Differences between General Pest (Branch 2) and Wood Destroying Organisms (Branch 3)

By Josh Esposito

WDO Operator/Manager

14 January 2019

A typical general pest control service could be described as the process of using various control methods to minimize the number of household pests that enter, are in, on, or in close proximity to, the structure that is on service.  Household pests, as defined in the California Structural Pest Control Act, refer to any insect, vermin, or rodent that is not wood-destroying.  A common misconception amongst pest control clients is that a general pest control service is providing assurance against all insects, including termites and other wood-destroyers.  Unfortunately this way of thinking is widespread and often rears its ugly head when a house goes up for sale and a Wood Destroying Organism (WDO) inspection is requested or required.

 The reason why this misconception is so prevalent could be due to a number of factors.  One factor could be that the field representative that initially signed the customer up failed to go over the contract in its entirety, specifically the part that states that wood destroying insects are not included in the routine service.  This should not be the case due to the extensive training, continuing education, and monthly staff meetings that are held at Foothill-Sierra. In some cases the customer may have signed the contract without being in the presence of the field representative, and may not have fully read and/or understood the contract that was signed.  Yet another reason for the misunderstanding could be that the customer simply forgot, or was not really giving it much thought when signing up, because perhaps they had an odorous house ant infestation in the kitchen, or spiders in the eaves, and were just focused on that at the time, and could have assumed all insects were covered by the service.   

Two crossover pests that can be identified and controlled with a branch 2 general pest service are carpenter ants and pine tree ants, both of which are also classified as wood-destroying insects.  The reason for this crossover is likely in part due to the ability to adequately control these ants by using traditional spray techniques with chemicals used at a rate that also controls other general pests. Other wood-destroying insects, such as the various types of termites and wood-destroying beetles, will require different chemical application techniques and rates. Commonly, control requires structural modifications to correct excessive moisture conditions and earth-to-wood contacts, etc.  Aside from the two types of ants, a licensed branch 2 field representative, performing general pest control, is usually not extensively trained with regards to wood-destroying organisms, and legally cannot treat for them unless that individual also possesses a branch 3 field representative license.

Wood-destroying fungi are also considered to be wood- destroying organisms, and their existence on a structure can often take people by surprise.  The most common fungus reported on inspection reports is brown rot, also known as dry rot.  Dry rot will occur because of excessive moisture and/or earth-to-wood contact conditions.  The most extensive damage is usually found in exposed wooden deck members, siding, and trim.  The remedy for these infections is almost always to remove the damaged wood, and replace it with new materials.  The wording in most reports will be to remove the infected wood (in the case of fungus) or remove the damaged wood (in the case of termites), and inspect for hidden damage.  Hidden damage to adjacent wood and structural framing members is commonly found when performing repairs from inspection reports.  No matter how thorough an initial inspection is, no inspector is equipped with x-ray glasses to see how far the infection or damage may extend past what is physically available to them at the time of inspection.  This hidden damage will be addressed in a supplemental report to the original, and will come with additional costs to repair.  Again, as with wood-destroying insects, wood-destroying fungus can only be identified by a branch 3 licensee, and most technicians doing the regular service of the structure for general pests will not be licensed to identify and treat these issues. It is recommended to homeowners that a wood-destroying organism inspection be performed on a regular basis as part of your scheduled home maintenance.  If you desire  more information regarding this subject, please feel free to contact our office to speak with a representative, or visit the technical paper “Understanding your Wood Destroying Organism Inspection and Report” on this website. More information on this and all things related to structural pest control in California can be found at www.pestboard.ca.gov/pestlaw/pestact.pdf.