Category Archives: Pest Database

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


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

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.


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) 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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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 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 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 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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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. 

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.