Archive for December, 2009

Stink Bug and Box Elder Bug are the Same Bug

Monday, December 21st, 2009

The box elder bug can be a very annoying bug to homeowners. It is actually known to be a nuisance more than a pest because the box elder bug does not harm things like other pests do. The box elder bug does not damage things within a home, does not bite people, and rarely damages things outdoors. The only slight damage that comes from having box elder bugs inside a home is that their excrement can leave a stain on items like carpet, draperies, and walls. Also, if a box elder bug were to be killed by being stepped on or crushed by something it would let out a foul smell. The box elder bug is also known as the stink bug due to the foul odor it releases if crushed. Those are about the only two negatives that a box elder can bring into a home. When the box elder is outside it doesn’t do much harm either. Of course it feeds off of trees and such, but it actually does not damage them. The only time the box elder bugs could damage a tree or plant they eat is if there were an abundance of box elder bugs feeding all at once. Considering the damage that many other household pests can cause the box elder bug is not a threat, rather just a nuisance.

stink bug box elder bug

Here is a close up of a box elder bug.

Spotting the annoying critter is easy. The box elder bug has very distinct physical traits. They are about half an inch long, are an elongated oval shape, have wings, dark gray to black coloring, have three stripes of reddish orange right behind their head, red lines along their sides, a diagonal line on each wing, their abdomen is bright red, and their legs and antennae are black. The only problem is that their darker features help them blend in with tree bark, so they aren’t always easy to see. When they are not on trees they are easier to spot. Many times box elder bugs can be found on plants, grass, or flowers and the contrast of colors will make them more apparent.

stink bug box elder bug

This is a box elder tree, a main food and shelter source for the box elder bug. If you see one of these trees there are box elder bugs near by.

While on plants, grass, or flowers the box elder is most likely eating, as these are some of the foods they eat. The box elder bug also eats low vegetation, seeds, new twigs, cherry trees, peach trees, apple trees, ash trees, maple trees, and female seed bearing box elder trees. The female box elder tree is a favorite food for the box elder bug, and provides as a place to live. Also the ash and maple trees can both be food and shelter.

Outside the box elder bug enjoys the warmth from the sun. Many times if the box elder bug is not on a tree or plant, homeowners can find them along the south side of the home enjoying the sun. The box elder bugs sun themselves, just as people lie out and sun bathe. While sunning on the walls of homes box elder bugs will look for entry points like cracks or crevices. Box elder bugs will need to get inside the home when it gets too cold out, and cracks and crevices are the easiest way in. There are easy tips to help homeowners prevent box elder bugs from getting inside their home to hibernate.

Even though the box elder’s food supply and home is outdoors they do go into homes, but not for food like other pests. The box elder bug hibernates in the fall / winter. They start looking for a place to take cover in the fall and will make their way into the home or building as the weather cools down. Box elder bugs really like warm weather, so while inside homes they may follow the warmth of the house or any sunny areas to hibernate. Most often they hibernate in walls and attics. Once they find their spot, box elder bugs will become inactive, for the most part. At times in the day some box elder bugs will leave their spot in search of more warmth or sun, they will then return by the evening. This does not always occur, but it is how most homeowners end up seeing box elder bugs wandering through their home. Unlike other bugs or pests, the box elder bug will not even reproduce during hibernation. Only adult box elder bugs will survive hibernation, and even then some box elder bugs will get trapped within the home after hibernation and die.

Since the box elder bug does not reproduce in the fall and winter it will start reproduction once it gets outside again, in the spring. Box elder bugs will create one or two generations a year. The female box elder bug will lay her eggs on tree trunks, tree branches, leaves, stones, and or crack and crevices of tree bark. The eggs are a yellow tone, and as the nymphs inside develop the egg will change into a red tone. About two weeks later the eggs will hatch. The nymphs are about one sixteenth of an inch big, bright red, and wingless. Other than the coloring and the wings the nymphs look like smaller versions of adult box elder bugs. In order for the nymphs to develop into adults they suck fluids out of seeds, foliage, twigs, and or fruit. Also, during their development they will molt. Once they have become an adult they are on their own, and will keep the cycle going.

stink bug box elder bug

These are box elder eggs, some are more developed than the others as they are already red. There is also a nymph crawling over the pile of eggs.

