Designing a pest management program

March 2018 — In most commercial buildings, pest control is a small budget item. However, the dollar value of a pest management program does not measure its importance to occupant satisfaction. An ongoing pest problem can result in numerous complaints from occupants. Thus, pest control and occupant satisfaction are intertwined.

A building manager has a number of decisions to make in developing a pest management program. Factors include economic constraints, as well as meeting overall program objectives. A manager should consider several questions:

  • Should the program be designed to prevent pests or to react to pest problems as they occur?
  • Should the program emphasize the use of insecticides as the first line of defense, or are nonchemical measures preferred?
  • Should the program emphasize inspections and identification of problems followed by specific recommendations, or should it be limited, for example, to regular applications of traditional pesticides to baseboards?
  • Should an IPM program be used?

After establishing a clear understanding of pest management needs, a manager must decide whether services will be performed by in-house personnel or contracted to a pest management vendor. The pests to be controlled, scope of services, technical expertise, and certification requirements all must be considered. Pest management is a specialized profession, requiring special training and licensing. A building manager should verify a vendor’s license before establishing a contract.

The Occupant’s Role

Occupants play an important role in the success of a pest management program by:

  • Cooperating with and understanding the program’s objectives
  • Collecting pest samples
  • Communicating with the pest management expert about pest problems
  • Following recommendations made by the pest management expert

Most pest management programs fail because of poor communication and cooperation between occupants and the pest management expert. When occupants understand the important role that they play in a successful pest management program, their willingness to obtain samples and implement recommendations increases.

What will happen if a tenant calls to report ants and the manager’s response is, “Please get a sample?” Does the tenant expect the exterminator to come in and spray? If so, then an IPM program is not in place, and the building is using a more traditional pest management approach.

Sample collection by tenants is more important than most people realize because proper identification is vital for effective pest control. For example, tenants who have not had firsthand experience with cockroaches may confuse cockroaches with ground beetles; however, the treatment for cockroaches is entirely ineffective against ground beetles, and vice versa. Without proper pest identification, time may be wasted, simple pest problems may remain unresolved, and pesticides may be applied needlessly.

In addition to understanding the importance of collecting samples, occupants must learn how to collect them. The specimen must be kept intact for identification; a smashed bug can thwart the efforts of the best expert.

With a simple procedure involving two Styrofoam or paper cups, nearly anyone can obtain a usable pest sample. The pest should be placed in the bottom of one cup, and the second cup inserted almost completely into the first, the same way that they come packaged. An air gap remains between the bases of the two cups, but the sides are sealed to prevent escape, and the sample is preserved for identification.

Tenants should avoid smashing or sealing pests under clear tape. These methods damage many characteristics important in the positive identification of the pest. Nevertheless, a poorly saved specimen is better than no sample at all.

There may be situations where having the tenant collect a sample could be dangerous. For example, if there is a stinging insect (such as a wasp) present in the space, attempting to collect it could be a health hazard and should be avoided.

The Manager’s Role

The manager shares similar roles as the occupants, but with several differences. The manager has a higher level of communication with the expert regarding pest problems and potential solutions. Although the pest management expert is responsible for providing the manager with all possible alternatives, the manager must ultimately decide on the course of action that the pest management expert will take. The manager also bears greater responsibility for implementing recommendations regarding structural change, sanitation, and other areas for which the pest management expert is not responsible.

Quite often, the pest management expert is in the politically sensitive position of trying to satisfy the desires of both the manager and the occupants. The manager must be clear as to what degree of communication the pest management expert is to have with occupants. Every manager has different expectations. Some want the pest management expert to explain biology and behavior of the pests to occupants, while others want nothing said at all.

Because pests are a sensitive topic and can cause great disruption in the workplace, the pest management expert should understand the expectations of the manager and communicate them as efficiently as possible to the occupants.

The time of day when service is to be rendered depends on what will be happening in that location. Each property manager should develop a set of guidelines establishing what can take place during working hours, and what must be scheduled after working hours. If the building has food service, regular treatments will be necessary. These should take place after the food service has finished operations for the day.

Selecting a Pest Control Vendor

Active membership in state and national pest management associations is an important criterion for evaluating the qualifications of a pest management professional. The National Pest Management Association lists companies active in the association. Information regarding state associations can also be found on its website, Information from this site may be helpful in developing specifications and narrowing lists of qualified vendors. Identification of companies knowledgeable in pest biology and behavior and treatment alternatives is increasingly important to the building management industry.

In 2004, the pest management industry introduced a program called Quality Pro, which demonstrates a company’s commitment to quality. Quality Pro is an industry program and leading certification designed to:

  • Increase the professionalism of the industry through self-regulation
  • Stimulate consumer demand through increased confidence and a higher public perception of industry professionalism
  • Create common sense among building occupants
  • Recognize a contractor’s commitment to excellence and higher performance standards

This is a company, not an individual, designation. Quality Pro companies are environmentally responsible and committed to providing consumers with the highest possible service. Built around the four key principles of competent business operations, consumer relations, environmental stewardship, and technician training, the Quality Pro certification is designed to be feasible and affordable for every company in the pest management industry. When selecting a vendor for a site, it may be useful to consider whether the vendor has a Quality Pro certification.

This article is adapted from BOMI International’s The Design, Operation, and Maintenance of Building Systems, Part II course, part of the RPA and FMA designation programs. More information regarding this course or BOMI International’s new High-Performance Sustainable Buildings credential (BOMI-HP™) is available by calling 1-800-235-2664. Visit BOMI International’s website,