Battling bedbugs? Make sure you use a licensed pest management company
In the past decade, bedbugs have made a comeback across the U.S. and in North Carolina. There are several reasons for this resurgence, including an increase in international travel and commerce, high tenant turnover in apartments, and changes in pesticide use and insecticide resistance.
Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler advises homeowners and business owners to be aware that the effective treatment of a bedbug infestation can be costly, and they should be wary of promises of low-cost remedies.
"Bedbugs generally cannot be controlled effectively with do-it-yourself measures," Troxler said. "And many times they can't be effectively controlled with just a single visit by a pest management professional. It's important for consumers to be careful in choosing a pest management company to address bedbug problems."
Troxler offers the following advice to consumers:
- Make sure your pest management professional is licensed. In North Carolina, a current license issued by the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is required of anyone who performs structural pest control work. Even if someone makes inspections for bedbugs – or offers non-chemical treatment methods such as heat, steam or freezing – he still must be licensed.
- Get an inspection. Any effective bedbug control strategy should start with a careful, thorough inspection by a licensed pest management professional of all known and suspected spots that may harbor the bugs. As bedbugs are discovered, the pest management professional will develop a treatment and control strategy with the customer depending on the extent of the infestation. Licensed pest management professionals have been trained and tested and have access to the latest information about effective tools for controlling bedbugs. The licensed professional is better prepared to assist consumers in the proper ways of dealing with bedbug problems or other structural pest issues.
- Make sure your pest management company is insured. In North Carolina, licensed pest management professionals are required to carry general liability insurance that protects both the consumer and the pest control operator if any problem arises with the pesticide or application method used to deal with bedbugs or other pests.
Troxler said the department recently investigated situations where pesticides intended only for outdoor use had been misapplied inside homes, as well as situations in which pesticides had been improperly used or applied at greater rates than the label allows. While controlling bedbugs is challenging, consumers should never use, or allow anyone else to use, a pesticide indoors that is intended for outdoor use, he said.
"Using the wrong pesticide – or using the correct pesticide incorrectly – to treat for bedbugs can make you, your family and your pets sick," Troxler said. "It can also make your home unsafe to live in – and may not solve the bedbug problem. If you do try treating the problem yourself, always read the label thoroughly before applying any chemical inside or around your home."
Homeowners and business owners can verify a company's license by checking the employee's identification card issued by the NCDA&CS Structural Pest Control and Pesticides Division. To find a list of licensees, log on to the division's website at www.ncagr.gov/str-pest/, or call (919) 733-6100.
Troxler has become increasingly concerned about the resurgence of bedbugs and the scarcity of effective treatments. Heat treatments and fumigations performed by licensed pest management professionals can be effective methods for managing bedbugs, but they do not provide residual control of the pests. In September, Troxler urged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to get involved in finding a solution.