M.I.S.T. Conference Opens Dialogue about Mosquito Misting

PCOs traveled to San Antonio, Texas and Tampa, Fla., to learn more about mosquito misting systems.

March 9, 2010
Brad Harbison
MGK Business Director Kevin Caskey kicked off the M.I.S.T. Conference by reviewing pyrethrums.
A major goal of the M.I.S.T. conference was to open up dialogue among applicators and/or those interested in mosquito misting systems.
MGK Technical Director Dave Carlson (speaking) answered questions as part of a panel discussion that also included Andy Sturgis (middle) and Kevin Caskey (right).
MGK Misting Market Specialist Andy Sturgis reviewed how PCOs can offer a comprehensive mosquito control program for customers.

SAN ANTONIO and TAMPA — Many pest control operators seeking to bolster their business with new service offerings have either added, or are considering adding, mosquito control services – including mosquito misting. In many respects, this service offering is still in its infancy as it relates to the pest control industry. Questions that PCOs grapple with include: What are the pros and cons of this offering? Is it a good fit for my business model? Will my market(s) embrace mosquito misting? It’s for these reasons that manufacturer MGK held its first-ever M.I.S.T. conferences, last month in San Antonio, Texas and Tampa, Fla. The day-long conferences were opportunities to bring together pest management professionals and MGK technical representatives to answer questions, share information and learn more about mosquito misting.

MGK Business Director Kevin Caskey kicked off both conferences with a historical look at pyrethrums – a product used in many misting systems. Caskey said there is anecdotal evidence that people have been using chrysanthemums (the flower from which pyrethrum is extracted) to ward off pests all the way back to B.C. MGK’s involvement begins in 1939, when its founder Alexander McClaughlin, a Scot, recognized the potential of pyrethrum for pest control after observing that spices packed with dried flowers were not experiencing insect damage. In the late 1920s, MGK scientist C.B. Gnadinger helped standardize production of the first concentrated pyrethrum extracts. Caskey noted that pyrethrum production ebbs and flows. Most of the world’s pyrethrum comes from Kenya, although South American countries and, especially, Australia, have increased production in recent years. Issues related to Kenya, including political unrest, are major reasons pyrethrum supplies are somewhat volatile. Caskey said a problem right now is that Kenyan farmers have replaced chrysanthemum plants with food crops because the region is experiencing a drought and chrysanthemums require water. 

MGK Technical Director Dave Carlson provided attendees with a regulatory update on residential misting systems. In the early days of misting, which Carlson likened to the “Wild West,” the pest control industry lacked consistency for how and where the systems were installed. The industry has made strides in this area, said Carlson, who pointed to 2007 when the National Pest Management Association and the Association of Pest Control Regulatory Officials (ASPCRO) endorsed a Best Management Practice (BMP) for Outdoor Residential Misting System. Carlson noted, however, that EPA and states have and will continue to evaluate misting relating to a variety of issues (e.g., spray drift).  

Jennifer Williams, MGK technical representative, gave a presentation titled “Active Ingredient: Pyrethrins and Permethrin.” Williams provided a detailed explanation of how pyrethroids work to essentially disrupt a mosquito’s nervous system. Williams said misting systems are a component of an Integrated Mosquito Management (IMM) program, which includes: inspection; identification of target pests; and educating customers about conducive conditions that can contribute to mosquito presence. Regarding BMPs for mosquito misting, Williams noted the importance of checking for proper pH balance, which she said should be between 5.5 – 7.0. 

Andy McGinty, of insurance provider LIPCA, provided an overview of insurance considerations related to mosquito misting. McGinty said LIPCA began insuring PCOs for mosquito misting services in response to client demand. McGinty said that, similar to termite and general pest control, mosquito misting services should be backed by a service contract – not a warranty. The contract should include simple language and warnings/exclusions for: plants/vegetation; roof; and chemical sensitivity. Additionally, McGinty recommended that contracts have language stating that any dispute be settled through binding arbitration. 

