In a year like none before it, pest management companies had to be ready for anything. Would business be up? Down? Different? The same? The answer, of course, was “Yes.” The only consistency seemed to be inconsistency, and those prepared to go with the flow fared best.
Case in point: bed bugs. When surveyed by PCT for this 2021 State of the Bed Bug Control Market report, PMPs described bed bug business in terms ranging from “a standstill” to “business as usual” in 2020. It seems that in the pandemic environment, some customers were less afraid of infestations than infection: They put off calling for treatment. Others recognized that those bugs weren’t going to go away on their own and welcomed technicians into their homes.
Kyle Stiemsma of Terminator Pest Control in Cambria, Wis., was among those who experienced a slowdown in 2020, but his business has rebounded. “Our bed bug business slowed down for quite a while last year,” he says, “but calls picked back up in 2021, and we’re back to the level of activity we’ve seen in previous years.”
Conversely, Gary Andrews says that his team at Prudential Pest Management in Burton, Mich., stayed busy throughout pandemic shutdowns. “Our bed bug business has been steadily growing for the past several years; 2020 was no exception.”
Joe Smith of Kingfish Pest Control in Jacksonville, Fla., and David Poplin of Legion Pest Management in Murrieta, Calif., report similar success, with no downturn in bed bug business. Poplin reports increasing momentum in 2021, especially from summer into fall.
“In late summer, our bed bug business was up 13 percent across the board — single-home residential, multifamily, hotels, motels and hospitals,” he shares. “We also saw an increase in bed bugs in the VA hospitals we serve when they started inviting people in to get COVID-19 vaccinations. We’re used to seeing just one or two bed bugs in these accounts, but with so many people coming in, some of our technicians encountered bugs at almost an infestation level.”
Hospital and nursing home accounts continued to be active for Sprague Pest Solutions in Tacoma, Wash., too, although calls from offices waned. “We haven’t had many calls from offices since COVID-19 sent people home to work, but we expect calls to increase once more people go back to their offices,” says Sprague’s Ashley Roden. “Hospitals, on the other hand, have called us with plenty of questions and concerns about bed bugs throughout the pandemic.”
Patrick Wyman’s hospital clients were not as active. “Our bed calls from hospitals went to almost zero in 2020,” says Wyman, whose team at Epcon Lane Pest Control, Akron, Ohio, has helped Northeast Ohio hospitals write and implement pest management protocols that likely helped them get through any pest challenges during the year. “Today is a different story: We’re on call 24 hours a day for our hospital clients and may get two or three calls a night for support,” he says.