How to prevent a bed bug infestation this fall

If you're preparing for a last-minute summer vacation, the back-to-school season or a new job, you should be aware of a notoriously pesky insect: the bed bug. These pests are difficult to get rid of and can be picked up anywhere. It is important to know what precautions to take to avoid bed bugs whether you're staying at a hotel or moving into a college dormitory. Knowledge and preventative pest control measures are the most important thing you can do to prevent a bed bug infestation.

Colleges
Young people on a budget will often purchase second-hand pieces to furnish their college dorms or apartments. It is critical to inspect used furniture to ensure it is not infested with bed bugs, as they can spread. Checking small cracks and creases thoroughly for insects, eggs and stains is key to preventing an infestation from used furniture. College students living in school dormitories should be instructed by their parents to inspect mattresses and headboards to ensure the room is not crawling with the pests.

Elementary and high schools
College dorms, apartments and fraternity houses aren't the only place a student can pick up bed bugs. More and more elementary and high schools are reporting problems with the pests, and it is entirely possible for younger kids to pick them up unknowingly and bring them home. Teaching children to keep an eye out for pests and inspecting their belongings regularly is key to preventing an infestation, especially if your child's school stores students' belongings in close quarters.

Hotels and meeting rooms
It is equally important to check beds at a hotel when traveling. Bed bug infestations are not exclusive to unclean hotels, and luxury accommodations are just as likely to have an infestation as a budget room. These pests are hitchhikers and can crawl into luggage and clothing, making it possible to bring the infestation home when your vacation is over. Prevent a stowaway by making sure you place your suitcase on the luggage rack in your room, rather than on a bed or on the carpet. Upon arriving home, it is important to wash everything in your suitcase to kill any bed bugs that may have gotten in.

Seek assistance
If bed bugs, eggs or other suspicious signs of the pests are found, it is important to call a professional exterminator as soon as possible to handle the problem. Waiting may cause the infestation to worsen, and bed bugs are notoriously difficult for homeowners to treat on their own. An insect control company can recommend the best form of treatment for the pests.

Ants heading into Southern California homes

A hot summer is causing pests to seek shelter indoors, but Southern California residents are less than thrilled when they find ants in their homes.

A local pest control expert told the Southwest Riverside News Network that during different times of the year, ants usually seek several things when they invade homes. In the summer, ants often head indoors in search of water or carbohydrates. The unusually hot and dry conditions that have lingered across the nation this summer have resulted in many homeowners finding water-seeking ants in areas water is frequently used, such as bathrooms, kitchens and pools. In the winter, the insects are on the hunt for protein sources.

There are various types of ants causing insect control issues for residents across the region.

The invasive Argentine ant has no natural predators, so it can be difficult to eliminate entire colonies. These pests also are able to cohabitate with other ant colonies, rather than competing with them. Carpenter ants use many methods to get into homes, and can get in along pipes, utility lines and tree branches, in addition to crawling in through open doors or cracks. Pharaoh ants can travel long distances for food, meaning homeowners may find ants in their home from a colony far away.

Fire ants have also been found in California in recent years. These insects are more aggressive than other species of ants, and are known to sting both humans and animals. Keeping fire ants out of the home and nowhere near a homeowner's property will prevent a large group of the pests from attacking if they are unexpectedly disturbed.

There are some steps homeowners can take to prevent these infestations. Making sure cracks, holes and crevices are closed is an important measure in keeping homes free from ants. Storing food in tightly sealed containers will help to prevent ants from entering for sustenance. If a few ants are spotted inside, homeowners should wash down the surfaces they crawled across. This will eliminate the pheromone trail that other ants may follow to get inside the home and find food.

However, sometimes it is impossible to prevent an ant infestation. In these circumstances, an exterminator should be contacted to handle the problem. A pest control professional can advise the best form of treatment for a severe ant problem in a home.

Arizona family suffered with bed bugs for entire year

An infestation of bed bugs caused some major headaches for an Arizona household.

