Category Archives: Insects

How to spot houseplant pests

Pests frequently enter a home through a seemingly innocent decorative staple: houseplants. Various insects and less noticeable mites can infest plants before they are even brought back from the store. Spotting the pests is the first step to exterminating them.  

An infestation can damage the appearance and health of the plant, and will occasionally kill them. Regardless of side effects, the pests pose a bothersome problem. 

Whiteflies
Whiteflies look slightly like gnats covered in a waxy white substance. Adults will have wings, and are typically very small. They’re not difficult to spot on darker leaves, as their light coloring contrasts with the plant. These pests are most damaging at their younger stage, as that is when they consume the plant. Whiteflies inhabit the undersides of leaves, so regularly check your plants for the small white insects. 

Mealybugs
Mealybugs are easily visible at about three-sixteenths of an inch long. They can resemble mildew, but upon closer inspection will be moving. Like whiteflies, they are lighter in color and stick to the undersides of leaves. They also populate near the stem and at the base of the plant, so be aware of anything that looks like mildew on an indoor plant.

Thrips
Thrips are tiny and darker than mealybugs and whiteflies, which makes them harder to spot. They hop rather than fly, so identifying thrips can be done after examining a plant for more than a few seconds under a magnifying glass. The mites eat flowers in addition to leaves and stems, so unusual streakiness on flower petals could indicate a thrip infestation. 

Aphids
Aphids are usually found on household plants, but infestations can be found in dense wooded areas outdoors as well. Indoor aphids range in color from green, black, brown, gray, yellow, red or purple. A study done by the University of Minnesota suggests looking for clusters of aphids beneath flower buds and on petals. 

A fact sheet from Colorodo State University recommends keeping plants in a separate area of the house, away from already-established plants for a few weeks before moving them to a permanent location. Scale insects (whiteflies and mealybugs) are present on most houseplants that have been recently purchased. Most mites can be removed easily by running the plant under water on moderate pressure, while whiteflies and other airborne insects can sometimes be tamed with sticky traps.

USDA shares preventative advice on Asian longhorned beetles

Faced with Asian longhorned beetle infestations throughout parts of Ohio, local municipal leaders met with U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) officer Philip Holmes last month to discuss containing current bug populations and preventing further infestation.

While these beetles have been spotted in surrounding towns, the city of Milford hasn't seen any reported cases yet. City officials are taking preventative measures nonetheless, local news source Community Press reports.

"We are so close to an infested area that there is absolutely a possibility of it becoming a problem here as well," Milford Mayor Geoff Pittman said, according to the newspaper.

Spotting an infestation
The Asian longhorned beetle is a destructive wood-boring pest that was first discovered in the U.S. in the 1990s, according to the University of Vermont Entomology Research Laboratory. These bugs are glossy black with white spots and can be up to 1.5 inches in length.

Holmes warned officials and homeowners should not confuse Asian longhorned beetles with emerald ash borers, which are also currently causing problems for property owners in the Midwest. While ash borers only attack ash trees, Asian longhorned beetles infest 13 types of hardwood trees, including ash, birch, buckeye, maple and goldenrain.

After Asian longhorned beetles lay eggs under the bark of trees, larvae hatch and eat the soft wood near the outer parts of trees. These young bugs will move into the heartwood and stay there for two-and-a-half years before fully maturing. Once they hit the pupal stage, adult beetles emerge from the trees.

While these bugs do not attack finished wood, their presence can be extremely troublesome for residents because they can destroy yard trees and infest firewood.

Know the signs
One sign of an infestation is a random pattern of holes in trees. When these bugs emerge from wood, they make a dime-sized exit hole with smooth edges, according to Community Press.

In addition, beetles create excretions called frass that look similar to sawdust. Egg sites may also be noticeable and are the size of a deer eye.

It's a good idea to look for these signs early, as an infestation can ravage a plant quickly.

