All Creatures Great and Small

How to pick a pest control company

How to Pick a Pest Company

I have said many times that most people can control their own pests without using pesticides or a pest control company.  Most of this information is available in this book. Of course there are many people who prefer to hire someone for this and that is fine.

Just be careful and get several companies to give you a proposal.  First, make sure they can properly identify the pest you have when they inspect your  home.  If they are true professionals, they will know the scientific name of the pest and give it to you so you can Google it for more information.  If the representative that comes to your home or business doesn’t recognize your pest and offers to treat your home anyway, do not let him.  If they offer to take the bug back to their office for identification, that is fine.

A professional pest management specialist will inspect your home or business, identify any pests and offer to treat the infested areas safely and effectively.  Most companies want to make regularly scheduled visits to your home. That is okay as long as they just don’t spray pesticides inside your home and call it pest control.  It is, in reality, pesticide pollution.  They should come to your house periodically and inspect your home or business for pests, for conditions conducive to pests and for possible entrance ways for pests to come into your home.  If you have a crawl space under your home, they should go under your house and look for leaks or areas where pests can get into the main portion of your home.  They should carefully inspect around the outside and look for wasp nests or other potentially dangerous pests near your home or business.  They should even check any spider webs attached to your home to see if swarming termites are in the web.  Pesticides should only be applied if there is a pest present that requires it.  In the winter, they can inspect your house as they normally do and then also offer suggestions on how to pest-proof your home or business.  Maybe install door sweeps, fix holes around plumbing and even trim branches from trees that are touching your home.  This is IPM (Intelligent Pest Management).

Many companies and certainly all the larger ones have a clause in their contract that prohibits you from suing them.   The clause reads something like this:: “Any dispute arising out of or relating to this agreement or the services performed under this agreement or tort based on claims for personal or bodily injury or damage to real or personal property shall be finally resolved by arbitration administered under the commercial arbitration rules of the American Arbitration Association.” In 1995, the U. S. Supreme Court established that mandatory arbitration clauses could be used in contracts between companies and consumers.  Since that time, the clause has been widely used by the pest control industry.  One of the problems, and there are several, is that it is not free. It could cost the consumer up to $2,000 up front in order to start the arbitration process.  Very few people have that kind of cash lying around.  If you are asked to sign a contract with a pest control firm, look for that clause.  If it is present, you can cross it out and ask the company representative to initial it.  If they refuse, don’t sign the contract.  There are plenty of pest control operators who do not require contracts to conduct their business.

There are basically three degrees of professionalism in the industry.  There are the “antiquated” companies, who still go in homes and spray baseboards even though they have  no idea what kind of pest the customer has or even if they have a pest.  Mostly it is old-timers who still do this and it will eventually disappear.  In the antiquated companies in the industry, all they know is they kill roaches and ants.  One supervisor told me many years ago that there were only two kinds of ants, inside ants and outside ants!  He was the service manager!  That company didn’t do well over the years. Other antiquated companies recognize sugar ants, grease ants and piss ants.

The next level of professionalism is the “mediocre” group of companies.  They all have the same habits and follow the same routines, regardless of how unprofessional it may be.  This is usually a result of lack of training.  The folks start companies and develop their methods based on what they did in previous companies they worked for, even if those methods are no long viable.  While this may work for many customers and is easy to do, it still puts them behind the true “Professionals”, who take this industry very seriously.  Professionalism at the highest degree should be the mission of every company, but it is not even close.

The most common level of knowledge is represented in the mediocre companies around the country.  They use common names for insects that make no sense.  They refer to “crazy” ants.  Why are they crazy?  Have they been to an insect psychiatrist? They are called crazy ants because they run around in circles.  Lots of ants do that. My kids did that.  It is a ridiculous name.  “Acrobat” ants do not swing from chandeliers in the customer’s house and pavement ants don’t live exclusively under pavement.  I have never sniffed an “odorous” house ant, so don’t know if they smell funny, but I am told they do. I have never met a customer with an ant problem who has squished and sniffed their ants.  Of the 48 species of “field” ants that live in NM, only two of them actually live in fields!  We have “carpet” beetles in homes without carpets.  It goes on and on.  Every company should strive to reach the upper level of competency and achieve true professionalism in the industry when it comes to technical knowledge and use the scientific names of the pests.

The antiquated companies will treat the baseboards of their customer’s homes.  Period.  The mediocre companies will spray pesticides inside and out in a general manner, and will spray pesticides in the dead of winter when bugs are hibernating.  This is, of course, for show only, except all they are showing is their lack of technical knowledge.

The true professionals will only use crack and crevice materials in a building, or baits like Niban which works very well.  They will treat around the outside using a pin-stream application so they can get the pesticide in cracks and crevices where potential pests hide.  They will put Niban bait in water meters as they always have roaches.  They will check spider webs they see for signs of swarming termites. In the winter, when there is no pest activity, they will inspect the house and offer to seal any cracks in the foundation, repair any vents, cut back any tree branches touching the roof and other things that can help prevent bugs from entering the house when spring comes around.  This makes far more sense than spraying pesticides when the ground is frozen!  Some so-called professionals will say Niban doesn’t work.  Actually it works very well, but since it is made from boric acid and available to the public, they don’t want to use it as they think the customer may decide to do it themselves.

A true professional will post a pest control notification if they are going to treat any commercial account with synthetic pesticides, whether it is required or not.  They will want to let the public know what they may be exposed to.  Many years ago when I was in Houston, I always posted notifications when I was a Truly Nolen manager and it worked great.  We had a lot of people call and ask for our service.  There is nothing wrong with pesticide notification if you are using a legal product safely and according to the label.

If you do hire a company, ask them to give you a copy of the label and the MSDS of any pesticides they use.   Read the label carefully.  A professional will wear the proper gear as required by the label when applying pesticides.  The mediocres will sometimes not wear the safety gear as they don’t want you to think their products are dangerous.

In Summation:

If they aren’t wearing a uniform or neatly dressed, ask for identification and to see a copy of  their license.  Only amateurs would come to your home dressed in T-shirts or shorts.

If they don’t thoroughly inspect your home, inside and outside and under it if you have a crawl space, then call someone else.

If they say they will spray your home regularly inside send them on their way.  You are looking for safe and effective pest management, not pesticide pollution.


About askthebugman

I have been in the pest management industry for over 40 years. In that time I have used almost every pesticide available to control so-called “pests”. With this experience, I have learned over the years that the pesticides we use are far more dangerous than the pests we are trying to control. As a result, it has become a passion for me to improve the quality of life for humans and the planet, by assisting people to not only become more educated and aware of their environment – but also by learning to manage their home and business with a sustainable and healthier approach to tending to unwanted infestations of bugs. Please enjoy my blog posts, check out my publications, utilize my services, or simply stay in touch if you have a bug question…


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