More frequent inspections and treatments, even when bed bugs aren’t present, can prevent full-blown infestations and help clients manage costs.
One of the biggest trends in bed bug control is the growth of proactive service. Pest management professionals across the country have found it delivers long-term, consistent revenue for what typically has been a one-and-done service.
“We came up with a recurring revenue model for bed bugs,” says Ravi Sachdeva, CEO of American Pest Management in Manhattan, Kansas. The company’s ProActive bed bug service was launched in 2011 and is geared to multi-family and senior-living facilities.
A proactive approach helps pest management companies operate more efficiently. Instead of being swamped with jobs or waiting for them, proactive bed bug service and the revenue it generates are predictable, which means PMPs can plan for growth more effectively.
“In a lot of cases, I think it helps you run your business a lot better; helps you manage your people, manage their time, manage their schedule,” says Chelle Hartzer, technical services manager at Rollins, which launched the Orkin’s ProAct service for the hospitality industry in July 2017.
Clients see the benefit, too. For years, hospitality and property managers have been jerked from one bed bug drama to the next. They’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars, only to have bed bugs reintroduced and get out of control, which sets them right back at square one.
Proactive bed bug control changes this dynamic. Clients feel like they have more control; they don’t have to take rooms out service and can save money as well. Neither are they riding the bed bug cost rollercoaster, spending zero dollars one month to control the pests and thousands of dollars the next. “It equalizes their costs” and is a predictable line item in their budget, says Hartzer.
Proactive bed bug programs also better protect the brand. “The threshold for brand security is very small,” says Stephen Kells, a bed bug expert at the University of Minnesota. It only takes one bed bug in one of ten thousand rooms to create havoc for a hospitality company on social media. A proactive treatment may help prevent that one incident from occurring, he says.
Proactive vs prevention. Proactive services don’t promise to prevent bed bugs, which are savvy hitchhikers and easily can be carried in on clothing, luggage, backpacks and other personal belongings. Their goal is to catch problems early and reduce the likelihood that introduced bed bugs become an infestation that spreads to other rooms or apartments.
Proactive services generally fall into two camps. The first involves frequent inspections – two to four a year depending on a property’s infestation history – and treatment of rooms or apartments as needed.
Using this approach, Chris Christensen, owner of Truly Nolen franchises in greater Lexington, Ky., got a 1,600-unit public housing complex with 30 percent of units infested down to 4 percent over a nine-year period. For large properties like office buildings and movie theaters, PMPs use canines to perform frequent sweeps for bed bugs.
The second approach to proactive service involves frequent inspections plus treatment, even if no bed bugs are detected during inspection.
As part of the ProActive service at American Pest Management, technicians generally inspect and treat units twice yearly, once any infestations in the building have been eliminated. On the rare occasion when technicians do find live bed bugs during a subsequent inspection, they’re usually dealing with one or two, not hundreds, says Sachdeva. Orkin’s ProAct service likewise inspects and treats rooms on a rotating schedule.
A key part of proactive service is using a control product that has long-lasting residual efficacy to knock down any bed bugs that get introduced between inspections.