Michigan residents try to keep rats out of their homes

Residents in a Michigan town near Detroit have been hit with a huge influx of rats – so many that the town legislature is considering offering $5 for each dead rat brought in by citizens, reports local Fox affiliate WJBK. Residents are scrambling to find ways of preventing rats from entering their homes and contaminating their food and possessions, as well as effective means of pest control.

Keeping rats out
There are several ways to keep rats and other rodents from entering the home. In Detroit as well as many other parts of the country, the winter is frigid which affects both humans and rats alike. Rodents will seek out any warm shelter they can find, and they are skilled at finding entry points. Rats have nearly collapsible skeletons and can fit in any hole that is larger than their head (about the size of a quarter) so the best step is to plug any and all holes through which the pests could fit. 

Feeling for air movement can also reveal an entryway for a rat, a report from Popular Mechanics details. It is important to go around the house and find any vulnerability to rats and other rodents. Also important are windows and doors – any crack in the framing should be sealed. All doors should close flush against the frame and be sealed tight. Vents for driers and air conditioners can also allow rodents into the home, but are easily blocked with screens. 

Keeping them away
Rats and other small mammals are attracted to the bounty of free food that is provided by an uncovered garbage can or a backyard garden, so tying down all garbage can lids with weighted bungee cords can help keep rats from coming back. Gardens are best kept several feet away from the house in order to prevent rodents from dashing into an open door or window. 

Piles of unattended boxes, lumber or other refuse will provide a shelter to rats that are trying to stay out of the cold. The rodents won’t have as easy an opportunity to settle when the yard is kept free of refuse.

Rat traps are inexpensive but vary in effectiveness depending on the environment. Professional pest control is required in many cases.

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Landlords and tenants must cooperate to remove bed bugs

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

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

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

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

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

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How to prevent a scorpion infestation

In the past month, many residents in Las Vegas, Nevada, noticed small scorpions in their homes, specifically in beds, shoes, garages and near pets’ water bowls. Local ABC affiliate KSNV-TV reported that the number of the pests has increased over the past year, along with reports of sightings in and near homes. Although the creatures can be common in deserts, they are also found in many environments across the world.

When scorpions appear
Spring and fall are the mating seasons for scorpions, at which point they may be more frequently seen. The bark scorpion, which has been spotted the most as of late, is considered life threatening, although reports of stings far outweigh fatalities. While this species is native to Arizona, California and New Mexico, the FDA notes that their numbers have been increasing in Clark County, Nevada. Bark scorpions most often grow to be a little more than an inch long, but can grow to over three inches. To discover whether or not there is an infestation, the Arizona-Sonoma Desert Museum suggests waiting until nightfall and shining a black light into dark spaces and across floors and ceilings. Under a black light, their exoskeletons will have a distinct glow. 

Children under five are at risk for more serious sting side effects, which the Mayo Clinic notes as including severe pain, convulsions, drooling, sweating and occasionally inconsolable crying. They are more likely to require intensive treatment. After being stung, adults frequently experience rapid breathing, high blood pressure, increased heart rate, muscle twitching, and weakness, according to the healthcare provider. If the stung victim is an adolescent or younger, or elderly, of a low body weight or is experiencing high levels of pain, he or she is recommended to see a doctor, regardless of symptoms. Scorpions also sting pets, so if they are exhibiting strange behavior that might be indicative of a sting, a trip to the veterinarian may be in order. 

Preventative measures
Reduce the likelihood of the dangerous pest by eliminating standing water as much as possible and by sealing potential entryways. The most commonly stung areas on the body are hands and feet, so it’s best to be aware of those extremities when making the bed, putting on shoes and reaching for items. Closets, cabinets and other enclosed spaces ought to be inspected frequently in areas where scorpions are common (Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and California). Scorpions typically hide during the day and travel at night, so inspections should be conducted after sunset with a black light if possible.

Keeping the area surrounding a home free of brush, firewood and debris will help keep the pests away. The aforementioned should be kept at a distance of 30 feet or more. Most species like to hide under rocks and other things outside, and under clothes and shoes indoors. Leaks from pipes, humidifiers or air conditioners should be repaired as soon as possible, since scorpions are attracted to warm, wet places. It is also advisable to contact an exterminator to handle the infestation rather then attempting to exterminate the scorpions independently. 

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Pests to look out for in the early spring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Facts and myths about bed bugs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rodent droppings a serious health hazard

A daycare owner in Texas recently came under fire for having rodent droppings scattered on the floor of the business, something that health officials consider to be a serious health risk, according to Valleycentral.com. The owner and operator of the daycare declined to comment on the situation, saying that it was taken care of but was mandated to bring in professional pest control to fumigate. 

If left unchecked, rodents and their droppings can constitute a serious health risk to humans, especially children. Ever since plague-infected rats infested ships in the Middle Ages, rats and other rodents have been notorious for the spread of disease, and for good reason. According the CDC, rodent droppings can be responsible for the spread of dozens of diseasesincluding a variety of contagious viruses that are serious risks to health, some potentially fatal if left untreated.

Prevention
Always wash hands thoroughly after any contact with a rodent, wild or domestic. Since humans and rodents share such a wide variety of diseases, it is wise to avoid contact altogether and always wear heavy-duty gloves when coming in contact with rodents and their droppings, says the CDC. It is equally important to avoid allowing any dried droppings to become dust, which can contaminate the air and lungs potentially spreading disease. Spray down any areas that have come in contact with rodents with a mixture of one part bleach per 10 parts water and allow it soak so that any viruses or bacteria will die. Items that cannot be treated with cleansers can be left in the sun for several hours to kill any germs or bacteria. 

