Included in the February issue is the winning photo and finalist photos from PCT’s annual photo contest. The below slideshow includes other noteworthy photos from the 2013 contest.
At NPMA Legislative Day 2013, attendees raised awareness about the need for the Pest Elimination Services Transparency & Terminology (PESTT) Act (H.R. 730). The issue stemmed from a 1987 law that authorized USDA-WS to work at non-agricultural settings. Although the primary intent of the legislation was to permit USDA-WS to control birds at airports and engage in rabies control initiatives, the language was written very broadly and authorized almost any type of vertebrate work imaginable, except “urban rodent control.”
In the months following Legislative Day, attendees saw the fruits of their labors when NPMA and the USDA-WS reached agreement on the definition of the term “urban rodent control,” which, for the first time, established meaningful parameters as to the work USDA-WS can and cannot perform. That outcome undoubtedly was influenced by Legislative Day visits. Also at last year’s Legislative Day, attendees made their reps aware of what NPMA and others believe is U.S. EPA’s misguided proposed order cancelling the food uses for sulfuryl fluoride. Through the work of NPMA and others, the finalized Farm Bill includes a provision that retains the use of sulfuryl fluoride for food uses. At press time, the bill had just passed the House and was headed to the Senate, which was expected to send it to President Obama’s desk.
Some progressive pest control companies concerned with the pollinator issue have partnered with beekeepers. Columbus, Ohio-based Varment Guard has the good fortune of having three staff members who also are hobbyist beekeepers.
“One of the issues we ran into was that, unless the bees were swarming and easily accessible, the beekeepers didn’t want to go to the trouble of taking them out of the walls, or the cavities of trees,” said John Livingston, director of bird operations, Varment Guard. “Then, later in the year, the issue was finding a beekeeper to overwinter them.” Additionally, Livingston said Varment Guard would have to make multiple treatments to honeybee hives in wall cavities and eventually have to kill the hive, adding, “Like most pest control companies, we don’t want to kill honeybees and only do so as a last resort.”
One Varment Guard technician/beekeeper, Charlie Reffitt, also recognized challenges working with beekeepers, including his experience working at a golf course that had a honeybee swarm in a tree. A beekeeper was called to remove the swarm, but by the time she arrived (six hours later) the swarm had migrated to a pump house (inside a concrete wall). Unfortunately, the last resort option of a pesticide treatment was necessary. “I thought, ‘Man I could have reacted quicker, gotten to the bees and saved them,” Reffitt recalled.
This experience spurred Reffitt to create Varment Guard’s honeybee program. After Reffitt consulted with area beekeepers, the end result was a live removal program that involves: 1) relocating the queen and swarm into a cardboard box for transfer to an empty hive; or 2) funnel-trapping the bees out and capturing them with a decoy hive, a.k.a. “nuc(leus) box,” containing a queen and a few worker bees. If honeybees cannot be extracted live and must be killed in a wall or attic, a Varment Guard technician will apply an appropriately labeled aerosol and/or dust insecticide into the cavity containing the hive. At some point following the treatment the dead bees, comb and honey are removed.
Livingston said this service offering has become popular with Varment Guard customers and the company is able to offer it for a nominal service fee.
“At Legislative Day, we want to say thanks to [attendees] for the Wildlife Services victory and, hopefully, the sulfuryl fluoride outcome,” said Gene Harrington, vice president, government affairs, NPMA. “Secondly, we want our members to use their congressional visits as an opportunity to educate their reps about the pollinator issue. To educate them that certain alleged solutions, such as what the EU has done, are maybe not appropriate or helpful.”
There was, in fact, legislation introduced last year in the House, “Saving America’s Pollinators Act of 2013” (H.R.269), that is similar to the EU moratorium to ban three pesticides (clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam). Additionally, in recent months, legislation banning the sale or use of neonicotinoid pesticides or prohibiting certain use patterns has been introduced in Maine, New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico and Vermont. However, Harrington said the goal for Legislative Day attendees is not necessarily to lobby against such proposed legislation, but rather for attendees to explain the industry’s position on the pollinator issue, and share talking points, including:
- Though beneficial, bees pose health and safety risks to the public. Stinging insects send an estimated 500,000 people to the hospital every year and are the leading cause of anaphylaxis-related deaths in the United States. Consequently, bees are — and some government entities have deemed them — a public safety hazard. Furthermore, some bees are also wood-destroying pests;
- Professional structural pest control applicators are specifically trained to use pesticides consistent with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved label directions;
- The industry uses pest control products according to precautions printed on the products’ labels, in order to ensure that the product has the desired benefit without causing bee mortality;
- Many pest management professionals (PMPs) have working relationships with beekeepers, whom they often call when asked to deal with honeybees. Beekeepers are then able to collect the bees alive (see related article, right);
- The decline in bee health is an extremely complicated phenomenon that involves a variety of factors including parasites, disease and loss of bee habitat.
