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I want to use pesticides in my business, where do I start?
Government red tape and this doggone website can be confusing. Because we are dealing with state and federal laws and regulations. Because there are up-teen policies and procedures you must follow as a pesticide applicator to stay out of trouble, this can get complex. You can't just blow off the details. If you decide you want to become a professional pesticide applicator and sell your services or work for someone who uses them, then the key to success is becoming a "PROFESSIONAL." Being a professional applicator is not a quick and dirty process. If you are looking to make a fast buck - go elsewhere. Cutting corners will cost you! Fines for pesticide misuse can amount into the tens of thousands of dollars!

So you still want to look into this and have assigned yourself to the fact that you will have to do some work with a goal to be a professional? Great! Then welcome to the world of pesticide regulation and safety - the most important place to start!

Okay, let's get started.

Here are a series of questions to lead you to the details on the other end contained in this website and elsewhere.

        1. Are you seeking to start your own pesticide application business? 
  • YES - then you will need to obtain a pesticide business license and hire a competent and trained commercial applicator with experience in the type of application you are selling. If you want to do the application yourself, then you will need at least one year's experience as a pesticide applicator. 
            People accumulate this experience in various ways. Applying chemicals in your home garden or lawn doesn't cut it. Taking college or high school vocational agriculture courses with instruction in pest management does count. Working on a             farm and applying pesticides counts. Working in a commercial application business as a volunteer or intern counts. Having experience in the area you are seeking to work is best. If you are starting your own pest control business it is almost             mandatory to have experience in the work related to your business. It is common sense that you have this experience and it may help your business survive past the first year without disaster
  • NO - see below...
        2. Then are you working or seeking to work for someone who wants to hire you as a commercial applicator?  
  • YES - then (as above) you will be required to have at least one year's experience as a pesticide applicator to qualify. If you don't have the experience then you will need to work for someone (including your potential employer) as a registered technician - until you gain the year's experience.
  • NO - see below... 

        3. Are you working on a farm, forest, greenhouse or nursery and applying restricted use pesticides? 
  • YES - then you will need to be certified as a private applicator or work under the direct supervision of a certified applicator.

  • NO - then you can apply general use pesticides without a certification, although we encourage all applicators to take advantage of the training offered by your local Extension agent by either attending this training, getting certified, or both.

So what do I do next - I have read all of this - how do I proceed?
This website has a tab (above) called APPLICATORS. Go there and read the various areas pertaining to the type of applicator you have decided to become. We even have a section for non-certified applicators - if you are seeking to not become certified, but are still seeking help. Our site has information on where to obtain training materials (manuals) or training in the form of either online or classroom training. We also have details on many other aspects of pesticide application and pest management. This FAQ has other answers if you are seeking more details.

In addition, we have a link to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services - Office of Pesticide Services website. That resource has details of the laws and regulations, certification rules and policies, forms, and other compliance assistance information.

So good luck and we wish you a successful venture as a professional applicator.

Do I need a certificate to spray Round-Up if it's part of my job?
Many applicators ask about whether they need to be certified to apply weed killers and other pesticides that normally might be applied by the average homeowner.

It depends!

No, if you are a grower, producing an agricultural commodity on property you own or lease (or on the property of another grower if you apply pesticides in exchange for goods or services with the other producer.) Growers only need to be certified if they use restricted-use pesticides. Round-Up is not classified as restricted-use.

However, if you are NOT engaged in agricultural production or hired as a farmworker by a grower, the answer is quite different:

Yes, if you apply pesticides for hire or as part of your job duties as a government employee. In Virginia, For-Hire and Government Employee applicators must be certified to use ANY pesticide for ANY purpose on the job.

Maybe, if you do not apply pesticides for-hire but do use them as part of your job. Not-for-hire applicators -- for example, maintenance workers, golf course managers -- must be certified to use restricted-use pesticides, and ANY pesticide (including RoundUP) in these areas:
- any area open to the general public at the following establishments: educational institutions, health care facilities, day-care facilities, convalescent facilities;
- where open food is stored, processed or sold; or
- any recreational land over five acres.

How do I become a Registered Technician?
Applicators with limited experience must practice as a registered technician before they can become a fully certified commercial pesticide applicator.

Registered Technicians must have 40 hours of training.

- 20 hours of the 40 hours required is study based on the VA Core Manual. (This may be self-study, classroom or discussion organized for you by your trainer, or both.) You can order a Virginia Core Manual (Pub. #456-210) through the VCE Distribution Center. [ LINK TO MANUAL ORDERING OPTIONS ]

- In addition, prospective RTs must have at least 20 hours of on-the-job training. This training must include safe and proper handling of pesticides, under the direct, on-site supervision of a properly-certified Commercial Applicator. The CA trainer must be certified in a category corresponding to work the prospective RT will do.

