Category Archives: Pest Database

National Pest Management Month: Four Common Pests to Watch Out For

We all know the feeling of the cringe-worthy moment when we hear little scurries across the floorboards, or see teeny droppings in our cupboards and run to call for the first available pest control service appointment.

For more than 30 years, the National Pest Management Association has celebrated the month of April as ‘National Pest Management Month’ to recognize pest management professionals for their efforts in protecting individuals’ health and property from those cringe-worthy moments. With spring season upon us, now is a good time to brush up on four common household nuisances and how to prevent or identify an infestation.

So the next time you see a creepy crawler and wonder what it is, keep in mind these four common pests:

Ants: Ranging from reddish browns to blacks and even yellow, ants are common throughout the year. No matter the climate, ants have an arduous way about them, making their homes in the tiniest of places. As the number one nuisance in the U.S., ants are capable of infesting office buildings, homes and restaurants. Ants are often attracted by sweets and proteins, so keep spills, pet food and other foods cleaned up and/or containers tightly sealed.

Termites: Termites live in colonies that can grow to large numbers. Their usual methods of infesting a home can include entering through cracks in concrete floors from underground, a space as small as 1/64th of an inch or larger. Termites can also be carried in through infested wood such as old furniture, firewood or building materials. Both Subterranean and Drywood termite colonies even have members equipped with wings, being able to fly into a home and begin a new colony. Make sure to have your home thoroughly inspected yearly by a professional to spot termites and/or damage before it’s too late.

Spiders: Varying greatly in size, spiders are often the sign of a more serious insect infestation. As carnivorous hunters, spiders feast on insects such as ants and crickets and hide in cracks and crevices under well-protected areas inside or outside the home. Being popular all year round, the best way to reduce the risk of spider invasions is to remove clutter, repair windows and screens and dust regularly.

Bed Bugs: Bed bugs are known to be travelers, packing away in your suitcase until the most opportune moment to make themselves cozy in your home. Living up to one and a half years, bed bugs produce between one and eight eggs daily. Since you can’t feel the bite of a bed bug, homeowners should be aware of inflamed bites with clusters or rows. Inspect your surroundings carefully when traveling to avoid bringing bed bugs home with you.

More Bugs: The Unwelcome Impact of Climate Change

What does the ever-changing weather patterns have to do with pest control? Quite a bit, actually. As northern parts of the country are experiencing extremely low temperatures, and other areas are oddly warmer than usual, the change in our typical seasonal patterns raises a red flag for changes in pest activity.

Irregular changes in the weather, such as spikes in cold temperatures, have the potential to significantly diminish a pest predator’s population, affecting the balance of the ecosystem and allowing pests to thrive and flourish as they take advantage and adapt without anyone to threaten their livelihood. As the populations of predators decrease, pests are able to recuperate from the weather change significantly quicker.

The impact of climate change on insects and humans is far reaching – forest and food crops could be affected and diseases spread by insects could have a wider range. Nature has a delicate balance and it doesn’t take much – a slight temperature variation, or even a movement in the course of a river – to cause changes that move throughout an ecosystem.

Since mosquitoes are the most common carriers of malaria and yellow fever, dramatic increases in these diseases would be likely. Moreover, both the National Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization report that current treatments for malaria and yellow fever are becoming less effective, leading to the potential for plague-like levels of these diseases, unlike anything seen since the U.S. Civil War.

Pests like the cockroach, bed bug, scorpion and mosquito are among the most adaptable and successful life forms on earth. For example, cockroaches are among the oldest living creatures. They survived the Ice Age, and are believed to have persisted for more than 350 million years. With that record of success, we can be sure they will adapt and thrive in changing climate patterns.

Bed bugs have been around since the 11th century and have learned to live and adapt as humans do while acclimating and adjusting to the warmer and milder climates, creating a new page in their pest evolution. In the southern part of the country, these nomadic pests have caused infestations to rise exponentially, threatening vacationers’ favorite sunny spots and bringing home with them unwanted house guests.

We know that there is a strong, direct relationship between the level of insect populations and fluctuating temperatures. As variations in the seasons become more evident, predictions for pest activity in 2013 reflect similarly to what we’ve seen in 2012. And since 2012 was one of the hottest years on record, what we can expect in 2013 is a continuation of abnormal pest activity.

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.

Excluding mosquitoes from your outdoor event

Mosquito populations are known to increase with warmer temperatures. Outdoor events are frequently crashed by the pesky pests, who are attracted to the congregation of people. Take the following pest control precautions to avoid unhappy bitten guests. 

