Since 2000, University of Georgia entomologist Dan Suiter has taught pest control operators across the Southeast how to control termites and other household pests. He does this on the UGA campus in Griffin at a training facility built by the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, the Georgia Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The facility, formally called the Georgia Structural Pest Control Training Center, includes an outdoor classroom with different home foundation types.
“By seeing the different construction types up close, the technicians can visualize what they do every day,” said Suiter, a UGA Extension entomologist. “Our training center lets the pest control operators see that the pesticides don’t travel the same way through the different foundation types, and they can visualize how a termite might get in.”
Since the training center opened, Suiter, other UGA entomologists and GDA experts have trained thousands of pest control operators across the Southeast. Now the training facility is expanding, allowing pest control operators to learn how to control pests in commercial kitchens and schools and pests like bed bugs in bedroom settings.
“Over the past year, we’ve had some real movement, and we’ve expanded into commercial kitchens. Pest control companies have to go in and control roaches and rodents around food, so operators needed to be trained,” he said. “We are also building a bedroom and plan to start holding bed bug workshops, and we are adding an indoor classroom, too.”
UGA also plans to offer training on how to control pests in schools.
The UGA pest control training workshops typically include a day of lectures followed by a day of hands-on insect identification and pest control training demonstrations in the outdoor classroom. Pest control operators receive continuing education credits for attending the workshops.
Suiter also leads a 10-week pest control certification program on the UGA Griffin Campus. The course costs $195, but is free to all U.S. veterans. The current session concludes on Nov. 25 and the next 10-week session begins on March 31, 2016.
“We are trying to get new people into the industry,” he said. “It’s a well-kept secret. In the pest control business, it’s never the same from one day to the next, and it’s really interesting. And, you can make a really good living in it.”
Suiter says February, March and April are the peak hiring times for pest control companies.
“I had a man tell me he never really considered the pest control industry, but now he’s been working in it for 30 years and put three kids through college,” Suiter said. “The pest control business is almost a recession proof business. It may be because people spend more time at home when they don’t have income to go out, and they don’t want to be there with bugs.”
The next series of two-day workshops on the UGA Griffin Campus are scheduled as follows: bed bug control workshop, Feb. 11, 2016; commercial pest management workshop, Feb. 25, 2016; termite control workshop, March 10-11, 2016, and March 24-25, 2016; and 10-week certificate program, March 31-June 9. For more information on the workshops, call Suiter at (770) 233-6114 or see the program’s website at www.gabugs.uga.edu.
(Sharon Dowdy is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)