Category Archives: Pest Database

Enjoy Your Summer Free From Fleas and Ticks

Summer can be a great time for you and your pet to enjoy the outdoors. Here’s some information to protect you and your pets against fleas and ticks.

What Are Fleas and Ticks?

Although there are more than 2,000 species of parasitic fleas, the most common ones feed off mammals, including dogs, cats, and humans. Fleas are wingless, dark colored bugs that are very small (1/16 to 1/8 inch). Since fleas do not have wings, they travel from host to host by jumping, and can jump up to 7 inches in the air and several thousand times in a row! Pets living in warm, humid climates and those living outdoors are most vulnerable to fleas.

Ticks are most often found around your dog’s neck, in the ears, in the folds between the legs and the body, and between the toes. Ticks are capable of spreading infectious diseases like Lyme disease, so quick removal is important.

Protecting Your Pet

cutedogPrevention is key. Talk with your veterinarian to determine the best available flea and tick prevention method for your pet. There are a variety of products on the market including monthly topical treatments and oral medications. It is much easier to prevent an infestation than to deal with a house full of unwanted pests.

Every pet responds to flea bites differently. For some dogs allergic to flea saliva, a bite can make them so miserable that they bite and scratch themselves raw. Other pets may have a less severe reaction. Left untreated, chronic infestations not only make your dog or cat miserable but also can lead to infections and more serious flea-related diseases. Being aware of the signs and symptoms of flea infestations, along with prompt treatment, will help you keep your pet and their environment a healthy one.

What to Look For: Signs of a Flea or Tick Infestation

Pets are first infested by fleas when they are outside or when they are in contact with another animal that already has fleas. Wildlife, including opossums, raccoons, and skunks, and even untreated cats and dogs can deposit flea eggs into a yard. It may be possible to reduce flea infestations by limiting the access these animals have around your house and yard.

Flea infestations are most easily confirmed by examining your pet. Your dog or cat itching more than usual may be an indicator of fleas or ticks. However, if you are unsure, check with your vet. Not all scratching is necessarily a sign of a flea infestation.

Although they are tiny, you can see fleas scurrying along the surface of your pet’s skin. Fleas do not like light and prefer hiding in your pet’s fur. Their favorite spots include the base of the ears and the rump (just in front of the tail). Look closely at places with less hair like on your pet’s belly and inner thighs; this will provide you with the best chances of spotting a flea.

You can also part your pet’s fur in several places and look for tiny black specks, like pepper scattered on the skin surface. These black specks are known as “flea dirt” and are actually flea feces left on your pet’s coat.

Ticks attach to the body and feed by sucking blood. They do not jump like fleas, but crawl around rather slowly. They climb up grass and plants and hold their legs up to sense passing hosts. When a warm-blooded animal walks by, the adult tick crawls onto them and begins feeding. Ticks can attach themselves to any part of the dog’s skin, but are generally found around the ears, between the toes, and sometimes in the armpits. It is important to promptly remove any ticks to prevent tick-borne diseases like Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Getting Rid Of Fleas: Indoor and Outdoor Control & Treatment Methods

Once you’ve established your pet is infested with fleas or ticks, time is of the essence. But be sure to take things one step at a time. First, treat your pet; consult with your veterinarian to find the best treatment option. While your pet is at the vet for its treatment, you will also need to check your home as there’s a chance the infestation may have spread. Your pet and home should be treated simultaneously in order to break the flea’s life cycle.

Fleas: hard to see, difficult to eliminate. Fleas are a formidable pest and have several adaptations making them difficult to kill. Adult fleas can continue to reproduce and thrive on your pet and in your home until you break their life cycle. Under optimal conditions, the flea can complete its entire life cycle – from egg to larva, cocoon, and then adult – in just 14 days. This results in tens of thousands of new fleas to combat! Flea eggs are typically left deep down in your carpet, in your bedding, upholstery, or cracks in the floor. After they hatch in two to 14 days, your problem starts all over again.

Understanding their life cycle is crucial to understanding the importance of treating both the host animal as well as the indoor and outdoor areas. Although many products are available to treat fleas and your pet’s surroundings, the most effective products are those containing both an ingredient to kill adult fleas and an ingredient to kill the other life cycle stages. Simply sprinkling some flea powder or placing a flea color on your pet will not work, as these methods just go after the fleas that you see. That’s not enough to prevent the infestation from repeating itself.

Treating Your Pet

There are many safe and effective products available that will help eradicate fleas and ticks. Consult with your veterinarian, who will confirm the diagnosis and discuss choosing the right flea treatment product and other appropriate treatment options. It is important to tailor your treatment to your pet and their environment, since certain products in combination can be hazardous to your pet’s health. With any treatment it is necessary to treat all of the animals in the home. It is very important not to use products on your dog that are intended for cats (and vice versa). Your veterinarian can also determine the best plan for preventing fleas in the future and ensure your animals’ health and well-being.

