Selecting a Pest Control Company

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).
A state ID card for pest technician is is evidence of legally operating some states and should be considered when selecting a pest control company.
Figure 1. Example of a state ID card that all salespeople, office staff, and technicians are required to carry in Florida.
  • 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).
Pest inspection is a consideration in selecting a pest control company
Figure 2. Example of a pest management professional looking under and behind items during an inspection for pests.

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.

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)
Whether a company uses sticky pest monitors is a consideration in selecting a pest control company
Figure 3. Sticky monitor to detect insect pests. Cockroaches are being eaten by fire ants. Thank you, AP&G for monitors.
  • 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).
Branches trimmed away from home to prevent pest access
Figure 4. Branches cut away from roof and walls so that pests cannot use them to access home.

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.

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.

Authors
Oi, F. M.1, J. Davis2, J. Diaz3, S. Ellis4, R. Cantrell5, N. Nelson6, and J. Corbus7

Contact: Faith Oi, foi@ufl.edu

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

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