Department of Entomology
TIPS ON SELECTING PEST CONTROL SERVICES
By: Michael Waldvogel, Entomology Extension
Insect Note - ENT/rsc-3
Although you may prefer a "do-it-yourself" approach to pest control, there are situations where the job is best left in the hands of a pest management professional (PMP). This is particularly true with wood-destroying insects such as termites, carpenter ants and wood-boring beetles. Treatments for these pests can be complex and expensive, depending upon the size of the home, the type of construction and the extent of the problem. NC Cooperative Extension cannot endorse specific pest control companies, but we can offer some tips to help you reach an informed decision on the type of service you need or want. The emphasis here is on solving specific problems, particularly for wood-destroying pests, but the same general principles apply to regular service contracts for other common household pests, such as cockroaches and ants. Becoming an informed educated consumer is the best way to protect yourself and to make sure you get the kind of service you need and want. Here are some issues to consider when deciding what type of service you need or want
North Carolina Structural Pest Control Regulations
In North Carolina, anyone who performs structural pest control (SPC) for the general public (i.e., not on their own property or their employer's property) must be licensed by the Structural Pest Control and Pesticides Division of the NC Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services - Structural Pests Control & Pesticides Division (SPCPD). There are three phases or types of licenses based on the type of work or pest involved:
The removal/exclusion of vertebrate animals, such as snakes, raccoons and
bats from houses is usually done by wildlife
damage control agents (WDCAs). However, WDCA's cannot apply pesticides (e.g, to get rid of fleas that may be the result of a raccoon or oppossum in the house). Many WDCAs work for pest control companies or
they are licensed in structural pest control so they can perform any necessary
In North Carolina, all pest control companies must have at least one licensed individual (licensee) on their staff. The other employees work under that licensee's supervision. Details about these categories can be found at the following NCDA &CS web site. License numbers have 3-4 digits followed by letters that designate which phases or types of pest control the company employees are allowed to perform. For example, a company (licensee) with a license number "9999PWF" is able to provide all phases pest control services. On the other hand, a company with the license number "9999P" can perform pest control for household pests (such as those mentioned above), but they cannot perform any treatments for termites or other wood-destroying pests, even if the treatments are applied indoors, rather than to the soil. Make sure that the company with whom you deal has a valid license issued by the NCDA&CS to provide the service you need. All employees of the company who sell pest control contracts or perform pest control services must have an identification cards issued by the NCDA&CS. This card will have their employer's SPC license number on it. Under NCDA&CS rules, the company's name or its SPC license number must be displayed on both sides of every service vehicle. Vehicles used strictly by company sales representatives are not required to carry these markings, although most companies do as a form of advertising). Whether or not the vehicle is marked, ask to see the person's identification card as proof of his/her employment with an authorized pest control company. If he/she cannot produce a valid identification card, you should contact the NCDA&CS.
Some companies have separate
sales and technical staff. You should feel free to ask if he/she is
a technician or a salesperson for the company or if they
are a salaried employee or are paid partially on a commission basis.
This does not imply that salaried employees are more truthful or more
accurate than those working on a commission basis. Asking questions
simply shows that you expect to be treated professionally.
Pesticides are not always the answer
Some pesticide treatments are done routinely (e.g., quarterly, annually, etc.) as preventive measures whether or not there actually is a problem that needs control. On the other hand, specific pest problems are not always solved simply by applying a pesticide. Effective pest control starts with a thorough inspection. Then if necessary, a pesticide can be applied. A thorough initial inspection will help you to determine IF a pesticide is the best choice for a particular situation and then where to direct any pesticide applications so that it will be most effective and least hazardous to you, your family and the environment. When dealing with a pest problem, you should start by answering the following questions:
Most insect pests are simply
nuisances or cause minor problems that can be ignored until they disappear
or else can be corrected by vacuuming them up or cutting off their
entry/access points. Other pests, such as those that attack stored foods,
can often be eliminated by simply discarding the infested item(s)
and cleaning the storage area thoroughly. Many people expect pesticides
to eliminate all of the pests quickly. This is simply not going to
occur in many situations, so don't expect it. Some pesticides, particularly
baits, work slowly (but effectively) by design. Also, weather is a
major factor in the effectiveness of pesticide applications. Hot dry
weather often promotes invasions of pests such as springtails and millipedes and
can also make pesticide applications less effective.
