We all have our own pests, be it ants, ladybugs, fleas, no matter what, it is no fun to rid your home of them. Some homeowners choose to hire a professional and there are pest companies in our area that are willing to assess your needs and work up a treatment plan personalized for your problem areas. For those more interested in home remedies, a little online research can go a long way to stay ‘green’. Ask your pest company for the safest and most effective way to rid your home of bugs.
Ants having a party in your home is not a happy occasion. Some come after sweets/food and some want only water. It is important to know what type is invading your home and to cut off their entrance into your home. Ants are social pests and they depend on each other solely for the survival of the whole colony which can contain tens of thousands of members.
Carpenter ants are the largest and they prefer to make their home in water damaged wood. This can lead to structural damage to your dwelling. Unlike termites, they do not eat the damaged wood; they are mini excavators, aiming to make more trails and larger nests. Pavement ants are the ones outside that build their nests underground and above ground the opening looks like a tiny volcano. Occasionally they will enter and live inside buildings, mostly ones built on concrete slabs. Odorous ants are very small and get their name from the rotten smell they emit when crushed. They are said to smell like rotten coconuts.
Termites are any homeowner’s worst enemy. This is one pest that will actually attack and eat your home, books, newspapers, photographs and important documents. They live in colonies, usually in very moist underground, and a mature colony of six to seven years old can include over 60,000 worker termites. Termites feed on wood materials so prevention is key to keep them at bay. Upkeep around your home such as always quickly repairing any leaks in or under your home (to prevent moisture), keep mulch and landscaping away from your foundation, remove dead tree stumps, stack firewood away from your home, keep gutters clean and direct downspouts away from your foundation.
The Eastern Subterranean Termite becomes active in the spring months during daylight hours. The winged creatures will either show themselves outside exiting the soil or inside your home or building leaving their parent colony to create their own. These flying swarmers are new kings and queens looking to mate and set up house. After finding and digging out a suitable abode, they will spend the rest of their lives underground which could be ten years or more. Within a few days the queen will begin laying eggs and they will create their own colony that will multiply rapidly, producing upwards of 500 offspring each year and growing their species.
Termites and winged ants are often misidentified. There are several species of ants that grow wings during various stages of their life cycle. Seeing winged ants inside your home usually means you have an indoor nest. A few differences between the two: ants have a constricted or pinched waist and termites do not; termites have four wings that are all the same size, ant’s front wings are larger than their hind wings; termites have straight antennae and ants have bent antennae. So familiarize yourself with these differences so that you do not over react when you see a winged ant flying around your home.
In this day and age it is surreal to imagine that there are blood sucking creatures that would feast on you as you sleep, isn’t it? Well, bed bugs are here and making themselves known all over the world. Once eradicated decades ago by DDT, which has since been banned and most bed bugs are resistant to it now, they are making a strong comeback stateside. It is believed that international travel and the sale of secondhand clothing and furniture is responsible for their return. You are more susceptible to their attacks if you visit places with a high nightly turnover such as hotels, hospitals, homeless shelters, etc. Bed bugs are professional hitch hikers and will hitch a ride from anywhere.
Bed bugs are nocturnal, have a five stage life cycle and each stage requires a blood meal in order to develop and shed their exoskeletons. Their life stage from larva to adult is approximately 37 days. If you believe you are being attacked by bed bugs, you need to inspect all locations where your family sleeps or rests with a flashlight. Check seams, under mattresses or cushions, tags, furniture next to your mattress or sofa, inside drawers, etc. for bedbug activity. Sure signs of an infestation include: small brown droppings, tiny spots of blood on sheets or mattresses, teeny white eggs and since they shed, tiny exoskeletons left behind.
Bedbugs are not harmful, per se, and it is not know of any diseases they carry but can be very irritating to their host. Some show no signs at all of been fed on, other people develop whelps that are itchy, irritating and painful. The seriousness of this being the bites can get infected.
Their life cycle is what most homeowners do not understand. An adult flea will lay eggs in your home which will not hatch for 7-12 days. You may treat your home and kill off the adult fleas but only certain treatments actually work on killing the eggs and larvae. Therefore, they are continuously hatching and re-infesting your pets and your home. Fleas live to eat blood from hosts, be it animals or human, as well as dried adult flea fecal blood. After each meal, the flea lays 4-8 teeny eggs on its hosts hair or bedding which amounts to 400-500 during a single flea’s lifetime. These eggs take up to 12 days to hatch into larvae. These larvae will turn into pupae after one to two weeks and stay pupae for four days up to one year. These pupae can stay in its cocoon for up to 20 weeks. In its cocoon, it is protected from dangers and pesticides but will emerge as an adult which will immediately look for food but can survive for several months on stored fat. Take note too, that you do not have to have pets to have a flea infestation; they are master hitchhikers and can ride in on shoes, socks and clothing.