MGK Misting Market Specialist Andy Sturgis concluded the conference by reviewing how PCOs can offer a comprehensive mosquito control program through the use of not only misting systems, but also larvicides; adulticides; source reduction; and barrier treatments. Sturgis noted that mosquito control services can strengthen the PCO-customer relationship because the PCO is helping customers “take back their backyards.” He also noted the tremendous growth opportunities with this line of work, including special event spraying for events such as weddings or at locations such as community ball parks. To learn more about mosquito misting and how to expand your company’s mosquito services, contact Sturgis at 612/968-9474 or andy.sturgis@mgk.com.

Goddard Examines the Pest-Public Health Link
One of the highlights of the M.I.S.T Conference was the keynote speech from Dr. Jerome Goddard, associate extension professor of medical and veterinary entomology, Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, Mississippi State University. Goddard provided an overview of vector-borne diseases and shared his perspective on pest management professionals’ role in mosquito control, including the use of pesticides as part of an integrated mosquito management program.

Pest management professionals should be proud of the role they play in protecting public health, Goddard said. “If you are doing pest control of any type you’re helping to manage, prevent or control (vector-borne diseases). So, you do have a role in protecting public health. Don’t be ashamed of what you do. Be proud of what you do.”

Could that role be expanding? It could be, according to Goddard. Here’s why: most of the vectors that carry diseases are located in tropical areas. If, in fact, the Earth’s temperature is rising slightly, as some scientists suggest, it stands to reason that these vectors will spread northward. “I don’t know what I think about global warming,” Goddard said. “It does seem like we are in a warming trend, but nobody knows for sure the causes of it. But, it is important to think about because if there is global warming those tropical bug diseases could move north.”

Even if that scenario does not play out, other public health issues related to pests are prevalent in the United States. For example, humans can suffer direct effects from bites/stings and other exposure. These include myiasis (fly larvae in human tissues); and blisters and discoloration from beetles, millipedes, and other arthropods. Humans also can suffer indirect effects such as biological or mechanical disease transmission.

  • Biological transmission – when biological vectors harbor pathogens within their bodies and deliver pathogens to new hosts in an active manner, usually a bite. Examples include malaria, dengue, yellow fever, West Nile virus.
  • Mechanical transmission – When mechanical vectors (e.g., flies, rodents, cockroaches) transmit disease agents or contaminate products simply by physically transmitting germs on their body parts.

In the United States, West Nile virus (WNV) is the mosquito-borne disease that grabs most of the headlines. An interesting observation from Goddard was that WNV seems to be cyclical. For example, Goddard noted that in Mississippi there were 193 cases of WNV in 2002. That number dropped to 83 cases in 2003, then to 52 cases in 2004; WNV cases then rose to 70 cases in 2005, 184 cases in 2006 and 117 cases in 2007. Goddard said he thinks what happens is that large numbers of birds will build up an immunity to WNV (during down cycles), then after these birds die off, they are replaced by a “new batch or birds” that are more susceptible to WNV.

What could be the “next West Nile virus” in the U.S.? Goddard thinks it might be the Chikungunya virus, which is transmitted to humans by Aedes mosquitoes (perhaps the most common mosquito in the U.S.). “The reason we don’t have this disease is because we don’t have the virus,” Goddard said. “How can the virus get here? Maybe an infected animal, or person or mosquito gets brought here. That’s how West Nile got here.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Chikungunya virus was first isolated from the blood of a febrile patient in Tanzania in 1953. The disease has shown an ability to spread quickly. Goddard said that hundreds of thousands of cases were reported in Indian Ocean Islands in 2006 (250,000 cases were confirmed on one island alone). It was recently reported in Italy, which is significant because it marks the virus’s appearance in a Westernized country. Unlike West Nile virus, Chikungunya is unlikely to result in encephalitis. Symptoms of this disease include: sudden onset of fever; severe chills painful joints, low white blood cell count, etc.