What is a pesticide? How to choose a pest control company?

A seedling growing in a small container

What is a pesticide?

Pesticides are substances used to defoliate plants, regulate plant growth, or for preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating insects, fungi, bacteria, weeds, rodents or predatory animals which may infest or be detrimental to vegetation, man, animals or households. The definition exempts agents used to control microorganisms living on or in man or animals.

"Pesticides" include insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, rodent baits, pool chlorine, sanitizers and disinfectants.

How do I tell if a product is a pesticide?

Read the product label.  All pesticide products have a registration number issued by the Environmental Protection Agency listed on the label. This may be listed as "E.P.A. Reg. No.".

Pesticide labels make pesticidal claims, such as "kills", "controls", "disinfects", or "sanitizes".  Pesticide labels will usually have the "-cide" suffix, such as "insecticide", "herbicide", or "fungicide".

What product should I choose?

Choose the right product for the job.  If you want to "kill", "disinfect", or "sanitize", then use a pesticide product. However, if you want to "clean", "bleach" or "cut grease", then use a product specifically formulated for that task.

Many laws and regulations have been established in California to ensure pesticides are used properly.  Using a pesticide when the job doesn't require one needlessly burdens the user with restrictive regulations and unnecessarily impacts the environment.

How to select a pest control company

First, you must decide what kind of pest control company you need.  There are two categories of pest control, “agricultural” and “structural”.  And, in some cases, some companies are licensed to do both kinds of pest control. 

Agricultural Pest Control Companies: Apply pesticides outdoors to control weeds, gophers and moles, and insect pests on plants and lawns.

When hiring an agricultural company, we recommend that you ask them if they are registered with Santa Clara County. Every agricultural pest control company must register annually with our office. If a company is registered with our office, that tells you that their staff is properly licensed, the company has insurance, and they are under our regulatory oversight.

Structural Pest Control Companies: Apply pesticides indoors and around the perimeter of buildings to control pests such as termites, ants, cockroaches, spiders, mice, fleas, and pigeons. Structural companies can also identify infestations of household pests and can perform structural repairs and replacements to exclude or eliminate pests from buildings.

Structural companies must also register their business with each county. If a company is registered with our office, that tells you that the company is properly licensed and are under our regulatory oversight.

Hiring a Pest Control Company: When you have decided on a pest control company, whether it be agricultural or structural, talk to them about your needs and what treatment options will work best for your pest problem. Are you looking for a broad-spectrum yard spray or do you want to target just one pest? By narrowing your treatment to one pest, you can maintain an even balance of insects in your yard, and sometimes reduce the cost of a treatment. As far as inside pests are concerned, you can ask if there are gel baits for your target pest instead of having to spray the inside of your home. Or, are there ways to exclude the pest or treat it from the outside?

Before you hire a company, you can call our office and ask about the company's compliance history. If you are planning on hiring a structural pest control company, you can also call the Structural Pest Control Board and ask if they have any consumer complaints logged against the company. The Structural Pest Control Board's phone number is: (800) 737-8188

For More Information Please Contact:

Santa Clara County Division of Agriculture
80 W. Highland Ave, Bldg. K
San Martin, CA 95046
Phone: (408) 201-0640 Main Phone Line

Santa Clara County Division of Agriculture
1553 Berger Drive, Building # 1
San Jose, CA 95112
Email: [email protected]
Phone: (408) 918-4600 Main Phone Line

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