Are you a Homeowner or Property Manager Looking for the Best Solution to Insect and Pest Control in Northern Virginia?
If you are a Homeowner or Property Manager who needs a solution to insect and pest control in Northern Virginia, you are in the right place. If you are interested in hiring a qualified, licensed and professional pest control company in Northern Virginia, like anything else, you have to do your research, but sometimes you also need advice. To help property owners and landlords become more informed, and as part of NOVA NARPM’s informational spotlight series, we recently interviewed Brett Lieberman of My Pest Pros in Fairfax Virginia to help Northern Virginia homeowners and landlords become better educated about insect and pest control in Northern Virginia.
Brett Lieberman, founder and owner of My Pest Pros offers great expert insight into the local market and provides consumers with relevant information they need in order to make an educated decision when choosing a pest control solution. In Lieberman’s recent interview with NOVA NARPM, he offers honest information about the importance of finding the best insect and pest treatment solutions, health and safety, how to prevent problems, what it means to use integrated pest management techniques and information about organic treatment options.
Leveraging the Expert Knowledge of My Pest Pros
Lieberman tells NOVA NARPM that My Pest Pros considers themselves a customer service company that does pest control. He also notes, “We’re family-owned, my wife and I own the company. We’ve been in business for about seven years now and we’re not a franchise.” When asked what the Northern Virginia market is looking for in terms of pest control companies, he explains that “with all the options for pest control out there, people want somebody that they can trust and somebody that they can have a conversation with, not just somebody from a call center in say Atlanta. People want that human element.” When asked about their approach to customer service, Lieberman says “I don’t want us to treat your home in any way that we wouldn’t want our own home treated. We treat for health and safety in the same way we would treat for our own family. We have two children and a dog, so we understand the concerns. Our philosophy is centered on problem solving and prevention. We also think about ethics when we make recommendations. We’ve actually earned business because we’ve recommended no treatment in a situation that doesn’t call for it, and those folks later call us when they actually do need treatment.” For My Pest Pros, the ideal solution is not to treat inside the home because problems typically start outside the home.
The Importance of Evaluating Insect and Pest Treatment Solutions, Health and Safety, Prevention, Using Integrated Pest Management Techniques, Organic Treatment and more
NOVA NARPM: There are a lot of pest control products that homeowners can purchase at the store. How effective are they? Brett Lieberman: For many people, pest control is a do-it-yourself project because it’s easy to pick things up at Home Depot or order things online. However, the problem we often see is that a lot of those products don’t really solve the problems and a lot of times they actually make things worse. We see people who buy products after they read about it online, like boric acid dust for example, and they’ll put it down for roaches or something like that. And not only is that not effective, it makes the situation worse because they put so much down that it’s actually unsafe. So, it becomes a health and safety hazard. We also see people who buy at-home foggers for bed bugs or roaches. The reality is you’re not going to kill a lot of bed bugs or roaches that way, but you are going to drive them deeper into the walls or furniture or cabinets.
Most generally there are repellant and non-repellant products in pest control. Repellant products are like Raid because they’re a contact-kill product. So, if you spray that on roaches or bed bugs or whatever, they’re probably going to die but others are going to avoid that area and the problem just shifts.
We recently did work for a property manager. They had a tenant in a townhouse who saw termite swarms coming up through a crack in the garage. That would have been a great access point for us to go in because we would have known at least one place where they were for treatment purposes. But the tenant poured gasoline into the crack. He did that with some ants as well. I’m sure that killed some termites, but he contaminated the whole area and at that point it wasn’t even worth it for us to drill through that area and treat there because it just shifted the problem.
NOVA NARPM: How do you determine whether or not to treat a problem? Do you always recommend treatment? BL: Pest control isn’t always about treating, it’s about solving a problem. We view it as we’re in the health and safety industry. We’re addressing health, safety and peace of mind. Sometimes that means recommending no treatment. We actually had a potential client recently that was concerned about silverfish, which are more of a gross pest that bug people, but not really a damaging problem in terms of health and safety. The clients were concerned that their daughter has respiratory issues and were thinking about organic products. I didn’t recommend organic products because they do smell and they’re generally oil based and extract based and if there are respiratory concerns that’s probably not a good fit. But also, organic products are more repellent type products that will push the problem around rather than solve the problem. So, I recommended not using a pest control company and simply purchasing a dehumidifier and starting with that to see if it would resolve the problem. So, we recommended a non-pesticide solution there that may actually help a lot, and fit with their concerns. Plus they were renters of a townhouse. Often in these circumstances, what’s your problem is also your neighbors’ problem. Bedbugs, mice, silverfish…they can go between units, which can sometimes occur from a water problem for example. It’s always about finding the root problem.
NOVA NARPM: Many pest control technicians don’t have formal training for Wood Destroying Insect inspections (WDI inspections) for termites, carpenter bees, wood boring beetles and other pests, right? BL: That’s correct. In Virginia, there is no requirement for formal training. If you want to call yourself a termite inspector, you can. Your mother could do termite inspections. One problem we see is in home sales. For a real estate agent it’s more convenient to hire one inspector, who for example says they can also do the termite inspection. That’s convenient for the real estate agent, one person comes out, great. The problem is they may not be qualified for insect and pest inspection and there’s really no warranty. A recent case comes to mind in Alexandria. We were called out by the homeowner about three months after he purchased the home and there was a major termite issue in a crawlspace that should have been found. I can’t say for sure why it wasn’t found in the inspection, but the extent of it was that it should have been found in the inspection. We were willing to do the treatment but recommended that they contact their real estate agent about the termite inspection. A lot of reputable companies offer warranties but if you use someone who isn’t licensed for pest control you may not get a warranty. In their case, it wasn’t warrantied and it ended up being a $1,500 pest control problem. In our eyes, that wasn’t really fair to the homeowner and this is where a warranty is really beneficial.
