Industry professionals from around the world discussed the “state of the global bed bug industry” at a meeting sponsored by NPMA and BedBug Central.
As part of his presentation during December’s Global Bed Bug Summit in Denver, Colo., presented by NPMA and BedBug Central, University of Kentucky researcher Dr. Michael Potter framed the next two day’s worth of discussions by asking this question: “Are we making progress?”
Perhaps the most accurate answer is “yes and no.” From the time these pests re-emerged in large numbers in the mid-2000s until today, the pest control community — including university researchers, pest management professionals and manufacturers — has made great strides in better understanding bed bug biology and behavior; refining training, policies and procedures (as well as business models); and introducing new and innovative products.
Despite these strides, bed bugs remain problem pest No. 1 for many pest management professionals. Potter cited a 2010 NPMA and University of Kentucky bed bug survey in which 76 percent of PMPs surveyed responded that bed bugs were THE most difficult pest to control; that same survey was repeated in 2013 and, again, 76 percent responded that bed bugs were THE most difficult pest to control. And bed bugs are being found in more non-residential areas. Again, Potter cited the NPMA/University of Kentucky bed bug surveys from 2010 and 2013 to illustrate this point (see graph on the right).
It’s for this reason that industry events like the previous Bed Bug Summits have served as great forums for opening dialogue and BedBug Central President Phil Cooper noted that partnering with NPMA for this year’s Summit has brought new participants and perspectives. During this year’s Global Bed Bug Summit, industry experts addressed the global bed bug challenge from a research, field and business perspective. Highlights included:
- Refining bed bug business models to make this offering more profitable was the focus of a panel consisting of John Zimmerman, GM of Buffalo Exterminating, Orchard Park, N.Y.; Russ Ives, president, Rose Pest Solutions, Troy, Mich; and Phil Cooper, president, Cooper Pest Solutions, Lawrenceville, N.J. Zimmerman said Buffalo Exterminating re-examined what it could and couldn’t control when it came to bed bug costs. Some of the changes they instituted included: using propane gas heaters (which they found to be more efficient than electric); reducing follow-up visits from three to two; reducing the number of technicians for follow-up visits from two to one; and using handheld equipment to track results. Similarly, Ives said Rose Pest Solutions re-examined routing to keep down expenses associated with transporting heating equipment via truck/trailer. He also said three years ago Rose Pest Solutions brought its canine division in-house; previously, they outsourced canine inspections with mixed results. Cooper said his company has experienced similar challenges and made similar adjustments; for 2014, he said, the company is positioning itself to move from a reactive bed bug model to a recurring one, focusing largely on early detection, including the use of interceptor devices.
- Industry consultant Larry Pinto led a session titled “Prepared for the Worst: What to Expect if Your Customer is Sued.” Pinto, an entomologist by trade, has been called as a witness in more than 30 cases. Among the advice he gave to PMPs was that they review their practices to ensure they provide “effective and reasonable service,” meaning they: act reasonably; don’t overpromise; use scientific, defensible tactics; have clear protocols and policies; do not mandate disposal; and define customer responsibilities. He also said they need to require reasonable preparation requirements.
- A trio of pest management professionals — Judy Black (Steritech), Eric Braun (Rentokil) and Billy Tesh (PMi) — provided case studies of some of their most challenging bed bug jobs. Black related the story of Steritech treating a heavily infested hotel. Through some trial and error and vigilance, Steritech was able to get the infestation largely under control. However, weeks after the treatment the company was getting calls. Two areas near the end of the hall on the second and third floors of the building were particularly problematic. After repeatedly questioning the hotel staff, Black learned that these areas were where linens were dropped off at the hotel (the hotel used an outside service to launder certain items). It turns out the linen carts and vehicles transporting the linens were infested with bed bugs. Black said the lesson here is that many times you have to ask clients the same question several times in order to get all of the clues needed to pinpoint an infestation. Braun related a challenging residential account in which clutter was proving problematic for the company’s heat treatment. He said Rentokil used a 4-step approach to overcome this challenge: (1) arranging clutter to optimize airflow; (2) search for cold spots more frequently; (3) extending hold time; and (4) heating objects separately. Tesh discussed how his company overcame challenges of treating a severely infested 11-story multifamily building. It was a massive undertaking that required a significant amount of client cooperation. Tesh explained to his technicians that it was important they treat each of the residents with respect, and he thinks this went a long way toward securing their cooperation.
In addition to the many sessions, attendees had numerous networking opportunities and got a first-hand look at the latest bed bug products from leading manufacturers at the exhibit hall.
The author is managing editor PCT magazine and Internet editor of www.pctonline.com.
For additional coverage of this event, including a photo slideshow, visit online extras on the PCT Online homepage.