FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP — As a security analyst Maria Curcio is used to looking for bugs and intrusions in computers.
Now Curcio is helping people find a different kind of bug and intrusion.
Curcio, 49, of Freehold Township is the CEO of BuggyBeds, a company that makes bedbug traps. She, along with Veronica Perlongo, the company’s owner, will be appearing tonight on the season premiere of the Shark Tank television show, looking for one or more of the five investors - the five “sharks” - to invest in their company in exchange for a percentage of BuggyBeds’ equity.
“It’s exciting,” Curcio said of the outcome, which she is not permitted to discuss until after the episode airs.
There was a more pedestrian approach to how Curcio came up with the BuggyBeds.
“About a year and a half ago my son moved to New York and the landlord, as part of the lease agreement, wanted him to sign that the apartment was bedbug-free,” Curcio said. “How can you determine if it was bedbug-free?”
Curcio, who describes herself as “always thinking, problem solving,” tinkered with different attractants and different lures.
She came up with a deceptively simple concept. A plastic tray containing four sections of glue attracts and holds the bedbugs. It’s similar to larger-sized glue mousetraps, except it has a clear top, and there’s a ramp made of textured material for the critters to climb.
With four traps to a tray, BuggyBeds can be placed at all four corners between a mattress and box spring, or underneath a vehicle’s passenger or rear floor mats, to name a few places.
“It’s pesticide-free and nontoxic, a natural early detection. Unlike other bedbug detectors, you can look and see in the trap whether or not you have them,” Curcio said.
Bedbug infestations are increasing, according to an August 2011 report conducted by the Fairfax, Va.-based National Pest Management Association.
“The increase in bedbug encounters is likely due to a combination of factors, but one thing is clear - this pest shows no signs of retreating,” said Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for NPMA, in a prepared statement.
And increases in bedbug activity means people have to proactive rather than reactive, according to a 2010 report by the University of California, Berkeley.
Do the math: It takes between seven and 10 days on average for bedbug eggs to hatch, with a female laying between one and five eggs a day, or between 200 and 500 eggs in her lifetime.
As well, the increase in bedbugs also means an increase in revenue for the structural pest control industry – businesses which eliminate not only insects such as bed bugs, but rodents and vermin in homes, hotels and other structures.
Of the estimated $6.52 billion in total revenue in 2011, $409 million of that came from controlling bedbugs. That profit increased 28.2 percent from 2010, says Specialty Products Consultants, a Mendham provider of market research studies to the specialty pesticide industry.
“Shark Tank” gets between 30 and 40 applicants a year. But it was ABC who contacted BuggyBeds, Curcio said, adding she was both surprised and hesitant.
Already, the product is selling well. It can be found at The Home Depot and Burlington Coat Factory stores in New Jersey, she said.
And then there’s the Internet.
“We’ve gotten tremendous orders on Amazon.com. For a $12 item, people are willing to pay $40 to $50 to have it shipped overnight. Most of our Internet sales take place during the night,” Curcio said.
BuggyBeds are being used by housing authorities and apartment complexes, in hotels and movie theaters, she said.