Cockroach infestations tend to cost homeowners money, but one North Carolina company is taking the opposite approach, offering to pay people thousands of dollars to release roaches into their homes — all in the name of science.
The Pest Informer, a media and pest control company based in Raleigh, N.C., released an advertisement on its website last week seeking volunteers for a 30-day study of the efficacy of various DIY cockroach treatments.
Participants must grant the company permission to release roughly 100 American cockroaches — the largest of the house-infesting roaches — into their homes, test out a cockroach treatment and film the process. In exchange, they'll get $2,000.
The Pest Informer was looking for five to seven households across the continental U.S. to participate in the study. They received more than 2,500 applicants in less than a week, owner David Floyd told NPR over email.
"We've all [been] extremely overwhelmed with this study," he said. "We expected to get a handful of responses, but just overnight it sort of blew up and we're struggling to keep up with the submissions."
Employees initially thought finding enough applicants would be a challenge, and had planned to keep submissions open through July, Floyd said. Now, it's looking like team members will close that window shortly and spend the extra time sorting through applications.
The study does have some requirements and assurances. Its website specifies that volunteers must be at least 21 years old and either own the home or have written approval from the homeowner. They also are forbidden from using any additional cockroach treatments during the study period.
The company promises that all of the treatments it uses will be safe for humans and pets, and that they will leave the property cockroach-free — one way or another.
Seeking a treatment 'people of any financial situation can provide themselves'
Floyd explained that the company is hoping to test about 10 techniques — ranging from vinegar mixtures and bleach to boric acid and flour — in real-world environments to see what works best. Because of resource constraints, he anticipates running the first handful of tests at the same time and then revisiting the rest in another three to six months.
Floyd said the company expects that some these treatment methods will be at least somewhat ineffective, and plans to implement its regular cockroach treatment techniques at the end of the 30-day testing window. The company also will return several times over the next few weeks to make sure the cockroaches are all gone — all at no cost to the participant.
All of the tested treatments are designed to be broadly accessible, with Floyd describing the company's overall goal as providing "a roach treatment that is DIY and people of any financial situation can provide themselves."
"We'll be looking at a combination of current popular DIY techniques as well as a few we've thought up ourselves, but we'll be keeping these under wraps until our tests have been completed," he added.
Team members will return to the homes over the course of the study to capture footage, look for signs of cockroaches and try to get a sense of their population levels.
Pest control with a side of publishing
Floyd said he's ideally looking for qualified applicants in North Carolina, but is willing to travel and has connections at pest control companies across the country who could help conduct the study if needed. The Pest Informer has a dozen employees, including full-time staff and seasonal workers.
It's on the verge of transitioning into what Floyd describes as "a 50/50 business model between media company and traditional pest control company." That means it would employ technicians to service households during the busy spring and summer seasons, and other staff to work on digital content and pest resources, he says.
In other words, it's a time of experimentation on many fronts. Floyd said the company hasn't conducted this kind of study before but has always "strived to test out new techniques and add some science into our pest control methodology."
Paying participants should enable the company to test out a wider range of pest control techniques, he explained, though didn't elaborate on how it arrived at the $2,000 figure.
"The unfortunate part of doing studies like this is that it is difficult to find people that are willing to put up with roaches as well as allow us to test different techniques," he wrote. "Along with this, some of these techniques might not be super effective, but we still need to test them. So we felt that if we didn't pay them, we might be wasting their time if the technique we were testing wasn't very effective."
And if the massive response is any indication, it sounds like plenty of people find the deal a pretty good bang for their buck (or, dare we say, bug?).