The calls from concerned homeowners carry a common theme: what can we do about mosquitoes? News reports documenting mosquito-borne illnesses like the Zika virus, and Lyme disease carried by ticks, have created an influx of inquiries from residents who want to know how they can prevent incidences of disease-carrying insects in their backyards. Even Calvin Kennon, general manager at Specialty Exterminating in Madison Heights, Va., noticed more franchise and lawn care businesses began selling mosquito control services. “We knew we could go in and be successful,” he says, “but we wanted to know what the best protocol for treating backyard pests would be.”
Kennon wasn’t the only pest management professional (PMP) asking that question. “Several PMPs came to Syngenta looking for a solution for backyard mosquito management issues,” says Dave McCormick, territory manager for Professional Pest Management (PPM) at Syngenta, North America. “Many had been using Demand® CS insecticide for years as a primary outdoor perimeter pest solution, and they were interested in using it for mosquito control.”
Mosquito control is a profitable, in-demand add-on service for PMPs. Mosquito treatments generated more than $157 million in revenue for PMPs in 2016, the majority coming from residential accounts1. Typically, mosquito control franchises offer a 21-day control program primarily targeting adult mosquitoes, McCormick relates, but this model is not viable for a PMP offering general pest control to customers on a bi-monthly or quarterly basis.
In response to PMPs’ desire to have an effective mosquito and backyard pest add-on service they could sell to clients, Syngenta rolled out its SecureChoice™ Mosquito Assurance Program. It was borne out of a partnership between PMPs, university collaborators and Syngenta to provide mosquito control tailored for residential use. “We are focused on helping PMPs’ businesses succeed,” says Steve Dorer, market manager for PPM at Syngenta, North America. “Secure-Choice supplies the technology, products, information, education and research to support PMPs’ businesses.”
The SecureChoice Mosquito Assurance Program provides the products and information so PMPs can use them in the best possible way to achieve optimum results, Dorer says. All PMPs have to do is contact an authorized Syngenta distributor. “PMPs qualify by purchasing the required products from our distributors and then using them according to the protocol,” Dorer says. Syngenta provides the support to execute the program so it creates a revenue-generator for PMPs.
Kennon says, “This is our second year using the SecureChoice protocol and our customers have been amazed. We sell it as a premium service and we’ve had some of our customers go around and tell everyone they know about it.”
DESIGNED FOR PMPs. Phil Koehler, Ph.D., University of Florida, is one of the researchers who has been testing the SecureChoice Mosquito Assurance Program treatment protocol. The program includes a protocol of treatment with Demand® CS insecticide and Archer® insect growth regulator (IGR) on or about every 60 days. It is targeted toward Zika vectors — mosquitoes that breed in small containers and in peoples’ backyards, and that are not flying more than a quarter of a mile as an adult. These mosquitoes fly during the day, so they are untouched by mosquito abatement districts’ nighttime spray applications. “The pest control industry is much better oriented [to control these vectors than mosquito abatement districts],” Dr. Koehler says.
During studies last year, Dr. Koehler and his team reported eight weeks of virtually 100 percent control using Demand CS and Archer as part of the SecureChoice Mosquito Assurance Program protocol. The protocol involves using a mist blower, which is an important aspect of gaining maximum control. “The mist blower puts out particles that are the right size for impinging on vegetation,” Dr. Koehler says. “And, in the process, the high wind velocity will blow the leaves up so you can treat the undersides of leaves easily, where mosquitoes rest.”
There are a combination of factors that contribute to the efficacy of the SecureChoice Mosquito Assurance Program, Dr. Koehler says. Those are: 1) the right equipment (a mist blower); 2) an adulticide with long-term residual control (Demand CS); and 3) a larvicide that prevents mosquito larvae from developing in small containers (Archer IGR).
The program protocol is referred to as the “PMP model” because it goes after those container-breeding mosquitoes most closely associated with residential and commercial structures inhabited by humans, McCormick says. Developing the program involved extensive research and field testing. “We actually did tests where we treated residential backyards and checked the populations over the course of a summer,” he says.
The goal was to create a program that fit into the PMP business model — as opposed to what was mostly available in the market from other types of providers offering a 21-day service. “We knew PMPs were not interested in doing a 21-day adulticide application only, and because Demand CS is a fast-acting, microencapsulated and long-residual adulticide, using the IGR along with it helps keep mosquito populations low because it works to prevent future populations,” McCormick says.
A model combining an adulticide and an IGR spray, the use of a larvicide in standing water and customer education as part of an overall IPM program results in extended control for up to 60 days rather than the customary 21 days. “That is much better for the pest management industry,” McCormick says.
The application timing of the Secure-Choice Mosquito Assurance Program gives pest control companies an opportunity to upsell pest control services to a bi-monthly plan. “They can move customers to a bi-monthly program for pest control and mosquito control,” McCormick says. Or, PMPs can run separate mosquito control crews that service only those accounts every 60 days, leaving quarterly general pest control to other crews.
The purpose is to provide options that enhance PMPs’ business models. “We wanted them to have the flexibility to do whatever fits best with their business model, and we knew this model would be better for the pest management industry than timing an adulticide spray every 21 days,” McCormick says.
A BOON FOR BUSINESS. As for results, PMPs who are using the SecureChoice Mosquito Assurance Program report excellent control and are pleased with the additional revenue stream from offering a mosquito control program.
Linwood Shifflett, general manager for Intrastate Pest Control in Charlottesville, Va., and Valley Termite and Pest Control in Staunton, Va., started offering the program for mosquito control services two years ago. “It has helped boost our revenue while satisfying nearly all of our customer needs,” he says. “We offer the service on an every-other-month basis. The plan also greatly reduces our callbacks, which is a mutual benefit for both our company and our customers.”
Additionally, Shifflett has integrated the SecureChoice Mosquito Assurance Program with other products to create what his company calls a Platinum Plus Plan, a comprehensive treatment plan that helps not only control mosquitoes but also common pests such as ants, mice, rodents, spiders, crickets, fleas and ticks. “We also add stink bugs and ladybugs to the plan in the fall,” he says. “We are able to sell that plan that starts in April and goes through October, which works great in our region.”
Kennon calls the SecureChoice Mosquito Assurance Program “plug and play.” It helped that McCormick, his territory manager, provided hands-on training on how to use the mist blowers properly. “He came up to show us how they work, and we also watched videos, so we were set up for success from the get-go,” Kennon says. “It’s completely easy.”
Simplicity is the point. “It doesn’t take excessive training to employ the program,” Dorer says. “We are focused on making it easy to do. You purchase the products and use them as directed, and follow the protocol. PMPs are expected to see excellent pest control for the specified pests, and if they don’t feel they achieve that, we’ll work with the PMP to achieve that control, including and not limited to providing replacement products for the treatments in question.” This assurance removes any risk with trying a new program.
Kennon says he knew he could take McCormick’s word for it that the SecureChoice protocol would be effective if carried out according to the plan. “We had some experience with Demand CS already, so the protocol made sense. We had also just changed our company slogan to the ‘pest prevention partner,’ so this fits in with what we are trying to do as a business.”
And for the industry, the SecureChoice Mosquito Assurance Program supports a goal to help people live life uninterrupted by pests. Dorer says, “We are interested in minimizing how pest interrupt daily routines, personal health and well-being, and these protocols lead to removing the conditions that can cause pest infestations.”