University of Missouri Extension

G7501, New July 2003

Selecting a Professional Pest Control Service

Fred Fishel
Department of Agronomy

Household pests, such as termites, cockroaches, fleas, ants, wood-destroying beetles and stored product pests, are some of the common insect pests we encounter in our living spaces. Although most are considered to be a nuisance, some can cause serious damage to our property. Others may bite, sting and even transmit disease-causing agents.

Some of these insect pests are seasonal, yet some take no time off and require a year-round pest management program. There are certain pests, such as termites, that homeowners should not attempt to treat by themselves. A professional who is trained and possesses the skills, equipment and proper pesticides is the logical choice.

Our lawns add aesthetic quality and increase our home property values. Professional lawn care services are popular in our urban areas as many homeowners wish to pursue activities other than lawn maintenance. Many of the professional lawn care services offer year-round comprehensive pest control packages to control weeds, insects, diseases and vertebrate pests.

Regardless of structural or lawn pest control, many people contract the services of a pest control company to take care of their pest problems. All pest control operators who commercially apply any pesticide are certified and licensed by the state of Missouri. These applicators are required by law to pass qualifying exams that test their knowledge to prove their competence. In order to maintain their certification status, all commercial applicators are required to attend educational programs on a continual basis.

Homeowners who choose professional pest control services need to be able to make informed decisions on deciding whom to contract for treatment of their properties. Choosing a pest control service is generally based upon two major factors: first, the effectiveness of the company's pest management programs, and second, the satisfaction level provided by the company's customer service. When searching through the yellow pages of a telephone directory, you may encounter many companies listed under "pest control services" or "lawn services." The purpose of this guide is to provide information on how to make an informed decision on selecting a professional pest control service.

Homeowners occasionally require the services of a professional pesticide applicatorHomeowners occasionally require the services of a professional pesticide applicator for lawn, garden and structural pests.

Make treatment decisions based on whether pests are presentPest control professionals make treatment decisions based on whether pests are present.

Evaluating the effectiveness of a company's pest control service

Sanitation tips

  • Keep the kitchen clean.
  • Wipe down areas that are in contact with food, such as countertops and stovetops, with warm, soapy water.
  • Keep food in sealed containers.
  • Take out the trash on a regular basis and keep the garbage can covered.
  • Do not leave standing water; water is critical for pest survival. This may require repair of leaky pipes and faucets. Moisture provides an ideal environment for molds and fungi to grow. Some insect pests use these microorganisms as food sources. Pesticides alone will not provide adequate control unless the moisture problem is resolved.
  • Clean out cabinets in the kitchen and discard infested food. Cereals, rice and other grains may harbor beetles and moths. Your pest control professional may ask you to vacuum cabinets and leave them empty so that there is a clear treatment area. Do not replace any items until the treatment has thoroughly dried.
  • Insects found in areas other than the kitchen may have come from infested clothing, bedding or carpeting. Your pest control professional may ask you to take these items out of the closet and have them dry cleaned. Simple drying in a clothes dryer will also kill pests. Do not replace any items until the treatment has thoroughly dried.

A referral from a neighbor or relative is better than any sales pitch that a company salesperson will provide. Keep in mind that pesticides are not silver bullets, and you will be asked by the pest control professional to take certain measures to implement a complete integrated pest management (IPM) plan. IPM requires homeowner cooperation for maximum pest control effectiveness. Although IPM does not exclude pesticides, it does include methods such as sanitation, exclusion, other pest management products and proper cultural control practices. When indoor pests are a problem, sanitation will go a long way in improving the chances of maximum effectiveness of control.

Exclusion is an easy-to-use method and simply refers to keeping pests outside of the home. Repair window screens and doors and seal exposed cracks to prevent easy entrances for many types of pests.

There are other pest management products that are available from retail centers for homeowners. Various attractants, pheromones, repellents, glue boards and traps may be practical in some situations. When using any pesticide product, be sure to read and follow the label directions.

Lawn care services contracted for pest control will usually leave a reminder notice of cultural practices to implement for maximum effectiveness. A healthy lawn is the best defense against any pest outbreak. Proper watering, mowing and fertility practices are a large part of the IPM program in combating lawn pests.

Ask the person selling the pest control program to outline the program's steps and how you can assist to achieve the best control for your money. Good cooperation between the customer and the company will result in optimal results.

Evaluating customer service

The same may be said for checking into the effectiveness of the company's control plan — ask around. Ask why neighbors or friends selected a certain company and if they have had negative experiences with other companies. Call the Better Business Bureau to see if there are any outstanding claims against the company.

In most cases, you will have a choice of companies and customer satisfaction is a matter of personal preference. A homeowner should take into account the following considerations as well. Will chemical sensitivity be an issue for any of the family members? If so, there may be alternatives, such as organic products, that a company has to control the pest without using traditional chemical pesticides. Be realistic of the expectations because organic products have limitations in the pest control industry. Don't believe exaggerated claims about these products or any other line of products; if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. For some, the proposed management plan may not fit their lifestyles.

Remember, for optimal control effectiveness, you may be asked to implement some of the techniques previously mentioned in this guide. Is that manageable? Some pest control companies will have varying types of contracts; they may offer year-round, regular visits; others may require you to contact the company when a pest outbreak occurs. You must decide which is most appropriate for your particular situation.

Consider the following factors when choosing a professional pest control operator:

Get several bids. Remember to get several bids to compare prices, services offered and terms of the contract. The lowest price is not necessarily the best deal; you want to pay for quality service that is effective. Any pest control service should provide a detailed inspection of your property. Lawn care services often structure their prices on the size of the area to be treated. Does the lawn care company's measured area accurately reflect the true area? Some companies will purposefully underestimate the area in an attempt to undercut a competitor. Such practices may lead to application of inadequate materials and sloppy service.

Check references. Any reputable professional pest control service will have references available for your inspection. Don't assume that they do; ask them.

Certificate of insurance. In Missouri, state law requires commercial pesticide applicators to carry both liability and bodily injury insurance. Ask to see their insurance certificate.

State license. All states, including Missouri, require persons who apply pesticides on a commercial basis to be certified and licensed. Request the license number to be sure the person you are dealing with is a legal applicator. You can check with the Missouri Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Pesticide Control for these records. Call the bureau during normal business hours at 573-751-5509.

Professional association membership. Many companies belong to a professional association. Associations such as the Missouri Valley Turfgrass Association and the Missouri Pest Control Association offer their members educational opportunities to keep them abreast of new technology and other developments. Such organizations also have codes of ethics to help members strive to meet quality standards.

Terms of a contract

Make sure that you have a contract before any work is done. Contract wording varies from company to company, and there are different contracts for different applications. Before signing a contract, carefully read through the entire contract and consider the following general issues when considering a pest control service.

Be wary of

Professionals stay up to date on regulations Pest control professionals stay up to date on regulations regarding termiticide treatment.
Professionals are trained to operate specialized equipment Pest control professionals are trained to operate specialized equipment.

The majority of all professional applicators in Missouri work in the greens industry The majority of all professional applicators in Missouri work in the greens industry.

G7501 Selecting a Professional Pest Control Service | University of Missouri Extension

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