Pros, cons of pest control technology

Technology can help alert hoteliers to the presence of pests. Photo credit: iStock / Getty Images Plus / kunakos (Bug light)

As hotels across the country bring spaces that were closed due to COVID-19 back online, managing pest infestations will be a priority. New technology is making it easier for hoteliers to keep their spaces free of a wide range of pests, alerting them to possible infestations in buildings or areas that may have had a very limited human presence for many months.

“Electronic monitoring for pests can be an excellent tool to assist in monitoring pest activity in real time to enhance a pest-management program,” said Brittany Campbell, staff entomologist with the National Pest Management Association. The technology, she explained, typically is used on a trap or other pest monitoring device, and sends a signal to a pest-management professional’s phone or tablet when it detects pest activity. “This technology can help pest-management professionals spend their time in a facility in areas where there is known pest activity, giving them more time to inspect and implement control tactics in the areas that need attention.” 

Pest-control company McCloud Services offers electronic documentation that hoteliers and pest professionals can access on a secure web portal in real time. Electronic monitoring can alert all necessary parties to a possible pest presence even when they are off-site, said Pat Hottel, technical director for McCloud. Not only does it let the professionals react and respond quickly, “it provides some data [toward] determining the root cause of pests,” she said. McCloud’s electronic logbook can be accessed remotely by the company, the hotelier and any auditors examining the property. During the pandemic, she added, the technology let the company monitor McCloud’s clients’ properties remotely, making it easier for people to keep a safe distance.

Currently, Hottel said, most pest-control technology is focused on rodents, but this can still provide valuable insights to prevent a wide range of vermin from disrupting operations. “It allows us to know what's going on at the facility, to know when—in the case of rodents—that mouse is captured and try to then link that to why that mouse is there,” she said. “It could be something like a door that got left open. It could relate to a shipment that came in. Ultimately, getting to the root cause is what we want to do so that we can prevent future problems, future infestations.”

Low-Tech Solutions 

While technology is making pest control easier in some respects, Martim Gois, co-founder and CEO of Finnish hygiene protocol company Valpas, noted that human work and on-site visits are still vital elements of preventing infestations, particularly when it comes to bedbugs. Pheromone, carbon dioxide and glue-based detectors are generally not very helpful, he said, because the active ingredients in the detection ability “last only days.” The devices are not designed for hotel environments, he added. “They do not increase the guest experience and don’t solve the problem—or potential problem.” 

Hottel agreed, emphasizing that regular inspections from housekeepers can provide an early warning about bedbugs for hoteliers. While commercial devices that use carbon dioxide to monitor bedbugs are available, devices that can send remote alerts of the insects’ presence in guestrooms are not yet available for the hospitality industry. “There are some manufacturers working on that, and certainly post pandemic and in the future that may be helpful in alerting [hoteliers], even without housekeeping staff being present,” she said.

“It’s important to discuss which types of technology a pest-management company is using and how it can be used by your employees for your facilities' pest-management needs,” Campbell said. “While this technology helps tremendously with data collection and targeted pest control, nothing can replace the knowledge and expertise of a pest-management professional in determining the best places for these devices to be placed, data interpretation and the appropriate response to an infestation.”  

In the future, Hottel expects to see greater interest in the electronic logbook. “We've continued to try to encourage and sell remote monitoring devices, but the adoption has been slower than maybe we'd like to see,” she said. “There is continued interest and we still are out there, converting some of our business to remote monitors.” 

3 tips to keep bugs from hotel lights

McCloud Services has shared three tips to prevent bugs from gathering at a property’s exterior lighting. “Pests may be attracted to structures because of their light as many insects use light to navigate,” Hottel said. “To deter insects from entering your building, be mindful that certain types of lights are more attractive to insects than others.”

  1. Avoid using mercury vapor lighting or lighting that emits light in the blue range (450-550 nanometers) because insects are more attracted to lights in the blue spectrum and less attracted to lights in the yellow range. In fact, mercury vapor lighting, which is in the blue range, can be 112 times more attractive to insects than other lights.
  2. Choose sodium vapor lights, which are most preferred for pest prevention (575-600 nm).
  3. LED lights are a great option, and many facilities are switching to LED lights because of energy savings. When selecting LED lights, look for lighting in the same spectrum as sodium vapor lights to receive the most optimal pest prevention.