Editor’s Note: The following was adapted from Techletter, a biweekly publication from Pinto & Associates, Mechanicsville, Md. To subscribe, visit www.techletter.com or call 301/884-3020.
While they only rarely invade homes and other buildings, harvester ants are still a pest that must be dealt with by our industry. In areas where they occur, harvester ants often nest in the yard around a home. The workers strip large areas of vegetation, up to 35 feet in diameter, from around their nest. More importantly, however, like fire ants, they pack a mean sting.
THAT STING! If you ever sit on a harvester ant nest you will remember the experience for a long time! An angry harvester ant first locks her jaws tightly into you…so tightly that her head will tear off before she can be pulled loose…and then she jabs in her stinger and injects a toxic venom. In fact, of all insect-produced venoms, that of the harvester ant is probably the most toxic, even more so than the fire ant.
The intense, burning pain of the sting normally lasts 48 hours, and has been described as “ripping muscles or tendons” and “turning a screw in the flesh.” The initial pain may be combined with “gooseflesh” and sweating around the bite site, followed by lingering pain in nearby lymph glands. A purplish hemorrhagic spot typically appears at the site of the sting, followed by a small blister with a halo of inflamed tissue. Some people experience an allergic reaction to the sting, even anaphylactic shock in extreme cases.
Some species of harvester ant have reverse barbs on their stings, like honey bees. The stinger/poison glands pull free and remain inside, pulsing in additional venom.
Before the introduction of the red imported fire ant, harvester ants were considered to be the most “ferocious” of all American ants. Yet, for most of the year, harvester ants are only moderately aggressive; if someone steps on a nest, usually only one or a few ants will attack. However, they often become much more aggressive during those relatively brief periods when swarmers are leaving the nest. The swarmers, or winged reproductives, are vulnerable to predation. To protect them, worker ants become strikingly aggressive. The California harvester ant and the western harvester ant are usually much more aggressive and vicious when disturbed than is the Florida harvester ant. But in any case, harvester ant nests should be treated with caution.
HARVESTER HABITS. The “harvester” part of their name comes from the fact that worker ants gather and harvest seeds to warehouse in their underground nest. The seeds are used as needed and their stored seed stock appears to be “rotated” to prevent spoilage, just like good practice in commercial warehouses.
Harvester ants most often are pests in sunny and dry agricultural fields, orchards and range lands. But they also nest in lawns and yards, and can become a stinging hazard around homes and on paths, picnic areas, athletic fields and playgrounds. They’re expert foragers, sometimes ranging hundreds of feet from the nest. They occasionally enter garages or sheds and pilfer bagged grass seed and bird seed.
A harvester ant nest is typically a mound in open ground. A nest extends deep below the surface; in some cases more than 20 feet down. There may be more than one entrance. Most species of harvester ant clear the vegetation in a circle around the nest opening. These cleared areas may be from a few feet in diameter up to 35 feet, and are often surrounded by a ring of pebbles or debris.
CONTROL. Nests are easy to locate because of the circle of cleared vegetation surrounding them. Unfortunately, because harvester ants nest so deeply in the ground, mound drenches with insecticides and traditional non-chemical approaches such as pouring boiling water into nests or digging up nests are not likely to be effective. Effective controls include the following:
- Baits containing an IGR. Some fire ant baits are labeled for harvester ant control and have proved effective.
- Direct mound treatment by deep injection of an insecticide liquid (usually with a termite rig) or aerosol (high pressure with a long probe), or by applying an insecticide dust in and around the mound entrances.
- Perimeter treatment of structures and areas to be protected using a non-repellent insecticide; also treatment of foraging trails both indoors and out.
The authors are co-owners of Pinto & Associates.
Editor’s note: Suppliers and PMPs, if you have a bed bug control product or service you’d like to have highlighted in an upcoming issue, please send a press release and a high-resolution photo to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Orkin Releases New Top 50 Bed Bug Cities List
Baltimore tops this year’s Top 50 Bed Bug Cities list, released recently by Orkin. In the six years Orkin has released the bed bug city rankings, this is the first time Baltimore has made the top five, moving up nine spots since last year. Four metro regions — Las Vegas, Portland, Salt Lake City and Greensboro-High Point- Winston-Salem — made the list for the first time this year.
The list is based on treatment data from the metro areas where Orkin performed the most bed bug treatments from Dec. 1, 2015-Nov. 30, 2016. This ranking includes both residential and commercial treatments. (The number in parenthesis shows the city’s movement up/down the list.)
