BusinessJournalism.org: From crop damage to tourism: Inside the Business of Bugs

July 11, 2012By 0 Comments

BusinessJournalism.org: From crop damage to tourism: Inside the Business of Bugs

Mild winters are great, but in exchange for less annoying snow and ice, we’re apparently in for more annoying six- and eight-legged critters this summer.

A number of  forecasts from state extension services warned at the start of spring that reduced insect mortality could lead to bigger bug populations and even extra-aggressive migration, since the insects were able to get an early start on travels.  That means some regions will not only see increased quantities of insects, but perhaps unfamiliar kinds as well.

And with mosquito season in full swing  as far north as Minnesota -not to mention oddball tales like the surge of  swarms keeping Manhattan’s bee cop busy – the time is ripe for a business-of-bugs story.  In fact, in researching this post, I even found out that June 24 starts  Mosquito Control Awareness Week!

Here are some ideas to get you started:

Crops

From the  blister beetle outbreak in Texas to the  brown marmorated stink bug that recently reared its shell near key crops in the Pacific Northwest, insects can have a deleterious affect on harvests and in turn the area economy.

Of course, seed companies are busy engineering pest-proof plants; according to a Agriculture.com article, one firm has even released a crop damage calculator that lets farmers compute the damage to their harvest.  You might check around through area universities and your state’s extension service for any companies or labs that are working on interesting pest-resistant mutations, keeping in mind that genetically modified crops are a controversial topic.

Some insurance policies cover insect damage; as you can see from this links page on the site of theAmerican Association of Crop Insurers, it’s big business.  If you cover financial services, looking at the economic impact of insect damage might be an interesting summertime angle.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency, which operates the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC) is another source of policy information and statistics, as well as a narrative history of crop insurance.

Don’t forget about backyard gardeners, too – hardware store and garden center shelves are lined with pesticides; you might check to see if any entrepreneurs are offering green pest management products or alternatives.

Pest control services and equipment

According to the National Pest Management Association, bug control is a $6 billion industry with more than 18,000 players in 2010.  How are the bug-killers faring in your area?  Are sales of mosquito-prevention systems brisk this year?  The American Mosquito Control Association might have some useful stats.

Small-biz or technology stories are out there too; I had no idea, for example, that products like Skeet-R-Gone(which claims to be environmentally friendly)could be added to residential sprinkler systems.

Tourism and bedbugs

It’s vacation season and bedbug stories are coming out from under the covers again; pest controller  Terminix is just out with a release stating that bedbug prevalence is up again and that 30 percent of the little biters are in residences.  (Of course, it’s not in a pest controller’s best interest to say bug populations are down.)  Bug bombs don’t work, according to a Columbus Dispatch article, but entrepreneurs out there are rushing into the breach with solutions like the  Insect Inferno Enclosed Mobile Heat Chamber or the  Bed Bug Bullyliquid, either of which sounds like a good subject for a small-biz profile.  What are inventors in your area coming up with to combat critters?

Medical issues

Are insect allergies growing in prevalence the way peanut allergies are, and if so, what is the response from the pharmaceutical industry and clinicians?  Are new and interesting therapies being introduced, or are more Epi-pens being sold?  In what ways might business be profiting from stings and itches?

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