What is the Role of a Pest Controller?
The Main objective
Pest Control Technicians (or Pest Control Operators - PCOs) play an essential role in maintaining Public Health and Food Safety through pest prevention.
Pests are everywhere around us & without the trained eye and analytical abilities of the Pest Controllers' inspections, they quickly invade our space, contaminate our food, and can cause illness. We work in & around buildings of all types including apartments, houses, offices, food factories, hospitals, supermarkets, shops, pubs, restaurants, warehouses, schools, etc.
Pest Prevention - Routine Inspections
In order to achieve this objective, pest controllers continually assess the environment, i.e. the conditions which are conducive to pest infestations & report any issues to the building manager / owner eg a hole under a door is a potential mice access point and is likely to result in an infestation sooner or later if not dealt with. If the bottom of a wheelie bin is left dirty, it is only a matter of time before flies lay eggs in it.
The main aim of pest prevention is to identify potential issues and get them resolved before an infestation occurs.
Many businesses in Ireland are required to keep written pest inspection records by Laws, Standards, or Auditors.
Housekeeping and Proofing:
Pest Controllers' inspections are summarised on reports highlighting Housekeeping and Proofing issues.
Pest Control companies also undertake cleaning and proofing jobs directly. For instance:
- Supply and fit Bird Spikes and Bird Nets
- Repair/block holes with mesh, concrete, or expanding foam
- Fit Fly screen doors and windows
- Clean up and disinfect after pest damage
Pest Eradication - When Pests are Present
Pest controllers actively eradicate pest problems, both outdoors and indoors.
PCOs are trained in pest biology and behaviour.This means they can identify a pest, & thereby determine how to get rid of it once and for all. When it comes to invasive tropical insects, some Pest Controllers specialise in entomology and can identify the most unlikely species.
The most common inspection/identification equipment include:
- Powerful Torch
- Telescopic mirrors
- Night vision motion cameras
- 30x 60x magnifying glasses
- Insect sample boxes
Pest Control Operators assess the type and extent of an infestation and prepare an eradication / control strategy using a variety of tools and equipment to manage the pest problem. These include:
- Mechanical traps
- Live cages
- Insecticides (liquid, aerosols, foam, dust, smoke, fog)
- Rodenticides (paste, grain, wax blocks)
- Heat and Cold treatments.
Modern professional approach to pest control, combining different methods is known as Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Strategy
What are the main pests in Ireland?
In Ireland, the following are the most common pests in urban areas:
- Mice & rats
- Black ants
- Clothes moths
There are many other pests but not as common, e.g. pharaoh ants, fleas, carpet beetles, stored product beetles, pest birds, etc.
Our Field Biologist Ciaran recently gave advice to The Independent on the main pests affecting Irish houses. For link to the article Click Here.
What skills are required to become a Pest Controller?
Formal and written Skills
As reporting and keeping records is an essential part of day-to-day operations, good writing skills are necessary to communicate issues, advice and recommendations. Minimum Leaving Cert. is required.
In order to perform effective work Pest Controllers must integrate a lot of knowledge about pest biology and pest management techniques.
Since January 2018 Pest Controllers in Ireland must have a licence (a "PMU number") in order to purchase and use biocides, which can be obtained upon successful completion of the Lantra qualification "Level 3 Award in Pest Management Services - Trained Professional User".
Pest Controllers handle potentially harmful substances and work with contaminated materials. Safe application of biocides and knowledge of legislation restricting the use of certain pest control methods in some areas is mandatory. It is therefore necessary to enrol into in-house training and formal certified courses & diploma.
Continuous Professional Development
In order to maintain their licence, Pest Controllers in Ireland must be a member of a Continuous Professional Development (CPD) scheme and update their skills through a variety of activities, e.g. in-house and formal training, conferences and events, reading/studying Pest Control magazines, watching training videos, etc. This is actually interesting, and also provides the oportunity to meet colleagues. It adds to the diversity of the job! For more details about CPD Click Here.
Skills - Communication
PCOs need to be assertive & have a natural ability to communicate effectively with customers, e.g. analyse pest issues, determine appropriate solutions, reassure customers and encourage them to co-operate in order to achieve control, etc. This is why people who have been in contact with the public through various Customer Service roles make excellent careers in pest control.
Skills – DIY aptitudes
As most pests are 'hidden' , it takes strong DIY aptitudes and initiatives to access hiding / breeding areas. For instance it may be necessary to bore or cut openings in building (plasterboards) or concrete surroundings, insert borescope inspection cameras, spray nozzle, open manholes etc.
Health & Fitness
Pest Controllers need to bend to look under appliances, squeeze in small spaces, crawl in attics without floor boards, climb up and down ladders etc. therefore a good level of fitness is essential.
Certain health conditions may be a problem for carrying out some routine work, e.g.: allergy to wasp sting; asthma; various phobias such as fear of heights, insects, spiders, mice or rats.
Pest Controller Working hours
Most pest issues are noticed by customers during core working hours (Monday to Friday, 09:00-17:00). These are also the main hours for accessing premises. Therefore PCO's work mainly between those hours for scheduled work.
Pest Control is also an 'emergency service'. Pests may occur at any time of the day, night & weekends! In some cases the need for an immediate Pest Control intervention is crucial. There are also situations where customers are at work during the day & cannot accommodate a visit other than early morning, late afternoon or Saturdays. All technicians are on a Saturday shift rota with overtime available as required by the needs of the company/demand of seasonal pest issues.
Pest Control workers usually work alone and drive a Company van with treatment equipment to various sites. They would visit 7 to 14 premises on average during their work day.
The work can be uncomfortable at times (e.g. removing a dead animal), but wearing protective equipment (PPE) and tools makes it much easier. These include
- Disposable overalls
- Disposable Gloves
- Chemical / smell filtering face masks
- Shoe covers
- Litter pickers, etc.
As pests are all around us and constantly interfere with human activities and environment, pest controllers operate in a virtually "recession-proof industry". It is not known for any qualified pest controller to be out of work in Ireland or UK. Even pest controllers with qualifications from other countries around the world quickly get Irish equivalent diploma/certs.
This is a very reassuring element as we all notice today's work market becomes more precarious. Pest Control is a secure career especially when someone wants to take on a mortgage or raise a family.