How to Manage Pests

Pesticide Information

Hiring a Pest Control Company

Published 8/23

In this Guideline:

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Man in a dust mask crouching next to exterior of a house while applying pesticide dust to a window frame.

Dust application into cracks and crevices using a hand bellows duster.

Folded paper sticky trap with several large cockroaches stuck to it.

Monitoring for indoor pests using sticky traps.

Man spraying the exterior of a building with a long, thin nozzle.

A handheld compression sprayer pesticide application around a building perimeter.

Effective pest management requires pest identification, knowledge of pest biology and ecology, and an understanding of the different control measures available. If you do not have the time or ability to research your pest problem and control it, you may want to hire a pest control company to do the job for you. Some pest problems including bed bugs, termites, wildlife, and problems with large trees may require special licenses, specialized equipment, professional products, and technical experience to be effectively managed.

An experienced and licensed pest control representative can accurately identify pests and perform proper pest control services to help you solve challenging pest problems. Such services may be one-time or recurring, depending on the nature of the contract. A one-time service is in response to an incidental pest infestation, while a recurring service aims to manage existing infestations and prevent future pest problems over a long period.

Professionals working in this service industry are licensed by the State of California to identify pest problems and to safely and effectively use pesticides and other control methods. These professionals are trained on pest control regulations and methods as well as the principles of integrated pest management (IPM (What is IPM?)). Although professional pest control services may seem costly, the investment may actually save you time and money in the long term.


Do your own research on the pest and effective management strategies
  • If you see a pest such as a cockroach or an ant, but don’t know exactly what species you are dealing with, take a specimen or send photos to your local University of California (UC) Cooperative Extension office or county agricultural commissioner's office. Ask them about management options.
  • If you already know what pest you have, consult the UC IPM Pest Notes for research-based information. Based on this information, determine if management is needed and, if it is, whether or not you can safely and effectively do the work yourself.
  • It may be possible for you to make changes to your landscaping or home design to exclude or reduce pests. Examples of things you can do yourself: remove pest-prone trees or shrub species and replace them with pest resistant species; repair plumbing or drainage problems that produce excess moisture and promote certain pest problems; install screens, door sweeps, threshold seals, or other barriers to prevent pests from entering the home or other structures.
  • If repeated pesticide applications or complex procedures (such as setting traps for wildlife) are required, consider whether you have the skills, equipment, and time to follow through. If not, hire a professional.
Selecting a pest control company
  • Get recommendations from neighbors, friends and family about pest control services they have used, and check online ratings and reviews.
  • Consider companies trained in the principles and practices of IPM such as regular monitoring, pest exclusion techniques, baiting, trapping, and using reduced-risk pesticides. For example, outdoor-dwelling cockroaches can be effectively excluded from structures using door sweeps, and ants can be managed effectively using baits. Keep in mind that monitoring pests requires extra technician visits which will increase the cost to you.
  • IPM services may initially cost more (due to increases in service time and labor required), but often provide better long term control of the pest.
  • Make sure the company is licensed by the Structural Pest Control Board (verify a license) for structural pest control, or by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (verify a license) for landscape pest control services.
  • Some companies and individuals may be certified as practitioners of IPM. Visit these certification agency websites to find certified household and structural pest control services near you:
Inspection and management recommendations
  • The company may charge a fee to do an inspection, but for that fee they should provide you with a written diagnosis of the problem and an identification of the pest.
  • They should show you where the pest is causing the problem and the source of an infestation, and discuss how they plan to control it.
  • State law requires household and structural pest control companies to identify the target pest before making any pesticide applications.
  • The company should also provide you with details regarding the management strategy they’ll employ: treatments and products to be used, the frequency of inspections and anticipated treatments, and an estimate of the total cost of this plan.
  • They should also be able to provide you with basic information about the potential hazards of any products they may apply and any precautions you would need to take, such as protecting pets and children. You can read more details about product safety on the pesticide label and Safety Data Sheet (SDS).
Review, ask, and request
  • Ask for long-term solutions to the problem. A company that practices IPM will suggest modification of the site to correct conditions conducive to pest problems, such as irrigation reduction, painting for protecting exposed wood, or installing door sweeps, screens, and other barriers to prevent the pests from getting into a structure in the first place.    
  • Request monitoring, trapping, and baiting as alternatives to routine spray services.
  • Keep in mind that liquid, dust, or granular pesticide applications are sometimes necessary to knock down pest populations, especially if the pests are already present in high numbers or if they immediately threaten human health or infrastructure.
  • Consider your tolerance and need for chemical methods. You may request a copy of the pesticide label and Safety Data Sheet (SDS), which describe active ingredients, proper use, chemical qualities, known hazards, and safety precautions for each pesticide used.
  • Ask how pesticides will be applied and where. Chemicals sprayed around the perimeter of a structure may be washed away by irrigation or rain, especially if the structure is surrounded by concrete walkways. If possible, avoid perimeter sprays altogether, as they may cause contamination of our waterways. However,  some perimeter sprays, other pesticide applications, or repeated bait applications may be needed for effective pest management.
  • A registered structural pest control company must provide you with a written notice before the onset of the treatment containing the following information:
    • The pest to be controlled.
    • The pesticide product or products to be used, and the active ingredient or ingredients.
    • The frequency of applications, if multiple treatments are proposed.
Going forward
  • Verify that the company is monitoring pest populations if such a service is mentioned on the contract.
  • Inform the company of any changes in pest populations you notice between visits.
  • Cooperate with the technician by following their instructions on how to keep your home less pest-friendly, such as cleaning up floors and turning irrigation on or off.
  • Do not apply pesticides on your own while under contract, as that may interfere with the work of the pest control company.
Follow the steps below to find a company that provides Integrated Pest Management (IPM) service.
  1. Can you identify the pest?
    1. Yes: learn about its biology and management. Go to 2.
    2. No: Take quality photos, search online, contact your local UC Cooperative Extension office or County Agricultural Commissioner. Go to 1.
  2. Do you have the equipment, skill, and time to control your pest problems?
    1. Yes: Do it yourself (see UC IPM’s Pest Notes). Warning: Pesticides can harm people, pets, and the environment if not used properly! Go to 3.
    2. No: Contact one or more pest control companies. Go to 4.
  3. Did it work?
    1. Yes: Congratulations, you are all set!
    2. No: Contact one or more pest control companies. Go to 4.
  4. Do they provide IPM services? (E.g. monitoring, pest exclusion, baiting, trapping, reduced-risk pesticides)
    1. Yes: Request inspection. Go to 5.
    2. No: Contact new pest control companies. Go to 4.
  5. Did they provide IPM methods such as trapping and exclusion in their treatment plans? Refer to the main text for what to expect.
    1. Yes: Hire the company. Go to 6.
    2. No: Request an updated treatment plan and quote for IPM methods. Go to 5.
  6. Are you happy with the results?
    1. Yes: Congratulations, you are all set!
    2. No: Contact one or more different pest control companies. Go to 4.



[UC Peer Reviewed]

Pest Notes: Hiring a Pest Control Company

UC ANR Publication 74125         PDF to Print

AUTHORS: Siavash Taravati, Statewide IPM Program/UC Cooperative Extension, Los Angeles Area; 
Darren L. Haver, UC Cooperative Extension, Orange County; Andrew M. Sutherland, Statewide IPM Program/UC Cooperative Extension San Francisco Bay Area.

EDITOR: B Messenger-Sikes

Produced by University of California Statewide IPM Program

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