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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Bed bugs wreak havoc in Indiana and Kentucky

Residents of the Asheville Housing Authority complex in Aston Park, Indiana, are troubled by a lingering bed bug problem, reports local ABC affiliate WLOS. After dealing with a large bed bug infestation in 2011, authority officials have told the station the problem hasn't worsened and is under control and that they've only received one complaint recently. However, bed bugs remain an ongoing concern for residents.

Occupants of public housing complexes in New Albany, Kentucky, are facing the the same problem, states local news station WHAS 11. The housing authority has recently brought in pest management professionals to search more than 1,000 homes.

Bed bugs have become a  major issue for homeowners and communities across the country, notably in the Midwest and the South. City officials in a Louisville, Kentucky suburb met earlier this week to discuss recent infestation reports, according to WDRB, which covers news for areas of Kentucky and Indiana.

The suburb of Shelbyville code enforcement officer Darryl Williams said bed bug cases in the area are mostly sporadic and occur in apartment complexes. He conducts building inspections weekly.

"We started having problems with mattresses sitting on the side of the roads. We had couches, chairs sitting on the side of the road," Williams told the news service.

Bed bugs are particularly troublesome because they bite and they populate quickly. Many Shelbyville residents are realizing how difficult getting rid of them is without professional help.

"It has to be a professional pesticide company that comes in and does it," said Williams. "It just can't be an individual."

City officials are holding a meeting on Thursday night to discuss pest management and property owner education initiatives.

Because bed bugs infestations are among the most troublesome pest problems, homeowners and landlords should take precautionary measures to catch them early on. It's important to call a pest management professional promptly upon seeing bed bugs, bites or pepper-like flakes of shedded skin on furniture and in fabric or carpeting.

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Roof rats cause trouble for Washington residents

While roof rats are usually only found along the coast of Washington, exterminators are seeing an increase of reported sightings in other parts of the state, local news source Yakima Herald reports.

Officials have yet to determine whether the increase in roof rat calls pest management professionals are receiving is caused by a species population growth or migration. Despite the cause, the rodents are resulting in problems for homeowners throughout the area and an increase in calls to pest control professionals.

Roof rats are named after their tendency to dwell in structure attics, trees and vine-covered fences, the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management (ICWDM) states. These pests often enter buildings through roof openings and from overhead utility lines and nearby trees. Roof rats can be extremely troublesome for homeowners as they can gnaw through insulation and wiring, which can result in costly damage and potential health hazards for a family experiencing an invasion.

Preventing an infestation
To avoid luring roof rats into a home, residents can take precautionary measures to pest-proof their property. Because roof rats often eat the pulp of oranges, it's a good idea to clean up any fruit that may have fallen from yard trees. Residents should also trim branches near structures and eliminate brush on their property to eliminate hiding places and routes into the home.

These rats are attracted by water and materials that can be used to build nests. It's therefore a good idea to eliminate moisture and potential harborage throughout the home. Those homeowners who suspect the pests may have gotten into their homes are advised to contact rodent control specialists who can ensure the problem is taken care of promptly. 

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USDA shares preventative advice on Asian longhorned beetles

Faced with Asian longhorned beetle infestations throughout parts of Ohio, local municipal leaders met with U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) officer Philip Holmes last month to discuss containing current bug populations and preventing further infestation.

While these beetles have been spotted in surrounding towns, the city of Milford hasn't seen any reported cases yet. City officials are taking preventative measures nonetheless, local news source Community Press reports.

"We are so close to an infested area that there is absolutely a possibility of it becoming a problem here as well," Milford Mayor Geoff Pittman said, according to the newspaper.

Spotting an infestation
The Asian longhorned beetle is a destructive wood-boring pest that was first discovered in the U.S. in the 1990s, according to the University of Vermont Entomology Research Laboratory. These bugs are glossy black with white spots and can be up to 1.5 inches in length.

Holmes warned officials and homeowners should not confuse Asian longhorned beetles with emerald ash borers, which are also currently causing problems for property owners in the Midwest. While ash borers only attack ash trees, Asian longhorned beetles infest 13 types of hardwood trees, including ash, birch, buckeye, maple and goldenrain.

