May 2010

Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite

Author: Courtney Hampson | Photographer: Photography By Anne

“Have you ever ridden the tilt-a-whirl?” That is how John Harris, two years into his role as general manager of Hilton Head Exterminators, describes an “average” day on the job. That gem was quickly followed by, “I don’t want to gross you out too much…”

Both statements offer some interesting insight into what Harris’ life is like on a day-to-day basis. He is down and dirty and into all things that creep, crawl, and lurk—in the night, in your attic, in your walls, in your ductwork, in your backyard. Since 1968, Hilton Head Exterminators (HHE) has been making sure that pests live where they are supposed to. However, when the pests invade your world, HHE’s goal is to drive them out. Serving Hilton Head, Bluffton, Okatie, Sun City, and Jasper County, HHE is the Lowcountry’s largest independent pest control company. Part of the key to their continued growth and success is the recognition that their reputation is being built every day. So, every customer interaction is crucial. HHE’s continued focus on building relationships is part of what makes them stand out. Add a favorable dose of community involvement to mix, and HHE’s formula yields a very impressive result.

While Harris handles the off-island accounts, Bill Robertson is the general manager on the island. Robertson has been with the company for 16 years, and has watched it grow. Today, HHE’s customer base is quickly surpassing 12,000 residential and commercial accounts.

Robertson attributes HHE’s growth to the position they have created in the community. “We have created an excellent niche between the very small operators who lack the resources to stand behind their work should something go wrong and the large national companies whose service levels are hindered by corporate bureaucracy that prevents the all-important personal touch, he explained. “As a result, we act larger, although locally owned, than many of the national firms that have offices in this area.”

The mission of HHE is “to be recognized by their customers and peers as being the best at what they do.” And, “what they do” is deal with all of the things that the rest of us don’t want to: bugs, pests, rodents, even flying squirrels!

Most people tend to look at pest control as a reactive process: I have bugs, please kill them. But we actually need to re-program our brains. In reality we should be pro-active. This is why:

If you see a roach on the side of the refrigerator, you spray him with Raid. The Raid is effective for 15-60 minutes. So, now you have a dead roach on the side of refrigerator, who you hopefully scoop up and toss in the garbage. That roach’s buddies were hanging out behind the refrigerator, and the Raid got them too. But, you can’t see them so you don’t know that you have actually made the problem exponentially worse because you have created a food source for other bugs. And, bugs don’t lay eggs until they find an active food source. So now all the bugs up the food chain are moving in behind the fridge because you’ve put out a little buffet for them. It’s party time.


One treatment may kill the pests in the area, but it doesn’t prevent others from moving in. So, putting a plan in place for repeated applications trains the environment, and eventually the pests, to realize that your home or business isn’t a fun place for them to live.

HHE creates customized plans for your property. Based on your building footprint, the type of lot it is placed on, the types of trees in the area, the proximity to the water, you name it… all of these elements impact the potential pest problem. HHE’s trained and certified technicians are able to predict your pest problems and put a preventative plan in place. To further your comfort level, all of HHE’s technicians are registered with the state and required to participate in continuing education programs provided by the state and product manufacturers.

As the world goes “green,” everyone is put in a position to keep up. The pest control industry and HHE have followed the move toward this trend. Harris says that about 20 percent of customers ask for green and/or organic options. The assumption is that pest control is chemical-based and harmful. The reality is that the vast majority of products are pet-friendly, odor free, and safe. The added bonus of botanical and organic pest control options (many flowers actually mimic the properties of certain pesticides) makes the industry and HHE cutting edge.

The food chain progression of pests: insect-to-spider-to-palmetto bug–to rodent–to-snake – acts as a barometer for HHE. According to Harris, “If you have a spider problem, then we know that you’ve also had an insect problem and will get to work on preventing the inevitable palmetto bug invasion.”

However, before the problem exists it is wise to have a service plan in place. Harris and Robertson both believe that every homeowner and/or business owner should have an exterior service plan, at the very least. “It is important that somebody inspects your house,” Robertson says, “and, once that relationship is established now you have a ‘go to’ in case any pests pop-up.”

It is fair to say that we have a number of pests in the Lowcountry that can cause a problem, including ticks, fleas, fire ants, German roaches (the leading cause of childhood asthma), palmetto bugs, armadillos, and … even the elusive bed bug. (Side note: bed bugs became a non-issue in the 1960s but have made a recent resurgence. Bed bugs travel with people. Lots of people travel to the Lowcountry. And, we have lots of beds. You do the math.)

A sure cure for your heebie-jeebies is to call Hilton Head Exterminators now, and prevent those creepy-crawlies from invading your space.

Don’t let the bed bugs bite.

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