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07 September 2022

ICUP 2022 - 7 key takeaways

NEWS | PPC108 September 2022

Held at the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, Spain from 27-29 June 2022, it had been a long time coming for this event. Here Frances McKim gives a rundown of the seven main talking points from the conference

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Seven key takeaways from ICUP 2022

Delegates from across the globe were excited to be at the tenth International Conference on Urban Pests (ICUP) in Barcelona this year. Originally planned for 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic threw a spanner in the works. That means five years has passed since the last ICUP held in Birmingham, UK.

As a result, over 250 academics, manufacturers, regulators and service professionals representing all sectors of the urban pest management sector flocked to Barcelona for ICUP.

1. The world is changing

Dr Bill Robinson, chair of the ICUP Executive Committee, opened the event. Imploring those present to get out of their boxes and start thinking laterally about urban pest control, he told delegates: “Economics are coming into pest control. The world is changing. We are all safe and sound here in Barcelona, but the world is no longer such a friendly place.

“Some of our East European colleagues are absent. And several of us have had to battle with airline and train cancellations as well as lost luggage.”

2. Facing challenges head-on

Dr Ruben Bueno, chairman of the ICUP Organising Committee, highlighted the challenges and new problems faced within Europe, such as the growing threats posed by the arrival of invasive species, including Asian tiger mosquitoes (Aedes albopictus), Asian hornets (Vespa velutina), black flies and termites.

With these insects comes an increase in arboviruses such as Dengue fever, West Nile virus and leishmaniasis.

Dr Bueno was joined by Elisenda Realp Campalans, director of Environmental Health in the Public Health Agency of Barcelona, who explained how monitoring of urban pests was an increasing issue, especially with climate change.

She stressed how Barcelona is committed to the health of its residents and the challenge it faces.

3. Emerging threats

Climate change and the related threats emerging from vector-borne diseases was one of the conference themes. Strategies designed to combat these threats were addressed by several speakers, including three of the four invited plenary speakers. One of these was Dr Rachel Lowe, ICREA research professor and Global Health Resilience team leader in the Earth Science Department of the Barcelona Supercomputing Centre.

She detailed their work creating probabilistic models capable of forecasting disease outbreaks, such as Dengue fever, up to six months in advance.

She also announced the establishment of IDAlert in June. This is an infectious disease decision support and alert system designed to tackle the emergence and transmission of zoonotic pathogens. By developing novel indicators, innovative early warning systems and efficient tools for decision-makers, it aims to make Europe more resilient to emerging health threats.

4. Proactive not reactive

By no means overlooked, rodents featured in the fourth plenary presentation given by Dr Jason Munshi-South based at Fordham University in New York City, USA. He outlined his work looking at the ecology and evolution of rat populations species living in Manhattan, New York.

He concluded by saying: “Management programmes need to be proactive rather than reactive. Larger scale strategies are required. Neighbourhood level interventions can drastically reduce rat populations.”

5. Doing things differently

Complementing the scientific research papers, there was a series of presentations featuring more practical user experiences. One theme which stood out was that the industry had to do things differently and better. 

At least two speakers drew parallels from the agricultural sector. Dr Bill Robinson reminded everyone that the classic sprayer is still based on those developed for agriculture back in the 1940s. “We are applying 21st century pesticides with 70-year-old technology.”

Dr Dini Miller from Virginia Tech, USA drew another parallel saying: “We all talk about Integrated Pest Management. This is a term developed for use with crops in agriculture.

We need to switch this to Assessment Pest Management. We need to assess insect populations, not just spray them.”

6. Doing things smarter

Looking to the future, several speakers emphasised the growing significance of digital remote monitoring. With good, experienced technicians hard to attract and retain, remote monitoring offers the advantage of achieving more in less time – technicians are released from simply being ‘bait box checkers’. 

Byron Reid from the Bayer Digital Pest Management team explained that he estimated there were over 20 million rodent monitors in use in the US alone. Just think how many there must be if you multiply this globally.

Another smarter application on the horizon is a lateral flow test designed for detecting bed bugs. Presented by Alexander Ko from Bayer Environmental Science based in Cary, USA it is a similar set-up to a covid test and detects specific proteins left by bed bugs.

Still in the final development phase, it is hoped the product will be introduced next year.

7. Enjoyed by all

Having to wait five years for this ICUP event seemed to make delegates more enthusiastic, and they were very appreciative that the event finally took place. The goodwill towards these ICUP events was neatly summed up by one delegate who wrote this feedback: “Long-live ICUP”.

In addition, social events added local flair. During the reception on the opening night, a local traditional band provided the entertainment. On the second night there was an organised tour of the Saló del Cent (City Hall) and, on the final night, there was the gala dinner, featuring the ICUP tradition of making and flying of paper aeroplanes!

The next ICUP Conference will be in 2025. Further details will be announced when available.

Want to learn more?

Check out the ICUP website for past events, webinars, papers and more.

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