At the end of your training, complete a Registered Technician application [PDF], sign it, and have whoever supervised you sign it. Mail completed application to VDACS along with payment ($30). In about 10 days you will receive a “letter of authorization”. You have 90 days from the date on the letter to take the RT exam. Be sure to take the “letter of authorization” and picture I.D. with you to the testing center. You need a score of at least 76% to pass the RT exam. (The RT exam is based on the VA Core Manual.)

I want to be a Certified Commercial Applicator but I have no prior training or experience. Where do I begin?
The Commonwealth of Virginia restricts applicators from seeking certification as a commercial applicator if they have less than one year's experience.

If you have had no prior training or experience you need to begin at the Registered Technician (RT) level. You must hold a valid RT license for one year before applying to become a certified commercial applicator.

Who needs a certified pesticide applicator certificate?
In Virginia, occupational use of pesticides requires certification in most instances. To use or supervise the use of Restricted-Use Pesticides (RUPs), certification is always required. For use of General-Use Pesticides (GUPs), certification requirements depend on the nature of the use, the application site, and the employer.

In Virginia, certification (of some type) is required for:
* Growers who use or supervise the use of restricted-use pesticides.
* Farm employees who handle restricted-use pesticides without the direct supervision of a certified applicator.
* All government employees who apply any pesticide(s) on the job.
* All applicators who apply any pesticide(s) for a fee (for hire).
* Many applicators who use any pesticides on the job on their employer's property (not for hire), in areas considered to be especially sensitive. (Agricultural producers and their employees do not fall into this group.)
*Pest management (or crop) consultants who make specific pesticide recommendations for a fee.

Note: The use of general-use sanitizers, disinfectants, and germicides does not require certification in Virginia. However, these products are legally considered to be pesticides, and must be used according to the directions on their labels.

For more information see the document Pesticide Applicator Overview, and/or visit the VDACS Office of Pesticide Services website.

My pesticide applicator certificate expired. Do I have to take the test again or can I just fill out a form?
Virginia requires applicators to renew their certificates annually and to recertify every two years. If an applicator waits too long to do so, their certificate will expire.

There is a 60-day “grace period” for expired certificates. If it has not yet been 60 days, you need to find a recertification class to attend.

If your certificate has expired more than 60 days, you will need to re-test. A score of at least 76% must be obtained in order to pass.

To retest:

If you were a Commercial Applicator, complete a Commercial Pesticide Applicator Application (Form B [PDF]) and mail it to VDACS, along with a $70 fee.

If you were a Registered Technicians and you're reapplying to retest to reinstate a lapsed certificate, you should use the "regular" RT exam application form [PDF]. However, be sure to mark the appropriate box (reinstatement) near the top of the form.

(Using form B if you are a CA or marking "reinstatement" if you are a RT will ensure that you have only one record -- with all of your data in one place -- in the database that tracks VA-certified applicators!)

You will receive a "letter of authorization" in about 10 days. You have 90 days from the date on the letter in order to take the Commercial Applicator exam. Be sure to take the “letter of authorization” and picture I.D. with you to the testing center. If you test at your local DMV office, a temporary license will be issued to you that is valid for seven days. You should receive your actual license from VDACS within that time period.

If you are a Private Applicator, you can re-take exams at your local Extension office by appointment, or take a Private exam at the DMV. However, you MUST FIRST COMPLETE the the following form and mail or fax it to VDACS.

Private Pesticide Applicator Request for Authorization to Take Pesticide Application Exam at DMV [PDF]

Once processed, you will receive an authorization letter from VDACS. You must show this authorization and a picture I.D. before a test will be administered at a DMV.

What if I fail my exam?
Applicators can fail certification exams by scoring less than 78% on an exam. Failure is primarily caused by a lack of preparation, but other causes include fear, learning disabilities, and reading comprehension. Applicators can take exams over several times if they do fail.

If you are a prospective Commercial Applicator or Registered Technician who fails an exam and wants to retake it, you will need to reapply and receive another “authorization letter.” However, VDACS will automatically send you an application with your score report. You must wait ten days before taking an exam a second time, but you are not required to pay the fee again.

A 30-day waiting period is imposed for subsequent attempts, in addition to another fee. In each case, you must submit a new application to receive a new "authorization letter". 

Can I take a Private Exam at the Division of Motor Vehicles?
The DMV locations across Virginia are the primary testing sites for commercial pesticide applicator exams. They also offer exams for private applicators as do local Extension offices.

You may take a Private exam at your local DMV -- BUT YOU MUST FIRST COMPLETE the the following form and mail or fax it to VDACS.

Private Pesticide Applicator Request for Authorization to Take Pesticide Application Exam at DMV [PDF]

Once processed, you will receive an authorization letter from VDACS. You must show this authorization and a picture I.D. before a test will be administered at a DMV.

