In regions of the country where summers are the only hot weather season that they experience, there is a misconception that pest control is only needed during the warm, or hot, summer months. In other parts of the country, namely the south and southwest, the weather in winter is mild, making pest control a necessary year-round necessity. Regardless of where you live, year-round pest control ensures that you are preventing an infestation, instead of reacting to one already in your home.
Summer pest control ensures that termites, ants, flies, stinging insects, and mosquitos are taken care of, and while these may be the most well-known annoyances of summer, that leaves out beetles, spiders, bed bugs, mice, rats, termites, carpenter ands, and other pests that find your home to be more agreeable in winter than the conditions outside. Spring and summer pests may be more noticeable because you are outside to see them, but in winter, when huddled inside where it is warm, bugs and rodents are also looking for a warm place to wait out the weather, and hiding from you while they do it.
Pests have thousands of years of evolution on their side when it comes to ensuring their survival. They have been forced to become experts at avoiding predators, and through that, have become experts in ensuring humans also struggle to find them. Some pests, such as ants, stinging insects, and mosquitoes may be summertime pests, but others like cockroaches, termites, and bed bugs do not have a season in which they traditionally wreak havoc and can be as much as a headache in December as they are in July.
While knowing that pests are making your home their home over winter may not be the most enjoyable thought, hiring a pest control service to provide year round pest control services can offer peace of mind-regardless of what climate you live in. In the south, where pest control is a much more serious issue, year round pest control is not really an option. While it may be easier for a homeowner in the north, in the dead of winter, to pretend that all of the destructive pests of spring and summer have relocated south, for a homeowner in the south, there is not the same luxury to feign ignorance.
The easiest way to ensure year-round pest control is to sign a service contract. While this sounds like an easy task, it is best to interview, or at least investigate, several pest control companies to ensure that their products and services meet your expectations. Some pest control companies will come out to your property once per month, or once per quarter, and depending on your needs, that affects the cost of the service contract. In the north, where pest control companies likely experience a drastic slow down in service calls, it would not be unheard of to ask for, and receive, a winter discount, for a continuation of services over the colder months. This would ensure that your home is protected from pests that are looking for protection from the cold, at an even more affordable rate.
No homeowner wants to think about pests living in their home, but it is important to think about the effect that pests have on family safety as well as with the value of your home. Rodents have an unstoppable desire to chew, and this can result in fires if they chew through electrical wires, putting your entire family, unknowingly, at risk. If termites or carpenter ants move into your home over the winter, they can cause structural damage that, if caught early enough, can be corrected quickly.
For instance, if termite damage is limited to a single interior wall of your home, a carpenter can re-frame and re-drywall your room quickly, and for a relatively inexpensive price. If, upon selling your home, you recognize far too late termite damage throughout, it will need to be repaired before the house could be sold, and comes with a much higher price tag if it is a large amount of the house that needs to be fixed. In extremely rare cases a house may need to be entirely gutted or torn down because damage from pests is so great.
Year round pest control should be a budgeted monthly expense so that you can protect your home, and the family members that live within it. By addressing the issue of pests throughout the year, it is possible to quickly detect any infestation and correct the damage, instead of letting the problem fester for months or years, until the scope of the damage has been recognized.
Ask any homeowner about pests, and they will likely offer you some facts, and some myths. This can make it hard to know what is true and what should be disregarded. For example, it is entirely untrue that stinging insects need to be physically provoked before they attack and sting. For insects such as wasps, this is entirely untrue, and they will attack if they feel that their colony is being threatened, meaning if you walk too close to their colony, that could be enough to induce an attack. While a single sting may not seem like such a big deal, stinging insects send more than 500,000 people to the emergency room every single year. These are the most common myths and the facts that should instead be known.
Myth: Bees only sting once before they die.
There are many different types of bees, and it is only the honeybee that sting one time. Honeybees’ stingers are built in such a way that once they fly away after stinging, the stinger gets torn out of their body, and left in their victim. Other bees, and wasps, do not have the hook in their stinger that gets left behind. This makes it easy to remove their stinger from the body of their victim, and sting repeatedly.
Myth: Mosquitoes are only active at dawn and at dusk.
Mosquitoes are responsible for the spreading of many diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, encephalitis, Chikungunya, West Nile virus, and now the Zika virus. Generally speaking mosquitoes are just an annoyance that must be endured during the warm summer months, but there is a common myth that they are only active in the morning and evening hours. Driven by their need for blood in order to reproduce, they will emerge from their nests whenever necessary in order to ensure their successful reproduction. In order to keep mosquitoes at bay, using citronella anytime you are outside will help to keep the pests away.
Myth: One ant in your house does not mean you have an infestation of ants.
Ants leave behind a chemical trail that is used by their colonies to follow once food has been found. If an ant has made its’ way into your kitchen, if there is not an existing infestation, you can bet that there will shortly be colonies of ants calling your cozy house, home as well. For the most part ants are harmless. However, if you live in a region that has fire ants or carpenter ants, it is possible for your family or your home to be in harms way.
Myth: Cheese in a mousetrap will attract mice.
This myth is one that we can thank cartoonists for. Instead of using cheese to bait mice into a mousetrap, mice would rather have access to food with a high sugar content. So carefully replace your cheese with cookies, sugar cubes, or even peanut butter to attract them. For those who would rather not use a mousetrap, but still have a mice problem, Fresh Cab Rodent Repellent keeps mice out using their sense of smell which would lure them to the sweet treats in a trap.
Myth: Cats are good for pest control.
The myth that cats are useful for eliminating pests comes from ancient Egypt, when cats were worshiped for their ability to reduce the problem of pests. Over the thousands of years since cats first displayed their ability to catch and eliminate pests like mice, they have become much less adept at the job. Some cats do still hold onto their propensity for catching pests. But if the sole reason you would like to bring a cat into your house is for pest control, there are some traits that should be identified to ensure they are a good mouser.
Myth: Bug bombs eradicate bed bugs.
There are few pests that are more upsetting to find within your home than bed bugs, hard to kill critters that make your furniture their home. While most commonly found in beds, they will make their home in any sort of textile or cracks in your furniture. The reason that bed bugs are hard to kill is because in order to entirely remove them from your house, the entire house must be treated. This makes bug bombs a seemingly attractive choice, except the chemicals do not penetrate the depths of which bed bugs can burrow.