Virginia Pest Management Association in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture has put together a voluntary Wood Destroying Insect certification. It’s a day of training followed by a test you have to pass. It’s offered twice a year. Our guys go through that of course because it’s something more tangible and good training.
We see integrity issues all the time. A gorgeous home in Great Falls hires a pest company, the technician comes out to treat for ants and then says “oh, you’ve got a termite problem and you need termite treatment.” We had this happen recently, a customer called us out because they weren’t happy with the assessment, pricing, or sales pitch which happens all the time. It wasn’t termite damage, it was wood rot. We can’t speak to what those technicians thought, but their proposal wouldn’t have solved the customer’s problem. It comes down to training and you want somebody who will stand behind their work. You have to do your research.
NOVA NARPM: Okay, so for locals, what is the most common insect control problem you run into in the Northern Virginia area? BL: Well, of course there’s a seasonal aspect to it. This time of year (summer), its warmer and there’s been a lot of rain so we see a lot of ants, termites, mosquitoes, ticks, stinging insects, carpenter bees and roach issues. You also see an uptick in bed bugs during vacation periods, you know, people travel or come home from college. In the winter you get more mice and rodent activity. It really does vary though. The best thing a homeowner can do is be preventative. This means things like maintaining wood, caring for trim work, caulking, making sure water drains away properly from the home, gutter cleaning and managing and addressing leaks. A lot of these things tend to lead to pest issues.
NOVA NARPM: If you discover a significant insect problem like termites for example, is it possible to completely remove them and prevent them from coming back? BL: Oh yes, we get that all the time. We do a termite remediation project and yes, you can remove them and prevent them from coming back. The reality is there are termite colonies around every home. The national average is 2-3 colonies around every home. Mostly they’re out there decomposing organic material, trees and stuff like that. They’re actually a beneficial insect in nature but they’re constantly looking for a food source and this is what we mean when we say prevention is key. You have to protect the home by maintaining it. Are all homes going to get hit by termites, no, but there is more than 5 billion dollars a year recorded in termite damage. Some people say “oh, it’s a brick home” but underneath those bricks are wood studs. The gamut is extensive though. We’ve treated office buildings in Falls Church for example, that are concrete or brick or whatever that had termites on the second or third floor. We recently treated a dry cleaner in Bethesda, all concrete structure but termites were eating the floors.
NOVA NARPM: We’ve heard about integrated pest management techniques. What does it mean to use integrated pest management techniques? BL: The silverfish and dehumidifier example I used earlier is a good representation of integrated pest management techniques in action. Pests react differently to different problems. You shouldn’t just always go and spray them because that’s not necessarily going to solve the problem depending on what you’re dealing with. So really, it’s a matter of what you’re dealing with and figuring that out, and it’s not always obvious. We might use monitoring devices or it might just be alteration. You can’t always see the ants trailing for example. The goal isn’t necessarily to treat with pesticide, and often we look for a mechanical solution such as traps and so forth that don’t require pesticides. Or we look to see if we can physically alter something, like a drainage issue for ants or termites. It’s really about trying to solve the problem permanently and sometimes it’s common sense, like preventing mice from entering a restaurant kitchen by keeping the back door closed.
NOVA NARPM: So what’s an entomologist and does it matter if a pest control company consults with one? BL: Well, in a nutshell, it’s a bug expert. The official definition is “a person who studies or is an expert in the branch of zoology concerned with insects.” It’s helpful to work with one when you need to. A lot of times we know what something is right away but there are times when we don’t. The ability to bring a specimen to an entomologist is really valuable. I’ve had an entomologist study a specimen for 45 minutes sometimes, and this is somebody that has a degree, often a PhD. This just reveals how difficult it can sometimes be to identify problems. And this goes back to integrated pest management because you want to know what you’re treating. You don’t want to treat blindly. We don’t normally need an entomologist, but on some occasions we do and it’s a nice resource to have. Virginia Tech has a great program but we are very fortunate here locally because the National Pest Management Association is right in Fairfax. It’s nice to have that relationship.
NOVA NARPM: I think a lot of people want to understand more about the chemicals that are used and how they affect humans, pets and the environment. Can you talk about that? BL: Honestly, there is a lot of conflicting data out there. A lot of what you hear about are bees and pollinators, but with that specifically I don’t think pesticides are necessarily the problem. There are a lot of things involved like pollution, certain mites and diseases within colonies. In terms of chemical issues, they are overused in agriculture and there are issues with how they move the bee colonies around. But in general, chemical products are safer today than they ever have been but it’s still a chemical and that’s why you want to minimize the use especially inside the home or structure. You want to avoid over-treatment. This, of course, has driven a lot of interest in organic products that are considered green. Generally I would say they’re safer, but they’re still a pesticide that’s designed to kill something. It’s safer, but you know, arsenic is organic, but too much is a problem. Too much of anything is usually not a good thing and there’s enough chemicals in our lives already.
One final note for consumers and landlords is that sometimes pest control companies claim to be endorsed by the States Departments of Agriculture, the U.S. EPA or other government agency. It is imperative to know that government agencies do not endorse any service company or specific pesticide product. If they say that, it’s a scam.
My Pest Pros has been serving the Northern Virginia market for nearly 10 years and specializes in residential and commercial inspect and pest control. To learn more about them visit www.mypestpros.com and find them on Facebook at @mypestpros. Also, be sure to connect with NOVA NARPM on Facebook at NOVANARPM.