Pests like bed bugs and the brown marmorated stink bug pose constant challenges to our industry — but also valuable learning opportunities.
Non-traditional pests are impacting the pest management industry more than ever before. Whether a regionally introduced pest, like the kudzu bug or the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB), or a global resurgence like the bed bug, these pests have brought to light challenges that must be overcome. Our industry, and more importantly our service professionals, must be able to address these challenges to be successful.
One of the first challenges faced when dealing with non-traditional pests is a lack of information on those pests’ lifecycles. As all pest management professionals are aware, and according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) definition, the basis of an Integrated Pest Management program is a comprehensive knowledge of the pest’s lifecycle. With most of these non-traditional and introduced species, our knowledge of lifecycles is limited to information on how they interact in natural environments. Knowledge of how the pests will react in new environments — environments where they are increasingly found — is far from comprehensive. In the absence of natural predators, with an abundance of resources and a more favorable environment, history has shown that these pests tend to thrive in many cases.
The IPM Challenge. The BMSB is a perfect example. When first encountered as a structural pest, it was believed that based on information from its native environment, that existing control practices could limit its expansion. Unfortunately, BMSBs thrived, producing up to five generations per season, causing surges of insects into homes throughout the mid-Atlantic region. Unfortunately for businesses receiving calls from consumers overwhelmed by the BMSB, this lack of information posed a challenge in creating an effective IPM program.
Another pressing challenge has been the availability of effective materials for the control of non-traditional pests. Many industry products are not specifically labeled for the pests we are trying to control and therefore are not legal to apply. The kudzu bug is an example: first encountered in Georgia in 2009, the kudzu bug has steadily increased its range every year since. For an exterior application to be made, the site of the application must be listed on the label. However, there are many states that require the specific pest be listed on the label, regardless of the site. As the kudzu bug continues its trek across the United States, professionals, manufacturers and state regulators will need to take a look at these products and regulations to make a determination on how to best proceed in an effective and legal manner.
New Frontiers. Even the resurgence of the bed bug has highlighted the challenges encountered with the use of non-traditional IPM practices. Most notable is the use of canine scent detection teams as an inspection tool, a strategy that has gained momentum in the industry. Nevertheless, the effectiveness of such a method is often questioned in the absence of a singular certification program to verify its effectiveness.
In fact, a simple Internet search will provide information on many different organizations offering training and certification. Even the NPMA website provides information and links to three different canine inspection certification organizations. Businesses also must contend with the additional costs of caring for and training the dog and its handler.
Another bed bug challenge for our industry has been the increased use of heating equipment to control bed bugs, which has been well documented. While temperature modification is not a new practice for pest management, it has recently become the preferred method for control of bed bugs. Like traditional pests, the challenge for the industry has been an overreliance on older, inaccurate information regarding the bed bug’s lifecycle and reaction to heat. Newer information has allowed professionals to develop IPM strategies for more effective control of pests.
Non-traditional pests are having an impact on our industry and will continue to do so. There is much more to learn.
The author is Rollins’ technical services director. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.