Myth: Ultrasonic repellents are useful in managing bug problems.
This is a common myth, particularly when it comes to ultrasound mosquito repellents but the BBC found that there is no scientific evidence to back up this claim. There is similarly no evidence that using a machine that emits a frequency similar to the mosquitoes natural predator, the dragonfly, also has no effect at eliminating or reducing a mosquito population. When it comes to other insects such as spiders, there is also no scientific support that they are effective.
Myth: Hanging bags of water will repel flies.
There is a common myth that flies are afraid of water, or perhaps their reflection, which keeps them away from your home. Unfortunately, flies are not afraid of water or their reflections, making this a futile attempt to keep flies at bay.
Myth: Boiling water will eliminate an ant colony.
This is a challenging myth, because in some instances it can work. But, carrying a pot of boiling water to the ant hill is incredibly dangerous, and not worth the risk of serious bodily harm and burns. In order for the boiling water to successfully eliminate an ant hill, the water needs to get down to the queen. Otherwise, the colony will just rebuild, making the attempt both dangerous and futile.
Myth: Having a concrete foundation means there is no risk of a termite infestation.
While it is true that having a poured concrete foundation with no cracks, meaning it must be reinforced with re-bar, is best for preventing a termite infestation, if there is any wood in your house, it is at risk for termites to also make it their home. Termites are useful for recycling dead plant material, but they turn the cellulose found in wood, paper, and cardboard into simple sugars, which are digestible and attractive to the termites. Unfortunately termites are persistent pests, and it only takes a single crack for them to make your wood frame their meal ticket.
A growing number of people are against the idea of using chemical-based pesticides in order to treat bug infestations in their homes, and with good reason too. Those chemical sprays can be almost as harmful to you, your children, and your pets, as they are to the bugs. They contaminate the air in your home, poison foods, and are just generally not nice. Eco-Friendly pesticides offer a safe alternative.
But if you can’t use common pesticides, what else can be done to eliminate those unwelcome guests from your home? What follows is a long list of eco-friendly pesticides and alternative treatments that are not only guaranteed to work, but will also ensure you and your family are not exposed to any toxic substances.
Also known as bicarbonate of soda, this is an effective solution if your home happens to be infested with cockroaches. Using chemical-based pesticides to kill roaches is especially dangerous, because these ugly critters love to roam around the kitchen, inside cupboards and pantries looking for scraps of food. That’s the last place you want to go spraying deadly toxins.
Baking soda is much safer to use – simply put out a bunch of small dishes containing baking soda mixed with a small amount of sugar in areas where you know roaches are lurking. These slender brown bugs are unlikely to be able to resist eating it, but unfortunately for them even the smallest amount proves fatal. Just like every animal that consumes baking soda, roaches quickly get very gassy – but because they can’t burp there’s only one way for them to let that gas out, by exploding! Gets them every time!
Bed Bug Monitor Traps
This is a useful trick not only for eliminating bed bugs, but also to identify them in the first place if you’re unsure. The idea is to lay a trap for them. Non-toxic bed bug traps can be bought from many stores, and use a combination of carbon dioxide, heat and pheromones to attract the little critters. The trap’s surface is covered in an adhesive substance from which the bed bugs cannot escape.
Boric acid is a natural and environmentally friendly substance, but be warned that it can still be harmful to young children and pets, so be sure not to use it anywhere that could expose them to it. However, it’s a very effective pesticide when it comes to killing roaches and ants. Just be sure to use it in places out of reach from kids and pets, for example on the top of kitchen cabinets and appliances. This is ideal because roaches and ants just love to search along these places for food, and once they go scurrying around up there, their fate has been sealed. One interesting point to note is that boric acid is slow acting (it slowly destroys the bug’s nervous system, killing them) so in many cases the ants and roaches will return to their nests and kill many of their buddies too.
Catnip and Other Deterrents
While catnip won’t actually kill cockroaches, it’s certainly a good deterrent, and one that your cat will love you for! For some reason cockroaches find this non-toxic substance to be abhorrent, and will avoid it at all costs. So simply leave some around the kitchen and bathroom, or any other area you know to be infested, to scare those damn roaches away.
There are other deterrents that work well for ants too, such as cloves, cucumbers and mint.
Cayenne Pepper/Clove Potpourri
If your home has a mice infestation problem, yet you don’t want to kill them the traditional way, you can try a deterrent in the form of aromatherapy. For some reason, mice are easily deterred by strong smells so you can try making a potpourri out of cayenne pepper or clove. Scatter this substance at strategic places where you know the mice are likely to come looking for food, or soak some cotton balls in the solution and place them in and around the problem areas. Voila! No more mice to worry about.
It might sound as if it’s extremely toxic and nasty, but in actual fact diatomaceous earth is one of the best natural remedies for bug infestations. Scientifically validated as being safe to humans and pets, this substance is best used to control bed bugs, though it is also harmful to things like roaches, ants and termites too.
Diatomaceous earth is a naturally occurring, soft, siliceous sedimentary rock that is easily crumbled into a fine white powder. It kills many kinds of bugs by drying them out. If you look carefully, you’ll notice that many insects have a waxy layer on the outside of their skin that ensures they stay moist. But after they come into contact with diatomaceous earth, the powder quickly dries out this waxy layer, causing the bug to die from dehydration in a few hours.
So, if you happen to have a problem with bed bugs, lice, mites, roaches, termites or ants, simply apply this powder in areas you know they’ll show up. For bed bugs and termites, be sure to fill in all the cracks and crevices of the furniture or walls so there’s no way they’ll escape.
DIY Lice Treatment
Head lice are generally treated by special, toxic shampoos, but there are much safer alternatives. The most effective treatment would be to just shave off all of your hair, but for many people this is not an option. Luckily, you can try this DIY mix instead.
Simply mix two ounces of vegetable oil, 20 drops of tea tree oil, and 10 drops of essential oils of rosemary, lavender and lemon, and you’re good to go. But before you start, place a small drop of the substance on your arm and wait one hour, to check that you don’t suffer any allergic reaction. If it’s good, then rub a generous amount of the oil into your scalp, then leave it for one hour, covered with a towel. Use a special lice comb to brush the lice out of your hair, then dry with a hair dryer for around 10-15 minutes. Be sure to repeat the treatment after one week to ensure they don’t come back.
