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What You Should Know About Pest Control in Your Home

Do you have a pest problem? Have you found insects in your home? Don't panic!

Do you need pest control?

A few bugs are normal and can be found in any building. Most insects are harmless, but some can cause damage. Catch some of the bugs in a container and show them to an expert, such as:

  • Extension Service agent or a Master Gardener (look under "County Government" in the phone book).
  • Department of Agriculture staff (state agency located in Salem).

Important Things to Know

Ask the local Extension Service office or check the library for information such as:

  • Are these bugs a problem now? Could they be later?
  • How can you stop the insect problem from getting worse or happening again?
  • Can you get rid of the pests yourself? Is there a way to do it without pesticides or with something you can buy?

If You Need Professional Help

Shop around and take your time choosing a pest control operator (exterminator). Get recommendations and check if the company is a member of a professional association. Get more than one estimate, in writing. Ask for a list from each company of what they plan to use and where, how much they will apply, and the total cost.

Ask around. If you have doubts about the companies you can:

  • Check with the Department of Agriculture. Find out if the company and applicator are licensed and if either has a history of violating laws.
  • Call the Consumer Complaints Division of the Oregon Department of Justice to ask about a firm's record.
Beware of high pressure sales tactics such as:
  • Claims that your house could collapse.
  • An estimate that doesn't give the total price of the job.
  • Inspectors who "just happen to be in the area" or discounts for "today only".

Before you sign a contract read all of it.

  • Check the guarantee: will they come back if there's still a problem?
  • Be careful about signing something that says the job was done right, and before signing up for multiple treatments be sure you understand why you need it.

When it's Time for Pest Treatment

To protect yourself and your investment, ask questions and write down the answers. Walk through the house with the applicators and ask what they will apply and where. Ask about any health concerns. Consult them on how to prevent future problems.Ask your applicator how long you should wait before going back and what to do when you can return. You may need to:

  • Open windows and doors to air out the house after an interior treatment.
  • If you need tent fumigatioin, carefully follow your applicator's written directions to prepare your home. Don't go back in until house is tested and the applicator says its safe to return.
  • Ask about cleaning your home; for example, some pesticides are time released and may not work after vacuuming.

Pesticides and Your Health

Whether you treat the problem yourself or hire someone else, remember that pesticides can be harmful if used incorrectly. Avoid direct exposure to pesticides, and follow all directions for how to use, store, and clean up. Other things to keep in mind:

  • If someone in your home has breathing problems, such as emphysema, asthma, or allergies, or is in the first three months of pregnancy, talk to a doctor before treating your home and tell the pest control operator. They may have special advice for those people.
  • Even after ventilation, some pesticides may leave an odor which can last for days. Some people can smell it at very low levels. Odors can cause throat or eye irratation, headaches, and nausea. If these symptoms last more than a few days:
  • Talk to your health care provider, or
  • Call the Oregon Poison Center (1-800-222-1222 - outside Portland; 494-8968 - in Portland).

Contact Agencies

  • OSU Cooperative Extension Office: Look in the white pages of phone book under County Government.
  • Oregon Department of Agriculture, Plant Division (Salem): 503-378-3776
  • Oregon Department of Justice, Consumer Complaints Division (Salem): 503-378-4732
  • Oregon Poison Center: 1-800-222-1222 (outside Portland); 503-494-8968 (in Portland)