Archive for the ‘Information, how-to, and things about pests’ Category

Rats: Sewer Rat Prevention Tips

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

There are many things to do around your house to make sure that sewer rats do not infest it. Most of the prevention tips for keeping sewer rats away are the same as what you’d do for any type of rat or pest. These items should help prevent sewer rats from getting into your house, and ideally not attracting them to your house in the first place.

There are the instances that sewer rats may have already gotten into your house; if that’s the case there are some things you can do to get rid of the problem. One of the best methods to get rid of sewer rats is to call your local pest control service. Or you can set up traps; even sticky traps can be effective. One thing to keep in mind when setting up traps is that if the sewer rats have been in your house they are familiar with the environment because they memorize locations and pathways when they are searching for food and water. This causes a problem because if there is a new object in their path, like a trap, they are going to be more hesitant of it because they know it was not there before. Sewer rats are tricky, dirty rodents. Again it is best to call a local pest control service; you can even hire an organic pest control company if you are worried about using pesticides in your house. We hope that you don’t encounter these problems, but if you do, you’ll know what you’re in for; and these tips will help prevent you from having a sewer rat problem in the first place.

  • Check around your house for any openings, such as holes, cracks or crevices. Rats can get into a home in an opening as small as a quarter.
  • Look for burrows on your property. They are usually found under your house or anything that is placed on the ground like a shed, half barrel for plants, stacks of wood, or anything else that can be heavy and is sitting on the ground. Sewer rats like to dig their burrow underneath something stable, so try not to keep large items on the ground unless they’re on the concrete.
  • Also check your vegetation as sewer rats will dig burrows underneath things planted in the ground as well. Remember they can dig down three feet.
  • A popular spot is resting water; in the summer’s monsoon or storm season a lot of water is left on carports or on back porches. It is best to sweep the water into the gutter or into your grass, that way there are no puddles for rats to come drink from.
  • If you can, cover your pool as frequently as possible as sewer rats like to swim. It can be dangerous to have sewer rats in your pool even if you’re not using it because they can contaminate the water, putting you at risk to contract one of the diseases sewer rats carry.
  • Sewer rats like dog and cat food, if there are food bowls left outside for your animal there is a high possibility sewer rats will stop by. Your pet’s water bowls especially attract sewer rats.
  • All stacks of wood or clippings should be kept at a higher level and not on the ground.
  • Keep any containers that are outside closed with a tight lid, and on cement rather than the grass. Anything from a trash can to a plastic storage container. Especially a trash container otherwise it’s a rats paradise.
  • Make sure to clean trash cans, sheds and crawlspaces on a regular basis. Also make sure that these areas are always dry.
  • Pick up animal waste on a daily basis. Yes, as gross as it sounds that is another invitation for a rat to come feed.
  • Rats will eat anything so ensure to clean up thoroughly after parties on your patio.
  • Keep a clean and sanitized house and yard. Any presence of garbage will attract rats.

Rats: Sewer Rats and the Diseases They Carry

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

Sewer rats are disgusting and dirty rodents. Like many other rats they carry diseases, and can spread them to people. Most of the time sewer rats spread diseases without them even being present, because the feces and urine sewer rats leave behind are the transmitters of the diseases to people. These dirty sewer rats leave their mess and also walk around people’s houses contaminating everything they touch, if you are not aware of it and do not keep a clean house you are putting yourself and your family at risk of infection of any of the diseases the sewer rats carry. Also some of the diseases that the sewer rats carry can be transmitted through water. This happens if their urine gets in your water supply, pool water or in your toilet bowl water- which may get your dog sick if they drink out of the toilet. To protect yourself and your family and your pets be aware of the diseases. Here is a list of the most common diseases sewer rats carry:

