Ant Axioms & Legal Opinion
Applying critical analysis to your ant management practices
By DR. STUART MITCHELL & JEFF LIPMAN, ATTORNEY-AT-LAW
Do you assume all the old adages about ants are based in fact, or do you analyze these "ant axioms?" Now and then, taking a critical look at long-held beliefs about ant maangement will allow you to answer all questions about ants assiduously.
Ant Biology Axioms
Ants (Order Hymenoptera, Family Formicidae) are approximately 10,000 species socially living together in organized colonies. Ants, which are found all over the globe, are especially common in hot climates. Ants vary in size from about 2 to 25 mm (0.08 to 1 inch). Colors range from yellow to brown to red to black, or combinations thereof. A few genera (e.g., Pheidole) even shine metallic.
Based on pest management industry sponsored surveys, PMPs still consider pestiferous ants as one of the most influential pests and a major contributor to recurring revenue. Invasive ants are considered ground nesters or wall nesters. For example:
- Ground nesters include argentine ant, pavement ant, little black ant and fire ant.
- Wall nesters include acrobat ant, carpenter ant, crazy ant, odorous house ant, pharoah ant and thief ant.
Ant Control Axioms
Ant control must be based on the integrated pest management (IPM) template or a mechanical application of IPM, which is:
- Inspections and investigations.
- Identification of pests to species.
- Establishing tolerance levels (aesthetic, economic, legal, and medical).
- Two or more control measures (behavioral, physical, mechanical, biological, bio-rational, and professional product applications).
- Evaluation of effectiveness and program modifications.
Legal Opinion: A Closer Look at Inspections
There appears to be a gap in standard pest control operator (PCO) liability policies involving structural pest inspections where the PMP conducts an inspection per IPM. The gap exists where the inspection reveals no pest activity but where the client or a third person claims bodily injury as a result of the pest.
The problem with the gap is that while no pest may have existed at the time, the policy may not only exclude the bodily injury claim but the insurance carrier's duty to defend the claim. The basis for the exclusion is found in the policy language that fails to identify the building owner as a client due to no pest management treatment being rendered. This places the PCO at risk for merely conducting an inspection, which is required under IPM. This makes it essential that the PCO check their policy and send a letter to their carrier to declare coverage for these inspections that do not reveal a pest.
Relying on the errors and omissions rider is not prudent as the rider is not a true professional liability policy as normally extended to licensed professionals (such as a malpractice policy) and consequently has very limited coverage. This potential "gap" is an industry-wide problem that needs to be resolved on an industry-wide level.
Jeff Lipman, J.D., frequently speaks throughout the country on class action and bed bug litigation. He is founder of Lipman Law Firm in Des Moines, Iowa. He can be reached at email@example.com. Stuart Mitchell, D.O., is a board-certified family practitioner and entomologist who serves as technical editor for PMP magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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