meyers, owner of RJM Contracting, like Barile, was “pleasantly surprised” after field testing Harmonix Insect Spray. “The results have been quite exceptional. To be a green product and have that much power against insects is impressive,” he said.
Other Program Highlights.
In addition to the aforementioned technical sessions, attendees also had an opportunity to learn about how to market their services to baby boomers, Gen-Xers, millennials and other demographic segments of the United States population in an informative keynote presentation by Tim Moore of NuVue Business Solutions, Raleigh, N.C.
A second educational session, featuring Stanford Phillips, vice president of marketing and business development, Northwest Exterminating, Atlanta, Ga., highlighted the company’s success in growing its “green” business, despite the crash of the housing market and the challenges posed by the “Great Recession.”
In closing the two-day conference, Chris Pienaar said Harmonix Insect Spray is the first of several new products in the “botanical” category to be developed by Bayer under the Harmonix brand.
“As a company, our mission is ‘Science for a Better Life,’” he said. “We will continue to innovate around your future needs.”
To learn more about Harmonix Insect Spray or any of the products in Bayer’s pest management portfolio, visit www.bayerprocentral.com. – PCT Staff