Published on 06/10/10

Training can reduce overuse of pesticides

By Stephanie Schupska

Spring rains and summertime heat have sparked insects and lawn diseases across the state. That may send some landscape lovers looking for someone to apply a few chemicals to protect their interests.

Before asking landscaping companies to apply pesticides, homeowners need to ask them if they’re properly certified, said Paul Guillebeau, an entomologist with University of Georgia Cooperative Extension. Companies don’t have to hold a certificate to mow lawns or trim hedges, but they do have to be certified to apply chemicals.

“Whether they’re applying ant bait or Roundup, they have to have a license so they know how to use chemicals safely,” he said. “Too much pesticide or chemicals used in the wrong place, it all could cause problems.”

Georgia law

To purchase and apply pesticides on another person’s property and collect a fee for it, the business the pesticide applicator works for needs a commercial pesticide applicator’s license, according to Georgia law.

The fee for applying pesticides without a license is up to $1,000 per violation.

Private pesticide licenses are available through county UGA Extension offices. This license is limited to farmers and allows them to apply restricted-use pesticides on their land. The key difference between a private and commercial license is that private license holders can’t apply pesticide for money.

Toxic conditions

People who are not licensed pesticide applicators don’t have access to restricted chemicals, but they do have access to many products available at home improvement stores.

“It just seems to be a real human tendency to use more instead of less,” Guillebeau said about pesticides. “And if they’re a landscape company, they probably want to make sure the homeowners don’t see any insects out there.”

Even private homeowners can go overboard. Guillebeau remembers one caller who had a bird lice problem. A nest outside his front door was home to more than just birds, and he and his family were getting bit by hungry lice.

“He ended up spraying so much pesticide that he and his wife could not stay there,” Guillebeau said, “all because he didn’t know.”

Too many chemicals can make any environment toxic.

“If they’re applying pesticides around where kids are, you do want to know they know what they’re doing,” he said.

While pesticides are designed to kill harmful insects or plant diseases, they can also be bad for humans and pets.

Pesticide training

Pesticide certification exams are available at Georgia technical colleges through the Georgia Department of Agriculture. Instead of requiring each person applying pesticides to be certified, the license covers an entire business.

UGA offers training for the pesticide licensing exams through study guides and county Extension offices. Local Extension offices can provide information on exam locations.

UGA Extension also offers a training program for pesticide applicators who work for a business, but are not themselves required to have a license. The Georgia Competent Applicator of Pesticides Program, or GCAPP, is a voluntary program.

The GCAPP program is available at county Extension offices throughout the state. Participants view a PowerPoint lesson and take a 37-question test. Twenty-six correct answers results in the student being awarded a GCAPP certificate that is good for five years. They also gain knowledge that will help them apply pesticides in ways that won’t harm themselves or those around them.

“I would like for anybody using pesticides to go through the program,” Guillebeau said, “especially if they’re working at a school or a park. They may not be trying to put anybody at harm, but they may not know.”

For more information on the GCAPP program, call 706-542-9031 or e-mail Guillebeau at

Stephanie Schupska is the communications coordinator with the University of Georgia Honors College.

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