Home Cleaning & Maintenance Misunderstandings About Green Pest Management Clarified

Misunderstandings About Green Pest Management Clarified

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NATIONAL REPORT—“Green” is everywhere we look in today’s marketplace—“green building,” “green cleaning,” “green energy,” “green cars,” and yes, “green pest management.” But what’s in a name? Isn’t “green” pest management just another name for IPM (integrated pest management)? IPM has been around for a long time. The stated goal of IPM has always been to reduce the impact of pesticides on people and the environment. Isn’t that “green” pest management? Or, is “green” truly different than the way we have practiced pest management in the past, even IPM?

Confused? When I was first designated the “Green Guy” at Terminix International in 2008, even I was unsure. Terminix had been selling and practicing IPM for years. So what was so different about “green?”

After experimenting with a “green” pest management service plan in early 2008, Terminix learned that “green” really is different than the way IPM was practiced in the past. IPM is a concept, a philosophy. But “green” takes IPM one step further by creating very specific rules and processes. Customers have very different expectations when a product is labeled “green.”

In March 2009, Terminix officially launched EcoControl, a commercial service plan that conforms to the standards of National Pest Management Association’s GreenPro and to the protocols of “Green Cleaning: Indoor Integrated Pest Management” of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Building Rating System.

Sifting Through the Confusion

Since the launch of EcoControl in 2009, I have learned much about crafting a green service plan—lessons that can serve you well in crafting your own green design. First, we need to recognize the confusion and the misunderstandings about green pest management.

What’s “green?” “Green” is simply a popular buzzword for any activity that is environmentally responsible. It’s a catch-all term for adopting business and lifestyle changes to reduce negative impacts on the environment. Many of us are engaged in one or more green activities in our homes and in our businesses. Examples include recycling, weatherproofing, use of more fuel-efficient vehicles, routing and scheduling tactics that reduce miles driven, thereby reducing the use of fossil fuels, electronic filing and record keeping, thus reducing the use of paper.

OK, fine! But, what is this thing called “green pest management”? And, can effective pest management be truly green? One consumer in a focus group conducted by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) asked, “Aren’t ‘pest control’ and ‘green’ used in the same sentence an oxymoron?” Does “green” mean no pesticides and only natural products or pesticides identified in the San Francisco Reduced Risk Pesticide List? Is it least toxic, and what is least toxic? Are there shades of green? Is my green service greener than yours?

Needless to say, there is plenty of confusion to go around. If I were to ask 20 different pest management professionals (PMPs) to describe a green service, I am likely to get 20 different answers. Never mind the varied responses that I would get from consumers. If I were asked, I would say that any pest management service that was performed in conformance with the standards and protocols of a recognized third-party certifying organization such as the NPMA GreenPro Certified, GreenShield Certified or EcoWise Certified, could be called a green pest management service plan. These certifying organizations have laid down the rules and processes that move a service from the conceptual IPM to a true green service plan. But whatever your plan, any green service must start with communication.

Tip #1: Establish a Partnership

You must understand that green pest management is a cooperative effort. Your responsibilities include (naming just a few):

• Keeping a well-maintained, pest-proof structure;
• Ensuring that all doors and windows are properly screened and kept closed when not being used;
• Removing as much food for pests as possible;
• Employing proper storage tactics;
• Eliminating clutter;
• Practicing proper trash management;
• Maintaining solid landscaping practices by utilizing plants, shrubbery and trees that are not highly susceptible to honey dew-secreting insects, such as aphids and scale insects;
• Exercising proper light management;
• Preventing commonly controllable moisture conditions such as plumbing leaks, poor ventilation, poorly sealed windows, etc.; and
• Listening to and complying with reasonable recommendations.

Any customer who is unwilling to enter into a partnership with a PMP is not a good candidate for a green pest management service.

You should first set pest threshold levels before a conventional pesticide is used. Additionally, your service should follow a prescribed escalation process by employing non-chemical methods first, then low-impact pesticides if pests are still present, then conventional materials if needed. In other words, pest “control” may not be instant. Control may take a little longer.

Feedback is also critical to creating a solid partnership between a hotelier and a PMP. Methods of feedback may include pest sighting logs or regular interviews with the hotel owner. It is very important that there be a system whereby customers can provide information about pest activity, can comment about what is working and what is not and can share their reaction to the pest management plan.

