Homeowners need to think about pest control as part of a home maintenance plan. While you can prevent pests from infesting your home, you may need a professional pest control service in some situations. Consider a professional for public health pests such as rodents, mosquitoes, bed bugs, and often cockroaches, and ants. Also, if you own your home, termite and wood-destroying organisms should be handled by pest management professionals (PMPs). This publication is intended to provide guidance on selecting a pest control company for “general household pest” (GHP) services.
There are thousands of pest control companies across the nation. So how do you select the right pest control company for you? The key is to ask a lot of questions. Here are some tips on selecting a pest control company:
Interview 3 to 5 pest control companies
Where to start? Word-of-mouth, local referrals, internet research, online reviews, Better Business Bureau (https://www.bbb.org/).
Do an in-person interview. Many companies will offer free estimates. During the interview, these observations should factor into your decision:
- The pest management professional should be dressed in a business uniform.
- Many states require an identification card. If required, pest management professional should be ready to present a state identification card upon request (Figure 1).
- The pest management professional should also be able to furnish you with a business telephone number and business address.
- Look at the vehicle. It should be clean and well-maintained. For example, equipment should be organized and pesticides clearly labeled and secure.
- Many states do not allow magnetic signage on the vehicle driven by the person who will perform the pest control work.
- Recommendations and contract quotes should be completed based on the inspection of your home. Be wary of companies that provide quotes based on the size of your house only.
- The inspector may look “under, around, behind, and on top” of areas where pests may hide (Figure 2).
During the interview, pest management professionals urge you to ask potential providers:
- About the length of the agreement/contract and frequency of service as well as response time.
- What guarantees, if any, are offered?
- What will void your contract?
- How are your records kept and will they be readily accessible?
- How will scheduling work? Will the technician or office text/call you to narrow the window of arrival or if they will be late? Do I have to be home?
- What is the company training policy to ensure that technicians are up-to-date? Training should be continual. Some companies provide weekly training.
- Is the company a member of a professional association such as the National Pest Management Association, a state association, or a similar professional organization?
- See additional questions under Additional Items to Consider
Determine that the pest control companies are working legally
Illegal pest control operators are increasingly common, posing a threat to people and the environment. Each state has different requirements. Please check the website for the Association of Structural Pest Control Regulatory Officials website (http://www.aspcro.org/officials.html ) for your state’s information.
Generally, states require pest control businesses to carry insurance, proof of someone at the location passing certification examination, and meeting statutory training and record-keeping requirements.
An Example of how to verify a Florida Pest Control company:
To help you determine whether companies are working legally, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) has a publicly searchable website of licensed pest control companies in Florida. To perform a search:
- Click on the link: http://aessearch.freshfromflorida.com/companysearch.asp
- Carefully enter the name of the pest control company and then click the search button.
- Search results should include the company of interest. The company may have more than one location (Figure 3).
- When you click on the company name, you should see a screen indicating the expiration date and status of the company license (Figure 4).
- If the Status reads Normal, the company is legal which means that FDACS has reviewed the insurance certificates, a list of each employee and their ID card number, and ID card status for each of the company’s technicians.
Additional items to consider when selecting a pest control company
Pest management professionals shared that their customers value effective and efficient service done by knowledgeable technicians. Knowledgeable technicians communicate what they are doing and why. Partially based on customer feedback, this section outlines considerations for pricing, what to look for in a pest control plan, and what to expect after you have selected the company.
Pricing: Keep in mind that “cheapest” is not equal to “best.”
The price that a company quotes will vary based on the type of service offered (i.e., monthly, quarterly, yearly) and whether the pest infestation is active or in the monitoring (prevention) phase. If pests are active, the level of activity should be considered.
- Pricing should be upfront, transparent, and in writing
- Know when added fees apply
- Do not feel pressured to sign up for “special deals”
What to look for in developing a pest control plan
- Strive to develop a partnership based on good communication. Approach pest management as a long-term commitment.
