When to DIY Vs. Professional Pest Management?
Updated: Mar 7
Pest control is likely the last thing that we think about as a homeowner, and it usually isn't 'top of mind', until a situation arises in which you're staring at a pest or a problem. I've been in the pest management industry for over a decade, and I've also been a homeowner for about the same. In this article, I will give you some of the pros and cons of do-it-yourself pest control, as well as the pros and cons of hiring a professional pest control.
According to the United States Census Bureau, in (1) year (2020) there were a staggering 14 million households reported to have seen cockroaches in their home. This number is trumped by rodent (mice and rats) sightings, which exceeded the later by coming in at 14.8 million household sightings. These species alone are particularly known to be vectors for adverse human health effects.
According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) there are numerous species of vertebrate and invertebrate that are known troublemakers and have a history of disease spread and negative effects on human health. Just head on over to the Cleveland Clinic's website if you'd like to see what effect the bubonic plague had on the human population. Warning-I hope you haven't eaten, it's hard to stomach!
Now, we haven't even scratched the surface on some other honorable mentions, such as bed bugs, termites, carpenter ants...we could go on for days. It should also be mentioned that most people don't talk about their 'pest problems' with friends, colleagues or family-
it's a very private matter (unnecessarily embarrassing to some), similar to your own healthcare
therefore, it may not be common to talk about how to manage these problems yourself or who to call if that suits your needs better.
I'll be the first to admit, when there is something that I don't have to 'hire out', I try to quickly 'handle it myself'. Unfortunately, the quickest means to solving our problems may require us to spend money needlessly and still be stuck in a position of needing to hire a professional. Although, you can definitely handle some pest control yourself with no need for a professional. Below I outline some of the pros and cons of DIY pest control and hiring a professional, check it out!
This is one of the biggest line-items that separates the DIY'r from the Professional. Professional companies spend tens of thousands of dollars on equipment every year. The need for this equipment can vary, but in some cases the equipment is absolutely necessary from a label application aspect (law) or safety. For example, every year you get a giant yellowjacket wasp nest on your garage, at the very least you would need the bee suit below from Glory Bee, and it is priced at $114.00- this doesn't include larger sizes, gloves, tax or shipping yet. So, by the time you get to checking out...just for the bee suit...you may have been able to hire a professional, saved yourself the risk, money and hassle.
On the converse, maybe this has been the perfect time for you to get into backyard bee keeping? If this is the case and you've been stuck dangerously scraping off wasp nests at your garage 30' gable peak, maybe this suit will help serve both purposes and make justifying your own wasp control efforts without a professionals help, another thing to consider is the product you're going to use. Often times as a homeowner, that product you bought will have an expiration date on it- it's likely that the small rates at which you're applying will NOT make it worth the investment of the product- but you could go half-sies with a neighbor?
I don't know about you, but my purchasing decisions revolve around the measure of time. If I've spent or will plan on spending hours, days or weeks preforming a task that I could have made more money NOT doing, then I usually opt to hire out these services. When managing a particular pest or multiple pests, it can take time, it can take multiple treatments-sometimes daily, it can require trapping and getting ladders out regularly, physically inspecting traps (see the ketch-all trap below) daily and much more. You may consider hiring a professional if time is something you prefer to keep out of the 'work' realm.
On the other hand, one of the reasons I love what I do (Pest Management Professional) is becoming a crime scene detective. When I come on 'scene' I embellish the fact that Pest Control Technicians must use skills that are similar to solving a crime. Think of reconstructing a scene in which a bag of bread is chewed, pellets of fecal are strewn throughout the kitchen...Do we just set traps and wait or investigate further? Maybe you enjoy the 'cat and mouse' game, pun intended? Laugh as you should, a professional must investigate further, which leads us to our next consideration.
Training & Education
Personally, I have well over a decade of experience in the Pest Management Industry. This experience alone is very useful in the 'field', but the internet has plenty of resources that could easily give you a level playing field when it comes to biological knowledge, behavior, etc. That being said, you will now need to couple this experience with the insider knowledge and trade specific information that we know from chemical companies, vendors, suppliers, etc. Knowing what other professionals are using, what's been effective/ineffective, what's being used that is causing issues with chemical resistance, etc. This insider insight is key to professional use, and something a DIY'r will not be able to glean from internet searches (likely).
