SPN: Understanding the pest control contract

Image of a sticky trap located on a walkway and used for monitoring pests

Monitoring is part of an IPM program. Be sure that your company is giving you the best service you can afford.

Do you find your IPM program lacking? Frustrated that you are getting the services you think you are paying for? Then it’s time to look at pest control bid specifications and make some adjustments. When it comes to pest control program there are three basic goals. First, the program needs to be as safe as possible. The program reduces the risk from both pesticides and pests. Second, the program should be effective in eliminating pests as a potential health threat. Finally, the program should be affordable. The program should be simple and as easy to implement as possible. It should not also rely only on spraying insecticides, the company you hire should be able to determine where the pests are coming from so they can be eliminated, not tolerated.

In Texas, schools have had to abide by state guidelines that require adoption and implementation of IPM practices. Unfortunately, not every school district and pest control contractor understands these concepts. In my experience, too often schools use a standard contract developed by the purchasing department and don’t require additional reporting and monitoring by the pest control contractor without considering price and time. Many of the state mandated IPM programs require the contractor to excessively monitor, seek permission prior to making pesticide applications, and require excessive and elaborate systems for evaluating all the pest management systems. As a result, this often frustrates the customer and pest management professional. Therefore, one of the most important factors in having a successful IPM Program in schools is defining the role the pest management professional in your IPM program.

The biggest mistake I have observed in working with the different school districts has been the bid process. School districts have not updated bid specifications* ten and sometimes, 20 years. Schools are still requesting that their contractor to make routine pesticide applications in their kitchens and other sensitive areas. Whether your pest management professional is applying a residual insecticide or uses baits and gels, if they are making applications every time they visit your campuses, the contractor is not practicing integrated pest management. (*Note at the end of this article are a few examples of bid specs)

Too often pest control companies are not equipped to service schools in the way they are requested or expected to do so. This results in ill feelings from both parties. However, we recommend that schools and companies work together to assure that IPM principles and pest control needs are being met. An IPM program is a team effort between the pest management professional and ALL the school employees, it’s not just one person out there spraying.

Here are some tips that are important in writing a bid specification and pest control contracts.

  1. Program Management – who’s going to run the contract? Who will be responsible for the oversight of this contract? For Texas schools, if the IPM Coordinator is responsible for the IPM program, do they also have the reasonability for overseeing the pest control contract? It has been my experience this doesn’t often happen. The IPM Coordinator should have input into the decision making related to the pest control contract, this means working with the purchasing department for the district and have a chance to interview the potential companies to see how they will respond
  2. Type of Contract – how will you pay the contractor? Will it be a firm-fixed price or indefinite delivery (as needed basis)? A firm-fixed price generally refers to a set price on a monthly or quarterly basis. The indefinite delivery method in general runs counter to an IPM program. It requires pesticide applications without considering IPM principles. Both methods have advantages and disadvantages, which will require discussion between the IPM coordinator, purchasing manager, and other school administrators to develop a package that is right for your program.
  3. Estimating Cost – what is the going rate for pest control? According to the pest control companies I have talked with is this: the bad news is not paying enough is the single most important reason for receiving mediocre pest control service. The good news is pest control is probably the least expensive service of all the building services a school district needs. School administrators need to understand what they are requesting and pay accordingly, rather than relying on what was acceptable ten and twenty years ago. Do you consider the type of structures you have and their age? Does the structure have conditions that lend themselves to constant pest problems? What about accessibility? In many cases the only person who has keys to dry food storage is the kitchen manager – is he/she present when the pest management person is there? If they are not, will it cost your district more to have someone present, or will that area be neglected during routine inspections? Moreover, if is not being inspected, what happens when you have an infestation of cockroaches or rodents?
  4. Method of Award – how will you select the contractor? Generally, there are two methods used by schools. Sealed bidding means an award based solely on price, it’s considered the quickest and simplest, most efficient award. The problem with this method is it often draws from the more undesirable companies. The more revolutionary type of award method is Source Selection. This method allows for detailed, comprehensive evaluation of the pest control companies ability to deliver quality service. This method can be cumbersome and time intensive. It requires the IPM Coordinator to work prior to sending out the request for proposal, which is also required per the Texas School IPM rules.
  5. Statement of Work – exactly what is the contractor expected to do. Too often this is where schools make their biggest mistake. They start their bid process with this step rather than the first four steps. While it is important to understand, what services will be covered, it is equally important to understand the school’s role versus the pest control contactors role. For example, for rodent control who is responsible for exclusion? Since it’s the school building, does your district utilize a preventative maintenance program to seal up any openings the size of a dime or larger? Or do you expect your pest control company to do this? If you answered yes, then how much are you willing to pay? This is not the time for IPM ideology and remember that in order for structural pest control to be effective, pesticides must be considered and you have a role in the program as well, if you don’t fix the conducive conditions you can’t expect the pest problem to go away.
  6. Quality assurance – how will the contractor’s work be evaluated? This final step is often overlooked. In my experience, many pest control contracts do not offer an “out clause” that allows the IPM coordinator an option to get out of contract for poor performance. The true sign of a good pest control company is the reduction of pest complaints, along with a reduction of pesticide applications. Since IPM is about pest prevention, the contractor and the school should be working in tandem to deliver a safe environment for students and staff.

In addition to the six steps above, remember that IPM is more than just pest control. While the pest management professional has oversight of inspections and corrective actions, the overall pest control effort includes improvements in sanitation and exclusion throughout the facility where conditions for pest infestation have been identified. This requires a commitment from the school district, as well as the pest control contractor.

Finally, here are some important tips for schools who are struggling with their contractor. At the minimum, ask yourself and your staff the following questions. If you answer yes to two or more of these questions, it’s time to review your bid specifications and contract and seek help from a qualified specialist.

  • Are pests or evidence of pest frequently encountered?
  • Are there obvious conducive conditions for pests?
  • Are insecticides being routinely sprayed indoors? Are there obvious indoor rodenticide placements? (Review those service tickets every month)
  • Is pest control service limited to pesticide application, with little or no inspection of potential trouble spots? (Does the technician list problem areas on the service ticket?)
  • Are many occupants dissatisfied with the pest control service?

If you answered “no” to all the above questions, your pest control program is successful and conforms to the intent of the school IPM mandates. If you answered yes, then it’s time to review your IPM program and work to solving those issues. Remember Texas A&M AgriLife Extension has experts that can help you with your program so don’t hesitate to contact us.

Here are a couple of documents to help guide you.

Sample Bid Contract Request for Proposal using IPM

Sample RFP

Monitoring for Insect Pests


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