So, you think you have a pest problem and you’re ready to call the exterminator. You might be tempted to just open up the phone book or do a quick Google search and call the first local number you find.
Slow down. Take a breath. You have time to do your research and find a good pest control company. You don’t want to hire the wrong company and never get your pest problem fixed.
Or worse, have it escalate. You also don’t want to pay an exorbitant amount of money unless you absolutely have to. So, where do you start? We’re here to help.
We’ll provide you with tips for choosing a pest control company, the best questions to ask prospective service providers, and a few things to watch out for in your search. Let’s dive in!
The first thing you ought to do is ask around for recommendations.
Has your neighbor had a pest problem? What pest control service provider did they use? Were they happy with the work? How much did they pay and did they think it was worth the money? Ask friends and family members who live near you as well.
Qualifications and experience
Check for up-to-date licenses and make sure that they’re the proper licenses for the job you need done. Licensing information is available via your state’s pesticide regulatory office or department of agriculture. Alternatively, you can ask the company to supply you with copies of their licenses and certifications.
Find out if their staff includes a certified entomologist (bug scientist) and/or another type of biologist. If none is on staff, ask if they consult with scientists. If not, how do they keep on top of best practices and environmental safety?
Also, try to choose a company that employs and has experience with integrated pest management (IPM). IPM involves a range of strategies and techniques for eradicating pests rather than being limited to chemical control (pesticides). These include exclusion, traps, and property modifications.
Determine how long the company has been in business and how long the technician they plan to send has been working there.
Check reviews, if they’re available. Reach out to the Better Business Bureau, Consumer Affairs, or your state’s pesticide regulatory office to see if there are any complaints on file.
Finally, ask the company to provide you with references. Contact several of these references for each company and compare their satisfaction.
Hand-in-hand with licensing and experience is membership in a professional organization. If you’re perusing pest control company websites, check to see if they are members. If you’re not doing your searches on the internet, ask them about membership when you call.
There are state associations as well as the National Pest Management Association. Such organizations provide training to members as well as keep them up-to-date on best management practices and current industry data. Not only does it suggest a high level of education, but it shows commitment to the field of pest control.
Insurance and safety
Make sure the company has insurance, including liability and workers’ compensation. Get proof of insurance from every company you interview.
Ask them about safety measures for workers, you, your family, your pets, and your property. Ensure that workers are required to wear personal protective equipment and find out how they prevent spills or respond to accidental exposure.
Additionally, also ask about lower toxicity options and how they prevent environmental contamination.
Management strategy and contract
Here is where you’ll really find out about the value of the services provided and whether or not they meet your needs.
Different companies have different types of contracts and often different techniques for managing your pest problem. Not every technique works in every situation. Have companies provide you with a description of their strategy, including pesticides they will use (ask for copies of the labels), the rates at which they will be applied, and how they will be applied (make sure what they tell you matches the application directions on the label).
Keep in mind!
The best value doesn’t just mean the least expensive, so don’t choose the cheapest option simply because of its price. But don’t choose the most expensive option either simply because you think the high price means better service.
Get an estimate, which is often free and may even be available over the phone with a short description of your problem because prices for pest control can range widely.
For example, a survey of pest control customers found that some companies charged around $150 and provided 90 days of free follow-up. Others charged nearly $300 without offering any free follow-up services. So, use the other tips here along with the price to make sure you’re getting the best value.
There are two major categories of contracts: long-term contracts and individually priced services. Some companies offer both, while some only offer one or the other.
If the company only has long-term contracts, make sure that’s the right choice for your situation. Bedbugs and termites, for example, require long-term treatment and monitoring. Most pest problems, though, only require a single visit.
If the company uses IPM, find out what type of monitoring schedule they have and whether it matches the pest. If not, it won’t make sense for you to pay them for a long-term contract. Monthly or quarterly spraying schedules are not always scientifically sound, given that the pest in question may operate on a different reproductive or other life-history schedule.
When comparing contracts, make sure these five points are included:
- Company name
- Duration of service
- Treatment strategy
- Guarantee of services
Have prospective pest control service providers perform an inspection of your property and home.
Some offer free inspections, though often only with the guarantee that they will be hired should they find anything. Otherwise, inspection fees are typically pretty low. Deliverables from an inspection should include pest identification, diagnosis of the problem in writing, location, control strategy, and safety information. Be sure to get multiple inspections (at least 3) to compare as some companies will recommend treatment when there is no problem.
Here are just a few things to watch out for that signal scams or incompetence:
- Companies that offer pest control in a package with other services (e.g., yard work, home repair).
- Service providers that don’t have a phone number.
- Companies that sell their services door-to-door or show up unannounced claiming to have found pests in a neighbor’s home.
- Companies that won’t show you their pesticide labels and/or claim to have a special formula. All pesticides have to be EPA- and Department of Agriculture-registered.
- Companies that claim to be endorsed by the EPA or the DOA. These agencies do not endorse pest control service providers or specific products.
- Companies that charge per gallon of pesticides or offer you a lower price because they have product leftover from a prior job.
- Companies that try to pressure you into immediately signing a contract by making outrageous claims (e.g., your home is in danger of imminent collapse due to termite infestation).
Pest problems can be terrifying and daunting. However, there are professionals out there who can help you. You just have to pick the right one, which can be daunting in itself. Here, we’ve provided some important tips for picking the best pest control company for your needs as well as questions to ask and red flags to watch out for.
You need to make sure they’re a reputable company with proper licensing, training, experience, and insurance. It’s important to compare management strategies and contracts. The best pest control service providers employ IPM.
Make sure to compare a few different companies and have more than one come out and do an inspection for you. Watch out for scammers. These tips should simplify your task and help you get back to a pest-free life as soon as possible. Good luck!