  • Leptospirosis: transmitted though contaminated water, often contaminated with sewer rat urine. These bacteria can cause symptoms such as high fever, chills, muscle and head aches, jaundice and more. There are occasions when there are no symptoms present, to ensure if you have been infected your blood or urine should be tested as it can be mistaken for other diseases.
  • Rat bite fever: most frequent in Asia, rat bite fever can take up to two weeks before symptoms develop like fevers and inflammation, penicillin is used for treatment.
  • Toxoplasmosis: transmitted either through raw or uncooked meat or eating contaminated soil, i.e. sewer rat feces and urine that have contaminated food. Symptoms include headache, muscle ache, sore throat, and enlarged lymph nodes. Get to a doctor right away.
  • Hanta virus: airborne virus, symptoms do not occur very quickly once they happen, they are similar to the flu and last about a week. If still sick heavy breathing can occur and you should be taken to a hospital because it can be fatal.
  • Crypto (Cryptosporidiosis): this waterborne disease has the symptoms of nausea, abdominal cramping, diarrhea, and weight loss. There isn’t an exact treatment, but medicine can help it is best to get to a doctor for help.
  • Weil’s disease: transmitted through rat urine, it is often on contaminated food that people end up eating, shows flu like symptoms but can also cause jaundice and throwing up, is best to see a doctor right away.
  • Trichinosis: carried by rats, but they get it from pigs, it is a worm that can get inside of your intestines. Nausea, diarrhea, heartburn. Headache and chills are some of the symptoms best to go to a doctor right away.
  • Murine Typhus: can be transmitted from the lice that live on rats, this is treatable with antibiotics and the symptoms resemble those of the measles or rubella.
  • VHFs (Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers): transmitted by breathing in infected sewer rat feces and urine. Symptoms of this disease are fatigue, dizziness, weakness, muscle aches and high fever. There are worse symptoms that can develop so if you think you may have been infected or know that you were in a place with rat feces it is best to get to a doctor right away.

Rats: Sewer Rats, Norway Rats, and Brown Rats are all the same Rat!

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

The Norway rat is the most common rat found all across the U.S. Many people have heard of the Norway rat, but often by a different name. It is also known as the sewer rat and the brown rat. So yes the infamous sewer rat that is very disgusting and that no one ever wants to see in person is the same thing as the Norway rat, which doesn’t sound as gross – other than the fact that it’s still a rat. Since it is the most common rat and its most commonly known as the sewer rat that’s how we are going to refer to this disgusting creature. Like many other household pests the sewer rat is something to be taken seriously, if you discover there are sewer rats in your home it is best to call a local pest control service for professional help. The sewer rat carries diseases like other rats so the safest thing to do is have a professional remove them from your home.

There are a few things that homeowners will notice if sewer rats are in their home. For one they will leave droppings behind. These droppings can transmit the diseases they carry, so again it is best to call a professional for help. Urine from sewer rats is also a way to discover they are in your home, often one will find dried up urine stains, but may also find fresh urine. The traces of urine can be seen with ultraviolet lights if need be. Other signs of sewer rats are gnaw and smudge marks that can be left behind on a number of household items. Gnaw marks are usually found on boxes, corners of walls and other surfaces as sewer rats have very strong teeth and can bit through anything from a cardboard box to wires. Smudge marks are usually left on pipes, beams and rafters as the sewer rats make their way through spaces in your home smudging the dirt on their bodies onto fixtures they cross. Also if you notice any burrows made under or near your home or vegetation in your yard there may be some sewer rats on your property. If you notice any of these signs of sewer rats call your local pest control service right away.

rats sewer rat Norway rat

Sewer rats are a hazard to have on your property. If you have any call your local pest control service to get rid of them.

Sometimes people may not notice the above signs; rather they will actually see a sewer rat in their home. Sewer rats are often confused with roof rats, but they actually look different. The best way to determine the difference between a sewer rat and a roof rat is by the length of their tails. The tail of the sewer rat is shorter than its body and the tail of the roof rat is longer than its body. The sewer rats are tones of brown in color with coarse fur, and their underside is lighter in color sometimes a gray to yellowish white tone. Their ears and tails are actually covered in scales, not fur. They have small ears and small eyes; even though their ears are small they have really good hearing. They also have excellent sense of smell which helps them navigate through areas, sometimes even better than using their sense of hearing, to help them. On a different note they have horrible eyesight and are colorblind, hence why their other senses are so beneficial to them. They can be plump looking and can weigh around 12 ounces. Their bodies average about 10 inches long, and then their tails are usually shorter than that, making their full length from nose to tail an average of 18 inches.

