PCT’s state of the small fly market report reveals that this sector is growing for some businesses. The key is to develop a partnership with the client and get to the root of the issue so the service can be profitable.
Persistent little buggers — small flies are the ones in a buffet line that keep going back for more until the chafing dishes are scraped empty and there’s nothing left to eat. They can be low-profile characters, hanging out behind the scenes, hunkering down in low grout lines and deep inside drains, hiding out underneath kitchen equipment and inside broken pipes beneath the foundation.
It takes an investigator to identify the source of a small fly problem. And, doing so requires time, knowledge and tools. For these reasons, small flies can be some of the most frustrating pests to treat. “The key is customer education — there is no magic spray,” says Jeffery Preece, a board certified entomologist and technical director of ZipZap Termite & Pest Control in Pleasant Valley, Mo.
Most PMPs treat for small flies, with 77 percent of respondents to the 2020 PCT State of the Small Fly Market survey saying they offer the service. But, for most, small fly is a relatively modest part of their overall business. Twenty-six percent said the service represents 3 to 4 percent of their revenue, while 42 percent report that small fly control accounts for only 1 to 2 percent of their work.
In commercial kitchens, small flies are arguably the biggest pest headache.
“I have a handful of bars and restaurants I service, and small fly is why they contacted us for service,” says Carl Braun, president, Quality Pest Control, Omaha, Neb.
Braun sees small fly as a niche that could separate his business from competitors, though he’s not specifically marketing the service now. “I’m planning to grow the commercial side of the business and [small fly] is something I will train my sales team to sell,” he says, noting that health and safety creates urgency among commercial kitchen/food service clients. “There’s a potential to have your business shut down.”
TIME AND MONEY. For the most part, pest management professionals who offer small fly control say the service is flat, with 70 percent noting no change in revenue year over year. However, 27 percent saw an increase in the number of small fly jobs during that time.
“Small fly is definitely on my radar as an area I want to develop more,” says Josh Fleenor, president, Pest Pros Pest Solutions, Sacramento, Calif.
Fleenor says smally fly product costs are low compared to the cost of client education. “I have seen a lot of companies do the opposite where their method of control is more material, more material,” he relates. “It’s difficult to be profitable when you are dumping loads of material, and then you lose clients because you don’t get results.”
On the other hand, time can also eat away at profit. “I have mixed feelings about profitability,” says Joe Cantu, vice president and director of operations, The Bug Master, Austin, Texas. “I think the service can be very profitable as long as there is cooperation with the client.”
Cantu says newer restaurant and commercial locations tend to be more profitable accounts because aging infrastructure does not have to be addressed. “You can be very proactive,” he says.
Fleenor adds, “We’ve had restaurant chains where the same small fly issue happens in the same areas, so we can knock that out pretty quickly.”
SHUT DOWN AND CLEAN UP. If PMPs could shut down commercial facilities to thoroughly clean and treat the sites, small flies would be less of a problem. Basically, that’s what’s happened amid the COVID-19 outbreak, when so many non-essential businesses across the country were closed to the public.
“We’ve had some clients put service on hold, but a lot of people are taking advantage of this time to do some remodeling, which is huge for small fly control,” Fleenor says. “That can really help when you have outdated kitchens that are not built for equipment to be moved out for cleaning, there is old tile and low grout lines, and cracks and crevices that haven’t been cleaned in 30 years.”
Especially in 24/7 facilities, businesses can use this downtime to address structural issues that feed into small fly problems. Because when the “always open” signs are back up, finding time to properly clean, treat drains and control small flies is a challenge. “Sometimes, we have asked a restaurant to lock up for an hour so we can get an issue under control,” Preece says, adding that small fly work tends to be a year-round job in these environments.
“We hope our customers are keeping some employees on and paying them to clean now,” Preece adds. “With small flies, the problem is usually sanitation.”
APPETITE FOR GROWTH. Overall, PCT’s Small Fly Survey results indicate that small fly as a commercial service is mostly steady and somewhat on the rise, depending on a PMP’s business mix and sales focus. For those expanding their commercial service and marketing to restaurants or commercial kitchens, small fly service is a foot in the door, with summer (43 percent) being the busiest season. Only 34 percent of respondents said the residential market delivered most of their small fly revenue — and the owners we spoke to indicated a much smaller amount of business in the homeowner sector.
Anthony DeLisio of Insector Inspector in Highland Heights, Ohio, reports that about 20 percent of his business is small fly, and 5 percent of that is residential.
Fleenor also says his residential small fly business is “very minimal.” Preece adds, “Our residential customers don’t deal with it too often.” And when they do, the issue is generally fungus gnats, an occasional fruit fly infestation or moth flies due to broken pipes under the floors.
