Under current North Carolina law, anyone performing structural pest control (SPC) for the general public must be licensed by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture - Structural Pest Control Division (NCDA-SPCD). Wood-destroying pest control requires a "W-phase" license. Pest control services for household pests, such as cockroaches, ants, spiders and fleas, requires a "P-phase" license. Neither the W-Phase nor the P-phase license includes the use of fumigants. A separate F-phase license is required for the use of fumigants. Fumigants require that the structure be completely sealed or enclosed under a tarpaulin before the chemical is released. They are not the same as total release aerosols ("insect bombs").
In North Carolina, all pest control companies must have at least one licensee on their staff; the other employees work under the licensee's supervision. The license has a series of numbers (currently 3 or 4) followed by the letters designating which phases of pest control the company employees are allowed to perform. For example, a company with a license number ending in "PWF" can provide pest control services in all phases. On the other hand, if a company (licensee) had the license number 9999P, employees can perform pest control for household pests (such as those mentioned above), but they cannot perform any treatments for termites or other wood- destroying pests, even if the treatments are applied indoors and not to the soil. Make sure that any company employed for pest control work has a valid SPC license to perform the specific type of pest control services needed.
Any pest control company representative entering into a control for service must have one of the following:
All of these identification cards must have the employer's SPC license number on it. NCDA rules also require that the pest control company's must display either the company name or its SPC license number on both sides of every service vehicle. Vehicles used strictly by a company sales representatives are not required to carry these markings. Whether or not the vehicle is marked, always ask to see the person's identification card as proof of employment with the pest control company and ability to provide the type of service needed.
Decisions on treatment should not be made hastily. Although termites and other wood-destroying insects can cause significant damage if left unchecked, a delay of even a month is of no real consequence. It is better to take the time to be sure that the safest, most effective and economical way to solve the problem has been found. Only the Formosan termites require rapid treatment and this species of termite is extremely rare in North Carolina. Its occurrence is usually the result infested wood products being brought into the state.
Identifying the Pest Problems In the case of wood-destroying insects, ask for a detailed building diagram describing the problem. The diagram should specify the location and nature of the problem (e.g., damage, termite tubes and/or live termites or other pests). In particular, keep in mind the following points:
Second, any evidence of woodboring beetles or termite activity, should be described clearly. More importantly, ask whether the evidence indicates an inactive or active infestation. Don't accept a conclusion of "suspected" termite activity or "presumptive evidence" of activity. Claims that an infestation is active must be strongly supported by visible evidence. If the evidence is inconclusive, collect a sample of the insects and/or damage and bring it to your local county extension center. If necessary, your county extension agent will arrange to have the sample examined by a specialist at NCSU. If it is impossible to collect a sample, contact the NCDA-SPCD and arrange for a state inspector to examine the damage.
Third, measuring the moisture content of the wood is particularly helpful for wood- boring beetle problems. Make sure that enough readings are collected so as to be truly representative of the area of concern. High wood-moisture readings (i.e., readings approaching 20 percent) in crawlspaces, attics or exterior walls of log homes usually indicate problems other than simply insects. Mold/mildew growing on wood is a sign of excess moisture or high humidity, not necessarily an indication that wood-rotting fungi are present. Correct these problems in the course of dealing with any insect infestation.
In some cases, it is easy to tell that wood is severely damaged and must be repaired or replaced. In the case of woodboring beetle damage, there is no way to determine by simple visual inspection whether the load bearing capability of the wood has been compromised. One quick and simple (but not entirely accurate) test is to poke the wood with an ice-pick or other sharp instrument. If the tool easily penetrates the wood, then an expert on structural wood might be consulted. In the long run, it may be just as practical (and economical) to replace or brace wood that looks suspect.
Read Service Contract Carefully
Before signing a service contract, read it carefully. A written proposal is required prior to any pest control work. The services to be performed must be outlined. A contract that simply says "termite treatment" is not adequate. If the pest control contractor needs to trench, rod, and/or drill, these steps should be mentioned specifically. The name, concentration and total volume of any insecticide to be used should also be mentioned specifically. Have two or three pest control companies assess any problem and present a plan for correcting it. Compare the treatment specifications and warranty, as well as the prices. The need for monthly, quarterly or yearly pest control services is a matter of preference, problem perception, and tolerance level.
Termite Treatments and Waiver Forms
The procedures for termite treatments are spelled out in the NCDA-SPCD Rules. Any deviation from these guidelines requires a waiver. Whenever possible it is best to treat a structure completely in accordance with NCDA-SPCD rules. Waivers are important when needed because they permit the contractor to omit the specified parts of a termite treatment if there is situation that limits or prevents standard treatment. For example, a waiver may be necessary because the working clearance in the crawlspace is inadequate for it to be treated properly, or a treatment requires indoor drilling that may not be desirable. This latter situation usually occurs with slab construction, where holes must be drilled through the floor or the floor must be removed in order to drill the slab and treat the soil beneath it. Any part of the treatment that is waived must be properly explained on the standard waiver form. Ask how a waiver may affect treatment and warranty. This information is extremely important and useful in comparing services being offered by more than one company.
Removing cellulose debris from a crawlspace is important and is also required as part of a termite treatment. This debris usually consists of scrap pieces of lumber, but it can include paper and other cellulose-containing products large enough to rake up. Although the Pest Control Operator is ultimately responsible for cellulose debris removal, make sure that this step is carried out properly.
Termite Treatments Near Wells
Termiticide labels prohibit treatment of soil in a crawlspace when there is a well or cistern under or attached to the house. This restriction is intended to prevent accidental contamination of ground water and it applies even if the well is not in use. Most termiticide labels permit excavation and backfill. In this procedure, the soil adjacent to the interior foundation wall is removed from the crawlspace, treated with insecticide, then filled back in along the wall. The same procedure should be used when treating near a well or around pipes/utility lines that may lead down to a well, pond or other body of water. Care must also be exercised when drainage tiles ("French drains") are adjacent to the wall and could be damaged unknowingly. Obviously, this added work increases the cost of a treatment, but environmental concerns justify it. The pesticide label is the law; make sure that the Pest Control Operator is aware of any wells, cisterns, or other unusual situations.
Read and Understand the Warranty
The nature and limitations on any guarantee or warranty should be clearly indicated. The warranty usually provides for free retreatment if the problem is not solved, but it may not cover structural damage repair. Obviously, the specifics of any pest control guarantee depend in part on the problem being addressed. For pests such as millipedes, clover mites and spiders, which can repeatedly invade homes from outdoors, a "no-pest" guarantee is not really feasible. Termite treatment guarantees usually have a few major and quite legitimate exclusions:
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