April is National Pest Management Month and unfortunately in Central Ohio, the stormy season can bring about snakes, mosquitoes, ants, and other unwanted critters. Most consumers can put on a brave face and get their fly swatters out of the garage, but when the problem becomes too big, it could be time to call a professional service.

While trying to battle your pests or prevent your problems from growing, your BBB and the National Pest Management Association have tips to help homeowners play a proactive role in helping protect their families from pests:

Inspect the outside of your home for access points. Consumers should pay special attention to where utility pipes enter their home. Small cracks can be sealed, while steel wool is recommended for larger holes.

Keep your grass short and tree branches trimmed.

Consumers should regularly clean their gutters of leaves and other debris. Water can become stagnant in these areas and act as a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Regularly dispose of garbage in a sealed trash bin.

Consistently wipe down counters and sweep floors to clean residue and crumbs from kitchens and bathrooms.

If consumers do decide to call a pest management service, your BBB asked Board member Lonnie Alonso, Accredited Business owner of Columbus Pest Control Inc., for some tips on how to proceed:

Always save a sample of the pest that you see. In order to determine an effective treatment plan, or to see if a treatment plan is necessary, there must be an accurate identification of the pest. The best manner is to catch the pest and put it in a clean jar. It is preferable to not put it into a flat item like between two pieces of paper or envelope.

Research your options. Ask your family and friends for referrals or find Accredited Businesses at bbb.org.

Have some facts ready for when you call a professional pest control company, such as; how many you see on a daily basis, the location where you see the pests, if the weather impacts the number of pests you see daily, if you had the issue before, and when and what was done about the issue?

Verify licensing. The pest management service should be able to show their license and other credentials.

Get written estimates. Consumers should get bids from several companies to compare before making a decision. Accredited Businesses on bbb.org even have a Request a Quote button!

Fully understand the contract. Before signing any contract, make sure you completely understand the nature of the household pests to be exterminated, the extent of your infestation, and all of the work necessary to solve the issue. All guarantees should be clearly written with details on what the company will do if the pests continue after the treatment.

Ask for an explanation from the companies as to why their program or approach is best way to handle your pest issue.

Ask about insurance. Consumers should ask if the company has liability to cover any potential damage that could be done to your home during treatment.

Ask about the warranty. If a guarantee is given, understand what it entails, how long it lasts, and what kinds of prevention and management are necessary on your end. Most guarantees are part of a marketing aspect, provided for an “additional or free” follow up service, and often require long term (year) service agreements. Some companies also have the option of a basic service plan with additional fees for additional work.

Be wary of companies that push you to pay. Consumers should be aware of companies that come to your home uninvited and offer to give you a free inspection, or of companies that press you to pay large sums of money immediately.

Look out for high-pressure sales tactics. Consumers should consider value, not price. Some companies may offer services that sound too good to be true or offer costly treatments.

If consumers want to do-it-themselves, it’s best to go to a professional to get information and effective products based on positive ID of the pest sample.