So, this week is National Pollinator Week, and there are lots of neato resources available for free online via the Pollinator Partnership.

That’s great.
But here is something that I have a great deal of cognitive dissonance about:

When you look at the partner page for corporate sponsors of this week and the partnership itself, you find some names you’d expect: Burt’s Bees, Häagen-Dazs, Whole Foods, etc.  There are also some surprising sponsors.

Specifically: Orkin is a sponsor.

Orkin has been “keeping pests in their place for over 100 years.”

Now, here is the dilemma I see facing the Pollinator Partnership.  They have a great message…but no money.  They have a potential sponsor…but it’s an extermination company that benefits from people’s fears of insects.  Orkin commercials, while often quite funny, definitely rely on very creepy images of roaches being in your face.  They are entomophobia peddlers, if you will.

Orkin also sponsors an insect zoo at the Smithsonian.
They have a Junior Pest Investigator curriculum that is free (after you give them a lot of personal information.)

So, while Orkin’s primary business is killing insects, they do give a lot of money away.  Non-profits need money.
And so Orkin sponsors Pollinator Week and the Pollinator Partnership.

One of the biggest issues I have with Orkin is the phrase “The Orkin Man™”.
Yes. It is a trademarked phrase.
And it’s a MAN.  Because manly men are the only ones who can take care of your infestations.  *sigh*

What do you think? Does having Orkin as a sponsor harm the message of the Pollinator Partnership?

Posted by Gwen Pearson

Writer. Nerd. Insect Evangelist. Have you heard the good news? BUGS!


  1. I’ve been rather unimpressed with Their guides are super flashy, but they lump the San Francisco area with Southern California (completely different climate, not just politically) and their plant guides are very light on natives and actually have a number of mistakes when it comes to natives.

    I’m usually happy to join any old band wagon (like blog action day) but I decided to skip that one. And now I’m even happier that I did.

  2. This is a tough blog post to respond to… given the current BP Gulf brouhaha and their significant financial support of The Nature Conservancy, The National Audubon Society, The Sierra Club, and Conservation International. However, if I were hungry and on the streets, I would not shy away from food offered from a big, wealthy corporation. Btw, Whole Foods, like Trader Joe’s here in CA, is not as wholesome as you would first like to believe.

  3. I suspect that a lot of people at Orkin feel kind of caught in the middle. I understand that most of the jobs in entomology involve killing insects, and so a lot of kids who are fascinated by insects and become entomologists then end up with a choice of either working in pest extermination, or being unemployed. So even though they are spending their days working on insect extermination, many (perhaps even the majority) of the people who work for Orkin actually really love bugs.

  4. Katie–I’m not naive enough to think Whole Foods is wholesome. It’s just that sponsorship seems more in line with their mission, if you will, than Orkin.

    Tim–What you said ;p I have some good friends at the National Pest Control Association, and they are good people.

  5. It is jarring. I’m not sure what message Orkin is trying to send. If it’s a PR thing, you’d think Orkin (or their parent company Rollins) would return the favor and list who they sponsor somewhere.

    There is more information about bees on the Orkin site than I expected, but it has a “know your enemy” feeling about it that’s very offputting. They even suggest you avoid planting flowers that attract bees!

    Even so, I can forgive for taking their money. What really annoys me is they misspelled Massachusetts.

  6. First off, thanks for your rant about their ads. The Orkin man theme is infuriating enough, but the level of bug-fears that they play up twists my cerci in a knot. I’d have totally invited that roach into my hot-tub! : )

    I’d never really gone through the pollinator site before. I have to say, they sure soft-pedal the issue of pesticides. “Use responsibly”? That’s the vaguest advice possible. If you’re going effect any real change, you’re going to have to name names, or at least products. Pollinator Partnership does neither, and other than “don’t use during the day”, there’s nothing concrete. Is this the result of accepting money from Orkin? I’m not sure.

  7. I think we need to give Orkin a break here.. If you’ve had termites, a wasp nest in the attic, an infestation of bedbugs or cockroaches you call the exterminator. They don’t come out and spread poison all over the neighborhood, they are professionals that target the very real problem while doing as little other damage as is practical.

    I see no conflict of interest at all in Pollinator Partnership accepting money from Orkin.

  8. Lawrence Lessig’s talks on the subject of corporate money and compromised messages speak to this issue quite well, and I agree with him. It’s better not to take money if you’re taking it from an entity that could be perceived as influencing you to mitigate your tone, which *could* be precisely Orkin’s purpose. Maybe not, and maybe hasn’t altered anything because of the sponsorship… but we’ll never know, which is Lessig’s point.

  9. Susan posts the most sense to the point of the question. It is ethical to avoid the appearance of unethical influence. I recommend against allying with the good folks at Orkin. Long-term, it is the right choice.

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