Winter in the Lowcountry might not bring with it the snow and harsh weather that other parts of the country experience, but it does bring fewer bugs to the area — though the sand fleas seem impervious to all but the harshest weather conditions.
It’s a nice break from spring and summer, when the area is swarming with mosquitos and no-see-ums, and fire ants, cockroaches and mole crickets come out to ruin your outdoor spaces and give everyone a bad case of the creepy crawlies.
But Louise Hodges and her husband, Dan, are helping Lowcountry residents take back their yards — without drenching the outdoor spaces in hazardous chemicals.
“When people ask what is Greenbug, I tell them we manufacture all-natural pest control products made with an active ingredient of cedar that is an alternative to synthetic chemical pesticides,” Louise said.
The couple had built a thriving landscape design firm in Charlotte before moving to the Lowcountry in 2008 with plans to launch a landscape company here. However, with the country in the grips of a major economic recession, the timing wasn’t right to start a new company of this type. Instead, a new idea came to them.
IT’S ALL THE NATURE YOU WANT, AND NONE THAT YOU DON’T
“We spent our adult lives creating places that people could enjoy outdoors, and when we moved down here, we realized that you can’t go outdoors a lot of the year because the bugs are so bad,” said Louise.
Louise began researching pest control solutions with an eye on more natural alternatives. Having lost family members to cancer related to environmental toxins, and knowing the Lowcountry’s position on critical watersheds, she wanted to find a way to eliminate pests safely. She found cedar.
“It just made sense — you see cedar in chests and closets to drive away bugs, in siding to prevent termites; it’s been used for centuries. It was used in the pyramids,” she said.
Formulating this cedar into an all-natural bug spray, they launched Greenbug, a two-ounce bottle of all natural personal bug spray. The company has since sold more than 100,000 bottles in retail stores from North Carolina to Florida, as well as on the Greenbug website, greenbugsystem.com. But their idea for cedar-enhanced personal sprays blossomed into something bigger when the couple connected with the Don Ryan Center for Innovation in Bluffton, joining as innovators in 2012.
“When we got there, we were selling products, but we hadn’t really developed the system,” Louise said. “They were very beneficial in helping us do that.”
The genesis of the Greenbug system came when Louise was working on her home’s irrigation system and realized marrying that technology with their cedar-based formula would create an all-new way to battle bugs. She and Dan pitched the idea to the Don Ryan Center’s board of directors for an injector system that integrates their organic formula with existing irrigation systems. The center helped connect the Hodges with valuable business partners like landscape companies and legal and financial advisers, helping them make their bug-free dreams a reality.
The couple also connected with the South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation Center, which helps people with disabilities secure employment.
“It’s wonderful,” Louise said. “We started off with them thinking they could label our small bottles. We then realized they could label, they could fulfill orders and they could ship them out. They now do 85 percent of the pre-labor on the Greenbug System. It has been a wonderful partnership.”
Today, there are more than 225 Greenbug Systems in use at houses on Dataw Island and in Palmetto Bluff, Hampton Lake, Habersham and other Beaufort County neighborhoods. The company is currently installing its improved 10th iteration of the system and recently created the Greenbug Jumbo model to accommodate properties with more than 24 irrigation zones.
“Now you don’t need quarterly pest control. And it takes care of all the bugs you don’t want, but has no effect on honey bees or butterflies,” Louise said. “It’s all the nature you want, and none that you don’t.”