Hurricane displaces rats

A massive hurricane has rocked communities along the East Coast and it may be bad news for those fearful of pest problems. Rodents may be a big issue for residents heading back to New York City once the streets are free from water and debris. The need for rodent control may grow in the coming weeks as rats move into new homes and stir up trouble for residents.

Chased out of their habitats
The majority of the rats that call the New York subway home have likely been displaced, since the subway system flooded and forced them to move to drier areas to survive. While some residents may have hopes that many of the pests drowned and won't be a nuisance any longer, this likely isn't the case. Rats are able to swim and climb, making it probable that most escaped the rising water in the subway tunnels.

Moving and spreading disease
Because the rodents were pushed out of their homes underground, they'll be seeking new homes once the flooding lets up. A local pest control expert told the Huffington Post that if the storm disrupted the rats to a great extent, they may begin to invade areas they never previously lived in, meaning more people throughout the city may soon be having problems with rodent infestations. Rats driven out of their homes by water may be sneaking into apartment buildings, offices and homes causing trouble for residents.

Rat movement isn't a mere annoyance – it can also be a potential health hazard. Rodents are notorious for carrying serious illnesses that can be fatal in humans, and the first sign of a home infestation should be taken very seriously. Humans that come into contact with rodents, their droppings or their urine could become infected with a variety of diseases such as the plague, salmonella, hantavirus and typhus. The threat of these illnesses should be taken seriously and always handled by a medical professional.

Handling the problem
As residents begin to make their way home once the storm clears, they'll need to keep a close watch to ensure their homes and offices aren't infested with disease-carrying rodents. As soon as a problem is discovered, it needs to be reported to pest control professionals who are experienced in handling rodent infestations. Once an exterminator removes the problem, residents can breathe easily once again.

Plague worries residents

Some California residents are worried about rodent control near their homes. Several critters in the state have tested positive for the bubonic plague, a disease that wiped out entire communities hundreds of years ago. Many are concerned about becoming infected with the disease, or putting their families and pets at risk, but with basic knowledge, most should be able to avoid coming down with the illness.

What is the plague and how does it spread?
The plague has been around for hundreds of years and can be carried by mice, rats, chipmunks and squirrels. The disease can be transmitted by fleas or rodents, and even though it's typically treatable, it can sometimes be fatal. For this reason, it's essential to take steps to prevent becoming infected with the plague.

Symptoms of the plague include fever, swollen lymph nodes and weakness. Those suffering from such symptoms should see a physician to ensure their illness isn't the plague.

Preventing disease
One of the most important steps in staying plague-free is keeping homes free of rodents. Rats and mice can easily find their way into homes, and frequently do so to find shelter as the temperature drops throughout the autumn and winter. Cracks and holes should be sealed up as soon as they are noticed to prevent rodents from entering residences and potentially bringing disease with them. Food should be sealed to keep pests from sneaking inside for a meal.

Even if a home is free from pests, that doesn't necessarily mean its residents have no cause for concern. Precautions should still be taken to ensure no family member contracts this serious illness. Children should be warned to stay away from rodents while playing outside, and they should be instructed to never pick up or touch any wild animals – even rodents that look healthy could be carrying the plague. Burrows in backyards should be fenced off so pets can't start digging in them and chasing rodents, and family pets should visit the vet consistently to ensure they will always be protected against fleas that can spread the illness.

Once a rodent problem is noticed, it's important to immediately contact pest control professionals to handle the problem. Whether a homeowner has discovered droppings, nibbled food or a live rat, it's essential to have the situation taken care of as soon as possible. A rodent problem can get worse quickly, and having an exterminator take care of the issue right away will help to prevent the spread of disease and the other problems that come with a rodent infestation.

Hurricanes could bring pest problems

Hurricanes have the potential to seriously disrupt everyday life. When a storm hits an area, its strong winds, rain and resulting flooding can cause major damage to a community. However, there's another way hurricanes can damage an area – by bringing in an influx of pests. With Hurricane Sandy threatening part of the country, these storm-related issues are a concern for many on the East Coast.

