Scott Ballard has been in pest management for more than 20 years, but he just started his own firm, Ballard Pest Management in Opelika, Ala., last year — at the height of the pandemic. “I found out quickly that the key to helping customers was to listen to their concerns and meet them where they were,” he says.

“For some people, that meant simply wearing masks and gloves while we were in their homes; for others, it meant doing perimeter treatments only. And while perimeter treatments can be helpful for general pests, they don’t do much when you’re dealing with a major German cockroach infestation. When we’d explain that, customers would often make arrangements to leave while we treated indoors. For those who insisted on perimeter treatments, we would comply but explain that more aggressive treatment would be needed once the pandemic passed.”

Ballard is among about 55% of PMPs who provided perimeter-only cockroach treatments in 2020; the other 45% either weren’t asked or didn’t see the value. This split is indicative of the very different experiences of PMPs during the pandemic. Cockroach work was simply business as usual for some, while others experienced fewer calls, limited access to homes or worse infestations.

Brian Winch of NSPE Services in Woodbridge, N.J., describes a situation he encountered. His multifamily accounts were particularly troubled by cockroaches during 2020 shutdowns, due in large part to the glut of food deliveries. “In every apartment complex we visited, we would see boxes of food just sitting in hallways, attracting cockroaches, or maybe even bringing them in. I can’t stress strongly enough what an issue this caused in our multifamily accounts.”

Just one more reminder of the hardiness and resourcefulness of cockroaches: They always find that opportunity to thrive.