After Asian longhorned beetles lay eggs under the bark of trees, larvae hatch and eat the soft wood near the outer parts of trees. These young bugs will move into the heartwood and stay there for two-and-a-half years before fully maturing. Once they hit the pupal stage, adult beetles emerge from the trees.

While these bugs do not attack finished wood, their presence can be extremely troublesome for residents because they can destroy yard trees and infest firewood.

Know the signs
One sign of an infestation is a random pattern of holes in trees. When these bugs emerge from wood, they make a dime-sized exit hole with smooth edges, according to Community Press.

In addition, beetles create excretions called frass that look similar to sawdust. Egg sites may also be noticeable and are the size of a deer eye.

It's a good idea to look for these signs early, as an infestation can ravage a plant quickly.

When homeowners take proactive measures to protect their property, they limit the chances of having to deal with costly tree removal services. If residents suspect their home or yard is being frequented by unwelcome critters, they should notify a pest management professional promptly.

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Emerald ash borers cause expensive problems

The emerald ash borer is spreading across much of the country, most recently the state of Ohio, and causing costly damages for local governments and residents, The Associated Press reports.

Much like other wood-damaging pests, the species can multiply quickly and destroy trees and hardwood. Native to China and Eastern Asia, emerald ash borers are believed to have arrived in North America in wood packing used to ship goods, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

"Just as a wild fire often spreads by sparks from the main fire, so the emerald ash borer is spreading through the state," Joe Boggs, an Ohio State University extension services educator told The AP. "Once these little, crackling fires are established, the population starts building until it explodes into full conflagration."

These bugs are named after their iridescent green color. Roughly â…› to ½ inches, the average emerald ash borer can easily fit on a penny, the USDA states. The small but mighty bugs are responsible for the death or decline of tens of millions of trees in 13 states in the Midwest, along the East Coast and in parts of Canada.

While the city of Dayton has spent roughly $40,000 this year to remove and replace diseased ash trees, Ohio residents are confronted with the hefty costs of damage to trees and hardwood located on their property.

"Every community, every homeowner, should be thinking about the effect the emerald ash borer is having," said Wendy Van Buren, urban forester with the state's Department of Natural Resources, according to The AP,
Meanwhile, Northland, Missouri confirmed the presence of these beetles earlier in December, reports The Smithville Herald. As a result, Platte and Clay counties have been under a federal quarantine that prohibits the transportation of firewood from these areas to prevent the spreading of potential infestations.

While emerald ash borers can fly as far as two miles, they most often get a ride from people unknowingly transporting infested firewood, Kevin LaPointe, a city forester for the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department, told the newspaper.

Keeping the home pest-free
Luckily, these beetles do not attack finished wood, unlike termites and other wood-demolishing critters. However, few homeowners want to see these green bugs flying around their property because they destroy the trunk and major branches of ashes and tree removal can be very costly.

Dead branches near the top of a tree and leafy shoots growing out of the lower portion of a trunk may be signs of an emerald tree borer infestation. In addition, these bugs make S-shaped tunnels and D-shaped exit holes in wood. If a tree displays signs of a pest problem, it's a good idea to call a pest management professional.

In addition, because firewood is a popular dwelling choice among these bugs, homeowners should inspect wood thoroughly before bringing it into a home. It's best to keep firewood outdoors on an elevated platform at least 20 feet from any structure. This prevent beetles and other more destructive critters from coming into contact with a building's foundation and walls.

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Keeping your home pest-free while you’re away

Whether homeowners are traveling for the winter holidays, taking advantage of a three-day weekend to get out of town or heading out on a summer vacation, nobody wants to come home to a pest infestation.

Here are three pest prevention tips residents should add to their to-do list before leaving their homes for an extended period of time.

1. Seal up cracks and crevices
It's a good idea to inspect all corners of a home, including in the basement and attic, for any openings in external walls, foundations, door frames, windows and roofing. Insects and rodents can sneak into homes through tiny holes for food, water and shelter. Mice can squeeze through spaces as small as a nickel, according to the National Pest Management Association. It's therefore a good idea to double-check for potential entryways before leaving home for several days.

2. Clean up
Creepy crawlers and furry intruders are attracted to rotting food, spills in the kitchen and garbage. Even a few dirty dishes can lure in an ant colony. It's a good idea to thoroughly wipe off surfaces, mop up messes and clean furniture every week. Vacuuming is also a good way to prevent any small critters that may have already intruded a home from reproducing. Homeowners should empty all garbage cans into trash bags, which should be sealed tightly and placed in bins with lids.

