Category Archives: Insects

What’s Eating Your Lawn?

florida-grass

The Sunshine state is truly the ideal place to live and work. With the sun shining year round, your yard is the perfect place to host a BBQ, watch the kids play, lounge by the pool or even take a nap under the shade of a tree.

Having a healthy and beautiful lawn in Florida is important when it comes to maintaining the aesthetics of your home, but all of that sunshine and Florida’s humid climate can put a lot stress on your lawn. Our year round tropical climate makes keeping your lawn healthy and beautiful a year-round task. Florida is susceptible to grass and plant funguses and other pathogens, salt intrusion and poor water retention, providing the perfect conditions for invading insects and weeds to thrive. Considering the multiple types of grass found in Florida, in combination with the different types of common pests that are known to destroy the aesthetic value of Florida Lawns, all Florida homeowners can benefit from a brief Florida Lawn 101.

Types of Grasses Found in Florida

Florida is home to certain types of grass that flourish well in warm, humid climates. While many lawns consist of a mixture of grass varieties, let’s take a closer look at some of the specific types commonly found in the Sunshine state:

  • Augustine grass/Floratam

This dark green, course grass is probably the most common grass found in warmer climates. With a broad blade and rounded tip, St. Augustine grass (also known as Floratam) requires a lot of moisture in order to survive. In summer month’s it grows quickly, requiring weekly mowing. During the winter, spring and fall months the grass can generally be cut every five weeks.

  • Bahia grass

This soft, deep green grass tends to do well in sandy soil and warmer conditions. Similar to the St. Augustine blade, Bahia grass grows quickly in the summer month’s but slows during the other seasons. Unlike St. Augustine grass, Bahia grass has a pointed tip instead of a rounded one. Even though the blade itself grows slowly, the seed stalks tend to grow rapidly.

  • Bermuda grass

With a deep green color and a sharply pointed blade, Bermuda grass can most often be spotted on the rolling hills of the golf courses in Florida. Chosen for its dense quality, this grass requires consistent watering and fertilizing.

  • Centipede grass

Centipede grass prefers more humid, warm areas and does not require as much fertilizer as other grasses. The blades themselves tend to be pointier, and grow very low, almost horizontally to the ground.

  • Zoysia grass

This dark green, turf type grass tends to have a softer blade, and is the most susceptible to damage due to lack of moisture. Homeowners like this grass because of its ability to stand up to foot traffic, as well as provide an attractive choice for lawn cover.

Common Lawn Pests found in Florida

Due to Florida’s environmental conditions and warm weather, many pests tend to thrive in both the Northern and Southern parts of the state, causing headaches for many homeowners as their lawns become susceptible to damage. Actively seeking on-going pest management and lawn maintenance is essential to identifying the culprit at hand early on, saving homeowners’ money in the long run, as well as unnecessary additional damage to the lawn.

Some of the pests that might be causing damage to your lawn include:

  • Chinch Bugs

If you’ve noticed areas in your lawn turning yellow, and then a reddish color before dying, chances are Chinch bugs are around. Partial to the St. Augustine grass, Chinch bugs extract the liquid found in grass through their needle like beaks, depleting the grass of its nutrients, often feasting in large groups. Since Chinch bugs like the sunny areas of the grass, you may notice patches on your lawn, especially in well exposed areas.

  • Mole Crickets

Preferring the warm coastline of the southeastern United States, Mole Crickets can be particularly destructive to your lawn if left untreated. Feeding on the roots of mostly Bermuda grass and Bahia grass, Mole crickets, tunnel through the soil causing the roots of the grass to loosen eventually drying out the grass and killing it. Though hard to spot, you’ll notice evidence of mole crickets by dry patches of grass on your lawn and signs of tunneling in the soil.

  • Sod Webworms

Adult sod webworms are in fact a small brown moth that lives in turf grasses. Though the adults do not actually consume the grass, their offspring are the main cause of lawn destruction. After the female sod webworms lay their eggs, these eggs hatch and the small caterpillars that emerge begin feeding on the top growths of the grass where they have hatched, usually in the spring time.