According to Phoenix-area independent news station KTVK, when an Arizona woman and her husband first discovered the bed bugs in their home, they did not know how to properly handle the problem. They tried getting rid of the pests on their own, but the infestation only grew, spreading to every room in their house. The couple began sleeping on chairs in the living room to avoid getting bites from the bugs in their beds.

Because the couple were embarrassed to ask for assistance to eliminate their pest problem, they learned to live with the bed bugs for more than a year.

Finally, the woman's daughter decided it was time to seek treatment for the insects that continued to plague the household. She arranged for insect control professionals to take care of the problem.

Severe bed bug infestations are a challenge to get rid of and often require professional assistance.

A local pest control expert told the source that the pests are notoriously hard to treat because even leaving one tiny egg behind means the bed bug population will continue to grow.

Exterminators spent hours in the home, utilizing treatments known to be effective against bed bugs. After the treatments were finished, the crew stuck bed bug-attracting traps on the walls. The traps determine if there are still bed bugs in a residence after it is treated.

Several weeks after the bed bug treatment, the couple did not find any bed bugs in the traps, meaning their home may finally be completely free of the pests.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that while the presence of bed bugs is irritating, an infestation has nothing to do with the cleanliness of a home. The cleanest of residences can succumb to a pest invasion, which is usually noticed when itchy bites occur while sleeping. Even though these bites cannot spread disease, scratching the welts excessively has the potential to increase the chance that a secondary skin infection will develop around the area.

Bed bug control is a difficult task for homeowners to undertake on their own, and those experiencing an infestation should contact an pest control professional for advice and effective treatment before the problem spreads to other areas of the house.

Ants drive Texans crazy

The invasive Rasberry crazy ant has been frustrating homeowners in the Houston area. Besides being an annoyance to locals,  the ant has the potential to damage electrical systems and decrease home and property values, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service. Since the pests were discovered in Texas in 2002, they have spread to multiple counties and do not appear to be slowing down.

The crazy ants do not sting or bite, and they tend to rid areas of fire ants because the two struggle to compete for food sources. The crazy ants tend to win, and the Austin American Statesman reported that they are causing more problems than the fire ants ever did.

Roger Gold, a professor of entomology at Texas A&M University, told the paper that families are already wishing the fire ants were back, as they struggle to rid their homes of the crazy ants.

One of the problems with the crazy ants is their ability to breed extremely quickly. A single colony often is home to millions of the pests, since multiple queens lay several hundred eggs.

"Their reproductive capability is astronomical compared to what we’re normally dealing with," Wizzie Brown, program specialist with the Texas AgriLife Extension Office, told Austin-area NPR affiliate KUT. "And the ant population can grow really large at certain times of the year. So we want people to keep an eye out for them, know about them and manage them properly so the populations don’t get that huge."

The enormous colonies are a serious problem, as they can cause expensive issues for homeowners and businesses. According to the Austin American Statesman, Gold said the ants have a habit of making their way into air conditioning units and getting electrocuted. The shock causes the ant to produce a pheromone that prompts the rest of the huge colony to invade the systems, which become so jammed with ants that they short out. The source said a local chemical plant that dealt with this problem suffered a $1 million loss.

Thousands of ants also invade homes in search of food. Homes are often easily accessible to them, since they tend to live under mulch, wood and other landscaping products in yards.

Because so many ants invade buildings at once, it is necessary to have pest control experts handle the situation. Exterminators can determine the best form of treatment depending on the severity of the crazy ant infestation.

Roaches found infesting Texas family’s home

A home outside the Houston area was recently found to be crawling with cockroaches and other pests.

Officials found the home in "filthy" condition, local news outlet NBC-2 reported. Investigators needed to wear masks to enter the infested property. A child was found in the home, covered in roaches, flea bites and tick bites. Several animals were also discovered with insects crawling on them. The child has since been taken into protective custody and the animals have been removed from the property.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the mostly nocturnal roaches typically prefer living in warm environments, like Texas, as most types of cockroaches originated in tropical areas.

