Disinfecting and Pest Control Services

SIC 7342

Industry report:

This industry covers establishments primarily engaged in disinfection and in termite, insect, rodent, and other pest control, generally in dwellings or other buildings. Establishments primarily engaged in pest control for lawns or agricultural production are classified in various agricultural service industries.

Industry Snapshot

The building disinfection and pest control industry is a multibillion dollar industry that overlaps with the building cleaning and maintenance service industry (see SIC 7349: Building Cleaning and Maintenance Services, Not Elsewhere Classified). For example, The ServiceMaster Company, a leader in the building cleaning and maintenance field, owns Terminix, Inc., one of the nation's largest pest control firms.
Disinfecting and pest control companies are either independently owned enterprises, franchises, or part of a national company. Two of the largest franchise companies in the United States are Terminix and Orkin.

In the late 2000s and early 2010s, development of new types of pesticides, cleaning products, and other compounds for everyday use that are environmentally friendly and nontoxic to humans and other animal life were in development. But even as development continued, the first choice among commercial establishments was still those chemicals that had been formulated for the industry. Most products in use were toxic to the pests they are designed to eliminate, but toxicity was relative to exposure. While the level of toxicity of many of these products had been diluted, they still presented a hazard to humans and domestic animals if used improperly.

Several methodologies other than the toxic chemical method of pest control are available. Preventive measures include sanitation and moisture control that aim to maintain unattractive environments for pests to dwell and reproduce. Mechanical means include caulking, screening, and traps. Insecticidal soaps are most effective against insects such as fleas. Insect growth regulators (IGRs) and pheromones are both hormonal methods for treating pest infestations. IGRs are laboratory-made growth hormones naturally found within insects. Their application prevents the insects from reaching maturity and thus reproducing. Pheromones, or scent hormones, are used to bait traps and trick male insects into thinking they have found a female. Thus, that particular male does not achieve his reproductive goals. Repellents include citronella, eucalyptus, wormwood, and other commercially prepared compounds. They do not kill but rather repel the targeted pest with no ill effects to the pest or the user. Biological controls are probably best known by those in agriculture. It is the intentional use of "good" organisms against "bad" ones. For example, trichogamma wasps can be used to control meal moths. A more common example is the use of cats to catch mice. While environmentally these nontoxic methods may have merit and some degree of effectiveness in certain situations, toxic chemical products continued to be used more often used for reasons of efficiency, speed, and expense.

In response to consumer demand, major pest control companies were jumping on the green bandwagon in the early 2010s. For example, Terminix launched its new Commercial EcoControl system in 2009, which constituted a more environmentally friendly method of pest control for businesses. Lonnie Anderson of Terminix told Product News Network, "Before, routine application was 'king.' But with EcoControl, the initial question phase drives our approach." The system utilized products made from natural oils as well as alternative methods such as trapping.

Industry Leaders

In 2010, the national leaders in sales among companies with interests in this industry included Memphis, Tennessee-based Terminix International Company L.P., owned by ServiceMaster. With more than 500 U.S. service centers and 7,026 employees, Terminix accounted for about 30 percent of ServiceMaster's $3.3 billion in annual revenues in 2009. Orkin LLC was another industry leader, with about 400 service branches in the United States and 4,000 employees. Based in Atlanta, Georgia, and founded in 1901, Orkin served about 1.7 million customers worldwide. In 2010 the firm opened a branch in Jamaica, which represented its 14th international franchise.

Workforce

In 2009, there were about 67,500 pest control workers in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. About 7 percent were self-employed, with the majority employed by exterminating and pest control service firms. States required pest control workers to be licensed, and the average hourly wage was $14.37 in 2008. Employment prospects were expected to rise about 15 percent through 2018 due to higher standards of living and increased regulation of pesticides, requiring more intensive, inclusive, and proactive treatments.

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