Merlin Environmental’s detection dogs point to revolution in pest control


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The company’s clients range from hotels and care homes to airports and prisons – all of them trying to combat the resilient creepy-crawlies that are particularly partial to human blood.

However once Merlin’s hounds, schooled in the bugs’ sweet, musty scent, expose them, the company uses heaters to efficiently target infestations and kill them off.

“Our non-toxic solutions make us unique in the pest sector.

“They offer far greater control, without any of the environmental impact or creating resistance in predatory species. Most of our work now is bedbugs,” explains Merlin’s managing director Adam Juson.

Based on a former farm in West Sussex, the business is home to a team of 16 dogs. Here the company trains them and their trainers, together with eight handlers who usually carry out 12 jobs a day and 200,000 plus inspections a year.

After Brexit complexities hit Merlin’s European business, Covid reduced demand from the hospitality and aviation sectors. “Our team had to learn new protocols, but the experience taught us the importance of being diversified,” says Juson.

“We now have care home clients, a white label service for prisons and commissions from student accommodation providers. Awareness of environmental factors was growing before Covid, but the pandemic compounded that. Clients want to strengthen their environmental credentials.

“Recognition has grown about the advantages of our non-pesticide approach which means there’s no waiting after treatment for any toxin to disperse. A 700-room hotel for example would need two of our teams. We need to make regular visits so that saves time for clients.”

The smell of success is once again in the air as demand returns. Merlin is forecasting a £2million turnover in 2024 and plans to expand by opening a branch in Sweden this year.

“Environment is top of the agenda in Sweden which makes them a good fit with us,” says Juson.

Doing business again in Germany, possibly followed by France, is also on the cards. “Compact springer and cocker spaniels like ferreting in holes and are the best for our work,” adds

Juson. “Setting up a training unit on site has enabled us to gain far greater understanding of scent and push standards of reliability and accuracy.”

The former molecular pharmacologist started Merlin with his wife and mother in 1998 after detecting bed bugs in his seat during a flight.

“Bed bugs are evolving, their shells are getting thicker. I could see ever greater amount of toxins were not going to work,” explains Juson.

“Our business is principle first and only then profit.”

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