In addition, the odor of food left out or in packaging that isn't completely sealed can bring in pantry pests and other unwelcome guests. It's a good idea to conduct a walk-through of eating areas and food storage locations before leaving to ensure dry products and cooking supplies are stored correctly.

Meanwhile, clutter of any kind, including clothing, papers or wood piles outside provide some bugs with dark, sheltered places to nest and should be cleaned up.

Outdoors, brush and untrimmed trees can harbor nesting places for rodents that damage yards and look for structures to invade. It's a good idea to maintain a well-kept lawn and avoid placing pet food outside to keep away raccoons and rats.

3. Eliminate moisture
It's never a good idea to wait until after a trip to fix a leaky faucet or dripping pipes. Moisture, especially standing water, can lure in thirsty pests. Residents can check around water heaters, in attics and basements for water damage caused by rainfall.

The last thing homeowners want to see upon returning from a vacation is a pest infestation. If residents suspect a problem, they should notify an exterminator promptly.

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When traveling, avoid unwanted stowaways

Million of people will travel near and far this holiday season. From visiting family to exploring new places, there is one souvenir that no traveler wants to bring home: Bed bugs. These pests can latch onto humans in hotels, movie theaters and buses and they can cause an extremely aggravating and expensive infestation upon entering a home. It's a good idea for homeowners to protect themselves with these travel tips.

Inspect, inspect and inspect
Whether homeowners are staying in a hotel or at Grandma's, they should thoroughly inspect their room before settling down. The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) highly recommends keeping suitcases on tile or wood floors before bringing them onto carpet room.

Using a flashlight travelers should inspect the entire room, including curtains, dressers and couches and other furniture.

Upon approaching the bed, it's a good idea to pull the sheets back completely and inspect the mattress cover and seams and the bed's headboard for small brown marks, peppery flakes of shedded skin and lentil-size bed bugs.

If travelers who are staying in a hotel notice any signs of bed bugs, they should alert management immediately and ask to be moved to a different room. Because bed bugs can travel on cleaning carts and through wall sockets, it's a good idea to ask for a room that is not next door, above or below the infested area.

Take care of personal items
To avoid inviting pests into luggage, travelers may consider covering their suitcases in trash bags and keeping them off the ground on luggage racks throughout their trip, advises NPMA. Hanging clothes up will limit the chances of sneaky pests infesting them.

In addition, placing clothing in sealed plastic bags will protect items against bed bugs. It's always a good idea to check personal property periodically when traveling to ensure pests haven't latched onto clothing in public places.

Protecting the home upon returning
After flying or driving many miles, the last thing homeowners want to deal with is a bug problem. It's a good idea to unpack luggage outside to avoid bringing in any unwanted stowaways.

All clothing, whether dirty or not, should be brought into the house in a plastic bag and washed immediately in hot water. Dry-clean only items should stay outside until homeowners can take them to the cleaners.

After emptying a suitcase, residents should vacuum each corner and thoroughly inspect crevices and pockets.

If homeowners suspect they've brought home bed bugs, they should contact a pest control professional promptly.

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Keeping pests out of a shed (411)

While residents may notice a pest infestation in their homes early on, bugs and rodents can harbor in yard sheds and storage structures for a while before their presence becomes apparent. Especially during winter months, pests look for food and shelter in humid, covered areas. If homeowners suspect unwelcome visitors, they should contact a pest control professional promptly. However, there are several steps homeowners can take to limit the chances of an infestation.

Prepare from outside in
Wood dwelling critters like termites can severely damage the foundations, walls and roofs of garden sheds. If these bugs aren't dealt with quickly upon first notice, they can cost homeowners hefty sums in repair and replacement fees. It's therefore essential to eliminate elements that attract the pests.

Because rats, mice and many creepy crawlers can enter structures through seemingly tiny holes, it's a good idea to seal up any crack or crevices in external walls, foundation and piping.

Pests are lured by moisture and standing water. It's always important to clean up water and other liquid spills promptly. To eliminate humidity, residents should inspect external and internal faucets and eliminate any leaks in pipes and valves. Homeowners may also consider purchasing a dehumidifier to dry up the shed's interior.