In addition, Private exams may be taken at your local Extension Office by appointment. 

What is the relationship between certified Commercial Applicator and a Registered Technician?
An applicator who has not completed all of the requirements for Commercial Applicator certification can be certified as a Registered Technician.

Registered Technicians must operate under the direct supervision of a commercial applicator when applying restricted-use pesticides. However, once certified, Registered Technicians can apply general-use pesticides without supervision.

Registered Technicians have demonstrated competency in "the basics" of pesticide safety by passing the Registered Technician exam. However, they have not demonstrated competency in category-specific aspects of pest or pesticide management. Thus, Registered Technicians cannot operate a licensed Pesticide Business. They must rely on a certified Commercial Applicator for pest and pesticide management decisions specific to their category -- for example, pest identification, control tactics, and timing.

Uncertified prospective Registered Technicians must be trained by a Commercial Applicator who is certified in the category corresponding to his/her work duties before taking the RT exam.

What do I need to do to be certified in Virginia if I already have a certificate from another state?

Certified Commercial Applicators with an active certificate in another state may be able to become certified in Virginia by reciprocity. As a general rule, VA grants certification by reciprocity to applicators from states with comparable categories and initial certification requirements. VA has "worked out" a reciprocity certification agreement with all its border states (Maryland, North Carolina, West Virginia, Tennessee) and with South Carolina.

Go to the FORMS page of the VDACS / OPS website and download the "Application for Reciprocal Pesticide Applicator Certificate" form. Mail the completed form to:

Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services
P.O. Box 526
Richmond, Virginia 23218-0526

If you live out-of-state and wish to become certified in VA by reciprocity, you must also fill out a power-of-attorney form (in duplicate). You will find this form at the url listed above.

Private Applicators who wish to become certified in VA by reciprocity are handled on a 1:1 basis. Contact the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services / Office of Pesticide Services / Certification, Licensing, Registration and Training Section:
(804) 786-3798

Do I need a private or commercial pesticide applicator certificate?
It can be confusing as to the type of certificate an applicator needs in order to comply with the legal requirements to be a certified applicator.

A Private Applicator is certified to use, or supervise the use of, restricted-use pesticides to produce an agricultural commodity on land he or she owns or leases, on the property of another grower (if only goods or services are exchanged), or as a farm employee.

See the document "Certified Private Applicator Overview" for more information.

If you use pesticides on the job other than for agricultural production on private property, you should be certified as a Commercial Applicator or Registered Technician. Pest management (or crop) consultants who make specific pesticide recommendations for a fee should also be certified Commercial Applicators.

See the document "Certified Commercial Applicator Overview" for more information.

More information about certification requirements and procedures may be found on the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Sciences / Office of Pesticide Services website.

Where do I go to take a commercial pesticide applicator exam?
Applicators are required to take pesticide applicator certification exams at a predetermined testing location in Virginia.

Most DMV offices now have testing centers where you can take your exams. Also, there are several testing centers throughout Virginia. Exam Locations

I've had a Registered Technician certificate for several years and now I want to get a Commercial Applicator certificate. How do I do this?
If you have been a certified Registered Technician for at least one year, you may sit for the Commercial Applicator exams.

Complete a Commercial Pesticide Applicator Application (Form A [PDF]) and mail to VDACS, along with $70 application fee. You will receive a "letter of authorization" in about 10 days. You have 90 days from the date on the letter in order to take the Commercial Applicator exams (Core + one or more Category exams). Be sure to take the “letter of authorization” and picture I.D. with you to the testing center. A score of at least 76% must be obtained in order to pass the exams. If you test at your local DMV office, your signed, stamped letter of authorization will serve as a temporary license that is valid for seven days. You should receive your actual license from VDACS within that time period.

How do I add a category to my existing Commercial Applicator certificate?
Many commercial applicators are required to be certified in several categories.

In order to add a category to an existing license, you must complete a Commercial Pesticide Applicator Application (Form B [PDF]) and mail it to VDACS, along with a $35 fee. You will receive a "letter of authorization" in about 10 days. You have 90 days from the date on the letter to take the category-specific exam. BE SURE TO TAKE THE "LETTER OF AUTHORIZATION" AND A PICTURE I.D. WITH YOU TO THE TESTING CENTER. (If you do not have this information with you, you will not be able to take the test.) A score of at least 76% must be obtained in order to pass the exam. If you test at your local DMV office, your signed, stamped letter of authorization will serve as a temporary license that is valid for seven days. You should receive your actual license from VDACS within that time period.

- Exam proctors will give people what the authorization letter says they can have (or less), but no more/other.
- A person can request two exams and then decide to take only one...but they can't request one and then ask the DMV or other proctor to allow them to take two.

