What is fumigation and how does it get rid of pests

To help you learn more about what is fumigation and the fumigation process, we have put together this comprehensive guide where we answer some of the more frequently asked questions.

For over 25 years, we have been proud to provide essential fumigation services to clients across the UK. Fumigation has become an integral part of protecting modern businesses, whether legally, financially, or to ensure the health and safety of workers and customers. We are regularly employed to sites from all industry sectors to ensure all laws and regulations are being met and that any pest problems are quickly and efficiently managed. Pest problems come in many forms, and fumigation is utilised to manage and eradicate specific types of species.


What is fumigation?

Fumigation is a pest control method where fumigants (gaseous chemicals) are released in a secured and enclosed space to eradicate unwanted pest species. It is a job that must be carried out by a competent and licenced fumigant specialist as it can be extremely dangerous. We always recommend this process is carried out by a reputable company that will comply with the strict health and safety regulations surrounding fumigation.

Why is it done?

Fumigation is carried out to combat the presence of unwanted pest species and eradicate them from the area. This process ensures the protection of workers, products, businesses and global agriculture industries. Pests often infest cargo and shipping containers, and if they aren’t dealt with, they can cause havoc worldwide.

Each year, one particular pest species known as the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug causes millions in damage to crops across the US and Europe. As such, Australia and New Zealand have implemented strict zero-tolerance policies and import and export fumigation requirements to ensure this pest species does not reach their shores.

What does fumigation kill?

Fumigation is designed to kill a number of pest bugs and insect species such as:

Stored Product Insects (for example, flour beetles, moths and grain weevils). These species are notorious for damaging raw materials, food goods and contaminating products. In some cases, the damage can be so severe that the products are no longer fit for consumption resulting in considerable financial damage and wasted products.

They can also cause blockages and damage to production machinery and cause grain to heat up, becoming damp and mouldy. These insects may seem harmless, but it doesn’t take long for an infestation to take hold and cause a range of issues.

Wood Boring Insects (for example, wood boring weevils, house longhorn beetles and Furniture beetles). The term wood boring insect covers a range of beetle species known to eat and destroy timbers. These species are usually found in high humidity, poorly ventilated spaces and can cause many issues for a range of sectors.

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB) is a seasonal hitchhiker pest species that travels on shipping containers and in cargo to countries across the world. This particular pest is incredibly dangerous to goods, cargo and the agricultural industry as a whole. When left unchecked, this pest can cause millions in damage and wipe out entire harvests.

How does fumigation work?

The fumigation process works by creating a highly inhospitable environment for pest species to stay in. There are heat treatments that are sometimes used as part of pest control solutions, but with fumigation, the gases released will suffocate any bugs or insects present.

Your fumigant specialist will know how long the gas is required to be held at a set concentration for the species to be fully eradicated. Higher concentrations will be needed with certain species to ensure the job is successful, but this will always be discussed with clients before actioning a procedure.

What chemicals are used to fumigate pests?

Different fumigants are used depending on the type of pest infestation you are dealing with, but the two most commonly used chemicals are:

Sulfuryl Fluoride

This fumigant is used regularly by our team and is applied to the area as a pressured liquid gas. It is primarily used to control stored product insects and moths in food factories and mills.

SF is also used to control wood boring insects and Brown Marmorated Stink Bug.

As with all fumigants, sulfuryl fluoride can be dangerous to animals and humans, so it is important that the area is cleared before fumigation.


Phosphine is a colourless gas with a garlic like odour that is often used by our team as it is approved for use on food commodities. It is frequently used for the treatment of grain silos, seeds, plant products, dry fruits and other stored products.

What is the fumigation process

Fumigation starts by sealing off the space which is scheduled to be fumigated; this could be a shipping container, a grain silo, warehouse space or any other space where an infestation has been identified. From here, a fumigant will be released into the enclosed area to eradicate the pest at all stages of its life cycle. The gas will then be maintained at a set concentration for a period of time to ensure the pest is killed.

Once your fumigant specialist has determined the gas has been held for long enough, the space will be safely aired and tested to ensure it is within the Workplace Exposure Limits (WEL). After the enclosed space and surrounding area are deemed safe, the head fumigator will issue a clearance certificate.

The process is incredibly quick, efficient and effective when carried out by a professional fumigation provider.