Control methods are centered on customer education and sanitation—and when clients comply, the service can be profitable. And like other pest control services, small fly control requires an investigative eye beyond what a general pest visit might involve. “Like other aspects of the industry, you have to be someone who is willing to hunt and find the source of the problem to be successful,” says Kevin Lemasters, an associate certified entomologist and president of EnviroPest, with locations throughout Colorado.
From smart control strategies to fast facts about small flies, PCT’s State of the Small Fly Market report addresses the real-world issues pest management professionals are dealing with in regards to this service offering. Read on for exclusive data and market analysis.
Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in Entomology Today, a project of the Entomological Society of America with the goal of reporting interesting discoveries in the world of insect science and news from various entomological societies. To learn more, visit www.entomologytoday.org.
Dads often get a bad rap in the animal world. While it’s true that mothers typically do the lion’s share of childrearing across species, there are some exceptions to that rule in the form of devoted dads. To celebrate Father’s Day this year, we have compiled some fascinating insights on exceptional paternal care in the insect world as recently discovered through entomological research.
GIANT WATER BUGS. One of the most classic examples of paternal care in insects is the giant water bug. In these animals the traditional mother and father roles are reversed, with females actively searching for males to mate with and males rearing the young. Female giant water bugs lay their eggs on males’ backs, after which the males are solely responsible for caring for the eggs until hatching. Males can mate with multiple females, adding eggs to their backs until no space remains.
Researchers collected adults of the giant water bug species Diplonychus rusticus to test whether females are differentially attracted to males with or without eggs on their back. When introduced to a group of males where half had 10 eggs on their backs and half had none, female giant water bugs preferentially laid eggs on males that already had eggs on their backs instead of egg-free males. This result led to the conclusion that paternal care is under sexual selection in Diplonychus giant water bugs, with female preference for egg-caring males resulting in increasingly caring males over time. These little guys take piggyback rides to a whole new level!
BEETLES VS. INTRUDERS. The best fathers protect their clan, as Lethrus apterus beetles do when confronted with intruders. This biparental species raises subterranean broods, and while the mother beetle tends and feeds young below ground, the father guards the tunnel entrance against males who seek to take over the burrow. A study looked at how the size of conspecific intruders affected the outcome of battles with a guarding male. Through a field experiment conducted in Hungary, researchers found that larger intruders are quicker and more likely to engage in fights with guarding males than smaller intruders, and are more likely to win.
However, despite their advantage over smaller competitors, larger intruders still did not fare well against guarding males, as the home beetle nearly always successfully defended its territory. The study authors hypothesize that guarding males tend to overcome intruders because they have more to lose: The motivation to protect an established family and home is stronger than the intruders’ guile to overtake a burrow of unknown quality. For these beetle fathers, home is where the heart is, and that’s something worth protecting.
BURYING BEETLES & CORPSES. Burying beetles have one of the most elaborate and well-known biparental care systems in the insect world. Together, male and female burying beetles bury a small vertebrate corpse in the ground and then rear offspring within the crypt, feeding their offspring and themselves with the carcass meat. The fathers also defend their brood against rival beetles and other intruders. Interestingly, male burying beetles that have previously raised a brood have been found to emit higher levels of sex pheromones and subsequently attract triple the number of females than are attracted by males that haven’t bred yet.
The scientists behind that discovery recently decided to examine the potential underlying causes of that pheromone boost. They found that Nicrophorus vespilloides burying beetle males that raised a brood and fed on a vertebrate corpse emitted higher amounts of sex pheromone than unbred males that fed upon dead invertebrates. The authors concluded that increased pheromone production by burying beetle fathers is likely driven at least in part from the high-quality vertebrate carrion upon which they are able to feed during brood care. Meaty carcasses thus play double duty for burying beetle fathers, fueling them through brood care and beyond to when they search for another female with which to start a family.
FLY COURTSHIP SONGS. Before becoming fathers, males need to find a mate. In many insect species, males have developed elaborate methods with which to attract females, such as the courtship songs that Drosophila fruit flies conduct through wing vibrations. Recently, researchers investigated whether the type of host cactus on which two different Argentinian Drosophila species were raised would impact their courtship songs. Drosophila buzzatii uses prickly pear cactus as its host plant, while Drosophila koepferae uses columnar cacti. The two species also differ in the purpose of their courtship song: D. buzzatii relies on song for mate recognition, while D. koepferae uses song to communicate mate quality, relying instead on chemical cues for mate recognition.
With these differences in mind, the researchers expected D. buzzatii’s song to stay the same regardless of host cactus because mate recognition depends upon a stable signal irrespective of environment, while D. koepferae’s song would differ because nutritional differences in the type of host cactus would lead to song variation that reflected male quality. This is exactly what they found, with D. koepferae’s song changing structure and increasing in volume when raised on the nutritionally superior prickly pear instead of columnar cactus, while D. buzzatii’s song stayed the same regardless. These results show the important role host plants can play in the divergence of sibling species, and the fascinating courtship methods that can subsequently develop in fathers-to-be.