Pictures courtesy of

Stink Bug – Box Elder Bug Prevention Tips

Monday, December 21st, 2009

Prevention for the box elder bug needs to be focused on during the fall or in the late summer. The fall is the peak time of the year when box elder bugs are trying to sneak their way into people’s homes. Occasionally people will see box elder bugs crawling around inside their homes already and panic. Trying to catch and kill them is tricky because you don’t want to crush them and let out that awful foul odor. Many people will spray them with a pesticide or a water and soap solution. This does not always work because it has to be sprayed directly on the box elder bug. The best thing to do if you find box elder bugs in you home is to call your local pest control service out to your house. If you don’t think you have a box elder bug problem these tips will help ensure that a box elder bug problem doesn’t occur in the future. Like prevention for many other pests the steps are easy. Here are some of the basic tips to homeowners to help prevent box elder bugs from getting inside your home.

  • Go over the exterior of the home and look for any cracks or crevices, as those are the most popular entry points. Seal any if found.
  • Check all screens on doors, windows, and vents to make sure there are no tears. Repair or replace any that are damaged.
  • Seal any openings around windows.
  • Make sure all doors have thresholds and weather stripping. Also, make sure garage doors have a rubber bottom.
  • Seal any openings around pipes or cables.
  • Don’t leave piles of debris near the home, dispose of these properly.
  • Rake leaves and any seeds that have fallen, especially those from box elder trees.
  • Box elder bugs are attracted to light, so use yellow lights outdoors and at a minimum of use. Also make sure not to leave any windows open near your outside lights.
  • Vacuum the inside of your home frequently. If you find dead box elder bugs vacuum them dead or alive. Do not try to pick up, as there is a chance you can squish them. If that happens they could leave a stain, and will leave a foul odor.
  • If at all possible, remove any box elder trees, maple trees, or ash tress that are on your property. This is the most effective way to not have box elder bugs near your home.

Pest Control Problems During the Winter

Monday, December 21st, 2009

Winter wonderlands are great places for people to enjoy the season and all of the holidays that are celebrated during the winter. Ironically people’s homes are winter wonderlands for pests. Yes, pests are a year round problem that homeowners have to deal with, but during the winter is when pest invasions are on the rise. There might not be as many pests during the winter as there are in the spring, but the risk of pests wanting to get into homes is much higher. If you already have pest control services set up make sure you have them year round and not seasonally.

pest control problems in winter

With snow and bare trees there aren't many places for pests to live outside during the winter.

The main reason pest invasions are on the rise in the winter is that pests are looking for a warm and dry place to stay. Some pests will actually hibernate within your home because of the warmth. While other pests will remain active once they’re gotten into a warm home. Having active pests inside your home during winter can be very dangerous as they can spread their diseases. Also while in your home pests can cause serious damage to wires, beams, and so forth.

The active pests that are inside a home will be looking for food, so keep all food stored properly and do not leave fruit out in fruit bowls. If pests walk on your countertops or on any food that’s left out they can transfer their bacteria etc. that they carry onto those surfaces and food. This is the most common way for people to physically suffer from pests, other than being bitten. Also pests will be leaving droppings which are contaminated with diseases and can cause harm to people. Keep an eye out for any droppings, especially in attics, basements, corners, etc. If you do find droppings call your local pest control service right away, as this is a sign of pest activity. If there are large amounts of droppings it can be hazardous to your health so do not try to remove the mess yourself, again call a professional out to your home.

During the winter it is best to maintain any preventative methods that you do throughout the year; by maintaining these methods in the winter your home will also be ready for the spring problems. The best way to think of your house, in order to protect it from pests, is that inside your home it is like spring year round. Even though pest problems are year round, spring is the highest peak of pest population indoors and outdoors. So if during the coldest time of year the home feels like spring you are sure to have some pests trying to get inside. Here are some of the most common winter pests by state:

If you do not see the state you reside in on this list please check back as more states are still being added to our database. Also the database is still adding more and more pests, so if you have a problem with a pest and don’t see it listed in the database please continue to visit as pests are continually being added.