  • Army Worms

St. Augustine grass and Bermuda grass are often times the feeding choice for Army worms. Growing up to 2” in length with gray/yellow stripes going down its body, army worms feed mostly at night on the blades of these warm weather grasses. Since these insects love chewing on grass, you’ll notice brown areas on the blades that indicate where an army worm has chewed.

  • Grubs

White grubs in particular, are the most damaging turf insect pest. Feeding on the roots of grass plants, they tend to be most active in mid to late summer. Just under an inch in length and shaped like a “C”, these bugs can go undetected for a long time before evidence, such as irregular sections of brown grass, appears. Since they have been busy eating away at the roots of the grass, the damaged turf can be easily detached from the soil.

  • Spittlebugs

As their name implies, Spittlebugs produce a white, ‘spit’ like protective barrier that can appear as a frothy substance on plants and grass. Adult spittlebugs do not produce this foam, but rather the nymphs that have hatched in early spring who then adhere themselves to plants and begin feeding. In particular, the Two-lined spittlebug damages grasses such as St. Augustine and Bermuda grass by causing patches of turf to turn yellow and eventually, brown. Proper fertilization techniques can aid in discouraging the development of Spittlebugs in your garden.

The Grass is Always Greener

Tips for Ornamental Care

Ornamental plants generally require little care and can provide interesting textures and colors to any garden. The benefit of ornamental plants is that they can flourish in diverse soil conditions. Unlike lawn grasses that require specific care and treatment, ornamental plants can be considered a bit hardier, despite their often delicate appearance.

Some ways to keep your ornamental plants happy among the rest of your garden:

  • Maintain regular fertilizer, pruning and pest control.
  • Add compost to the soil when transplanting ornamental plants.
  • Proper drainage and irrigation are important despite moisture retentive plants.
  • Periodically trim your ornamental plants, preferably in the spring as new growth occurs.
  • Allow enough space for your plants to grow.

Tips for Grass care, Fertilization & Weed Control

In addition to active pest management control, proper fertilization and weed control techniques should be used to help maintain healthy, vibrant grass. With year round tropical conditions, applying best practices to lawn care can extend the life of your lawn and provide a beautiful landscape for you to enjoy.

  • For thin grass, consider seeding it during the spring. If overseeding, it can sometimes be helpful to choose a different grass variety that has been grown for natural insect resistance.
  • Paying special attention to the type of grass ensures that the appropriate amount is cut. For example, Floritam grass should be cut at 4”, while Zoysi grass is typically cut between 2 -3 inches.
  • Watering your lawn less frequently, but with more water helps ensure that the roots are receiving adequate moisture, which will encourage them to grow deeper.
  • Fertilization applications are best done in spring and late summer.
  • Proper mowing techniques can also ensure that fertilization treatments have had time to work. Ideally, waiting a day before and after your lawn has been fertilized makes for the optimal time for mowing.
  • Weed control is best applied when the weeds have grown a bit to allow the solution to adhere from the top right down to the root

With Truly’s Lawn Care program, an initial analysis can help determine current problems pertaining to pests and overall health of your lawn. Taking into consideration everything from grass type, nutrition, watering, fertilization and more, Truly’s Lawn Care experts can identify areas that are prone to weed or insects and provide tips on how you can maintain a beautiful lawn. Contact Truly Nolen today to see how we can develop a customized lawn care plan that will keep you and your toes happy all year round!

Spring Showers Bring Pests – What to Look Out for This Season

Fly Banner

The onset of spring means fresh air, flowers in bloom, and warm weather ahead. It also means high pest activity as the warmer temperatures awaken new life and bring pests out of hibernation. Although different pests are a problem throughout the varying seasons, spring is considered peak pest time as eggs that were laid over winter begin to hatch, as well as an increase in mating habits for many pests.

No matter the time of year or the season at hand, Truly Nolen’s Four Season approach is designed to adapt to the changing needs of pest control. Treatment methods are designed to specifically target current pest activity taking into consideration that pest behavior changes throughout the year.

Common Spring Pests

Termites

termites
Termites are one of the more invasive pests during the spring season as they are busy during this time establishing new colonies. “Swarmers”, the reproductive termites, will leave their nests in spring to begin to mate. Since they are winged, they can easily be identified. Spotting these insects in your vicinity could be a sign that there is a brewing infestation.

