One of my favorite parts of this job is the number and diversity of people with which I get to work. With your help, we’ve built quite a national network. For example, these blog posts go to 169 people from public health, universities, pest management firms, property management, government, and the general public.
As one of the hubs for pest information for housing, we often get e-mails from property managers or housing directors asking about pest control products. I commend those of you who have e-mailed me—you're trying to find objective, science-based facts before making purchasing decisions. Funds are limited and I don’t want you allocating resources towards something that won’t work any better than what you're using (or at all)!
You are still welcome to e-mail me (firstname.lastname@example.org). I can send an e-mail to university-based researchers to see if they have objectively looked at the product in-question. Or if you try something and have successes to report, let me know so I can share this with the researchers. The more effective tools we can get in our IPM toolboxes the better!
I wanted to post this week about your options for evaluating products that come across your desk. Here's what I'd recommend:
- If it’s a pesticide, you want to make sure it’s registered or officially exempt by EPA and your state pesticide regulatory agency. For more information and contacts, visit http://npic.orst.edu/reg/index.html .
Remember, there is no such thing as a non-toxic or non-chemical pesticide.
- If it’s a non-chemical product, think like the target pest and evaluate the product from that perspective.
For example, when I evaluate bed bug monitors, I think like a bed bug crawling to find a crack to hide in… From that perspective I ask myself whether the bed bug is likely to be caught on/in the monitor or if it will just crawl under the device and hide. Yup, I just asked you to think like a bed bug…
- Search Google Scholar with the product name and target pest for research and patent information: http://scholar.google.com/ .
You’re looking for INDEPENDENT research; that university or for-hire labs were not paid by the product manufacturer to do.
- E-mail me (email@example.com) to see if I know of any research on the product and I’ll send an e-mail to university researchers. You can also contact your cooperative extension office for some local knowledge. http://www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension/
- Ask the salesperson to provide you with their research procedures, results, and testimonials. Contact the people from whom the testimonial came and ask them some questions about how they are using the product and what kind of success they are having.
- Ask your pest management professional about the product.
- Get some free samples from the supplier and run a little test for yourself.
If you’re going to be an early adopter, at least be a skeptical one! If you are going to test a product you must have a control: a standard against which you can compare your test results. Don’t place a bulk order because it seemed to work and caught some bugs.
Note: Since many housing authorities do not have licensed pesticide applicators on-staff and you don’t want to risk unintended pesticide exposure, I don’t recommend you run pesticide tests on your own. Get a university-based professional, for-hire lab, or a PMP with research experience to run these trials!
Follow the scientific method to evaluate mechanical control tools like monitors and traps. This will not replace findings from an independent researcher, but should allow you to rule out products that do not work.
- Ask a Question: Does the product in question (widget A) work?
- Do Background Research: see above!
- Construct a Hypothesis: (Using monitoring devices as an example) If the product in question (widget A) works better than the existing method (widget B), then widget A should catch more of the target pest then widget B.
- Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment
- Gather materials: Samples of widget A. The more you get, the more confident you can be in your results. And an equal number of a proven product that is intended for a similar purpose (widget B).
- Pick locations: A few units with similar conditions and levels of infestation.
- Set up your study: place the devices according to manufacturer’s directions in the units. Put some of each device (both widget A and B) in each unit. If you can place a widget A close to a widget B and still follow the manufacturer’s directions, do so.
- Gather data: track the population levels/trap catches in all units for 2 weeks. You can pick the frequency that you check the traps. Daily is probably too much.
- Analyze results: look at the data and see whether it supports your hypothesis.
- Draw a conclusion: Does widget A work?
- Share your results: e-mail me your data and observations! Especially if your results show that widget A does NOT work!