When homeowners take proactive measures to protect their property, they limit the chances of having to deal with costly tree removal services. If residents suspect their home or yard is being frequented by unwelcome critters, they should notify a pest management professional promptly.

Emerald ash borers cause expensive problems

The emerald ash borer is spreading across much of the country, most recently the state of Ohio, and causing costly damages for local governments and residents, The Associated Press reports.

Much like other wood-damaging pests, the species can multiply quickly and destroy trees and hardwood. Native to China and Eastern Asia, emerald ash borers are believed to have arrived in North America in wood packing used to ship goods, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

"Just as a wild fire often spreads by sparks from the main fire, so the emerald ash borer is spreading through the state," Joe Boggs, an Ohio State University extension services educator told The AP. "Once these little, crackling fires are established, the population starts building until it explodes into full conflagration."

These bugs are named after their iridescent green color. Roughly â…› to ½ inches, the average emerald ash borer can easily fit on a penny, the USDA states. The small but mighty bugs are responsible for the death or decline of tens of millions of trees in 13 states in the Midwest, along the East Coast and in parts of Canada.

While the city of Dayton has spent roughly $40,000 this year to remove and replace diseased ash trees, Ohio residents are confronted with the hefty costs of damage to trees and hardwood located on their property.

"Every community, every homeowner, should be thinking about the effect the emerald ash borer is having," said Wendy Van Buren, urban forester with the state's Department of Natural Resources, according to The AP,
Meanwhile, Northland, Missouri confirmed the presence of these beetles earlier in December, reports The Smithville Herald. As a result, Platte and Clay counties have been under a federal quarantine that prohibits the transportation of firewood from these areas to prevent the spreading of potential infestations.

While emerald ash borers can fly as far as two miles, they most often get a ride from people unknowingly transporting infested firewood, Kevin LaPointe, a city forester for the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department, told the newspaper.

Keeping the home pest-free
Luckily, these beetles do not attack finished wood, unlike termites and other wood-demolishing critters. However, few homeowners want to see these green bugs flying around their property because they destroy the trunk and major branches of ashes and tree removal can be very costly.

Dead branches near the top of a tree and leafy shoots growing out of the lower portion of a trunk may be signs of an emerald tree borer infestation. In addition, these bugs make S-shaped tunnels and D-shaped exit holes in wood. If a tree displays signs of a pest problem, it's a good idea to call a pest management professional.

In addition, because firewood is a popular dwelling choice among these bugs, homeowners should inspect wood thoroughly before bringing it into a home. It's best to keep firewood outdoors on an elevated platform at least 20 feet from any structure. This prevent beetles and other more destructive critters from coming into contact with a building's foundation and walls.

Keeping your home pest-free while you’re away

Whether homeowners are traveling for the winter holidays, taking advantage of a three-day weekend to get out of town or heading out on a summer vacation, nobody wants to come home to a pest infestation.

Here are three pest prevention tips residents should add to their to-do list before leaving their homes for an extended period of time.

1. Seal up cracks and crevices
It's a good idea to inspect all corners of a home, including in the basement and attic, for any openings in external walls, foundations, door frames, windows and roofing. Insects and rodents can sneak into homes through tiny holes for food, water and shelter. Mice can squeeze through spaces as small as a nickel, according to the National Pest Management Association. It's therefore a good idea to double-check for potential entryways before leaving home for several days.

2. Clean up
Creepy crawlers and furry intruders are attracted to rotting food, spills in the kitchen and garbage. Even a few dirty dishes can lure in an ant colony. It's a good idea to thoroughly wipe off surfaces, mop up messes and clean furniture every week. Vacuuming is also a good way to prevent any small critters that may have already intruded a home from reproducing. Homeowners should empty all garbage cans into trash bags, which should be sealed tightly and placed in bins with lids.

