A Symbiotic Relationship

Columns - View Point

July 30, 2013
Brad Harbison

Included this month as part of PCT’s cockroach control coverage is news from North Carolina State University about research examining how genetic mutation has given some cockroaches a competitive advantage that has enabled them to survive and multiply.

In a follow-up podcast with N.C. State Entomologist Dr. Coby Schal (accessible online at bit.ly/10AYSpZ), I asked Schal how this information can be beneficial to pest management professionals (PMPs). Schal stressed the importance of bait rotation and added, “Something that I have learned from a pest management professional here in North Carolina, is when you go to an infested apartment always use a couple baits. Put a little bit of each bait down, interrogate the cockroach and find out what it likes. If the cockroach likes bait A, go with it. The next time you return, repeat this test and maybe it will like bait B, or bait C. So feed the roach what it likes.”

Schal’s comment is a great example of something I’ve frequently observed in the pest control industry — the symbiotic relationship between researchers and pest management professionals. Researchers do incredible work testing products and protocols to give pest management professionals the tools and information they need for success. PMPs, in turn, are instrumental in research efforts through any number of cooperative efforts, including providing field strains of pests to universities; sharing their expertise and experiences; and tracking invasive pest infestations. Here are a few examples:

  • A pest currently wreaking havoc throughout parts of the Gulf Coast is the tawny crazy ant, Nylanderia fulva, also referred to as the Rasberry ant. Why Rasberry ant? It was pest management professional Tom Rasberry, owner of Rasberry’s Pest Professionals, Pearland, Texas, who drew attention to the pest in Texas in 2002. While the scientific community recently chose tawny crazy ant over Rasberry ant as the ant’s official common name (see May PCT) they praise Rasberry for his work in tracking, observing and controlling this pest. University researchers, including those from nearby Texas A&M University, regularly call upon Rasberry for his expertise on this ant.
  • In the mid-2000s, the invasive Asian subterranean termite, Coptotermes gestroi, was being reported in South Florida, including Palm Beach County. At the time, Ron Box, now-retired technical director at Hulett Environmental Services, West Palm Beach, Fla., informed the company’s service technicians of their presence. Five service technicians proceeded to bring in samples that were identified as Asian subterranean termites. These samples were turned over to University of Florida researchers, who proceeded to track these termites at four of the sites from which they were reported.
  • In 2003, Benny Bufford, a termite technician at Dixon Pest Services, Thomasville, Ga., was performing an initial home inspection when he observed termite swarmers on railroad ties close to the home. Upon closer inspection Bufford began thinking he may not have encountered drywood termites, but Formosan termites— a species that had never been confirmed in this area of the state. Bufford sent samples to University of Georgia researchers, who confirmed that Bufford’s discovery was, in fact, Formosan termites (later traced back to New Orleans). Dixon Pest Services then began working cooperatively with University of Georgia to eradicate and contain the infestation.

The above examples barely scratch the surface. We talk to many PCOs who start off their conversations with, “Guess what my tech found?” I applaud those professionals who work with their local university/extension office in various capacities. This symbiotic relationship goes a long way towards the success of the pest control industry.

The author is Internet editor and managing editor of PCT magazine and can be contacted via email at