Rodents

Rodent
Spring time is the optimal mating time for both rats and mice. If they haven’t already taken up residence in your home during the winter months, their activity will increase both indoors and outdoors as the warmer months approach.

Ants

odorous-ants
As the weather warms, you may begin to see a proliferation of ants in and around your home. During the winter months, ants have kept a fairly low profile but emerge during the spring as they begin their search for food. Since they feast on sugary foods, ants will be more prone to entering your home in search of food and water.

Mosquitoes

mosquito
By overwintering in the egg stage (laying eggs in such a way as to keep warm during the winter months) mosquito activity tends to be high as spring approaches. The eggs will hatch during the spring and mature to a full grown adult in a short space of time. Spring rains also make ideal breeding conditions, so that reproduction takes place during the time, lending way for more mosquito presence as spring transitions into the summer months.

Spiders

spiders
Unfortunately, many homeowners may also see an increase in spider activity as a result of the presence of other insects. With variety of soft-bodied insects becoming active during the spring months looming spiders have access to an abundant food supply.

Stinging Insects

bees
Warmer temperatures present the ideal conditions for stinging insects to begin mating, as well as to establish nests around your home. Yellow jackets, wasps and bees come out of hibernation making it a precarious time to be outdoors, especially when more aggressive insects are active, like wasps.

Truly Nolen’s Treatment Approach

With the arrival of spring also bringing an increase in pest activity, Truly Nolen’s service experts kick things into high gear with more aggressive and proactive treatment methods. The change in season means that treatment approaches must be altered and tailored specifically to the change in pest behavior. Pests thrive in the warm weather and are eager to reproduce, feed and infest!

Treatment methods are effectively designed to:

  • Reduce reproduction cycles.
  • Focus on treatment of exterior environments to address areas where insects breed.
  • Actively treat entry points into the home.
  • Establish long term protection to avoid further infestation.

With Truly Nolen’s Four Season Approach℠, quarterly treatments are conveniently scheduled so that pest activity can be quickly identified, assessed, treated and monitored. A thorough inspecting of your home can reveal any potential issues that require immediate attention. With unique and innovative application methods and treatments, your Truly Nolen expert can focus on exclusion so that these determined pests are stopped in in their tracks before they can even enter the home and cause damage.

Interior & Exterior Treatment Areas

After thoroughly inspecting both the interior and exterior perimeter of your home, your Truly Nolen expert will provide an outline of specific treatment hot spots that require immediate attention. Areas prone to pest activity covered under the spring treatment plan include:

  • Window and door frames, baseboards and fixtures where smaller pests can hide and lay eggs.
  • Under cabinets or sinks in laundry rooms, bathrooms and kitchens were pests that are attracted to moisture may reside.
  • Window sills, ceilings and corners, where insects tend to get trapped in existing spider webs, in turn providing bait for other predatory insects.
  • Entry and access points throughout the home including garage doors, roofs and attics.
  • Inside closets and cabinets where pests may be lurking.

Since pests are actively seeking to enter the home, exclusion techniques and treatment methods are especially important:

  • Treatment of spider webs on the exterior of the home are crucial to keeping insects and spiders at bay. Patios, exterior doors and overhangs, as well as eaves and gutters are all areas that spider webs can accumulate, providing the perfect trap for unsuspecting insects.
  • Cracks, crevices and holes serve as easy entry points so sealing these are vital in keeping pests out. Prior to sealing, effective treatment methods are applied to eliminate any pests that may already be hiding inside.
  • Entry points along the foundation of your home are also checked to ensure that pests don’t have any opportunity to get inside.

While this refreshing time of the year can put a “spring” in your step and encourage you to spend more time outdoors, it is also important to remember to schedule your quarterly pest service. As much as we are enjoying the weather outside, pests too are also taking advantage of this time to increase their activities. In order to avoid potential problems in the coming months, let your Truly Nolen pest expert provide a free and friendly inspection and discuss the innovative Truly Nolen Four Seasons℠ approach to keeping your springtime fun, pest free.