- Similarly, they can't "switch" -- meaning apply to take Ornamental (3A) and Turf (3B), and then decide they want Turf (3B) + Right-Of-Way (6) instead.

- When a certified applicator wants to add a category, the fee is $35.00 per each application. A certified Commercial Applicator can request as many added categories as they want to test for at one time, but there is a single $35.00 application fee that applies each time they submit an application. People must have an exam authorization letter for every exam session. So, it will cost a person who is certified in one category $35.00 to take exams for two added categories in one testing session. However, if the certified Commercial Applicator adds a second category in one testing session and a third in another, he/she must pay $35.00 twice = $70.00 in all.

What type of permits (licenses) do I need to apply a "weed and feed" product on a customer's lawn in Virginia?
In Virginia, if a party applies a Weed and Feed (fertilizer plus herbicide) product for compensation that party is required to:

1) Have a Pesticide Business License (plus be certified as a Commercial Applicator plus be insured) ...this can be accomplished by contacting the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services - Office of Pesticide Services (OPS).

2) Have a Fertilizer Application Permit...this information can be found by contacting the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Office of Product and Industry Standards (OPIS).

VDACS is working towards developing a "one stop shopping" accommodation for such parties but until that is accomplished the party must work with both units...OPS and OPIS within VDACS.

Can I take the core and a category exam in two testing sessions?
Can a prospective certified Commercial Applicator opt to take the Core and the Category exam(s) in two testing sessions (vs. one)? (If so, is there an additional fee?)

- Prospective applicators must have an exam authorization letter to take any certification exam -- regardless of whether they take one exam or many during a testing session.

- Qualified applicants receive one exam authorization letter per application.

- An exam authorization letter can be used only once.

- Every other application (and authorization letter) for a person in the process of becoming certified is free.

So, for example, if a prospective Commercial Applicator opts to apply for the Core exam first and one or more Category exams in a second sitting, he or she will need two exam authorization letters.
- The first application requires a $70.00 fee. (NOTE: government employees are fee-exempt.) Qualified applicants will receive an authorization letter (which is good for 90 days). They must give this authorization letter to the DMV or other exam proctor when they take the first/Core exam.
- However, after passing the Core, the as-yet uncertified person can apply a second time (no charge) for another authorization letter to use when they are ready to sit for one or more Category exam(s).

Another example: if a prospective Commercial Applicator applies for and takes the Core + Category exam, but fails one or the other, they can submit a second application (no fee) to retake the exam not passed on the first attempt.

If the prospective applicator needs a third exam session, he or she must pay another $70.00 fee.

NOTE: Exam proctors will give people what the authorization letter says they can have (or less), but no more/other.
- A person can request two exams and then decide to take only one...but they can't request one and then ask the DMV or other proctor to allow them to take two.
- Similarly, they can't "switch" -- meaning apply to take Core + Turf (3B) and decide they want Core + Ornamental (3A) or Core + Right-Of-Way (6) instead.

Bottom line -- it will NOT cost a prospective Commercial Applicator an additional $70.00 to the two (or more) exams they must pass in order to become certified in two sittings, provided they pass these exams in two sessions. (If the prospective applicator needs a third testing session, he/she must pay the $70.00 fee again.) If I became certified in VA by reciprocity, how can I recertify?MAINTAINING a Virginia Certificate granted by reciprocity:

Applicators who are certified in Virginia through reciprocity must maintain their Virginia certificates through:
- renewal, and
- recertification.

One recertification option is attending a Virginia-approved recertification course before their certificate expires (or within the 60-day grace period immediately following expiration).

Reciprocal REcertification may also be granted to out-of-state applicators (certified in a state that grants reciprocal REcertification to Virginia-certified applicators*) if they:
- maintain certification in their home state, and
- provide proof of their current home state certification status to the Office of Pesticide Services.

- Most of the states that border VA -- North Carolina, West Virginia, Tennessee, and South Carolina -- grant reciprocal Recertification to Virginia Applicators. In addition, VDACS has established that Georgia, Indiana, New Jersey and Pennsylvania will work reciprocally with them on this issue. Other states would have to be asked, case by case.
- The State of Maryland does NOT reciprocate with Virginia on REcertification. Is there a minimum age requirement to be a certified pesticide applicator in Virginia?According to regulatory specialists with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (Office of Pesticide Services), the minimum age for applicators seeking to become certified as a registered technician or a commercial pesticide applicator in Virginia is 18 years of age.

The minimum age for applicators seeking to become certified as a private applicator in Virginia is 16 years of age. These age restrictions are by agency policy, based on interpretation of Virginia state labor laws concerning the employment of minors. They are not part of the Virginia Pesticide Control Act or its regulations.

