Make a living out of wasps and rats

After a four-day course in pest control you're ready to set up in business. Hazel Davies reports on an unusual job opportunity

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is taking cockroaches, rats and unwanted birds seriously. Last year it published a ground-breaking report, Public Health Significance of Urban Pests, which for the first time collated research on the effects of increased pest management and what to do about it. It also highlighted the need for properly trained pest controllers.

The National Pest Technicians Association is the premier professional membership association in the UK, with just over 750 members. Adrian Batty, who runs AB Pest Management in Brough, East Yorkshire, and entered the profession through public health in the late 1960s, is one of them. Having studied science at A-level, he found work as a health inspector and did a four-year diploma in public health before working his way through various departments in public health, eventually landing his own specially created post as pest control manager.

"At that time," says Batty, "we had 21 manual workers as pest controllers, operating on bicycles and mopeds with panniers of poison. It wasn't working very well, so we set up a more efficient system, trained the workers and put them into modern equipped vehicles."

In those days, says Batty, there were big problems with cockroaches living in dirty nooks and crannies, and in drains. "In Hull we almost eliminated them from houses, swimming pools and other institutions, but they are starting to become a problem again."

One of the main problems with rats, says Batty, is that builders leave new drains open – old rats come out and new rats go in: "Building sites are not known for their cleanliness and we have had all sorts of stories of builders feeding their sandwiches to them."

The best and worst thing about his job, he says, is that you never know what you might find. "A body that's lain undiscovered for a while can be quite unpleasant – and it's usually discovered when a neighbour reports maggots under the door."

It's a myth that pest controllers are blood-thirsty men in flat caps with border terriers or working for large multinationals with Michael Clayton-style secrets.

"We still sometimes bear the tag of rat catcher," he agrees. "But these days we don't talk about pest control, we talk about pest management. Insect problems can be controlled by levels of moisture, for example. Good pest controllers try to find the reason and pesticides really are a last resort much of the time."

The job attracts its critics and, in some cases, violent recriminations. "There are groups who get very upset about the control of pigeons," says Batty. "However, it's very important. Unlike other birds, their nests are made mainly of faeces and they breed rapidly. We still really don't know the full extent of the diseases they spread."

Batty now works as an independent pest controller and consultant for Killgerm in Yorkshire, one of Europe's biggest suppliers of pest control products. He also runs training courses.

"You don't have to have a qualification to be a controller, but suppliers will generally only work with you if you can show that you are trained and competent."

He runs an eight-and-a-half day Royal Society for the Promotion of Health course in pest control, usually aimed at environmental health officers. For budding pest controllers he advises contacting local authorities and larger companies who might be willing to take on a novice and provide the training.

Shamin Dein launched Aktiv Pest Control in Bedford in May this year. She stumbled into the profession after finding a wasp's nest at her house. "The pest controller simply found the entrance to the nest and sprayed an insecticide," she says. "It took ten minutes and I was charged £40. It was necessary and did the job, but it got me thinking."

Dein and her husband, who also run a cleaning company, thought the two professions would dovetail nicely so they did a four-day practical course in pest and vermin control and set up on their own.

Though there is a range of non-toxic pest management methods, working in the industry can mean exposure to potentially harmful chemicals so sufferers of asthma need not apply. On average the pay is £15,000 to £25,000 a year. And it's still a male-dominated profession. "They usually don't expect a Pakistani woman to turn up," says Dein. "But I really love the feeling that I am helping – often very concerned – people."

For details of training contact:

British Pest Control Association (, National Pest Technicians Association (, National Pest Advisory Panel (

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
Life and Style
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Windows, Linux - Central London

£40000 - £48000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Windo...

Guru Careers: Product Training Specialist / Software Trainer

£25 - 32,500K (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Produ...

Recruitment Genius: Unqualified NVQ Assessors - Health, Social Care & Management

£16000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Advisor - OTE £30,000

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions