A good bed bug service doesn’t come cheap. It’s time-consuming, labor-intensive work that often requires follow-up visits. Services that offer a guarantee may cost even more.
According to the PCT 2020 State of the Bed Bug Control Market survey, which was sponsored by Bayer and compiled by Readex Research, a privately held research firm in Stillwater, Minn., the average cost for a typical residential bed bug treatment was $892. Prices of course can be higher. In the PCT survey, 43 percent of pest management professionals said the price of bed bug services increased in the past three years in their markets.
So it’s no surprise that the people who need bed bug control the most often can’t afford it.
TAKING ACTION. This motivated Brian Metzger to step up. Metzger has owned rental properties in Salina, Kan., for more than 20 years. A “very hands-on landlord,” he learned all kinds of trades, from laying carpet to do-it-yourself pest control.
“Naturally I learned an awful lot over the years about roaches, fleas and termites and then I started having to deal with bed bugs in my own properties. That’s a whole different animal right there,” said Metzger.
He began researching the pest’s biology, treatment protocols and products. “I became obsessed with learning everything that I possibly could about bed bugs,” he said.
It wasn’t until he learned about silica desiccant dust and a bio-pesticide that uses fungal spores to control the pests that he had his a-ha moment: A treatment program using these two products could control bed bugs at his own properities, as well as help his entire community.
At the time, the community needed help: The pests were spreading in the library, hotels and residences. “I got pretty sick and tired of basically Salina, Kan., being called the bed bug capital of central Kansas,” he said.
So, he earned his certification and pest control license in late 2017 and started GP Home Defense in January 2018.
“It wasn’t a business idea; it was a personal mission,” he said of this decision. He even turned over his property management work to his son “so I could focus on being a vampire slayer.”
A FOUNDATION IS BORN. “I went into this in large part with a desire to help serve the underserved. People couldn’t afford the $3,500 treatment that they were being quoted by other companies,” recalled Metzger.
But even with little overhead and the ability to charge much less, he found some people still couldn’t afford bed bug treatments.
As such, he began cultivating relationships with area social service agencies to try to get people help. Some agencies can provide assistance if people fit specific criteria, like having children under a certain age or if they’re a single parent. Metzger is now connecting those dots between agencies to get people help.
He also started a non-profit organization called Gopherwood Community Foundation (facebook.com/GCFSalina).
Metzger’s property rental company is called Gopherwood Properties, which the GP in the name of his pest control company references. Gopherwood comes from the Bible’s Book of Genesis (6:14), where God tells Noah to build the ark of gopher wood. “When I started buying and remodeling rental properties that’s what I felt like I was doing; building an ark board by board,” he said.
Initially, the foundation focused on creating personal protective equipment like masks to help protect the community from COVID-19. “Now that supplies of PPE are catching up, I’m going to steer that foundation towards helping people with infestation issues,” said Metzger.
He plans to solicit donations and apply for grants to provide pest control services to the people who don’t meet social service agency criteria and who fall through the cracks as a result.
Besides bed bug control, he plans to help people with cockroach and other pest issues. “I’ll need to network with other companies as well because if somebody has a serious rodent infestation, I’d like to be able to help with that but I don’t do rodents,” he said.
SUPERHERO WITH HEART. In the meantime, Metzger continues to help those who need him.
He said it’s not uncommon for people to say, “I don’t even know why I called you because I can’t afford to do this,” while bugs are crawling the walls and ceiling. Metzger learns about their situation and asks them to contact people at the social service agencies, telling clients, “Have them get ahold of me and we’ll see what we can get done.”
“That makes me feel like a superhero going to work when I can help those people,” said Metzger.
These jobs aren’t for every pest control company since they’re often difficult to service. It takes a special person to care about those less fortunate than they are. But for Metzger, “That’s kind of where my heart’s been,” he said.
The author is a frequent contributor to PCT.