MALE FIREFLIES. Sometimes it’s the flashiest guys who get the girls, and this is especially true in the case of fireflies. In urban areas, though, nighttime light from human development threatens to outshine even the brightest firefly. Investigators recently sought to discover whether male fireflies might be able to increase the brightness of their courtship flashes in the face of interfering light pollution. To find out, they exposed varying wavelengths of light to adult Aquatica ficta males, a common Taiwanese firefly that maintains small populations within the bustling metropolis of Taipei.
Typically, A. ficta males produce intermittent, one-second-long yellow-green flashes to attract mates. When exposed to short- and mid-wavelength light at dim intensities, however, the fireflies emitted brighter flashes at a less frequent rate. Short- and mid-wavelength light at bright intensities often caused fireflies to cease flashing entirely, likely because it induced daytime inactivity in the fireflies, while long-wavelength red light had no effect on flashing regardless of intensity. The researchers concluded from this data that male A. ficta fireflies are unaffected by longer wavelengths of light, while shorter wavelength light spurs them to increase the conspicuousness of their flashes to ensure visibility to females. These insects truly shine in their quest to become fathers.
Whether through flashy courtship displays or fantastic childrearing skills, insect fathers go to great lengths to produce offspring and continue their species’ longevity. Happy Father’s Day to insect and human dads alike!
In covering the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the pest control industry, PCT has examined the issue from business and technical perspectives. We’ve explored how pest control companies are reinventing their business models and how pests (e.g., rodents) are changing their behavior. It’s been a long couple months for PCOs; we empathize with your plight and are holding good thoughts for a return to some sense of normalcy.
Our staff also has been heartened by hearing about PCO outreach efforts. For example, the New England Pest Management Association, under the leadership of President Galvin Murphy, Jr., recently donated time, money and pest control services to support charities in inner-city Boston. And we’ve heard countless other stories of PCOs and associations providing pro bono services, making masks, donating food, etc.
One industry professional spreading cheer every morning is PCO turned speaker/consultant Hal Coleman (www.halcoleman.com and www.pestcontrolmarketingpodcast.com). Every morning Hal has been posting a new country/rock/folk song on his Facebook page. “I decided I would add a new song every morning for 30 days, and if I got a good response I would keep adding more. I kinda got the idea from my wife, who said, ‘Have you seen those videos Keith Urban is doing?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I could do that, but you need to dance across the room like Nicole Kidman,’” Coleman recalled with a wink. Thus far, he’s covered everybody from Merle Haggard and Kenny Rogers to John Fogerty and Bob Dylan.
While many in the pest control industry know Coleman as the colorful, curly, white-haired consultant whose pest control career includes time spent as a regulator and owner/operator, they may not know he is an accomplished singer/songwriter. When he was first starting out in pest control, working as a regulator for the Georgia Department of Agriculture, Coleman also composed songs. His claim to fame is having co-written (with friend and musician Barry Etris) the novelty song “The Bird,” which was recorded by Jerry Reed and reached #2 on Billboard’s Top 100 Country Singles in 1982. The song tells the story of a talking bird with the ability to impersonate famed country singers Willie Nelson and George Jones.
“I went to Nashville and recorded the song and it came out really well,” Coleman recalled. “I thought I would be a recording artist with a hit. A couple days later [a recording studio rep] called me up and said, ‘Jerry Reed is recording a record down in Muscle Shoals (Ala.). We played it for him, and he loved it. He said he wanted to record it for his album.”
Understandably, Coleman sold the song’s rights. He also sang the bird part on the album. Fun fact: Coleman was able to secure a $5,000 car loan by putting the song up for collateral. In addition to “The Bird,” a pair of Coleman co-penned songs were hits for The Burch Sisters (“Every Time You Go Outside I Hope It Rains”) and Ray Stevens (“If Ten Percent Is Good Enough For Jesus”).
Despite these successes, Coleman decided not to pursue songwriting full time. With family and other commitments in the Atlanta area, Coleman decided not to relocate and try to make a go of it in Nashville. However, he’s stayed connected with music and he’s rediscovered his love for playing via his Facebook postings. This got him to thinking about a silver lining to the COVID-19 lockdown. “People are doing all sorts of things they would not have gotten around to doing, like remodeling their lawns; building porches; making masks to give to their communities,” he said. “I am a prime example of that; If it wasn’t for the lockdown, I wouldn’t have picked up my guitar and made videos for Facebook.” Check out Coleman’s music videos at https://www.facebook.com/halcoleman.
The author is Internet editor and managing editor of PCT.
Bill Grizer first came to love castles when he was 8 years old. While watching the 1968 film “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” with his mother, Grizer was fascinated when the characters swooped down in their flying car over the famous Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany. He told his mother he wanted a castle just like it.
