A live cockroach much like this one was recently pulled from a woman’s nose in India. Photo by Wikipedia
  • Tiger Brands, which controls 73% of the household pesticide market in South Africa, says demand for these products is on the decline.
  • The company says there has been a poor "pest season" in the country.
  • This comes amid renewed concerns about a catastrophic decline in insects worldwide.

Tiger Brands, which sells Doom and Peaceful Sleep, says demand for insect repellents is on the decline in South Africa. 

“The market experienced a poor pest season last year, impacting the demand for pesticides,” a company spokesperson told Business Insider South Africa. 

Household pests like flies and cockroaches are more prolific during hotter months (known as "pest season"), which drive demand for pesticides in South Africa. 

Tiger Brands controls 73% of the market for home-care pesticide products in South Africa. In a results presentation, the company said that while it is winning market share, the total market for household pesticides is shrinking in South Africa.   

Responding to a question about why there may have been fewer household pests in recent months, a spokesperson replied that it could be the result of global warming. 

Insect extinction 

Much has been made of the “insect apocalypse” due to global warming in recent weeks, after a new study by two Australian academics detailed the alarming rate at which insect populations are declining worldwide. The study found that if this trend continues unabated, the Earth may not have any insects at all by 2119.

The mass extinction is blamed on deforestation, mining, and carbon-dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming.

However, the latest study extrapolated mostly from European and American insect population findings. The only South African reference in the study is from 1999, and details dragon fly populations: Of the 155 species recorded in South Africa, 13 were declining and four were extinct twenty years ago.

As far as Business Insider South Africa could ascertain, there have been no studies about household insect populations in South Africa

The pests in South African agriculture certainly have not decreased, says Dr. Pia Addison of the conservation ecology and entomology department at the University of Stellenbosch.

In fact, pest species may even benefit from global warming, says prof. Mike Picker of the department of biological sciences at the University of Cape Town. Picker says studies that show dramatic declines in insect diversity in various countries usually refer to native species in undisturbed habitat.

“Pest species (crops and domestic) are not affected in the same way, and may benefit from climate change.”

“Bottom line is that there are no studies in SA to assess this, and insect populations fluctuate annually for various reasons (mostly climatic) in any case.”

“Climate change encompasses more than just rise in temperatures (which will affect insects) - change in rainfall patterns are also important,” says Marcus Byrne, professor of entomology at Wits University, citing the example of white butterflies, currently seen around in Johannesburg.

“They are about two months late this year and low in numbers. Rain has come late to the Kalahari and might be responsible for this change.

He adds that in most analyses he has reviewed, pesticide use is a bigger factor in insect declines than climate change. “It would seem ironic that a pesticide company [Tiger Brands] is suffering from broad scale use of such compounds.”

Currently, the drought is definitely not helping insect numbers, says prof. Martin Villet of the department of zoology and entomology at Rhodes University.

Health concerns?

The decline in bug spray use could also be due to another factor.

“Another possible reason for the reduced sales could be increased consumer concern about human health and the environment,” says prof. Kerstin Kruger of the Department of Zoology and Entomology at the University of Pretoria.

Health concerns were highlighted in 2016, when controversial pastor Lethebo Rabalago sprayed Doom on members of his congregation. In the end, the Limpopo High Court issued an order banning the use of insect repellents for religious healing.

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