Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Holiday Gifts for PMPs

It occurs to me that every other profession in the world has holiday gift list blogs, so why not pest control? If I was more organized (and female) I would have posted this blog two months ago, but I figure better late than never. Guys, you can add these ideas to next year's wish list.

I have at least a few ideas. One I saw at last week's Entomological Society of America's annual meeting was an affordable, portable microscope. Now it's only 20X, but I like it better than the little Radio Shack "microscopes" that turn your images upside down and backwards. It is sold by BioQuip Products for $85. It is a binocular dissecting scope similar to most microscopes used by professional entomologists, so it allows for 3-dimensional viewing. A 20X scope is not adjustable (my office Wild scope is adjustable and goes from 6X to 50X), but it should be adequate for most field identification tasks. Also nice about this item is that it has a battery-powered light, making the unit truly portable.

I've decided not even to try and describe the next idea, but if your taste runs to the creative and and you want a really unique gift check out http://www.insectlabstudio.com/?item/291 Suffice to say that you will have to see these pieces of art to believe them.

If you're into artistry in knives, the Tom Anderson "Termite" knife is a nice idea. My friend Grady Glenn gave me one of these knives a year ago and they are pretty cool. Designed to look like a termite, with segmentation, an eye and antennae, this knife makes a nice conversation piece as well as proving handy during termite inspections.

And I believe it's true that nobody in pest control can have too many flashlights. I just got a new mini Maglite LED flashlight which I think is great. It's bright and focusable light is adequate for indoor and outdoor use. It comes with belt holster and is so light you don't know you have it on--a huge improvement over my last model, which doubles as a self-defense weapon, and whose batteries need frequent replacement. Also, for you who have a need to fluoresce rodent urine or scorpions, Streamlight TwinTrak has a flashlight that cycles between white and UV lights, a nice feature.

Benny Mathis

I would be remiss if I didn't pass on the sad news of Benny Mathis' passing this month. The facts are that Benny Mathis, 63, former executive director of the Texas Structural Pest Control Board, died on Dec. 15, after a short battle with cancer.

As reported by PCT Media Group, "Mathis had been involved in the pest control industry since 1968. As Executive Director of the Texas Structural Pest Control Board, Mathis administered the laws and regulations governing pest control operators. Mathis worked diligently on implementing the Texas School IPM program. His active role on the penalty policy, legislative support, speaker of continuing education in major meetings with Texas Pest Control association, Texas A&M and Texas Tech left a major impact on the industry."

What's not reported is the kind of person Benny was. I have seldom seen a regulator afforded as much respect and friendship by people in the industry. He seemed to have a way of making people on both sides of an issue feel listened-to and important. Personally I had a lot of respect for Benny because of the way he embraced school IPM regulations back in the early 1990s. School IPM laws were the classic unfunded mandate, a burden on Benny's agency. The state in essence said, "We're giving you this incredibly challenging new law to enforce, and we want you to do it with your underpaid, overworked staff. See ya."

A lot of bureaucrats would have found a way to do the minimum, skirt the intent of the rules to ensure minimal disruption of the status quo. But Benny worked hard to make sure that regulations were in line with the intent to change how pest control was done in schools, and backed up his commitment with enforcement (even fines!) of school districts that did not play according to the rules. In my opinion, Benny is one of the reasons Texas has a strong school IPM program today.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Correction on Leaf Cutter Ant story

Apparently I jumped the gun last week when I posted the story (now removed) about PTM™ insecticide's supplemental label for leaf cutter ants. I did not do due diligence on the product before posting information about the label that I had received from some of my Forestry colleagues. In my story I implied that the product PTM™ was available for use in sites other than pine plantations and that PMPs might find it useful in their business, should clients have problems with leaf cutter ants.

Initial correspondence with BASF technical specialist, Dr. Bob Davis, indicates that I was wrong about this product being available for urban environments. I plan to issue further clarification after I speak with Dr. Bob, but until then my apologies to BASF and to anyone for whom this caused confusion or inconvenience.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

School IPM Coordinators Rock!

Approximately 200 school IPM coordinators met for the first TIPMAPS meeting in San Marcos TXNot many new associations get started with more than 200 people at their first meeting, but there was little doubt that last month's inaugural meeting was a success for TIPMAPS, the Texas Integrated Pest Management Affiliates for Public Schools. The group, the newest affiliate of the Texas Association of School Business Officials (TASBO), met for the first time on November 18 and 19 last month at the Embassy Suites in San Marcos.

The group, composed of pest management coordinators for public schools, came from all corners of Texas to talk about hogs and rats and bugs and bats and how to keep schools safe and pest-free using an integrated pest management (IPM) approach.

Pest control may seem an unlikely topic for school professionals, but don't try telling that to any of the representatives of 115 school districts present at the meeting. These folks are on a mission. "IPM is not just what we do," said TIPMAPS president Tom Ohm of Frisco Independent School District, "it is what we are." According to Ohm, IPM is important to maintain the health and safety of children as well as the structural integrity of the buildings which the public has entrusted [schools] with.

"What school IPM coordinators do for schools, while under-appreciated, is incredibly important and increases the quality of life for school children," said Gene Harrington, legislative liaison for the National Pest Management Association in Virginia. Harrington was a speaker and one of several out-of-state visitors who came to see what's happening in Texas. Harrington noted that Texas is a leader in the IPM movement and other states are watching carefully what is happening here.
First TIPMAPS officers (from left) Paul Duerre, Dixie Mathews, Tom Ohm and C.G. Cezeaux
At the closing business meeting, over 50 association members voted to adopt new bylaws and commit themselves to meeting annually in the cause of pest control with IPM. Officers of the new affiliate group include Ohm, vice president Paul Duerre of Killeen ISD, secretary Dixie Mathews of Arlington ISD, and treasurer C.G. Cezeaux of Spring ISD.