Eliminate standing water
Mosquitoes breed in still waters: Females lay their eggs under water, so man-made ponds, bird baths, old tires, gutters and pools should either be emptied, cleaned or equipped with devices to keep the water moving. Extra attention should be paid in locations that are near a pond or swamp, or in places that have just experienced heavy precipitation. This will help to prevent a mosquito infestation from occurring in the first place.

Use screens or netting
The most foolproof way to keep mosquitoes out of a gathering is to close in a porch or tent with netting or screens, which can be purchased at a local hardware store. Check the material to be sure it’s in good shape and patch up any holes that may be present with wire.

Clothing 
Mosquitoes are attracted to dark colors, and exposed skin gives them an open invitation to bite. Recommend that guests wear lights colors, long sleeves and pants with thick fabric. The pests are a
lso known to be attracted to pregnant women, who may want to avoid insect repellent chemicals, so these guests may enjoy a screened area as mentioned above.

Repellents
Aside from insect repellent, which can get on food and emits a nasty smell, look into other ways to discourage mosquitoes from coming near the event. Tiki torches are available that burn an oil that may help repel the insect. They also provide a unique visual to a party. Similarly, candles and oil lamps are sold that provide the same effect with less of the hassle of torches.

Bug zappers (the hanging blue lights that attract, then kill flying bugs), while unpleasant to look at and hear, can also help reduce the mosquito population near your house. Mosquito coil is another option and produces no smell. The different types of coils burn Citronella oil to disguise the CO2 that humans emit (which attracts mosquitos). However, they make less of an impact than sprays and zappers. 

The pests aren’t just an annoyance: getting bitten also puts the victim at risk for diseases. Those over 50 are more likely to get malaria or the West Nile virus from a bite, so making an appointment with an exterminator such as Truly Nolen each spring may be the surest way to provide a safe, bug-free environment.

Indoor and outdoor ants can wreak havoc on the home

Ants are some of the most difficult pests to remove from the home. According to National Geographic, the insects live on most of the world and account for 15% of the total terrestrial animal population. They can be especially problematic because, regardless of whether they nest indoors or outdoors, they can still find their way inside. 

Indoor ants 
Ant infestations inside the home can begin when a winged potential queen ant makes its way inside the home. These ants look similar to flying termites but are bent in the middle instead of the cylindrical shape characteristic to termites. Some winged ants are merely drones, but they almost exclusively leave their original nests to establish new ones. If a potential queen gets inside a home, it will begin laying eggs and create a new colony as soon as possible. While many ant colonies ultimately fail, the ants may be able to eventually develop an indoor nest and from there they will travel into the pantry and kitchen in search of food.

House ants will nest in any dark, undisturbed spot they can find. The College of Agriculture at the University of Kentucky reports that ants will build nests in the walls, behind cabinets, and under seldom-used appliances. The fact that the ants will often nest in places that are already neglected can make them even more difficult to find. If the nest is hidden well enough, professional pest control is the best way to find and exterminate the insects.

Outdoor ants
Spotting an indoor ant does not always mean that there is a colony indoors, but may be an indication that they are coming in from outside. Ants leave trails of scent for each other to follow from the colony to the source of food or water. Known for their strength, ants will carry the food and water back the colony. Crumbs or water left on the floor are ideal sources for ants, so one of the best ways to prevent ants from entering the home is to discourage outdoor ants from getting inside. If they are coming frequently enough it may be possible to simply follow the line of ants heading in and out of the house to their colony.

Although outdoor-nesting ants are often less of a household problem, it can make their colonies much harder to find. There are many places ants can nest outdoors, including under gravel, beneath bushes, under old construction equipment, in the foundation of houses and many other places. Ants are able to nest virtually anywhere they can dig so the possibilities are nearly limitless.

Extermination
There are many do-it-yourself methods to dispel ants, but none are known to be as effective as professional exterminators. Pest control is usually best left to the professionals, especially since many of the products marketing for ant prevention will not fully solve the problem. To remove ants completely, the entire colony needs to be eliminated or the ants will rebuild. 

Carpenter ants cause extensive damage

Carpenter ants are known for being large, often having wings and destroying wood structures to make their nests. These pests can cause hundreds or thousands of dollars of damage before being noticed, so it’s important to know the signs of carpenter ants.