Secondly, you will need to thoroughly clean and treat your home – inside and out – especially those areas where your pet spends a lot of time. Fortunately, there are several safe and effective treatment options.

Treating the Indoor Environment

Treat the entire house.

  • Thoroughly Vacuum. First, thoroughly vacuum the entire house, including hard surfaces. Be sure to get under everything – furniture, rugs, etc. You may also need to vacuum and treat furniture. Don’t forget your car, motor home, or anywhere else your pet has been. Once you are finished, immediately seal your vacuum bag in a plastic bag and discard it completely outside of the house and garage. This prevents the fleas from crawling back out and infesting your home or garage again. If your home has a central vacuum system, then you must empty the canister into a sealed bag and dispose of it outside the home and garage. Vacuuming and shampooing or steam cleaning the carpet can kill some of the larvae however it may also leave some live fleas. Some sort of chemical treatment may be necessary.
  • Hot Wash. Make sure to wash all linens and pet beds in order to kill possible fleas. You should wash and dry any bedding at the hottest temperature it will tolerate or discard it in an outside trash receptacle if washing is not feasible.
  • Call the Experts. If you continue to find more evidence of fleas, it might be time to call in a professionally trained pest removal expert. Flea infestations can be difficult to eliminate. It is a good idea to call your pest control expert in order to rid you and your home of fleas.

Treating the Outdoor Environment

Many people sometimes forget their pets also spend time outside in the yard. If your pet spends a lot of time outdoors, this will be where the majority of the fleas are located. In many parts of the United States, freezing weather helps to control outside flea populations. But in warm and humid climates, the flea battle may rage year-round. Fleas prefer cool, shady, moist places and especially like to hide in shrubs, leaf litter, the bark dust of trees, and underneath lawn structures. They cannot tolerate hot sun for long periods of time and don’t do well in open grass or in a sunny yard.

It is always best to consult a professional pest control expert to treat the surrounding areas with a chemical spray. There are some simple steps you can take to make your yard a less desirable habitat for fleas and ticks to hide and lay their eggs.

  • Neatness Counts. Thoroughly clean your yard by removing yard and garden debris. Stacked wood, piles of bricks, and discarded pots are ideal breeding ground for fleas. The more clutter, the more places fleas can take refuge. Sweep off patios and lawn furniture. Don’t forget to check out your pet’s favorite places to hang out, including dog runs or kennels, spaces under decks or porches, beneath low-hanging shrubs, or along fence lines. Flea and tick larvae can remain within 50 feet of any cool, shady spots your pet favors.
  • Mowing and Pruning. A cheap and easy way to reduce flea and tick populations in your yard is to keep the grass, trees, and shrubs trimmed. Mowing your lawn to the proper height exposes the soil to sun, keeping it dry, and removes the longer grass fleas and ticks prefer to hide in. Prune bushes and trim trees to increase the amount of sunshine in your yard. Both fleas and ticks prefer moist environments, so be sure to avoid overwatering.

Dangers / Flea Bites and Treatment

Fleas are generally not picky about their meals – any warm-blooded animal will do. Typically, the flea takes its blood meal around the ankles of its human host. These bites usually appear as small red bumps that can be itchy and uncomfortable. In rare cases they can transmit the bacteria that can lead to serious illness. They also carry tapeworms that can infest your pet. If you are bitten, clean the bite with warm water and soap and ice the location to lessen swelling. You can also use anti-itch creams to lessen the discomfort. If at any time you feel that the bite is serious, seek medical attention as soon as possible.

These little guys can be big trouble. But by taking these simple steps, you can prevent any unwanted guests from invading your home and attacking your pets, and enjoy a safe, healthy, and happy summer.

Back to School Pesky Critters

By Scott Svenheim, ACE
Spokesperson and Associate Certified Entomologist, Truly Nolen of America 

With the back-to-school season nearing, parents have already started to think about preparing their kids – and how can anyone forget that the start of school is looming with commercials already airing!

With pesky critters like bed bugs, head lice and mosquitoes becoming more prevalent in our communities, parents need to take the necessary precautions to avoid infecting their homes.

back-to-school

Bed bugs are nocturnal and have the capabilities to climb softer surfaces such as that duffle bag you sent your children to camp with. Here are some tips to avoid allowing a possible bed bug infestation in your home:

  • Leave luggage outside, in a garage or a secluded area away from other soft materials where they can’t find a way to transfer to another item in your home.
  • Wash and/or Dry possibly infected clothing separately and with hot water, or medium temperature at least 20 minutes.

Head lice is one itchy problem and another pest that can easily hop from one head of hair to another. When your child arrives back from camp, make sure to conduct a thorough screening of his/her scalp with a fine-tooth comb. Many convenience stores will have specialty combs available for purchase. Signs your child may have head lice include:

  • Scratching
  • Small red bumps or sores from scratching
  • Adult lice or eggs on hair strands

Mosquito bites are one of the most common and with viruses like Chikungunya spreading quickly through the United States every bump and bite is worth inspecting. Check any suspicious bumps and circle them with a marker – this will allow you to monitor the bite to ensure it doesn’t get any larger, red or swollen.

