Unique termite school helps with Louisiana pest control

Linda Benedict, Bogren, Richard C.  |  12/8/2007 3:00:46 AM

Since 2000, nearly 450 pest control operators and technicians have completed two days of either basic or master training programs on treating for termites and other wood-destroying insects at the Lois Caffey Termite Training Center at the LSU AgCenter in Baton Rouge.

The operators, who come from across Louisiana, learn pest control procedures according to the state minimum termite treating standards as one of the steps required to test for state certification or re-certification.

“Knowledge is the most powerful thing you get here,” said Ashley Quirk, who operates Quirk’s Pest Control in Slidell.

Quirk said the school is important for a one-man operation like his because “it puts you on an even level” with competitors.

“You need to know how to do this,”  Quirk said. “Whether it’s a $100,000 house or a $1 million house, each is treated the same way.”

The LSU AgCenter school is one of three programs approved by the Louisiana Structural Pest Control Commission. The other two are operated by private companies.

“This is the only one for independent pest control operators,” said Allen Fugler, who helps administer the training programs. Fugler is vice president of marketing with LIPCA Insurance, a company owned by more than 250 pest control operators in Louisiana and specializing in insuring pest control companies.

The training includes hands-on demonstrations on a variety of sample foundations, insect and damage identification, treatment calculations, equipment calibrations and demonstrations, thorough review of state rules and regulations, pesticide safety and environmental concerns.

The LSU AgCenter termite training program had its genesis in 1991 when Lois Caffey of Alexandria began promoting and raising funds for the project.

Working with industry supporters, Caffey raised funds from a variety of sources to build the AgCenter’s training facilities. Construction began in 1992. In recognition of her dedication, the LSU Board of Supervisors in 2001 approved naming the facility the Lois Caffey Termite Training Center.

Caffey has been in the pest control business since 1961, when she went to work for Adams Pest Control in Alexandria, where she still works as corporate secretary and treasurer. A licensed pest control operator in Louisiana, she has served on the board of the National Pest Management Association and is past president of the Louisiana Pest Control Association and the Cenla Pest Control Association.

Termite school classes are taught by LSU AgCenter faculty and representatives from the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, which administers pest control regulations and operator registrations in Louisiana.

The termite school adds professionalism to a job that generally does not get the respect it should, said Gregg Henderson, an LSU AgCenter entomologist who teaches the students how to track termites.

“At the termite school we teach pest control operators how to make the best decision possible when employing a control strategy based on knowledge of construction, treatment methodologies and, above all, termite biology,” Henderson said.

Termite control in Louisiana is regulated by state statue through the Structural Pest Control Commission and enforced by the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry. The school is set up to follow and teach the regulations.

“We’re partners in providing education for pest management professionals,” said Dennis Ring, an LSU AgCenter entomologist and one of the members of the training faculty.

Students learn to locate sources of infestations and how to treat and prevent reinfestations, said Milton Schleismann, New Orleans district manager for agricultural and environmental sciences in the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry.

Schleismann, whose responsibilities include overseeing pest control practices and citizen complaints in seven parishes, has been on the school faculty since the program began. He teaches how to read and follow the label and to be familiar with and know the minimum specifications for pesticide applications as well as how to identify the different types of structures in Louisiana and how to treat them.

“Our role is to make sure they’re following labels,” Schleismann said. “The label is the law.”

Most problems with termites arise from excessive moisture or construction defects. Pest control companies treat and inspect annually, looking for active infestations, Schleismann said.

Homeowner responsibility includes eliminating moisture in, on or under the structure; assuring no wood-to-ground contact; and letting the pest control operator know of any alterations or additions to the structure.

Caffey said her motivation for starting the school was because pest control operators had no place to go to learn about wood-destroying insects – primarily termites but also powder post beetles and carpenter bees.

“I started the school for the benefit of the Louisiana Pest Control Association,” Caffey said. “I do this because it helps the pest control operator learn to do professional work. Then they can better serve the public as well as the pest control industry. The students appreciate everything they’re taught.

Rick Bogren

(This article was published in the fall 2007 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)
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