Picture courtesy of

Spider: The Yellow Sac Spider

Monday, December 14th, 2009

Yellow sac spiders can be found all across the United States. Not only is the yellow sac spider found all over the United States it also accounts for more spider bites than any other type of spider in the United States. That is a lot of bites to be caused by yellow sac spiders; unfortunately the number is so high because many times the yellow sac spider bites are misdiagnosed. The symptoms of the bite are similar to the bite from a brown recluse spider, but the yellow sac symptoms are not as severe. Therefore many times physicians diagnose the bite victim as being bit by the yellow sac spider; when in fact, it could have been a brown recluse spider, but the symptoms have not fully developed.

Since the yellow sac spider and the brown recluse spider bites are so similar it is important to know what to do in any case of getting bit by a spider. Read more about what steps to take if bitten by a yellow sac spider in our first aid for spider bites blog. Also it is important to know what a yellow sac spider looks like in order to help identify what kind of bite you may have gotten.

Often times people are bitten in the middle of the night, and may have no idea what really bit them. Other times when people get bit they see the spider, in this case it is best to try to catch the spider or bug that way the doctor can properly diagnose the bite. The yellow sac spider is about the size of a nickel, on average. The yellow sac spider has a body that ranges from one-fourth of an inch to three-eights of an inch long. The eight legs span about an inch in length, and the first set of legs are longer than the other six legs.

spider yellow sac spider

Yellow sac spider.

Another interesting fact is that the males are generally smaller than the female yellow sac spiders. Like most other spiders the yellow sac spider has eight eyes, and their eyes sit in two horizontal lines of four eyes. Also around their feet they have a darker looking coloring to them, it is actually dark dense hair. There is also a darker stripe down the abdomen. Considering the name of the yellow sac spider most people would assume the spider is yellow. Some are yellow tones, while others can range from an orange tone to a green tone. It has been said that the color of the yellow sac spider sometimes depends on what it has most recently eaten, but some do not think that is where the coloring of the yellow sac spider comes from.

The yellow sac spider eats many things, while it mostly hunts for small insects and other spiders. During the fall the yellow sac spider will usually migrate into homes in search of food. While in the summer the yellow sac spider has plenty of food outdoors to feed on, although that doesn’t mean they won’t try to go into houses.

For the most part, yellow sac spiders live outdoors. Outside the yellow sac spider can be found in places like trees, low vegetation and shrubs. Even though the yellow sac spider lives mostly outdoors it can be found within homes. No matter where the yellow sac spider is living it will always make itself a sac to rest in and spend its days. Being a sac spider, the yellow sac spider does not spin a web; rather they make silken sacs to reside in. The sac is also used as a place for them to sleep during the day and hibernate in the winters. Also, the yellow sac spider will spin a sac for its eggs to stay protected in, and for the spiderlings to molt in. The sac is also a way for people to identify that their home may be infested with yellow sac spiders.

If yellow sac spiders have migrated into a home they still will make their sacs to live in. Most often they will set up shop in corners or ceilings of walls. These spots make it easy for people to notice the sacs and proceed from there, the best plan being to call your local pest control company out to your home. Yellow sac spiders look for small places where they can be protected from predators. Many times these areas are the hidden areas inside a home; like the closet, basements, window sills, behind furniture, along baseboards, or in doorframes. The yellow sac spider can crawl up to high to places because they are good climbers. Also their silk can be used as a bridge from one object to a next, especially from high to low places. This tool comes in use both indoors and outdoors for the yellow sac spider. There are also places outdoors where the sacs may be hiding, like under foliage, leaves, stones, or wood. Many people may come in contact with these areas while outside doing yard work or gardening. So be aware of the yellow sac spider inside your home out outside of your home. Here are some tips for preventing yellow sac spiders from getting near your home.

Yellow sac spiders are nocturnal so homeowners won’t really see them running around in the day. Therefore the risk of being bit is higher at night when the yellow sac spiders are running around your house hunting for food. Sometimes the yellow sac spider may crawl into your bed or couch; this is when most bites occur. While people are in bed sleeping or on the couch watching TV or if the yellow sac spider is in your sheets or on your cushions it may panic and feel threatened by your body and therefore will attack or bite you.