Extreme cold is one of the best ways to fight bed bugs. It’s an ideal solution for those who live in colder climates, such as Canada and northern areas of the U.S., since all they have to do is leave their house exposed for a few days to kill off the bugs. Simply turn off the heating and all other heat sources, leave the windows open, then leave your home for a few days. This will ensure the bed bugs to death, and you can return to an infestation-free home after just 3-4 days.
If for whatever reason you’re unable to leave your home for this amount of time, an alternative idea is to take all of your bedding and place it in a deep freeze for a few days to kill off those unwanted critters.
Just as bed bugs don’t appreciate the cold, they’re also averse to extreme heat and will actually die even faster this way. In addition, heat treatment is also effective against termites too.
In order to kill bed bugs, you’ll need to expose them to a minimum of 118 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 90 minutes to ensure they die. This degree of heat will kill both the bugs and their eggs.
If you wish to do this yourself (instead of hiring a professional), you’ll need to carefully bag up all of your clothing and bedding, as well as cloth furniture like mattresses, sofas and armchairs. Be sure to place them in black plastic bags (garbage bags are ideal), as this retains more heat. You now have two options – purchase or hire a heat steamer, or if you live somewhere with a warm climate, you can simply leave your bagged up clothing and furniture outside for 2-3 days. Once done, immediately vacuum all of your clothing and furniture, then wash the clothing and bedding in hot water before drying at the highest heat setting to ensure every last one is dead.
A nice option for killing termites is Orange oil. Orange oil contains a substance called d-limonene, which has the desirable effect of killing dry-wood termites on contact. As such, it’s one of the most effective eco-friendly pesticides for killing these hardy creatures when the infestation is still small.
Simply apply the orange oil onto surfaces close to where the termite colony is located. Be sure to reapply every day for at least a week. Another tactic is to drill a few small holes in infested surfaces, then inject the oil into those hollow spaces. Be sure to keep re-injecting each day until you’re sure the termites are all dead.
Soap and Water Spray
Believe it or not, as simple as this sounds, soap and water is one of the most effective ways to kill cockroaches. It works because these bugs (and many others) breathe through their exoskeletons. When they’re covered with soapy water, it stops them from breathing and kills them rapidly. This trick is also effective with Carpenter ants and other invasive species.
As well as spraying directly onto bugs, you can also spray soapy water around the entrances and exterior of your home to prevent lots of bugs from coming inside.
Wet Cardboard Traps
One final, non-toxic way to kill termites is to set up a wet cardboard trap. This method is effective because cardboard contains lots of cellulose (the substance in wood that termites feed on), and the aroma of wet cardboard is almost irresistible for them.
Simply tear a corrugated cardboard box into strips, wet them down and place them close to areas where you suspect a termite infestation. Then, just wait a few hours and as soon as you see termites feeding on the box, remove it and burn it. Once done, quickly place a new trap to catch more of the bugs, and keep repeating this until they no longer return.
With the exception of rats, the above three creatures are probably the least welcome in our homes. This is due to their propensity to instill greater fear, loathing and disgust than any other common household pests. While these reactions are probably a bit over-the-top (with the exception of roaches, which are known to trigger allergies and asthma, and sometimes even transmit disease), it’s a given that most homeowners will want to do whatever it takes to keep them outside.
So what can be done about spiders, ants and roaches? The following paragraphs lay out the best preventative strategies and control methods.
Spiders induce more terror in people than any other household pest. Many people, will scream and flee in terror at the sight of one, yet this hysteria is largely unwarranted. For the most part, spiders are harmless and will run away from humans. And indeed, they can be beneficial too because they consume numerous destructive pests in the home.
Still, the benefits of spiders are not enough to convince most people, who’d prefer it if they never saw one in their home ever again.
While chemical pesticides offer a sure way of killing spiders, it’s far better to just remove them from your home – if you’re not too afraid to do so! The easiest and safest way to remove spiders is to cover it with a glass jar, slip a card or something similar over the top and then take it outside. Another method is to use the vacuum cleaner and simply suck them up. This is effective when the spider is tucked away in a crevice or corner, or hiding underneath furniture.
Outside of the home (in outbuildings, barns and such) it’s pointless to try and control spiders because the habitat is so comfortable that they will always return. However, you can take steps to minimize surprises by keeping things neat and tidy, and sealing up boxes.
Ants are one of the most common insects on earth, so it’s no surprise that they’re often seen invading people’s homes. In fact, most ants are not such a problem, because they can help to clear up the home by carrying away bits of organic matter (food crumbs etc) that fall onto the floor. Ants also eat other pests too.
However, there are some species of ant that are much more destructive than others. The worst culprit is the carpenter ant, which can actually damage the structure of your home, and should therefore be eliminated as soon as possible.
Most other ants can be controlled quite easily with simple sanitation. Keep your home clean and tidy, free of scraps of food on the floor and counter tops, and there will be little left for the ants to scavenge, which means they won’t waste much time searching your home. Along with keeping things clean, it’s also important not to leave food out in the open. That means covering things with lids or tightly sealing them in containers.
A second tactic is to try and prevent the ants from accessing your home via cracks around the windows or in the walls. You can use a silicone seal to fill up most gaps and prevent them from entering. Alternatively, there are special chalks that can be used (literally just draw around the doorways etc.) to block their entrance.
Beware of ants that have nested inside your home however, as these are a much bigger problem. Ideally, you should try to locate the nest by following any trails of ants, and then remove it. If you cannot locate the nest, you can always try to poison the ants with bait stations (in conjunction with proper sanitation). Bait stations are preferable to spray pesticides because you won’t have to run around the house chasing them first. Just let the ants come to you. As for the best chemicals to use, boric acid, diatomaceous earth, silica gel, and pyrethrum are some of the least toxic options available.
Saving worst for last, cockroaches have a long-established reputation as one of the dirtiest, most annoying, and most persistent of household pests. Roaches are rightly loathed because they’re disease carriers, they can contaminate food, and encourage allergies. Roaches generally like to hide away inside cracks and crevices, emerging at night to feed on food and crumbs. However, roaches will eat other things if no food is available, such as soap bars, wallpaper paste and glue. They can generally be found in warm, moist areas of the home, such as bathrooms and kitchens, or nearby washing machines.
Roaches can be tough to get rid of. One’s strategy for controlling them must focus on reducing food, water and any possible hiding places for them.
