In general pest control work, PMPs sometimes feel the need to make customers aware of the potential health issues related to certain insects — the impact cockroaches may have on asthma, for example. In rodent control work, customers are more likely to already be in the know. In fact, they’re sometimes paralyzed by fear when they discover they have an infestation.

“We’re in a region where we have seen some hantavirus cases related to deer mice,” says Steve Race of Pestmaster Services in Tucson, Ariz. “And while those cases are rare, some people jump to the conclusion that any rodent they see is carrying horrible diseases. Their fear is that what they don’t know will hurt them — and that can be true. So in addition to treating their infestations, we spend time educating them.”

Technicians at Rodent Solutions in Bradenton, Fla., provide customers with a handout titled “Help Us Help You,” which covers rodent-borne diseases and other health-related concerns. Owner James Knight explains, “I don’t believe in fear-mongering. There’s been I think only one reported case of hantavirus in Florida ever; the chance of getting hit by lightning or winning the lottery is probably greater. So while we do inform customers completely, we focus more on their particular infestation and what they might expect in terms of allergy symptoms, asthma and such. We also educate them about how to protect their food and discourage rodents from invading their living space.”

COVID-19 may have customers even more on edge than before, as nearly a third (31 percent) of 2020 State of the Market survey respondents reported positive impacts to their rodent control business since the pandemic began. People become more aware of infestations when they’re home all day working or home-schooling their kids, PMPs say, and populations have become more visible in some markets due to waning access to traditional food sources. On the other end of the spectrum, 16 percent reported negative effects of the pandemic, as household budgets have suffered.

“At first, we got a lot of calls because people were noticing more activity. And when the stimulus money came in, we saw a lot of business. As that money ran out, things slowed down, but we’re still up overall,” says Knight.