We are an older couple, and we agree that we shouldn't have to hire an exterminator every time we see a bug we don't like. However, it is getting harder for us to do it ourselves. How can we determine if the exterminator we hire is a good one or one that you don't recommend?
G. F., Milan
Good question. The problem with the pesticide industry is that a large number of pest control operators (PCOs) are poorly trained and not well regulated. Many of them are not familiar with the label or Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for the chemical they are applying. If a PCO tells you the pesticide he or she is spraying is perfectly “safe,” you may have a problem. It would be a federal violation to make that kind of statement.
If the PCO is spraying your baseboards with a pesticide, it means he or she doesn’t know what they are doing, and you need to be concerned.
Spraying baseboards is a gimmick used to kill time in the customer's house. That is what I was told when I started in the business 42 years ago. It was true then and is certainly true now.
All states have some kind of licensing regulations for PCOs. Ask the person who comes to your house to show you his or her license. If he or she can’t produce a license then do not let them in your home.
I would recommend that you don't sign any contracts without reading them carefully. If you should have a claim against a pest control company, you may not be able to sue for damages. Many companies have a clause in the contract that prohibits you from suing them.
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.
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.
Then there was the fellow who went out to a house and identified the pest as fleas and did a flea job, which consisted of spraying the carpets and furniture and fogging the house. He did it three times and was unsuccessful each time.
The customer called another company who properly identified the pests as harmless springtails that did not need control.
Consider the story of the Immovable Secretarial Object and the Irresistible Pesticide Man.
She wouldn't get up from her desk when he arrived to spray the office. ("He wasn't very nice about it. He just said, 'Lady, you have to get up for a minute.' If he had asked me instead I would have moved...").
He sprayed anyway, "around" her feet. She was wearing sandals and ended up at the emergency room with welts on her toes, being one of the increasing numbers of the population that is allergic to synthetic pyrethroids.
In another case, a woman called because she had weird worms in her house, particularly on the kitchen floor. The pest control operator came out, identified them as boll weevils, said they would get in the closet and eat her clothes, so she needed the whole house fumigated. The lady was skeptical and got another opinion. It turns out they were blow fly maggots falling from the ceiling where a dead animal was being consumed.
If you have pets, you should never use pesticides of any kind or use an exterminating service that sprays pesticides in the house. Recently a lady called me and told me she hired a pest control company to eradicate some crickets from her home.
Rather than use bait, which would be safe if properly applied, the PCO sprayed the baseboards. He ended up killing $2,500 worth of her son’s snakes, yet didn’t kill any crickets.
Most of the horror stories that I related have one thing in common; the inability of the pest control person to properly identify the pests.
Many of them use the “Spray and Pray” method. That is if you spray enough pesticides and pray it kills something, you won’t get a callback from the customer.
How do you avoid getting hooked up with one of these folks?
The best method would be to do your own pest control.
It is not rocket science, and you can get everything you need online or in a store.
Visit www.askthebugman.com for more information.
Editor’s Note: Richard Fagerlund is a new resident to Cibola County.