It is quite likely that most states have similar minimum age requirements. Please check with your state departments of agriculture or labor if you are seeking information for areas outside of the Commonwealth of Virginia. (5/16/05) Once certified, what are my options for recertification?Applicators are required to be recertified every two years in Virginia.PRIVATE APPLICATOR:

To keep a VA private pesticide applicator certificate in force, the holder must earn at least one credit in each of three content areas per category every two years. Private applicators should contact their local Extension Agent to learn when and where courses approved for full and/or partial recertification credit will be held. Applicators may accumulate up to four years recertification credit. Private Applicator certificates expire December 31. Persons who allow their applicator's certificate to lapse for more than 60 days must retest in the appropriate private applicator category or categories.

CAs and RTs must participate in a continuing pesticide education program. CAs and RTs earn two years of recertification credit per fully-approved program. Certified applicators may accumulate up to four years of recertification credit. CAs or RTs who fail to recertify will not be permitted to renew their certificates. Failure to maintain a certificate, either due to failure to renew or recertify, will result in expiration. Persons who allow certificates to lapse for more than 60 days must re-take the Virginia certification exams to restore CA or RT status.


Recertification courses are offered by the Virginia Cooperative Extension, pesticide-related trade and professional organizations, and others. Program availability varies by category and by season. Most courses are offered between the months of September and March. Applicators are advised to keep in touch with their local Extension Agent and/or professional organizations and to monitor the website postings listed here to avoid missing recertification opportunities.

Private Applicator Recertification Courses

Commercial Applicator and Registered Technician Recertification Courses

Can I keep my certificate if I no longer apply pesticides?
I no longer work in a job that requires me to have a pesticide applicator certificate, but I want to keep it. Can I do this?

Yes. You need to contact VDACS and inform them that you would like to keep your certificate, and they will enter you in their systems as “inactive.” You must continue to renew your certificate (and pay the renewal fee) as well as attend recertification programs.

Will reading the training manuals benefit me?
Will the training manuals benefit me dramatically for taking the certification exams or are they just information for use after the test?

The pesticide applicator training manuals are designed specifically to prepare Virginia applicators to pass the certification exams for Virginia. They are the official study guides from which the exam questions are developed. The manuals are also valuable as a reference for use after the exams are completed. Applicators are encouraged to read the manuals thoroughly prior to taking exams. The exam failure rate is significantly higher for applicators who do not prepare properly using the manuals. Experience and background are helpful in passing the exams, but no amount of experience can substitute for proper preparation using the training manuals.

What type of certification does someone who works for a producer (food, fiber, or ornamental) need?
Growers and/or farmhands who do not use restricted-use pesticides do not need to be certified.

Uncertified farm employees can handle/use restricted-use pesticides if they are working under the direct supervision of a certified Private Applicator.

Alternatively, to use restricted-use pesticides, they may choose to become certified as Private Applicators themselves.

Can I download training manuals?
No. Manuals are available only in printed form.

Several individuals have called to advise us to "give" the manuals away by posting them on the web so they can download and print them themselves. We have several reasons why we do not post these materials electronically.
There is still a demand for printed copies of training manuals - even those who want to download manuals want to print them. The printing budget for training manuals is a self-sustaining fund. Manual pricing is structured to enable us to reprint and store new manuals.

Placing electronic copies on the web increases our liability and that of the user because releasing electronic copies invites abuse and misuse of the electronic content. Once an electronic copy is released, anyone can repost it on the web or reproduce it in a form that may not be representative of its original form or future revisions. Printed manuals are carefully controlled and revised to take into account changes in technology and changes in laws and regulations. Controlling inventories is part of safeguarding ourselves and guaranteeing that applicators have the correct copy of manual to pass the state certification exams.

Printing your own copies from a posted file may sound like a good idea, but consider the costs of doing so. Remember, your cost isn't just how much it costs you to print off a page on your printer. There are hidden costs that increase your overall cost per page to print a document on your printer. For example: The core training manual totals 242 pages including the covers and inserts. To download this manual and print it on an inkjet printer will cost you between 4 and 6 cents per page dependent upon the inkjet printer and paper type used. This does not take into account the per page cost of the printer itself. Most inkjet printers are priced below $500, so the cost gets passed onto the user with the high price of inkjet cartridges (which range in price from $25-35 and most inkjet printers use from 2 to 5 cartridges each). Taking these figures into account and using a median cost of 5 cents per page, the basic cost of printing the core manual would be $12.10. The user would be left a basic unbound printout. To bind the manual it would cost you another 2-3 dollars. This amounts to a savings of about 5-6 dollars over the cost of a professionally printed manual. Then add the time it costs you to download the manual, print it, organize it, and bind it and it is likely the overall costs would wind up either about the same or maybe even more than buying a bound manual. REMEMBER, if you are in business, your time is also part of these costs. Black and white laser printers cost less. The cost per page is about 3-5 cents, again dependent on the paper used and toner costs. Color lasers cost much more. Add the cost of maintenance and the cost per page to purchase a laser printer and your end costs get pretty close to inkjet costs. Again if one uses the median figure (5 cents a page) the costs overall get pretty close to buying a printed copy of the manual.