Because a lack of ventilation can foster the stuffy environment many bugs are used to, it's a good idea to place a fan in larger storage structures. Homeowners may also consider opening and closing shed doors every day or so to let fresh air in.

Watch what you store
Sheds can be a great place to keep gardening tools, infrequently used appliances and other household items. However, residents should be very cautious about what they store.

Moths, beetles and other pantry pests can get into dry foods and grain, endangering residents and causing headaches for those whose products are destroyed. Meanwhile, rats and raccoons can contaminate pet food, putting furry friends at risk of bacterial diseases.

Dry products and soil should always be stored in an airtight container and inspected frequently and before use for signs of pests, such as dropping, larvae and rips or holes in packaging. Items like holiday decorations, clothing and bedding that are placed in a shed should be cleaned thoroughly and sealed in bins. Cooking appliances should also be effectively cleaned and free of food residue.

Firewood should never be kept in or near sheds. It's best to place it outdoors on a platform to keep pests away. Meanwhile, if a trash bin is kept inside the shed, residents should empty it frequently.

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Keeping rodents from cozying up in your home this winter

Tis the season to watch out for pests. As temperatures drop during winter months, critters try to make their ways indoors. Rats and mice can infest attics, basements, pantries and improperly stored holiday decorations. If homeowners suspect they're housing unwelcome guests, a pest management professional can address the problem early and effectively. There are several common perpetrators residents should be aware of during this time of year.

House mice
These mice are among the most troublesome rodents in the U.S., according to the University of California's (UC) Integrated Pest Management program (IPM). House mice are about 5 to 7 inches in length and have relatively large ears. These critters are most active at night when they search for food. While they can be found outdoors, house mice enter homes by sneaking through seemingly tiny cracks and crevices in external walls and foundations.

Common signs of house mouse infestations include droppings, gnaw marks and tracks. In addition, they carry a noticeable musky odor, according to the IPM. These mice build nests of shredded paper and other fibrous materials in areas like attic corners.

In addition to bringing fleas, gnats, ticks and lice into the home, the house mice can endanger children, who are susceptible to allergies caused by urine droplets, states the National Pest Management Association (NPMA).

Because house mice can fit through holes the size of a nickel, homeowners should seal all holes that have a diameter larger than a pencil, NPMA recommends. Outdoor drains and gutters should also be thoroughly inspected.

Roof rats
As their name implies, these rodents have a tendency to occupy upper parts of structures. They can enter attics through nearby trees and phone lines, according to the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management. They can also be found under and around homes, sheds and other structures. Like house mice, these rats can squeeze through very small holes.

Roof rats can cause extensive damage to wiring, insulation and yards. They're about 6 to 8 inches in length and can be a mix of brown, black, gray and white. They feed off of a variety of fruits and nuts primarily, but they've been known to eat meat products like pet food. It's therefore extremely important for residents to store food in sealed containers and to avoid feeding pets outdoors and leaving food out.

Because these pests tend to live high up in structures, their droppings, urine and nests aren't usually noticeable. Homeowners can look for smudge parks along ceiling beams because roof rats often come into contact with oil and dirt when they travel through aerial passages, the Internet Center states. Another sign of an infestation is sounds in the attic at night.

Roof rats have been associated with a variety of diseases like food poisoning, rat-bite fever, typhus and more. In addition to sealing up holes, homeowners should remove sources of moisture throughout their property to avoid attracting these pests, NPMA suggests. It's also a good idea to keep yards clear of brush and any fruit that falls from trees. In addition, homeowners should cut back and tree limbs and shrubs that are near the house.

Norway rats
Norway rats are very similar in many ways to their roof-dwelling cousins. These brownish, reddish or gray pests are omnivorous and live in and around structures and woodpiles. They can can cause severe damage to foundation, slabs, electrical wires, water pipes and insulation by gnawing and burrowing, according to the Internet Center.

When Norway rats enter a home, they can attack food storage containers and infest dry goods and pet food. They're also known to transmit serious diseases.

If homeowners spot fluorescent dry or wet urine, burrows in walls, along fences and next to buildings, they should contact an exterminator promptly to have their infestation eliminated.

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