Why Was Bed Bug Season So Variable This Past Spring?

Why Was Bed Bug Season So Variable This Past Spring?

Many PMPs say cold weather was the primary reason for the less-than-stellar bed bug and termite business this past spring.

December 2, 2018

At its best, springtime in New England can be touch and go, but this year Mother Nature walloped the region with four nor’easters in just over three weeks; hammering New Hampshire and surrounding states with high winds, heavy snow and ice. With everyone hunkered down beneath some of the heaviest March snowfall totals in decades, PMPs in the Northeast say their bed bugs calls nearly screeched to a halt.

I personally think the weather in March is what did it,” said Joe Maguire, Bed Bug Department Manager at JP Pest Services in New Hampshire. “We had four nor’easters in March and no one went anywhere.” Bed bugs are more active in warmer months, so the extended winter slowed down the number of calls. “It’s not that they’re not there, people just aren’t seeing them,” Maguire said.

Fortunately, business picked up as the weather improved and the calls kept coming into the fall. Maguire said they had one of their busiest Augusts, and probably one of their biggest Septembers. “We were pretty slow right through May, but then we hit July,” he said. “Now my guys are working six days a week and we’re booked out seven to ten days,” he said.

Fifty-two percent of PMPs who responded to a PCT survey reported an average to below average 2018 spring pest control season. Of the eight percent who said their business was below average, more than two-thirds said weather was the most influential factor.

There are, however, other factors to take into consideration, including a decline in new bed bug clients, particularly in large apartment complexes, according to Jeff White of BedBug Central, a company that surveys PMPs about the bed bug market. “Once we start eliminating infestations, infestation rates come down,” according to White, who said he received reports of a significant slowdown in the number of service calls for bed bugs. He said he also saw a slowdown in product sales. 

Jeff King, president of The Pest Rangers in northeastern Pennsylvania, said he also wonders if better treatment methods could be factor: “Is it that our treatment method is working or are there less bugs? Could it be a little of both?”

“In public housing, we’ve noticed a drastic reduction in bed bugs,” he said. “As far as residential, it’s down slightly.”

In Louisiana, an unusually cool and rainy April resulted in fewer termite calls, said Jeremy Clark of Dugas Pest Control in Baton Rouge, “In southwest Louisiana, we don’t really have a lot of bed bugs, but I’ve heard from other people who do a lot of bed bug work that this past spring was slow,” he said. “As far as termites, go, we definitely had a delayed spring. We didn’t have hardly any calls until May 1."

Similarly, Cooper Pest Solutions observed significant declines in termite swarming activity this year, said Cooper Pest's White.

Clark said the weather was chilly until the end of April, which is abnormal for the region and probably kept termites from having a considerable swarm season. He said business picked up in June and July and continued into fall. “Usually, when school starts in August, it starts slowing down, but August was huge,” said Clark.

White says he thinks bed bug work will eventually mirror cockroach work. “As an industry, we’re getting better and learning more about how to control bed bugs, he said. “With the training out there and knowledge that is available, more companies are feeling comfortable doing this type of work and so it splits the revenue among more companies.”

“The question is: How do we navigate these peaks and valleys? If we can start to predict when we’re going to have a slow spring, by understanding what causes these trends, it will help us as an industry navigate these peaks and valleys,” said White.

The Pest Rangers, located in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton metropolitan area, has incorporated bed bug monitoring into their portfolio. “We went from reactive to proactive,” said King “We’re now looking for them, rather than reacting to a complaint.”

In Louisiana, Clark said his company saw the decline in termite calls as an opportunity to work ahead. “In winter and spring, we’re sometimes playing catch up on renewal inspections. This year in February, March and April we were getting ahead of schedule on annual inspections, so it helps us in that aspect.”