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It was a routine inspection for Jason Berry Sr., sales representative at Dodson Pest Control in Norfolk, Va. A new customer had called for a termite and moisture inspection. The house was small, so it didn’t take Berry much time to notice the crawlspace located underneath the middle section of the house. As he ducked into the shallow, unfinished space, Berry came face to face with the largest crawlspace active termite infestation he had ever seen.
MUD TUBE. The crawlspace was overrun with eastern subterranean termites. Based on the infestation, which was spurred on by improper ventilation, Berry estimates that this colony of termites had been active for three to five years.
“At first sight, I thought that maybe someone had added sand to the crawlspace and while spreading it out may have shoveled sand onto the pier,” said Berry. “But upon further inspection, to my surprise it was a fully active termite tunnel reaching from the ground up to the main support beam of the house.”
Berry added that stalactite tunnels hung down from sills and joists in the same area. The entire crawlspace featured extensive wood damage.
The crawlspace had essentially become a giant mud tube for termites. Located underneath the middle of the house and attached to a pier leading up to a large sill beam, the damage in the tunnel had begun affecting the home’s foundation. “I can say I have seen this once before many years ago, but the tunnel was not as active as this one was.”
‘THE SCRAPER.’ Due to the size and extensive damage of the crawlspace, Berry nicknamed the mud tube “The Scraper.”
“’The Scraper’ was the first name I associated with the tunnel because its height and thickness and position against the pier seemed like what you might see in a large downtown area of a city,” said Berry.
He added that the names “Termi-Dome,” “Termite Towers” and “Hog Leg” — a Virginia saying, according to Berry — were also contenders. None, however, stuck quite like “The Scraper.”
The size of “The Scraper” also made treatment easier, Berry said. He applied a non-repellent liquid treatment by trenching and rodding the interior and exterior foundation walls, and every pier in the crawlspace area.
“Throughout my 20 years in the pest control industry, I have seen many interesting things in and out of crawlspaces,” Berry said. “But one of the most awe-striking things I’ve seen is the sheer determination and innovation termites will go to to forage and grow their colonies. If left unencumbered, termites will stop at nothing short of destroying your home down to the foundation.”
As of yet, Berry said home of “The Scraper” has not seen any recurring termite problems. — Kierra Sondereker, PCT writer
Innovative Pest Control Products recently introduced the Ant Café Pro refillable insect bait station. The manufacturer reports that the Ant Café Pro offers PMPs the following:
Ant Café Pro is sold in air-tight Ziplock bags to prevent odor contamination. There are 48 bait stations with a built-in locking mechanism and 48 double-sided tapes per bag. There are 10 bags in a case and the cost is comparable to the original Ant Café Refillable bait station, the company says.
The Ant Café Pro Refillable Insect Bait Station used in conjunction with Green Way Liquid Ant Bait or Gourmet Ant Bait Gel allows PMPs to protect the environment and increase effectiveness in ant management, Innovative Pest Control Products says. Ant Café Pro allows ants to access the bait and return safely to their nests where they share the bait with the colony, the manufacturer reports.
MGK says its Shockwave 1 Flushing, Killing & Residual Aerosol offers convenience and performance. This new aerosol flushes, leaves an adulticide with residual and contains an IGR. Shockwave 1 Aerosol can be applied in food-handling areas and even sprays upside down so PMPs can apply in tough-to-reach locations, the company says.
Shockwave 1 Aerosol eliminates the need for a second residual application, the manufacturer reports. It simplifies training, reduces waste and saves time and money, the company adds. PMPs can use the product in food and non-food areas of restaurants, commercial buildings, homes and more.
Shockwave 1 Aerosol features:
WorkWave announced its aim to reestablish its focus on customer experience, both through initiatives that further its position as a strategic partner to its customers, as well as with new features and functionality to promote better end user engagement. WorkWave says it is committed to providing the tools and insight to enable its customers to differentiate themselves in the marketplace.
Along with its reestablished commitment to customers across multiple fronts, WorkWave says it is rolling out updated features that have a fresh, new look and feel, as well as new WorkWave PestPac branding.