Nests
These ants typically have two kinds of colonies: parent and satellite, according to the University of Minnesota. A parent nest contains the queen and thousands of worker ants, and is where most of the resources gathered will go. Satellite nests can also contain up to thousands of workers but no queen or ant larva. It is possible for a parent colony to be outside and to have satellites of that colony inside a house. In order to maintain a full level of insect control, a complete extermination of all nests is necessary.

Nests will be most often located where wood is damp, since that is easier for the ants to mine. The University of Kentucky states that areas that are near consistent leaks or around sinks are common locations for carpenter ants to build their nests. The insects will often choose the bathroom, the kitchen or rooms with poor circulation where condensation tends to gather. There may be multiple colonies within the same house in different areas that are all affected by water in one way or another. 

Detection
Unlike termites, carpenter ants do not actually eat the wood that they destroy. It is possible to spot a nest by noticing small piles of what appears to be sawdust on the floor. Occasionally the ants will push all the wood they have ground up out of the nest to make room. However, this is not always the case, as they will sometimes keep the wood dust inside the nest with them.

Visually, carpenter ants look similar to other species of ants as well as termites. These ants are larger than other species of ant, however, and often have wings. While termites are smaller and typically white, these pests are large, black and have jointed bodies like that of a wasp. 

Extermination
Since carpenter ants will so often make multiple nests that are nearly impossible to detect, it is almost always best to seek professional pest control. Often exterminators will need to find all the satellite nests as well as the parent nest to ensure that the ants do not return. Simply spraying the visible ants will not work, as they will reproduce and return.

Landlords and tenants must cooperate to remove bed bugs

Bed bugs are some of the most tenacious pests that can infest a typical home or apartment building. Often times it takes several attempts to fully remove them, since they tend to burrow into every upholstered item in the home. Not only this, but they also lay their eggs in droves so even after all living bugs are killed, there may be a resurgence weeks later. Landlords and tenants often turn to professional pest control to effectively exterminate the pests.

Chicago
Landlords and lawmakers are fighting over the responsibility of removing bed bugs from buildings. Members of the Chicago Housing Committee are pushing legislation that would cost landlords $1,000 per day that they do not seek professional pest control to rid their buildings of bed bugs. Landlords, however, are complaining that it takes the entire building’s tenants’ cooperation to remove the bed bugs. If even one tenant does not thoroughly clean his of her clothing and other personal items, the building may become infested again and the process will repeat. One landlord claimed he had tried several times to remove the pests but to no avail since the tenants did not follow instructions. He was forced to call the exterminator again.

Tenants in all manner of living arrangements are feeling the consequences of bed bug infestation. While the insects do not directly cause disease in their victims, they do drink their blood and can cause painful rashes for some who are allergic. In some cases, these allergic reactions can even weaken the immune system enough to allow potentially serious infections to develop.

Urban menace
Beg bugs have a particularly easy time traveling from home to home in the city since they are able to gain transportation with people unnoticed. Bed bugs will often hide in a person’s clothes and can thus travel between places like apartments, offices, movie theaters and hotels. Infested furniture also tends to get thrown out and this discarded furniture is often picked up by people who are unaware of the risk, says a fact sheet from Chicago’s Safer Pest Control Project. Any item discarded with bed bugs in it should be marked as such to avoid spreading the pest.

The sheet also recommends talking to a pest control professional before using any chemicals or throwing anything out. Certain chemicals may be harmful and many items can be salvaged from bed bugs.

Pests to look out for in the early spring

Warmer weather introduces new challenges in terms of pest control. As winter wears on and spring approaches, homeowners may want to check for signs of infestations.

Ants
Carpenter ants are a common issue in the spring. They are more than just a nuisance- they are known to cause structural damage in homes. Spotting one or two ants isn’t indicative of a nest, but homeowners would still benefit from checking for their presence. Ants tend to congregate near the spot that they entered the building. The SnoValley Star suggests looking around where wiring comes through the wall, around windows in the basement, and small, out of the way spaces. Carpenter ants are known to nest in wood, and can often be found in walls and ceilings.

Wasps
Wasp nests can also pose a new threat in the springtime. The University of Michigan warns that yellow jackets tend to nest in attics, walls, and under eaves. The only way to verify an infestation is if the insects are spotted flying in and out of a crack in the walls. Paper wasps, one of the more common species, are typically found on horizontal surfaces such as beams, overhangs and supports in places such as attics, garages and tool sheds. Both types of wasps gravitate toward quiet, out​-of-the-way areas, but can be dangerous if they choose to stay in the walls of a home.