Fleas are a major irritant for pets and humans. Bites are very itchy and animals will groom themselves and itch constantly when they have fleas. On pets and on bedding one can easily see ‘flea dirt’ left behind. This dirt consists of flea fecal matter and dried blood and when wet, flea dirt will ‘bleed’ and leave behind specific faded spots. If ingested by pets, fleas can give them tapeworms and it is possible for humans to get tapeworms as well. Fleas may also transmit plague and murine typhus.
Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle (Ladybugs & Lady Bird Beetles)
These critters were released by the USDA between 1916-1985 as a potential biological control agent to eat aphids that were damaging crops. It was assumed then that they had not established themselves in our climate, though they were detected in Virginia in 1993 and spread rapidly all over the US. They evidently adapted to our climate. There are now over 150 species of ladybugs. The Asian Lady Beetle (usually more orange than bright red) begins entering our homes in mid to late October and becomes very active on warm days. Their intention is to hibernate and they do so by spending winter in the walls of your home or behind the exterior siding of your home where it is warmest. They are attracted to light siding and trim and south facing walls. Some may enter your home through small openings around doors and windows, through cracks in the siding and trim and even through attic vents. In March, the Asian Lady Beetle attempts to get outside to enjoy life and mate. They end up inside our homes when they mistakenly do not make it to the outside. They are not only confused, they are completely harmless. They don’t eat clothes or paper and they do not lay eggs indoors either.
These nocturnal pests are capable of flying but prefer to run. Either way, you do not wish to share with them in your abode. These pests live 12-18 months and a female is capable of producing an egg, which is full of embryos, every nine days, meaning one female can produce 25-30 eggs during her life span. They are not only after human food, they will eat pet food, clothing, paper goods, soap, potted plants, cockroaches will eat just about anything and they stink as well. A professional pest management person can most often detect an infestation just by smell alone.
American cockroaches are reddish-brown, quite large and their wings appear longer than their body. They prefer warm, moist areas and are often found around moisture, sewers and basements. German cockroaches are light brown to tannish in color and are rather small. They prefer to live in cracks and crevices where moisture is present, especially in kitchens and bathrooms. Oriental cockroaches are dark black, oily looking and rather large. They prefer moist, dark places and are usually found in crawl spaces, damp basements, leaky pipes and sewer lines. German cockroaches are found in homes, businesses, restaurants, apartment buildings, hotels and anywhere else they wish to invade. They are one of the most challenging pests to control because they can tolerate many toxins that should destroy them. They are skillful hitchhikers and are able to adapt to any environment. Not only are they prolific breeders, the female is capable of producing several generations in a single year.
American and German cockroaches have been known to carry numerous infectious bacteria which can cause such illnesses as food poisoning, diarrhea, salmonella poisoning and dysentery if you come in contact with surfaces or food they have frequented. They also are a big threat to people with allergies because they produce allergens on their bodies and in their fecal matter and trigger asthma attacks. They can also contribute to respiratory problems, allergic dermatitis and childhood asthma.
The best way to keep these pests from visiting your home is prevention. Always check any papers, boxes, cartons, furniture and clothing that you bring into your home or buy second hand. Inspect for cockroaches, their eggs, body parts or feces. Keeping your home uncluttered, leak free and sanitized is key to keeping out these pests. Clean up spilled food, fix any leaky pipes, take out the trash each night and put in a waste receptacle and de-clutter to reduce their hiding places.
With all household pests, prevention is the number one ingredient for victory. Perform an inspection of your home: inside, outside, above and below. Repair any water leaks and insulate pipes that are collecting condensation to lessen any moisture present. Seal small cracks with caulking and larger cracks with expandable spray foam. Caulk behind kitchen/bathroom cabinets and be sure to check washer/dryer and dishwasher pipes entering them home. You should install screening in attic vents, apply door sweeps to all of your exterior doors and weather proof doors and windows to seal all leaks. You should also do some landscaping outdoors and trim back any trees, shrubs and weeds that touch the building. This will remove the ‘bridges’ pests can use to enter a structure. In empty buildings make sure to regularly flush all toilets to stop pests from entering through pipes.
If trying to rid your home of pests yourself, always be a responsible homeowner when using pesticides because they could become runoff and pollute our ponds, creeks and rivers. Always read the labels carefully and follow the instructions on how to apply them properly, how to store them and dispose of them in a safe way to protect our environment. Better yet, consult one of our local pest control experts.