The yellow sac spider creates about one generation a year. The female usually will lay her eggs in the summer. She will deposit them into a sac to keep them protected. In this sac will be anywhere from 30-50 eggs. During the process of the eggs developing the female will stay near the sac to protect it. Once the eggs have hatched they will become spiderlings and molt for about two weeks. After that period the spiderlings will set out on their own venture. From there the cycle will just repeat itself, and there will be more and more yellow sac spiders out in the world.

Picture courtesy of

Spider: Yellow Sac Spider Prevention Tips

Monday, December 14th, 2009

Preventing yellow sac spiders is just like preventing any other pest, the only difference is the damage they can cause. No one wants pests, more so yellow sac spiders, in their home. Nor does anyone want to take the risk of being bitten by a yellow sac spider. Follow these steps to help prevent yellow sac spiders from invading your home:

  • Keep all beds from touching the wall.
  • If you have a bed skirt either move it so that it doesn’t touch the floor or just completely remove it.
  • Before wearing any clothes that come out of your closet shake them out.
  • Keep closets, attics, basements, and other storage areas clean.
  • Vacuum regularly, don’t forget the undisturbed areas like behind furniture.
  • Keep clutter out of your house.
  • Place sticky traps behind furniture and other large objects that yellow sac spiders might hide behind, like appliances, credenzas, or armoires.
  • Make sure screens on doors, vents, etc. are installed correctly, and that there are no tears in them.
  • Seal any holes around pipes that go into the house, check basements and crawl spaces.
  • Install weather stripping on doors and windows.
  • Seal any cracks or crevices in the homes foundation.
  • Remove leaf litter, vegetation and spider webs that are adjacent to the house. A powerful hose should do the trick for the webs, etc.
  • Store wood piles away from the home.
  • Wear gloves when outdoors either gardening or working with things like wood or rocks.
  • Cut trees and shrubs back so they do not touch the roof or walls of the house.
  • Switch outdoor lights to yellow. As the yellow lights do not attract as many insects, i.e. yellow sac spider food.
  • Keep the use of outdoor lights to a minimum.

Spider: The Yellow Sac Spider Bite- First Aid Tips

Monday, December 14th, 2009

Getting a bite from a yellow sac spider sounds much worse than it really is, unless you are allergic. Any kind of bite seems to terrify people and for good reason, some insect venoms are very poisonous. Luckily, the yellow sac spider has venom that is not as poisonous as other insects or spiders. Many people confuse the bite from a yellow sac spider with the bite from a brown recluse spider, which is much more poisonous. The initial symptoms are very similar. The problem is that later on if the symptoms become more severe, you know it was a brown recluse and not a yellow sac spider. Many times because of the similar symptoms, the bite of a brown recluse spider is misdiagnosed as a yellow sac spider. This has resulted in the yellow sac spider being known for being one of the most common spider bites people get in the United Sates.

If you are bitten by a yellow sac spider there are some basic first aid steps to follow. Other than the symptoms that become apparent these steps can be used to help relieve the pain etc. in any occurrence of a spider bite.

  • Bites often occur in bed when the yellow sac spider gets stuck in the sheets. Also, when hiding in things like the couch, shoes, or clothes.
  • When a person gets bit they will feel a sharp pain, similar to the pain one would get from a wasp sting.
  • The bite mark will become red and filled with puss within eight hours of the bite happening.
  • Clean the bite with hydrogen peroxide.
  • Apply an antiseptic like iodine.
  • Ice the bite mark, and also elevate the area that has been bitten.
  • Other physical side affects symptoms people will start to have can be nausea, fever, skin necrosis, and stomach cramps.
  • If these symptoms are present go to a doctor as soon as possible, as there is a chance of being allergic to the yellow sac spider’s venom.
  • If at all possible take the spider that bit you to the doctor for a proper diagnosis.
  • The red mark will harden as it heals, and can take up to a few weeks to do so.
  • While the bite is healing make sure to keep it extremely clean. Clean it thoroughly on a daily basis so that it does not get infected. If necessary, go to your doctor for an antibiotic to help as well.