Possible Legislative Movement.
This year’s Legislative Day also is important because of the potential for greater levels of legislative activity in the first few months of 2014. In October, the U.S. government entered a shutdown after Congress failed to enact legislation appropriating funds for fiscal year 2014; however, since the shutdown, Harrington said there has been a “slight increase in the level of cooperation between Democrats and Republicans and an uptick in legislative activity.” It’s possible there could be a flurry of activity this spring, before congressional members go into “campaign mode.”
Speakers and Sessions.
In addition to making congressional visits, Legislative Day attendees will hear from leading speakers including: a debate between political pundits Pat Buchanan (R) and Donna Brazile (D), sponsored by FMC Professional Solutions; John Heilemann, author and MSNBC political analyst, sponsored by Dow AgroSciences; Mike Allen, Chief White House Correspondent, sponsored by Control Solutions Inc.; economist Edwin Nichols, sponsored by Bayer; and the Honorable Rand Paul (R-KY). For more information about NPMA Legislative Day visit http://bit.ly/1jo2weE.
The author is Internet editor of PCT magazine and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Stephen Doggett, senior hospital scientist at Westmead Hospital’s Medical Entomology Department (Australia), was announced as the winner of PCT’s 12th Annual Best Pest Photo Contest for his entry of a honey bee (Apis mellifera) that had been captured by a flower spider. He wins $500 from PCT.
In addition to the “main event” struggle, small flies (possible phorid flies) are feeding on the carcass of the bee, Doggett said.
“The photo was captured in Sydney, Australia, near my hometown in western Sydney,” Doggett said. “My partner and I were out walking the dogs and saw the bee with its ‘friends.’ I had to rush home to grab my camera and take a few shots in fading light.”
Doggett becomes PCT’s second two-time winner. He won the seventh annual competition with a paper wasp photo.
PCT received more than 70 entries for this year’s contest. The following pages include a photo review that includes the winning photo and finalist photos.
An alien spider has escaped from a military laboratory and is growing larger by the minute as it unleashes its arachnid fury on the unsuspecting city of Los Angeles.
The military has failed to stop it, and it has climbed to the top of one of Los Angeles’ tallest skyscrapers to lay its eggs and unleash another wave a diabolical offspring when suddenly a man in a green and yellow uniform steps in and saves the day (and gets the girl!).
No, this isn’t the service log of a real-life pest control technician but the plot for Epic Picture’s comedy/sci-fi thriller “Big Ass Spider!” which debuted in theaters and video-on-demand in October. (The DVD was released last month.) The movie prominently features Western Exterminator Company’s iconic trademark Mr. Little, aka The Little Man with the Hammer.
The plot centers around a giant alien spider that unleashes a rampage on Los Angeles and after a massive military strike fails to stop the creature, it falls to a team of scientists and one clever Western Exterminator technician to kill the creature before the entire city is destroyed.
The movie stars veteran character actor and real-life 15-year Western Exterminator customer, Greg Grunberg, as a wise-cracking and fast-thinking Western Exterminator service technician named Alex Mathis who must protect Los Angeles from this killer arachnid that no one can stop.
Western Exterminator President Michael Katz says the company was approached in August 2011 by the movie’s producers to have not just a cameo role in the film, but the starring lead role in exchange for use of the company’s uniform, logo and service trucks.
“Being in Los Angeles we have been approached numerous times over the years to participate in movies,” says Katz. “As a result we have developed a process that includes us reviewing the script and seeing how Western and the industry will be portrayed in the film.”
Katz says after reviewing the script and gaining assurances that the film would have a good dose of humor weaved into the sci-fi plot, Western decided to sign on to the project.
“Our participation in the film was going to provide some good visibility and brand awareness for us, and we thought it would be a fun project to be involved with,” adds Katz. “The only change that came about was the name; when we signed on the working title was ‘Mega Spider’ so we didn’t do as much with our residential customer base in the way of advertising for ‘Big Ass Spider!’ as we might have with Mega Spider. Still, it’s a fun film and a great way to get our brand seen by a new audience.”