If bed bugs or other pests become a bigger issue in your home, call your local pest control company who will be able to assess the level of infestation and recommend necessary courses of treatment.


About Scott Svenheim and Truly Nolen
Scott Svenheim, an expert for Truly Nolen of America and Associate Certified Entomologist, has 27 years of experience in the pest control industry.  Scott brings an informative as well as unique and entertaining perspective to consumers’ pest problems in the 21st century. Founded in 1938, Tucson, Arizona-based Truly Nolen of America is the largest family owned pest control company in the United States. Truly Nolen has over 80 branch offices in Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas and Utah. The company also has independently owned and operated franchises in an ever-growing number of territories including Kentucky, Georgia, New Jersey, Canada, Puerto Rico and 60 countries. For more information, please visit www.trulynolen.com.

Fire Ants in Texas

With the recent rains in Texas, many residents are seeing the emergence of fire ant mounds in their lawns and in fields. These aggressive ants cause harm and damage to people, plants, and animals in both urban and rural areas – according to Texas A&M University researchers it is estimated fire ants cost Texans $1.2 billion annually in property damage and control costs, with residential households making up 50% of the total expense incurred.

What Are Fire Ants?

“Fire ant” is a general name referring to six different species of ants, five of which are found in Texas. Since they all cause damage and harm to humans and animals, there is generally little need for the homeowner to tell them apart. To the naked eye, fire ants resemble ordinary ants. They are very small (average 1/8 to 1/4 inch in length) and are reddish brown to black in color.

They are very aggressive, attacking anytime their mound is disturbed. Fire ants can be dangerous to small animals and humans because of the toxin released from the sting.

Where Are Fire Ants Found?

This biting ant is most commonly found in the southeastern United States including the eastern two-thirds of Texas. Fire ants live in colonies and build mound-shaped nests favoring open, sunny areas. Mature colonies appear as fluffy worked soil and can contain more than 200,000 ants. Fire ant mounds look different from other ant mounds since they do not have a visible opening in the center. Instead, fire ants come and go through an extensive network of underground tunnels.

Undisturbed mounds in rural areas can grow up to 18 inches tall but most are only a few inches. Mounds are often built next to sidewalks, roads, or anywhere fire ants can find food or water – around flowerbeds, landscaped areas, parks, playgrounds, sports fields, and tree trunks or roots.

Even though they are present year-round in Texas, fire ant colonies become more visible after rainfall or heavy irrigation, because the ants are trying to move out of the flooded soil. They are sensitive to temperature and humidity. When the weather gets hot and dry, they tunnel deep into the soil – some as deep as 4 feet – to find cooler temperatures and water. The ant colony seemingly disappears.

FUN FACT: Although fire ants can be extremely dangerous, they are also a very interesting species. Fire ants are social insects that work together in order to survive harsh conditions. During instances in which their homes are threatened by water, fire ants form a raft using their own bodies to reach dry land and keep their queen safe from harm. The colony of fire ants continually take turns being above and below the water level in order to help each ant breathe and remain alive. This adaptation and others like it enable the fire ant species to be tremendously resilient.

Why Are They So Bad?

Truly Nolen - Fire Ant Info TexasFire ants are very aggressive and if their mound is disturbed in any way, worker ants will rush out in large numbers to protect the colony from harm. They will climb up nearby grass and vertical surfaces and attack the person, animal, or thing that disturbed their nest by biting and stinging aggressively and repeatedly. Each ant firmly grasps skin with its jaws and stings many times. Fire ants can pivot at the head and inflict more stings in a circular pattern.

As they bite, fire ants inject a toxin that stings, causing a strong burning, fire-like sensation (hence the name “fire ant”). The sting swells into a bump that can cause a great deal of pain or irritation often with localized swelling. Within 24 to 48 hours, a small itchy pustule (a small, firm blister-like sore) forms around the bite site. Excessive scratching can open the pustules, possibly leading to secondary infection.

The toxin is not deadly for most people, although some are very allergic. The elderly, very young, sick, or those with compromised immune systems may be more affected by the toxin. It is always a good idea to seek medical advice if you believe you have been stung or bitten by a fire ant.

How Can I Avoid Fire Ants?

Although it is impossible to completely eliminate the fire ant population in Texas, you can avoid contact with them and prevent getting stung.

  • Be aware of your surroundings. Be sure to regularly look for fire ant mounds around your property. Do not stand on or near nests or areas where they are foraging.
  • Watch your step. Pay attention to where you’re standing. Serious incidents occur when a person unknowingly allows several fire ants to get on them, usually when they stand on a mound for more than a few seconds without realizing it.
  • Wear protective clothing. Wear boots and/or tuck pant legs into socks to reduce the risk of a bite.

