Bite Back! Add Mosquito Control Services

Adding mosquito control can bring business buzz.

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By Donna Clapp
From the June 2024 Issue

 

Are you considering a supplementary service? Ideally one that requires minimal investment while holding the promise of revenue from current and prospective clients? Mosquito control could be an option worth exploring.

“We are a design-build firm, but we also are very much about service,” says Glenn Bonick, owner of Bonick Landscaping in Irving, TX. “We cater to high touch, high wealth clients, so to be able to provide them with the ability to be outside in what we’ve gorgeously landscaped [for them] is absolutely worth it. And the cost is not hard for them to stomach…. After all, they spent a lot of money to have us create an amazing backyard, they want to go use it and not have to put chemicals all over their body first.”

Bonick decided to begin offering mosquito control because he found a number of his clients had misting systems installed by pest control companies. Those companies knew about pest control, but not about the landscape damage such misting systems can cause when improperly installed above plantings, and then run three times a day.

mosquito control
(Photo: Adobe Stock / Achkin)

 

“The misting systems use an oil-based insecticide and when that sprays on top of the leaves over and over, sometimes three times a day, with the heat we have in Texas, it’ll burn and kill plants,” cautions Bonick. “So we thought this was a good opportunity for us to control that situation. And it was, but we weren’t overly pleased with the results of the misting system, even when installed properly below the leaves.” He adds, “We’ve transitioned into fogging with a backpack to have full control over where the insecticide goes.”

In 2019, lawncare franchise Weed Man decided to add mosquito control services, but by 2020, had spun it off into a whole new franchise brand, Mosquito Hero. Chris Lemcke, technical coordinator for Weed Man, comments, “We have a very high satisfaction rate. Renewal rates on mosquito programs are typically better than lawn care.” In fact, Weed Man has 21,000 Mosquito Hero customers in the U.S., representing $12 million in revenue last year, according to Weed Man CEO Jen Lemcke.

An Easy Add-On

Adding mosquito control services to your lawn or landscaping business is fairly easy. However, you need to be sure to either hire a licensed pest control expert or have one or two employees go through the licensing and certification process. But, with built-in clients on monthly maintenance programs, it’s a simple service to add.

Some other things you’ll want to consider include:

  1. What type of mosquito control service do you want to offer? Will you use backpack sprayers or automatic spraying systems that require installation like an irrigation system? Organic or chemical pesticides? There are even bait and trap systems that use pheromones and sterilization components.Bonick says they use a combination of methods to knock down mosquito populations because controlling mosquitos in Texas is difficult. “We attack mosquitoes two ways. First with the backpack mister system, but then we also employ a bait system that sterilizes female mosquitos. It’s a pheromone that we put into a small pot of water placed in the garden. The female mosquito drinks that water and it sterilizes her so she can’t lay fertile eggs. But she also picks up the chemical, and when she dips into other stagnant water, the chemical gets into that water too. We replace the chemical once a month. By knocking down the mosquito population, our clients get to enjoy their yard again,” says Bonick.
  2. As mentioned, hire a certified pest control applicator or put your employees through courses to become licensed and certified. Lemcke says it typically takes at least 200 customers to keep one pest control applicator busy.
  3. Verify with your insurance provider to ensure the new part of your business is properly insured and bonded. Offering pest control comes with additional risks and liabilities, so be sure you are covered.
  4. Decide whether you will offer mosquito control as part of your current monthly maintenance or break it off as a separate division. Since mosquito control comes with its own pricing, adding it to current maintenance services can sometimes cause sticker shock. This is why Weed Man suggests branding mosquito control separately. Then when contracts are renewed, clients don’t see it as one big price tag; it’s two separate renewals. Weed Man’s service techs have found this is more palatable for clients.
  5. Organic or not? Both Mosquito Hero and Bonick Landscaping offer organic options, but agree that none of the organic options are completely satisfactory on their own. “We will swap back and forth,” says Bonick. “You know, if a client is not wanting organic, we’ll swap back and forth between organic and synthetic so we can get a heavy knockdown one visit and then more of a repellent the next visit. [This is] just to be lighter on the environment, because obviously we’re very conscious about the environment since we are trying to grow healthy plants.”
  6. Marketing your new service. Whether you add it into your current service offerings or break it off as its own division, be sure you announce your new service to current clients and all potential customers. Add the information to your website and social media. Provide techs with business cards or postcards to leave behind when they do maintenance. An important aspect of marketing is to be clear that no pest control service eradicates mosquitoes altogether. Use terms such as mosquito “control” or “reduction,” otherwise, you will have customers calling for service every time they see a mosquito.