If there are sewer rats in your home you need to be extra cautious as these rats can easily contaminate your home with the diseases they carry. They are nocturnal so at night they come out to look for food and water. While looking for food and water they can be scurrying across your floors and counter tops leaving behind feces and germs. They also will invade pantries in search of food and eat through the boxes just to get to the food inside of the box. Finding food containers with holes or gnaw marks are definite signs that you may have rats in your home. These rats will eat just about anything, but they love to eat cereal. It is best to keep your cereal in a plastic container with a lid, if you leave it in the boxes the sewer rats can chew right through the cardboard contaminating your cereal. Since they do eat just about anything it is always smart to not leave any food out, that is a welcome call for them to come and get it. Bowls of fruits left on the counter are not a good idea. Even if the sewer rats were to decide not to eat it they could walk on it and contaminate it with out your knowing. Another food source they can contaminate without your knowledge is dog or cat food. If the pet food is in a bag the rats can eat right through it and contaminate the food. The safest thing to do is to keep the food in a plastic container with a lid, just like the cereal. This way you are not risking your pet’s health. Keeping food on higher shelves may sound like a good idea to keep these sewer rats away, but they will actually climb in order to find food and or shelter.

rats sewer rat

Sewer rats really do come into homes through toilets, so be extra careful!

Another item sewer rats are always in search of is water, because they can not survive long with out it. They also do not like to travel far in order to get their water, so they will look for the closest place possible to find water. A good way to cut them from any water is to keep your toilet seats down this way they can not get into the toilet for water, also sewer rats are swimmers so they are not afraid of jumping into a toilet for some water. Sometimes this can be how sewer rats get into your home, by coming up through the pipes and entering through the toilets.

Having sewer rats coming in through the toilets is a scary thought! An even scarier thought is that these rats can get into a home from an opening as small as a quarter. Most rats can actually do this, which is why it is so important to make sure there are no openings into your home. If sewer rats aren’t already in your home and there is an opening somewhere then they will get in, especially if they are looking for food and water.

Most sewer rats live near people, inside a house they can be found in a cellar, basement, or attic. Outside a house they can be found in burrows under or near the house. Sewer rats can be found from the city to the suburbs to the country side, as long as it’s a location where people live sewer rats will make it a home. No matter what they always need to be within 300 feet of a food and water supply. If they get in your home they will make a nest for themselves. These nests can be found in crawl spaces, attics and basements. The location of their nest can vary, just so as long as there is a way into the home for them to get food and water. Although the most popular place for sewer rats to find shelter is by making a burrow under a house, storage shed, or building and so on. When sewer rats dig their burrow tunnels underneath the ground they like to have something above it, like a house or shed. Sewer rats can dig up to three feet straight into the ground. Again even though these rats may not always build a nest inside your house they will still try to get in for food and water. If you see any signs of burrows under your house or anywhere on your property call your local pest control service out to help you better detect for the sewer rats, and then get rid of any rats that are found.

No matter where sewer rats may be living they are always looking for a place where people are because they know if there are people near then there should be food and water close by too. So make sure to keep a clean house and don’t leave any food out, otherwise you’ll be attracting sewer rats right into your house.

Picture courtesy of www.creativecommons.org.

Spider: The Crab Spider

Friday, August 6th, 2010

Crab spiders can be hard to find, but they are definitely around. The reason they can be hard to find is that most crab spider species are able to camouflage themselves with their surrounding areas. Also all of the species of crab spiders resemble crabs; hence their name. Physically the most distinctive crab like characteristics the crab spider has are their two front legs, angled outward and flat bodies. Also the movement of the crab spider mimics the movement of crabs. They walk forwards, sideways and backwards like crabs.

crab spider

Here's an up close view of a crab spider.

Crab spiders in general have neutral coloring, such as light brown to gray tones. The coloring of the crab spider allows them the ability to camouflage themselves to fit into their surroundings. Their shape, flat body and small size, averaging half an inch or smaller, can make them appear to be bird droppings. They can appear in multiple locations like bird droppings, for instance on the sidewalk, patio, roof tops, tree branches and many more locations, anywhere bird droppings can be found. This odd ability to disguise themselves as bird droppings actually gives them an advantage when hunting for food.

Even though the crab spider is smaller in size its two longer front legs make it appear to be larger than it’s described. The crab spider’s eyes are all small and act as motion detectors, which comes in handy when they are looking for prey. Crab spiders are able to crawl up places like trees, walls and posts. During the day, crab spiders sleep in an area where they blend well in order to stay out of view of predators. Once the sun falls, crab spiders will move around to find a hunting spot, or they may hunt from the location where they’ve been resting.

crab spider

Here's a crab spider after a successful hunt.