“You can’t have that castle, but if you work hard and save your money, someday you can build you own castle,” his mother told him. Since that conversation, Grizer said, “that’s been a dream of mine.”
BUILDING BUSINESS FIRST. While he dreamed of ways to bring the castle he envisioned to life, Grizer worked at building his own pest control business. In 1986 Grizer started a one-man operation in Whipple, Ohio, and named it Modern Pest Control.
“I guess I started in pest control because I had a pure hatred for bugs when I was a kid,” Grizer said. “I always hated bugs, and pest control is something I’ve enjoyed. I love going out to houses.”
Helping people is a big reason why Grizer loves his work as a technician. He recalled a time when he was treating a family’s apartment in Columbus, Ohio, and a young girl living there asked Grizer if he was going to kill the cockroaches so they wouldn’t crawl across her face when she was sleeping.
Grizer promised that he would. “I thought if that was my little girl, I didn’t want bugs crawling across my kids’ faces. And as I got to know people, I wasn’t just an exterminator. I was like a counselor, too.”
Grizer said working in the pest control industry and forming these relationships with his customers has helped him become an effective communicator with all types of people.
“It helped me deal with people one-on-one, taught me how to be able to address any issues, how to correct a problem, and explain to people what I’m going to do and walk through their house and talk to them,” Grizer said. “I always enjoyed the direct personal contact that I had with the customers because most of the people I don’t call customers. I don’t even call them clients. They’re friends.”
So by day, Grizer built Modern Pest Control as a friendly, hardworking technician and saved his money. By night, he collected supplies for the castle he planned to build — from wood trim, to sandstones, to cement blocks.
“It got to a point where I told the wife and kids, I’m either going to buy myself a new truck, or we’re going to build a castle. I was like what do you guys want to do?” Grizer asked.
He was excited when their response was, “Let’s start building a castle!” So he began planning the castle of his childhood dreams: Grizer Castle.
BUILDING BEGINS. This castle is actually the second that Grizer has built. His first is the home he currently lives in. “We built some towers off of each side of it, and I stoned the front of it. But I just was not happy with that. I told the wife, I’m going to have to do something else,” Grizer said.
Construction for Grizer Castle began in 2014, but Grizer said it really started in 1973 when he was 8 years old and his aunt gave him a couple of concrete blocks to begin his castle.
“Then, when I was 16, I would be driving around town or coming home from school and I’d see people would be tearing down a house, I’d go ask the guy if I could grab some blocks when they were done. I started saving concrete blocks throughout my lifetime,” he said.
All of those blocks now sit in the walls of Grizer Castle.
“I’m so proud. I can actually point out different concrete blocks to you and tell you where that block came from, when that block was laid and who laid that block because those are special blocks,” Grizer said.
During the years of construction, Grizer said the most challenging part was juggling time between doing pest control and building the castle. Yet despite all the extra hours he had to work, Grizer never shied away from his responsibilities as a technician at Modern Pest Control.
“I would go and (treat) from seven in the morning until five or six in the evening, and then I would go out to the castle,” Grizer said. “Me and my brother-in-law, we would have three hours of daylight left, and we might be able to lay 350 or 400 blocks before it got dark. Then we would work weekends to get as much as possible done.”
Grizer expects to officially open the castle this summer; the long hours and hard work have been worth the wait, he said.
LIFE WITH A CASTLE. Grizer has taken over the day-to-day operation of the castle now that it is close to opening. The property will be used as a wedding venue, a place for birthday parties or any type of event people want to organize.
“It’ll be a place for people just to come, and they don’t have to spend a dime,” Grizer said. “It’ll be a place for people to bring their kids. Just a good spot for people to have fun.”
In addition to the castle itself, there are 80 acres of land where people can park their cars, go for a picnic, walk along the three-mile walking trail, and pitch a tent and camp or fish at the nearby pond.
So far, Grizer said the most rewarding part of building Grizer Castle has been seeing families come out, especially the children, and enjoy what he worked so hard to create.
“I have bunches of little pieces of stone that I’ve saved, and I give them to the children when I come out, and I let them know that this is the first piece of their castle.”
With work almost complete, Grizer will be handling most of the responsibilities there while his daughter and two sons take care of Modern Pest Control. But having a castle does not mean Grizer is giving up his job as a PCO.
“I couldn’t neglect my obligations as an exterminator. I’ve been an exterminator for 33 years,” Grizer said. He’s even converting one of the towers in Grizer Castle into a pest control office.
“I’ve saved old pest control containers and old mouse traps, and I’ve got a lot of old pest control equipment to have on display for people to see,” Grizer said. “That’s what made the castle come true, was being an exterminator. I’m still going to be an exterminator, but now I’ll wear a crown when I spray.”