It may be very difficult to rid the property of the insects. According to the CDC, ridding a home of roaches can be an extremely tough task for homeowners. This is part of what makes roach prevention so important.

Homeowners should ensure that there are no cracks from which cockroaches can enter the home, even though it is also possible for them to enter a house by hiding in boxes or grocery bags. While checking for possible roach entry points, residents should also make sure there are no leaking pipes from which the pests can access water. The scavenging roaches will often find nourishment on food that has been left out, or even unwashed dishes. Keeping a house clean and sanitized will also assist in insect prevention, as if the roaches will have no access to food, water or shelter, they cannot survive for long.

Aside from the cleanliness worries that may arise when a cockroach invasion is discovered in a home, medical issues can also pop up. The CDC reports that the pests are a known allergen source and can increase asthma attacks in those living with the bugs. They also have the potential to carry several dangerous viruses and bacteria, including Salmonella typhimurium, Entamoeba histolytica and the poliomyelitis virus.

Enlisting the help of pest control professionals is the easiest, fastest and least stressful way to eliminate cockroaches in a home. Exterminators can inspect a home with a roach infestation and recommend the best form of treatment based on the severity of the insect problem.

Scorpions, spiders heading into homes

Texas homeowners are dealing with some unpleasant guests, as they feel the effects of a blistering, dry summer.

The number of scorpions and spiders has drastically increased in Texas this summer. Because they are cold-blooded creatures, they develop quickly in hot, arid conditions. That makes the state's weather this summer the perfect environment for the pests to breed rapidly.

In order to cool off from the extreme heat, many of them are making their way into local homes, frightening residents.

Scorpions often like to hide in cluttered areas or bushes. One Texan told east Texas-area NBC affiliate KTEK that he found a severe infestation of scorpions in a pile of boxes and in his garbage can. He needed to seek medical treatment after being stung by one of the pests.

Scorpions are nocturnal, and like to hide in small spaces. For this reason, the Centers for Disease Control recommends that residents shake out clothing and shoes before putting them on to reduce the risk of a potentially dangerous scorpion sting. If stung, victims should remain calm and seek medical attention to ensure the venom will not cause a deadly reaction.

Besides scorpions, the heat is also driving more dangerous brown recluse spiders indoors. The brown recluse can have a deadly bite, but it is often mistaken for a common house spider, CNN reported.

These small pests are about the size of a quarter and have a dark spot on their otherwise tan bodies. They can be difficult to spot in homes, as they like to hide. Like scorpions, these spiders like to take shelter in cluttered areas, boxes, closets and dark corners.

Brown recluse spider bites initially do not cause any pain. Typically, within several hours the bite swells, becomes red and is extremely sensitive. Most bites heal on their own from this point, but in some instances, the bite can be much more dangerous.

In some victims, the venom will break down skin cells near the site of the bite. This eventually progresses into a lesion that requires immediate attention from a medical professional, according to CNN. Death from a brown recluse spider bite is rare, but can occur in anyone allergic to the spider's venom. Jim Fredericks, an entomologist with the National Pest Management Association, told CNN it's best to get a brown recluse bite checked out to make sure an allergic reaction will not occur.

Since brown recluse spiders are small, it can be difficult to implement pest control measures to keep them out of a home. Making sure screens are intact and eliminating clutter are some ways of preventing a spider or scorpion invasion.

A local pest control expert told KTEK that pest problems can also be avoided by making sure the spiders don't have easy access to a home. Therefore, firewood should be stored away from the house, and bushes and shrubs should not be too close to windows.

A spider or scorpion infestation can be dangerous and calls for help from professional exterminators who can evaluate the situation and recommend the best form of treatment.

Bees damage Florida home

When a Miami woman noticed humming in the walls of her rental home six months ago, she knew something wasn't right. Recently, the noise increased and began to sound like a motor was running behind the drywall, California-based NBC affiliate KSBY reported.