- A good pest management professional will listen to your concerns and consider them so be ready to set those expectations .
- Understand that pest management professionals are constrained by the law in terms of pesticide applications. For example, they will not be able to accommodate a request to “spray everything.”
- Companies should send a representative to inspect the property and home. The inspector may look “under, around, behind, and on top” of areas where pests may hide.
- Some companies will send a salesperson to do an initial assessment, discuss a contract, and answer initial questions. A different person may perform the actual pest service.
- If you do not know how to recognize an insect infestation or damage, ask the salesperson/inspector to show it to you.
Selecting a pest control company that does Integrated Pest Management
- Ask if the company uses an integrated pest management (IPM) approach. IPM is a dynamic process, based on communication and education. It is a sustainable system of pest management that fits perfectly with home maintenance. IPM is designed to:
- Stop pests
- Inspect and monitor for pests
- Identify pests
- Have a game plan to protect your house
- IPM plans treat for pests only as needed
- Know if your plan is working (i.e., evaluation)
- Your IPM plan should include pest monitoring and pest prevention. Monitoring for pests is crucial for proper management. Monitoring devices are the “eyes and ears” 24/7 for pests (Figure 3).
Home maintenance practices that support Integrated Pest Management
- Home maintenance practices that will support an IPM plan and will likely require your help include:
- Sealing gaps around doors and windows where pests may enter.
- Tip: If you can see light from the outside, while you are standing inside, it is enough space to allow in large cockroaches, other insects, spiders, and even rodents and snakes. Sealing gaps also presents air loss, thus saving money on utility costs.
- Making sure irrigation is not directed at the walls of the home. Water (moisture) is a considered a “conducive condition” that will encourage pest infestations and can also result in poor air quality inside.
- Removing tree and/or shrub branches that are touching the exterior walls or roof of a home because pests, including rodents and ants, commonly use them to find a way into the home (Figure 4).
- Sealing gaps around doors and windows where pests may enter.
Home maintenance practices that support Integrated Pest Management (continued)
- Eliminating debris in the yard where pests may harbor and breed.
- Eliminating water-holding containers that provide mosquito breeding sites.
- Inspecting the inside of your home and eliminating places where pests can hide and breed inside your home.
- Removing cardboard boxes and sealing books and other paper items in plastic sealed containers.
- Keeping food in sealed containers, including pet food.
- Regularly cleaning surfaces and appliances such as microwaves, stoves, and toaster ovens.
Other questions to ask that may influence selecting a pest control company
- Ask what else you need to do to prepare your home for the service. Will you, your family, and pets need to vacate the premises during the pest control service? If so, for how long do you need to stay away? Move furniture? Turn off irrigation?
- Pesticides should only be applied after a thorough inspection of the property and level of infestation determined.
- Ask how pesticides will be applied.
- Risk is related to exposure. Broadcast applications pose the highest level of risk. Targeted approaches, such as crack and crevice treatments, or baits carry the lowest risk.
- Ask: Is it necessary to clean up pesticide residue? Required cleaning of pesticide residues should be rare when using an IPM approach.
- Pest management professionals should communicate a plan that will help you take care of an existing problem, as well as prevent future pest problems.
Once you have selected a pest control company
- Make sure that you have a written quote that includes the services provided.
- Be sure you have read and understood the entire contract including all terms and conditions BEFORE you sign it. If anything is unclear, have the salesperson explain it.
- Offer feedback on the service. Most companies want to know how they are doing.
- Pest management professionals should work with you to figure out how the pests became a problem in and around your home.
- Pest management professionals should be able to make recommendations on how to prevent pests in the future.
- It may cost more to come to your home more frequently to treat the infestation rather than to monitor for pests before they become a problem.
Once a pest has been controlled it does not mean the work of pest control has ended. Think of pest control as a part of routine home maintenance. Regularly employing a preventative approach to pest control using monitoring can save money and prevent damage to your home and the goods stored within.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What are the different types of pest control categories?
