IF YOU HAVE a pest control problem that you do not want to handle on your own, you may decide to turn to a professional applicator. How can you be sure that the pest control company you hire will do a good job? Before you choose a company, get answers to these questions:
1. Is the company licensed?
Most state or local agencies issue state pest control licenses. Contact your State Pesticide Regulatory Agency to make sure the pest control operator’s license is current if one is required in your state. Also, ask if the company’s employees are bonded, meaning that the company reimburses you for any loss or damage caused by the employee.
2. Is the company willing and able to discuss the treatment proposed for your home?
Selecting a pest control service is just as important as selecting other professional services. Look for the same high degree of competence you would expect from a doctor or lawyer. Any company, including those advertising themselves as “green,” should inspect your premises and outline a recommended control program, including the:
Pests to be controlled. Extent of the problem. Active ingredient(s) in the pesticide chosen. Potential adverse health effects of the active ingredient. Form of the pesticide and application techniques. Special instructions to reduce your exposure to the pesticide (such as vacating the house, emptying the cupboards, and removing pets). Steps to take to minimize your pest problems in the future.
3. Does the company have a good track record?
Don’t rely on the company salesperson to answer this question. Research the answer yourself. Call your State Pesticide Regulatory Agency and find out if they have received complaints about the company. Ask neighbors and friends if they have ever dealt with the company. Were they satisfied with the service they received?
4. Does the company have appropriate insurance? Can the salesperson show proof on paper that the company is insured?
Most contractors carry general liability insurance, including insurance for sudden and accidental pollution. Their insurance gives you a certain degree of protection should an accident occur while pesticides are being applied in your home. Contractors may also carry workmen’s compensation insurance, which can help protect you should one of their employees be injured while working in or around your apartment or house. Although most states do not require pest control companies to buy insurance, you should think twice before hiring a company that is not insured.
5. Does the company guarantee its work?
You should be skeptical about a company that does not guarantee its work. In addition, be sure to find out what you must do to keep your part of the bargain. For example, in the case of termite control treatments, the company’s guarantee may become invalid if you make structural alterations to your home without giving prior notice to the pest control company. The company may require that you pay for annual inspections subsequent to the initial treatment to keep the guarantee valid.
6. Is the company affiliated with a professional pest control association?
Professional associations – national, state, or local – keep members informed of new developments in pest control methods, safety, training, research, and regulations. Members agree to honor a code of ethics. The fact that a company, small or large, chooses to join a professional association signals its concern for quality.
You and the company of your choice should develop the contract together. Your safety concerns should be noted and reflected in the choice of pesticides to be used. These concerns may include allergies, sensitivities, age of occupants (infants or elderly), resident pets, and treatment near wildlife and fish. Wise consumers get bids from two or three companies and look at value more than price. What appears to be a bargain may warrant a second look.
Ask the company to use the least toxic chemical method available that will do the job. Ask to see the label which will show precautionary warnings.
Evaluate the results. If you believe something has gone wrong with the pesticide application, contact the company and/or your state pesticide regulatory agency. Be a responsible, wise consumer and keep asking questions until your pests are under control.
For additional information on choosing a pest control company:
Tips on Selecting Pest Control Services. Feb. 2006. Michael Waldvogel. North Carolina Cooperative Extension. http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/ent/notes/Urban/tips.htm. Residential, Structural and Community Pests insect notes. Tips on Selecting Pest Control Services by Michael Waldvogel, Entomology Extension. Consists of information on North Carolina structural pest control regulations, understanding pesticides and the pest problem, and other such topics.
What you need to know about: Choosing a Qualified Pest Management or Lawn Care Company. 2003. Richard Johnson and Sharon Gripp. Penn State University. Pesticide safety fact sheets, Consumer topics, Applicator topics and West Nile Virus fact sheets provided by Penn State to help with pesticide education.
How to Choose a Pest Control Company. Sept. 1998. Faith Oi and Bruce Alverson. Alabama Cooperative Extension Service. A fact sheet entitled, How to Choose a Pest Control Company by Faith M. Oi. Includes information on general household pest control, evaluating customer service and subterranean termite control.
Compiled by Wayne Buhler, PhD.