Do You Have The Right Pesticide License?

Many years ago Congress enacted the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) legislation that regulates the production, transportation, sale, use and disposal of all pesticides. This legislation left it up to individual states to license and regulate pesticide applicators, but in doing so this federal legislation declares that there are two types of pesticide applicators; Private applicators and commercial applicators. A Private Applicator is defined as a certified applicator who uses or supervises the use of any Restricted Use Pesticide (RUP) for the purpose of producing an Agricultural commodity on his/her own property or property he/she rents or leases, or on property owned or rented by their employer. Commercial Applicators are certified applicators who use or supervise the use of any RUP for any purpose on any property except for those provided for under the definition of Private Applicator.


Please take note that by definition Private Applicators can apply RUP only on lands being used for agricultural production, while commercial applicators are NOT restricted to using RUP’s only on agricultural lands. While this federal legislation provides this basic framework it left it up to the individual states to determine what is or isn’t an “Agricultural Use”, as well as to what licensing “Categories” to establish. In Florida, pesticide use is governed by three different Statutes; Chapter 388, Chapter 482 and Chapter 487. Each of these Statutes define and regulate different areas of pesticide usage as determined by the Florida Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services (FDACS).

Chapter 388 Florida Statutes: Is also often referred to as the “Florida Mosquito Control Law,” this law governs applicators who use pesticides in public health or nuisance pest control work. This law mandates that a pesticide applicator (or their immediate supervisor) must be licensed before applying ANY Class of pesticide (RUP or General use pesticide), in a public health control program. Applicators licensed under chapter 388 typically are employed by mosquito control districts, county or city governments or companies who offer contract services to control insect pests that may have an adverse effect on public health. The primary license governed by this statute is the “Public Health Pest Control Operator” (PHPCO), but can include sub-categories such as Aerial. The agency that administers these licenses is part of FDACS; for more information on this licensing category Contact:

Mosquito Control Section
Bureau of Entomology and Pest Control
1203 Governors Square Blvd (Suite 300)
Tallahassee, FL 32301
Telephone: 850-922-7011

Chapter 482 Florida Statutes: Is also known as the “Structural Pest Control Act,” it was originally written to govern the business activities to oversee Pest Control Operator (PCO) businesses. Today, this law and its rules have expanded to include several different categories of pesticide applicators, including PCO licenses as well as limited certification licenses. There are four different categories/licenses for Pest Control Operators:

  • General Household Pest Control
  • Termites and Other Wood Destroying Organisms
  • Fumigation
  • Lawn & Ornamental

These are all Commercial licenses and obtaining a PCO business license in any of these categories is usually not a simple matter; just to qualify to take the test usually requires a combination of education and work experience.

Additionally under the Chapter 482 Statutes there are a series of “Limited Certification pesticide applicator licenses. People operating under a limited certification license may not solicit, contract for, advertise or engage in any type of for-hire pesticide applicator business. There can also be other “limitations” imposed depending upon the particular certification you hold. Certifications/Licenses in this category include:

  • Limited Commercial Landscape Maintenance Applicator Certification (LCLM) – This certification was designed to allow commercial landscape maintenance personnel to make pesticide applications (using herbicides, insecticides and fungicides, with a signal word of Caution) to ornamental plants and plant beds only. It does not allow landscape maintenance workers to make any kind of pesticide applications (including weed control and/or weed and feed products) to any turf areas. Furthermore, this certification does not allow or authorize the maintenance company or the certificate holder to supervise company employees under their certificate or operate a pest control business. To obtain this certificate, an online application must be made through the FDAC’s website Upon payment of the exam fee, a voucher number will be provided to the applicant to register at an approved UF/IFAS County Extension site. Additionally, an applicant seeking certification in this category will have to provide proof of insurance which indicates that they or their employer meets the minimum financial responsibility requirements for bodily injury and property damage before the certificate will be issued. Questions regarding this limited certification should be directed to the Bureau office at 850-617-7997.
  • Limited Governmental or Private Applicator Certification – Limited Certification for Governmental and Private Applicators was designed for individuals and employees of government entities who make pesticide applications in, on, around or under structures or to the turf and ornamental areas of the property. This Certification allows for the use of both general and restricted use materials. Do not confuse this “Limited Private Applicator” certificate with the RUP “Private Applicator” license issued under Florida Statutes 487 (discussed below) for agricultural use. Typically for these limited certifications each applicator must be individually certified, however in larger companies the rules do allow the hire a Florida Pest Control Certified Operator to be in charge of the pest control program and they are responsible for providing training and guidance to any applicator(s) in lieu of individual applicator certification). An online application for examination can be made through FDAC’s website Upon payment of the exam fee, a voucher number will be provided to the applicant to register at the UF/IFAS Extension registration website to select a date and time to take the exam. These limited certificates are valid for four years. When renewing, the certified applicator must provide proof of having obtained four hours of acceptable continuing education. There are two categories within this certification program: “Structural Pest Control” for applications in, on, around or under structures, and “Lawn and Ornamental” for pesticide applications to exterior property areas. Depending on the applicator’s job duties, one (or both) of the categories may be required.
  • Limited Urban Commercial Fertilizer Applicator Certification Program – As of January of 2014, ALL commercial fertilizer applicators MUST BE certified by FDACS in order to make ANY TYPE of fertilizer application to commercial turf or ornamental areas; and/or the turf or ornamental areas of parks or fields (other than agricultural areas), and/or the turf or ornamental area of any residential property. Prior to issuance of this certification, the applicator MUST PROVIDE proof of having received training in “Green Industry Best Management Practices.” These classes are offered by the UF/IFAS in conjunction with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Registration Is Now Available -online at . The following link will provide you Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) addressing how to obtain this training.

