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ANT MANAGEMENT: CHANGE YOUR THINKING

Savvy pest managers can turn a one-off ant job into an ongoing pest management program with a little bit of clever thinking.

Ant management has always been a favourite of mine. Ants have the fascinating biology of being a social insect, but they don’t attract the litigation risks associated with termite management. They are also a lot easier to observe than their subterranean cousins. It’s a shame, though, that the financial rewards for ant management aren’t as lucrative as for termite management, however there is still good money to be made from ant management.

When I first made the move to a warmer climate and started out on my own in Noosa on the Sunshine Coast, one of the first things I noticed was people’s attitudes towards ants. The general consensus was that there’s not much you can do about ants, they are part of the environment and you just have to learn to live with them. But this obviously didn’t sit well with the thousands of tourists visiting this popular destination nor the constant flow of ‘Mexicans’ permanently moving to the sunny coast for a semi-tropical retirement. The combination of mild winters, high rainfall and lush tropical gardens full of golden cane palms made for an ant oasis. Resort managers along with homeowners were in desperate need of a solution. Luckily for me, the pest industry had made some major advances in ant management at the time. The registration of Termidor for ants was a real game changer for our industry, along with some good quality ant baits that really boosted our available arsenal against ants.

The key however was managing clients’ expectations and perceptions of ant management. Our industry was already promoting the concept of pest management rather than pest control, but most homeowners and resorts still only got their annual pest control treatment. These treatments were aimed at the control of typical household pests, particularly spiders, cockroaches and silverfish but typically did not include ants in the warranty. Because let’s face it, ants are tough and to expect a single treatment with your typical synthetic pyrethroid to fix a property with an extensive ant infestation was a big ask. Ants typically account for most callbacks, so for some pesties it’s sometimes easier to admit defeat. But for the professionals amongst us, we just need to change our approach – or more importantly, change our clients perceptions’ – of what is required. And by that I mean think of an ant management program as having a staggered approach rather than being a single treatment.

Changing a client’s perception of what is required is actually a lot easier than one would have thought. It is much easier to sell 12 months’ worth of ant management than selling a couple of treatments and expecting them to last a year. Clients can soon see the value in a program and the potential flaws in a single treatment. There is nothing revolutionary about a pest management program; essentially, a pest management program is an initial service with a few extra services to support your initial treatment. The tricky part is pricing it right and not cutting your own throat by not factoring in enough services. If you have priced it right and it takes a few extra services, so be it –but if it takes you less, everybody’s happy. Experience will dictate what it will take to achieve the level of control you and your client desire.

How you carry out an ant management program will depend on many factors: ant species, level of infestation and structure type, just to name a few. For us a typical 12-month ant management program on a strata-managed property would consist of six-monthly thorough external treatments of the building exterior, grounds and boundary lines with a non-repellent insecticide. Then a four-week follow up post each external treatment, internal baiting if and only when required, and any service calls when requested. This treatment plan filled a much-needed void in each resort’s overall pest management plan and gave me a foot in the door to fast-track my business. It wasn’t long before my reputation filtered back to the body corporate managers and we soon secured the remainder of the pest management contract, as well as several other resorts.

Ant management is simply about using our skills, knowledge of ant biology, and the excellent products available to deliver a service that reduces the level of ant activity back down to an acceptable level.

 

Jay Turner, Laguna Pest Control, Pest Manager of the Year 2017

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