The hunting style of crab spiders is unique in that they will ambush their prey rather than chasing it down or like most other spiders they do not put a web up to trap prey. They will sit and wait in an area where they can camouflage themselves, i.e. grass, flowers, tree bark, fruit, foliage or even cracks and crevices in buildings until they can see their prey. Once an insect of their liking passes their path they will attack. For the most part crab spiders eat small- to medium-sized insects, including butterflies, ants, flies, mites, and bees. When a crab spider has caught its prey, it paralyzes it with its venom and is able to hold it down with its two larger front legs. The venom in the crab spider is powerful; it is believed they are cousins to the brown recluse spider who is very venomous. Yet, the venom of the crab spider is only effective on its prey and not people, unless a person is allergic.

The crab spider is not known for being harmful to people, but that doesn’t mean a crab spider will never bite a person. If you are bitten by a crab spider it can be very painful and can be dangerous if you are allergic to the crab spider’s venom. If you were to be bitten by a crab spider it would probably happen while you are outdoors. Crab spiders are not usually found inside homes unless they are looking for food or have been brought inside by accident. While outdoors the crab spider can be considered beneficial because it eats other insects, but that doesn’t mean you want them all over your yard. Plus there are the risks of your pets being bitten if they were to disturb a resting crab spider.

crab spider baby

Baby crab spiders look like a smaller version of the full grown crab spiders. Unlike other species they don't change in apperance, but they do molt.

Another thing to consider, like many pests that can be found in or around your home, is that these spiders reproduce, so if you find one or two you always want to do a thorough check of the surrounding areas for eggs and or babies. The crab spider’s eggs are deposited into two silken sacs, and are joined together in the center. The female will put her sac somewhere safe and usually stays near by to protect it from predators. The hatch time for the eggs depends on the environment they live in. Crab spiders can be found anywhere in the U.S. although they prefer hot and dry climates like Arizona. Once the eggs hatch the baby crab spiders look like adults just much smaller in size. Then they will molt multiple times before becoming adults. The crab spider’s life spans average about a year, and rarely lasts longer.

Always be aware of your surroundings especially outside of your home.

Images courtesy of www.creativecommons.org

Spiders: Popular Species of Crab Spiders

Friday, August 6th, 2010

Crab spiders can be found all across the country. There are over 40 species of the crab spider, but some species are seen more often than others. Also some states seem to attract particular species more than others. Some of the more popular crab spider species are what you would find outside of your house. These are the most popular species of crab spiders:

Grass Crab Spider

spider crab spider

Here's a grass crab spider walking on some grass.

Grass crab spiders have the ability to resemble grass. This species of crab spiders aren’t bright green as one might assume since they have the unique ability to blend in with grass. The grass crab spider is actually a cream to light brown color, and sometimes a semi-transparent green shade. The grass crab spider is also slimmer and longer than most other varieties. These features help them blend into their surroundings, and the longer shape can help them camouflage themselves as blades of grass.

Flower Crab Spider

spider crab spider

This flower crab spider camouflages itself so well. Looks like an early meal for the flower crab spider.

The flower crab spider is quite the opposite as the grass crab spider. The flower species are bright in color to help them blend in with flowers. Unlike the grass crab spider the flower crab spiders can be the exact same color as the flower. The most common color of flower crab spiders is bright yellow, so they can blend in with the flower petals and or pollen center. They can also have a shinier and smoother body than the other species of crab spiders. The flower crab spider is frequently found in California.

Giant Crab Spider

spider crab spider

Yikes! Looks like this giant crab spider found a way into someone's house.

Then there’s the terrifying giant crab spider. Other crab spider species look like the giant crab spider, except for the size of course. The giant crab spider is twice the size as the other crab spider species with its body about an inch or more wide. The coloring of this species is light brown to gray with the distinct dark markings on the top of the abdomen in the shape of a “Y” and dark fangs. Even though the giant crab spider is larger in size it still moves and acts the same as all of the other crab spider species. It also hunts like the other species and is actually known to be a much better hunter getting the nickname the “Huntsman” spider. One thing that enables the giant crab spider to be such a good hunter is that it’s a fast runner, which helps to conquer its prey. The giant crab spider has become native to Arizona.

