4 predictions for the future of pest management


October 24, 2023

Judy Black

Judy Black, BCE

2033? It’s difficult to even comprehend how distant that feels — and at the same time, how the time will fly by. Here are some of my predictions on how the industry will have evolved by 2033 — the year the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) and Pest Management Professional (PMP) celebrate their 100th anniversaries — based on what I have seen and experienced in my more than three decades in the field:

1. Exterior rodent control programs will become more sustainable after undergoing significant changes in the next 5 to 10 years. Rodenticides still will be available, important and incorporated into rodent management programs, but we will no longer use them as rodent activity indicators. Monitoring lures will be paired with exclusion, habitat reduction, traps, cameras, electronic monitoring and sensing to provide customers with rodent management programs that are not too heavily weighted to rodenticides. What remains to be seen, though, is whether the pest management industry will have control of the steering wheel, or if regulation will be the driver. Simply put, we will not be servicing regularly spaced exterior bait stations with rodenticide in them in 2033. What our programs look like, at this point, are up to us. Let’s not let regulation drive us to sustainability; let’s make it our choice.

2. Remote monitoring and sensing will be practical for many pests, not just rodents. These devices will not completely replace physical visits, but they will decrease the amount of time we spend at each location. Keep in mind our effectiveness is not dependent on the weapons we use; it is dependent on the warrior who wields them. Our service personnel — our warriors — are always going to be crucial.

3. Artificial intelligence (AI) will play a significant role in training, identifying trends, analyzing trends and proposing solutions. It is a big world out there, with a great deal of fantastic information on how to best treat for pests. AI will allow that world to get smaller for our service and sales personnel. This means you won’t have to search through volumes of material to find a description of that one specific task you want to do: AI will find it for you quickly and will be able to comment on its potential effectiveness in your situation.

4. Urban entomology professorship endowments will be primarily funded by the pest management industry. If they aren’t, we will only have ourselves to blame for the disappearance of urban entomology programs. I’m using this column as a call to action for large, medium and small companies and manufacturers to recognize the value these programs bring to us by considering funding endowed professorships in urban entomology. The funding program must include protective language so the monies cannot be assigned to other areas of the university when endowed professors retire.

While I could go on with more process-oriented predictions, I want to switch gears as I get closer to retirement and say how confident I am that the industry is in good hands with technical expertise. I’ve been able to work closely the past few years with Rollins’ Glen Ramsey, BCE; Dr. Ben Hottel, BCE; and Ian Williams, BCE. All three are amazing urban entomologists with bright futures. They make me proud every day and give me confidence that as entomologists of my “era” retire, we are leaving the industry in good hands. (For those of you young urban entomologists I didn’t name, but whom I feel the same way about — I’ll text you a cat meme shortly!)

About the Author

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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 jblack@rollins.com.

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