Tip #2: Keep a Detailed History

At the very beginning of the service call, provide a history of past pest activity, pest management strategies that have been applied, past results and past experience with green strategies. This history provides you with vital information needed to formulate your green plan.

The PMP will survey both the inside and the outside of the structure and record any evidence of pests and conditions conducive to pests on a diagram, floor plan or map of the structure or facility. After completing the survey, the PMP will draft a written report. The report can be as simple as a checklist or as formal as a detailed written report complete with photographs.

Tip #3: Monitor

It is well known that early detection in medicine can often mean the difference between success and failure. Monitoring for early signs of cancer and heart disease is commonplace and is an integral part of any total wellness program.

The same is true in pest management. Monitoring has long been an important tool used in the IPM programs in agriculture, forestry and public health. In structural pest management, monitoring for pests is every bit as important. Early detection of pests through monitoring can often mean the difference between success and failure, especially in a green program and should not be thought of as optional. If we are to meet our goal of minimizing pesticide use and exposure, we must detect infestations early.

Every monitor should be numbered and accounted for on every service visit. Place your monitor locations on a floor plan or diagram. This will help you hone in on the source or location of the detected infestations and will help determine whether you are gaining control or not. Monitors include pheromone traps, sticky traps, glue boards, insect light traps and Detex Blox. When using monitors, it is important to remember the following:

• Monitoring devices are poor at controlling pests.
• Monitoring devices are excellent for determining the presence and source of pests.
• Even though monitors are our best and most sensitive tool for detecting pests, they are not infallible.
• Good visual inspections with flashlights and non-chemical flushing (heat and moving air) are still necessary.

Tip #4: Limit Your Target Pests

Not all pests in all situations are good candidates for green methods. Consider carefully whether you want to include such pests as carpenter ants, field crickets, stored product pests, fire ants or Argentine ants in your green agreement. While carpenter ants may not be a significant challenge in Southern California or Arizona, they can be a serious test in the Pacific Northwest. Fire ants may not be an issue for green control strategies in parts of the country with light pressure, but could be a nightmare in Texas or Florida. While many stored-product pests can be easily dealt with by non-chemical methods in most residential settings, they can be very problematic to control with green protocols alone in a commercial bakery. If you don’t feel that you can adequately control Argentine ants without doing periodic perimeter band/barrier treatments with conventional pesticides, then you should not include them in your green plan.

Limiting target pests on a green agreement signed with a PMP does not mean that services cannot be rendered to control these pests. It only means that the hotelier must understand that “excluded” pests may not be able to be controlled as part of the green service.

Tip #5: Control Conducive Conditions

A “conducive condition” is any condition that may contribute to a pest infestation. Conducive conditions include, but are certainly not limited to, the following:

• Commonly controllable moisture conditions such as plumbing leaks, poor ventilation, standing water, poorly sealed windows and doors that allow for rain seepage;
• Food debris;
• Clogged drains;
• Dirty drains;
• A dumpster within 50 feet of the structure;
• Heavy vegetation too close the structure;
• Improper lighting, such as mercury vapor lights directly over doors;
• Clutter;
• Poor storage practices; and
• Poor housekeeping practices.

Eliminating, or at least, significantly reducing conducive conditions, is paramount to the success of your green program. Rodent proofing, caulking and sealing, screening, installation of door sweeps, etc. enhance the effectiveness of IPM.

Tip #6: Know Your Targeted Pest

If there were ever a need to understand the history, biology and behavior of your targeted pest, it comes when a green pest service is performed. All living things need food, water and a suitable habitat space. Remove or limit any one of these, and you eliminate or limit the population potential.

Is it helpful for your PMP to know that Norway rats originated on the treeless grassy steps of Asia, where their only shelter was below ground or in amongst rock debris? Or that roof rats come from tropical regions where they mostly live and forage high in the trees? Or what about knowing that the German cockroach, in its native habitat, is a scavenger beneath the leaf litter on the floor of a tropical forest? The answer to all should be a resounding, “yes.”

This article first appeared in Pest Control Technology’s June 2010 edition. Lonnie Anderson is quality assurance manager for Terminix International, Memphis, Tenn. With nearly 35 years in the pest control industry, Anderson is an Associate Certified Entomologst by the Entomological Society of America. He can be reached at landerson@giemedia.com.

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