To start, it’s essential to keep your home extremely clean. Pay careful attention to those areas where grease and dirt accumulate, such as vents, stoves, drains, behind refrigerators and washing machines. Also ensure that all fatty, sweet, and starchy foods are properly sealed in their containers and not left out. Be sure to vacuum or sweep the floor so it’s clear of crumbs. Clean in hard to reach places where debris can accumulate. Also, don’t leave pet food or bowls of water out overnight. In other words, you’ll need to ensure your home (especially the kitchen and bathroom) is spotless.
If and when you stumble across a roach’s hiding hole, be sure to clean and vacuum that area as soon as you can. Just as important, you should examine all of the baseboards, cupboards, sinks, bathroom fixtures and pipes in your home. While doing this, seal and patch any large holes, cracks and crevices you find. Also attempt to seal all entry points to your home (cracks between the wall and the window, for example), and put screens up against any air vents. Lastly, be sure to take the garbage out every night.
If push comes to shove, you may well need to resort to chemicals to kill off the roaches. One of the best available is boric acid, which is a great alternative to commercial pesticides. Boric acid is very effective at killing roaches, even if it takes a little time to work. It’s also great to use when you find cracks and crevices that can’t be plugged easily.
A second option is roach baits, which are housed inside sturdy traps that ensure young children and pets can’t harm themselves. Simply place the baits where roaches are likely to be. Places like under kitchen sinks, behind refrigerators and stoves, or in the bathroom are best.
You finally have a relaxing weekend at home, so of course that means tackling a house project. The garage hasn’t been cleaned up in many months, so how about some spring cleaning? You notice a few pieces of wood in the corner that look a bit dusty. No problem – just put those with your other project pieces and clean them up. To your horror, when you start to move the pieces of wood, you notice hundreds of small, worm-looking insects eating the underside of the wood! They’ve already eaten half a plank, and there seems to be hundreds of them.
If you’re a homeowner, it’s always a shock whenever you find a bug or rodent that has wrongfully trespassed in your home. When you’re faced with a situation that requires pest control to fix it, who do you chose to fix the problem? The small guy, or the bigger company?
First, let’s talk about the smaller companies. If you are brand new to your area or don’t know of any pest companies, it’s difficult to decide what company to choose. It’s been studied and proven that consumers see customer service as their top priority when choosing a pest company. According to emarkerter’s article on Consumers Favor Small Businesses Because of Their Customer Focus, they explain, “US consumers are choosing small businesses because of the personalized experiences they provide compared with larger businesses.”
Consumers want a committed owner, personal and face-to-face interaction, and friendly interactions. With smaller companies, there’s a family-friendly environment because their consumer base is much smaller than a big company. Since small companies are trying to grow and gain more clients, they put a large emphasis on customer service, so that you’ll spread their business through word-of-mouth and be a repeat customer. In a large business, your name and pest problem can easily be forgotten amidst the hundreds of customers they service.
Even though studies show that pricing isn’t a top concern for consumers – it’s still a determining factor. Pest problems can cost hundreds, if not thousands of dollars to fix. Booking a job with a small company, according to Forbes, means that local business owners are more likely to give back to your community. Instead of potentially paying for a CEO’s pool house, you’ll instead be helping a small business grow, pay for their operational costs, and in turn, help them give back to your community. Since small businesses service a specific community, it’s no surprise that they take community-involvement very seriously.
Now let’s talk about big companies. One of the determining factors they have are their client reviews. Compared to smaller companies, large companies have many clients that they can incentivize to post informative reviews online about their experience with the company. According to advice from SalesHub, “Your online business reviews are actually a fantastic way to obtain feedback about your products, services or business overall. By reading your own reviews, you can get a sense of what the customer was looking for. You can see what the strengths of your products, services or business were and what the weakness were.” So these large companies take their reviews very seriously. Think about it: if you saw and read through dozens of 5-star reviews, then you would feel that company is more trustworthy, and you would be more likely to call that large company for your pest problem.
Compared to the days of phone books, nowadays consumers find answers to their problems through search engines, like Google. If a consumer searched for a pest control company, then the active, large company will be one of the first ones to pop up. Since they have the money to spend on marketing, web design, and SEO, large companies are able to put their company at the top of the list and have an updated website. From there, many large customers can fill out a contact form about their problem, read reviews, and learn more about the company, without ever even having to pickup the phone.
To sum it all up, typically large businesses have the money to hire the seasoned technicians, have an easy-to-navigate website, and service a large area for different calls throughout the week. Comparatively, small companies are very community-based, pride themselves on excellent customer service, and typically put your money back into the community.
The detriment of whether you should pick a small business or large company, is what is most important to you personally in a pest company. If you want to support a local, growing business and experience great customer service, then the best choice is to pick a small business. However, if you would prefer a more established, technologically-advanced corporation with plenty of great reviews, then call a big company to take care of your problem.
Just remember – after you have contacted and had your choice of companies out to fix your pest problem, make sure you let others know how your experience went. How did you feel about the company’s customer service, their ease of scheduling, and the timeliness of fixing your pest problem? Leave an honest review and share your experience with friends and family, so others can make an informed decision between choosing a small guy, or a large business.
Bed bugs are a nasty, almost microscopic insect that can cause all kinds of discomfort during the night. While many people prefer to reach for the phone to call a pest control man, it’s perfectly possible to eliminate them by yourself.
Eliminating bed bugs yourself means searching for the pests, and then killing them or removing them. Success requires a great deal of patience, as well as the ability to conduct a thorough search in all the places they could be hiding. With a little determination, you will surely get rid of them soon.
Tools You’ll Need
In order to start your bed bug hunt you’ll need a few tools in your armory, all of which are easily available in a hardware store if you don’t already have them at home.
A flashlight: This is important because bed bugs love to hide in hard to reach nooks and crannies. Note that bed bugs are usually brown or dark red in color, or light brown if they haven’t fed for a while. As such, it’s difficult to spot them, but by placing a flashlight on the floor the bugs and their eggs will cast small shadows that allow you to see them easily.
A credit card or playing card: Plastic is best as it’s more durable. You’ll need this to scrape into those hard to reach cracks and crevices that bed bugs love to hide in.
Sticky tape: With sticky tape you can capture some of the bed bugs and confirm they are indeed what you assume them to be.
