You saw one at first. Just one, so you didn’t think much about it. A little while later you saw another. Then another. Maybe another. That was when you decided you were going to need the help of a professional pest control specialist. Whether you live in an urban area or out in the country, the chances are good that at some time you will need the services of a pest control company. It can be stressful finding the right professional to take care of your problem. It can be even more stressful when you realize that taking of your pest problem really means taking care of your home – and most importantly, taking care of your family. So where do you start?
If you are lucky you already know someone who has been working with a pest control specialist. They have told you about their positive experiences and the success they have keeping the pests under control. That is easy, you get the name of the professional, make your first appointment and you are happy to tell the next person about your experience! But what if you don’t know anyone? Maybe you are new to the area, or to the neighborhood. Then what do you do?
A simple internet search of pest control companies in your area will provide the names of many professionals ready to provide their services to you. The need for pest control can create a sense of urgency, but don’t let that urgency mean that you jump to the first company you see. Taking the time to ask questions of different professionals can help you determine the pest control specialist that is the best fit for you and your home. You want to choose knowledgeable technicians that stand behind their work. Some of the questions that can help in this process are:
1. What kind of pesticides and methods do you use?
It is important to remember that the pesticides used, and their methods of application, can vary depending on the pest and area where you live. As you talk with different companies you may see there are some common products used. Be careful of anyone that tells you they have developed their own ‘secret formula’. There are laws that govern pesticide formulas and their applications to protect the consumer (and their pets); a ‘secret formula’ may well be something that has not been approved.
2. Are they safe for my family, children, and pets?
Any company will tell you the products they use are “safe”. After all, they want your business. A reputable pest control company will want to ensure that you are not at risk during the process. They don’t want to make anyone including your pets – sick. An honest pest control specialist will be willing to take the time to discuss how the product works and what the application process is. Because of the legal regulation of pesticide development you can know that the products used are safe.
3. What process does the company use for pest control?
A reputable company will need to come to your property to see what you are dealing with. You may think that an infestation of ants, cockroaches, bedbuds or spiders is pretty straight-forward. The truth is that each pest poses different control challenges. Each customer’s needs are unique, but an experienced operator will have a good idea of what is necessary to address the situation. The decision for the best pest control approach takes into consideration your house structure, the area where you live, the specific species of pest you are dealing with, how long the colony has been there, and what the life-cycle the colony is. All of these indicators help the pest control specialist to determine the best approach for you.
Once the technician has seen what they will be working on, they will be able to determine what needs to be done. Sometimes the pests can be addressed in a single application – other pests will require follow up visits. A reputable specialist will discuss the treatment options available to you, give you an estimate of the cost involved, and the work that needs to be done. If you look for multiple estimates they may be reasonably in line with one another. A cost that stands out because it is the least expensive estimate may not be the best route to take – they may be cutting corners.
The pest control operator will also be able to discuss any steps that you can take to help make sure the treatment is effective. Sometimes your involvement may be as simple as making sure the kitchen is clean to help prevent ants. Other pests can require more complicated involvement. For example, bedbugs often require that you pack up your possessions, clutter is cleared and that the furniture must be moved before treatment. Legitimate pest control professionals know that cooperation between their company and the customer is key to long- term success and work to establish and maintain a positive relationship.
4. Before I ask a company representative to come to my home, what should I know?
a. How long have they been in business/how much experience do they have?
Pest control business is highly competitive – many new ones start in the spring. Some last, others don’t. This is not to say that a new company doesn’t have the skills or knowledge – many of them are started by former employees of other companies. You want to know that the pest control specialist you will be working with has experience in not only the pests you are dealing with, but experience in the location where you live. You want someone that knows the area and how that impacts pest colonies. A more established company has a reputation to maintain, and can bring you peace of mind knowing that they know what they are doing.
b. What do their customers say about them?
An honest and reputable company will be known not only for their pest control practices, but for the way they treat their customers. In this business, you want to know that the professional you are inviting into your home is someone you can trust. They will want you to know that their relationship their customers is a strong and trustworthy one. See what the reviews of the company say on Google, Better Business Bureau, and the Chamber of Commerce.
c. Are they licensed, bonded and insured?
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lists the criteria for pest control certification. Make sure the professional you are dealing with has met those requirements. They should be also be able to meet the licensing requirements that are specific to your jurisdiction. An honest pest control operator will be happy to give you that information; if they become upset that you asked, it is best to stay clear.
d. Do they have the necessary skills and abilities? Are they current with ongoing training?
In your conversations do they demonstrate that they understand your pests and environment? Are they willing to do the work necessary with no quick fixes? Do they have ongoing education in safety practices, application methods and cleaning protocol? Can they show you the source of your infestation (this demonstrates that they know
e. What if my treatment doesn’t work?
Properly done, most pest treatments control the targeted population. There is always a possibility that something may surprise everyone! There are many reasons that a treatment can fail including pesticide resistance, poor preparation of the area and the use of the wrong equipment. A legitimate pest control operator will stand by their treatment and work with the customer to make it right.
Wow! That is a lot to do and to consider.
It’s important to remember that pests of all sorts can carry disease, some are poisonous and some are just downright dirty. When you call in a pest control professional you are asking for help protecting your property and your family (and your pets!) These are things that are so important that you want to do your research and hire the best, not the fastest or the cheapest – and not just any company. Pay attention to what people say about the companies, and pay attention to what your gut says. Pest control is about eliminating the source of the problem and it is about on-going maintenance to ensure the pests don’t return. Most importantly, it is about giving you the peace of mind that you have done what you can to keep you, and those you love, safe and protected.