WorkWave PestPac says it recently unveiled a number of new features that are geared toward the end user, ensuring that they are receiving timely and quality service, and keeping them coming back for more. These features include:
Control Solutions says its D-Fense NXT is formulated with three active ingredients, providing three modes of action for quick knockdown and residual control of bed bugs and other listed pests.
D-Fense NXT breaks the life cycle of bed bugs and other listed pests. The product has no PPE requirements and contains 0.20 percent novaluron, 0.06 percent deltamethrin and 0.02 percent pyriproxyfen. D-Fense NXT is available in a 15-ounce can with 360-degree valve and dual spray and straw applicator.
The E-Cap is designed to prevent rodents, birds and other pests from entering homes through roof vent pipes. Its unique patented design allows it to fit 1.5, 2 and 3 inches quickly and easily and also helps protect against damaging moisture and debris from entering the pipe.
Peak Industries, the manufacturer of the E-Cap vent and flue pipe cap, and Diversified Plastics Industries (DPI), have a marketing partnership. DPI and Diversified Sales & Marketing will handle sales, marketing and distribution of the new E-Cap exclusion product to the pest management industry.
California pest management and wildlife professionals who have considered adding TAP Pest Control Insulation to their current line-up of add-on services or those already offering TAP Pest Control Insulation have a new opportunity to expand their business. The makers of TAP Pest Control Insulation have secured California-based True Heat Solutions as a new sub-contractor.
“Subcontracting with True Heat Solutions allows PMPs to do what they do best,” explains Bill Turk, founder and CEO of Pest Control Insulation. “Once a TAP Pest Control Insulation job is sold, the install itself is handled by True Heat Solutions as the pest control company’s sub-contractor.”
True Heat Solutions is a family-owned contractor providing services to various industries. Understanding the unique trust built between pest management professionals and their customers, TAP says True Heat Solutions approaches each job with the sensitivity needed to serve as an extension of the pest management team. True Heat does not sell TAP Pest Control Insulation directly to homeowners. “We help our partners grow their business with the confidence that they have chosen the right company with which to partner,” says Cory Reynolds, vice president, operations and sales, True Heat Solutions.
This new venture offers PCOs the opportunity to offer TAP Pest Control Insulation without any start-up costs as well as provides those already offering TAP a partner when back-up is needed in temporary cases of equipment, scheduling or staffing challenges.
One of the first facts I learned when I started my career in the pest management industry was that rats are neophobic and mice are not. The belief was that rats are wary of new objects in their environment while mice are more inquisitive and tend to investigate new objects.
Recently, our company has been using motion-sensing cameras, or “game cameras,” and some of the new sensor systems available to the industry to track rodents. What we have seen has been a revelation regarding rodent behavior. Yes, rats are neophobic, but we never realized just how neophobic they are. This behavior is also much more complex than is presented in most texts. What we have learned is requiring us to rethink how we perform rodent control.
Rats are not just wary of new objects, but, in some cases, seem to be repelled by them. This phenomenon is long lasting; it may take weeks for a rat to interact with a device and, in some cases, they never will approach a new device. This leads to the question, “How do we control rodents when portions of the population will never interact with our control devices?”
By using sensor technology, we also have found that rodents will visit bait stations, yet not feed on the bait. So, not only do some rodent populations never interact with our devices, but some rodents interact in ways that we do not expect.
We have observed similar behaviors when it comes to rodenticides. There is a body of research that indicates that rodents communicate food preferences among families and, in some cases, colonies. We have all dealt with the rodents that only feed on one particular product in a grocery store. But why? With a camera I was able to capture the image on page 70 of two Norway rats communicating. What they were “saying,” I do not know, but communication was definitely occurring!
This behavior and communication may result in different populations having different food preferences. Our favorite rodenticides may not be the rodents’ favorite. What works in one situation may not work everywhere.
WHAT DO TO? Currently, many rodent control programs rely on exterior devices with rodenticide or traps and interior trapping devices. In the interest of consistency and aesthetics, we often will use the same devices/rodenticides. Several years ago, we learned about behavioral resistance in German cockroaches to baits. We now have developed programs of different bait formulations and bait rotation schemes to overcome this issue. We also have realized how quickly this behavioral resistance can occur, as opposed to the classic physiological resistance. We may need to apply the principles we learned with German cockroaches to rodents.