Something to also keep in mind is that to be a certified technician in most States, you're required to maintain a certain level of training, continuing education, etc. to keep your credential. These licensures often require the company and the technician to go through hours of yearly training and submit for review to the governing body. This ensures that safety procedures and laws are being reflected and followed, along with updates on chemicals, biology trends, etc.
Again, please don't see this category as an imposition, but rather larger mountain to overcome as a homeowner or DIY'r. For me, I like understanding how things work and why nature is functioning a certain way, i.e., why is this particular insect trying to get into my home? So, even if I weren't in this industry, I'd probably DIY in most cases- but as you can see, I chose to do this for a living, so I am kind of a nerd when it comes to pests.
Pest Professionals carry a great deal of responsibility/liability when it comes to their service, due in large part to...
We kill living organisms...
That being said, products that we use are often dangerous to handle, dangerous to apply and, can be dangerous to people in the treatment zone if the label is not followed correctly. To avoid going down a rabbit-hole, I won't talk about why these products are dangerous or still in use, I will talk about their effectiveness. Most professional products are much more effective than DIY materials for sale at local hardware stores, grocery stores, etc. In some cases, "effective" could mean that their adverse effects could be greater to the environment, humans or other non-target species if the label is not followed correctly, or an illegal application is preformed- which in most cases is precisely the reason they will be restricted to Pest Management Professionals and cannot be purchased without a license.
The reason that DIY products are readily available, maybe cheaper and easier to apply is in part because governing bodies and manufacturers of these products understand who the end-user is. Consider that it may be negligent for them to sell a product to a customer that could be used one time (accidently) to treat for bed bugs and potentially poison their family in the process; Or how about the use of some commercial rodenticides- remember when everyone would put out their tray of poison pellets? Well, laws were changed recently, some of these products are now restricted for such use due to the risk to humans and accidental poisoning of non-target species. You see, some of the products that are purchased at the hardware store and even online are not used correctly, not used (or used) in conjunction with other insecticides or bait correctly, they're dosed at a much smaller dilution rate or diluted incorrectly, and I could go on.
I do believe there are cases where a DIY'r could provide themselves with their own organic or natural pest management. There are also cases in which a homeowner could DIY on lighter infestations by practicing Integrated Pest Management (see pyramid below) techniques and resorting to insecticides if they're needed. It should also be noted that this is precisely how responsible Pest Management companies should approach their treatment options too, if they're not...I'd consider a different service provider.
When you think of pesticides, it's safe to say that any pesticide is NOT considered safe, nor can any company allude to ANYTHING being safe. What is a pesticide?
Pesticide-a substance used for destroying insects or other organisms harmful to cultivated plants or to animals.
Now as you can see, it doesn't describe a chemical of sorts, a particular mixture or even naturally occurring substance. This is for a reason- that vague reasoning is simply that, anything in certain amounts or certain formulations can be considered a pesticide, even if it is not a 'chemical' per say. Medical grade isopropyl alcohol could be used as a pesticide; water mixed with vinegar, alcohol and a little dash of cayenne... this would be considered a pesticide; you could go on and on, and any mixture or tinctures you put forward would still be classified as a "pesticide" if you're using it to target the above defined terms.
I only point this out because it's important to understand that any level of danger to human health should be referred to directly on a Materials Safety Data Sheet (AKA: SDS or MSDS) and this danger is measured by the chemical company that produced it, along with the governmental agencies that will provide authorization with regulatory use.
Now, to the point- Applying pesticides has to be one of the gravest dangers of the job. If you follow the label and the guidelines that the product provides you, that level of risk is for you and your doctor to assess. I will highlight that it should be common practice to follow all personal protective equipment requirements and any recommendations the product manufacturer provides. Here are common personal protective equipment requirements that should be used;(which we will go over in depth in another post) a hat, chemical resistant gloves, safety glasses, respirator, long sleeve shirt, long sleeve pants, socks, shoes and yes, even underwear.
Lastly, there is also the danger of your target pest. Consider the risk that your pest could bite you, sting you, defecate on you, spray you and maybe even try to kill you- these risks can't be minimized. I can't tell you how many calls I've received where John Doe thought it would be a good idea to 'handle the wasp nest themself.'...they're typically calling for a reason.
