Multifamily housing, rental properties like duplexes and any housing situation where tenants are moving in and out and sharing connected spaces are some of the most inviting opportunities for cockroaches to take up residence.
In these circumstances, infestations can be persistent.
“When people move frequently, cockroaches can get carried from one place to the next,” says David Pipes, president, Esco Exterminating Services, Pine Bluff, Ark. His company services a lot of apartment complexes that are in “constant need,” such as requesting clean-out services after a tenant moves out.
Of the pest management professionals (PMPs) who participated in PCT’s 2022 State of the Cockroach Market Survey, 79 percent said multifamily housing and apartments are types of accounts that are in need of such service. That said, 96 percent of PMPs service single-family homes, and other popular accounts include schools, day cares, hotels and restaurants, food warehouses and distribution centers and government facilities.
The research identifies how PMPs are treating cockroaches, how often services are delivered and what opportunities this pest presents in terms of revenue and profitability. About half of pest management professionals (47 percent) say they expect an increase in their firm’s cockroach control revenue next year, and the other half (49 percent) say they are expecting this business segment to remain flat.
“I’d say it is steady and can go in waves — we’ll be real busy and then it backs off, and it seems like in summertime people forget about their roach problems for some reason,” says Chey Ramsey, president, Total Pest Services, Fairland, Okla.
A Real Treat
A multi-pronged approach to treating cockroaches is how most PMPs approach the service. Eighty-two percent of PMPs use both sprayable and gel baits in a program, 6 percent use only gel baits and 5 percent use only sprays.
“What works is a really integrated treatment of using baits, sprays and dusts together — knock-down products with an IGR can be very helpful, along with baits that contain IGRs,” says Benjamin Gillenwaters, board certified entomologist, Hulett Environmental Services in South Florida.
The company mostly uses gel baits but does rotate in other formulations and is careful to change out bait types quarterly. “By using multiple products with multiple modes of action, we honestly do not see resistance too much,” Gillenwaters says.
David Bjorgaard, owner of Discount Pest Control in the Kansas City area, says his approach to cockroach treatment, or managing any pest, for that matter, is, “You can’t work your way through it; you have to think your way through it.”
That requires problem-solving. “I called up my supplier and begged for help because we were having problems with cockroaches being finicky with baits and having problems with dust,” Bjorgaard says. The reason was because the multifamily housing accounts he services had used DIY products and pyrethroid-based treatments prior to hiring his company. “That built up quite a bit of resistance.”
In fact, that’s one of the first questions Bjorgaard asks customers. “I find out if they’ve been spraying themselves, and if they say yes, that tells me they’ve got the resistant ones.”
Talk to Me
Any pest control protocol is only as effective as a customer’s willingness to comply. And communication ties in directly to profitability.
“If you can educate your customers and they recognize their role, it’s a very profitable endeavor,” Pipes says. “But if you do not communicate properly, then it can get to your pocketbook, because their expectations are what create that profitability.”
David Aguirre provides a PDF with instructions and information about German cockroaches so customers understand the pest they are dealing with and the conditions that can create tough infestations. “During the inspection, we go over what the customer’s responsibilities are,” says the pest control service manager of Thrasher Termite & Pest Control of So Cal in San Diego. “We focus a lot on communication, and I have trained my employees to be tactful but very direct. We let them know how to clean and point out spots like moisture in the sink, food debris or grease on the walls.”
Communication prevents callbacks. Most PMPs say their callback rate for cockroach jobs is low, with 35 percent citing they have 1-2 percent callbacks, 27 percent of respondents indicating a 3-4 percent callback rate, and 8 percent saying they have more than 10 percent of callbacks.
“I try not to oversell and put out clear expectations,” Ramsey says. “I’ll tell them what I’m going to do — what the first treatment will look like, and that they are going to see a reduction in population, but don’t be alarmed if there is still some activity. I emphasize that keeping up with cleanliness is key.”
Ramsey assures customers he will be back for a follow-up — there’s no need to report a few roaches scurrying around. “They’ll see cockroaches for the first couple of days after a treatment, and then I explain that they will see little ones and that means the program is working,” Ramsey continues.
This explanation keeps callbacks at a minimum.
And if Ramsey walks into an account for an initial cockroach service and sees it’s a losing situation, he’ll walk away. “I’ve had a couple of accounts where I walked in, and it was an issue where the only way to get them out would be a fire, and I’ve walked right back out,” he says. “That’s not something I want to put my name on.”
Overall, when customers play a role, treatment works. And when technicians set realistic expectations, the service is profitable. As Aguirre says, “We explain that cockroaches are not going to go away the next day — it’s a process that can take several weeks, and you will see them in between services. But we tell customers, ‘You’ll see less adults, more juveniles and we want them to be sluggish, which is a good sign.’”