Bed Bug Wars: Notes from the Field

A dirty bed bug job, a dedicated PMP, and a cooperative client. Plus a bonus.


Pest control professionals are on the front lines every day protecting the health and welfare for their clients and for the public. It’s not uncommon for the professionals in this industry to go the extra mile to solve a tough problem and relieve the discomfort, anguish, and even health issues that can arise from a particularly heavy pest infestation.

And it’s truly a wonderful day for any pest control professional when they have the full buy-in and cooperation from the client on those really tough pest control problems. It makes the job a lot easier. It’s even better when there is a bonus at the end of a very tough job. This is one such tale.

On a hot steamy day in mid July I met with a local PMP who was about to undertake a particularly difficult assignment in a small rural community outside of Memphis. When I arrived a little before 10 AM, the temperature was already 93 in the shade and heading to 97 or higher for the day. Mid July in the south can be like that.   But in spite of the heat and humidity, this was going to be a good opportunity to see EcoRaider in action on a heavy bed bug infestation.

A 92 year old woman was being eaten alive by bed bugs, and her family had returned from Michigan, California, and Alabama to help. Grandma had been a seamstress and quilter in her younger days. In addition to the accumulation of old books, papers, furniture, and favorite knick-knacks, grandma had accumulated boxes and boxes of remnants and scraps that were part of her trade. Some were nearly as old as she was. To her, they were an important part of her past, her history, and her memories. Relinquishing possessions, no matter how mundane, can often be difficult and emotional, especially for the elderly. And that was the case here.

Like many of her generation, she grew up in a time of poverty and discrimination, lived through the Great Depression and World War II years, worked hard, sacrificed for her family, and her children and grandchildren were able to better themselves and become successful. Now they were back to help. And they had followed the PMP’s pre-treatment instructions to a tee. The PMP had talked with one of the local family members in person, and with the rest of the out of town family by phone to lay out the plan prior to treatment day. The house was clear and ready. The family had moved the furnishings outside under a carport or under the shade of old oak. Clothing had been bagged to take to the nearest laundry. They did everything right.

Bed bugs had taken over the ramshackle old house. They were everywhere – in the carpet, behind the floor and window moldings, the door frames, in the sagging drop ceiling, even in the bathroom. And of course, the mattress, box springs and other furnishings were heavily infested. This was not a good or healthy environment for anyone, much less a rather frail 92 year old.

By early afternoon, after a long and very hot day and a lot of hard work, the entire job was finished. All that was left was to vacuum up the bed bug debris. Steam had been used for the initial knock down, followed by EcoRaider for extra penetration, kill insurance, and for residual. Everything was treated; floors, window moldings, ceiling areas, and furnishings. For the mattresses and upholstered furniture, using steam on edges and crevices and an application of EcoRaider on the edges and surfaces, most of the furnishings were salvable. This was a bit of a bonus for the family who had planned on replacing all or most of the furnishings. That money could now be put to use for other things that grandma might need in the future.

By the time we left, we all felt pretty good about the job. The family returned to the local motels where they had been staying and where grandma was resting comfortably out of the heat, and out of reach of bed bugs. Tomorrow they would return to move furniture back inside and put the house back in order.

After about two weeks I had almost forgotten about that hot summer day in the country. I got a call late one afternoon from the PMP who had done all the detailed work to rid this family of the bed bug infestation. She told me that her follow-up inspection came up clean. She only found one bed bug on a throw pillow, and likely it was one that had been brought back in after the treatment. Good news indeed. Everything worked. EcoRaider did its job. And a hardworking, detail oriented PMP did hers.

But she also told me there was more good news. After I had left, the family paid the bill in full – and much to her surprise gave her a bonus of several hundred dollars extra in appreciation of all her hard work, attention to detail and professionalism in dealing with this very difficult problem. And I could tell that she was touched by that gesture.

But there’s more. One of the granddaughters (who was pretty much ‘in charge’ for the whole operation) had been wearing a Disney character t-shirt on treatment day. Our PMP had mentioned that she was a Disney fan and she and the ‘in charge’ granddaughter chatted a bit about different Disney movies and characters while the work was going on. Just casual conversation. But a week or so later, our PMP received a package of Disney merchandise, and a very nice thank you note from the ‘in charge’ granddaughter in California. This was just icing on the cake.   A cash bonus and gestures such as this are probably quite rare in the pest control industry I would imagine.

While important and noteworthy in themselves, more significantly, that bonus and gesture of appreciation was a tangible symbol and recognition of a job well done, a problem solved, and of true pest control professionalism at work. And we at EcoRaider were proud to play a part in it.

How “Green” is the Pest Control Market?


It may be greener than you think.

And getting greener.


As any good (and successful) marketer knows, broad consumer trends, interests, and concerns drive the marketplace, whether it’s for durable goods, consumables, services, or causes.