These are all reasons why we have no plans to post electronic copies of our training manuals. We appreciate your patience and understanding of these points... Thank you.

To be sure you're ordering the right manuals and know the cost of each, go to the MANUAL ORDERING WEBSITE.

Can I order training manuals by telephone?
No. But manuals can be ordered online. To protect the public, we are no longer permitted to take credit card information over the telephone or through the mail. We do have a secured online ordering site that will accept credit cards and e-checks. These orders will include separate shipping and handling charges.

Instructions for ordering training manuals is provided HERE. To order go to URL: "VAPESTICIDEMANUALS.COM" or "VAPESTICIDEMANUALS.ORG" .

How do I find out how to control a pest problem?
I have a pest problem that I want to control with pesticides. How do I find out what to use on the pest?

First, consider if pesticide use is really necessary and proper. In many cases, pesticides are a pest management method of last resort. Often they are a waste of money and time and can be a poor choice for home pest control.

If you see a problem, the first step is to find out what is causing it. If the problem is actually caused by a pest, identify this pest. Next, consider: Is the pest problem serious? Is the problem worth the time, cost, and trouble? (For example, it might be simpler to replace an infested house plant than to treat it!) Another consideration is: should you act now, or watch and wait? For example, will a pesticide be effective at this stage of the pest’s life cycle? If you need to act, ask yourself if using a pesticide the best way to control this pest. If so, do you have the right pesticide for the job, and the equipment and skill to handle and apply it correcctly?

To properly control a pest, you must first properly identify it. It is only after you properly identify the pest problem that you should then attempt to control it.

For help in pest identification, pest and pesticide management and decision-making, contact you local Extension agent. A list of local Extension offices for Virginia is available at

Also, on the Extension web site you will find information on a variety of topics, including pest control.

Specifically, the Pest Management Guide series is helpful in providing VA-based recommendations. Sections may be obtained from your local Extension office or from the VCE website. The url for the PMGs is:

What controls are available for organic growers?
I don't want to use chemical pesticides! What controls are available for organic growers?

Many biological farmers and organic gardeners avoid the use of most chemical pesticides in order to either meet organic certification requirements or because they are concerned about the safety of most chemical pesticides. Here are a few sources where you can find information about alternative controls:

Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI)
25b Minimum Risk Pesticides List (EPA)
EPA Biopesticides Information (EPA)
Plant Incorporated Protectants (EPA)
National IR-4 Project - Biopesticides Research Program (USDA)
National Organic Program (USDA)
Virginia Pest Management Guides - Field Crops (VCE)
Virginia Pest Management Guides - Horticultural and Forest Crops (VCE)
Virginia Pest Management Guides - Home Grounds and Animals (VCE)
Mimimum Chemical Gardening (VCE)

How do I go about reporting a pesticide misuse to authorities?
I feel that a pesticide has been misused. How do I go about reporting this misuse to authorities?

Pesticide misuse can be reported to your state pesticide regulatory agency. In Virginia, this is the Office of Pesticide Services, which is part of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. There are regional pesticide investigators located throughout Virginia who will investigate pesticide misuse situations. Information on reporting pesticide misuse is available on the VDACS web site.

How do I properly dispose of old pesticides?
Old pesticides are commonly found in homes and on farms. Perhaps the most common source of waste pesticides are where consumers buy too much pesticide to do a job and never use the products.

For consumers (homeowners and landowners) disposing of old pesticides in their original containers can be as simple as using the products as labeled, IF they are still legally registered. To find out this information either contact your local chemical or garden retailer or your local Extension agent.

If these products are less than five years old and they have been stored properly they are likely to still be usable. Proper and safe use would be the most efficient means of disposal. If they have been subjected to freezing and heating in an outside storage area, they might not be viable pest controls. Even after a year under conditions where a product might freeze or heat up over 90 degrees F, products may lose their viability or may even change physically or chemically into certain by-products. These by-products might not necessarily be less toxic than the original product.

Other old pesticides such as DDT, lead arsenate, dieldrin, endrin, aldrin, toxaphene, 2,4,5-T, and chlordane have been banned for quite some time and are ILLEGAL to apply as directed on the product label. These products must be properly disposed of according to federal and state law. The only viable means to do so is to turn these materials into a local hazardous waste collection site. Many of these activities or services are sponsored by your local waste management authority. We suggest that you contact these authorities - listed either on the web under your local government or in the phone book under the government blue pages.