What Do I Do If I Find A Fire Ant Mound In My Yard?

Truly Nolen - Fire Ant Mounds in TexasA possible preventative measure is long residual contact insecticide treatments. Your local pest control expert will apply an insecticide to the lawn surface in order to prevent fire ants from settling into the area. Although there are several self-help methods to eliminating fire ant colonies, it is best to contact your local pest control expert in order to eliminate the infestation safely.

What Do I Do If I Get Fire Ants On Me?

  • First of all remain calm and do NOT panic.
  • Leave the area immediately while quickly brushing the fire ants off using a gloved hand or a cloth. The most effective way to remove fire ants from the skin is with a fast, repetitive brushing motion. Remove the ants that climb up on your body as quickly as possible.
  • Quickly strip off shoes, socks, and clothing where the fire ants are stinging you. Shake out the clothing and inspect every fold before put¬ting them back on.
  • Do not try to shake them off – fire ants hold on tightly with their jaws so they will not just fall off. Do not try to rinse them off with water – it just makes them hold on and sting in another spot.

What Do I Do If I Get Stung?

People vary greatly in their reactions to fire ant stings. Most people just suffer a burning sensation, itching, and pustules with no lasting effects. Those who may be sensitive to fire ant venom may see the sting area become slightly swollen.

  • Ease the burning and itching by using ice, cold compresses, or painkiller sprays and ointments such as over-the-counter antihistamine products.
  •  Treat the pustules, whether intact or open, like any other small wound. Keep it clean.

Watch for problems if a person is stung more than a few times or has an impaired immune system due to a medical condition (e.g., heart condition, diabetes, etc.). The important thing is to watch for severe reactions. Although rare, seek emergency medical attention immediately if you experience any of the following as it could be a sign of a life-threatening allergic reaction:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Faintness or dizziness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Chest pain
  • Tightness in chest or throat
  • Hives or rashes
  • Serious swelling
  • Nausea
  • Severe sweating
  • Slurred speech
  • Shock
  • Coma

Like many pests, fire ants are a fact of life in Texas. Being aware is the best way to stay safe.

Florida Pest Alert: Outbreak Mosquito-borne Virus Chikungunya

Florida Mosquito Alert

Part of Truly Nolen’s commitment to the homes and businesses of the areas we serve is to inform residents of potential threats to health caused by insects and rodents. Florida residents can expect to see a dramatic increase in mosquito activity. There has been a recent outbreak of Chikungunya, a mosquito-borne disease prevalent in India and Southeastern Asia. Recently however, the disease has infected tens of thousands of people in the Caribbean and a handful of southern states in the US, prompting the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and public health officials to issue warnings about the disease.

Although Chikungunya is rarely fatal, symptoms of the illness include high fevers in excess of 102 °F, severe headaches, nausea, vomiting, conjunctivitis, and severe joint pain that typically lasting for about two weeks.

Cases of Chikungunya infection in the US are believed to be transmitted from the Yellow Fever Mosquito, Aedes aegypti, which is common in warmer states like Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. Although Chikungunya may be relatively new to the United States, the mosquito that transmits the disease is not. Mosquito bites may seem minor, as they usually only cause a slight rash or bump. However, mosquitoes are known to carry and transmit various viruses such as the deadly West Nile Virus, which has claimed the lives of 66 people since it was first discovered in the United States.

As a Florida resident special attention should be paid to removing conditions conducive to breeding of mosquitoes around the home and take precautions to prevent being bitten. Truly Nolen has compiled some tips to help keep you and your home protected from mosquitoes.

Mosquito Control Tips:

  • Remove anything from your yard or around your home that can hold standing water such as buckets, tires, tins etc.
  • Drill holes in the bottom of garbage cans and or recycling bins so they don’t accumulate water
  • Keep pools clean and well chlorinated
  • Remove leaves and debris from gutters so they drain properly
  • Ensure all windows and doors are covered by screen enclosures
  • Wear long sleeve clothing and insect repellent when outdoors
  • Utilize outdoor spray and devices as needed
  • Contact a pest professional if infestations persist

For more on mosquitoes and treating mosquito bites visit our Pest Guide or feel free to contact our resident Pest Expert with your questions.

The Essential Ant Treatment Guide for Homeowners

essential-ants-guide-homeowners

One of the first insects to become active each year is the irritatingly persistent ant. When warmer weather arrives, ants can begin invading our homes. A recent survey conducted by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) revealed that this pest is everywhere. In fact, ants have been deemed the #1 nuisance pest in America. Unfortunately, most people don’t realize that this pest can also pose health and property risks – from food contamination to costly property damage.

Understanding Ants – What Are Ants?

Ants are social insects and typically live in large groups or colonies. Depending on the species, ant colonies can consist of millions of ants. Their structured nest communities are commonly constructed with soil and plant materials and located underground. However, depending on the type of ant species, nests can also be found in mounds built on the ground level or even in trees.