Hate Bugs? These Bugs Play Such an Important Role in Nature You Might Fall in Love

branch of blossoms
With spring time right around the corner, embracing a love for nature and the outdoors is something commonly enjoyed by many. While families may love spending time outside and the activities that come with it, the words “love” and “bug” are typically not associated with one another in a positive context. In all honesty, who really loves bugs? Critters of the creepy, crawly category are not particularly loveable! These small, misunderstood creatures are hardly ever welcome in our personal space, yet play a crucial ecological role. Not only do bugs serve as an excellent source of food for larger animals, but they are critical in the process of pollinating our trees, fruits and veggies.

Insects can be found in almost any habitat, varying in species more than any other animal. We may consider bugs to be pests, it’s important to be aware of the benefits some bugs have to offer from an ecological standpoint. Some ways that bugs are vital to our ecosystem include:

  • Biological control in agriculture
  • Serving as a food source for mammals, fish and other animals
  • Biological control for harmful/dangerous pests
  • Aiding in the decomposition of dead materials, allowing nutrients to be easily absorbed in our soil
  • Pollination by some bugs aids in the production of food for humans
  • Being a direct food source for people in many countries! Insects provide protein, minerals and vitamins

Before you make up your mind one way or another about bugs holding a special place in your heart, let’s be sure you have an informed opinion by taking a closer look at a few bugs that we’d have a tough time living without.

Bees

bees
With over 20,000 known species of bees, it is difficult to imagine a world without them. It is impossible to think of a world without bees as their existence is essential to human life. Aside from producing wax and honey, bees stay busy by having one of the most important jobs on the planet. There are other insects and elements that aid in pollination such as wind, nothing can compare to the pollination power of bees. While bees are consuming pollen, the micro-hairs on their bodies collect pollen and transfer it from plant-to-plant as they fly. It is the pollination process where various fruits, flowers and nuts are formed. Since bees have very species specific feeding habits, plants of similar species enjoy the full pollination benefits of them.

It is the process of pollination that keeps the world’s plants and flowers thriving from generation to generation. Imagine a world without the beauty of flowers — without popular foods like pumpkins, apples, blueberries and cucumbers. Without pollination these would cease to exist.

Butterflies

Monarch Butterfly
The butterfly’s visual appeal and beauty as they flutter from flower to flower is a commonly enjoyed sight. Attracted to fragrant, brightly colored flowers, butterflies are a close second to bees when it comes to pollination and the benefits from it, including the development of plant species.

Simpler in appearance, moths are also considered an important element as they, along with butterflies, are a source of food for other animals, such as birds. Both butterflies and moths create a bodily chemical used to defend themselves against predators. While this chemical may taste bitter to predators, it has proved to be useful for humans, especially for medical reasons. For example, chemicals produced by the Meadow Brown butterfly have help scientists and doctors develop more effective antibiotics.

Ladybugs

ladybug
The bright red exoskeleton coupled with scattered black polka dots is a familiar sight in most gardens. Sometimes referred to as Ladybirds, Ladybugs are natural bodyguards when it comes to the safety and security of a garden. Since they are an effective and organic form of pest control, Ladybugs are used beyond the personal security of a garden. Many species of ladybugs are also used by farmers in the agricultural industry to feed on other insects considered harmful to crops. Ladybugs provide farmers a safer alternative to hazardous chemicals used to keep pests away.

Fruit Flies

Beautiful Fruit Fly
Fruit flies are often cast aside as nothing more than pesky flies that show up when half-eaten fruit is left lying around, however thanks to their frequent breeding habits and genetic makeup, these small insects prove that they are more than meets the eye. For many years, scientists have studied fruit flies and their chromosomes in search of more information regarding genetic variations. As irritating as they are, fruit flies provide valuable data that can be used to understand more on human genetics as they share roughly 75 % of the genes that cause human.

While we may be tempted to simply dismiss all bugs as pests, it is important to show some bugs a little love considering their living habits can be far more beneficial to humans than we may realize at first glance. Our world would be a completely different environment if some of these bugs weren’t around in to regulate our ecosystem and help maintain the world that we have come to know and love.

Spiderman vs. Real Spiders: Who is the real hero?