The first Earth Day in 1970 signaled the beginning of a global focus on environmental issues. That first Earth Day was spawned by the activism of the mid and late 60’s by the Baby Boom generation, in large part as a reaction to the publication of Rachael Carson’s “Silent Spring’ which focused on the environmental damage resulting from agricultural chemicals and pesticides. It is no coincidence that the same year saw the establishment of the EPA by President Nixon. Barely two years later, by 1972, DDT had largely been eliminated from the pesticide arsenal, and others chemicals and pesticides were coming under increased scrutiny and regulation

This trend toward ‘green’ that started with late 60’s Baby Boomer activism has now gone mainstream and has largely been embraced, to one degree or another, by the majority. That trend is now accelerating with the information savvy Millennials.

The consumer trends research is pretty clear on that point. A March 2014 report summary from Mintel, a leading global supplier of consumer, product and media intelligence states the following:

  • Nearly four in 10 American say they are dedicated to buying green products and services (ie either “almost always” or “regularly” buy green products) – which is a 6 percentage point increase over 2012 results, and equates to about 93 million Americans.

Within the pest control industry itself, 2014 research by Orkin and the American Apartment Association reinforces the broader consumer trend data. Their study found:

  • 78% of apartment renters want environmentally friendly products.

Not surprisingly, the Orkin study also found:

  • Recurring pest issues cause 60% of apartment renters to look for a new place to live.
  • And while not the most prominent problem (flies and ants are,) bed bugs cause the most angst among apartment dwellers. 39% say it is the pest they would ‘least’ like to see in their apartment—higher than rodents (28%), roaches(26%), ants(2%) or flies(1%).

A recent article (March 20, 2014) in PCT Magazine by Jay Bruesch, technical director at Plunkett’s Pest Control in Fridley, Minn, provides an excellent primer on the topic of ‘green’ pest control. In his article, “Green Pest Management – From Program to Practice —  Bruesch pointed clearly to where the pest management industry is now, and where it is heading in his opening paragraphs.

“Our clients are increasingly adopting green practices because they are truly concerned about the environment, and want to do their part to protect and conserve it….Expect them to demand green options for their pest management programs as well.

 In the past, the meaning of “green” was fuzzy. Today, our clients have formal green programs from which to choose. It’s up to us to find out what they require and want, and offer them programs that meet their needs.

Some clients might just want our assurance that we are doing the environmentally right thing. Others will desire more formal proof of our green practices; for them, we can become NPMA GreenPro or Green Shield certified. Still others will be participating in LEED or organic certification. These programs award green credentials only to those who are systematically practicing green methods in everything they do. Especially if you want to target schools, day-care centers, health-care facilities, office structures, and government buildings, you have to get your green on — and show that, in your company, IPM (and ‘green’) is more than just a buzzword.”

In January of 2014, the NMPA (National Pest Management Association) published in that month’s PestWorld newsletter it’s “Vision 2020”, outlining future trends and implications for the pest management industry.

 The following paragraphs from the report, under the heading “Science & Technology” are important because they clearly point to a ‘greener’ pest control market.

Chemistry. The PPM industry is just beginning to see “softer” chemical and biological solutions that work as expected and also have improved safety or environmental profiles. This trend will continue in the coming years, as technology partners strive to meet the public’s growing desire for solutions that are as effective as they are sustainable.

 Implications:   These products will expand PMPs’ portfolios, giving them more options to meet customer needs. These products also will allow PMPs to appeal to the small-but growing-vocal “natural” pest control segment. And they will give PMPs positive talking points about what they’re doing to continually strengthen their ability to control pests responsibly”

Implications: Demand for “green” innovations will continue to grow. The key to capturing value, however, will be delivering tangible benefits that people are willing to pay for. Case in point is the introduction of “softer solutions” that have less environmental impact but meet customer expectations for pest control. “

 The broad societal trend toward ‘green’ solutions to everyday problems – including pest control – has not been lost on a number of Pest Management Professionals either. They have already seen the growth in the ‘green’ market and have responded to it. A quick Yellowpages check of local pest control companies in most any locality will reveal any number of companies with the words ‘green’ or ‘natural’ (or other variations of those concepts) in their advertising or touted on their websites. A quick Google search for “green pest control companies” within the US will return nearly 3 million results. Clearly, there are a lot of PMPs that already ‘get it.’ ‘Green’ is no longer just a buzzword, regardless of how fuzzy and ill-defined the term may currently be.

So, the trend line is clear and inescapable. The future of pest control technology is indeed going to be ‘GREEN’ and those PMPs who ignore that trend line could experience a shrinking markets for their services. Consumers at all levels, whether corporate or individual, tend do business with companies whose implied or expressed values align with theirs, and this is going to be particularly true on broad social issues such as the environment and sustainability. These issues are now coming in to sharper focus in public discourse. As Jay points out, it’s up to the current generation of pest management professionals to understand the trends in consumer behavior, what’s driving them, and offer solutions that are appropriate for the current and future marketplace

At EcoRaider, we are committed to our belief in the “power of green” – the development of environmentally friendly, sustainable products for pest management professionals.


Michael Correll
Date: June, 2014