There are three kinds of ants in a colony, divided into classes by the type of job they perform: the queen, male drones, and the female workers. The queen heads the colony and lays thousands of eggs to ensure the colony’s survival. Depending on the ant species and the nest community size, there may be one or more queens in the colony. The fertile male drone ants often have only one role – mating with the queen. They usually die within a few days after mating. The worker ant (the ones typically seen in your home) are wingless females that never reproduce, but instead forage for food, care for the queen’s offspring, build and repair the nest, protect the community, and perform many other duties to benefit the colony.

Ants will eat practically any kind of food, but are especially attracted to sweets as they supply a large amount of energy to the relatively small ants. Depending on the species, ants can range in size from 1/12 to 1 inch and are usually red or black in color. Ants are close relatives of bees and wasps and can be identified by their three distinct body regions: the head (including antennae), the thorax, and the abdomen. Ants have a narrow “waist” between the abdomen and thorax, while a termite’s body is not constricted and they have a broad waist. Like other insects, ants have six legs, each with three joints. Ants also have large heads with compound eyes, elbowed antennae, and powerful jaws. They can live from several weeks to several years.

Winged forms of ants are often mistaken for termites. In warm weather, both species “swarm” and leave the nest in large numbers to mate and establish new colonies. However, shortly after their flights, both ants and termites lose their wings, so wings usually aren’t present.

Common Types of Ants You Can Find At Home / Ant Infestation

While most ants are considered harmless, an ant infestation can be a major nuisance and may be difficult to control. There is the common myth that seeing one ant indoors does not equal a full-blown infestation. Although this can be true, ants cooperate by leaving an invisible chemical trail (pheromones) for other ants to follow once they locate a promising food source. If that food source is in your home, you can count them quickly entering your home through the smallest cracks and crevices. Ant colonies can be found anywhere in and around your home. Although they typically won’t harm you, there are those – such as fire ants (that sting) and carpenter ants (that damage wood) – that can actually pose a threat to your family’s health and property.

There are more than 700 ant species found in the U.S., although only about 25 species are known to commonly invade homes. Many have been given nicknames based on their distinguishing characteristics:

  • Acrobat ants get their name from their ability to acrobatically raise their abdomen over their thorax and head as if they were performing a balancing act. It is common for acrobat ants to enlarge cavities formed by other insects such as old galleries of termites, carpenter ants, and other wood-infesting insects
  • Argentine ants are native to the Paraná River basin in South America, which spans across northern Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and southern Brazil. Argentine ants are common in urban areas and can nest in diverse types of habitats. They can produce large numbers of offspring and survive on a wide variety of food.
  • Big head ants get their name from the appearance of the major workers – they have very large heads in relation to their bodies. Big head ants can quickly move into new areas to establish nests and kick out other ant populations.
  • Crazy ants get their name from the worker’s habit of running in an erratic, jerky manner when searching for food – the trail it leaves behind is highly irregular. They also have the potential to change the ecological balance in the southeastern U.S. largely because the ants can wipe out colonies of fire ants, widely considered the insect villain of the region.
  • Fire ants were first brought to the U.S. from Brazil in the 1930s and without any natural predators in the U.S., have been able to spread relatively quickly throughout the Southern U.S., from Maryland to Texas, as well parts of California and New Mexico. The bite and the sting that these ants deliver give them their name.
  • Florida carpenter ants (aka red and black carpenter ants) are largely found throughout Florida with colonies that may contain up to eight thousand individuals. They do not eat the wood they remove during their nest-building activities but can severely damage it, digging smooth tunnels inside the wood causing structural weakening. Florida carpenter ants are considered one of the most serious structural pest species.
  • Ghost ants get its name from its incredibly small size (less than 1/16 inch long) and pale color of its legs and abdomen, which make it difficult to see.
  • Pharaoh ants (aka sugar ants) are possibly named from the mistaken tradition that it was one of the plagues of ancient Egypt during the time of Pharaohs although it is more commonly referred to as the “sugar ant.” It is one of the more common household ants, and carries the dubious distinction of being one of the most difficult household ants to control.
  • Rover ants are native to Argentina and Paraguay, and were introduced relatively recently to the U.S. They may be seen excitedly running up and down vertical objects in yards, such as blades of grass, chairs, and fence posts, accompanied by larger winged individuals.

At Home Prevention / How To Get Rid of Ants

If you have an ant infestation:

  • Determine what the ants are attracted to and remove the food source. For example, keep your kitchen clean. Seal food items properly, clean counters, do the dishes, fix leaky pipes, and general maintain your household. Doing so will ensure you can more easily avoid persistent ant problems.
  • To help reduce the amount of ants currently in your home, put out bait stations or apply gel bait at entry points. Baits, purchased at hardware and grocery stores, can be effective for a bit. However, ants are highly adaptable and able to change their diets. If they see that consuming something like bait isn’t advantageous to their colony, they will simply stop eating it. Baits may only be a temporary solution.

