Choosing a Pest Control Company

All  companies controlling pests in and around buildings are regulated by the California Structural Pest Control Board. It is easy to check whether a company has appropriate licenses, or their record of violations

However, it isn't always easy to identify structural pest control companies that practice a prevention-based, least toxic approach to managing pests. Your best bet is to understand certifications, use appropriate contract language , and understand costs.

Select a certified company

IPM is a complicated business, and certifications make your decisions easier. Try contractors that have been certified by independent, third-party organizations.  Certifications requires extensive documentation of a company's adherence to IPM principles, and audits to ensure that companies practice what they preach. Try these certifications first:

Another, newer certification, not quite as stringent but more widely available, is the GreenPro certification, developed by the National Pest Management Association.  With GreenPro it is not enough to simply choose a certified company; you need to specify "GreenPro service:"

Ask the right questions

Even with certified companies it is important to ask these key questions before committing:

  • Does the company try alternative approaches before turning to pesticides?
  • If they want to apply a pesticide (insecticide, fungicide, or herbicide) can they explain their reasons in an understandable way?
  • How do they select least toxic products?
  • Do they use regular chemical treatments to prevent problems or treat only when disease or insect threshold levels are exceeded?
  • Do they assess underlying conditions that may cause the pest problems?
  • Can they explain what will happen if the pesticide is not applied?

Other key questions can be found in the Beyond Pesticides  or Biointegral Resource Center  websites.

Contract language for pest management services

When going out to bid for pest management services in buildings, use a Request for Proposals instead of simply hiring the lowest bidder. Low-bid contractors have more incentive to schedule unnecessary, calendar-based treatments. Find contract language in the EcoWise Toolkit for IPM Contracting, or by adapting San Francisco’s contract language (2007), which includes a required site visit and sample IPM plan.

Costs of IPM

Comparing the costs of IPM vs. conventional pest control services Can be complicated. IPM addresses long-term problems, but may have higher up-front costs for facility repairs or other pest prevention measures.  It is difficult to compare what did happen with what could have happened.  In addition, pest management costs are often divided among many different areas, from labor and materials, to design and repair, to health care costs.

In monetary terms alone (not including health care costs), the general consensus is that structural IPM programs cost slightly more in the first year but less thereafter.  Some studies that have quantified IPM costs include: Integrated Pest Management in an Urban Community: A Successful Partnership for Prevention (Environmental Health Perspectives), Comparison of Cost and Effectiveness for Cockroach Control (NCHH/U.S.E.P.A.), The Role of Pest Control in Effective Asthma Management: A Business Case (Asthma Regional Council, New England).

Additional Information for Choosing a Pest Control Company

Directory of IPM Professionals for Buildings.
Companies listed here completed a survey by BIRC on pest management approaches.
Safety Source for Pest Management- Directory of IPM Professionals
The companies listed here completed the Beyond Pesticides survey and indicated that they use one or more practices and/or materials that we categorize as "non-toxic" or "least-toxic."
Green Pro
GreenPro is a new, national certification established by the National Pest Management Association.
Green Shield Certified
Green Shield is a rigorous independent certification administered by the nonprofit IPM Institute of North America.
Ecowise Certified
EcoWise is relatively small but rigorous independent certification for pest control providers in California.