At some time or another, pests and weeds will invade your home or yard. In many cases these pests may only be a nuisance that people tolerate with varying degree.

If you're not sure what kind of pest has infested your yard or home, check our PestFacts section. Many common pests and links to more information about them are listed in these pages.

Some pest infestations cannot be tolerated because of sanitary and health requirements, costly impacts on the structure of buildings, or various other reasons.

When 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, how can you find a qualified company?

Shop Around

Ask friends, neighbors or business associates for names of firms with whom they have had positive experiences.
Seek estimates from several companies and make a selection based on the value of their service, not price.
Seek knowledgeable and competent professionals who take the time to explain your pest problems, options, and the best way to achieve control of your pests.
Be wary of special deals and high-pressure sales tactics. The lowest price may not be the best value if the PMP is cutting corners on your safety.

Choose a company that meets your pest control needs

Seek out companies which meet all your professional pest control needs. Competent PMPs will outline a program that identifies pests to be controlled, the extent of the infestation, the pesticides intended for use, and the steps you can take to minimize future infestation. The initial inspection may even indicate that pesticides are not necessary.
Avoid any treatments which include the use of "secret" chemicals or are marketed as a special discount if you have the work done immediately.
Ask the company to discuss Integrated Pest Management (IPM) options. IPM techniques may involve the use of monitoring devices, formulations, insect growth regulators (IGRs), sanitation, cultural practices, and other physical steps that one should take to avoid or reduce problems. The applicator should be able to help you understand your pest problem and what to do about it.

Check References

Although the Pesticide Program licenses the individuals who apply pesticides in an around your home or business, it does not license pest management companies. You can, however, check on the firm's reliability with the Better Business Bureau and local Chamber of Commerce. A company that wants your business may offer several references, but don't depend solely upon the salesman's pitch. Call the Pesticide Program to check to see if any complaints have been filed or any enforcement actions taken against a company or applicator.
Check to see if the company is affiliated with professional organizations. Membership in a professional organization reflects a commitment to integrity and responsibility. Professional associations usually offer members opportunities for training on the latest developments in technology, safety, research, and regulations. They also require members to follow best management practices. Look for companies that indicate they are members of any of the professional associations listed on the back of this brochure.

After choosing a pest control company make sure that...

The contract says the pest control operator or company will inspect your home before applying the pesticides. They should know and understand what your particular pest problem is before recommending a treatment program.
Avoid companies which apply pesticides on a fixed schedule without regard to the extent of your pest problem. Unnecessary or excessive use of pesticides can lead to needless chemical exposure to humans, pets, and the environment.
Ask the PMP or company representative to give you a complete program for detailing with your problem. Ask them to completely outline their plan to deal with your problem.

Have the Contractor Include a Copy of All Labels of all Pesticides Intended For Use In and Around Your Home or Business

Have the PMP describe why and where the applications will take place. In addition, ask what products will be used for each application. If you do not understand the information they are presenting, ask them to further explain the procedure. Do not agree to anything until you are satisfied with what is to be done.
Review the labels of pesticides and discuss techniques the applicator intends to use. Ask if lower-risk pesticide alternatives are available.
Note special safety concerns in the contract. It should recognize family members with allergies and health problems, infants, the elderly, pregnant women, and pets. The choice of pesticides and/or other methods must reflect these concerns. You may want to include a statement that permits you to reject unwanted chemicals.
Also, inquire about special instructions you should follow to reduce your exposure to the pesticides that will be applied.

  • Should you be out of the house, building, or office during and after the application? 
  • For how long? 
  • What about drying time or ventilation? 
  • What should you expect after the application? 
  • Will there be any odors or visible residues?

Do not sign contracts that calls for periodic spraying. Agree to a fixed contract that is effective for a specific period of time. This commits the company to establish a custom-tailored plan for pest control and not just carry out one of several treatments.
Ask if the salesman or technical representative holds a commercial pesticide applicator's license. Although the applicator of pesticides is required to hold a license, it is wise to have someone trained and certified to make the appropriate recommendations for pesticide use.
Ask to see a license
All commercial applicators, people who apply pesticides for hire, must be licensed by the Commonwealth. Building maintenance people who apply pesticides as part of their job must also be licensed by the Commonwealth.

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 Program at (617)626-1776.

It is important to use only licensed applicators. An individual who holds a commercial applicator's license or certificate 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.

The Pesticide Program's Enforcement Section is responsible for enforcing all pesticide regulations and laws. Part of their role is to investigate complaints of alleged pesticide misuse, including complaints of unlicensed applicators.
If you think the pesticide application was made improperly, it may be appropriate to file a complaint. You should contact the Pesticide Program at (617) 626-1781.

Checklist before Hiring a PMP

Ask friends and business associates for names of firms with whom they have had positive experiences.
Be sure to check references.
Ask about Integrated Pest Management (IPM).
Before signing a contract, review the contract and product labels.
Ask to see a license before an application is made.

Other Important Numbers

Poison Control Center

  • Greater Boston (617) 232-2120
  • Outside Boston (800) 682-9211

New England Pest Control Association (NEPCA) (617) 899-5843
Mass. Assn. of Lawn Care Professionals (MALCP) (508) 287-0127

Helpful Web Resources

Citizen's Guide to Pest Control and Pesticide Safety - Once you reach this link, you may choose to either read a PDF document online, download it, or contact the EPA for a printed copy.
How EPA assesses risks in Pesticides
Technical Pesticides Database at NPTN  
EXTOXNET - more fact sheets and information