Vermtek Case Study: Scent-Detection Dogs
Vermtek is a pioneer in using dogs as a natural detection “technology” for pest control (…although “pioneer” may be a bold claim since dogs have been our natural pest control partners for over 11,000 years!).
The pest control industry has struggled to come up with an effective solution to bedbug infestations using conventional chemical spray treatments. Bedbugs can be incredibly hard to find and can be impervious to pesticides during their early life stages. Some strains have developed chemical resistance; and in any case, chemical sprays are not an attractive ecological option.
In response to this need, one of our expert supply partners set about training dogs to sniff out bedbug infestations in the same way that police sniffer-dogs are used to find drugs or explosives. Scent-detection dogs are now the fastest and most accurate way to find bedbugs, able to discover even a single bug in 2-3 minutes with pinpoint accuracy.
For example, our scent-detection dogs have become invaluable aboard the Caledonian Sleeper train service. The large volume of people using and bringing luggage onto the trains increases the likelihood of introducing an infestation, particularly given the high prevalence of bedbugs in London hotels, where many passengers have spent the night. So, Sleeper Trains must be carefully monitored to prevent outbreaks. In the past, blanket “preventative” chemical spray treatments were carried out, which were largely ineffective and often unnecessary.
We were approached by the trains’ operator, Serco to come up with a new solution for keeping the trains bedbug-free. We proposed using a combination of scent-detection dogs to locate infestations, and heat treatment to eradicate them. Serco’s openness to this type of innovation and willingness to partner with small suppliers like Vermtek has been key to its success.
Our scent-detection dogs are swiftly and discreetly walked through the carriages during scheduled stops, indicating the exact location of any bed bugs. The affected carriages are then heat-treated. Heat treatment is guaranteed to kill bed bugs in all life stages in a single step with minimal environmental impact.
This innovation has led to many improvements to service delivery:
- The risk of exposing customers to bedbugs has been significantly reduced.
- The risk of exposing customers, Vermtek and Sleeper Train colleagues to pesticides has been removed.
- Berths are no longer put out of service for treatment.
- We have minimised our environmental impact in carrying out essential works.
Vermtek is always looking to research and develop new concepts for the industry. In this case, the information gathered by the scent-detection team is teaching us all how to predict outbreaks and how they spread. We can feed back this new knowledge to our other supply partners and customers, which is helping us to move forward as an industry.