Pest control falls into different licensing categories:
- General household pest control (GHP) for pests such as ants, cockroaches, fleas, rodents, and other pests generally related to the indoors
- Termites and wood-destroying organisms (WDO) such as beetles and wood-decay fungi
- Lawn and ornamentals (L&O)
Companies are required to have a certified operator in each of these categories if they are offering these services.
What is the “certified operator?”
- The certified operator is a person who has met the state requirements to practice pest control. Certified operators must pass a state examination in a specific category of pest control
- A certified operator is required to supervise the technician(s) who are usually the people servicing your home
- The state definition is an “individual holding a current pest control operator’s certificate issued by the department.” (FS 482.021(4))
Who is the “certified operator in-charge?”
The certified operator in-charge is responsible for the day-to-day operations at the location of the pest control business. This person is responsible for selecting the techniques and products used in servicing your home.
A pest management professional should be aware of who the certified operator in charge is. If not, that should be a concern. If they do not know who their certified operator in charge is, it may mean that there is little supervision or guidance to the technician who is servicing your home.
According to Florida Statute 482.021(5), “Certified operator in charge” means a person with these roles:
(a) Whose primary occupation is the pest control business;
(b) Who is employed full time by a licensee; and
(c) Whose principal duty is the personal supervision of the licensee’s operation in a category or categories of pest control in which the operator is certified.
Who is servicing my home?
Usually a technician, also known as an “ID cardholder,” working under the supervision of a certified operator will service your home.
What are the requirements to become a technician?
- After being hired by a pest control company, the certified operator in-charge has up to 30 days to apply for an identification card for the new technician with FDACS
- Within six months of hire, the technician is required to have at least 40 hours of documented training
- Of these 40 hours, at least four hours of classroom training must be in pesticide safety, integrated pest management, and applicable federal and state laws and rules
- The other hours are in undefined subjects within the categories of general household pests, termites and wood-destroying organisms (WDO), and lawn and ornamental pest management
- After the initial training, the technician is required to have two hours of training annually. Records must be maintained by the company and available to FDACS for review upon request
- Fumigation requires special certifications, as does some termite and WDO work, including filling out the WDO inspection form 13645 for the purposes of a real estate transaction, annual termite renewal inspections, and termite retreatments
- Background checks are the responsibility of the hiring company, not FDACS
- A full description of requirements can be found in Florida Statute 482.091
Acknowledgements: This work is supported by the Crop Protection and Pest Management Extension Implementation Project, grant no. 2017-70006-27149/project accession no. 1013962 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. We also thank the pest management professionals who generously shared their expertise: Josh Alpert, Stuart Aust, Paul Bello, Ed Bordes, William Chandler, Mathew Esker, Damien Gokhool, Bryce Hamilton, Tony Long, Jeffrey McGovern, John Michael, Trent Mobley, Roland Reschreiter, Scott Smith, James Sneed, and Louis Witherington. June 27, 2019.
Oi, F. M.1, J. Davis2, J. Diaz3, S. Ellis4, R. Cantrell5, N. Nelson6, and J. Corbus7
Contact: Faith Oi, firstname.lastname@example.org
1University of Florida, Entomology and Nematology Dept, Gainesville, FL 32611
2Sumter and Hernando County Extension Director, 7620 FL-471 #2, Bushnell, FL 33513
3University of Florida, Dept. of Ag. Ed. And Communications, 1200 N Park Road, Plant City, FL 33563
4Citrus County Extension, Family & Consumer Sciences, 3650 W. Sovereign Path, Suite 1, Lecanto, Fl. 34461
5University of Florida, Family, Youth, and Community Sciences, Housing and Community Development, 3008A McCarty Hall D, Gainesville, FL 32611
6Manatee County Extension, Family & Consumer Sciences, 1303 17th Street West, Palmetto, FL 34221
7Washington and Holmes County Extension, Family & Consumer Sciences, 1424 Jackson Avenue, Suite A, Chipley, FL 32428