One House Mouse Can Quickly Become Bigger Problem, Pose Risk to Health and Property

Some think that they’re cute, but they scare the wits out of others. However you feel about mice, one thing is clear: If you see one or evidence of one in your home, it’s better to act quickly to get rid of them. Otherwise, the little fury critters can wreak havoc in your home and pose a health risk to you and your family.

As the most common mammal in the country, we all will most likely encounter mice at some point. The colder fall and winter months are the time when mice and other rodents look to come inside warm structures searching for food and protection against the freezing temperatures. Each year, an estimated 21 million invade homes across the country, according the National Pest Management Association.

They’re hungry little critters, too. Mice eat between 15 to 20 times a day, so they prefer to be near food. They can also jump about a foot into the air, giving them the ability to hop up onto counters or pantries. Their tiny bodies can fit through an opening the size of a dime, making any crack or small opening to the outside an entry point into your home.

While mice don’t live a long time, about five months in the wild, they make up for that by having a lot of baby mice fast. A female mouse can give birth starting at two months old and can have about a dozen babies every three weeks. If you spotted one mouse in the house, there are probably others lurking nearby, and it can quickly become a bigger infestation if it’s not properly addressed.

Mice also like to gnaw on electrical wiring, causing damage that can lead to a greater risk of an electrical fire. Beyond that, mice can carry as many as 200 disease-causing organisms, such as the Hantavirus and Salmonella.

Simple preventative measure can help keep mice and other rodents outside in the cold. Truly Nolen recommends homeowners take the following steps to protect their property and their family’s health:

  • Install door sweeps on exterior doors and repair damaged screens.
  • Screen vents and openings to chimneys.
  • Seal cracks and holes on the outside of the home, including areas where utilities and pipes enter the home, using caulk, steel wool or a combination of both.
  • Keep a close eye on the garage. As it is hard to seal up adequately, mice can move in here easily, readily accessing the rest of the house with ease.
  • Store food in airtight containers and dispose of garbage regularly.
  • Keep attics, basements and crawl spaces well ventilated and dry.
  • Replace loose mortar and weather stripping around the basement foundation and windows.
  • Eliminate all moisture sites, including leaking pipes and clogged drains that provide the perfect breeding site for pests.
  • Store firewood at least 20 feet away from the house and keep shrubbery trimmed and cut back from the house.
  • If you suspect a pest infestation in your home, contact a licensed pest professional to inspect and treat the pest problem.
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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.

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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.

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The Billion Dollar Chew: Termites Eat Through Homes and Businesses

Each year, termites cause billions of dollars in damage, and homeowner’s insurance will not cover the cost of treatment.

These invisible destroyers cause more damage in the U.S. than storms, fires and floods combined. The National Pest Management Association estimates that termites are responsible for $5 billion in property damage every year.

While you sleep, termites may literally eat you out of house and home and even your business. And while they eat 24 hours a day, their damage is insidious because you usually do not see them or the damage they cause until it’s too late. Termites are known for their industriousness and can always find a way into your home, whether the structure is made of wood or concrete.

Homeowners might notice termites when they swarm around spring time, a likely sign of infestation. But they can swarm in both the spring and fall, anytime the environmental conditions are right.

The U.S. is home to many species of termites, the most common being Subterranean and Drywood termites.

Subterranean Termites tunnel in the soil. The ability to tunnel allows them to find and feed on countless pieces of wood. This mobility also allows them to create much bigger colonies than those of wood inhabiting species. A Subterranean termite colony can have hundreds of thousands to several million members working in a caste system.

Drywood Termites can cause serious damage to houses and furniture. These termites are easier to spot because they produce coarse sand-like fecal pellets that can be spotted long before you discover the termites themselves. The Drywood termite not only eats the wood structure, but lives inside the wood structure. These insects will construct a virtual city within the wood, complete with connecting tunnels to get around it. They can enter the home by flying in or being carried on previously infested wood, such as furniture or construction materials.