In addition, for landowners (owners of land either once used as a farm or actively farmed) there is a pesticide cleanup program sponsored in Virginia by the Virginia Pesticide Control Board, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and Virginia Cooperative Extension. The information on this program can be obtained through your local Extension office or by looking on the VDACS Office of Pesticide Services website. In the future, this program may also be expanded to other homeowners.

Be extremely careful in handling old pesticide containers. Many can fall apart just by picking them up. Wear proper chemical resistant gloves to handle these containers. If they are intact, you are encouraged to seal them in another leakproof container such as a heavy mil plastic bag or multiple plastic bags, or plastic "Rubbermaid" type container. Then make sure these are stored in a cool dry and secure place (preferably outside the living areas of your home) until you can dispose of these materials properly.

If you have any questions about how to deal with waste pesticides contact your local Extension agent.

Are herbicides (weed killers) considered pesticides?
Weed killers are the same as herbicides. Does that mean they are pesticides?

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s definition of a pesticide, (YES) a herbicide (or weed killer) IS a pesticide. The reason we use EPA's definition is that they are the federal agency that regulates and registers all pesticide products in the United States. All (US) applicators apply pesticides under regulation of the EPA and their state, territorial, or tribal pesticide regulatory authorities.

EPA's definition is as follows:

"A pesticide is any substance or mixture of substances intended for:
repelling, or
mitigating any pest.

Though often misunderstood to refer only to insecticides, the term pesticide also applies to herbicides, fungicides, and various other substances used to control pests.

Under United States law, a pesticide is also any substance or mixture of substances intended for use as a plant (growth) regulator, defoliant, or desiccant."

Why are some animal treatments not registered?
Why are some animal treatments that look like pesticides not registered by the US Environmental Protection Agency?

Animal drugs are regulated by the FDA (US Food & Drug Administration) under FFDCA (Federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act). Animal drugs are products used to control bacteria, fungi, viruses and other microorganisms on or in living animals, as well as any internal parasites of living animals. Products used for control of external invertebrate/insect parasites are considered pesticides and are regulated by the EPA (US Environmental Protection Agency).

This information can be found at 40 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) Part 152.5 (definition of pests) and Part 152.6(d) (substances excluded from regulation under FIFRA (Federal Insecticide, Fungicide & Rodenticide Act) - animal drugs).

Source [7/28/06]:

Richard Pont
U.S. EPA/Office of Pesticide Programs (7506C)
Certification and Worker Protection Branch

I'm told that I will need a Virginia Pollution Discharge Elimination System (VPDES) permit to apply pesticides to, near, or over water. How can I learn more about this requirement?

A recent court ruling (January 2009) determined that Clean Water Act (CWA) National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits are required for:
  • all biological pesticide applications, and 
  • chemical pesticide applications that leave a residue in water
when such applications are made in or over, including near, waters of the U.S.

Permits were supposed to be in place by April of 2011.

As an EPA-authorized state, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) administers the Virginia Pollution Discharge Elimination System (VPDES). DEQ drafted a Pesticides General Permit Regulation (9VAC25-800). It was adopted by the VA Water Control Board in February of 2011. It issues a "blanket" general permit for pesticide applications made to, over, or near waters of the state.

However, EPA was granted a 6-month extension for NPDES. Subsequently, the Director of VA's DEQ suspended the effective date of the VPDES pesticides general permit -- so our state is "in synch". The VA Pesticides General Permit Regulation has a revised effective date of October 31, 2011.

The Virginia Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (VPDES) Pesticide Discharges General Permit regulates residues of applications of pesticides to, near, or over water. Specifically, the VPDES general permit covers point source discharges into waters of the state that control:
  • mosquitoes, black flies, and other flying insect pests;
  • aquatic weeds, algae, and pathogens;
  • aquatic nuisance animals (ex. snakehead fish and zebra mussels); and
  • forest canopy pests (ground and aerial canopy spraying).
Applicators who apply pesticides as described above will not be required to submit a registration statement (notice of intent) to the State Water Control Board. However, operators working under the VPDES general ("blanket") permit do have some specific requirements to fulfill. The permit requires use of Integrated Pest Management practices, visual monitoring, and reporting of any adverse affect due to the application of pesticides. In addition, application records and development of a Pesticide Discharge Management Plan (PDMP) is required for operators that exceed certain annual application thresholds.

For a list of basic requirements, thresholds, and other information, refer to this website:

(Scroll of April 2011, the Pesticide Discharges General Permit Regulation information, including a fact sheet and template for a Pesticide Discharge Management Plan (PDMP) is at the bottom of the page.)

