Thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the annual pest management conference that has historically taken place on the West Lafayette, Ind., campus of Purdue University took place on attendees’ digital devices instead. For the first time in the event’s 85-year history, attendees went online to watch presenters and receive their continuing education units (CEUs) for a number of states. A virtual “trade show” also was part of the online activities, as were a few networking options and the semi-annual Pi Chi Omega membership meeting.
If there were a silver lining to going online instead of meeting in person, several attendees noted, it was the fact that one could pause a prerecorded presentation and pick up as their schedules allowed. The event itself was live from Jan. 11-14, but the archived presentations were available through Jan. 16. Because each prerecorded presentation was followed by a live question-and-answer session that was scheduled for an hour, there was another unforeseen benefit: In years past, Purdue’s packed schedule meant that presenters had only a few minutes at the end of their time slots to take questions from the audience. This year, nearly every presenter took advantage of the allotted 60 minutes live with audience members. They were able to dive in-depth into questions typed into the chat box feature of the online interface.
The 86th Purdue Pest Management Conference is set, tentatively in-person, for Jan. 10-12, 2022. The planning committee currently is exploring a hybrid version, where there could be online components for interested pest management professionals who are unable to travel. Stay up-to-date on announcements for the event on the Purdue website.
To open the conference, Dr. Gary Bennett, professor emeritus of Purdue University (and a Pest Management Professional [PMP] Hall of Famer, Class of 2006), prerecorded welcoming remarks to attendees.
“It’s incredibly important to frame all of your responses in terms of the word risk, rather than safety,” Amy Cross, a National Pesticide Information Center project coordinator, noted during her presentation on “A Practical Approach to Risk Communication.”
Industry consultant Jeff McGovern, The Resource Shop, reminded attendees to strike the balance of taking care of all the necessary precautions for COVID-19 with making sure “the pests don’t win” at customer accounts.
Jake Plevelich and Ashley Amidon, CAE, gave updates on industry regulatory issues on behalf of the National Pest Management Association (NPMA).
PMP Hall of Famer Dr. Bobby Corrigan (Class of 2008) kicked off Day 3 of the conference with a master class on rodent control. Although he’s considered to be the industry’s foremost rodentologist, he reminded attendees “we’re all students of this complex animal.” Sylvia Kenmuir, BCE, of BASF, followed Dr. Corrigan’s presentation with a discussion of rodenticide formulations and what PMPs should know about them.
“We don’t make a lot of the products you buy,” quipped Purdue University’s Dr. Mike Scharf during his presentation of his research department’s termite work. “We make a lot of the products you buy better.” His presentation was one of four parts; the others were presented by Dr. Jason Meyers, BASF; Dr. Jim Fredericks, NPMA (and PMP’s “Callback Cures” columnist); and Jay Kelley, Office of the Indiana State Chemist.
“What pest is going to be next? Whatever it is, it better have a pretty cool name, because it has to compete with the murder hornet,” Mark VanderWerp, BCE, manager of education and training for Rose Pest Solutions, joked during his “infotaining” take on “Pests in the News.”
The event’s final presentation was conducted by the University of Kentucky’s Dr. Zach DeVries, who gave attendees an overview about cockroaches.
Keith Markun, VP of the National Wildlife Control Operators Association (NWCOA) and a wildlife control company owner and expert, educated attendees on woodpeckers: biology, behavior and management.
Dr. Rick Vetter, University of California Riverside, educated attendees on how to talk to customers about spiders, and dispelled some myths.
Dr. Grzesiek Buczkowski, Purdue University, focused on the biology, behavior, control and research updates for odorous house ants.
Not-pictured presenters included:
- Gene White, Rentokil, explained how “five-minute fixes” like exclusion and other preventive pest control techniques can be a game-changer for your customers.
- Rich Kammerling, RK Pest Management, offered attendees “an auditor’s view on pest sensors.”
- Jeremy Jackson, Douglas Products, gave a fumigation update.
- Lee Green, Indiana Department of Health, discussed the Eastern Equine Encephalitis outbreak that occurred in Northern Indiana in 2019.