Preventing termites is as important as exterminating them. A termite prevention program should include the following elements:

  • A professional inspection done at least once a year. The potential damage is too great to rely on “do-it-yourself” methods.
  • An ongoing preventive system including sodium borate-based materials, which can be painted, sprayed, or spread onto the wood, or injected into hollow spaces inside the walls of the home.
  • Having your pest control professional establish an “early warning system” that detects termites in the soil before they reach the home itself. Many systems establish bait stations around the perimeter of the home to detect the approach of termites while they are still several feet away.

By taking the necessary precautions, you can help prevent your home from becoming a termite’s permanent residence.

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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.

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Excluding mosquitoes from your outdoor event

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Indoor and outdoor ants can wreak havoc on the home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Effects of warmer weather on potential pests

Snow and ice begin to melt as the air gets warmer, and plants start to bloom. It’s a great time of year, but it’s also a great time for pests to get into your home. Read more to learn what warmer weather means for pest control indoors. 

Ice
When water gets into cracks and freezes, it also expands. So when moisture is present in existing cracks in foundations and walls, the spaces will get larger. Most pests only need a quarter-inch to enter a home, and if water caused damage over the winter, it could mean new vulnerabilities that didn’t exist last season. Check for possible bug entrances with every significant temperature change, and fill new cracks with foam, screens and caulk. 

Water
As snow and ice melt, it leaves the ground soft, damp and easily picked up by shoes and pets. Lots of pests, namely ants, are more than willing to be transported indoors without having to find an entrance themselves. Keep a welcome mat by the door for visitors (and residents) to wipe their feet on. Bugs and insects are also attracted to dampness in attics, basements, and garages. Keeping these areas dry and free of leaks will make it less tempting for unwanted guests to move in. 

Pollen
Warm weather brings plants, plants bring pollen, and pollen brings bees. Equip all open windows with thicker screens to keep pollen out, and brush off pets after they’ve been out in plant-heavy areas. 

Earlier winter thaws also mean earlier infestations. The majority of pests are most active in warmer climates, so be aware of when the temperature is expected to rise, and make the necessary preparations. Pest eggs hatch more easily in the heat, so an untreated problem can exponentially worsen. It may be best to book an exterminator agency in advance, as the demand for them will increase with the heat. 

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Carpenter ants cause extensive damage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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San Francisco food distributor reopens after rodent infestation

A food distributor in San Francisco was forced to close down and perform a massive recall after two employees leaked information about the rodent-infested condition of the facility. The employees detailed the unsanitary conditions, describing rodents living, breeding and leaving droppings in many of the foods in the warehouse that were later repackaged for sale. Once the Department of Health became aware of the situation, the retailer was forced to shut down until professional pest control was able to take care of the situation.

Infestation
The facility was allowed to reopen only after extensive extermination took place. A professional on-site noted that rats and mice were able to get inside the facility through the walls which were full of cracks and holes large enough for the rodents. Once all the entryways for the mice were sealed, the exterminators had to eliminate the rest of the rodent population. The population of rodents inside the facility had been booming due to the abundance of food and space. 

Threat of disease
The employees who informed the Department of Health about the violations claimed that the mice were largely ignored by building management. They described finding mice and rodents everywhere in the building and were instructed to remove the mice only when found dead. Rodents carry a wide variety of communicable diseases and allowing them to reside near or come in contact with food poses a major health threat to consumers. Both live mice and their droppings can carry over 30 diseases that can spread to humans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These diseases can be spread through handling the rodents, coming in physical contact with droppings, inhaling airborne dropping dust and through ticks and mites that live on the mice. 

The CDC suggests that the best way to eliminate any threat of exposure to these diseases is to avoid coming in contact with mice at all. However, if mice have already come in contact with food, it should be thrown away immediately.  

The fact that the food retailer did not discard the food that had come in contact with rodents was its largest error. Now that it has sought the help of professional exterminators, the facility is now awaiting approval from the Department of Health to reopen.

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