1. Baltimore (+9)
2. Washington, D.C. (+1)
3. Chicago (-2)
4. New York
5. Columbus, Ohio
6. Los Angeles (-4)
9. Philadelphia (-3)
10. San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose (+4)
11. Richmond-Petersburg, Va. (-2)
12. Raleigh-Durham, N.C. (-1)
13. Cleveland-Akron-Canton, Ohio (-1)
14. Indianapolis (+1)
15. Dallas-Ft. Worth (-2)
16. Atlanta (+3)
18. Buffalo, N.Y. (+2)
19. Charlotte, N.C. (-3)
20. Norfolk-Portsmouth-Newport News, Va. (+10)
21. Knoxville, Tenn. (+3)
22. Denver (-4)
23. Nashville, Tenn. (-1)
24. Pittsburgh (+5)
25. Greenville-Spartanburg, S.C.; Asheville, N.C. (-4)
26. Phoenix (-3)
27. Grand Rapids-Kalamazoo; Battle Creek, Mich. (+5)
28. Boston (-3)
29. Milwaukee (-3)
30. Champaign-Springfield-Decatur, Ill. (+12)
31. Hartford-New Haven, Conn. (+3)
32. Dayton, Ohio (-4)
33. Omaha, Neb. (+3)
34. Seattle-Tacoma (-6)
35. Tampa-St. Petersburg, Fla. (-4)
36. Charleston-Huntington, W.Va. (-1)
37. St. Louis (+3)
38. Cedar Rapids-Waterloo; Dubuque, Iowa (+3)
39. Myrtle Beach-Florence, S.C. (+11)
40. Syracuse, N.Y. (+6)
41. Louisville, Ky. (-2)
42. Greensboro-High Point; Winston Salem, N.C.
43. Lexington, Ky. (-10)
44. Orlando-Daytona Beach; Melbourne, Fla. (-6)
45. Kansas City, Mo. (-1)
46. Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. (-3)
47. Salt Lake City, Utah
48. Honolulu, Hawaii
49. Las Vegas
50. Portland, Ore.
KleenCover now u.s. Manufactured
The Ultimate Mattress Encasement will continue to stretch to fit 9-15 inch depths and will also be available in Plus+ Advantage sizes. It remains fully bite-proof and penetration and escape proof with the same waterproof, hypoallergenic, and fire retardant benefits.
Mattress Safe began manufacturing the KleenCover box spring encasement with import fabric in 2015. The firm now will complete the economy line here in the United States. Both encasements boast a soft luxurious and durable fabric sewn together with five needle thread and surging, and Mattress Safe’s patented enclosure, the “Zipper with the Hook,” will continue to be the signature design of these bed bug certified products, the company reports.
Fabric for the KleenCover product line will continue to be imported, and the KleenCover economy line will remain competitively priced, the firm says.
Heat Injector System: Unique Way to Heat AirThe Heat Injector System from Supplier Support International uses concepts that are the result of 15 years in research, design and testing, the firm says. The Heat Injector System uses a unique and energy-efficient method to heat air. It was patented in 2008 and first introduced into the HVAC market in 2010. According to the manufacturer, the Heat Injector features the following attributes:
- Discrete — The Heat Injector does not require a noisy external generator or external ducts.
- Controlled Discharge Temperature — The onboard microprocessor continuously monitors and controls the discharge temperature to produce heat at the operator-chosen discharge temperature.
- Safe — The Heat Injector uses the same gas and electrical controls that are required for large, automatically controlled heating systems uses in factories, warehouses and curing chambers.
- Simple — It is designed to be plugged into any standard home outlet and can be operated with two switches.
- Effective — The Heat Injector uses a patented concept to produce and distribute heat throughout the structure. It also has the capability to pressurize when the structure and its contents are heated to the desired temperature.
- Powerful — The Heat Injector is able to move up to 4000 CFM and is capable of adding enough heat to achieve the desired discharge temperature, which increases the discharge temperature by up to 100°F.
- Energy Efficient — The Heat Injector is an energy-efficient method to heat air.
With the introduction of the Modular Heat Injector, the Heat Injector System can be disassembled/reassembled in any location. Learn more at www.heatinjector.com.
P.E.S.T. Relief International Provides Comfort
P.E.S.T. Relief International spread Christmas cheer throughout the month of December serving two shelters and making them a safe and comfortable place to live. P.E.S.T. Relief partnered with Clark Pest Remedy; the two groups worked to improve the conditions at U-Hope Shelter in Sandy Springs, Ga. This once-infested home is now free of bed bugs, allowing residents to continue to thrive as they pursue a better life. Also, P.E.S.T. Responders partnered with the Boy Scouts of America for continued improvements at Abba House through renovating a screened-in porch, installing new sheets and bedding, and painting several rooms. Additional projects are scheduled this year.
