Running fast, just to stay in place


October 17, 2023

Photo: Dr. William H. Robinson, PhD

Dr. William Robinson

The Red Queen in “Alice in Wonderland” explained we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place.

Today through 2033 — the year the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) and Pest Management Professional (PMP) celebrate their 100th anniversaries — the pace of technology breakthroughs will be faster than the record pace set the past 10 years. The science and the art of professional pest management are changing, so buckle up. Technology doesn’t take a break. Here are just a few of my observations:

  • Beyond origami. Pest monitoring and identification has changed little since glue boards went into ultraviolet (UV) insect light traps (ILTs), and folding sticky traps was an origami lesson. The sticky trap got a quick glance, and glue boards were replaced without identification of the captured. That routine behavior was a great loss of information, but that will change. Consider an ILT that provides real-time monitoring and identification of captured flies. The accuracy could be up to 95 percent for moth flies, phorid flies and fruit flies — and the trapa can send alerts when glue boards are covered.
  • Who dat? (Editor’s Note: Apologies to all the New Orleans Saints fans.) Today’s static images from many monitoring cameras provide only a moment in time, and it’s not in real time. Imagine real-time video coming to your phone showing pest activity at clients’ camera sites. Now there’s information on pest behavior, density and dispersal patterns. Think how that’s going to change management strategies for rodents and cockroaches indoors and outdoors. Keep thinking.
  • Regulation vs. education. Measuring the delivery rate of sprayers will become standard. The value of measuring application amounts usually is linked to reducing costs of overapplication. This is regulation: measuring what not to do. The other reason for measuring is to know what to do: education. The objective for measuring application can be to prevent underapplication and reduced efficacy. In other words, the future is in education, not regulation.
  • Illustration: retroimages/DigitalVision Vectors/Getty Images

    Illustration: retroimages/DigitalVision Vectors/Getty Images

    Good news. The next generation of pest management professionals (PMPs) will have the skill set of both book smarts and street smarts to match the coming technologies. New technology will appeal to this generation, and that interest will help attract and keep them and others engaged in applied technology. Women remain the best educated segment of the workforce, with more than 50 percent college educated. Their growing numbers will match the improved changes in equipment and customer service.

  • They’re baaaack. Those funky squares known as QR codes will continue to play a big role in technology transfer. Technology adaptation requires training, especially while being used on the job. QR codes provide instant links to websites or servers, which can improve training and reduce downtime. QR codes will make training material current and portable. The traditional training manual and other materials are static pieces of information that can quickly become outdated. QR codes can change that, without changing the funky little square.

As the Red Queen reminds us:

My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere, you must run twice as fast as that.

About the Author

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Dr. Robinson is a renowned pest control researcher and innovator who possesses half a century of experience studying and testing application technologies and techniques. Founder of the Urban Pest Control Research Center, he has served as technical director for B&G Equipment and The Fountainhead Group. Dr. Robinson can be reached at or 540-250-7765.

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