— This article by Jerry Cates was first published on 14 May 2016 and last revised on 14 January 2018. © Bugsinthenews Vol. 17:05(02).
Not Our First War on Noxious Pests…
In 1986 EntomoBiotics Inc. (EntomoBiotics), which was at the time only six years old, declared war on the German cockroach. At the time Texas nursing homes were overrun with them, and nobody could bring them under control. When everybody else had thrown in the towel, we got to work finding a way, because a good solution was sorely needed. It turned out that beating Blatella germanica was not only hard work, it had to be done scientifically. Strict sanitation (we scrubbed kitchen floors, cleared the gunk from under refrigerators, behind and under dishwashers, and removed trash from closets in many a nursing home), applications of juvenile hormones to stop cockroaches from reproducing, and implementation of novel ways to inject low-toxicity pesticides in cracks and crevices where cockroaches breed and hide, slowly but surely wiped them out. News we could resolve German cockroach infestations with a minimum of pesticides spread. Soon we were servicing over 70 nursing homes scattered all over Texas, and all were soon totally free of German cockroaches. Our Texas nursing facility clients enjoy cockroach-free environments today.
In 1990 we declared war on imported fire ants and won again. As with cockroach control, we used a scientific approach that targeted fire ants specifically and left all the other beneficial organisms in the environment alive. That unique fire ant control methodology — embraced by EntomoBiotics Inc., but shunned by the majority of pest management companies that provide fire ant control in the U.S. today because of its labor intensive nature — is the only way we treat fire ants today, but we’ve added a bunch of improvements that new research has provided. And because it protects beneficial organisms, it does not cause the inevitable increase in the populations of other noxious pests characterized by other fire ant control programs.
In 1995 we declared war on termites and launched our most extensive research project yet. Before long we had been awarded six patents by the U.S. Patent Office, and were bringing termites under control all over Texas. Today 0ur reduced risk, low-toxicity, fully guaranteed approach to termite control is second to none and includes every species of termite in Texas, including the Formosan termite that is now ravaging parts of Central Texas.
About the same time, we declared war on houseflies. Flies were pestering nursing facilities all over Texas, spreading disease and making life miserable for everybody. We took the bull by the horns, found the best control products and methods for the job, and learned how to use them right. When absolutely nobody else could bring flies under control, we could, without using pesticides that lace the air we breathe. As with all the other wars we’ve fought, we got used to being called from all over Texas to solve intractable fly issues, and we never lost the fight wherever we were called to do battle.
Over the years we’ve also declared war on spiders, snakes, mites, ticks, bed bugs, wild animals, and — you name it — if it’s a pest, lives in Texas, and represents an unusually serious threat to human health, we’ve declared war against it. And every time we’ve done that, we’ve won the war. That’s not bragging. It’s just telling it like it is…
So… What about Mosquitoes?
Before now we’ve never declared war on mosquitoes. Why not isn’t that complicated. Mosquitoes are noxious pests, but in North America the risks from mosquito bites have not — until recently — been thought to be very great. Perhaps most important, though, is the fact that the challenges to good mosquito control are daunting, particularly because traditional methods include lacing the air the mosquitoes fly in, and that humans breathe, with pesticides. Throughout the history of EntomoBiotics we’ve been very reluctant to employ that kind of pest management methodology, because — no matter how you do it (or say you do it) — it is simply too dangerous for humans and our pets.
As long as mosquitoes appeared to pose no greater risk to Texans than that represented by West Nile Virus (80% of those infected with WNV have no symptoms; of those with symptoms, less than 1% suffer neurological complications), we stuck to a three-pronged approach of recommending (1) traditional methods of mosquito breeding prevention, alongside (2) copious applications of mosquito repellant, while (3) we researched, formulated, and tested a variety of natural, herbal-based liquid and granular habitat modifiers and cleansers capable of creating environments that neither nurture or attract mosquitoes. That last part, making effective mosquito-related habitat modifiers in our laboratory, has been gaining ground of late, but we know that approach, by itself, is unlikely to achieve the status of a true silver bullet.
Today, though — with the introduction of the mosquito-borne Zika virus into North America — we need something very much like a silver bullet. Badly, and right now. It is time for EntomoBiotics to wage war on mosquitoes. And it is time for us to win that fight. As with all the other insect wars we’ve fought in the past, we don’t expect to find a silver bullet to use against mosquitoes, we are convinced that a combination of strategies, used in concert, will have the potential to produce results every bit as dramatic as those expected from one.
Here is the promise in 2016, made by our lead researcher and the author of this article, who has been a serious student of mosquito biology since 1963:
First — We are going to wage war on mosquitoes, we are going to win that war, and we are going to do it right.
Second — Doing it right means that, in the process, we will continue to steer away from any methodology that involves lacing the air that humans breathe with pesticides, because conquering one problem by introducing another is not an option.
Third — We’re going to wage this war against mosquitoes without using any synthetic, non-biorational or non-biological pesticides whatsoever.
Fourth — we are going to win the war on mosquitoes without having to charge outlandish fees to do so.
Those promises still stand, but we are making some changes in our original plan of development.
Our intention, initially, was to enter both the commercial and residential mosquito control markets. We did so, and our reception in the commercial market was gratifying. That was not so, however, with the residential marketplace, at least at the very beginning. Homeowners were being bombarded by so many new mosquito control programs, offered by newly formed companies devoted to mosquito control, that they hardly knew which to choose.
Companies with fast-talking sales personnel, mostly consisting of young men with little or no experience in entomology, much less vector ecology, saturated the field with promises to solve that challenge with hyperbole, and that is something we won’t do. So, for 2017 at least, we completely withdrew from the residential mosquito control marketplace. It was not an easy decision to make, but a necessary one.
During 2017 we continued our research, and continued servicing the mosquito abatement devices we had installed at our medical, nursing, and hospital sites.
Now, in 2018, we have settled on a set of devices that meet every one of the criteria we established at the start, and we are now ready to re-enter the residential marketplace with gusto.
More To Come…
Taxonomy: A thorough taxonomical treatment of mosquitoes is provided in a separate article posted on this website entitled Mosquitoes of Texas and the Southeastern United States.
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