Dr. Robert Davis, Pest Test Expert

Dr. Robert Davis is one of America’s foremost authorities on the science of insects (entomology) and pest-control methodologies. Dr. Davis has nearly 30 years of academic and applied experience in insect biochemistry and pesticide toxicology.

Today, Dr. Davis is a market development specialist for the Professional Pest Control Group at BASF, the world’s largest chemical company. In this role, he is involved in the research and development of next-generation pest-control agents and applications. He also is highly active as an educator in the field, conducting more than 70 training presentations annually to pest-control professionals. His outstanding contributions to the professionalism of entomology earned him the Entomological Society of America’s Distinguished Achievement Award in 2007.

Dr. Davis received his academic training at the University of Nebraska. He earned his bachelor’s degree in science, majoring in natural resource, and then his master’s degree in entomology. He went on to receive his doctorate in entomology, with a minor in biochemistry. His dissertation centered on testing and evaluating termite-control techniques, which also has been a primary focus of his career as a professional.

Dr. Davis has authored dozens of academic papers and industry reports on the science of insect control in both household and agricultural settings. He has been a member of the Entomology Society of America since 1988, and has served on various committees within the society, most recently on the certification board for six years. He also is a member of the National Pest Management Association and is a board-certified entomologist.

Before joining BASF, he was a Technical Field Representative for Bayer Environmental Sciences and Aventis Environmental Sciences. Previously, he also was Technical Director for ABC Pest and Lawn Services in Austin, Texas.

How does a property owner get started with termite inspection?
Property owners should contact a pest professional and start an annual inspection service for wood destroying insects. The pest professional will be able to detect present infestations but also provide recommendations to limit the possibility of future infestations and damage.

Why should people have their homes tested for termites?
All property owners should have their homes/buildings inspected for termites at least once per year. All states, except Alaska, have termite populations. This means that almost all homes, businesses, and other structures are under constant termite pressure and damage can begin at any time. Across the United States approximately 5 billion dollars is spent on damage repair and control of termites on an annual basis. One of the best ways to protect the structure is to have pest professional provide annual inspections. If termites are found or if a property owner wishes to prevent termite infestations and damage before occurrence, then I suggest that the property owners work with a pest professional to provide a preventative termite treatment to provide ongoing protection and control. It is important to start a business relationship with a pest professional, keep annual inspections on schedule and maintain the termite service over time.

Are there any preventative measures home and business owners may take in order to avoid termite infestation?
Most important action is to have a Pest Professional provide an annual inspection of the property looking for termite activity. However, property owners can also take the following steps to help reduce the probability that termites will infest your structures. The first is to reduce or eliminate areas conducive to termite infestations. These can be areas such as removing direct wood to soil contact, ensuring water properly drains away from the foundation, locating and repairing any moisture leaks in the structure, not storing items against the foundation of the home, keeping 6 inches of clearance from the top of the soil to siding, keeping gutter lines open and clean, pruning and trimming landscaping trees and ornamentals and not allowing trees to touch the structure, etc.

Certainly a pest professional can provide a list of conducive conditions that can be repaired and the professional can also provide a preventative treatment to the property to protect termites from reaching and damaging the structure.

How does a person determine whether he/she should have their home tested for termites? What are some tell-tale signs to look for?
I suggest that all homeowners should have a pest professional provide an annual inspection to look for possible wood destroying insect infestations.

Property owners can be on the look-out for shelter tubes along the exterior foundation near soil, damaged wall boards or wood that may or may not have the termites in them, presence of small flying insects inside the structure. Many termites have a "swarming season" in which they commonly release flying "swarmers" from the colony in an attempt to create new termite colonies. If these flying insects are seen inside the structure, this means that the home is infested and a pest professional needs to be contacted. Please be aware that many ants also "swarm". You can collect the flying insects and ask the pest professional to identify the insects and then put a plan together for protecting you home. More information can certainly be found at termiteinstitute.com.

If termites are detected in a home, fumigation and other chemical based measures are often taken to rid of the pests. Are there any alternative, more environmentally-friendly options to take care of such a pest problem?
Pest management is one of the most exciting and progressive service industries in the United States. As a consequence there are a lot of different options available for controlling active as well as preventing future pest infestations. Fumigation is a method mainly used to control drywood termites that are found in CA, HI, NM and along the gulf coast states. Fumigation is effective and when completed no residual chemistry is left in the structure. However, it will not provide residual protection. Treatments for subterranean termites are varied. There are newer chemistries to treat soil that provide low hazard to people, pets and plants and yet provide excellent protection from termites. Also, there are bait system technologies that can be used to control and monitor termite infestations. Pest professionals also have direct wood treatment options available that are low hazard. Please ask your pest professional about all the options available and you will see that many low-impact, low hazard treatments are available for wood destroying insect control.

What degree of education and training is necessary to conduct a termite inspection and who provides it?
Pest professionals have the experience and training for providing wood destroying insect inspections. I suggest that when asking for bids/quotes and interviewing possible pest professional service companies that a property owner ask about the following:

1. How many years have they been in the pest management business?
2. Are they members of the state and national pest management associations?
3. Are they properly licensed to provide pest services in your state?
4. Will they provide a comprehensive, written report of their findings?
5. If a treatment is provided, then what is the warranty/guarantee that is provided?
6. Ask for references.
7. Check the Better Business Bureau, or websites like "CraigsList" or "Angie's List"
8. Visit termiteinstitute.com and use the "Zip Code Locator" to find a pest professional in your area.
9. Ask you friends, family and neighbors if they have a pest professional provide a similar service and if they are happy with the service.

Do you have any advice or suggestions for people who wish to have their homes tested for termites?
Contact 2-4 pest professionals and interview each and then select the company that you believe will provide excellent inspections, treatments and/or service. A great way to start this process is to visit termiteinstitute.com and use the "Zip Code Locator" to find a pest professional in your area.

For more on pest tests, please read our Pest Test Guide. To find a pest test or pest test professional, visit our Pest Test Directory.


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