How to get rid of pests with fumigators

There are many environments where pest species congregate and breed, but thankfully fumigation treatments can be used to manage infestations. Here we have detailed the key areas and environments where fumigation treatments are commonly used:

Shipping Containers and Cargo

When pest species such as the BMSB and Stored Product Insects are found in shipping containers and cargo, it is important that they are dealt with and eliminated as soon as possible. This is arguably one of the most important areas where fumigation occurs, as cargo can be rejected from ports or destroyed upon arrival. Many countries will require evidence and certification to prove the cargo has been fumigated by a professional fumigation provider. Failing to do so can cost businesses dearly in both time and money.

To get rid of pest species in shipping containers and cargo, our team will fumigate before export or on arrival at the destination. The gas will be distributed throughout the container and held for a set amount of time before being safely aired. Gas testing and clearance will always be carried out to ensure it is safe to export and safe to be unloaded at the other end.

Commodities Under Sheet

Often raw materials and finished goods will be stored for long periods of time in warehouses and other facilities. After a while, these products can be at risk of being infested by stored product insects and moths. However, as they are usually boxed, bagged and stored on pallets, it is very easy for them to be fumigated.

This process involves creating a safe area surrounding the products and then placing them under gas-proof sheets. The fumigant gases will then be released underneath these sheets, minimising the risk to the surrounding products and area. It is a very safe and efficient means of preventing infestations from developing and killing any existing insects.

Grain Stores and Silos

One of the most common places that pest species are found is in grain stores and silos within the agriculture sector. Often our team are employed to carry out pre-harvest treatment of grain stores and regular inspections afterwards to help prevent large-scale infestations of stored bulk grains.

As grain is stored in large quantities for a long period of time, these silos can quickly become the ideal breeding ground for stored product insects. However, our team can rid the grain of these pests easily as it is usually an already secured space which is easy to fumigate and hold the gas without issue. Once the gas has penetrated throughout the grain, it will be aired, leaving the product safe for consumption.

Once an active infestation takes hold, the only solution is to have the store or silo professionally fumigated.


In many industries, it is widely known that pest species will be an ongoing problem which is why food manufacturers have invested in fumigation chambers to house their products. These chambers are used to treat infested, and high-risk products and are ideal for eradicating pests before they enter a facility.

Building Fumigation for Flour Mills, Food Factories and Warehouses

There are many pest species which can cause problems in buildings that manage food-related products, such as flour mills, food factories and warehouses. Thankfully, the approved fumigant sulfuryl fluoride can be used to safely and efficiently rid these buildings of pests. This fumigant will not leave any toxic residue or cause damage to a structure.

Using precision fumigation monitoring techniques, we can target the problem species with concentrated levels of gas and ensure any SPI, BMSB or wood boring insects are dealt with.

How does Fumigill fumigate commercial buildings

In some cases, our team is employed to fumigate commercial buildings suffering from a severe pest species infestation. This process is no different to how we conduct ourselves on any other site, as we take the same health and safety precautions on every job.

With any fumigation job, we always prioritise the safety of our team, those operating on the site and the general public. Fumigants can be incredibly hazardous if not handled and aired correctly, which is why our team are all highly trained, experienced and licenced to carry out this work.

We will always carry out thorough risk assessments and communicate what the process entails with our clients before fumigating. With a commercial building, we will always ensure that the building has been cleared of all personnel, and we will hang signs around site entrances to indicate that it is not currently safe to enter the premises.

The building during this time will be filled with fumigants and held at a set concentration for a period of time. Once the process is complete, the building will be aired, and our team will conduct tests to check the air quality and ensure it is below the safe Workplace Exposure Limits. When we are confident that the premises have been safely aired, we will inform the client that it is now safe to re-enter the building and provide them with a clearance certificate.

Book a Fumigation Service with Fumigill

For over 25 years, we have been proud to provide high-quality fumigation services and treatments to customers Nationwide.

If you have concerns about a potential pest infestation on your site, please don’t hesitate to contact our team today. If you have any questions that haven’t been addressed in this article, we will be more than happy to assist and help you find the ideal solution to your pest problem.

To discover more about any of our UK Fumigation Services, you can visit our website or get in touch with our team today on 0151 345 6854 or email us at info@urbanhawks.co.uk. We are happy to answer any further queries and offer a free consultancy process to discuss the pest issues thoroughly before actioning a procedure.