From nursery rhymes that delight and fascinate young children, to scary horror stories that evoke fear, spiders have always played an important role as pop culture references. Boasting an impressive resume of leading and supporting roles, spiders weave their webs into many major movies, the most popular of which is Marvel’s Spiderman franchise. Even though these action packed movies are more about the stunts and computer graphics, Spiderman’s strengths are based on the real features and traits that spiders actually possess, which indeed make them truly amazing creatures.

As intimidating as spiders may seem, they are actually shy creatures that tend to retreat if you advance on them. In rare cases when there is close human interaction, the few spiders that are considered dangerous such as the Black Widow or Brown Recluse, can prove fatal if you are bitten, but most spiders are harmless and will not bite. Not to be confused with insects, spiders are Arachnids with all spiders having 8 legs and 2 distinct body regions. As much as our natural instinct is to get rid of any spider that we encounter, it is important to understand the benefits that spiders provide as they prey on undesirable insects and pest species, making them nature’s own biological vacuum.

spiders

Eight Legged Fun Facts

If you suffer with a true fear of spiders (Arachnophobia) it may not comfort you to know that there are at least 40,000 different species of spiders that exist. All spiders have venom and are therefore considered venomous, but most are still relatively harmless to humans. While the sight of them will make you go in the opposite direction, there are so many fascinating traits to these eight legged creatures:

  • Unlike insects, spiders do not have antennae or wings.
  • All spiders have 8 legs.
  • Female spiders can produce up to 3,000 eggs.
  • The most poisonous spider is the Brazilian wandering spider, also known as the Banana spider.
  • The silk weave spun by spiders is considered the strongest material in the world. In the Spiderman movies, the concept of being able to climb walls and swing from high levels using this spun silk is a huge part of the appeal of his character. In reality, scientists have not been able to replicate this material despite technology.
  • The only continent in the world that does not have spiders is Antarctica!
  • Spiders are filled with venom which is actually how they digest any food that they intake. Anything ingested is first turned into a liquid substance.
  • Jumping spiders can jump up to 50 times their own length (picture Spiderman leaping from building to building!)
  • Spiders can live in almost any habitat with only a few species surviving near water. This accounts for their highly diversified species.
  • Spidey Senses! Although Spiderman does not have 4 eyes like most spiders, his ‘spidey senses’ are just like that of a real spider. Near sighted, spiders cannot rely on their eyes to help them, so they must hone in on their other senses to help find food and defend themselves.
  • The most common method of capturing prey is by creating a web that insects or lizards will get stuck in. Some spiders hunt actively and will search their surroundings for food.

Types of Spiders

Although most of the spiders we encounter are harmless, it’s a good idea to acquaint yourself with the more common varieties in the event that you do cross paths with them in your home.

 

Type of Spider Appearance Where to find it Get the bug spray?
Common House Spider
  • Long abdomen
  • Yellow/brown in color
Basements, garages, under furniture, around windows and near lights. The common house spider poses no real threat and is more of a nuisance.
Jumping Spider
  • Black with light markings
  • Shorter legs and more compact body
Around windows, doors, fences, decks and bushes. If threatened, the jumping spider can bite in defense, but their bite is not dangerous.
Long-bodied Cellar Spiders
  • Small body with long skinny legs
  • Range from pale yellow to light brown in color
Dark, damp places like basements and cellars. High humidity areas like sink cabinets, bathtubs, inside closets No real threat as these spiders do not bite.
Brown Recluse Spider
  • Range from light to dark brown
  • Noticeable dark brown violin shape marking on its back
Under woodpiles, debris, inside storage areas, baseboards, closets and attics. The brown recluse will bite in defense often leading to a painful bite and associated fever, sores and restlessness. Requires immediate medical treatment to avoid allergic reaction.
Black Widow Spider
  • Shiny and black body
  • Red hourglass shape on their underbelly
Found in boxes, around woodpiles or firewood and lower level areas. Female black widows can be aggressive if they are guarding recently laid eggs. A bite from a black widow can lead to high blood pressure, nausea and fever.