If a nest is spotted, but no wasps were seen in the area, it’s possible that the nest is dead or inactive. Wasps only use their nests for one season, so it may be that the nest is not in use. It’s better to have an exterminator come and look at the nest before attempting to remove it, however, to avoid the risk of getting stung.

Termites
One of the most common pests early on in spring is the termite. These pests are nearly impossible to spot, and the best method of prevention is to have a house inspection each spring. According to Business Wire, they can chew through most flooring materials in addition to wallpaper, making them able to invade a home with ease. Tips for termite control include keeping the areas around a house’s foundation dry, keeping holes sealed and stacking lumber away from structures.

Ask an exterminator agency to send a professional to evaluate the risk of pests for your home if you’re concerned about infestations as spring approaches.

Facts and myths about bed bugs

Some major cities have recently had to contend with bed bug infestations but many people are not able to separate truth from fact when it comes to extermination. 

Household products
Bed bugs do live in beds, as well as most upholstered furniture and in clothing. Once they have infested an area, only professional exterminators can effectively eliminate bed bug populations. Many products claim that they can kill bed bugs, but they are not nearly as effective as professional grade products that are typically not available to consumers. Products like insect foggers available from hardware stores are not only often ineffective, they can cause the bugs to disperse and spread out within a room or home. Foggers can also cause allergic reactions that are on par with the irritation caused by bed bugs in some cases.

While many believe wrapping their mattress and box spring in plastic can kill bed bugs, this is simply not true: It may help prevent them from settling in the mattress, but they will find somewhere else to live according to the New York City Department of Mental Health and Hygiene. New York City was one of the cities hit worst by bed bugs in recent years.

Bed bug bites
Bed bugs affect people differently. While some will develop itchy rashes similar to mosquito bites, others show no signs of bites according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People with no visible reaction to bed bugs often do not know that they are dealing with an infestation until they see the bugs, which are slightly smaller than an apple seed and reddish-brown in color. 

Fortunately, bed bugs have not been shown to transmit disease like other pests. However, they are still considered a public health threat by the CDC. Certain people may become more prone to skin infections due to allergic reactions to the bites, and an infestation can severely and adversely affect a person’s mental well-being.

Bed bug removal 
Bed bugs can be laundered out of clothing. Furniture can often be treated and used again. However, the pests lay thousands of eggs and it is virtually impossible to eliminate them all with simple washing alone. This is where it becomes necessary to contact a pest control professional rather than relying on over-the-counter products that may not be entirely effective.

Cold Draws Cockroaches Inside, Increases Health Risk

Children More Susceptible to Allergic, Asthmatic Reactions

They’re creepy crawlers that make most of us go “eeww!” However, cockroaches pose a much greater risk to our health than simple disgust at a sighting, in particular for those who suffer from allergies and asthma. In fact, cockroaches are known to spread 33 kinds of bacteria and more than a dozen other disease-causing organisms, including E. coli and salmonella. And now, as the height of the cold-weather season sets in and we (and cockroaches) spend more times indoors, the risk increases.

“Cockroaches are one of the most common indoor pests and many people are sensitive to the allergens that come with them,” said Scott Svenheim, an Associate Certified Entomologist at Truly Nolen. “They’re found in the cleanest of homes in all types of neighborhoods, particularly in crowded cities with a lot of older buildings.”

For those who are sensitive to cockroach allergens, the proteins found in their saliva increases the likelihood of an allergic reaction. The body and droppings of cockroaches also contain allergenic proteins. Recent studies suggest that exposure to cockroach allergen can increase the severity of asthma symptoms, and one in five children in the U.S. have severe sensitivities to cockroach allergens, according to The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Truly Nolen encourages everyone to take proactive steps to prevent cockroach infestations during the winter to help keep families healthy and safe:

Preventive Strategies

  • Keep food and garbage in closed, tight-lidded containers.
  • Never leave food out in the kitchen.
  • Eliminate water sources that attract pests, such as leaky faucets and drain pipes.
  • Do not leave out pet food or dirty food bowls.
  • Pay extra attention to kitchens and bathrooms – especially under appliances and sinks due to food and moisture found in and around plumbing fixtures.
  • Mop the kitchen floor and wash countertops at least once a week.
  • Plug up crevices around the house through which cockroaches can enter.

Limit the spread of food around the house and especially keep it out of bedrooms.