68th Urban Pest Management Conference Focuses on Latest Trends, Regulations for Professionals

Dr. Roger Gold presenting at the general session of the conference

Dr. Roger Gold presenting at the general session of the conference. Photo by Rob Williams

BRYAN, Texas –A total of 380 pest control professionals from the state and across the country convened at the Brazos Center to keep up with the changing world of regulations and technologies that concern pest control businesses at the 68th Urban Pest Management Conference and Workshop.

Held the week of January 8-10, the conference is designed to help those that work in the pest management field to learn about the latest developments, techniques and regulations in the industry that can be used for their businesses.

The conference began with Professor and Department Head Dr. David Ragsdale welcoming the audience and then reporting on the Department of Entomology’s annual activities.

Dr. Mike Merchant teaching the ACE (Associate Certified Entomologist) training at the 68th Texas A&M University Urban Pest Management Conference and Workshop

Dr. Mike Merchant teaching the ACE (Associate Certified Entomologist) training at the 68th Texas A&M University Urban Pest Management Conference and Workshop. Photo by Rob Williams

Ragsdale updated the group about the groundbreaking of the new Rollins Urban and Structural Center that was held last August and said that construction will begin soon on the building. He then commended the donation efforts from everyone.

“Many of you also contributed to this and I applaud your efforts,” Ragsdale said. “We are very excited.”

After the welcome from the Texas Pest Control Association, Professor and Endowed Chair Dr. Roger Gold updated everyone on the efforts of the Urban and Structural Entomology program. He updated everyone on the progress of the Rollins Center and what former and current graduate students have done.

He mentioned that former students Danny McDonald is working as a postdoctoral research associate at Sam Houston State University and that Janis Reed received her Ph.D. in December and is currently working as an Extension Program Specialist at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension’s Agricultural and Environmental Safety department.

Gold also introduced his current student staff, including Ph.D. students Chris Keefer and Cassie Schoenthal, Masters students Elly Espinoza, Philip Schults, and Sergio Lopez. Associate Professor & Extension Program Specialist Dr. Don Renchie then updated the group on pest control safety. Renchie focused on interpreting the changes to the new Material Safety Data Sheets and laws concerning communicating hazards that are relevant to pest control.

Sergio Lopez checking a participant's answer sheet during "The Ultimate Challenge" insect identification workshop

Sergio Lopez checking a participant’s answer sheet during “The Ultimate Challenge” insect identification workshop. Photo by Rob Williams

The topic for the Jim and Marilyn Ivey lecture was on drywood termites. Gold spoke on the general biology, special adaptations, and how to control them versus other termite species. He also demonstrated to the group how to identify drywood termites compared to Formosan and other subterranean species common to Texas.

Conference attendees browsed booths from various industry sponsors in the Exhibitor area of the center between sessions during both days. Vendors also answered questions during the Exhibitor’s forum times during Wednesday and Thursday. This is also the fourth year the conference held the Associate Certified Entomologist (ACE) training course and exam, which was taught by Dr. Mike Merchant and Bob Davis. Sponsored by the Entomological Society of America, the ACE program is an enhancement to the pest management professionals’ credentials and marketability in the ever-growing pest control industry.

Other presentations on Wednesday included building and diversifying a business, general weed control, forensic entomology, and trapping and controlling nuisance wildlife, and label changes and laws for pyrethroids. During the evening, the Urban staff then led tours of the Urban and Structural Center, where staff members explained their research focus to the audience.

Janet Hurley fielding questions during the beginning of her presentation. Photo by Rob Williams

Janet Hurley fielding questions during the beginning of her presentation. Photo by Rob Williams

Thursday’s activities began with Wizzie Brown speaking on the topic of non-chemical integrated pest management techniques and sanitation and Bob Davis speaking on lawn and ornamental pest management. Participants also tested their insect identification knowledge during “The Ultimate Challenge”.

The sessions also included such topics as laws and regulations for school IPM led by Janet Hurley, commodity fumigation by Randy Condra and research vignettes from Cassie Schoenthal, Phillip Shults, Chris Keefer and Colin McMichael, and talks on invasive species, honey bees and IPM strategies for managing vegetation in schools. The final sessions included a fire ant research vignette from Robert Puckett and Elly Espinoza, termites in school IPM by Gold, and a talk on wood preservation by Jerel Brown.

Participants also received lots of hands-on experience with three short courses in commercial food establishments at Covenant Presbyterian Church in College Station, termite biology and control, and fumigation located at Riverside Campus. All of the mini-courses were designed to help pest control professionals receive hands-on experience and learn the latest techniques. Each course consisted of a short classroom-type lecture mixed with demonstrations with actual equipment specific to the subject.

For more information about the PCO Conference, visit pcoconference.tamu.edu.

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