You need to be reasonably patient to allow any chemical control measures
to take effect before you do additional spraying.
and other wood-destroying insects can cause significant damage if
they are not controlled. However, that doesn't mean you need to
rush your decision about how to solve the problem. With termite contracts,
the pest control company must give you three days in
which you may decide to cancel the treatment. It is better to spend
a few extra days evaluating the safest, most effective and economical
solution. A delay of even several weeks is of no real consequence in
terms of additional termite damage. If your floor was going to collapse
from termite damage, it would likely do so regardless of the additional
time (and you likely needed the repairs anyway).
Make sure that the nature of the pest problem is clearly explained to you (or get this information on your own from the Internet or with the assistance of your local county Cooperative Extension Center. In the case of termites or other wood-destroying insects, any proposal/contract to treat your house must include a detailed building diagram that describes the problem. The diagram should specify the location and nature of the problem (e.g., damage, termite tubes and/or live termites or other pests). In particular, keep in mind the following points:
In some cases, you can easily
see that wood is severely damaged and must be repaired or replaced. Particularly
for woodboring beetles, a simple visual inspection of the wood will not
disclose the extent of any damage. One quick and simple (but not entirely
accurate) test is to poke or probe the wood with a ice-pick, rock-hammer or other sharp
tool. If the tool easily penetrates the wood and/or the wood splinters, then you may want to
consult a contractor or engineer who can determine if the damage is structurally
signficant. In the long run, it may be just as practical (and economical)
to replace or brace wood that is damaged.
Removing cellulose debris from a crawlspace is important and is required as part of a termite treatment. This debris usually consists of scrap pieces of lumber, but it can include paper and other cellulose-containing products large enough to rake up. You may save some money by doing this work yourself. If you are paying for a termite treatment, the pest management professional (PMP) is ultimately responsible for removing the debris or at least making you aware that it is supposed to be removed. You decide whether whether you do the work yourself or the PMP does it, but talk with the service technician to make sure that the work gets done properly.Read Your Service Contract Carefully
Before signing a service contract,
read it thoroughly and have it explained carefully. A written proposal
is required prior to any ongoing pest control work or for treatments involving
termites and other wood-destroying insects. The services to be performed
must be outlined. Don't settle for a contract that simply says "termite
treatment". Except when using termite baits, a proper termite treatment
usually requires trenching and treating of the soil along both sides
of the foundation (including piers and other masonry supports in the
crawlspace). Regulations also require that the section of the foundation
where termites were found, plus concrete
slabs attached to the foundation (such as garages
and porches) must be drilled and treated. These steps should be explained
specifically. The proposal/contract should also specify the name, concentration
and approximate amount of the insecticide that will be used.
For more information,
visit the NCDA&CS's web site: Homeowner's
guide to Termite Control Service Agreements and Warranties
Good communication with your
pest control company helps prevent misunderstandings and problems. The
pest control professional servicing your home considers you to be a valued
customer and he/she is there to help you. Never hesitate to ask questions
about the service you are receiving, about the chemicals being used in
and around your home, or to get advice about what you should be
doing to help keep insect problems from occurring. If you have a problem with some aspect of your service, call the company and talk to a supervisor. A good company wants to know when a customer is not satisfied so they can correct the problem and provide the type of service you want and expect.
|Remember: Before you "sign
on the dotted line"
Contact your local county Cooperative Extension Center for additional information about various pests.
If you have a problem with the service you are offered or currently receiving, contact the NC Dept. of Agriculture & Consumer Services (919-733-6100).
Pest information and control recommendations presented here were developed for North Carolina and may not be appropriate for other states or regions. Any recommendations for the use of chemicals are included solely as a convenience to the reader and do not imply that insecticides are necessarily the sole or most appropriate method of control. Any mention of brand names or listing of commercial products or services in the publication does not imply endorsements by North Carolina Cooperative Extension nor discrimination against similar products or services. All recommendations for pesticide use were legal at the time of publication, but the status of pesticide registrations and use patterns are subject to change by actions of state and federal regulatory agencies. Individuals who use chemicals are responsible for using these products according to the regulations in their state and to the guidelines on the product label. Before applying any chemical, always obtain current information about its use and read the product label carefully. For assistance, contact the Cooperative Extension Center in your county.
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