Hot soapy water and a cloth: This is your main weapon. You’ll use this to wipe up the majority of the bugs. A wet cloth is surprisingly efficient at catching most bed bugs. When you wipe down surfaces with hot, soapy water it will also help you to flush out more of them. It’s particularly effective when you find a large cluster of bugs, as you can quickly scoop them up all in one go.
Garbage bags: When you’re cleaning up an infested room, it’s a good idea to place bedding and clothes in plastic garbage bags and seal them. This is so they can be moved, and later cleaned without the bugs jumping off and spreading to other parts of the home.
Several mattress encasements: If you’re wondering what a mattress encasement, it’s basically a large, sealable bag made from fabric that you can place your mattress in. Once its been sealed shut, the bed bugs will be unable to escape and eventually die from a lack of food. Beware that you’ll need a separate mattress encasement for each bed in your home, and also the box-spring. The bugs will start to die off after around two weeks. However, most experts recommend that the encasement be left on for at least one year, in case any eggs are left lying around.
Set Up a “Safe Zone”
Before you set about your task, you’ll need to establish a “safe zone”. A “safe zone” is clean area where you can place items of furniture, clothing and other objects, once they’ve been inspected and you’re sure they’re free from bed bugs. Begin in the corner of one room and carefully use your card to scrape the edges of the wall. Be sure to dig into the cracks and get rid of all the bugs you find. You’ll need to be very thorough, because bed bugs love to hide away, so for example make sure you squeeze your card between the floor and the baseboard and scrape everything out. After you’ve scraped everywhere, clean the surfaces with soap and water, and keep a close eye out for anything that moves – it’s most likely a bug!
If your room has carpeted areas, be sure to vacuum it carefully too. Also, be sure to check any pictures or posters on the walls.
Now you can begin cleaning other items and place these inside the safe zone once they’re decontaminated. As you progress through the items in the room, this will free up extra space allowing you to expand your safe zone to accommodate furniture and items from the rest of the home. While you’re at it, be sure to put any clothes and bedding into plastic garbage bags and take them away to be laundered.
Finding The Bed Bugs
Now comes the fun part. First, know what you’re looking for – you’re searching for adult bed bugs, young bed bugs, and their eggs. Begin with the bed, which includes the mattress, bed frame and box-spring. Check all the visible areas first, looking carefully at all of the edge and corners. With the mattress, check carefully along the stitching lines as bugs love to hide in these. You can check five sides of the mattress without lifting it off the bed. Next, stand it up to check the bottom side.
Once the mattress is cleaned and bagged in the encasement, repeat the same task with the box-spring. You’ll need to be aware that box-springs usually have “ticking” (loose fabric) stapled to the underside, and plastic edge guards too. Be sure to check these carefully, as well as all of the surfaces. Check there are no bugs hidden inside the box-spring either. To do this, remove the ticking to check the cracks and crevices underneath. You can staple the ticking back in place after you’re done.
Finally, repeat the same for the bed frame, paying extra attention to the joins and any overlapping parts. Common hiding places for bed bugs include the headboards and footboards, which are often the first site of infestation. Also check carefully for any screw holes and slots.
After the bed has been debugged and bagged, you can move on to the rest of the furniture in the room. Ideally you should begin with the most visible parts first, checking all of the edges, the corners and any overhangs. Be sure to inspect all of the gaps, holes, crevices, slots and cracks very carefully. After doing the visible areas, move the furniture away from the wall, or tip it on its side to expose non-visible areas, and continue checking.
Once all of your furniture has been cleaned and placed in the safe zone, be sure to clean the remaining wall and floor areas that were not in your original clean zone. Now, all you need to do is put all the furniture back again, and proceed with doing the laundry to ensure your clothes and bedding are free from bed bugs, too.
Homeowners dread the thought of ever discovering termites in their home, and with good reason, too – left unchecked, they can render a home uninhabitable thanks to their insatiable appetite for all things wooden.
It’s actually our own fault that termites attack our homes. After all, these hardy insects are well known for being voracious wood-eaters that play a vital role in forest ecosystems. Termites rapidly break down dead trees, clearing space for new ones to grow up. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that when humans roll up and clear wide forested areas, and replace them with newly built homes, that the termites go looking elsewhere for their meals. And what better replacement for dead trees than a brand new home that’s mostly made from wood?
Are Termite Infestations Inevitable ?
Just because termites are wood-eaters, doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll attack your home. Though of course, if it’s made from wood, it is definitely at risk.
When facing termites, it helps to know your enemy. As the legendary Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu wrote in the Art of War: “One who knows the enemy and knows himself will not be endangered in a hundred engagements”. The same can be said of a termite infestation. If you know your enemy inside out, its strengths and weaknesses and what makes it tick, you’ll never lose a war, even if you do lose the occasional battle.
Termites are social creatures that live in structured societies, with its members divided into different classes. The king and queen are at the summit of this structure, with the rest of the colony being either reproductives, workers, or soldiers. The reproductive termites are the ones that begin the initial invasion.They have wings and they can reproduce, which means they can fly off to found new colonies, becoming new king and queen termites, and cause all kinds of damage to your home. Once a reproductive termite finds a mate, they either dig into the ground or bore into a wood structure, seal off their nest and begin mating. Once they have bred, they spend the rest of their lives simply sitting and eating food delivered to them by the workers. They live off of the cellulose found in wood, which is broken down into sugars that sustain them. Termites also produce lots of excrement. Usually this excrement is what provides the first clue that a home might be infested. If you find any lying around – termite waste usually takes the form of thin and tiny strips or pellets – it’s a sure sign that you have termites.
Reasons Termites Invade
Any home is at risk of being invaded by termites, but some are more likely to be invaded than others. One of the main risk factors includes water or dampness in and around your home. Water and moisture gets into the wood and can encourage termites to forage for food there. Some places where water may build up or accumulate includes the foundations of your home (due to drainage problems), and the front step (especially if there is a void beneath it). Backed up guttering can also cause water to drip into the void between the walls and build up inside the insulation material there – a common cause for so-called satellite colonies that live in the wall rather than below ground.
Eliminating Termites From Your Home
A termite infestation can be very stressful. Luckily there are several tried and tested methods for removing them once and for all.