P.E.S.T. Relief International is a non-profit 501(c)3 for “Professionals to Empower, Sustain, and Transform” lives. The group brings comfort and relief to those in need through safe shelter, nutrition, physical and emotional health, and spiritual enrichment. Harnessing the power of the pest management industry, P.E.S.T. Relief International touches the lives of the orphaned, abused and those who are at-risk. To become a P.E.S.T. Relief Responder and contribute towards these projects, visit www.pestreliefinternational.com or contact Andrea Hancock at 678/525-7682 for more information.
About 10 years ago, Jeff Gill, a man with a strong entrepreneurial spirit, started a nationwide franchising business specializing in hard surface restoration. He still runs the company, but now he’s entered the pest control industry with Germinator Mobile Sanitizing. The franchised business is based in the Atlanta suburb of Cumming, Ga., and features technology uniquely capable of killing bed bugs, lice and germs, he said.
Gill said his new business uses an innovative, environmentally friendly process that administers ozone and heat to eliminate bed bugs, lice, germs, bacteria, and pet and smoke odors. Ozone, approved by EPA, is an antimicrobial agent that sanitizes items in enclosed space when used properly. Ozone also can be used to eliminate common allergens such as dust mites. According to Gill, ozone also can be part of flood remediation efforts to dry and eliminate the possibility of musty smells, mold and mildew. Additionally, Germinator has been used to kill lice and germs in day-care centers.EXPANDING INTO PEST CONTROL. “I was aware of the technology and the fact that it was used on a very small scale. So we kicked around the idea of expanding it to pest control applications, and I did some serious thinking, research and evaluation,” said Gill. The end results were positive and prompted Gill to create the new company.
“To say the current state of germ elimination is antiquated would understate the problem. Ridding the environment filled with harmful viruses and bacteria has been a hassle that has only caused even more concern. We believe the Germinator vividly demonstrates a breakthrough technology that redefines the concept of healthy living spaces. It uses a convenient, safe and 100 percent organic method that sanitizes virtually any item in homes, hospitals, schools, offices, etc. I believe it’s truly a game-changing innovation.”
Gill said a study performed at the University of Georgia proved the efficacy of the 6-year-old Germinator technology. That study found it eliminates 99.9 percent of viruses and harmful bacteria.
SEALED SANITIZING CHAMBER. The Germinator is a sealed, sanitizing chamber mounted on a truck. “When pests and germs invade a structure, that causes quite a problem,” he said. “But any infested material within that structure that’s put into the mobile chamber will be sanitized and deodorized within 30 minutes or so without the use of any chemicals. Typically, mattresses, blankets, rugs, curtains, sports equipment, toys, etc., can be placed in the mechanically sealed and locked sanitizing cell. Once the process is completed, the items can be returned to their proper places.”
Gill asked the manufacturer to build a “giant sized” chamber for a truck to enable a PCO to sanitize large items. “For its pest control application, the 14 feet high by 9 feet wide-sized Germinator chamber utilizes heat to kill bed bugs and lice efficiently. This process is far better than heat treatments currently used by PCOs to kill bed bugs,” he said.
THE DIFFERENCE. “The difference between what we do with the Germinator and what is done with conventional heat treatments is speed. It takes several hours for conventional treatments to heat a room to 120°F or higher,” Gill said. “That’s the killing range for bed bugs and lice. It also involves several hours of work to insulate the space so the heat can’t escape, and the target temperature can be maintained for several hours. The Germinator, however, reaches 140°F in about 30 minutes and can maintain that temperature indefinitely, making it the ultimate bug-killing machine. At that temperature you can kill bed bugs and lice in a fraction of the time it takes to do a conventional heat set up.”
While infested items are being treated in the Germinator, the PCO on the job has “a clear shot” at eliminating pests with a chemical treatment, he said. “An empty room is a lot easier to treat than one filled with furniture and other items. Since chemical treatment is quick, it can be completed while the Germinator is doing its job. The time and money saved by PCOs can be significant. And, they can still charge a premium for the service because the end result is the same — dead bed bugs but with faster kill accomplished.”
BUSINESS MODEL. “Our current model involves renting the Germinator to PCOs by the hour. This allows them the luxury of using technology to make money without having to invest in the purchase of a truck,” Gill says.
In the future, Gill is looking to franchise the business. “We plan to sell franchises to select PCOs in major cities who will then use the Germinator technology for their business while also renting their truck to other PCOs. They will be the only PCO in their area who will own the technology. It’s a great way for them to capture additional revenues on work performed by other PCOs in their area. Since the Germinator will also be a revenue producer for the PCO who’s renting the truck, it becomes a win-win for both companies.”