The best way to avoid contact with rodent dropping is to remove the pests from the home. Put all foods in glass or plastic containers inside cabinets to hide the scent from rodents. Plug any holes or cracks that are big enough for a rodent to slip through, especially during the winter when they are more likely to enter homes in search of food and warmth.

If the problem is too severe for these measures, it is time to call a commercial exterminator like Truly Nolen. Extermination of rats and other rodents is best left the professionals in extreme cases and, considering the risks, is well worth the phone call.

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Fish market in Ontario closed due to rat problem

A popular fish market in Toronto, Ontario, was recently closed because of health code violations, including a rat infestation.

The store, which is located near downtown and typically sells squid, salmon, scallops and other seafood, is rated four out of five stars on Yelp, though the last review was written this time last year. 

Global Toronto reports that a food safety website revealed that the market previously had two conditional passes, but was closed on January 28 for five different infractions, the most revealing of which was a sighting of roughly 15 rats. In an interview​ with the news source, the woman who spotted the rats stated that “you could see them crawling on the sinks on the windows through the back area …” She snapped a photo then posted it online to warn others of the violation. The conditional passes occurred in November of 2012 and in October of 2011. This is the first time that the market has been closed due to a rat problem. 

Rats pose the threat of spreading disease through direct contact, and occasionally cause breathing problems in the areas that they’ve inhabited. They transmit diseases such as the bubonic plague, salmonella, rat-bite fever, leptospirosis, tapeworms and murine typhus.

The market has been open for 50 years, and the owner has expressed concerns about whether or not the business will be able to bounce back. Customers have already begun to cancel their orders, but the Global reports that the market should be able to reopen soon.

Many restaurants and stores close due to infestations of rodents and other pests. Though the shut downs are often temporary (until the shop is cleaned up), many businesses have trouble regaining their reputation. At the first signs of an infestation, a pest control professional should be called to exterminate the critter population.

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Avoid luring pests into your bedroom

Having pests in the home can pose various dangers to the family. Mice gnaw on wires and increase the risk of electrical fires, cockroaches can increase the likelihood of asthma and silverfish can destroy valuable documents. To avoid any of these occurring in their bedroom, homeowners should be sure to take the following precautions.

Avoid food in the bedroom 
Allowing food in the bedroom may invite pests, whether or not falling bits of food are clearly visible. When eating at a desk or in bed, crumbs are inevitable. It’s important to clean the areas that are utilized for meals frequently and thoroughly. If you do keep food in the bedroom, keeping it in air tight containers limits the risk of uninvited guests, though always eating in the kitchen cuts down on the amount of cleaning that is necessary. If there’s nothing to eat, mice and other pests are less likely to make that area their habitat.

Reduce nooks & crannies 
Seal the perimeter. If pests can’t get in, they can’t make themselves at home. This Old House warns that most critters need less than a quarter-inch diameter space to get into a room, so plugging up potential entrances, especially in older homes, is essential. Make sure that all windows have screens, and that the screens don’t have any holes in them. Cracks in walls can be filled with expanding foam or steel wool. Use a flashlight to check the corners and floorboards in the rooms of the house to prevent the potential for pest entry. If your bedroom has hardwood floors, be sure to check for gaps and cracks wider than a quarter-inch. 

Keep It Neat
TLC notes that it’s vital to keep all spaces in any house neat and free of clutter, since piles of clothes or boxes make ideal hiding spaces for unwanted guests. Most everyone would hate to find a mouse or spider in their shoe when getting ready for the day. This can also be used as an incentive for keeping bedrooms tidy. Keeping a doormat by the front and back entryways can help to reduce dirt, which in turn reduces the risk of tracking pests into the bedroom.

Keep pets clean
Pets are also a great way for creatures to hitch a ride through the front door and then into the bedroom. Cleaning and drying pet’s paws and fur before allowing them into the house, especially before they get into the bedrooms, can cut down on pesky passengers. Luckily it’s not necessary to give cats and dogs a bath every time they come in from the yard. Special cloths are available at most pet stores that make maintaining the cleanliness of a household animal significantly easier. 

If pests do make it into the bedroom, many pest control services such as Truly Nolen offer a free inspection. 

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Cold Draws Cockroaches Inside, Increases Health Risk

Children More Susceptible to Allergic, Asthmatic Reactions

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

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

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

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

Preventive Strategies

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

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

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Termites terrorize Texas

Swarming termites were a disconcerting sight for many San Antonio residents this holiday season, states amateur scientist Forrest Mims in an article for San Antonio Express-News.

Several days before Christmas, Mims noticed flying insects on his property. Upon approaching the swarm, he noticed a patch of ground below it covered in a rippling, shimmering white film, he writes. What he was looking at was actually a thousand winged termites, which then suddenly  took off into the air.

While termites serve an important purpose in nature eating up dead tree particles, they’re a major nuisance for residents. There are a variety of termite species and most share the commonality of destroying wood and causing severe damage for homeowners.

Subterranean termites live in underground colonies that can contain up to 2 million members, according to the National Pest Management Association. They build mud or soil tubes in the ground around exposed concrete foundation, which homeowners should be aware of when expecting their property for signs of an infestation.

Meanwhile, drywood termites rarely come into contact with the soil and live in dry wood, as their name implies. They can also cause serious structural damage.

If residents suspects termites on their property, they should contact a pest management professional promptly.

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