Ground Dwelling Crab Spiders

spider crab spider

This ground dwelling crab spider is doing a very good job at blending into it's natural surroundings.

Ground dwelling crab spiders are able to blend in with natural surroundings. They can often be found on sandy ground, cement, gravel or areas that are black or gray. A ground dweller’s coloring is shades of browns and tones of blacks, so it can imitate the soil it’s traveling on. Michigan is an area where ground dwellers are very popular.

Bark Crab Spiders

spider crab spider

Bark crab spiders seem to be the creepiest looking of all of the species.

Since crab spiders can be known for walking up trees there is of course a bark crab spider. Blending into the natural appearance of the tree bark the bark crab spider varies from tones of browns and black, sometime having a combination of both colorings to better enable it’s blending into the bark. Some bark crab spiders can have a thorny façade. This variety of crab spider is also popular in Michigan.

Images courtesy of www.creativecommons.org and Xoque and Robert Whyte on Flickr

Organic Pest Control: What Makes It Organic?

Friday, June 4th, 2010

Organic pest control is a great choice when looking for pest control services. Most pest control companies offer an organic or green solution to your pest problems – you just have to ask.

organic pest control

Make sure to ask pest control companies if they are IPM accredited.

In the pest control industry Integrated Pest Management (IPM) has been around for quite some time. IPM is a green version of pest control where there is a responsibility to the environment by conserving resources, protecting the environment and protecting people’s health. If the pest control company you decide to use says they have green products check that they use IPM as well, and if they have any other accreditation’s or something certifying their products are organic. The hard part with finding a green pest control company is that there are no regulations in using the term green pest control.

With using organic pest control it is similar to organic food. It has to be labeled and certified, so it would be somewhat more easy to verify if a pest control company is using “green” products or not. This also can be used if you are buying a product for do-it-yourself pest control.

Many times the organic product is a natural combination of things. Thankfully Mother Nature created many great things that can keep the bugs away. Some of the more well known natural materials are pyrethrum (chrysanthemum flowers), borates (heavy duty salt), and diatomaceous earth (fossilized seashell particulates). These natural pesticides have been effective in preventing many different pests like termites, carpenter ants, cockroaches, beetles, fleas, and other small insects.

organic pest control

Here is a picture of a successful beer trap.

Some organic pest products are meant for certain types of pests. When you need aphids, white flies, or mites killed use rotenone organic pesticide. For killing millipedes, slugs, earwigs, ants, or cockroaches use diatomaceous earth insect killer. For killing snails and slugs use a beer trap, fill up a cup half way with beer and place it near where snails and slugs are found and the beer will kill them. If you need to get rid of aphids, spiders, or caterpillars use a garlic guard. For general pest prevention, neem insecticidal spray is helpful, and can also be used on household plants, flowers, vegetables, and herbs.

One of the most important things in making sure that the job gets done well is that you have a trained pest control technician. Again, that is why researching the company you hire is important. Whether you decide to use regular or green pest control, if you do not have a technician who knows what they are doing you won’t get the results you want.

The best thing about choosing to use organic and or green pest control methods is that since they are natural they are still able to kill pests, but they don’t harm people. There have been some incidents of chemical based pest products causing health problems, so by using natural products there is less of a health risk for people.

Pictures courtesy of www.creativecommons.org

Organic Pest Control Has Been Around for a Long Time

Friday, June 4th, 2010

If you walk into just about any store today you will most likely find either a section of green or organic products. You may even be in a store filled entirely with green and organic products. Everywhere we go we see ads for green and organic food, clothing, cleaning supplies and more. Since organic products have become the new everyday product, it is not surprising that organic products are being developed into other markets as well, like pest control. It’s not just fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy products, clothing, and cleaning products anymore that are available in an organic version. Many pest control companies offer many solutions to solving your pest problems using green and or organic materials. In fact pest control companies have been using greener methods for quite some time; it’s just that many people were unaware of it.

organic pest control

Making a good decision for your home would include never having to put a sign like this in your yard.

Now that people are so eco-savvy it isn’t surprising that they are realizing that the need for using traditional chemical pesticides are not necessary. Considering the fact that pesticides can be harmful to your health, your home, our environment and even your pet’s health, using a green pest control product is a very good choice. Also now more than ever before, people want to be making good decisions about their homes and what they put in and around them.