In addition, the odor of food left out or in packaging that isn't completely sealed can bring in pantry pests and other unwelcome guests. It's a good idea to conduct a walk-through of eating areas and food storage locations before leaving to ensure dry products and cooking supplies are stored correctly.

Meanwhile, clutter of any kind, including clothing, papers or wood piles outside provide some bugs with dark, sheltered places to nest and should be cleaned up.

Outdoors, brush and untrimmed trees can harbor nesting places for rodents that damage yards and look for structures to invade. It's a good idea to maintain a well-kept lawn and avoid placing pet food outside to keep away raccoons and rats.

3. Eliminate moisture
It's never a good idea to wait until after a trip to fix a leaky faucet or dripping pipes. Moisture, especially standing water, can lure in thirsty pests. Residents can check around water heaters, in attics and basements for water damage caused by rainfall.

The last thing homeowners want to see upon returning from a vacation is a pest infestation. If residents suspect a problem, they should notify an exterminator promptly.

Some bugs may stink up the holiday season

Winter is knocking on the door, and while you're preparing for cold weather and the holiday season, dealing with bugs – especially stink bugs – probably isn't on your to-do list.

As temperatures drop, the unwelcome guests may try to enter your home, according to Fox News Oregon. Many bugs try to seek shelter from wet weather and infestations can become a problem for some homeowners. Stink bugs are cleverly named after the unpleasant odor they emit when scared, disturbed or crushed.

Homeowners in Oregon are reporting noticing the bug and its smell, and the Oregon Department of Agriculture told Fox News that the stink bug population is spreading throughout the state.

The Pacific Northwest isn't the only area reporting a stink bug presence. According to Lexington, Kentucky's The Lane Report, University of Kentucky entomologists are receiving calls from homeowners about the bug. The news source revealed that 13 state counties have reported a stink bug presence thus far.

The pests aren't only hitting a few areas of the country. USA Today reported that stink bug problems were recorded in 38 states in early October. The critters migrate indoors in the fall and hibernate throughout the winter, which makes cozy homes a favorable place for them to snooze as outdoor temperatures drop. While they can be annoying, stink bugs are not harmful. However, a large population can become a problem and it's best to hire a pest control professional to deal with the smelly bug.

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.

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.

Box elder bug invasion worse than expected

Many communities are accustomed to an annual invasion of box elder bugs, but the number of pests showing up this year has been extreme in many areas. Residents and pest control professionals are saying they haven't seen such large populations of the insects in years, and the unusual weather that has been hitting much of the country may be to blame.

The worst invasion in decades
Even though box elder bugs don't carry disease, they're a huge nuisance to homeowners, especially when the pests' numbers are so extreme.

"Speaking with other technicians, it's about the worst they've seen in 20 to 25 years," local pest control expert Adam Peterson told Waterloo, Iowa, area ABC affiliate KWWL.

The source also reported some homes in the area were completely covered in the insects, and it was impossible to tell what color the houses were under the thick layer of black bugs.

Experts speculate that the bizarre weather that has swept the nation is likely the cause of the huge box elder bug population this summer and autumn. Last winter was mild enough for many of the pests to survive, and the hot dry summer created ideal conditions for the bugs to thrive.

Many homeowners are hoping the first hard frost will come soon and kill off the bugs that are swarming their homes. But while some wait for nature to handle the invasion, others are taking matters into their own hands.

Controlling box elder bugs
While the first hard frost will effectively eliminate many of these insects, some homeowners are so bothered by the pests they're taking care of the problem early on and calling insect control experts. Exterminators in many regions are seeing an increase in the number of calls regarding box elder bugs as they continue to take over homes.

And the pests aren't just clinging to windows and siding outdoors. Because of the massive populations, the bugs are sneaking into homes, prompting homeowners to call for even more pest control services. They can sneak into small cracks, ripped screens or even gain access to a home by clinging to a resident's clothing.