The film’s producers visited with Western’s Los Angeles Service Center team to go over terminology and get ideas on how exactly would you kill a giant spider, and star Grunberg spent time with his service technician learning some pointers about the job.
The film also featured several unique Western Exterminator traditions including a scene where Alex Mathis answers his phone with the signature company greeting, “Thank you for calling Western Exterminator, where we care,” as he was being chased in his service vehicle by the giant spider. Western colleagues also got a kick out of Grunberg and co-star Lombardo Boyer who each bounced The Little Man’s hammer when they walked past the iconic statue on the back of the truck stating, “We all do that, and our customers do, too!”
The film was shown at the SXSW (South by Southwest) Film Festival, where it earned Official Selection status; Imagine Film Festival in the Netherlands, the U.K.’s Dead by Dawn Film Festival and the Toronto After Dark Film Festival. It received positive reviews from critics.
The company also presented a special screening of the film for the industry in October during NPMA PestWorld 2013, as well as a fundraising screening in November, which benefited PCOC Cares, the charity arm of the Pest Control Operators of California.
No word yet if there is a sequel in the works but can you imagine if they brought Big Ass Rodent or Big Ass Bed Bug to the big screen? — PCT Contributor Jeff Fenner
As part of his presentation at December’s Global Bed Bug Summit, Billy Tesh recalled the manager of a severely infested 11-story apartment building asking him, “Should we just bulldoze it?” The infestation level — and management’s frustration level — was so high that all options were on the table.
Previous pest control companies had tried and failed to rid the 206-room apartment building, leaving management frustrated and residents having lost faith in pest management treatments (85 percent of the apartments were infested, to varying degrees). So before Tesh, owner of Pest Management Systems Inc. (PMi), Greensboro, N.C., even put together a proposal, he and his team interviewed as many residents and staff members as they could to gain a better understanding of the levels of infestation and problems they had encountered.
Tesh decided to take on this job and he started by developing a “big picture” strategy that focused as much (or more) on cooperation as it did on equipment and treatment protocols. Tesh knew that PMi had the necessary people, equipment and know-how to rid the apartment completely of bed bugs; the more significant challenge was getting all the various entities (management, staff, residents and guests) to work together for a solution. “Sometimes it was a case of these other pest control companies doing everything they could, but the level of cooperation at all levels just wasn’t there,” said Tesh.
Throughout his presentation, Tesh reviewed treatments and procedures his team employed beginning from the 11th floor and working their way down. Most of these protocols/procedures are familiar to PCOs (heat treatments, use of pesticides, etc.); that’s not what this column is about. What I think Tesh shared that was of greatest value was his team’s efforts to get residents to “buy in” to what they were doing. For example, each resident was asked to change into scrubs so that their clothes could be laundered. “They thought it was pretty cool and it made them realize that we were going one step beyond what anyone else had done,” Tesh said.
But before PMi could get this level of cooperation, they had to gain residents’ trust, which is why prior to starting this job Tesh met with his team to explain the importance of compassion. “When we interviewed residents, one of the things they said was, ‘These technicians would talk down to us and blame us for bringing in and spreading bed bugs,’ ” Tesh said. “Residents don’t want to be in this situation and most are embarrassed about it. We talked about treating each resident with respect. As much as you run into situations where you might want to talk down to them, every day greet them like they are your friend. You want them to become colleagues in achieving the end-result, which is no bed bugs.”
And getting residents to become “colleagues” can pay dividends. In the case of PMi, residents learned how to identify bed bugs; where to find them; and the importance of reporting an infestation immediately, while in its early stages (PMi educated residents with photos and a slide show presentation).
The end-result for PMi was that one year following the treatment the bed bug infestation level at this apartment building was reduced by 98 percent, a result that would not have been possible without resident cooperation. Equally as gratifying for Tesh was the response he would get from residents during follow-up visits. “They would say, ‘That was the best night sleep I’ve had in a long time. Thank you. You all did a great job.’ Before it was all over they had given us nicknames.
It became a great opportunity for us to socially interact with them and let them know what they needed to do. We could not have solved these problems without them and my team did a great job of doing this each and every day.”
The author is Internet editor of PCT Online and can be reached at email@example.com.