Another great thing about being more eco-conscious when applying pest control prevention to your home is that many of the things do not need any type of pesticide. One of the best ways to keep your home pest free is to ensure there are no openings for pests to get into your home through. These are classic prevention tips like filling any holes, filling any cracks, filling any crevices, sealing vents with screens, making sure screens don’t have any damage, and checking around your doors and windows for gaps. The scary thing is that an opening the size of a pencil in diameter is an entry point for a mouse, even though it seems impossible an averaged sized mouse can get into a home through a hole that small. Just imagine what can get into your house if there is a larger opening. Going around your home and checking the exterior is the best thing a homeowner can do. Some even say that a door sweep is one of the best products you can use to prevent pest problems.

organic pest control

Make sure to ask pest control companies if they are IPM accredited.

As mentioned before many pest control companies have been using greener methods for years now. There is a method in the industry known as Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which focuses on prevention methods that reduce toxicity of their products. By using this method many pest control agents are able to target the application of organic pesticides to ensure that it does not harm people and only kills the pests. Another thing that is actually beneficial is when they use a method where the pest takes the bait back to the nest, hive, or mound and is able to kill the colony rather than spraying lots of areas where pest do not go (even if they do go there they will die quickly and it won’t be an effective method to getting rid of the entire problem). The truth is, heavy chemical pesticides are not useful in solving pest problems, and nobody wants their home and yard drenched in chemical pesticides.

Pictures courtesy of www.creativecommons.org

Pest Control: Some Basic Prevention Methods

Friday, June 4th, 2010

There are many do it yourself prevention methods available to prevent pests from getting inside your home. The nice thing about these tactics is that they typically free, other than buying some supplies, and most are regular chores and home maintenance things that we should do on a regular basis anyway. Some examples include raking leaves – you just need to make sure you properly dispose of them. Another example is trimming tree branches, just make sure to trim them short enough that they don’t reach any power lines or your house.

Another great thing about utilizing these prevention methods is that they are also pesticide free; which makes them a form of green prevention methods. If you need a pest solution right away it would be best to call a professional pest control company out to your home. Afterward you can use these methods to prevent pests from coming back. Or if you haven’t had a bad infestation yet use these steps to ensure your home stays pests free. Here are the basic steps to help prevent pests from getting into your home:

  • Keep grass, shrubs, and weeds trimmed, you do not want them getting too tall.
  • Keep trash, wood piles, plywood, storage, debris and general junk away from the house (not against the exterior walls). Keep trash in a proper sealed trash can.
  • 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 or weather stripping. Also that garage doors have a rubber bottom.
  • Seal any openings around pipes or cables.
  • 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 your home’s foundation and elevate it off of the ground. Always keep firewood outside in an open area such as the backyard.
  • Trim or clip any tree branches or vegetation touching the roof or siding of the house.
  • Remove logs, stumps, and waste wood from 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.
  • Check any crawl spaces, attics, and basements to make sure they are well ventilated, and have no moist or damp areas and are free of clutter.
  • Clean any clogged gutters to prevent water damage.
  • Vacuuming is very important, make sure to use the extension to get in the cracks and corners of your floors and walls.
  • Keep your home clean and dry.
  • Decaying leaves and organic matter should be removed from windows and doors.
  • Keep garbage cans outdoors, but away from moist areas.
  • Do not leave trash bags that are filled lying around, put them in a proper trash can.
  • Drain traps should be capped.
  • Add screens to your attic vents, crawl spaces, floor drains, and any other exposed areas.
  • If you have any mulch in your front or back yard keep in at or below two inches thick.
  • A simple thing to do outside your home is remove any vegetation that is growing on the outer walls of your home. Things like ivy and bougainvillea are pretty to look at, but attract many insects and pests.
  • Outdoor lighting can attract spiders and other pests, it is best to use yellow or sodium vapor lights outdoors.
  • Keep your house tidy. Keep items in proper storage containers, and do not let trash, dishes, laundry etc. pile up within your home. This will also keep other insects away.
  • Move all beds away 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.

Ladybug: Information on the Ladybug

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

Ladybugs are very cute insects. Unlike many other insects in the world, they do not make people cringe at the sight of them. A trait that ladybugs and insects do share is that they are pests and can be a nuisance to people. Even though people like ladybugs more than other insects they can still cause problems for people and their homes.

ladybug

Here is a ladybug that most people are used to seeing, the classic red and black ladybug.