The main tactic in effective prevention plan is to create a less inviting environment for pests around your home. This includes eliminating access and removing suitable sources of food and water. Exclusion is the process of keeping pests outside of your home. This involves caulking or sealing cracks, holes, and any other potential entry points such as cable entry points as well as doorways and other entrances that aren’t completely sealed like window and sliding glass doors. Prune all shrubs and trees at least 4 feet away from your home – this prevents easy access for pests into your home. However exclusion can prove difficult to the untrained eye and covering every entry point is virtually impossible. The most effective method is for a trained pest control technician to apply a chemical treatment around the exterior of your home that is safe for pets and humans.

Reduce moisture content around the exterior of your home in surrounding flower beds and other landscaping. Reduce the watering times and increase the frequency of your irrigation system. Direct the downspout flow as far away from your home as possible; add downspout extensions if needed. Also, reduce the depth of mulch around the exterior of your home to no more than one inch – the deeper the ground cover, the more moisture will be trapped, creating an ideal breeding area for all pests.

Many times DIY efforts do not totally eliminate the ants — especially the nest, where the queen lays her eggs. And since ants are not at the top of the pest food chain, so they may invite other predators like roaches into your home. Some species are particularly troublesome to get rid of. For example, Sugar ants often have more than one queen. A professional pest control company is the most effective method for eliminating an ant colony. They have access to professional level insecticides that are not available to the general public, and are very effective at getting rid of colonies inside a structure.

A Truly Nolen pest control professional can treat your home regularly to not only get rid of any bugs that may lay dormant within walls or hard to reach places, but also keep new pests away. Our ant treatment program treats the both the inside and outside of your home, further reducing the risk of future infestations. A professional has the expertise and experience to find and eliminate the source of the infestation. Having your Truly Nolan pest control specialists eliminate the ants in your home can save you time, money, and a huge headache.

Ant Bites and Treatments

There is a wide range of ant species in the world. Most ants are usually just a nuisance; however, a few varieties are capable of biting people. Red imported fire ants can both sting and bite. Carpenter ants and acrobat ants are also capable of biting – these two types of ants will bite and inject venom into their victims but this is rarely dangerous, and may commonly result in a mild itch.

Most ant bites cause itching, which may last from a few hours to a few days. These mild reactions are very common and home treatment is often all that is needed to relieve the symptoms. Before applying any type of medication to the area, you should wash it thoroughly with cool water and soap to lessen the risk of an infection. This is also why you should refrain from scratching as much as possible. Once the area is clean you can apply topical medications. An ice cube, a cold washcloth, calamine lotion, a paste of baking soda, or an over-the-counter hydrocortisone ointment can soothe the discomfort. If you have a large number of ant bites, you may want to go to your doctor for a prescription strength antihistamine or topical ointment. If the bite causes a severe reaction, seek immediate medical attention.

Identifying Common Types of Bees in Arizona

IDENTIFYING COMMON TYPES OF BEES IN ARIZONA
Arizona is home to many types of bees. There are about 20,000 different species of bees in the world. With the exception of Antarctica, bees are found throughout the world. The greatest diversity of bee species is found in warm, arid or semiarid areas, like the Southwest.

Bees play an important role in nature pollinating plants and wildflowers as well as providing wax and honey. Bees are dependent on pollen as an important protein source and on flower nectar or oils as an energy source. Most bees will not sting unless they feel threatened. Social bees, such as honey bees, are the most common type in Arizona and will typically sting in order to protect their colonies or babies.

HONEY BEES

Closeup of an American Honey Bee

Although some types of bees may be solitary, the honey bee is a social insect and populates in colonies or hives. These hive colonies have a three-tier caste system consisting of: the single queen bee whose only job is to lay eggs; male drones that mate with the queen and die soon thereafter; and female worker bees that don’t reproduce. However the worker bees perform many jobs necessary for the survival of the hive; they clean the hive, collect pollen and nectar to feed the colony, and they take care of the offspring. Their wax hives are perennial and can harbor up to 80,000 bees at once. The average lifespan of a honey bee queen is two to three years – considerably longer than the six weeks of a female worker bee.

Honey bees are the most active in summer months; during winter, bees gather within the hive and self-regulate the internal temperature to keep warm. Honey bees also have specialized feathery body hairs that help collect pollen. They are the most important pollinating insects, and their interdependence with plants is mutually beneficial. While foraging, bees inadvertently transfer pollen from flower to flower resulting in cross-pollination. Honey bees are vital in agriculture as pollinators and they account for 80% of all insect pollination. Each year, bees pollinate an estimated $10 billion of crops in the United States alone. And some estimate that these insect pollinators contribute to one-third of the world’s diet. In addition to being important pollinators, honey bees have an organ that converts flower nectar into honey, which is collected inside the hive or bee colony.