Gill is currently offering the rental of the Germinator to PCOs in the Atlanta market. “Here we provide an experienced Germinator operator to handle all of the truck operations so PCOs don’t have to learn how to operate the machine or worry about being trained on the technology,” he said. “He will bring the truck on site and operate the Germinator through as many cycles as the PCO deems necessary. We operate as a subcontractor under a PCO’s license, since our company is not a licensed PCO.”
ON THE MOVE. In New York City, Gill contracted with PCO Mike Nihill to develop business opportunities in the area. Nihill, owner of Attack Exterminating, is a bed bug expert and strong advocate of innovation through new technology. “That’s really my guiding light in business,” he said.
Nihill learned about Gill’s offerings from a business associate and was intrigued by the technology and the significant business opportunities offered by the Germinator technology. “I then went to Atlanta to meet with Gill and brought a collection of bed bugs with me to observe and evaluate the Germinator myself,” Nihill said. “Jeff demonstrated it for me several times and I saw it in action, killing my bed bugs within 30 minutes on furniture we put into the chamber. It was extremely effective. The whole sanitizing procedure was clean and orderly.”
Nihill said he was convinced that the Germinator process would provide “peace of mind” to customers who experience the normal anxiety caused by bed bug infestations. “Peace of mind is what we always strive to provide our pest control customers.”
Nihill has contracted with Gill to develop business in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut tri-state area — either as a distributor or a franchisee. “I’m enthusiastic about the future of this new business opportunity in our industry,” he said.
The author has been writing about the pest management industry for more than 30 years. Email him at email@example.com.
To learn more, visit www.thegerminator.com.
The sight of even one bed bug crossing a mattress or climbing on a bed frame can set off major alarm bells for clients. And can you blame them? The stigmas attached to bed bugs are enough to make people throw out perfectly good furniture, discard clothes by the bagful and spend thousands of dollars on a variety of treatment regimens. The bottom line is no one wants bed bugs.
But what if your inspector or technician spots just one or two of these nasty, blood-sucking little critters? Is it a sign of a much larger infestation or is it simply just a few isolated bed bugs?
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION. Mark Sheperdigian, B.C.E., vice president of technical services for Rose Pest Solutions in Troy, Mich., says a pest management professional’s reaction will depend on where they find that stray bed bug.
“In public places including schools, public transportation or the waiting room of a doctor’s office, seeing a single bed bug is no cause for panic,” says Sheperdigian. “Bed bugs in these locations are likely brought in inside a backpack or article of clothing in the morning and depart the same way in the afternoon.”
Sheperdigian says bed bugs found in non-hotel commercial accounts do not have access to regular food sources — humans or animals resting for a long period of time — and as a result will have a harder time establishing themselves.
Rick Cooper, Ph.D., vice president/technical director, of Cooper Pest Solutions in Lawrenceville, N.J., agrees discovering one or two bed bugs should not set off a five-alarm alert because lower-level populations have barriers to successfully establishing a full-blown infestation.
“Despite their prolific reproductive capabilities, bed bugs do not always increase in population, especially in small numbers where a fertilized female may not be present,” says Cooper. “There is always the possibility there are more but the same aggressive treatment actions required for an established infestation do not need to be taken."
THE SOURCE? No matter the type of account or number of bed bugs found, the curious bed bug inspector needs to determine the likelihood if the bed bug was simply “dropped off” or if there is a more significant infestation of breeding adult bed bugs lurking nearby.
“The technician or inspector must identify where bed bugs are most likely to hide in the account and conduct a thorough inspection using a combination of human and canine inspectors,” says Sheperdigian.
Another method to determine the severity of a bed bug infestation is by establishing a monitoring program using interceptors. When placed strategically in the corner of a room or under legs of furniture, interceptors will help PMPs gauge the severity and activity level of a possible infestation.
If a small number of bed bugs are found in a single-family home, inspectors and technicians stand a better chance of locating the source of the infestation because potential “hot spot” areas (i.e., where people rest for extended periods of time) are clearer and the method of introduction was likely a piece of luggage or furniture, a sleeping bag or article of clothing.
In apartments and condominiums, identifying the source of the infestation is a little trickier because the source of the bed bugs could be the apartment next door, above, below or across the hall. As a result the scope of the inspection and any treatment protocols must be more comprehensive and include the entire building — not just one unit.
When small numbers of bed bugs are found in an account but no “mega infestation” is discovered, pest management professionals can recommend a preventive treatment program to clients. Preventive treatment programs include monitors/interceptors, mattress encasements, active mattress liners and self-help steps including reducing clutter and frequent laundering of clothes and bedding.
The author is an editorial contributor to PCT magazine and a partner at B Communications, Mentor, Ohio.