After a storm, many return to their homes to find damage from water or wind, but they may not be expecting to discover a problem with insects, as well. Because hurricanes and other storms can displace or disorient wildlife, the potential of bug problems goes up drastically. The South Carolina Department of Public Health and Environmental Control reported that the frequency of insect bites can increase by up to 50 percent after a storm.

Insect issues
Once homeowners are sure it's safe to return to their residences, there are several things they can do to reduce the risk of unwelcome pests invading their houses. Downpours can increase the number of mosquitoes in an area, so it's essential to drain any standing water to eliminate breeding areas. Even if there are no puddles around, it's still important to take precautions, as mosquitoes can carry diseases. Making sure screens are free from rips is key to prevent the pests from entering a home, and when going outside residents should always wear bug repellent to keep the mosquitoes from biting.

Rodent invasions
Rodents can also be a concern for communities after a hurricane hits. While winds are high, trash may be blown about, which attracts rats to an area. Upon returning to their residence, homeowners should make sure there is no trash or food outside their homes to keep the critters at bay. Any holes or cracks caused by storm damage should be sealed as soon as possible – it's not hard for a rodent to sneak into a residence through a small crevice.

If homeowners return to their communities after a hurricane to find that insects and rodents have taken over, it's essential to bring in a professional exterminator. Because many pests can carry disease, they need to be removed from homes as quickly as possible. Without taking care of the issue in a timely fashion, residents may only find that the problem will get worse over the coming days and weeks. A pest control professional can help to ensure unwelcome critters are eliminated from a household, and that it is habitable once more.

Don’t let pests sneak in this winter

Many homeowners are preparing their residences for winter and potential bug infestations due to the cold weather. It's important to seal up cracks, repair ripped screens and ensure the areas surrounding windows and doors don't have any crevices that the cold wind or an unwelcome pest could penetrate.

Even though most homeowners think they're doing everything they can to protect their residence from bugs, insects can still find their way inside and cause problems. If residents are finding pests in their home during this chilly time of year, it could be  because they are failing to properly inspect their firewood, in which the bugs are hitching a ride inside on wood stored in the backyard.

Pests can lurk in firewood
On an autumn day, it may seem like a great idea to grab some wood from the yard, and enjoy a warm fire to ward off the seasonal chill. However, the lumber homeowners are bringing inside could be covered with insects, and if it's not checked properly before being brought inside, it could result in a pest infestation. As the holiday season approaches, many homeowners may be expecting guests and not have the time or resources to deal with an insect issue.

There are plenty of unwelcome critters that can hide in firewood, waiting to be brought into a home. Two common ones are box elder bugs and Asian lady beetles, while stink bugs are another problematic pest to look out for.

Avoiding the problem
Those who like to enjoy their fireplace during the fall and winter need to take the proper precautions before bringing any logs into their homes. A single piece of wood could contain unwelcome pests that could pose a threat to a home.

Most homeowners don't chop their own wood, preferring to purchase it elsewhere. Being a responsible buyer is critical to preventing bug issues, so residents need to be prepared to ask questions when making a wood purchase. Buyers should always inquire as to where the wood came from. Some areas are infested with insects that live in firewood, and bringing those pests home can threaten an entire yard once the weather warms up.

Accidentally bringing wood covered with bugs into a home can also cause problems – especially if the logs are covered in stinkbugs, which can be a real nuisance to homeowners. If some unwelcome critters do manage to get into a home, it's important to call pest control professionals to handle the situation.

Rodents abound on East Coast

Residents on the East Coast appear to be dealing with large numbers of rodents these days. From college students to working professionals, it seems that many are unable to escape the pests that are plaguing urban areas, and plenty of people are fed up with the mice or rats they're discovering in their homes.

