Is There a Difference Between Pest Control and Extermination?

Author: Kurt Treftz, Cascade Pest Control

Pest control—now considered the most generic term—has developed substantially over time.  And how we refer to pest control and pest control companies has changed with it as well.

rat catchersRat Catchers

Going back a hundred or more years in early America, and certainly in Europe, there were “Rat Catchers” (image source: Metropolitan Museum of Art). While today, we find a pest control operator online who drive up in a clean truck, the old rat catchers often came into town with dead rats hanging from poles to show their prowess.  We can only imagine the scent that came with them!  Rat catchers used traps or animals, such as dogs known as “ratters.”  In certain parts of Asia and the Indian subcontinent, dogs are still brought in to hunt down rats.


Some time later, pest control developed into “extermination” with the use of some rather nasty chemicals—most notably arsenic and lead compounds, as well as strychnine.  Going after rodents, cockroaches, or bedbugs was all out war.  The contempt people had for pests was palpable and they would stop at nothing to be rid of them.

Exterminator was the primary term for a pest control person or company throughout the first half of the 20th century, right up to the the 1970’s or so.  During that time, ads appearing in newspapers or telephone books showed graphic images of pests being hit with hammers or having bombs dropped on them.  With the advent of DDT, the notion was to wipe out any pests completely. Of course, pests were never eradicated.  And people continued to react harshly to pest infestations rather than set their sites on preventing pests in the first place.

Early extermination— “power to kill” was all that mattered.  Consequences to human health and the environment were hardly a consideration.

Pest Control

It was in this era, 1979 to be exact, that Cascade Pest Control first began as Cascade Exterminators.  Although Cascade didn’t take part in the rough advertising, it was simply the term for anyone in the business of solving peoples’ pest problems.  But the times were changing quickly.  In 1972 the Environmental Protection Agency was formed, and pesticides became regulated.  More importantly, scientific and public understanding of our collective ecology was becoming mainstream.  The environmental movement showed us that how we approached pest control could have consequences.

Within a very short time, we at Cascade changed our name to Cascade Pest Control, reflecting the fact that least toxic approaches to solving pest problems were absolutely needed in any environment, especially in people’s homes.  Cascade went on to establish itself as a premier environmentally conscious pest control company and, as a result, won several awards.

Difference Between Extermination and Pest Control

The basic difference between extermination and pest control is this:  Extermination is concerned with eliminating the immediate pest infestation, whereas pest control is concerned with both the immediate pest infestation but also how to prevent reinfestation.  And as pest control developed further concepts like Integrated Pest Management (IPM), were developed to look at pest control and prevention in a holistic manner, employing various means beyond simply relying on pesticides.

Safe Pest Control

Today, the old ways of “pest elimination” have long been replaced.  While some older companies retain the word “exterminators” in their company name, the way of approaching pest control is changed for good.  Pest control products that displayed even a likelihood of human or environmental hazards, have been replaced with far-less toxic approaches.  Equally important, methods of application and the certification levels of pest control operators have dramatically improved.  Furthermore, our understanding of pest biology and behavior, and their role in the environment—whether an invasive species (rats) or integral to the natural environment (carpenter ants)—has continued to result in the level of professionalism in pest control today.

All that being said, many of the public are unaware of this history. To this day, people nationwide continue to search the internet to solve their pest problem by searching for an exterminator.  In this usage of the terms, they are completely synonymous.  So, although we once changed our name from Cascade Exterminators to Cascade Pest Control, on this level we are proud to say that—

Cascade Pest Control provides Rodent, Rat, and Mice extermination.

Cascade Pest Control also provides Ant, Spider, and Termite extermination.

But now you’ll know that regardless of the term used, Cascade Pest Control provides the utmost in professional pest control.  We were leaders in environmentally sound pest control and continue to be leaders in conscientiously safe pest control employing integrated pest management practices.

Have Cascade Pest Control begin protecting your home today.

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