There are over 5,000 species of ladybugs and almost 400 species just in the U.S. With so many species people often mistake the ladybug’s identity. People are used to seeing ladybugs as small insects, one to ten millimeters, with red with black spots. Many ladybugs do look like this, but there are also species with different amount of spots and some that are different colors like black, yellow, white, orange, and gray. Although the red with black spotted ladybugs are the most commonly recognized. Ladybugs also have a few names. Most people know them as ladybugs, but they are also known as ladybird beetles and ladybird. Ladybugs are actually a type of beetle.

ladybug

Here is one of the other species of ladybugs that is yellow.

Most often, people see these ladybugs in their yards or anywhere outside. An interesting fact about ladybugs is that they are actually beneficial to the outside world. The ladybug eats aphids which are bad pests for things like roses. By having ladybugs around outside it helps keep aphids and other bad insects away.

The problem that ladybugs cause for homeowners is that in the fall and winter they will be searching for a warm place to hibernate. Once the temperature hits 55 degrees, ladybugs needs extra warmth, which usually means warmth from a house, office building, restaurant, etc. Ladybugs even have specifics that they look for in a hibernation location like, light colored buildings and a place that will generate sunlight like a window. Like many other pests that hibernate in homes the ladybugs will make their new home within the wall voids and attics. Another thing when ladybugs hibernate is that they don’t just get into their new comfort spots and hang out solo for the winter, they hibernate in large groups; this being a problem of ladybugs hibernating within your home. While the ladybugs are inside your house they will not reproduce or lay eggs, which is a very good thing as they multiply very quickly. Also the ladybugs stay put for the most part, unless they find warm areas or sun soaked areas they might become a little active. The ladybugs can last a while being content though because they live off their own body fat during hibernation, which is actually a good thing for homeowners because then they won’t eat the house or anything in it.

ladybug

Imagine this many ladybugs, plus more, all in your attic hibernating for winter. Remember ladybugs hibernate in groups.

Even though the ladybugs might not physically damage anything inside a home while hibernating they can cause other problems. For one, ladybugs release a pheromone. This pheromone is known as a yellow blood, or to bleed yellow when releasing it. Often it is released when ladybugs feel they are about to be attacked, it has a bad odor and will scare off anything trying to eat it. The bad part for homeowners is that if ladybugs bleed yellow at all in the house the scent of it can last for almost a year. Even though people might not smell it and it will keep away other insects it actually still attracts other ladybugs. Another problem that can occur is that the ladybugs can become active while hibernating. It isn’t too bad of a problem, but more of an annoyance. Although if the building the ladybugs happen to be hibernating in is a business or worse yet, a restaurant, having ladybugs flying around could be very bad for business. In either of these situations of ladybug infestation this would be the time to call a professional pest control company to come in and handle the situation. If you have ever had ladybug problems and did not need to call a professional pest control company you may still want to have one come out as there could be dead ladybugs left behind. Some times they won’t make it through hibernation because they need some humidity in order to survive; it all depends on the environment in which they decided to hibernate in.

Overall ladybugs are not a harmful pest. If you do find them in your home and are not too bothered by them try to just get them back outside, without killing them. When ladybugs are outside they are very helpful insect killers. Ladybugs are omnivores and since they eat many bad insects they act like a natural outdoor pest control. The bad insects that ladybugs eat are aphids, mealybugs, and mites just to name a few. Outside you can usually find ladybugs in places like gardens, forests, trees, flowers, weed patches and fields.

ladybug

Here is a ladybug larva; it most definitely does not look like your typical ladybug yet.

Since there are so many different species of ladybugs it is hard to differentiate them from other insects. This makes it hard to know what are the real helpful insects compared to the unhelpful insects. Unfortunately unless you memorize every species it is a hard task to know what they all look like. Many times good insects may get killed for a mistaken identity. One of the most common mistaken identities of the ladybug is of itself during the larvae stage. Most other insects look similar to what they will look like as adults. The ladybug on the other hand looks completely different as a larva. The baby ladybug will only be in an egg for about a week before it hatches and turns into a larva. It will take anywhere from three to seven weeks to mature into an adult. During those weeks the larva is very active, getting its own food and moving around. Even at the larva stage they will bleed yellow to defend themselves. The larva is described as looking like an alligator, hence the mistaken identity.

ladybug

Here is another ladybug larva, again easily mistaken for another pests than a ladybug.

