COVID-19, SARS, spiders, rats, etc. etc…. ‘Tis the season for all sorts of terrible things to be entering into your home. And so, The Levity Ball turned to Isaac Camacho, a former resident of New York who worked as a missionary here and is now the Director at Accurate Termite and Pest Control, which was named Southern California’s top termite/pest company the last few years and recently took on their local government officials for changes within the industry.
We spoke in-depth to him about how COVID-19 is on the top of all our minds and how we can spray to keep clean, what we should look for in hiring companies like his, plus what new regulations New York and other States like California are doing to combat what we are all going through.
Tell us first… How did you get involved in the termite and pest control business, and what makes it so appealing to you that it has become your passion working within this industry these days?
After moving back home to Texas from New York City in 2005, I had nothing but an acceptance letter to BYU in Utah. In the four months I had before school started, I managed to make enough money for one semester of tuition plus room and board. While at school, I heard about summer jobs selling pest control door-to-door that promised to pay potentially enough to cover two or three more semesters.
The team I signed up with went to California to sell for Accurate door-to-door. I fell in love with California and the couple who own and run Accurate – the Donnelly’s. The Donnellys were always so kind to all of their employees and genuinely interested in their wellbeing. When my teammates expressed interest in learning how to surf, Jim, company president, lent them one of his surfboards. My teammates destroyed Jim’s surfboard when they both tried to surf on it at the same time. Jim got a kick out of the story, and very graciously accepted my friends’ very tail-in-between-legs apology. That’s when I knew the Donnelly’s were authentically good, down to earth, people. It’s hard not to root for the success of great people and want to be a part of it. After graduating from college, I joined Accurate permanently.
Here in New York, all applicators of pesticide must be registered with the DEC and be certified before they can apply pesticides commercially. Your company is based in Southern California. How are the rules/laws there different and the same as here in NYC?
We have similar regulations but a few more regulatory agencies here. In California, you must be a licensed applicator or field representative by the Structural Pest Control Board (SPCB). The SPCB has regulations in place related to the business and operational practices of commercial pest control companies. The Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) and the Agricultural Department of California directly regulate the application and documentation of pesticide applications by commercial pest control operators. Also, California has its own Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that regulates at a broad level anything that may have an environmental impact–such as commercial pest control. In short, Apple has an app for that, but California has a regulation for that.
It’s extremely important for people to be spraying their homes and places of work these days with it being the summer and with COVID-19. Is it true that rodents and other types of pests can carry COVID?
This is indeed a critical time to have an effective pest control program in place. People should be on the lookout for the typical summer flare-up of pests moving from the now starved restaurants and commercial spaces to the nearest kitchen.
For the next few months, we expect that ants and rodents will be particularly troublesome followed by spiders. Watch as ants and rodents of many different species look for cooler places and water. You may see them going for any food scraps they can find on floors, counters, inside shelves, or looking for the quickest path to water in your sinks, tubs, or pools.
Termites will begin to swarm as things continue to heat up. The most notorious and aggressive termite species in the US is perhaps the Formosan termite. The Formosan termite is mostly found in bible-belt states with a plentiful combination of heat and humidity but has also been found in less humid places such as Southern California. When the temperature is at about peak heat, you can expect drywood termites to start to swarm and try to make it into your structural wood components.
It’s also worth noting that SARS-COV2, the virus that causes COVID19, is a derivative of a Coronavirus (SARS) that has been infesting and plaguing the animal kingdom for decades. We know that some household animals such as cats and dogs can be infected with the new SARS strain we are dealing with, SARS-COV2. The pandemic has brought a better overall understanding of why it has always been important to maintain a healthy and sustainable balance between rodents in the outdoors and your loved ones at home.
What other damages can happen if someone doesn’t hire a company to come spray?
Pests and rodents have learned to live from our scraps, waste, and leftovers. Since most of us have been spending more time at home, we have been producing more scraps than ever before, creating an even more significant incentive for pests and rodents to invade our living spaces.
Infestations grow slowly out of homeowners’ sight until they have become so big that they overrun into our spaces and become noticeable. Proper and professional control methods now will prevent homeowners from experiencing an overwhelming infestation of pests or rodents down the road. Besides being a nuisance, keep in mind that pests and rodents carry diseases and can exasperate health issues such as asthma.