Rodents on the rise
People living in the Boston area are becoming concerned with the number of rats invading their neighborhoods, while the critters are also making their way into homes and businesses. Aside from coming indoors, they're also making nests, holes and burrows in backyards and open spaces.

Busy neighborhoods around Boston aren't the only areas seeing large rodent populations. The Harvard Crimson reported that students around Cambridge are also finding more rodent infestations than usual. Students claim to have found rodents all over campus, both inside and out. They've also been spreading to the local train station.

The Harvard Crimson referenced local pest control expert George Williams who said the large rodent population is because the Greater Boston is a very old urban area.

"There are tunnels that lead to tunnels that lead to even more tunnels that we don't even know about," he said to the paper.

New York City is also having a problem with rodents, and one resident is taking advantage of the issue to exercise his terriers, some of whom were bred for ratting in the past. He has the dogs chase down the rodents, even if they don't catch many, New York NBC affiliate WNBC reported.

People in the Boston area are dealing with the pests in more traditional ways – by setting traps, keeping their homes and gardens free from resources rodents need and by calling exterminators if the problem gets out of hand.

Keeping rodents at bay
There's nothing more startling for a homeowner than finding a rodent lurking in a corner of their home. While mice and rats typically aren't very aggressive, their presence can still be dangerous. They can carry diseases, contaminate food and reproduce quickly, making it essential to get rid of the critters before the problem gets out of control or a family member falls ill. Residents who notice signs of an infestation shouldn't hesitate to contact pest control professionals who can handle the situation and rid a home of rodents.

Crickets causing problems in Southwest

While seemingly harmless, crickets are causing plenty of problems for residents in the Southwest, especially homeowners in Texas who are fed up with the situation. Hordes of the pests have taken over towns, while homes and businesses are swarmed with the hopping insects. Some areas have been experiencing problems with the huge numbers of crickets since this spring, and the warm winter followed by particularly hot weather this summer and fall has only made the problem worse. The crickets have been breeding more than usual, and it's starting to bug people who have homes and offices that are covered in the pests.

Bugs invading towns
The pests are a huge nuisance for homeowners and businesses alike. They tend to gather outside homes and storefronts, and when doors open, the bugs  find a way inside. Once they're indoors, they can cause residents to panic, even though they don't pose a health threat. When many find their way inside, some people are swarmed with so many that they're forced to sweep them back outside with brooms. Some structures are so infested with the pests, people are using leaf blowers to get them off of doors, windows and siding.

It's not just the sheer amount of crickets that's getting to residents – it's also what happens when they die. Although most are pleased when the insect population begins to diminish, this year it's just another annoyance. Particularly rainy weather has made dealing with the dead crickets as bad as dealing with the ones that are alive.

During dry weather, the dead bugs simply blow away and don't cause any trouble. But because of the increased amount of rain, many Texans are finding that the wet, decaying carcasses produce an unpleasant smell that's tough to deal with. Some residents aren't sure which is worse – live crickets covering their homes and trying to get indoors, or dead crickets laying around outside causing a discernable stench.

Keeping crickets away
Live crickets can cause plenty of irritation, especially if they're covering a home and penetrating opened doors and windows. However, homeowners don't have deal with crickets, there are several ways people can keep them off their properties. The Dallas Morning News reported crickets are attracted to bright lights at night, so simply turning them off can keep crickets away from a home. If the lights have to be left on, using yellow bug lights or sodium vapor lamps instead of regular bulbs may also discourage the pests from dropping by and covering a home.

Residents who have found unusually large numbers of crickets indoors may want to consider calling pest control experts to assess the situation. Even though the bugs aren't dangerous, they can be a nuisance, frightening children or even distracting family pets. A professional exterminator can determine what can be done to get rid of the crickets inside a home, and how to prevent problems in the future.

Pest control an issue in schools

While bed bugs have been invading colleges across the country, other pests have been making their way into high schools and middle schools. Unwelcome critters have been sneaking into these educational institutions, tempted by the food in cafeterias where students eat lunch on a daily basis.