DEQ contacts:

Fred K. Cunningham, Director
Office of Water Permits & Compliance Assistance
Virginia Department of Environmental Quality
phone: 804.698.4285e-mail:

William K. Norris, Environmental Specialist II
Guidance & Regulation Coordinator - Senior
Office of Regulatory Affairs
Virginia Department of Environmental Quality
phone: 804.698.4022e-mail:

To follow the status of the General Virginia Pollutant Discharge Elimination System / Permit for Pesticide Discharges [9 VAC 2 5 - 8 0 0 ], visit this section of the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall website:

To track the NPDES, refer to this section of EPA's website:
Updated on April 14, 2011

Does Virginia Tech offer pesticide residue testing services to the public?
If not, where can I find these services? I am trying to test my water and soil for pesticides around my home.

Although we do conduct pesticide residue testing as part of our research projects, Virginia Tech no longer offers pesticide residue testing as a public service (due to budget constraints). We do still offer soil and plant nutrient testing services to the public through our local Extension offices, for a fee.

We do maintain a list of soil testing services on our website at PESTICIDELINKS.ORG. Just use the keyword = “testing” to view this list. There are a number of reputable laboratories listed there.

If you are seeking a locally available service, please consult your yellow pages under "SOIL TESTING" or "ENGINEERING SERVICES." Look for companies that do environmental site assessments for example. An ASTM-approved list is provided in the database referenced above.

A word of caution. Pesticide residue analysis is a complex and expensive process and it requires expertise to interpret the results. Samples must be collected properly to avoid contamination. To avoid high costs, you should limit the tests you are seeking to a few logical choices. Once the results are completed, you will need to consult with an expert to determine what they mean. If a pesticide is present, these tests will find it. The results can range from parts per trillion to much larger amounts. Finding a trace of something in a sample doesn't necessarily mean that the pesticide can do harm or is available to do so.

What can I do about honey bee swarms in my home?
With the domestic honeybee in a global health crisis, pesticides are even less of an acceptable option to dealing with swarms around the home. But when homeowners see a swarm they often call a pest control operator or reach for a pesticide container to first before considering other options. They should ask themselves -- what can I do to get rid of the bees without killing them?

More and more local beekeeper organizations are offering swarm removal as a public service. The Virginia State Beekeepers Association has a link to most local beekeeper organizations in Virginia. Many offer swarm removal through a link or page on their websites.

Here is a list of important information to have before contacting a beekeeper:
  1. What does the swarm look like? If the swarm has a “nest” then it is likely not honey bees but hornets or wasps especially if it is “papery” looking. A swarm of honey bees will cluster into a roughly round shape on an object like a tree branch.
  2. Where is the swarm (physical address)?
  3. Contact name and phone number.
  4. What has the swarm landed on? How high up is the swarm?
  5. Are there any special concerns in the area? (children, water hazards, bees in the house etc).
A beekeeper is a good source of information as to how to handle each situation with a swarm. Another source is your local Extension agent. For this information go to:

Does Virginia law require pesticide applicators to notify the public prior to an application?
Do Virginia pesticide laws and regulations include a notification requirement?
The regulations sometimes referred to as notification laws for Virginia pesticide applicators are actually tenant protection regulations and do not relate to the certification or regulation of pesticide applicators. They are specific to pesticide application in structures and are enforced on landlords, associations, and property owners. They require these entities to notify tenants of pending pesticide applications. They do not direct or enforce notification on pesticide applicators. It is the responsibility of a landlord to notify tenants of a pesticide application and work with a contract applicator to conduct their business accordingly. Virginia does not require notification by pesticide applicators for any type of application or site, except where required by label directions. Applicators are reminded that any use inconsistent with a pesticide label is considered a violation of state and federal laws.

The tenant protection rules cited below are part of a set of uniform guidelines (similar to uniform building codes) that fall under local jurisdiction and to common community boards such as condominium associations to enforce. In most cases it appears that local violations would be enforced by local entities, similar to a violation of building code where it would be enforced by a local building inspector. No state agency would initially enforce the law unless the local jurisdiction couldn't enforce them.

On the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (Office of Pesticide Services) website these rules are cited as follows:

Pesticide Notification Requirements

While there are no pesticide notification requirements in either the Pesticide Control Act or the various regulations promulgated under the Act, other Virginia laws have pesticide notification requirements related to multi-family or multi-unit dwellings. Specifically, pesticide notification is required under the Condominium Act (§ 55-79.80:01 of the Code of Virginia), Virginia Real Estate Cooperative Act (§ 55-464.1 of the Code), the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (§ 55-248.13:3 of the Code) and the Property Owners Association Act (§ 55-510.3 of the Code). These laws are not administered by OPS and we are unable to provide any interpretations or information regarding compliance with any of the requirements of these laws. Issues or concerns related to notification requirements prior to the application of pesticides should be addressed with the property owners’ association or the management company responsible for the common areas where the application will occur. When in doubt, you should consider seeking qualified legal advice.