February 3, 2009 in Business

Company says it’s built a better bug trap

Reusable, nontoxic device catches multiple species
By The Spokesman-Review
 
Photo courtesy of Sterling International photo

Sterling International says its new WHY – for wasps, hornets and yellow jackets – catches 20 species of bugs. Photo courtesy of Sterling International
(Full-size photo)

Snow on the ground means nothing at Sterling International, the Spokane Valley company that’s buzzing around the clock making traps targeting the stinging bugs of spring and summer.

Sterling, which has been in business more than 25 years, has just released a product nearly seven years in the making, a three-in-one plastic trap it calls the WHY.

As in wasps, hornets and yellow jackets.

The privately held company has made a yellow-jacket trap since the late 1980s. But no one in the bug-stopping industry had developed a unit that got all three.

Sterling says the new WHY trap does the job.

“On our packaging, we list 20 distinct species that it catches. None of our competitors can claim to catch all of those species,” said Stephanie Herrmann, the company’s director of marketing and communications.

It took researchers more than six years to develop the new trap because finding the right combination of nontoxic attractants and trap design was a complex process, Herrmann said.

The basic reusable Sterling yellow-jacket trap has a single opening in the lower part of the unit. The WHY trap uses two openings, on top and underneath. “Our research showed that the attractants (targeting all three bugs) are more effective when separated. If close together they tend to negate each other,” Herrmann said.

Inside Sterling’s Spokane Valley manufacturing plant, the plastic injection machine that fabricates the traps’ narrow plastic bodies is running nonstop.

In addition to the regular production team of 34 people, Sterling added 22 seasonal workers to meet spring and summer demand, Herrmann said.

The WHY trap is now being shipped to retailers back East and in the South, which expect warmer weather ahead of other parts of the country.

Hardware and garden retailer Lowe’s ordered 26,000 units of the WHY trap, Herrmann said. Other large orders have gone to Wal-Mart, Northwest bulk retailer Bi-Mart and Home Depot stores.

The WHY, which retails for $13 to $15, has helped Sterling’s bottom line, Herrmann said: “Our total sales revenue doubled (in January 2009) compared to last year.”

Company founder and President Rod Schneidmiller built the company over the years on products that use only natural attractants instead of pesticides or toxic chemicals.

Sterling has no plans to discontinue production of its first big seller, the plastic yellow-jacket traps that sell across the country for $10 to $12.

But the WHY lets the company build a larger sales presence in the Midwest and East, where there are more wasps and hornets, Herrmann said. As expected, sales of the simple yellow-jacket trap have fallen about 15 percent from a year ago.

Sterling researchers are working on new products, including deterrents for ants and mosquitoes, Herrmann said.

Contact Tom Sowa at (509) 459-5492 or toms@spokesman.com.


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