What was the biggest challenge to providing ant control? Customers, said most PMPs who responded to an open- ended query in the 2022 PCT State of the Ant Control Market survey.
“If the homeowner will leave us alone, we can get rid of (the ants),” said Travis Morton, owner of Morton’s Pest Control in New Market, Alabama.
In follow-up interviews, PMPs pointed to customers who apply do-it-yourself insecticides or wipe up bait after technicians leave, or who call to complain they still see ants even though treatment may take several days to work.
“You have to be patient and explain to the customer that you didn’t get (ants) overnight and we’re not going to get rid of them overnight,” Morton said. When selling ant jobs, he teases customers that his team will become “part of the family” and in their homes until the ants are under control, “to let them know that’s normal.”
He also asks customers to help by improving indoor sanitation (don’t leave food out; wash dishes) and by eliminating conductive conditions outdoors (trim branches touching the house; remove dead wood near the house).
It helps to develop key talking points, to communicate these points in multiple ways (phone, in person, paper, email, text) and at different times during the sales and treatment process (initial call, inspection, treatment, follow up).
Before performing any treatment, ask customers if they used a product to try to control the ants themselves. Homeowners “absolutely” can make the problem worse using the wrong DIY product, especially when dealing with odorous house ants, said Ron Wikstrom, operations director of United Pest Solutions in Seattle. “It’s probably our biggest Achilles heel,” he said. But by knowing this upfront, his team is better prepared for the challenge.
Challenge #2: Weather
Many parts of the country experienced weather extremes in 2021 and this affected ant populations and control services, reported PMPs in follow-up interviews.
Drought, flooding and unusual temperatures made it difficult to apply pesticide products outdoors. It also influenced ant behavior.
In Kentucky, warmer winter temperatures made ants more active. “We’ve noticed we’ve had more calls during the winter for ants because our winters have been milder,” said Shawn Rich, CEO of Etown Exterminating in Elizabethtown.
But even way up north, ants were active in winter. “We have ants year-round. We’re constantly chasing them, even in the wintertime in zero-degree weather,” said Scott Elsner, owner of Bay Pest Solutions in Green Bay, Wisconsin. He thinks floors with radiant heating may contribute to this activity.
Ant activity is linked to weather. “It seems like when it is a dry summer, we have a lot of ant issues because they’re looking for the water,” and when it’s too wet outdoors, ants come indoors seeking higher ground, said Elsner.
Most pest control locations (47 percent) provided ant control services year-round to clients, found the 2022 PCT State of the Ant Control Market survey. The busiest season for ant service was early summer, reported 43 percent of PMPs.