There are many different designs of bait stations and traps. Stations come in different shapes/sizes and have different sized openings. Traps are made of different materials and have different designs. All devices have a place and one of the first things we can do is to try different devices in different locations to determine which are preferred by the local population. Of course, traps always should be placed out unset first to accustom rodents to the new object, as well as to prevent trap shyness.
Rodenticides also need to be used differently. We need to offer a variety of baits to determine which one the population prefers. We need to rotate formulations, like with cockroach bait, to prevent behavioral resistance.
I have presented a few ideas to stimulate discussion, but these are not the only solutions. As an industry, we have always been at our best when confronted with challenges and, as professionals, we need to observe, learn and change to be effective when performing critical services such as rodent control.
Jeff Weier, B.C.E., is director of technical services and training for Sprague Pest Solutions, Tacoma, Wash.Copesan is an alliance of pest management companies with locations throughout North America. To learn more, visit www.copesan.com.
You have likely seen the headline, “[Very large pest control service firm X] acquires [Mid-sized pest control service firm Y]” numerous times in PCT magazine over the past few years. As a result, many names are disappearing from the PCT Top 100 List. This begs the question: Can mid-sized pest control companies continue to compete — and even thrive — in today’s marketplace?
Data confirms that consolidation in the industry continues and the number of mid-sized pest control firms is declining. Over the past five years among the PCT Top 100, the top 5 players have grown their revenue share by a full 5 percentage points from 60 percent to 65 percent and top 10 players from 70 percent to 75 percent. Based on public disclosures and recent activity from publicly traded pest control service firms such as ServiceMaster, this trend is expected to continue.
Further, over the past year, two large pest control service associations/groups (Copesan Services and the Food Protection Alliance) have either been acquired or dissolved once key members were acquired. A core part of their strategy was to provide national scale and deep expertise and capabilities to effectively compete with large corporate pest control firms.
Consolidation is being driven by a combination of factors; a few include:
Given these reasons (and others), one might assume that large pest control firms will eventually control and dominate the entire industry. However, in our experience in numerous service industries, mid-sized firms can compete and even thrive in the face of larger competitors. (Cue the soundtrack to “Rocky.”)
Mid-sized firms can and do win in regional markets by offering more personalized, effective and relevant customer service, a committed local presence with “skin” in the community, greater innovation, thoughtful acquisitions and competitive prices. However, building out these competitive differentiators requires committed, continuous investment and assistance from aligned partners that have been there before. (Cue private equity.)
Private equity (PE) investors can be enablers: providing the capital and additional expertise required to execute regional consolidation strategies, to pursue material investments in facilities and equipment, to drive cost efficiencies and innovation, and to scale mid-size organizations through periods of rapid growth. Private equity investors also provide deep experience and expertise in corporate finance activities, helping their partners secure better debt financing packages to further facilitate growth. At the same time, the pest control industry presents attractive characteristics for investors, including accomplished ownership teams, a diverse customer base, predictable revenue, and a healthy cash flow margin and return on capital.
PARTNERING WITH PE. From the perspective of the owner of a pest control firm, private equity can play an important role for both the company and its shareholders. Private equity firms can supply much-needed equity capital to pursue aggressive growth, which can be a capital-intensive endeavor. Further, private equity investors play a key role in addressing the growing need for succession planning within family enterprises, stepping in to purchase shares (or membership interests) directly from retiring equity holders, and, if applicable, partnering with remaining family members who are motivated to grow the business to new heights. Private equity partnerships can provide other benefits to owners, such as:
THE RIGHT INVESTOR. If a firm believes that a private equity partnership is what the company needs, the owner must consider several critical issues before selecting a partner, as having a private equity firm as a shareholder is like a business “marriage.” The factors to consider include:
Industry consolidation, succession planning, route planning software and growth of the digital savvy customer are among the developments now impacting the industry. In the midst of this change, private equity remains an option for firms looking for the capital and complementary expertise necessary to become the next generation of great mid-sized firms.
Mohit Kansal, Michael Castellarin and Austin Sinclair lead the Facilities Services investment practice at the Clairvest Group. Clairvest, founded in 1987, is a private equity firm focused on backing entrepreneurial, invested management teams to achieve ambitious growth.