AFRICANIZED HONEY BEES (AHB)

Africanized Honey Bees (AHB) are distantly related to the common domestic European honey bee. This bee, first brought from Africa to Brazil in the mid-1950s in hopes of breeding a bee better adapted to the South American climate, escaped into the wild and its descendants have been moving slowly north toward the US ever since. The first AHB colonies arrived in southern Arizona in the early summer of 1993. They are becoming more prevalent in the Southwest and can now be found in most of Texas, almost half of New Mexico, throughout Arizona, the majority of New Mexico, and portions of California as they continue their migration northward.

Truly Nolen Bee Removal

The “Africanized” honey bee – melodramatically labeled “killer bees” – is a hybrid between domesticated European honey bees and African honey bees. Compared to European bees, the AHB are more likely to sense a threat at greater distances, become more upset with less provocation, and sting a greater number of times, although individual stings from the AHB are not more powerful or painful. AHBs defend their hives very attentively. But away from the hive, they are no more aggressive than other bees or wasps. With their hairy bodies, yellowish-orange abdomens with black bands, to the untrained eye the AHB looks very similar to the honey bee. Only a trained entomologist, using sophisticated laboratory equipment, can tell them apart via a precise measurement or genetic testing.

IDENTIFYING A BEE HIVE

Bees are all around us most of the year in Arizona and typically forage around flowers and water. Foraging bees may sting if they are disturbed accidentally or intentionally. They may also become defensive if they are foraging close to the colony. Avoid close contact with them, and they will go about their nectar-gathering without a second thought to the humans around.

A Hive of American Honey Bees

Just like their mild-mannered relative the domestic honey bees, the Africanized honey bees establish colonies of up to 40,000 individual bees. Both types of bees will swarm, a process where the swarm forms a visible cluster of many bees that is on the move (hundreds to thousands). The queen sets out to find a new location for the hive, some of her worker bees come along with her. They will temporary stop-over to allow the queen to rest but will eventually produce new colonies. Don’t panic – most honeybee swarms are not dangerous if you leave them well alone and keep your distance.

AHB colonies have faster growth rates, which means more swarms splitting off from a nest. Each Africanized honeybee colony typically swarms four to eight times annually compared to an annual rate of less than one swarm per five colonies for European honeybees. They will not however form large swarms and hunt for you as suggested in some movies. If you encounter an AHB swarm, never dive underwater, the swarm will simply wait for you to surface stinging your head and face when you surface. If you are being chased, run in a straight line – AHBs are slow fliers and most people can out run them. Treat honey bee colonies as you would a venomous creature such as a snake or a scorpion; be alert and stay away.

Honey bees are social creatures that create large communal hives with nesting galleries and large honeycombs. AHBs are not specific about the location of their hives, making it likely for them to come into contact with humans. Bees who are working to establish a colony can be seen actively entering and exiting small holes/voids in hollow tree trunks, walls, junk piles, pots, eaves, roofs, or similar location.

REMOVING A BEE HIVE

Never attempt to remove a hive on your own. Be careful and remain calm. If you think you may have a bee infestation, you must first call an expert to determine whether you’re actually dealing with bees and not some other stinging insect. Wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets are sometimes mistaken for bees. Bees are commercially valuable and an important part of our ecosystem, but in the wrong place at the wrong time, they can become pest. The sooner a hive can be identified, the safer and cheaper it can be to have removed as established colonies can be extremely protective of the hive.

Homeowners should immediately contact a pest control company and take special precautions to avoid agitating bees to prevent being stung. Do not try to remove a colony yourself.

Professional Bee Hive RemovalA professional hive removal will focus on removing the queen bee from the hive. If the queen is not removed from the hive bees will continue to return. Relocation of the hive must also be considered in concert with a commercial bee expert for agricultural reasons. If the hive can’t be relocated safely treatments to remove the hive will be conducted. Your bee control professional will apply treatments on the exterior of the hive working inward to kill the bees and properly bag and dispose of the hive. When the hive is removed it is knocked down within an enclosed area and material is forced into the void and within the combs to ensure all bees are dead and removed. Though their venom is no more or less toxic, the AHB tends to sting in greater numbers and is more easily provoked than the European honey bee. Keep pets and children well away from any suspected nesting sites until you get a professional inspection.

WHAT TO DO IF STUNG BY A HONEY BEE

People can all react to honey bee stings differently. Generally, however honey bee stings do not pose a health concern unless an individual is allergic or sensitive. If the stung person is allergic, go to the hospital immediately or use an epinephrine shot, if available. Most importantly, stay calm. And if possible, get to a cool indoor location. If you are stung and can’t find shelter indoors, avoid running near other people. Once you have been stung a chemical called a pheromone signals to other bees that you are a threat inviting other defensive bees to sting.

