How to Be an Informed Landscape Pest Management Consumer

Whether it is an exotic insect pest (e.g., emerald ash borer, gypsy moth, or Asian longhorned beetle), serious plant pathogens (e.g., oak wilt, bur oak blight, sudden oak death, or thousand cankers), or native insect and disease concerns (e.g., bagworms or anthracnose), you should be a wary consumer with any plant protection actions done on your property.  A recent experience in Johnston IA illustrates that solicitors are willing to prey on your fear of losing your trees, and that you need to guard against being conned as vigilantly as you guard your trees.


Here is a list of suggested items to help you prepare for unsolicited calls/ in-person contacts at your front door:


  1. Know the type and number of trees and ornamental shrubs on your property.
  2.  Keep current on pests in the news. For instance, the emerald ash borer is now in 5 counties in Iowa, and 25 counties in eastern Iowa are quarantined for this pest. (See HHPN archived newsletters for more details)
  3. Know what landscape pest management work that you want done on your property
  4. Do not take those professing to be tree doctors (with a cure for your trees) up on their offers from a miracle treatment.
  5. Verify any claims about a 'city-wide' treatment program or a 'mandatory' tree removal project in your community.  The media, Iowa State Extension and Outreach, and your local garden centers will advertise any such event and there will be no surprises sprung by a clever salesperson.
  6. Ask for credentials and references for anyone who works on your property.  Bonafide tree care specialists and certified pesticide applicators will readily give you this information (and probably thank you for asking!).
  7. Obtain at least 2 written estimates for work that you want done.
  8.  Verify proposed treatment actions by calling your local Iowa State Extension and Outreach office.  For emerald ash borer, refer to ISU Extension & Outreach pamphlet PM 2084.
  9. If you do accept a bid and sign a contract for work done, keep a copy of the contract. If you have second thoughts about one or more aspects of the work to be done, you have the right to cancel with no penalties if done within 3 days.  Check with the Iowa Attorney General's Office for more details (515-281-5164).
  10.  Do not remove healthy trees or shrubs that are important points in your landscape as a result of worry about a serious pest being nearby.  It may take years for this pest to come to your neighborhood even when the pest is found in your community.


Please contact the ISU Plant and Insect Diagnostic Clinic for help determining if and when pest or disease treatment is warranted.  Contact on the Web ( by email ( or by phone (515-294-0581).


Links to this article are strongly encouraged, and this article may be republished without further permission if published as written and if credit is given to the author, Yard and Garden, and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. If this article is to be used in any other manner, permission from the author is required. This article was originally published on January 17, 2014. The information contained within may not be the most current and accurate depending on when it is accessed.