Of course there are things that we can do to keep ladybugs outside where they should be. A few things homeowners can do to prevent ladybugs from getting in their house include: seal any cracks, crevices, gaps by windows, doors, pipes, etc. Also add screens to any vent openings. If you already have screens on things like windows make sure they are properly installed and are in good condition. As long as you can keep ladybugs from getting inside your home they should not be a pest to you, just a useful natural pest control for the outdoors.

Pictures courtesy of www.creativecommons.org

Ant: Fire Ants

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

Fire ants are one of the most aggressive species of ants. Many people can attest to this as people are often bitten by fire ants. Fire ants usually bite people because their mounds (the large piles of dirt we always see on sidewalk or in lawns) are threatened.

ant fire ants

Here is a very large fire ant mound.

Mounds can range from about 15-inches long and up to five feet deep. The fire ants actually live inside these mounds and are very protective of their home because it’s their colony. If a person appears to be a threat to the mound the fire ants will attack and bite.

These small ants range from one-eighth of an inch to one-fourth of an inch long. They are dark reddish brown to black, and their abdomens are darker than the rest of their body. Like other types of ants they all have roles as either Queens, drones, or workers.

ant fire ants

Fire ants are not bright red as many people assume. They're a dark reddish tone, and their abdomen is always darker in color.

The fire ant workers are typically smaller in general than the Queens and the drones. Also, like other ants the workers are what keep the colony alive. Workers forage for food, protect the mound, take care of the Queen, and take care of the larvae and pupa. For the most part workers make up the bulk of the population of the colonies, which can be anywhere from 100,000 to 500,000 fire ants. Within the colonies there can be differences from their neighboring colonies. Some colonies have one Queen, while others have multiple Queens.

Even though the Queen is the one in charge, many colonies are fine with having more than one Queen and these colonies seem to be a little less aggressive compared to single Queen colonies. Often times fire ant colonies are built near each other, possibly even on the same piece of land. Multiple Queen colonies usually have their mounds closer to other multiple Queen colonies unlike single Queen colonies where they are known for going to battle with neighboring colonies over the land and territory.

Fire ant colonies/mounds are found in places like large open areas such as lawns, parks, meadows, fields and underneath things. They also like to build mounds against the foundation of buildings and often times peoples homes. With some mounds being close to homes there is a slight chance that the fire ants will go inside, but most often they like to remain outside in the wide open areas.

Although on the rare occasion that fire ants do get inside it is because they are looking for food and or water. This can happen when people do not keep a clean home, there is a moisture problem, or there are openings within the foundation of the home or anywhere else on the outside of the home.

Another problem that comes with fire ants liking these areas to live is the danger they pose to the other animals already living there. There have been many cases where fire ants have attacked pets, livestock, and wild animals that live in, or are passing through these areas. Because there can be so many fire ants in one area they can cause a lot of damage to an animal. It is best to have a professional pest control company come and check your property for any fire ant mounds, as animals can be outside and accidentally step in a mound and then get attacked. Farmers also have this same problem, and even worse the ants can cause damage to the crops as they will feed on the vegetables or fruits that are growing.

Fire ants will eat pretty much anything so be careful. Another thing to think about is at parks; make sure you don’t set up a picnic near any mounds, as fire ants will travel up to 100 feet from their mound in search of food. When it comes to eating, ants cannot eat solids, everything has to be in liquid form. Also fire ants regurgitate food. This is done in order to share food, and to feed the larvae and pupa. The workers are the ones that will do this task, as they take care of the colony.

This task is constantly being done, as Queens lay hundreds of eggs. In one day a Queen can lay up to 1,500 eggs. From there the eggs either become fertilized or not. The unfertilized eggs develop into winged males, drones. The drones will mate with new Queens; the new Queens come from the fertilized eggs. Also workers come from fertilized eggs. This process is how the population of a fire ant colony can get so high, and it peaks during the summer time. Once the eggs become larvae they develop into pupa and from pupa they will develop into adults. From this point they will either be given a duty as a worker or be a new Queen and mate, after mating the male will die. This whole process takes 25 to 45 days, and is never ending.

Pictures courtesy of www.creativecommons.org