1. Prepare a Bait
For subterranean termites, you can use a specially prepared bait to try and kill them off. Buy special “bait stations” at the store that can be treated with boric acid or some other termite-control product. Boric acid is the main ingredient in most insecticides. Alternatively, you can spray the boric acid directly onto wood surfaces, in and around your home. Place your bait in areas that you have previously identified as being infested, so you can be sure the termites will eat the bait.
Boric acid is a popular solution for killing termites because it is slow acting, which means the poison can be spread to all other termites in a colony before it kills them all off. It dehydrates the termites and slowly shuts down their nervous system before killing them. Be sure to regularly replenish your baits with more boric acid until you are sure all of the termites have gone.
2. Use Natural Remedies
Toxins are not for everyone. Luckily there’s a more eco-friendly option available if you’d rather not go down that route. One of the best home remedies for termites is clove bud oil, which works well in eradicating them. All you needs to do is pour the clover bud oil into a spray bottle. Then, generously soak the areas of your home where you know the termites have been. Vetiver oil also works similarly well.
A second popular remedy for killing termites is aloe vera. You’ll need to make a solution out of it by crushing it first, then placing it into a bottle. Pour in just enough water to cover the crushed aloe vera, then leave it to sit for two to three hours. After that, strain the liquid, then mix it with more water. About five parts water for one part aloe vera solution should do. Then spray this liquid onto any areas infested with termites.
3. Bake Your Furniture in Direct Sunlight
This method is only useful for items of furniture that can be removed from the home. Termites thrive in cool, dark and moist conditions, but will die if the heat, sunlight and warmth become too much. So simply leave your furniture outside for 3-4 days when there’s lots of sunlight. That should be enough to kill them all off.
4. Call the Professionals
Sometimes if the infestation is simply too big, the above methods just won’t be enough. That means it’s time to call in expert help.
Professional exterminators can be expensive so you’ll need to do your research. Be sure to call three or four companies for a quote first. Next, be sure to contact the Structural Pest Control Board to examine each company’s service record. (You don’t want to hire cowboys!). Also, ensure that you have a written agreement with the company that guarantees complete termite extinction for two years. With this, you’ll be able to call them back to do the job properly. Luckily, at no extra cost, if they fail to eradicate every last termite.
Photo Credit: giovzaid85 via Compfight cc
Cicadas are mysterious insects that are probably best known for the clicking and buzzing noises they make when mating season comes around. These noises can quickly become an overpowering hum that can be heard from several miles away when amplified by multitudes of insects at the same time.
Male cicadas make these sound by vibrating their “tymbals”, which is a drum-like organ found on the exterior of their abdomen. The tymbals are rapidly pulled in and out of shape by tiny muscles, in a somewhat similar fashion to a child’s click-toy. The sound it produces is rapidly intensified because the cicada’s abdomen is mostly hollow. The exact sound a cicada makes will differ greatly depending on what particular species it is, with some being much louder and more musical than others (check out this video
on YouTube for some examples). The cicadas use these sounds to attract a mate, and also to express alarm.
Besides being musical, cicadas are famous for something else too – they perform strange disappearing acts, vanishing for many years, only to reappear again in full force at regular intervals. But this disappearing act is not due to some strange occurrence, but an act of design.
Most cicadas don’t share these behavior. There are more than 3,000 recorded species of cicada, but only a handful of them are known to disappear regularly (the 13-year and 17-year cicadas being the most famous examples). The other species of cicadas are known as annuals because adults will appear every year, such as the dog day cicada.
Humans have been fascinated with the cicada’s amazing life cycle since recorded history began. Indeed, the ancient Chinese came to regard cicadas as a powerful symbol of rebirth, due to the way they emerged in full force after so going missing for so many years.
There are seven known species of periodical cicada that live a periodical lifestyle, including four 13-year species and three 17-year species. With each species, the cicadas emerge in massive groups called broods at a specific and synchronized time, but only within a specific range. What this means is that while all species of periodical cicada emerge during the same year, the exact time of their emergence isn’t synchronized, so while one brood may emerge in May, a second brood in another part of the country might not emerge until June. This website provides an interesting table of brood emergences
throughout the U.S.
Of course, this begs a number of questions – How do the cicadas know exactly when to emerge? And where have they been hiding for the past 17 years?
The Cicada’s Life Cycle
Of course, the truth is not such a huge mystery anymore. The cicada’s life begins as a rice-shaped egg that’s deposited by a female in a small groove cut into a tree branch. This groove, which the female cuts using her ovipositor, is meant to serve as a shelter for the female’s eggs. Tree fluids are exposed, and the young cicadas that hatch will feed on these in the early stages of their lives. Lots of trees eventually lose their smaller branches because of the damage done by cicadas feeding on them.
Once the young cicadas are mature, they slowly make their way out of the grooves and fall to the ground, where they immediately begin to burrow into the soil. The cicada will keep burrowing until it finds roots to feed on, and will then spend anywhere from two to seventeen years underground, tunneling and feeding.
After many long years, the cicada finally emerges from the ground as a nymph. It generally does so in late spring or early summer, as the ground warms. It then proceeds to the nearest tree available and climbs it, where it where it will shed its nymph exoskeleton. Once rid of its old skin, the newly emerged adult cicada will inflate its wings with fluid while its new skin hardens, allowing it to fly and sing its famous humming sounds. After a few hours, the cicada is ready to begin its very short adult life.
Adult cicadas only live for a few weeks, which means males spend all of their time trying to attract a mate with their humming, hypnotizing songs, while the females simply respond. Once two cicadas mate, the female will then fly away to find a suitable tree to cut new grooves to lay its eggs inside. These eggs will hatch several weeks later, and after a short time feeding on the tree’s sap, will fall to the ground and the cycle of life begins afresh.
No matter where we live, we all have to deal with pests at some point. It can be tempting to put off addressing the issue by telling ourselves it’s only one mouse, or only one roach, or that these things just happen. We stay busy with so many other responsibilities that the last thing we want to do when we get home is think about things like pest control and prevention. However, ignoring the problem of pests can cost us a lot of time and money in the long run.
While it may be easy to dismiss “just one mouse,” it pays to be diligent when dealing with rodents. Mice reach sexual maturity in just six weeks, and a single female mouse can have up to ten litters a year. One mouse then becomes many, and the problem quickly spreads into your walls, furniture, and sub-floors. The obvious signs of mice may be sounds in the walls or attic, holes chewed in the baseboards, chewed up paper or fabric, or droppings behind appliances or in corners. If you have seen evidence of one mouse, it’s likely there are others you haven’t seen. If left untreated, these pests can create pathways for more and bigger rodents, and can even cause electrical and flooding problems. It’s possible to treat the problem on your own, but it may be necessary to hire a professional if the rodent population has become too large. Rodents are not only a nuisance, but can carry disease and bring fleas into your home.
