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Homeowners rank bug infestation third-worst threat

Survey shows Americans fear only fire and natural disasters more than bug infestations

ST. LOUIS, MO, June 15, 2009 – Americans fear bugs – big time. In fact, bug infestations rank just behind fires and natural disasters as one of the most dreaded threats to people’s homes, according to a recent national survey.

There’s good reason to fear these tiny forces of nature: Ninety-five percent of homeowners who responded to the survey said they’ve been the victim of a bug infestation.

And just one of those pests alone – the termite – strikes five times as many U.S. homes as fire and wreaks an estimated $5 billion in property damage every year. That’s more than the combined cost of destruction from tornadoes, hurricanes and windstorms.

Not surprisingly, the termite is America’s most feared insect foe, according to the survey, conducted for BASF Pest Control Solutions. As one third of all respondents said they would be afraid if termites came into their home, the termite is clearly seen as insect enemy No.1, followed by bed bugs (28 percent), bees and wasps (27 percent) and cockroaches (27 percent).

Three major fear factors drive the disgust for bugs: People are afraid they'll be bitten, that their property will be damaged or that their food will be contaminated. These concerns and others compelled respondents to rank bug infestations as a greater threat than rodents or even floods.

"Insects attack silently, sometimes almost invisibly, which adds to people's concern," said Dr. Bob Davis, Chief Entomologist at BASF. "Unfortunately, by the time people realize they have a problem, the damage may already be done."

When it comes to battling bugs, about half the respondents (58 percent) said they try to treat the problem themselves. But a majority (55 percent) admitted the do-it-yourself approach doesn't always solve the problem.

"Homeowners who try to fix the problem themselves often end up with failure and frustration," Davis said. "That's because most people don't know exactly what pest they are dealing with and how best to fight it. In fact, the most technologically advanced materials are not available to the general public."

Licensed pest management professionals have access to these modern insect-fighting agents and are trained to handle them. Proper treatment also usually requires specific tools and techniques for inspection and application of the materials.

Some people seek professional help sooner than others, the survey showed.

About a third of respondents said calling a professional is the best way to deal with a bug infestation. That number grows considerably once self-treatment fails to solve the problem. More than 75 percent of homeowners in the survey said they turn to pest control professionals when the do-it-yourself approach fails.

Many insect problems can be prevented before they start, including infestations of America's No. 1 pest enemy, termites.



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