Editor’s note: In many areas of the country, late fall is peak for the adult deer tick population and resulting cases of tick-borne illnesses. In the following article, Bob Maurais, president of resource center Mainely Ticks, discusses how PMPs can expand their role as protectors of public health by increasing their focus on tick education and prevention. An expanded version of this article appears in PCT’s soon-to-be published November issue.
Media coverage and conversations surrounding the Zika mosquito virus have diverted attention away from the ever present reality of Lyme and associated tick borne diseases (TBDs). While it is prudent to prepare for the inevitable spread of the Zika virus in select geographic areas of our country (being ever mindful of already established EEE and West Nile), we must acknowledge that TBDs are not only present and endemic in many parts of the United States, but are increasing at an alarming rate.
While the fall months are not peak for the actual transmission of Lyme disease, fall is the peak season for the adult deer tick in many areas of the country. As busy families settle in with back-to-school activities and enjoy the upcoming holiday season, it is easy to see how communities can overlook what many believe to be a summer phenomenon.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR PMPs…BEYOND AREA TREATMENTS. Education and awareness are essential elements in a sound Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategy, particularly one that reduces future tick encounters for humans and companion animals. This effort must be collaborative in nature among the local PMP and the general public, veterinarians, health-care professionals, youth groups and municipalities. IPM strategies should include:
- A thorough understanding of tick biology, species distribution and associated pathogens.
- Acknowledging the impact of recent changes in tick population that may be attributed to ecological changes and shifts in land use, a healthy deer herd and/or abundant rodent population
- Improved identification and surveillance of ticks.
- Understanding the 2-year life cycle of deer ticks.
Create a partnership with customers educating them to:
- Become proactive rather than reactive.
- Identify and avoid tick habitat.
- Properly identify and promptly remove attached ticks.
Provide timely outreach and valuable educational resources to current homeowners, new customers, Lyme support groups, businesses, community groups, youth groups (Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, American Camping Association, local youth sports teams), healthcare professionals (doctors, school nurses, veterinarians, local hospitals, quick care clinics, sports clinics, etc.), community groups (libraries, adult education, Rotary, Kiwanis, additional fraternal organizations), municipalities and other government agencies.
TICK MANAGEMENT THROUGH EDUCATON AND SCIENCE. In late 2004, my brother Ed and I combined a talent for business with a passion for education which led to the formation of Mainely Ticks, with a focus on providing residential tick control while educating the public at large about ticks and tick-borne diseases in Southern Maine. Our mission is protecting people, pets and properties from ticks and tick-borne illnesses with a personal, professional and effective tick management program centered around education and awareness. Tick Management through Education and Science reflects our commitment to educate first.
Our IPM program began in 2005; Ed taking on the role of lead customer relations officer and spray technician and I, the teacher, visiting individuals and neighborhoods, while developing and presenting educational workshops to raise the level of education and awareness. The first year allowed our team to test the marketing concept behind the education and awareness program along with the science behind our services. The results from that first year-end customer survey were overwhelmingly positive and our two-man company booked revenue of $29,369 for the year (6 months). Ten years later, with four full time and four seasonal employees, revenues for the 6-month spray season of 2015 were $463,000, with a healthy 19% increase YTD for 2016.
Since inception, increasing the level of education and awareness of ticks and tick-borne diseases has been the highest priority of Mainely Ticks. My wife Barb (also an educator) and I have focused our energy and efforts on providing numerous community based educational seminars, disseminating information and educational materials to homeowners, building and maintaining our educational website, providing content for various newspaper articles, and offering occasional commentary for local television and radio interviews.
THE ART OF LEARNING. As a professional educator, I recognized early on that children learn best when they are actively engaged in a “hands-on, minds-on” learning environment that allows them to see relevancy in what is being taught. As an industrial arts instructor, I witnessed first-hand how important it was that youngsters be encouraged to solve problems with their hands as well as their minds. As I transitioned from my role as Industrial Technology instructor in the classroom to a “Residential Tick-nology” teacher in the field, I continue to see value in the real world, real time kinesthetic approach to connecting with and educating my perspective customers.
Mainely Ticks provides customers with an educational brochure, tick identification guide and magnified fine-pointed tick removal tweezers. Within minutes of meeting a new customer at their home, we hand them our educational brochure, tick identification guide and magnified fine-pointed tick removal tweezers. Many who call for our services report a recent tick encounter. Our conversation with the customer allows us the opportunity to review the tick ID guide to identify the species of the attached tick and demonstrate how to properly remove a tick using the tick removal tweezers. We ask that they review the contents of the educational brochure while the site survey is conducted, and once completed, specifics of the quote are reviewed and additional questions answered.
In our fast paced Instant Messaging, Facebook society, many have forgotten the value of a face-to-face connection and the feel of quality educational materials and tools. Our innovative hands-on awareness and education program along with the presentation folders and tick removal kits are truly unique.
Tis the season to protect and to prepare…as pest management professionals, our collective efforts to raise the level of awareness on all vector-borne diseases must be proportional to the ever increasing threat. The opportunities to increase both revenue and goodwill have never been better.
When it comes to vector-borne illnesses, Prevention is the BEST Prescription!
Learn more tips to prevent ticks, contact EHS Pest.