Ant: Tips for Preventing Carpenter Ants

Friday, December 4th, 2009

Carpenter ants can be a huge frustration to a homeowner. It can be time consuming to try to find the main source of the carpenter ants, the colony. Also there can be multiple colonies, adding to the frustration. The best thing to do is have your local pest control service come out and examine your home. Many times if there is a colony inside there is a larger colony outside. Like many other pests problems homeowners face there are some basic prevention tips to help keep carpenter ants outside of your home. Here is a list of things homeowners can do to avoid a carpenter ant invasion.

  • Eliminate any moisture sources. Correct roof leaks, plumbing leaks, and any other moisture problems.
  • Replace any damaged wood.
  • Get rid of anything that is wood to ground contact. If necessary elevate the wood with concrete pier blocks.
  • Stack firewood away from the homes foundation and elevate it off of the ground. Always keep outside in an open area, like the backyard.
  • Trim or clip any tree branches or vegetation touching the roof or siding of the house.
  • Remove logs, stumps, and waste wood near or under your home.
  • Add a gravel or stone strip around your house.
  • Make sure all window and door frames do not contact the soil of your yard.
  • Seal or caulk any cracks in foundation, openings in foundations, entry points on the house, and around electrical and water lines / pipes.
  • Check any crawl spaces, attics, and basements to make sure they are well-ventilated, and have no moist or damp areas.
  • Clean any clogged gutters to prevent water damage.

Ant: Carpenter Ant Nests

Friday, December 4th, 2009

The nest of the carpenter ants can be very intricate. If you were to find one it could just look like a piece of wood has been carved out very nicely. Unfortunately, the carving is done by carpenter ants while they make their home. The cut outs are actually called galleries or tunnels. In a way the galleries almost look like a maze has been cut into the object.

ant carpenter ants

This carpenter ant nest was built in an old tree. It's hard to believe that carpenter ants made this carvings, galleries.

An important factor in the nest location for carpenter ants is moisture. Carpenter ants can make their nest in many different things that either have natural moisture to them or are near moist areas. Some of these spots are things like moist wood, firewood, near sinks or showers, under roofing, and or in wall voids. Once a location has been chosen the carpenter ants will get to work.

The nest of a carpenter ant may be found indoors or outdoors, although most often the main nest will be outdoors. Within the carpenter ant colony there will be a main nest, called the parent colony, and then there are smaller nests, called satellite colonies. A colony of carpenter ants can have up to 20 satellite colonies. The main purpose of a satellite colony is to have a place outside of the chaos within the parent colony to take care of the pupa. The workers take the pupa and transfer them from being with the Queen to a satellite colony where the workers will take care of them until they are adults. Often times the satellite colony can be found inside a home. Unlike the parent colony the satellite colony does not need as much moisture.

Many times homeowners will see carpenter ants in their home and do not know where they are coming from. This is usually because the carpenter ants are out searching for food. If the carpenter ants are inside the home they can either be passing through or coming out of their nest. The best way to determine where the carpenter ants are coming from is to find their nest. If you can not find the nest it could be outdoors, and the carpenter ants are just looking for food. If you do find the nest it is best to call your local pest control service to come remove the carpenter ants. Finding a nest can be trying. It is best to attempt to locate the nest at night when the carpenter ants are more likely to be out. Once you see them follow them, you don’t want to startle them so use a flashlight with a red film or lens on it. Carpenter ants can not see red light so they won’t see you following them. Hopefully they will be headed back to their nest and you can follow them. If they look like they are looking for food go ahead and lay some of their favorites out as a lure, then once they get their food they will head back to the nest. In the case that you do not see the carpenter ants out and about look around your home for frass, the saw dust looking stuff, as that is usually left near the nest.

ant carpenter ants

Here's an example of what frass looks like if you need to search for carpenter ants within your home.

Another option is listening for the ants. Check in any suspected areas where carpenter ants like to build their nests, and tap on the object or wall. Put your ear up to it and listen for a rustling sound, carpenter ants make this sound with their jaw and if they are disturbed, by tapping on the wall, the sound will get louder. If you locate the noise you have your nest location. At any time you find a nest call your local pest control service to come out and evaluate the colonies. The most important thing in controlling carpenter ants is that you destroy the parent colony, and not just all the satellite colonies. A professional pest control agent will be best at determining if the nest you have found is a parent or satellite nest.

Pictures courtesy of