When Louise Hodges and husband Dan moved from Charlotte to Beaufort in 2008, they noticed something unusual about their new home.
"Everyone was always outside kayaking and fishing," she remembers. "But they were never in their yards."
Hodges, a longtime landscape designer, had been accustomed to helping people enjoy their personal patches.
But she quickly realized why her new neighbors were avoiding theirs: From mosquitoes to mole crickets, fire ants to fleas, Lowcountry lawns are teeming with insects that bite and bother.
Never miss a local story.
That could change, Hodges said, with a unique pest control system she developed, one that took top honors last month at an entrepreneur contest in Savannah.
Her Greenbug Injector System is eco-friendly -- made entirely of natural components and harmless to humans and pets, she says -- and hooks directly to residential irrigation systems.
She downplayed the significance of earning first place at the competition -- "It's a feather in my cap, I guess" -- but couldn't mask her pride when showing off her invention.
"I know of nothing like this on a residential level," she said, gesturing toward a box adjoining the sprinkler system controls at a home where the device was recently installed.
While most pesticides are sprayed or misted onto lawns in monthly or biweekly intervals, her cedar-based product is dispersed through sprinkler heads.
It could be in high demand this summer after a relatively mild winter that boosted pest populations and calls for local exterminators.
"We didn't have a good hard winter frost this year, so nothing got killed off," said John Harris, manager of the Bluffton office of Hilton Head Exterminators. "Business is up about 25 percent over what we're normally doing this time of year."
Business hasn't picked up much yet for Hodges, but she says there's been enough of an uptick to keep her family, including Dan and their 15-year-old daughter, Ellen, on their collective toes. Daughter Hunter also pitches in from time to time.
Louise and Dan recently installed the system for Lady's Island resident Heath Simmons, who said having an all-natural product was a priority.
"I'm out here every day," he said as he held his 7-month-old daughter. "I'd seen a lot of other systems, and what they're using just isn't as safe."
Hodges said she didn't expect to invent a cutting-edge pest control product while majoring in business at Clemson University -- where she met Dan, an agronomy major -- but she says it's rewarding to help people enjoy their yards again.
It's also rewarding, she says, to work with her family and inspire her daughters.
"It's cool," she said. "They get to see Mommy and Daddy being entrepreneurs. Maybe that will influence them."
Or at least let them spend more time outdoors.