All-natural system targets pests

Louise Hodges patented the distribution irrigation system that delivers the spray of an eco-friendly pest control for people’s yards.

Louise Hodges and husband Dan decided to move from Charlotte to the coast in 2008, continue their landscape design construction business and cater to the second-home market.

Then the bottom fell out of the economy, and so did demand for their services.

“Now what are we going to do?” Louise Hodges remembered saying.

Avid outdoors enthusiasts, the couple noticed that people in Beaufort, their new home, didn’t spend a lot of time outdoors because of all the bugs. That got their wheels turning.

They knew mosquito-misting systems were around, but the Hodges wanted an all-natural pest-control solution. They started doing research and came across a Texas company that was using the natural ingredient of cedar to kill and repel pests. The ingredient is one of 31 that have been deemed safe for humans and the environment by the Environmental Protection Agency.

“Cedar to pests is like ammonia to humans,” Louise Hodges said.

Cedar gives off a scent that thwarts smell-driven pests such as mosquitoes and sand gnats, but it is harmless to butterflies, lady bugs, honey bees and other sight-driven insects that generally don’t pester humans.

They took two formulas, improved them and hired a manufacturer in Raleigh to make them. They called the solution Greenbug.

In addition to developing the products, the two Clemson University graduates then got to work on a new pest-control system.

Louise Hodges, who has a degree in industrial management and is the company president, developed a mechanical-injection system that controls the amount of solution sprayed on a yard and ties into new and existing yard sprinkler systems. Her husband, the vice president, is responsible for shipping and fulfillment.

The provisionally patented system costs about $1,500 for parts and installation. The one-gallon jugs of pest control solution cost about $275 each. About two or three gallons will be used in a year for an average-size yard. One gallon should last four to six months. A half-gallon of the product is diluted in two gallons of water and poured into a 2.5-gallon reservoir connected to the home irrigation system.

Hodges recently set up her first system in Charleston at the home of a retired Ryder System and Olsten Staffing Services executive in Beresford Hall off Clements Ferry Road in Berkeley County.

“It’s too early to tell if it’s going to work,” said Gordon Bingham, who had the system installed about a month or so ago when he moved into the new home from Brickyard Plantation in Mount Pleasant. “We have had no problems with no-seeums but a little problem with mosquitoes.”

A leak in the irrigation line near the control panel caused water to pool near the house before it was corrected, and Hodges thinks that is most likely what led to Bingham’s recent mosquito problem. A new spray line also was installed along a driveway beside the marsh to repel mosquitoes.

The automatic system comes on each day at a time different from the grass-watering schedule so it won’t be diluted. Each zone in the yard is sprayed two minutes or soaked with a drip line for four minutes.

“Once the cedar starts to infiltrate an area, they will smell it, and it creates a barrier,” Hodges said. “As long as you smell cedar, you know it’s effective.”

Unlike synthetic pesticides, the all-natural solution cannot be overapplied. “It will just cost you more money to use more,” Hodges said. “And no matter how much you use, it’s safe for children and pets.

“We are trying to create an area where humans can comfortably live without pests,” Hodges said. “You will still have all the nature that you want.”

Since incorporating the business in October 2009, the couple have sold more than 12,000 two-ounce bottles of Greenbug pest spray for humans. It repels and kills mosquitoes, ticks, bed bugs, sand fleas, head lice, fire ants and other insects, according to the bottle.

It retails for $7.95 and can be found in 120 shops from just over the border in North Carolina near Myrtle Beach to Florida. It’s also sold online in the U.S. and Canada. Locally, Half-Moon Outfitters, Dwell Smart, Charleston City Marina Sea Store and a few other select locations stock it.

“We have never had a product returned for lack of performance,” Louise Hodges said. “It works, and it’s safe.”

As for the home systems, after the Hodges installed a Greenbug test system in their yard about 18 months ago and a second pilot system in a client’s yard about six months later, they spent several months revamping and perfecting the system and began selling them in earnest earlier this year.

“A lot of kinks had to be worked out,” Hodges said.

So far, they have installed six systems with four more on order.

Some of those are test systems, such as the one at Bingham’s house off Clements Ferry Road.

“We are about to turn the corner,” Louise Hodges said. “We are now experiencing the benefits of two years of a lot of hard work.”

Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.