The closing of the business meeting was vindication of sorts for me and my colleague Janet Hurley, Entomology Program Specialist in charge of the school IPM program. We have worked for over two years to encourage and seek funding for this event. The conference is an extension of the work we have done for the past eight years to see more complete adoption of integrated pest management in public schools. As I told the meeting participants in the opening session, there was always some fear on our part that school IPM might be just another idealistic fad. But the meeting for us was concrete evidence that IPM has found a permanent place in the way we operate schools in our state.

Congratulations to the new officers and all the new TIPMAPS members. Texas will be a better place for your service to the cause.

Check out our short video with highlights of the meeting below.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Exotic pest problems bug Texas

A couple of weeks ago I made an off-handed joke about the way our state government seems to ignore exotic pest problems like Formosan termites. It's true that it is too easy for all of us, not just state government, to ignore problems...at least until they become our own.

Excuses aside, I need to give our state legislators their due when it comes to exotic pests.

On November 13 and 14 last month I got to participate in the 3rd Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Conference held at Trinity University in San Antonio. The meeting was organized by a new group, the Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Council (TIPPC). At the meeting I learned that the 2009 Texas Legislature addressed the issue of exotic invading pests by passing HB 865, established the Texas Invasive Species Coordinating Committee. The committee is composed of representatives from the Texas Department of Agriculture, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the Soil and Water Conservation Board, the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, the Texas Forest Service and the Texas Water Development Board. It is charged with coordinating state funding for invasive species-related projects. In addition, to just forming a committee the state also appropriated approximately $2.5 million to the exotic pest issue. Public education will be a priority for these funds, beginning with a $250K public education program targeting an important aquatic weed, giant salvinia, Salvinia minima, on four east Texas lakes.

It is yet to be seen whether any of this money will be directed toward exotic insect invasions, but at least its a start. For those of you in east Texas, especially boaters and bass fishermen, keep your eyes open for the Giant Salvinia Monster (TV spot) and the Hello/Goodbye campaign by Texas Parks and Wildlife. One ad design on this theme will be "Hello Giant Salvinia, Goodbye Fishing Hole", just to give you an idea.

For me, an eye-opener from attending this TIPPC meeting was learning more about exotic weed problems in the state. As campaigns to eradicate some of the newest invaders get started, it's conceivable that the pest control industry may be called on to help. Companies with an interest in weed control, and especially aquatic weed control, should stay tuned to the Texas Parks and Wildlife programs in this area.

Keeping up with bed bugs

I know I've posted a lot about bed bugs over the past year or so, and some of you may be wondering what all the hype is about. Bed bugs are in Texas and are growing in importance, but based on showing of hands at CEU conferences, it's still the minority of pest control companies who have experience with this pest in our state. That will change, I believe.

At last month's (very successful, by the way) school IPM coordinator's conference (more to come on that) I got to spend some time with Bobby Corrigan, the rodent expert coordinating New York city's rat control program. Bobby believes that were it not for bed bugs, the pest control industry would be in a heap of hurt in the Big Apple. Bed bug problems have provided business despite the economic downturn and dropoff in some other pest business there.

Bobby also recommended a website on bed bugs as one of the best. New York vs. Bed Bugs is a bed bug statisticsgrassroots advocacy movement that has created what is considered one of the premier online sites for information about bed bugs. Statistics on bed bug complaints to the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development tell an amazing story. Since the first logged complaints (2) in 2003, the annual number of complaints has risen to over 9,000 a year. According to one lawyer quoted on the site, "Most residential buildings in New York City have had bedbugs."

These guys know their bed bugs. The site is built a little differently than most educational sites. In the form of a blog, it can be a little confusing at first glance. A good place to start (at least for a technically oriented person like me) is the Resources tab. This tab provides links to a huge variety of topics, including research reports on bed bugs. One unusual resource I found here that might prove useful in educating customers is a Spanish-language video from Virginia Tech University. It's very simply delivered advice on basic do's and don'ts for apartment dwellers who encounter bed bugs. In fact there are several Spanish language resources on the site.

Oh, and if you're from Chicago area, Chicago has its own version of this site at http://chicagovsbedbugs.org/.

Another resource I recently discovered is a nice publication from Cornell University with the daunting title, "Guidelines for Prevention and Management of Bed Bugs in Shelters and Group Living Facilities". It seems to be very practically oriented and should answer many of the common customer questions such as, "how do I move and leave bed bugs behind?" It also includes many useful one-pagers such as "room preparation checklist for bed bugs".

Finally, I was pleased to learn that one of the resources I plugged about a year ago has been doing well. So well that Susan McKnight's bed bug interceptor is now being sold on Amazon. The bed bug interceptor is a trap that you install under the posts of your bed. Unlike the more Wang et al. bed bug trapexpensive, high-tech traps like Nightwatch and the CDC 3000, the Interceptor is simple in concept and use.

Using a similar low-tech approach, as reported in NYCvsBB, Changlu Wang and colleagues published some research this year in the Journal of Economic Entomology that describes a simple but effective bed bug trap made with materials available at your local hardware store. It turns our that a little dry ice in a Starbucks mug, a cheap chemical hand-warmer, and an upside-down dog food dish can prove an irresistible attraction to sneaky bed bugs. Rarely do you find a peer-reviewed scientific paper with practical information that you can immediately put to use in your pest control business. How about providing a service to hotels or apartment complexes, surveying vacant units for bed bugs?

You may be yawning and saying "ho hum", we don't do much bed bug work in Texas. But my advice is to bookmark some of these resources. You may need them some day.