What to Ask Your Pest Control Specialist

A tickWhen used properly, many pesticides that control pests in and around the home can be used effectively by the homeowner. Some pests are more effectively controlled by the pest management professional. If you are unsure of your pest problem, or have questions concerning the use of pesticides, it is advisable to seek professional assistance. Currently licensed and certified Pest Management Professionals (PMPs) who have the appropriate tools and training are generally qualified to handle your pest problem. Once you have decided to hire a PMP, the following questions will help you to find a qualified company.

Is the Company Licensed?

In New Jersey, a person who apply pesticides as part of their job or on a for-hire basis needs to be licensed as a Commercial Pesticide Applicator. Pesticide Applicator Certification is designed to demonstrate a certain level of competency by pesticide users on the safe use of pesticides. In addition, New Jersey State law requires that all "Pesticide Applicator Businesses" operating in New Jersey be licensed with the Pesticide Control Program (PCP). The definition of a "Pesticide Applicator Business" is a business or person who either wholly or in part holds himself out for hire to apply pesticides. Examples include exterminators, landscapers, and tree services.

Online reports are available over the internet through the Department of Environmental Protection Online reports portal where one can search the PCP licensing database for information on applicator businesses (companies that provide pest control services). You can search by the business license number or by the business name. You can also search for such businesses by the county they are located in and the type of pest control work they claim to do.

It is important to use only licensed applicators. An individual who holds a commercial applicator's license has demonstrated a basic knowledge and an understanding of the principles of pesticide use. In addition, licensed applicators must carry insurance for financial liability. This insurance covers bodily injury, property damage, chemical drift, and pollution damage. Unlicensed applicators are unlikely to have this financial protection for the consumer and the general public.

Applicators are required to carry their current license with them while using any pesticide. You should ask to see the license of anyone who intends to apply pesticides on your property. If an applicator is unable or unwilling to show you their current license, you should not hire them. If you have any doubts as to whether an individual is licensed, contact the Pesticide Control Program at 609-984-6568.

Is the Company Willing and Able to Discuss the Treatment Proposed for Your Home?

Selecting a pest control service is just as important as selecting other professional services. Look for the same high degree of competence you would expect from a doctor or lawyer. Any company, including those advertising themselves as "green," should inspect your premises and outline a recommended control program, including:

  • Pests to be controlled
  • Extent of the problem
  • Active ingredient(s) in the pesticide chosen
  • Potential adverse health effects and typical symptoms of poisoning associated with the active ingredient
  • Form of the pesticide and application techniques
  • Non-chemical alternatives available
  • Special instructions to reduce your exposure to the pesticide
  • Steps to take to minimize your pest problems in the future

Does the Company Have a Good Track Record?

Don't rely on the company salesperson to answer this question. Research the answer yourself. Ask neighbors and friends if they have ever dealt with the company. Were they satisfied with the service they received? Call the Better Business Bureau or local consumer office and find out if they have received complaints about the company.

Does the Company Have Appropriate Insurance?

New Jersey licensed applicators must carry insurance for financial liability. Their insurance gives you a certain degree of protection should an accident occur while pesticides are being applied in your home. Can the salesperson show proof on paper that the company is insured?

Does the Company Guarantee Its Work?

You should be skeptical about a company that does not guarantee its work. If a guarantee is given, know what it covers, how long it lasts, what you must do to keep it in force, and what kind of continuing control, prevention and management are necessary.

Is the Company Affiliated with a Professional Pest Control Association?

Professional associations (national, state, or local) keep members informed of new developments in pest control methods, safety, training, research, and regulations. Members agree to honor a code of ethics. The fact that a company, small or large, chooses to join a professional association signals its concern for quality.

Other Hints

If you hire a pest control firm to do the job, ask the company to use the least toxic chemical method available that will do the job. Ask to see the label or Material Safety Data Sheet, which will show precautionary warnings.

You and the company of your choice should develop the contract together. Your safety concerns should be noted and reflected in the choice of pesticides to be used. These concerns may include allergies, sensitivities, age of occupants (infants or elderly), resident pets, and treatment near wildlife and fish.

Wise consumers get bids from 2 or 3 companies and look at value more than price. What appears to be a bargain may warrant a second look.

Hiring a company to take care of your pest problem does not mean your job is over. You must evaluate the results. If you believe something has gone wrong with the pesticide application, contact the company and/or the New Jersey Pesticide Control Program. Be a responsible, wise consumer and keep asking questions until your pests are under control.

Helpful Web Resources

General information about pesticides and their use in New Jersey can be obtained from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Pesticide Control Program.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provides information about pesticides and their use on its webpage. You can also follow links to the USEPA Citizen's Guide to Pest Control and Pesticide Safety, which is available either online or as a downloadable PDF.