A Surprise Benefit

By offering mosquito control services you may be able to land more landscaping clients or upsell current clients into landscaping services they would otherwise say “no” to. Why is this? In areas where mosquitos are a major pest, people don’t want to spend money on their yard if it means getting bitten every time they’re outside.

Mosquito control, however, opens up their ability to enjoy that outdoor space. So much so, that certain features, like a fire pit, can now seem appealing when they wouldn’t have before. The more clients that see benefits, the more they share that opinion with neighbors, and the more quickly additional service offerings can grow.

“As people see the results, they get to enjoy their backyard again, and reduce disease transmission from the mosquitos to them and/or their pets,” says Lemcke. “And then we see an increase in the popularity of the service.” Bonick agrees and says that while growing healthy, beautiful plants is their number one focus, giving their clients the ability to enjoy their backyard without having to slather themselves in repellent makes offering the service worth it.

mosquito control
(Photo: Adobe Stock / ThamKC)

Additional Steps For Success

To ensure your mosquito control really knocks down the pest population on a client property, there are some other steps you may want your crew to take when providing monthly maintenance.

  1. Eliminate standing water and wet spots. Everyone knows mosquitos use stagnant water to incubate their eggs. So it stands to reason that your control services will work best if you have your techs check for areas that drain poorly. These are easily fixed with a layer of stone covered by topsoil and then reseeded or resodded.
  2. Remove windscreen features from sitting areas. Mosquitos have delicate wings and are not strong flyers, so a gentle breeze can keep them away. Encourage customers to remove windscreens and install oscillating fans or ceiling fans.
  3. Encourage mosquito predators. You can entice bats with bat houses and purple martins with specially built birdhouses. Both eat hundreds of mosquitoes and other insect pests every day.
  4. Use cedar for mulch. The scent of cedar has been used for decades to deter and repel mosquitoes, termites, ants, and moths. Use cedar as mulch for flower beds and bushes that surround seating areas and other parts of the yard where people gather. Replace it whenever it loses its scent as that is what wards off pests.
  5. CO2 traps are most effective when used with spray on mosquito repellent. You may want to offer CO2 traps along with your spraying services to clients. These traps attract mosquitoes with CO2 and then trap the bugs inside the device where they die of dehydration. There are over 200 species of mosquitoes inhabiting the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among these, approximately 12 species spread diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, West Nile virus, and Zika virus, all of which pose significant health risks. Clearly, mosquito control is a service that can offer real value to your customers and a new revenue stream for you.

Mosquito Repellant Plants

Designing a landscape that incorporates mosquito repellent plants is a great addition to other mosquito control services. While not effective on their own, repellent plants offer a way to create layers of protection that work together while also adding sensory appeal. According to Glenn Bonick, owner of Bonick Landscaping in Dallas, TX, plants play a key role in mosquito control, primarily leveraging their fragrance to disrupt a mosquito’s ability to smell what really attracts them: the scent of human sweat and the carbon dioxide we emit.

Repellent plants are most effective when planted in large quantities, says Bonick. Plant location is also important. Fragrant oils are released when leaves are crushed, so place plants in areas where people will brush against them, or can easily pick the leaves.

Here are a few of the most common mosquito-repellent plants:

  1. Citronella (or Scented Geranium). The most commonly used scent for mosquito repellent sprays, lotions, and candles. Its lemony scent is released when brushed against or crushed.
  2. Lemongrass. Repels mosquitos in much the same way as citronella. Plant it in a pot with wheels, so it can go where needed.
  3. Lavender. An attractive and fragrant flower. A 2009 study published by Malaria Journal found that lavender oil was 80% effective as a mosquito repellent.
  4. Catnip. Joel Coats, an Iowa State University entomologist, found that catnip oil repels mosquitoes better than the compound used in most commercial bug repellents.
  5. Cooking herbs. Rosemary, basil, sage, peppermint, and lemon balm all grow well in containers and can be used in recipes as well.
  6. Marigolds. An easy-to-grow annual that emits a smell mosquitoes hate. They make great garden borders as they also repel aphids, thrips, hornworms, whiteflies, squash bugs, and Mexican beetles.
mosquito control
(Photo: Adobe Stock / ottochka)

Franchise Opportunities, Donna ClappClapp has more than 35 years of experience in media and publishing and is a former Editor-In-Chief at Turf’s sister publication, Business Facilities. With a Master of Media Arts from the New School, she is president of Visitivity Media in Ft. Myers, FL, specializing in video and digital marketing.

Do you have a comment? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below, or send an e-mail to the Editor at cmenapace@groupc.com.

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