Even though the pests may be annoying, they're not dangerous and they won't cause damage to property or spread disease. But despite their harmless nature, many homeowners are irritated by the insects taking over their homes. Those experiencing a severe box elder bug problem may want to consult local pest control experts to assess the situation and perform any necessary services.

Food manufacturers dealing with fall pests

Pest control is a major issue among homeowners across the country, but business owners also have to take protective measures when it comes to preventing bugs, insects and other pest infestations.

In the food manufacturing industry, safety is paramount and keeping unwanted pests at bay is a priority for every food manufacturer. With the summer heat fading into an autumn chill, food plant managers are taking proactive steps to keep their products safe.

"Depending on geographical location, winter can provide some relief from exterior pest pressures. However, certain parts of the U.S. will see year-round pressures from outdoor insects," Patricia Hottel, technical director at a pest management company, told FoodProcessing.com. "There are definitely some seasonal pest differences in the temperate climates. There are several types of fall invading pests to expect as summer comes to a close. Several of these pests invade structures in search of a place to overwinter."

Many pests are influenced by the temperature and other aspects of the seasons, with some more prevalent in the fall and harvest season. The news source states that these pests include rodents, boxelder bugs, foreign grain beetles, brown marmorated stink bugs, cluster flies, multicolored Asian lady beetles and more.

"Each season brings different opportunities for pests to find food, water and shelter within or around food processing, packaging or handling facilities," Dale Bauerkemper, vice president of operating companies at a pest control company in Wisconsin, told the news source. "Although chemical applications can offer some immediate relief, environmental control methods that drop the relative humidity levels, removing the water pests need to survive, are required for real long-term resolution."

What to do as a business owner
As a home and/or business owner, you should take whatever steps are necessary to rid any potential pest issues. Contacting pest control professionals can be the easiest and most effective way to eliminate your bug or insect issue.

Although there are personal pest control measures that can be undertaken to remedy the situation, these are not always effective and some may not be safe. Working with a trained professionals may solve pest problems more quickly and offer much-needed peace of mind.

Don’t let boxelder bugs ruin your autumn

As the cool fall weather approaches, so does boxelder bug season. These pests can infiltrate homes and cause problems throughout the fall and winter. When the pests enter a residence, their numbers can expand, causing a headache for homeowners. Even though these common pests aren't dangerous, they can become a nuisance and be difficult to eradicate.

Identifying boxelder bugs
Residents often notice boxelder bugs when the pests swarm to trees, structures and gardens lit by the sun. If you have a boxelder tree in your yard, the bugs may be an even bigger problem, since they often feed on the tree's seed pods. The adult pests are dark brown with red stripes and abdomens and are about half an inch long. When crushed, they can release an unpleasant odor.

Keep pests out of the home
Even though these pests are often found outdoors, they begin to migrate inside structures once the weather begins to cool. They can find their way into your house through open doors or windows, ripped screens, small cracks or even around your home's foundation. Because they can be tricky to get rid of after they have established themselves in a residence, it is important to take preventative pest control measures to keep the insects from entering in the first place. Ensure doors and windows shut tightly, repair ripped screens and seal cracks a boxelder bug could sneak through.

Managing the infestation
If there are boxelder bugs all over your home, there's no reason to panic. The pests aren't dangerous, but they can annoy residents. Be aware that even though it is possible to treat the problem, it may be a frustrating situation. If you have a boxelder tree in your yard, removing the tree may be the most effective way to eliminate the pests permanently, but this option can be undesirable or impractical.

Homeowners should be cautious when deciding if they should attempt to eliminate the pests themselves or contact insect control experts. Some home treatments may effectively eliminate the pests, but lead to a carpet beetle problem, as these insects will eat the boxelder bugs and possibly procreate, leading to a new infestation.

Upon detection of a boxelder bug invasion, vacuum your home to get rid of any dead or live insects that may be lurking around. If more than a few pests are discovered, calling an exterminator is often the best way to handle this type of infestation.