An atypical winter for PCOs on several fronts

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February 10, 2016
Brad Harbison

Zika virus. El Niño. The future of fumigation. Cosmetic pesticide bans. These pest control-related topics have been all over the news, bringing excitement and, possibly, future opportunities to PCOs. Winter 2015-2016 has been anything but the typical “slow season” for the pest control industry. Here’s a look at unforeseen developments — all of which are covered in greater depth in this month’s issue — that are making 2016 a very interesting year.

The El Niño impact — I’m writing this column on a sunny, 58°F afternoon. Why is that odd? Today is a mid-January day and our office is not exactly located in the tropics (we are in Cleveland, Ohio, which has an average January high temperate of 34°F). While Ohio is experiencing unprecedented warmth, other areas of the country are dealing with cooler than normal temperatures and record rain and snowfall. The culprit is El Nin~o, a climate cycle in the Pacific Ocean that results in weather extremes in the U.S., and globally. What does this mean for PCOs? It’s hard to say, but during the last significant El Niño (1997-1998) pest management companies were “enjoying a booming business — reporting as much as a 20-percent jump,” thanks to the earlier, wetter spring brought about by El Niño, a 1998 CNNMoney article reported.

Zika virus — If you had asked me what Zika was one year ago, my response would have been “a clear, Sprite-like alcoholic beverage that was popular in the mid-1990s.” (After a quick Google search I would have discovered the product I was thinking of is Zima). Fast-forward to 2016 and almost everyone in the U.S. is aware of mosquito-transmitted Zika now that a total of 35 travel-associated cases have been reported to CDC from U.S. states. Zika virus causes mild flu-like symptoms in about 20 percent of infected people, but the main concern among leading health organizations centers on a possible link between the virus and microcephaly, a birth defect associated with underdevelopment of the head and brain. While the role of the PMP is not to provide medical information, as NPMA’s Cindy Mannes noted, PMPs can “work to help educate the public on ways to not only avoid contact with mosquitoes when traveling to regions where the disease is present, but also how they can eliminate breeding grounds at home as spring and summer approaches.” Also, for PMPs that provide mosquito control services, Zika and other mosquito-borne viruses could result in additional business this spring and summer.

Fumigation’s future — A “perfect storm” of events, including high-profile cases of fumigant misuse coinciding with the ongoing EPA fumigant re-registration process, has put these products in the public and regulatory crosshairs. While it’s too early to tell how, it’s likely that PMPs who perform structural, container, chamber, tarp and other fumigations will have to change their practices. PCT contributing writer Anne Nagro provides a comprehensive overview of this hot-button topic here.

Cosmetic pesticide bans — In October, Montgomery County, Md., passed a law banning the cosmetic use of pesticides on private and county-owned lawns, playgrounds and the grounds of child-care facilities, becoming one of the few jurisdictions in the nation to have such restrictions. While structural pest control is minimally impacted, this development has important implications (see story). It serves as an example of what can happen when industry activists have relationships at the local level and industry does not. The PCT staff prides itself on providing readers with business and technical features that can help them run their companies; this includes reporting on developing news stories. We hope you’ll find this month’s issue a nice marriage of features and news that are important to you.

The author is Internet editor and managing editor of PCT magazine and can be contacted at bharbison@gie.net.