Thousands of honey bees were the source of all the noise. The property's landlord, who lives nearby, attempted to assist the woman in ridding the home of the insects by spraying them. They discovered the problem was too big for them to handle when they learned the bees were living in the ceilings over two different bedrooms.

Insect control professionals were brought in to handle the situation. After removing the drywall from the affected areas, bees swarmed inside the house and outside. One expert told the renter that she had at least 60,000 bees living in the home.

The source reports that when the pest control professionals cut through the ceiling in one of the bedrooms, honey flowed from the cracks. The pests built honeycomb around the drywall and even in the cinderblocks. The drywall will need to be replaced, and the cinder blocks will need to be removed. The landlord fears a new infestation of rats or cockroaches if the bee infestation is not cleaned up properly.

Massachusetts sprays for diseased mosquitoes

State health officials have announced that six communities in Massachusetts will undergo pest control efforts in an attempt to eliminate disease-carrying insects.

Mosquitoes carrying eastern equine encephalitis are not unheard of in the area, but they are being found much earlier than in the past. The infected mosquitoes are usually first discovered in late July or early August, but this year were found in June. The state has found more of the pests with EEE so far this summer than all of the previous year.

EEE can be spread to humans through a mosquito bite, and is often fatal. No human cases have been reported yet this year.

Multiple communities have already been sprayed recently, but some will see more aerial spraying to eliminate more EEE-infected mosquitoes. Residents are advised to keep an eye on local media, which will announce the dates of the sprays once they are determined.

"It's extremely important that residents in these communities take immediate steps to protect themselves and their families from mosquito bites," said state Public Health Commissioner John Auerbach.

Homeowners can take precautions to prevent contracting EEE through simple insect control measures. Avoiding being outdoors between dusk and dawn can help prevent potentially deadly bites. Wearing insect repellent or wearing long pants and sleeves when outdoors can also assist residents in avoiding bites.

Bees attack Texas town

Hundreds of bees attacked a neighborhood in El Paso, Texas, when something disturbed a local man's backyard beehives, according to El Paso-area Fox affiliate KFOX.

Firefighters were called to the scene to disperse the swarm of insects. The bees were discovered by a woman who noticed her dog had been attacked. The canine was stung trying to get to safety.

The fire department used foam to kill the aggressive pests, and found out the swarm had come from a neighbor's beehives. Although beekeeping is not illegal in the area, it can be a risky venture, especially if young children or animals live nearby.

The source reported that the man plans to remove any surviving bees from his yard and relocate them to prevent a future swarm.

One neighbor said a similar situation has occurred with the man's bees once already, and she fears another attack.

One firefighter was stung during the attack, but did not require medical attention. The dog has been reported to be in good condition.

Aggressive swarms of bees can be dangerous, and homeowners should use caution if they see a swarm. Pest control professionals should be contacted to handle such situations.

Giant wasps prominent in Texas

Giant wasps, also known as cicada killers, have been a problem in Texas since June, the Country World News reported.

The pests are two inches long and have orange wings, making them easy to spot. Residents often have no idea what they are, and report the insects as hornets, bees or scud missiles.

The wasp stings and paralyzes the cicadas before taking them back to their wasp burrow. There, the female wasp lays her eggs on the cicada and seals the nest. When the eggs hatch, the grubs can feed on the cicada.

Female cicada killers have stingers, but tend to rarely attack humans. Male cicada killers are territorial pests that can become aggressive, and although they lack stingers, they can prick humans with sharp spines on their abdomens.

The wasps can be a nuisance because of their tendency to dig tunnels in yards. They burrow into the ground where bare dirt patches are readily available, such as in gardens and around trees. Parents are also concerned about nests in yards where young children play.

Watering, fertilizing and putting mulch on bare dirt can assist residents in keeping the large pests out of their yards and gardens. Pest control measures and pesticides may be recommended by a professional if the cicada killer infestation is severe.