Lability and Risk
Buy a home mosquito treatment or spray that will 'kill anything'? One thing that is commonly misunderstood by the average homeowner is that their risk for liability is less than that of a professional. This is a FALSE notion.
Take a look at any label off of any of the insecticides, fertilizers or herbicides that you've purchased. You will see somewhere on the label that the end user is responsible for the use of the product and any of the ramifications if it is applied not according to the label or negligibly. The EPA has some penalties for misuse of pesticides upwards of $50,000.00 and (1) year in prison, this is how serious this is taken.
Some other common mistakes that create risk to homeowners are, drift or non-target kills. Let's say that you're planning to DIY and spray your yard for mosquitoes the day before the 4th of July. This is definitely a great time to make an application, but the wind is really bad, let's say 25 mph, sustained. Let's also assume for this exercise that you have a neighbor that doesn't like you... of course this is always how the story goes. Your whole family is coming, and you decide it's worth the risk and you apply despite the labels warning about applications in strong winds.
The application is made, your pesticides likely drifted in blatantly obvious strong winds, yet you applied anyway. You will likely be getting a call from an upset neighbor (kids toys in the yard got covered), potentially face legal action from them, on top of likely legal action from a governing body since this incident would likely be reported. You made a terrible mistake and unfortunately, we see and hear about this all of the time, thankfully nobody was hurt or injured due to the drifting application, so your fine was only $5,000.00.
Contracts and Cost
Now, you can see there are plenty of options and reasons to choose between DIY vs. Professional, but here I will point out some obvious 'cons' of using a professional- Cost and Contracts.
In our industry you're likely at a cost of $75-$150+ P/H for a service technician to be on scene. This cost doesn't include special circumstances that your specific account may require, think tall roofs, different types of pests, proximity, etc., nor does this cost include certain material costs, such as rodent equipment. Some companies will lay their costs out differently, some will have different ala-carte options and add-ons, and some will include everything. The point is...pest management can be an expensive service, but there are reasons for this and I will cover this in a different post. It's safe to assume that (1) "one-time" visit will likely cost you between $150.00-$700.00, sometimes even more if you're a business or have multiple pests to deal with.
Let's move to contracts- Contracts are another down-side to using a professional. While most states will require an agreement between a provider and their customer, I am specifically implying the amount of time that you're obligated to as part of the agreement; in other words, being 'locked in'. These contracts can be quite lengthy and typically, most companies will not do less than a year under contract. I personally don't like these long-term contracts. For this reason, at Pest Professor, LLC we do NOT have long-term contracts. We feel that serving our Greenville, MI area clients and White Cloud, MI area clients that our service is dependent on your satisfaction, not handcuffs and a contract.
One of the biggest complaints I field when clients reach out to us for service is that the company they were using never has the same technician coming to their home or business. I don't know about you, but as the owner of a Pest Management Company, I can TOTALLY understand this concern. Like you, I like to build trust with service companies I use, and their employees, respectively. I do not like giving access to my private home when there are new people at almost every service appointment, nor do I have the time to be home at every appointment, this is a major inconvenience for me.
Being born and raised in Greenville, MI and White Cloud, MI I know these communities pretty well, along with other communities in West Michigan- Here's a secret...They LOVE to see the same face, they love having a local company, they love having local conversation and they love using our services for these reasons. Pest Professor, LLC is different, we only hire if and when we know we have someone you can count on seeing regularly, someone you may know personally and someone you can trust, period.
In closing, one major downside to using a large company or a professional in general, is their staff. This is a hard industry to find and keep employees, and unfortunately this effects growth and a company's bottom line- they usually don't or can't go backwards. Which is why I am so proud to be operating a company that is exclusive to our clients and placing customer experience and satisfaction before our profit.
We hope this article helped steer you in the right direction. These decisions can be tough, especially during stressful situations that require a professional pest management operator. Considering everything mentioned above, it never hurts to call a few local companies to get cost figures.
Pest Professor, LLC operates out of Greenville, MI and White Cloud, MI servicing most of Greater Grand Rapids, Northern Michigan and West Michigan. Our company has a mission of providing sustainable pest management solutions and we've even been featured on Channel 13 WZZM for our efforts to bring attention to native pollinators!
If you ever need a prompt and friendly quote or advice, please don't hesitate to reach out (888) 369-5880 or email us at: email@example.com