Purdue Conference Returns In-Person and Virtually

Purdue Conference Returns In-Person and Virtually

Pest management professionals gathered for the 86th annual Purdue Pest Management Conference last week. The three-day event, one of the premier training conferences in the pest control industry, was back in-person, but also retained its virtual capabilities, which were developed last year in response to COVID-19.

January 13, 2022

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Pest management professionals gathered in person and virtually for the 86th annual Purdue Pest Management Conference this week. The three-day event, one of the premier training conferences in the pest control industry, was back in-person, but also retained its virtual capabilities, which were developed last year in response to COVID-19.

Conference chair Carrie Campbell, owner of Hatfield Pest Control, La Porte, Ind., welcomed attendees. Campbell thanked the conference’s planning committee for “keeping their thumb on the industry, feeling the pulse and really diving into what we need to learn about in the climate that we're doing business.”

A fitting launch to this year’s conference was a 2021 review of pest control issues provided by Mark VanderWerp, manager of education and training at Rose Pest Solutions, Troy, Mich. VanderWerp focused on three areas: medical, technology and pest. One of the topics VanderWerp discussed was a new PLOS Biology paper which cited lizards as a possible factor in Lyme disease being more prevalent in the North than in the South. That paper noted that in the Northeast, black-legged ticks latch onto small mammals like the white-footed mouse, which are notorious for transmitting the Lyme disease bacteria to the bugs. But in the South, the ticks prefer to feed on lizards, particularly skinks. Read a recap of VanderWerp’s presentation.

Other highlights from this year’s conference included:

LADDER SAFETY. OSHA Safety and Occupational Health Specialist Brian Bothast led a presentation on best ladder safety practices. He provided guidelines employers and employees can follow to help prevent injuries from fall hazards while on the job, including:
  • Face the ladder while climbing; maintain contact with at least one hand; and don’t carry something that could cause loss of balance.
  • Employers should establish rules or expectations for ladder usage that, through evidence, are shown to be comprehensive to employees.
  • Employers should have an effective process to discover deviations from usage rules as well as an effective enforcement program.
  • Examine ladders for damaged or missing parts that may compromise their security while in use. Damaged equipment should be clearly tagged and not used until it is fixed or replaced.
  • Always use equipment as the manufacturer specified. For example, make sure that A-frame ladders are secured into the proper shape before climbing.

OSHA’s general duty clause states “each employer shall furnish a place of employment free of recognizable hazards that are likely to cause death or serious, physical harm.” For questions, report potential violations or to file a complaints, call OSHA at 1-800-321-6742 (OSHA). Complaints may also be filed on its website, www.osha.gov

INVASIVE VERTEBRATE PESTS. Chuck Bargeron, co-director of Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health at University of Georgia, presented an overview of invasive vertebrate wildlife in the Southeastern U.S. Though the pests he discussed are region-specific, all PMPs should take time to understand the risks invasive animals present to natural flora and fauna. Examples he provided included:
  • A Burmese python that ate an alligator, which served as a “wakeup call” for how big of an issue the invasive animal is in South Florida, Bargeron said. The diet of the larger variety of the snakes could explain major decreases of mammals observed in Everglades National Park compared to the ‘90s.
  • The population of feral pigs has increased considerably across the country during the last few decades. In addition to the threat they present to local ecosystems, they have been known to destroy yards and can potentially carry disease. Trapping and hunting are the best forms of control, but laws vary state by state.
  • Cane toad sightings have been recorded mainly in South Florida, but their presence is expanding northward. They typically grow to 4 to 6 inches long, but smaller varieties are easy to confuse with native toads. They are poisonous to humans and domestic pets. The best control for them, Bargeron said, is hand capturing them with gloves and euthanasia. However, never euthanize a small toad because it might be a native species of toad.

People in the U.S. and Canada can use an application called “EDDMapS.” The acronym stands for “Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System.” People can use the site or the corresponding phone app to report potential sightings of invasive animals.

STINGING INSECTS. Dr. Kathy Heinsohn, training and technical entomologist, American Pestalso talked about the importance of ladder safety during her presentation about stinging insects. The nests of baldfaced hornets, for example, can be found a few feet above the ground, potentially on the eaves of houses. As PMPs regularly need to climb ladders to treat these pests, Heinsohn urged they exercise extreme caution while doing so. Be sure to wear protective equipment, too — they will chase perceived predators for over 300 feet, she said.

Always be sure to remove the nests even after the hornets have been mitigated, she added. It gives peace of mind to the customer.


Carpenter bees rarely sting people, but their habit of returning to nesting locations year after year can create quite a nuisance. Heinsohn suggested PMPs use coat hangers to destroy carpenter bee nests. Hangers can be maneuvered in these 5-inch-long “galleries” to break up the membrane walls separating the eggs. Apply a residual in the gallery and wait a few days before returning to plug the hole, but sure to always read and follow the product's label for guidelines as to when to plug the hole, as they will differ.