One cockroach may not seem like a big problem, but it could make a big difference depending on when and where you see it. Roaches are nocturnal and like to stay in dark, damp places until they come out to forage for food at night. If you see a roach during the day, especially in a room other than the kitchen, then the problem you don’t see could already be pretty serious. It’s important to treat roach infestations because cockroaches can trigger asthma attacks and spread salmonella and E. coli.
Ants and fleas may be small, but if left untreated will become big problems as well. Ants will identify food sources and leave a trail for other ants to follow to the source. Once they build a colony, there can be thousands of them. Carpenter ants, in particular, can do massive damage chewing through wood in your home causing potentially devastating structural damage. Just as there is never just one ant, there is never just one flea. Fleas reproduce quickly and can spread eggs and larvae throughout your home. In short order, fleas will be in your bedding, carpet, clothes, and on your pets. Fleas can cause anemia in smaller animals and have been known to spread disease.
Like cockroaches, bed bugs have been known to trigger allergies, and cause asthma. While not everyone is allergic to bed bugs, it is essential to treat any bed bug infestations thoroughly, as they can lie dormant for months at a time. Once they are active, they can cause insomnia while they are leaving bites all over any unfortunate sleepers.
Termites are a nuisance that can cause severe damage both inside and outside the home, and if untreated can become quite costly – with damages costing Americans in excess of five billion dollars annually. Termites will eat through wood, paper, carpet, and cardboard, and are considered the biggest threat to homes because they are difficult to detect until their damage is done. Winged termites will leave their nests to start new colonies in spring and summer months, and are perhaps the most easily recognizable evidence of the insects themselves. If you notice any damaged wood, particularly wood that looks as if it’s damaged in a honey-comb pattern, or any pinholes in drywall, or buckling/sagging floors, then you need to have your property inspected for termites. Termite infestations require immediate, professional attention.
It’s prudent to pay attention to signs of pests in the yard as well as inside the home itself. While brown spots in the lawn may seem inconsequential, it could indicate an issue with sod webworms and grubs. The damage these insects do from feeding can be unsightly, but that isn’t the only danger they pose; there’s also the problem of the natural predators they can attract to your property. Moles and skunks will dig up your lawn to find and eat these pests, and rather than that being any help to you, simply introduces a larger and smellier problem. It also turns a well-manicured lawn into a pock-marked mess.
No one really wants to deal with pests, but most issues of pest infestation can be handled relatively easily and inexpensively if treated early, before the pests have repopulated and caused extensive damage. In terms of time, money, health, and sanity, it truly pays to address the issue of pests – and not ignore it.
You’re an excited homeowner ready to do some upgrades to your basement. During your inspection, you notice several brown vines stretch up the walls to the wooden support beams. The support beams of the basement crumble at your touch revealing hundreds of pencil-size tunnels. Realization sets in you’ve got termites. While we’d like to believe that termites exist in far off tropical lands, or building mounds in the savannas where cuddly anteaters munch on them for breakfast, homeowners everywhere are discovering just how close these pill-size pest actually are.
What are Mud Tubes?
The most noticeable signs of termite infestations are created by subterranean species. Subterranean termite species need constant contact with the soil, yet need a steady diet of wood, wallpaper, and fiber made from plants. Mud tubes are made out of soil and bits of wood, which are bound together by a mixture of termite spit, and anal goop. The tunnels help to simulate their underground colonies by protecting the termites from low-moisture environments and predators. The tubes are used for three reasons:
- Exploration: These smaller tunnels stretch out of the termite’s home in search of food. Sometimes the tunnels are freestanding, and are abandoned when no food is found.
- Working: Once a source of food is found, termites create larger tunnels for the rest of the colony to reach the wood. The sizes of the tunnels are often times determined by the size of the food source.
- Dropping: These tubes stretch from the food source to the ground. The appearances of these dropping tunnels are similar to cave stalactites.
If during inspection muddy clumps are found behind the walls, this might be a sign of Formosan termites. Similar to their subterranean cousins, Formosans need a damp environment to survive. This species opts for making large muddy nests behind walls.
How to Protect Your Home From Termites:
While the idea of having a termite infestation can be terrifying, it doesn’t mean that it’s not preventable. There are many species of termites that need similar conditions to survive. To make your home less termite-friendly, the following steps will help:
- Drain water away from the home: the more damp the environment the happier the termites are. Clearing away water will prevent termites from making a home.
- Replace damp or damaged wood: rotting wood is a termite delicacy and allows for easier access to your home.
- Inspect your home for mud tubes: beware of any brown vines that grow on your walls or large muddy clumps. To check if a mud tube is still active, damage a small portion of the tube. If the tube is repaired after a few days, the tube is still active. Be aware that just because a tube might not be active, does not mean that a colony is not nearby.
- Tap wood for hollow sounds: it’s possible that a colony of Drywood or Dampwood termites has made a home inside your walls. These types of termites do not need soil in order to survive.
- Check your floors and ceiling for any sagging.
- Check your plumbing for any leaks or damage: some termite species even eat through plastic. Leaking plumbing also creates ideal damp conditions for Dampwood, Subterranean, and Formosan termites.
- Be on the look out for frass: fine powdery substances that are termites’ waste.
- Have a trained pest professional look at any damage you suspect is made by termites.
As a homeowner there are many things to worry about, following the steps listed above will help to alleviate some of the dread for discovering termites. If you discover signs of termites damage take action immediately by calling on pest control before it gets worst.
Header picture by Csiro via Wiki Commons
Termite damage door by Csiro via Wiki Commons
It’s spring cleaning, time to rid the cabinets of expired food and unused cake mix. You start to notice there are some holes in the boxes and thin brown pellets lining the back of your cupboard. The scent of urine wafts into the air and the sound of tiny scurrying feet come from your walls. You have some uninvited house-guests. Wildlife isn’t in the woods anymore, they’re in our backyards, and some are gutsy enough to move in with you.
