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According to the PCT 2020 State of the Tick Control Market survey, 79 percent of pest management professionals apply appropriately labeled insecticides as the primary means to control ticks.

It’s an effective approach when directed at tick hot spots on properties as part of an integrated pest management (IPM) program, which also includes habitat management. In fact, the average callback rate for tick control service was 3.8 percent, found the survey, which was conducted in March by independent research firm Readex Research and sponsored by Central Life Sciences.

By comparison, the average callback rates for controlling ants, wildlife, cockroaches, rodents and mosquitoes were higher, found recent PCT surveys of the industry.

Opinions differ when it comes to the type of insecticide best suited for the job since there are a wide range of effective conventional and botanical tick management products. Here, PMPs discuss the pros and cons of each.

THE BOTANICALS. A number of PMPs use botanical oil-based products to control ticks outdoors. These products may be used as a standalone treatment or in combination with devices that manage ticks on rodent populations, such as tick boxes and tick tubes.

“We’re big on the cedar oil. We’ve seen great results over the years,” said Mark Constantino, owner of Arkadia- Eco Pest Control in Randolph, N.J. He began using these products 10 years ago when he founded the company, despite criticism from peers that they weren’t effective.

“The only way that we would grow is if our products worked, our services worked, but I never relied on just the products themselves. It’s knowing where to put them, when to put them down, and always keeping in mind IPM and habitat modification,” he said.

John Vollmer, owner of Tick Ranger franchises in Newtown and Rocky Hill, Conn., also uses a cedar-oil based spray for 95 percent of his customers. He began introducing this treatment protocol in stages six years ago because he didn’t want to lose clients if it didn’t work.

The first year, Vollmer converted 10 percent of customers to the organic spray and found the percentage of callbacks was the same as or very close to the callback rates for his use of synthetic pyrethroids. The following year, he converted 35 percent of clients, then 75 percent and 95 percent.

“We found that the organic (treatment) was a great marketing tool. We find that we get more customers because of it. It’s been working very, very well,” said Vollmer, who expected to grow his business to 9,500 customers in 2020.

In Indiana, Phoenix Pest and Wildlife Control uses a product featuring a blend of botanical oils with “pretty good success,” said co-owner Cassi Magnus. “It’s a more natural option and obviously with the concern for bees and things like that a lot of people enjoy having that option,” she said.

Vollmer says pest management companies should use the safest, most effective products; not just the cheapest ones. “We should think about what we’re doing to the environment; what we’re doing to animal life, frogs and newts and that type of thing. That is something I wish the industry would embrace a little bit more,” he said.

CONVENTIONAL TREATMENTS. “If you have the right product, you’re going to get great results,” said David Whitman, president of Connecticut Tick Control in Norwalk, Conn. He is not a proponent of botanical

insecticides. “They don’t work. These alternative products aren’t effective,” he said. However, if a customer doesn’t want conventional pesticides used and is OK with a lower efficacy, these oils may be a good option, admitted Whitman.

He encouraged PMPs to develop an IPM program that combines conventional insecticide applications, habitat modification, and eliminating ticks on rodents in the yard using a tick box device, which Connecticut Tick Control owns and manufactures. The devices can be used alone for clients who don’t want pesticides sprayed on their properties, although this approach takes two years to reach 97 percent effectiveness, he said.

Adam Ring, vice president of field operations at A-Action Pest Control in Antioch, Ill., uses a synthetic pyrethroid with a residual and that can withstand the elements for his yard-pest control program, which includes ticks.

“There are some products out there that are very inexpensive, but they may not last very long. We want to maximize profits and maximize customer satisfaction, so we’ll use a little bit better product, maybe a little more expensive, but we know it’s been tried and proven to last a minimum of 30 days,” he said.

Ring said his technicians take extra precautions to ensure the applied product does not leach or drift into bodies of water, which are plentiful in his region.

The author is a frequent contributor to PCT.

Source: Readex Research, Spring 2020
Source: PCT surveys via Readex Research, 2019-2020