Demonstrate value, even in winter


January 29, 2020




When my techs make their quarterly winter visits, they’re often asked by customers why they’re bothering when the frost has killed off “all” the pests. What is a tactful way to respond, and are there things we should consider doing differently? —CURIOUS IN THE COLD


Our year-round job, regardless of pest pressure levels, is to educate our customers that the value we bring is not in “spraying pesticides,” but in evaluating, assessing and making recommendations to help prevent pest introductions into their homes and remediate pest infestations they currently have in their homes.

Take two exterior examples of what you might do in the summer that wouldn’t make sense in the winter:

1. Apply insecticide granules or granular bait to the exterior perimeter. Both of these are worthy applications in the summer based on your observations, customer reports or past history. However, in the winter, with no pest pressure or possibly even no pests present at all, these applications are a waste of time and money.

2. Use liquid residual around entry points. This is another worthy application type in the summer. However, unless you are applying into a protected entry point, such as a gap that leads to a void, product you leave exposed on the outside of the house is not going to survive until your next application in harsh conditions. Again, are you actually preventing anything from getting in when there is nothing active?

What can you do on the exterior? Certainly inspect, remediate any structural issues that you can, and recommend repairs to the customer for things you can’t fix. Keep in mind — and point out to the customer — that structural entry points for pests also are heated air exit points. Fixing these pest entry points can help reduce their heating bill. That’s value!


What can you do on the interior to add value? This is a bit different, thanks to the fact that pesticide applications will not be subject to the potentially harsh weather conditions on the exterior. Still, we need to think about what is going to happen to that application over the next few months, before we return for service: Will there be insects to come across that application? What are some non-application actions we can take?

Also, there may be structural issues that are more evident when seen from the interior than the exterior. Do they have stacks of Amazon boxes from holiday gift-giving that might bring in or harbor pests? Have they seen any pantry pests for which you can inspect?

These actions and recommendations help demonstrate your skills as a well-trained pest management professional.

Don’t you … forget about mice

Several years ago, I got a wake-up call with regard to how active mice can be, even in subzero temperatures. I received a new sleeping bag for Christmas, so I decided to go winter backpacking. (This does not even make the Top 20 of crazy things I have done.) That first night, temperatures went down to around 10°F, and we got an ice storm. A very nice ranger asked whether we wanted him to drive us out, but we refused – because we had these really nice sleeping bags.

After a sleepless, hypothermic night, we learned in the morning that our stuff, which had been out in the open because we had no tent, had been ransacked by mice while we “slept.” I took away two lessons from this experience:

1. Never underestimate the level of cold in which a mouse can be active.

2. Don’t believe the weather-rating stickers on sleeping bags.

Email your questions about insect identification and pest management technologies to Your questions most likely will be printed and answered in one of Pest Management Professional’s upcoming columns.

BLACK is a PMP Hall of Fame member (Class of 2019) and VP of quality assurance and technical service for Rollins Inc. She may be reached at

Leave A Comment

  1. I take issue with this article. We use granules that last 90 days, kill insects and repel snakes rats and mice–even in colder weather, including snow.

    As for our exterior applications, our treatments with micro-encapsulated products does hold up when we get warmer days in February when boxelders and stink bugs emerge to sunbathe and try to reenter around windows and doors. We found out the hard way before offering these services, so I know this article is inaccurate by experience with seven technicians.

    1. Heather Gooch says:

      Thanks for writing, Greg. We reached out to Judy, and this is her response: “I do recognize that there is more than one way to kill a cockroach, so to speak, but I think there are two points I’d highlight from the column that you may not have considered.  You only have a certain amount of time to profitably service an account. What is the best use of your time in the winter? Take advantage of that interior time to target treatments, inspect and build relationships. In the summer, the best use of your time is clearly on the exterior. From an environmental standpoint, are exterior applications that might, possibly, maybe have an impact on a couple of boxelder bugs worth introducing into the environment? In my opinion, no.”