As we celebrate Earth Day 2021, Kevin Hathorne, Technical Director and Board Certified Entomologist, reflects on the important role our Terminix Service, Inc. team plays as both pest management professionals and stewards of the environment.
Whenever I do school presentations and discuss my passion for insects, I sometimes get the question, “If you like bugs so much, why do you work for a company that kills them?” I explain that pest control companies are certainly not in the business of simply killing bugs, and certainly not all bugs. We manage pest populations in and around people’s homes and businesses to improve their health and well-being. Cockroaches contaminate foods and spread diseases and are a leading cause of asthma in children. Ants can be an incredible nuisance, can contaminate foods, and some species like the red imported fire ant can sting. Bees and wasps, spiders, mosquitoes, some flies, scorpions, and other bugs that bite or sting can spread diseases or cause life-threatening reactions to those who are allergic. Carpet beetles and clothes moths ruin fabrics, and there are several species of pantry pests that contaminate our foods. All of these insects and related arthropods are vital to the ecosystem in natural environments. We are not concerned or even interested in eliminating them—we only want to keep them out of your homes and businesses to minimize the public health risk (can you imagine a hospital with a bug problem?)
Pest management professionals, at least the good ones like those I work with at Terminix, don’t want to harm non-target organisms, or contaminate water sources, or cause any kind of upset in the ecological balance. However, I’m not naïve. I know sometimes these things happen when people overuse pesticides, or apply them in areas they should not be applied. Pesticides, and really the whole pest control industry, are heavily regulated by multiple agencies on the federal, state, and local levels. People licensed to apply pesticides must follow EPA generated guidelines for application and there are consequences when they don’t. At Terminix Service, we have intensive training to ensure applicators follow label directions and take steps to minimize effects on the environment. Products we use today are much less toxic to the environment than they were many years ago and application techniques are more focused and targeted. Pest control companies employ entomologists like myself to help make sure our services are conducted in a responsible way.
There are many home and business owners that choose to do their own pest control, but I believe this is a mistake. Pesticide labels are complex and must be applied properly for the safety of the user and surrounding environments. We, as pest control professionals are regulated and trained to follow the directions for application, and we are trained to find solutions to pest issues using less toxic products like baits, and the elimination of conducive conditions. We work hard to educate our customers on ways to help reduce pest populations around their homes through sanitation, harborage removal, exclusion, and landscaping so hopefully, chemical treatments aren’t necessary. Our knowledge also allows us to educate the public on which pests post a public health risk and which ones are not pests and require no control efforts.
My education as an entomologist and my role as a pest management professional allows me to share what I know with others and serve as a steward of the environment.