How to identify vermin infestation:
There are a number of vermin that like to camp out in the walls, attics, and under porches of homes. The damages they can inflict will be expensive and dangerous if left untouched.
- Dens: Skunks like to make their dens in dark places such as under porches or sheds.
- Smell: It is well known the scent skunks have. The only time a skunk sprays is in self-defense.
- Food source: disturbed garbage, missing pet food or torn up flowerbeds.
Rats, mice, and squirrels:
- Entry points: Mice can squeeze through holes as small as pencils. Squirrels look for gaps between the roof and walls. Open vents make for a perfect entryway.
- Smell: Sometimes a rodent can get stuck behind a wall without a way to escape leading to their death. The resulting stench can be overwhelming. The smell of urine can also be potent and attract more pests.
- Bite marks: Mice and rats need to keep their teeth sharp. They will constantly nibble on wood. Rats will also eat through soft metal like copper wire. It is important to replace any broken electrical wires, which can lead to a fire.
- Droppings: The most telling sign is poop.
- Nest: Rodents make their nest out of cardboard, papers and wood dust.
- Entry points: Snakes can squeeze through very small holes in walls or siding.
- Food source: Snakes follow their prey. If you have a rodent infestation, you might have a snake or two also lurking about.
- Hiding places: as cold-blood animals, snakes look for warm and dark places to curl up. If you think there is a snake in your home, check your bedding and cupboards.
How to remove uninvited guests:
Once you have identified that you have some unwelcomed friends staying over, getting rid of them can be somewhat difficult on your own, but not impossible.
Rodents and Skunks:
- Close openings: Search for any in your attic with a flashlight. Cover vents and fill in gaps that rodents can squeeze through. As a side note: make sure to check for offspring in the nest before closing opening. The parents will try to get back in if their young are trapped inside.
- Traps: One-way traps are humane and easy to install if you want to capture your intruders alive. Snapping mousetraps can help with mice and rats, so long as you don’t mind the clean up later.
- Frequency repellents: There are certain frequencies that animals react to or find uncomfortable, finding the right kind will help deter rodents from entering your home.
- Keep food in airtight containers or glass jars.
- Call a professional: mice breed fast, if an infestation grows out of control then a professional is the way to go.
If you find a snake in your home, don’t panic. Calmly move children and pets away from the snake to prevent agitation. If you suspect a snake is poisonous call animal control immediately, and do not approach it. If you can identify that the snake is not dangerous, and you are feeling particularly brave, you can remove the snake yourself.
- Stop the snake’s movements: placing a weighted basket over the snake, or trapping it in a blanket will stop the snake from moving around.
- Nudge the snake outside: open a door and nudge the snake along with a broom. Do not hit the snake, as it could attack.
If you find that you have unwelcome house-guests in your home, don’t panic. Follow the steps above to help clear out your infestation, or call pest control. Take some time to inspect your home for any entry points, and cover them up.
Some spiders are harmless and happy slurping out buggy guts, or building large intricate webs. Others can be dangerous with venom more potent than a rattlesnake. One of the most well-known spider species is the Black Widow, usually pictured as a large black eight-legged ball with a red hourglass pattern on its belly. In truth, there are many species of black widows that exist around the world and have a variety of colors and patterns.
What does a black widow bite do to the human body?
Normally, black widows’ diets consist of bugs that wander into their webs. They generally don’t bother humans, preferring to be left alone in dark areas. When they do bite, it is out of self-defense. There are a number of things that can happen when someone is bitten and the severity may vary from person to person.
- Burning and swelling around the bite.
- Redness or blisters and sometimes pus.
- Muscle, chest and/or abdominal pain
- Increase blood pressure
It’s important to note that a black widow’s bite does not commonly lead to death, which is a popular myth. Those most susceptible to the worst of the venom are children, elderly, and those with weak immune systems.
How to treat black widow bites?
While the venom may not be deadly, the symptoms can definitely sour the day. In most cases conventional treatments will work.
- Wash the bite thoroughly with soap and water.
- Elevate the affected area.
- Apply an ice pack to reduce the swelling and redness.
- Take pain medicine, such as Ibuprofen, to help ease pain and inflammation.
- In severe cases go to the hospital for antivenin (anti-venom).
How to prevent black widow bites?
According to Jessie Szalay, a LiveScience Contributor, there are over 31 species of known black widows. Many of them live in the South and West areas of the United States. The easiest ways to avoid being bitten is to wear gloves when rummaging through dark areas. Black widows are largely nocturnal and prefer to remain in the shadows.
Speaking of terrors in the South, fire ants are another multi-legged pests that can be arguably more terrifying than black widows. Where there is one black widow, there are thousands of fire ants and they are far more aggressive than the docile, in comparison, the black widow.
What does a fire ant bite do to the human body?
It’s never just one fire ant that attacks; it’s a swarm of angry red, sometimes black or brown, specks that race up your leg and attack. If you’ve had nasty encounters with them before you already know what to look for.
- Swelling and redness around the bites.
- Pus-filled blisters
- Sometimes scabs.
These symptoms go away after about a week. It’s the allergic reactions that really cause a problem. Most people may not have to worry about a reaction, or you can develop allergies to ant bites. What to be on the look out for:
- Difficulty breathing
- Rapid heart rate
How to treat fire ants’ bites?
Once you realize you’re under attack, leave the area quickly and use a cloth to wipe the ants away. Treating the bites is pretty simple:
- Wash the affected area with soap and water
- Cover with bandages to prevent further irritation.
- If the itching is severe, use over the counter itch cream to alleviate and prevent further damage from scratching.
- You can also use ice to help with any swelling that might occur.
- If you have an allergic reaction seek medical attention quickly.
How to prevent fire ant bites?
The key to avoiding fire ant encounters is steering clear of the ants’ nest. These are easily identified by the raised mounds or overturn soil. Keep in mind that there is not a singular opening, there are multiple entrances for worker ants to move around. If the mound is disturbed the ants will attack, in droves, to protect their nest. Destroying the nest is also difficult if you don’t have the right tools or know-how. Ants can survive extreme conditions and have even been known to create a raft or protective ball around their queen. It’s best to avoid the mound altogether and wear closed footwear to protect your feet if you do step into a nest.
Black widows and fire ants can be pretty terrifying encounters but not deadly ones. Wearing protective clothing while outdoors, such as closed toed shoes, and being aware of your surroundings will help from having your picnic ruined.