A Chicago high school recently revealed that several of its students were sickened and hospitalized after eating hot lunches prepared in the school cafeteria. It was discovered that the lunches were contaminated with mouse or rat droppings, a source of serious concern to students, parents and administrators.

"When the problem was brought to our attention, we took immediate steps to close the kitchen and provide the students with cold lunches," a Chicago Public Schools spokesperson said. "At the close of school tomorrow, pest control will be onsite at the facility to alleviate any remaining issues."

Chicago isn't the only city dealing with pest infestations in its public schools. Several schools in Lawrence, Kansas, are under fire due to recent citations that indicate the district's pest control policies aren't being followed. The Kansas Department of Agriculture discovered mouse droppings and roaches in two different area schools. Even though the district is working to eliminate the problem, having pests near food prep areas can be a serious health hazard, and students who eat cafeteria-prepared food risk ingesting a contaminated dish and falling ill.

Keeping pests out of food-filled areas
Unwelcome critters such as rodents and roaches are drawn to areas where they can easily access food, making kitchens a hotspot for potential infestations. Preventing an invasion is key – pests can be difficult and stressful to eliminate, but it's not hard to take basic precautions to keep them from entering a home.

Homeowners who leave food out in the kitchen are putting themselves at risk for a rodent or insect infestation. Leftover food should be thrown away or immediately stored in airtight containers so it doesn't attract critters searching for their next meal. Dry goods in pantries shouldn't be left open or kept in ripped packaging. Airtight containers are the best way to keep unwanted pests away from food sources and prevent contamination.

Residents who fear an infestation in their kitchen should keep an eye out for warning signs such as gnawed boxes, nests, pest droppings or urine stains. If evidence of pests is discovered, homeowners should immediately contact an exterminator to handle the situation.

Stink bugs invade homes

Homeowners across the country have been fighting off an extremely unwelcome pest – the stink bug. The insect gets its name due to an offensive odor they emit when crushed or frightened. This makes dealing with an infestation extremely difficult and unpleasant for residents.

Stink bugs aren't just bothering homeowners in one part of the country – USA Today reported the pests have been spotted in 38 states so far. The area hit the hardest is the Mid-Atlantic region – Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia and Washington, D.C. have experienced the most problems. The source reported that 59 percent of D.C. residents have already experienced an issue with the bugs this year.

The invasive insect has been spreading quickly, and the hot weather this summer didn't do homeowners any favors. USA Today referenced  U.S. Department of Agriculture entomologist Tracy Leskey who said the long, hot summer increased stink bug populations by allowing two separate generations to breed.

These pests are causing concern among the agricultural community. Homeowners with gardens, organic farmers and commercial growers have all seen stink bugs destroy their crops, and the insects aren't picky eaters – they'll snack on virtually any crop they can find. Even more frustrating for some is when they get indoors and begin to cause problems in a home. 

Heading indoors
Even though the pests aren't dangerous and don't spread disease, they're still frustrating to deal with. The strong scent they give off can be unbearable, especially if there's a large infestation in a residence. Unfortunately, the bugs are invading homes at a rapid pace. To escape the increasingly chilly weather, they're seeking shelter in houses across the country, where they hibernate and then emerge in the spring.

An infestation can be hard to get rid of, especially once the insects start hiding in walls and attics to hibernate. A few preventative measures can help homeowners keep the bugs at bay. Sealing all cracks around a home can prevent the pests from sneaking in, but they can slip through tiny crevices near doors and windows, which homeowners can easily miss when sealing up their homes.

For homeowners dealing with smaller numbers of the bugs, pest control professionals advise not crushing the pests, but instead vacuuming them and immediately getting rid of the bag. Those dealing with more severe infestations should contact professional exterminators to handle the situation to help ensure the infestation doesn't continue to spread.