brown_recluse_spider

Keeping Spiders Out

Even if we’re inclined to bring out the spider décor at Halloween time, the rest of the year should be kept spider free if possible. The sighting of one or even two spiders may indicate that there is an infestation brewing and should be attended to right away to avoid the problem getting out of hand. To help reduce the possibility of spiders entering and staying in your home, there are a few preventative measures you can take:

  • Pressure clean the outside of your home to get rid of webs and possible spider eggs that cling to door frames and windows.
  • Repair damaged screens on all exterior openings of your house.
  • Remove debris, firewood or garbage away from your home as these areas serve as good resting places for spiders.
  • Using yellow light bulbs helps to deter insects, which in turn, deters spiders from feeding on them.
  • Any noticeable cracks or spaces should be sealed.
  • Minimize the opportunity for nesting by removing bags, boxes and papers that may be lying around your home.
  • Keep a close eye out in corners of ceiling, walls and windows and eliminate any cobwebs that you find.
  • Contact your Truly Nolen service expert who can effectively assess and treat any areas of the home that you suspect may have spiders.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Some bugs may stink up the holiday season

Winter is knocking on the door, and while you're preparing for cold weather and the holiday season, dealing with bugs – especially stink bugs – probably isn't on your to-do list.

As temperatures drop, the unwelcome guests may try to enter your home, according to Fox News Oregon. Many bugs try to seek shelter from wet weather and infestations can become a problem for some homeowners. Stink bugs are cleverly named after the unpleasant odor they emit when scared, disturbed or crushed.

Homeowners in Oregon are reporting noticing the bug and its smell, and the Oregon Department of Agriculture told Fox News that the stink bug population is spreading throughout the state.

The Pacific Northwest isn't the only area reporting a stink bug presence. According to Lexington, Kentucky's The Lane Report, University of Kentucky entomologists are receiving calls from homeowners about the bug. The news source revealed that 13 state counties have reported a stink bug presence thus far.

The pests aren't only hitting a few areas of the country. USA Today reported that stink bug problems were recorded in 38 states in early October. The critters migrate indoors in the fall and hibernate throughout the winter, which makes cozy homes a favorable place for them to snooze as outdoor temperatures drop. While they can be annoying, stink bugs are not harmful. However, a large population can become a problem and it's best to hire a pest control professional to deal with the smelly bug.

Hurricanes could bring pest problems

Hurricanes have the potential to seriously disrupt everyday life. When a storm hits an area, its strong winds, rain and resulting flooding can cause major damage to a community. However, there's another way hurricanes can damage an area – by bringing in an influx of pests. With Hurricane Sandy threatening part of the country, these storm-related issues are a concern for many on the East Coast.

After a storm, many return to their homes to find damage from water or wind, but they may not be expecting to discover a problem with insects, as well. Because hurricanes and other storms can displace or disorient wildlife, the potential of bug problems goes up drastically. The South Carolina Department of Public Health and Environmental Control reported that the frequency of insect bites can increase by up to 50 percent after a storm.

Insect issues
Once homeowners are sure it's safe to return to their residences, there are several things they can do to reduce the risk of unwelcome pests invading their houses. Downpours can increase the number of mosquitoes in an area, so it's essential to drain any standing water to eliminate breeding areas. Even if there are no puddles around, it's still important to take precautions, as mosquitoes can carry diseases. Making sure screens are free from rips is key to prevent the pests from entering a home, and when going outside residents should always wear bug repellent to keep the mosquitoes from biting.

Rodent invasions
Rodents can also be a concern for communities after a hurricane hits. While winds are high, trash may be blown about, which attracts rats to an area. Upon returning to their residence, homeowners should make sure there is no trash or food outside their homes to keep the critters at bay. Any holes or cracks caused by storm damage should be sealed as soon as possible – it's not hard for a rodent to sneak into a residence through a small crevice.

If homeowners return to their communities after a hurricane to find that insects and rodents have taken over, it's essential to bring in a professional exterminator. Because many pests can carry disease, they need to be removed from homes as quickly as possible. Without taking care of the issue in a timely fashion, residents may only find that the problem will get worse over the coming days and weeks. A pest control professional can help to ensure unwelcome critters are eliminated from a household, and that it is habitable once more.