In general, bees tend to sting people or animals when they feel threatened. Remember that your pets can also be vulnerable to bee stings and keep them away from bee hives. While yellow jackets, hornets and wasps tend to sting repeatedly during an attack, worker bees are equipped with barbed stingers that have little barbs or hooks on them and typically become lodged in the skin. When a bee stings, its stinger, the venom sac attached to the stinger, and other parts of the honey bee’s body rip away from the insect’s body and are left behind, killing the bee. Although the bee dies, its sting takes effect quickly, and, if the stinger is not removed quickly, the symptoms gradually increase as the venom sac continues to pump venom into the wound for several seconds. So if you are stung, it is important to remove the stinger and poison sac as quickly as possible. Do not pull them out with tweezers or your fingers as this will only squeeze more venom into the wound. Scrape them out using your fingernails, the edge of a credit card or a dull knife.

After removing the stinger, it is important to immediately clean the area with soap and cold water and to use cold compression like an ice pack. It is also helpful to elevate the limb where you were stung. Over the counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can also help to reduce the pain. An antihistamine and hydrocortisone ointment can help calm the local reaction. In case the local reaction worsens, your doctor may prescribe an oral steroid or antihistamine to help calm the swelling or itching.

SYMPTOMS OF A BEE ALLERGY

The symptoms that result from a sting vary, depending on the amount of poison that has entered the victim’s system. Typically, people who get stung will immediately feel a sharp, burning pain, rapidly followed by a red welt at the sting site, with a small, white spot at the center marking where the stinger punctured the skin. In most cases, the swelling and pain resolves within a few hours, however, as many as 10 percent of individuals develop a large local reaction experiencing exaggerated redness and swelling at the sting site.

Although a bee sting is not commonly hazardous, some people may be allergic to the bee’s venom. Those who have sensitivity to bees should immediately seek out emergency medical assistance or call 9-1-1 if they experience symptoms of an allergic reaction. In rare cases, individuals experience an extreme allergic reaction, known as anaphylaxis. These reactions may be life threatening and require immediate medical treatment. Seek immediate medical attention if you exhibit any of the following symptoms:

  • Itching and swelling around the eyes
  • Tongue and throat swelling
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Dry cough
  • Wheezing or difficulty breathing
  • Hives, rashes, or generalized itching
  • Rapid or weak pulse
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Shock or loss of consciousness

If you are stung multiple times or experience any of the above symptoms, even if you don’t have a sensitivity, you should seek medical attention as a precaution. If you come in contact with an Africanized honey bee, the most important thing to do is not panic. Most deaths related to bee stings happen because people panic and act irrational. Each year, stinging insects send approximately half a million people to the emergency room and are the leading cause of anaphylaxis-related deaths in the United States.

Keeping Mosquitoes in Check

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They say April showers bring May flowers, but there’s something else all of that water brings — mosquitoes. These bloodsucking insects are known for an annoying bite that itches and causes a small rash. Mosquitoes are disease-carrying insects that can spread the potentially deadly West Nile Virus and other illnesses.

Residents in most states should expect to see a large surge in mosquito activity in the coming months. Truly Nolen is already experiencing increased calls from around the country from residents, offices, and restaurants experiencing problems with mosquitoes.

Mosquito Repellants Are Not the Answer

For people who are frequently plagued by mosquito bites, bug sprays and candles containing chemical repellants may seem like the perfect solution to keep these insects in check. Unfortunately the chemical in these repellants — DEET — does not actually make mosquitoes leave the area. Instead the chemical is designed to block the mosquito’s ability to smell humans and therefore prevent them from landing on someone to bite and feed. While chemical repellants may save you from the occasional mosquito bite, they do nothing to address where the mosquitoes are coming from, causing you to spend more money in mosquito repellant products without really addressing the source of the problem.

Preventing an Invasion

A mosquito will spend most of its weeklong life near a favorable water source, which provides it food and favorable conditions to mature. Fountains, troughs, buckets, birdbaths, and ponds with standing water all provide female mosquitoes the perfect place for their eggs to grow. Removing these sources of standing water removes the potential for more mosquitoes to breed.

Once you’ve emptied some of these mosquito-spawning areas, it’s up to you to ensure standing water does not accumulate around your home. An effective mosquito prevention regimen also requires consistent landscaping, as mosquitoes enjoy hiding in tall grass, weeds, and other vegetation.

Keeping mosquitoes away from your home is extremely difficult and time-consuming and can keep you from enjoying all of the benefits of summertime. Instead a mosquito control program, like Truly Nolen’s Four Seasons pest control approach, can protect all areas of your home from all kinds of pests, especially the extremely annoying mosquito.

If your summer calendar is beginning to fill up fast, it’s important to ensure your home is protected from these voracious pests and the illnesses they can cause. A free pest inspection provided by a Truly Nolen technician can identify areas where female mosquitoes are likely to lay eggs.

If you’ve had to smack a few mosquitoes off in the past few weeks or are looking to avoid a potential infestation around your home, calling Truly Nolen can help you spend less time worrying about unwanted pests and more time enjoying the outdoors.

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.