Bed bugs not just a problem in hotels

Many students feel a bit anxious when back-to-school season comes around and it's time to move into their college dormitories. Parents are likely stressed as well, trying to ensure their kids have everything they need before packing the car and driving off to campus. After moving furniture and boxes and making last-minute runs to the store, pupils and their parents may not be prepared to handle yet another problem – dorm-dwelling bed bugs.

Many people used to assume bed bugs were only active in hotels, but that's far from the truth. Bed bugs can live anywhere and spread quite easily, making it hard to prevent unknowingly picking up the pests and bringing them home. College students across the country are finding the unwelcome insects in their new dorm rooms

Pests make their way to campuses
Several students attending the University of Maryland at College Park have discovered bed bugs in their dorm rooms after noticing itchy welts on their skin. Some of the pupils reported the problems immediately, but were dismayed to find that the school took days to respond to requests for assistance removing the bugs, according to the school's newspaper The Diamondback.

This isn't the first time the university has struggled with bed bug problems. The Diamondback reported that some dormitories have had problems with infestations for years. To help combat the issue, school officials added a bed bug clause to their housing contracts in 2011 – students must now prove their rooms are free of pests upon moving out.

While some schools have had ongoing battles with the bugs, some colleges are discovering new issues just weeks after students moved into their buildings. William Paterson University, located in Wayne, New Jersey, has recently discovered an infestation, after a student discovered the pests in her room at the beginning of the semester. The school has taken steps to prevent the spread of the problem, but students have still been advised to wash their bedding and clothing, while also keeping an eye out for any bugs.

It's not just dorm rooms that are at risk – bed bugs can also be found in classrooms and other university buildings. Maryland's Carroll Community College recently discovered some pests on classroom chairs and simulation tables. The school quickly closed the infested classrooms and will reopen them once they are bug free.

Bed bugs can be difficult to eliminate, and those who fear an infestation should always contact pest control professionals. Without the help of an experienced exterminator, the bugs may spread and cause emotional and psychological distress for those dealing with the problem.

Unwelcome guests pester residents

Even though autumn has made an appearance in some parts of the country, many homeowners live in areas that are still experiencing extremely hot, dry conditions. The weather have caused a spike in the amount of cockroach infestations, and residents are frantically seeking pest control experts to rid their homes of the insects.

Weather increasing bug populations
The hot weather creates the ideal conditions for cockroaches to develop quickly and breed. Because many states have experienced heat waves all summer, the roach populations are up dramatically. Even though municipalities don't track the number of pest infestations, insect control companies told San Diego NBC affiliate KNSD that calls concerning cockroaches are up nearly 10 percent.

Like humans, roaches need water to survive. The dry conditions seen by much of the country has deprived the pests of a vital resource. Bugs are crawling out of sewers and finding their way into homes to access water. Homeowners have found roaches in their swimming pools, bathrooms and kitchens trying to find water.

Two types of roaches causing the most problems for homeowners are American cockroaches and black oriental cockroaches, according to KNSD.  Even though these bugs typically stay outdoors, the drought is pushing them inside as they seek water.

Unfortunately, roaches aren't the only pests causing issues for residents. One exterminator told El Paso, Texas, FOX affiliate KFOX that homeowners in that area are experiencing an increase in ant and cricket infestations, in addition to more frequent roach problems.

What to do?
Homeowners can't control the weather, but they can take precautionary measures to prevent insects from entering their homes during hot, dry spells. Residents should ensure there aren't any openings or cracks through which pests can enter their homes, and they should check screens in windows and doors for rips a bug could sneak through. Food and beverages should not be left out – they should be covered or stored in airtight containers to prevent bugs from entering and feasting on leftover food.

If a homeowner discovers a cockroach infestation, it's important to act quickly so the problem does not have time to worsen. Calling a pest control expert is the best and most efficient way to ensure all roaches are eliminated from a home and the pests no longer pose a health threat to residents.