Chapter 487 Florida Statutes: Also known as the “Florida Pesticide Law;” In Florida, RUP licenses are required for pesticide applicators who apply RUP on agricultural and related sites, such as agricultural fields, plant nurseries, golf courses, industrial sites, highway right-of-ways, and other similar areas not associated with buildings. Chapter 487 RUP licenses issued by the Bureau of Licensing and Enforcement, Pesticide Certification Section are not valid for residential applications, structural pest control, public health pest control (mosquito control, etc.) or application within 10 feet of any buildings.

Under Ch. 487, F. S. Three types of pesticide applicator licenses are issued by the FDACS Bureau of Licensing and Enforcement, Pesticide Certification Section – Private, Public, and Commercial. The exams and requirements for the Public and Commercial licenses are the same, with the difference being in whether the applicator works for a government entity or for a Private “For Hire” company.

Within the Public/Commercial license types there are several different “Categories” of licenses; Public/Commercial applicators can hold certifications within multiple categories as long as they qualify for each category and pass the appropriate exams. In addition to the Private Applicator Examination and the Category Examinations, almost all of the licenses require that a General Standards (CORE) examination be taken in addition to the category examination. The General Standards exam, or Core, is a basic examination that covers areas of basic pesticide application, proper application procedures, pesticide labeling, storage and safety and other general knowledge type content.

  • Private Applicator License – This license is for people who use RUP to produce an agricultural commodity on property they own or rent, or on property owned or rented by their employer. Examples of sites that qualify for a private license are farms, ranches, groves, nurseries, gardens, aquaculture operations, and livestock production operations. This license is valid for application of restricted use pesticides for ornamental and turf production (at a nursery, sod farm, etc.), but not for maintenance of ornamentals or turf, such as at a golf course, park, or zoo. A commercial applicator license may substitute for a private applicator license for uses (categories) covered by the commercial license.
  • Commercial Applicator License – This license is for people who use RUP on any agricultural or related area not associated with buildings for any purpose other than as defined for private applicator licenses. This includes but is not limited to the following uses: 1) contract applications for other people to outdoor sites not associated with buildings, and 2) any other outdoor use not associated with buildings that is not involved in agricultural production and is not for a government employer. Examples of commercial applications are golf course turf maintenance, contract aerial application services, aquatic weed control service, park or cemetery maintenance, highway right-of-way maintenance by contract application, and custom application of pesticide/fertilizer blends to agricultural lands.
  • Public Applicator License – This license is for people employed by a government entity (federal, state, county, city, etc.) who use RUP on the job for agricultural or related applications (as defined by FDACS). This license is valid only for work performed for the government agency during the course of employment. Examples of qualified individuals are employees of municipal electric companies, city and county parks, government owned railways, state and federal highway departments, and state universities. A commercial applicator license may substitute for a public applicator license if desired but liability issues should be taken into consideration before making this decision.

The UF/IFAS develops and administers the following Category exams for Commercial and/or Public applicators; aerial application, agricultural animal pest control, agricultural row crop pest control, agricultural tree crop pest control, aquatic pest control, demonstration & research, forest pest control, natural areas weed management, organotin antifouling paint pest control, ornamental & turf pest control, raw agricultural commodity fumigation, right-of-way pest control, seed treatment, soil & greenhouse fumigation, wood treatment.

In addition to these category exams, FDACS also develops and administers category exams in the areas of; chlorine gas infusion, sewer root control and regulatory inspection & sampling.

All exams are multiple choice, they are administered closed books and without any other reference information available. You should be prepared to present your state issued identification. Be prepared for your identifications and cell phone to be “held” by the exam administrator until all exam booklets and answer sheets are turned in. A passing grade of 70% is required on all exams.

In summary, if you are applying RUP pesticides for profit on agricultural operations as defined by FDACS, then you will need a Commercial License and the proper Category certification. For example, if you are caretaking someone else’s citrus grove and you are applying RUP then you must have a commercial license with an “Agriculture Tree Crop” certification.

Further information on License requirements, categories and required exams can be found at

With pesticide usage being regulated by three different Florida Statutes, and multiple “Types” and “Categories” of license options, sometimes it can be quite confusing as to which License/Category you really need. The following website can perhaps help you decide which license you need:

But if you still have questions, call your UF/IFAS County Extension office and discuss your pesticide application needs with them.