LEXINGTON, Ken. — The 41st University of Kentucky Pest Control Short Course, held last week in Lexington, Ken., was aptly titled “A Newfound Sense of Purpose.” With all of the media attention that bed bugs have garnered the public is gaining a newfound appreciation for this profession.
University of Kentucky Entomologist and Researcher Dr. Mike Potter noted that while the pest control industry has always been the "go to group" for pests like cockroaches, termites, mosquitoes, spiders and roaches, he said bed bugs “have rocketed us to a completely different dimension. It’s given us unprecedented recognition and sense of purpose.”
Since bed bugs are so predominant now, a significant number of presentations at this year’s Short Course were devoted to this pest, including Potter’s presentation titled “Bed Bugs: Gravy Train…or Runaway Train?” Potter kicked off his presentation by reviewing the history of bed bugs, noting that these pests “have given us the roadmap” for controlling them. However, there are several important differences between bed bug work of the past and present, including the fact that there are fewer available pesticides today and people today are more accustomed to living with clutter.
These roadblocks to controlling bed bugs also provide pest management professionals with opportunities because bed bug work requires vigilance and client partnerships, so PMPs can further prove their value by teaching customers: the importance of early detection; reasonable prep instructions; the use of monitoring devices; the use of bed bug encasements to save mattresses/box springs. “They also can educate customers that most items don’t have to be discarded and one bed bug does not warrant that a business be closed,” Potter said.
But Potter also warned about the pitfalls of bed bug work, namely that this line of work is time-consuming, physically demanding (i.e., technician burnout) and there are concerns that it might not be sustainable — in other words, how long can customers continue paying for these services. And then there are lawsuits inherent with bed bug work, a theme picked up on by presenter by Christian Hardigree, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, College of Hotel Administration, who also is an attorney. Hardigree reviewed a variety of legal issues related to bed bugs and provided suggestions to PCOs, including the importance of documenting everything. Another bed bug-related session at the UK Short Course focused on bed bug research and practical implications and it featured Roberto Pereira, University of Florida; Changlu Wang, Rutgers University; and Ken Haynes, University of Kentucky. Pereira shared with attendees some of the University of Florida’s findings working with heat in a variety of environments, while Wang reviewed some of the benefits of using various monitoring devices. Mark Sheperdigian of Rose Pest Solutions, Troy, Mich., reviewed non-chemical bed bug treatments, which ranged from vacuuming to heaters. (Check back to PCTOnline for more coverage of these and other sessions).
In addition to bed bugs, the 2011 UK Short Course covered commonly encountered pests, emerging pests and included a business management tract. Here’s a sample of some of the other highlights:
- University of Maryland Entomologist Dr. Mike Raupp provided an in-depth review of an emerging pest – the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) – which he said has the potential to be “one of the most important pests of specialty crops to appear in the last 100 years.” Why is this important to PMPs, whose focus is primarily structural pest control? BMSB’s are overwintering pests. Raupp said that they will invade homes in the fall (once leaves and fruits fall from trees/plants) to seek food and cold (not warmth). These pests have become widespread throughout mid-Atlantic states, but Raupp said it is only a matter of time before they become problematic in Kentucky and surrounding states, which have similar geographic/topographic characteristics.
- Tom Dobrinska, Anderson Pest Solutions, Elmhurts, Ill., gave a presentation titled "Digging for Small Flies." As pest management professionals know, sanitation is the key to small fly control, but communicating this message to clients takes some diplomacy. PMPs don’t need to communicate areas where sanitation needs stepped up, but they also don’t want to upset the client and be preachy. Dobrinska offered these tips for delicately communicating sanitation to the customer: (1) Give them honest sincere appreciation (for their sanitation efforts); (2) show them the top three recommendations (focus on one); (3) compare and contrast flies with other pests; show them what you did; (4) show them the maggots; (5) give them directions on cleaning (e.g., how to properly mop a floor); (6) empathize with their efforts; (7 upgrade if and when necessary; and (8) follow up.
- Orkin Training Director of Technical Services Ron Harrison provided training tips for companies of all sizes. Harrison said one of the things he’s learned about training is to not overwhelm service professionals with too much information. He also re-iterated the importance of hands-on field training using Orkin’s hands-on learning center as an example. He said Orkin technicians were almost 100% able to identify drawings of different slab types, but when they went outside and looked at different model slabs (at the Orkin Training Center) very few could make the correct identification.
- PCOs Kevin Pass, president of Action Pest Control (Evansville, Ind.) and Brent Boles, president of Schendel Services, Topeka Kan, gave presentations on “Growing Your Business” and “Measuring Client Loyalty.” Boles reviewed how Schendel has used the Net Promoter management system to improve its operations. The system was born out of the business management book “The Ultimate Question 2.0” by Fred Reichheld. The system involves surveying customers about their customer service experience by asking them the following: “Would you recommend us to a friend?” Using this system, Schendel Services was able to determine which of its service professionals were excelling at customer service and which ones were detractors. A finding that may (or may not) be surprising is that solving pest problems was rarely cited as a problem. Issues such as technicians showing up on time and the need for customers to actually see technicians performing pest control were among the top concerns.
Check back to PCTOnline for additional coverage from the University of Kentucky Short Course