Breeding ground for growth

Features - Lawn Care

Signs point to a big year for mosquito control.

May 31, 2022

Photo courtesy of Mosquito Joe

Demand for mosquito control has grown in recent years, and the setup heading into spring has many service providers feeling upbeat. “I base my sales forecast on historical data, along with an understanding of how mosquito populations breed,” says Jim Laramee, a NaturaLawn of America and Mosquito Ranger franchisee in North Attleboro, Mass. “The last three years have been our biggest growth years ever. I think people have been sitting around more and actually reading their direct mail. I think that has helped us and the entire mosquito industry because more consumers now realize it is an actual industry. Instead of spending money on vacations, a lot of people have been spending more money at home. I don’t think that will change this year.”

In New England, Laramee says last year’s weather conditions may also play a role in fueling demand this season.

“We had a lot of mosquito activity up here last year and had more rain than we’d had in probably 30 years,” Laramee says. “When you factor those high water tables with the heat and humidity we got, it created the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes.”

“Across the U.S., most regions experienced slightly above average to above average threat levels last year,” says David Price, an associate certified entomologist and technical director for Mosquito Joe. “Increased rain, combined with elevated temperatures, produced hotter and wetter climates than normal. We also saw several storm systems and hurricanes move across the U.S., causing flooding and leaving behind a tremendous amount of standing water — the perfect environment for elevated levels of breeding.”

Looking ahead to this season, Price predicts moderate spring mosquito pressure, referencing the following spring weather forecast:

Northeast — normal precipitation, above average temperatures

Southeast — below average precipitation, above average temperatures

Central — above average precipitation, above average temperatures

Southwest — below average precipitation, above average temperatures

Northwest — above average precipitation, normal temperatures

Looking ahead to the summer, Price anticipates above average temperatures and normal precipitation throughout most of the country, except for the lower Northeast where higher rainfall is expected in an area stretching to Florida and Illinois.

“The overall high heat and average precipitation will lead to moderate mosquito pressure this summer, except for those areas with above average precipitation that will experience higher pressure,” Price says.

Mosquitoes like to roost in areas that protect them from wind and sunlight, such as under decks or under the leaves of plants.
Photo courtesy of NaturaLawn of America and Mosquito Ranger

New species spell trouble

Rick Yates, a NaturaLawn and Mosquito Ranger franchisee in Wilmington, Del., says weather in the Mid-Atlantic region has been steadily warmer and wetter over the past five to 10 years. Based on that trend, he is expecting mosquito levels to continue increasing in his market. There is one species in particular that has been causing a lot of buzz in the Mid-Atlantic region.

“We have witnessed a dramatic increase in the Asian Tiger (Aedes albopictus) mosquito population in the past five years,” Yates says. “It is an aggressive daytime feeder, increasing the likelihood of finding and feeding on humans.”

Price says there are two other invasive species that have become established in the U.S. These mosquitoes have adopted behaviors similar to the container breeders typically found in backyards.

“One species, Aedes scapularis, is now established in Florida and has the capability of spreading across the South according to a study published in the Journal of Medical Entomology by Lawrence Reeves, Ph.D. et al,” Price says.

“This species can spread yellow fever, Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus and other human pathogens. The other invasive species, Aedes notoscriptus, was recently introduced into southern California and is rapidly becoming well-established. It has the potential to spread globally, according to another study published in the Journal of Medical Entomology by Marco Metzger.

“At present, this species has not been as well-studied as its cousins, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, because it was not associated with diseases like West Nile virus,” Price says. “However, it has been associated with the Ross River and Barmah Forest viruses in Australia, as well as canine heartworm in California.”

More consumers are gaining awareness of the value in mosquito control services, and they want to work with true professionals.
Photo courtesy of Weed Man and Mosquito Hero

Building awareness

The potential of mosquitoes spreading disease, or even just becoming a nuisance, is all some mosquito control professionals need when selling their services.

“More people are coming to realize that mosquito control services are even an option,” says Brandon Sheppard, a Weed Man and Mosquito Hero sub-franchisor and franchisee in the Southeast. “When you combine that with certain economic factors, such as many households having more disposable income on hand right now, a larger swath of the population becomes potential new customers.”

With COVID transmission rates still at a high level and people continuing to spend more time at home, the recipe is there for a strong mosquito control season this year.

“Our typical mosquito customer is at the higher end of the lawn care market,” Sheppard says. “They are not only spending more time at home but are also more concerned about their health.

“With the ongoing pandemic, the best way for people to gather with minimal risk is outside. Mosquito control provides an effective way for people to enjoy their property more, but also better protect the health of their family and pets.”

On the topic of health, Sheppard says the mosquito control industry has also gotten a boost from the veterinary industry. “Veterinary professionals have done an excellent job of drawing the connection between mosquitoes and canine heartworm,” Sheppard says. “It doesn’t take long for the average homeowner to think, ‘If mosquitoes can spread that to my pets, what might they be doing to me?’”

According to Sheppard, the ideal mosquito control customer wants to work with a professional. They want someone who is properly trained and licensed, but also very measured in how they make treatment choices. As Sheppard explains, treating for mosquitoes is about surgical precision as opposed to broadcast application.

“Mosquitoes are poor flyers,” Sheppard says. “They also have very soft bodies, so they can’t handle areas with a lot of wind or sunlight. Mosquitoes also want to roost in areas near where they are going to feed.

“This helps identify areas on a property that should be treated. For example, mosquitoes are going to be under porches and decks, under the leaves of plants and on low, shaded walls. This makes it possible for our applicators to target mosquitoes while protecting pollinators because pollinators go to flowers. Mosquito programs are very prescriptive and create an opportunity to highlight the professionalism of your company.”

Laramee has discovered that the potential market for mosquito control is larger than the market for lawn care.

“Lawn care is more of a luxury item whereas mosquito control is a necessity,” Laramee says. “Especially with people staying home more nowadays, having backyard firepit parties and the kids playing on the Slip ’N Slide, I think a variety of people are going to see the value in hiring a mosquito service. So, for lawn care, we like to target a certain income level and home value. For mosquito control, everybody is a prospect.”

As the market for mosquito control has grown, so has the number of service providers.

“This has become an extremely competitive service,” Yates says. “When we started more than 15 years ago, we were the only business in Delaware licensed to treat mosquitoes. Today there are dozens of companies offering this service. But because of that, one obstacle we no longer have to contend with is consumer awareness and skepticism.”

The author is a freelance writer based in Wisconsin.