Facts from the frontline: Pest controllers share concerns for the future of the industry                                                                                                                               

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Laurence Barnard of BASF Pest Control Solutions, says the pest control sector has faced significant setbacks over the last 12 months, with various product withdrawals and rising business costs making it a challenge for technicians to work effectively and profitably.

For over a year now, I have been monitoring the difficulties faced by almost 400 pest controllers through my interactive talks at industry events. Not only has this allowed me to understand and uncover some of the biggest strains faced by those in the industry, but it has allowed pest controllers to connect and share their experiences with these difficulties.

Product withdrawal
The first question I ask technicians is which products they worry about losing from their toolbox. With a more complex registration process and increased associated costs, a number of active ingredients and products have already been withdrawn from the market, with more expected in the coming years.

To echo this loss, almost all active ingredients technicians were most concerned about losing have been withdrawn over the past 12 months.

Almost three-quarters of respondents shared concerns about losing Ficam, the bendiocarb-based insecticide for treatment of wasp, hornet, and ant nests. Ten per cent worried about the loss of Fipronil, the active chemical in BASF’s popular Goliath Gel and Formidor, and five per cent each shared concerns about the potential future loss of Difenacoum and Bromadiolone.

Further restrictions of effective products will continue to present challenges to pest controllers, with more changes expected in the future. The withdrawal of efficient chemicals and the slow and arduous process of getting new products registered, will undoubtedly cause significant challenges both practically and financially to the pest control industry.

The rise of Cholecalciferol
The digital survey also asked pest controllers about their use of Cholecalciferol, the active ingredient in the award0-winning Selontra. It found that only 40 per cent of pest controllers had used the active in 2023, whereas in 2024 this figure had grown to 60 per cent, demonstrating the efficacy and reliability of the ingredient, as well as the consciousness efforts to protect the wider environment and reduce the risk of secondary poisoning to non-target species.

Interestingly, cholecalciferol baits are not a new concept, but the rise and success of Selontra has meant that more pest controllers are turning to the soft block bait for quicker results in a time where anticoagulant resistance is on the rise.

As active ingredients and associated products continue to face pressure due to regulatory changes, I believe more professional pest controllers will be adding Selontra® to their toolkit, and Cholecalciferol will continue to keep growing in demand due to its reliability, quick results, and its non-resistant properties.

Concerns for the future
When asked about their outlook for the future of the industry, pest controllers had mixed reactions, but the top three concerns echoed the anxiety surrounding product withdrawals, restrictions and regulatory changes on baiting approaches and strategies, and an increase in ‘red tape’, which is seen to believe is limiting job effectiveness, speed and ease.

Interestingly, those in northern areas of the UK, and in Northern Ireland, technicians were more positive about the future of the industry than those respondents in the midlands and southern parts of the country. This could be a direct consequence of rodenticide resistance. With the RRAC documenting more levels of known resistance present in the southern parts of the UK, and resistance currently being least problematic in the north.

What are the biggest challenges faced by pest control businesses?
Finally, technicians were asked about the biggest challenges they have faced in recent times. Throughout the 14 months of undertaking this survey, and gathering this data, the answers to this question have changed considerably and correlate to national struggles and rising living expenses. The increase in cost of living and fuel was the top concern for many, with fuel prices fluctuating massively over the last couple of years. Many shared that getting to and from jobs was getting expensive and faced having to increase their costs to customers to cover the rising fuel prices.

Pest controllers also shared concerns about the increase in the cost of products and equipment needed to carry out jobs, whether that be chemicals or traps, to everyday essentials such as PPE, were all getting more expensive.

Rodenticide products are also costly, but choosing the right one can help technicians save money in the long run. To purchase of cholecalciferol-based products like Selontra can seem expensive initially, but cost per bait block used is significantly less than many other products on the market. C

oupled with the speed of effectiveness, means each job is completed quickly and technicians can move onto the next, saving them time and money comparatively to other products.

Ultimately, due to the rising costs of getting the job done, technicians are seeing a decrease in profit earned. Many fear that increasing their costs will put people off seeking professional pest control help or encourage them to look into other methods or suppliers to help treat an infestation.

To combat this, many pest controllers are accepting substantial losses in profit to keep commercial contracts and to secure new and existing residential work, but this shouldn’t be occurring.

Pest controllers need to ensure they are pricing their work fairy and in line with national inflation. The work carried out is a valuable public service that protects our health, livelihoods, businesses and more – so professionals should charge accordingly for such a vital job.

As the sector continues to navigate its way through the challenges it faces, it is vital we continue monitoring pest controllers concerns and attitudes to encourage change and put pressure on regulators.

Pest control is a highly skilled and essential sector, without it the risk to human health and wellbeing is severely impacted. So it is important that technicians, and the work they provide is recognised and supported by the public and the decision makers in power.

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About Author

With more than 25 years' experience in business-to-business publishing, Simon is editor of LBM titles Pest and OvertheCounter. Big fan of Manchester United.