Editor’s Note: This article was adapted from Techletter, a biweekly publication from Pinto & Associates, Mechanicsville, Md. To subscribe, visit www.techletter.com, or call 301/884-3020.
They’re popping up everywhere. New monitors, traps, sprays, nonconventional treatments, even electronic bed bug “sniffers” — all aimed at the bed bug. Manufacturers are racing to get something new out there as quickly as possible to take advantage of the bed bug boom. In a recent article published by the UK-based Pest magazine, Australian bed bug expert Stephen Doggett warned PMPs that while some of these are reputable, effective products, many others are not.
Don’t believe company hype — ask yourself these questions:
Does the product’s mode of action or the way it works make sense? For example, we know that heat kills insects, so it is logical that heat containment to kill bed bugs should work. Likewise, moat barrier systems and encasements are conceptually sound. But what about insect growth regulators for bed bugs? Insect growth regulators work by blocking the nymph’s ability to molt. But nymphs don’t molt until after they have taken a blood meal. So you are selling your customer a control method that requires that they be bitten in order for it to work. Doggett asks, “What would happen if the client was extremely litigious and found out that a product was being used that only works through their suffering? This could be a legal threat to your business.”
Does the product make sense, given what we know about the habits and behavior of bed bugs? New bed bug traps are appearing all the time and many of these appear to have been thrown together without much concern by their manufacturers as to whether they actually work or not. Bed bugs are repelled by sticky surfaces, yet new traps that incorporate sticky tapes or panels continue to be promoted because it sounds like it might be a good idea.
Is the way the product or device operates flawed or unclear? Is it safe for your technicians to operate? Is special training required? There are several products that use gases to freeze bed bugs, but the high pressure required in some tends to blow live bed bugs into new areas.
Do the manufacturer’s product claims sound too good to be true, or does the advertising appear to be deceptive? Many things will kill bed bugs when sprayed directly on them, including rubbing alcohol. According to the National Pest Management Association, when you see product claims like, “Kills all bed bugs in less than a minute,” manufacturers are usually referring to contact kill products and situations where bed bugs are directly sprayed with the product. Is this realistic? Do you feel comfortable with what you’re hearing from the manufacturer’s representative?
Will the product appeal to my clients? While the packaging and technology may wow you, how will your customer perceive the trap? Is that upscale monitor too conspicuous for use in your commercial sites? Or, maybe the new scaled-down monitor is just the kind of thing your customer has been hoping for. Is the product way too cumbersome and time intensive for your accounts? More importantly, can your customer afford what you have to charge him for this new, jazzy product?
Finally, ask these questions of the manufacturer:
- Can I see the efficacy data? Reputable manufacturers spend time and money on tests by university researchers or independent labs before putting them on the market. Product testing done by someone on the manufacturer’s payroll counts for very little. Never assume that a product will work just because the manufacturer’s website and promo material says it does.
- Can you give me contact information for some of your customers? Talk to others who are already using the product. Ask what they like about it and what they don’t. Talk to your colleagues at pest control meetings to find out what they’re using.
- What else do you manufacture? Does the company have a good product reputation? If other products they manufacture have been questionable, or fly-by-night, or unsupported by research, question their bed bug products as well.
- Is the product registered in my state? Manufacturers may state that their product is exempt from EPA registration since the active ingredients are natural and on EPA’s minimum risk list. However, these products may still have to be registered by your state in order for you to use them legally.
The authors are well-known industry consultants and co-owners of Pinto & Associates.