When someone is hiring a company, what are the main things they should be looking for?
Keep in mind that pest control companies all have access to the same pool of products. Especially in states with more stringent pesticide regulations such as New York or California, no one company has a “secret sauce” that only they can use. Companies artificially try to create differentiation by using catchy buzzwords when marketing their services. Catchy marketing is not a problem, but chances are if a company makes outlandish claims about the products they use, there may be some exaggeration or deception going on. It can be especially problematic when companies make exaggerated claims about the health, safety, and ecological effects of their products because it can lead to a false sense of security and unnecessary overexposure of pesticides to the vulnerable and into our ecosystem.
When hiring a pest control company, keep in mind that where a company will really stand out is in their communication, customer service, and follow-through. Ask yourself, are they open and honest about pros and cons of what is being offered? Are they interested in meeting my long-term expectations or just this one sale? Are they a one-stop-shop for any pest issues that may come about, or am I going to get another company for a different type of pest?
Your company helped change some regulations in California recently during the COVID-19 outbreak. What changes across the rest of the United States would you like to see?
Yes, in California we championed the effort to let the 20,000+ licensed pest technicians perform large-scale COVID19 disinfections. The general public and Governor’s office ultimately agreed, licensed pest control technicians are the best equipped and trained to perform the much-needed disinfections in community spaces while protecting the public and environment in the short and long term.
There should be regulations from environmental groups to set a base level of transparency in marketing and selling the most commonly used products.
Any pest control company can use the words green, organic, or natural in their marketing and sales materials without disclosing the products they intend on using. Often this gives customers a false sense of security when a company markets themselves as green but then uses a synthetic pesticide at the time of service. It is still very often the case that companies that market and sell themselves as green, use the same products and methods as ‘traditional’ pest control companies. People with health concerns are unwittingly exposing themselves to the products they are trying to avoid and often paying more because of misleading or deceptive marketing practices.
Terms such as green, natural, and organic should only be used when describing specific products that meet certain ecological and health criteria. These terms should not be used to describe a pest control company as a whole. If that were the case, the company should meet and keep baseline criteria regarding the potential health and ecological impact of their entire operation, including all products, equipment, and application methods used at any time by the company.
Will you be expanding to New York ever, or which companies in NYC do you recommend people use?
I lived in New York as a missionary for two years and miss it, but there is not a plan to expand into New York soon. When looking for a pest control provider, I recommend that customers look for a family-owned company. Family-owned companies tend to have more flexibility to meet your specific needs. There are great people who work for very large public corporations, but in many cases, those companies are so big that customers can get lost in the overly bureaucratic corporate structure of large companies.
Family-owned companies tend to understand that they answer to you, the customer, and will typically shape their customer philosophy around that. Large public companies have to keep stockholders, investment bankers, venture capitalists happy to rely on cash flow. At times, they may inadvertently put customers at the back of the line. Plus, there is the added benefit of knowing that your business is likely to immediately fuel and boost the local economy.
And final question: What do you want Accurate Termite and Pest Control overall to be remembered for when people look back at 2020 and how you helped?
We are proud that we led the conversation which led to responsible and effective CORONAVIRUS disinfections state-wide. However, we involved other companies and stakeholders early in the process. We hope people remember we were a part of a critical industry in a time of need.
Large scale disinfection services often mean longer workdays, more arduous work, and constant disruption to the normal working process resulting in more customer service issues. Elderly care facilities and health care centers credit large-scale disinfection services with helping stop COVID and avoiding a devastating spread like those experienced by facilities without the services. I hope that when people look back at 2020, they remember countless pest control professionals who were willing to utilize their talents, training, and expertise to fight a common threat.
Every day pest control professionals nationwide contribute to a sanitary and equitable balance between us and our animal co-inhabitants of earth. We hope that the realization that our industry’s contribution is more than getting rid of nuisances. For decades, our industry professionals were effective at preventing the pandemic from starting here at home and were instrumental in fighting the spread when it came to us–that’s what we hope people remember.