For two decades, Tony and Kim Busby have worked together in the pest control business.
Busby, who owns Rid-X Termite & Pest Control, said he and his wife love working together and are around each other 24 hours a day — at work and home.
“We are our best friends,” he said. “I wouldn’t trade her as a worker with anyone I’ve ever met. And I hope she wouldn’t trade me.”
Mrs. Busby crawls under houses with him, but when she sees a snake skin, she turns the job over to him.
“I’ve done it for so long, I don’t even think about them,” he said of snakes and other creepy crawly things.
Some of his more odd finds have included a raccoon in an attic where he couldn’t figure out where it had gotten in, and a 6-foot-long King snake that had fallen through the sheetrock in a living room.
Busby, 52, was born in Fort Worth but moved around a lot as a child.
Mrs. Busby, 48, grew up in Texarkana. Her grandfather worked for International Exterminators, starting in 1943, and her father began Pillow Termite & Pest Control in 1958.
The couple met through mutual friends in 1984.
“I fell in love at first sight,” he said. “She didn’t, and I chased her into ’85.”
They married in 1986.
The couple moved to Longview in 1987, and he was a beer sales representative until Mrs. Busby’s parents talked them into moving back to Texarkana, and he began working for the family pest control business. He earned his pest control license in 1988 and began working in the field in 1993, while Mrs. Busby worked in the office.
In 2000, the Busbys, along with Mrs. Busby’s two brothers, bought the business, which they sold in 2007. In 2005, they bought Rid-X in Tyler and his brother, Terry Busby, ran it. Meanwhile, they started a Rid-X business in Texarkana and ran it until they moved to Tyler. They are in the process of selling the Texarkana business to focus on the business here, he said.
“This is our busy season,” Busby said on Thursday. “Termites are swarming everywhere. … Termites live under every inch of ground you walk on.”
Termites cause more damage every year than floods, tornadoes and hurricanes combined, Busby said, adding that he has seen a house that had to have nearly all of its walls completely rebuilt, which was about $40,000 in damage.
Colonies that are big enough to attack properties range in size from 10,000 to 500,000 termites, he said. They can attack brick homes on concrete pads because they still contain wood. Even in metal buildings, with metal studs on concrete, termites will climb the walls to get to the paper out of books on a shelf, he said, adding that they will eat cardboard or anything else made of paper or wood.
When temperatures start reaching 70 degrees in the spring, people discover they have termites when they swarm out of their walls by the thousands.
He said the most physical thing they do is treating for termites.
“Crawling on your belly and digging trenches under houses is probably the most unfun thing I’ve ever done,” he said.
Still, he wouldn’t give up the job for anything.
If he won the lottery, Busby said he wouldn’t quit the business. Instead, he would expand it to become the “biggest pest control guy in town.”
“I love to make people happy. … I guess that’s why I keep doing this,” he said.
When people call him and they’re in a panic, he takes pride in being able to help.
“We’re in the business of solving problems,” Busby said.
To get rid of termites, he digs a trench around any area of the house where wood contacts soil and fills them with chemicals so termites have to pass through it to get to the house, he said.
“You literally have 1 million termites under your house, and so does your neighbor,” he said. “The idea that I don’t see anything, I don’t have them is a false sense of security. … You’re never going to get rid of them in your yard. The only thing you can do is protect your house.”
Busby wants to educate people who are building or buying a new house the importance of pest control. When building, the property needs to be treated before a slab is poured and again once the house and yard are completed. He said when they do it, he is so sure of his work, he offers a lifetime warranty for termites.
“Your house is the largest investment most people will ever make,” he said, adding that termites are the quickest way to damage that investment.
DON’T LET THE BEDBUGS BITE
Rid-X’s services encompasses everything that has to do with pest control — from indoor pests like beetles, spiders, roaches, scorpions, bedbugs and ants, to rodents, such as rats in the attic and mice in the house. They also spray the perimeters of homes and yards for outdoor pests like wasps, ants, fleas and spiders.
Busby said they do residential and commercial work and their main business is in preventative pest control and maintenance.
“Bedbugs are becoming a pretty big deal in Tyler,” Busby said, adding that they spread easily from person to person through a chair at the movie theater, restaurant or doctor’s office. “If you sit down after them, you can easily pick up a bedbug and carry it to your house.”
Having bedbugs is not about cleanliness. The bloodsuckers can leave sores — from small red bumps on the skin to more intense reactions in some people — and leaves brown blood droplets on mattresses, he said.
Rid-X was started in Longview in the 1980s and had branches added in Tyler and Gilmer. The businesses in Longview and Gilmer are owned by different people.
Rid-X in Tyler serves customers in Smith, Anderson, Cherokee, Henderson, Van Zandt and Wood counties.
“I like everything about this,” Busby said of his job. “I like driving from house to house out in the country. … There’s so much beauty in this part of the state, and we get to see than on a daily basis.”
He and his wife have one employee and offer free estimates. Their son worked for them during high school and is now in the U.S. Marine Corps., while their daughter, who is about to graduate from Texas A&M University at Texarkana, still does most of their IT work.