Winterizing Your Home Can Help Prevent Pests

Fireplace

As the season for rain and cold weather approaches in our Sacramento pest control region, a lot of us get to work making our homes and apartments winter-ready. But did you know that a lot of the things you do to make sure your home is warm, cozy and dry and to help keep your heating bills low also help prevent pests from moving in with you?

Many insects and other pests, such as spiders, mice and rats, instinctively start seeking warm, dry places to crawl into and shelter as the weather becomes colder and rains flood their outdoor nesting sites. Our warm, dry homes are an inviting temptation!

 A mouse can enter your home through a hole the diameter of a number 2 pencil; a rat can enter through tiny openings under your eves or gaps under doorsills, spiders through a tiny crack. Here are a few tips from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help keep your home both warm and pest-free this winter:

  • Caulk windows inside and out.
  • Weather strip entry doors and/or install door sweeps if daylight is visible around the perimeter of the door.  
  • Rake away all debris and edible vegetation from your home’s foundation to keep from attracting pests.
  • Inspect for and seal foundation cracks to block a potential point of entry for pests.
  • Secure crawlspace entries.
  • When insulating exposed plumbing pipes around the foundation or the crawlspace of your home, check for any points of entry where pests could enter.  Caulk small gaps and fill larger ones with steel wool to prevent mice from entering.

If your home has a fireplace, cap or screen the top of the chimney to keep out rodents and other pests.

 For more information about how to keep pests out of your home, visit the EPA “Controlling Pests” Website at http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/controlling/index.htm.

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The Itsy Bitsy Spider Crawls Up Inside Your House!

The Itsy Bitsy Spider Crawls Up Inside Your House!

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Spring time is here and Sacramento residents may be spotting some eight-legged invaders all around their homes.  As was the case in 2010, warm weather, aided by late rains, result in an increase of plants, which in turn brings an increase in gnats, mosquitoes, and other pesky insects—the ideal smorgasbord for spiders of all stripes. While in nature spiders’ predatory instincts make them natural pest exterminators, when they invade our yards and gardens they can create a hazard for children, pets and ourselves. And sometimes these natural pest controllers follow their insect prey straight into your house, garage or tool shed and start building homes of their own.

Being that they are tiny in stature, most spider species common to Northern California, such as the Daddy-long legs (Pholcus phalangioides) and Domestic House Spider (Tegenaria domestica), simply slip through cracks around doors and windows.  Spiders will tend towards dusty and cluttered spaces to build their webs.  Garages, attics, dark cabinets, and under-used windows become prime real-estate for the arachnid.  Be careful especially of dust, garbage, and rotting food as they will attract the insects that will keep spiders well fed and content to stay.  For pictures and descriptions of spiders commonly found in our area, check out the UC Davis Integrated Pest Management Website. http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7442.html

The IPM site also provides a great list of tips to prevent spiders from setting up housekeeping in your home.

1)      Regular vacuuming and sweeping to prevent dust buildup

2)      Seal cracks and around windows

3)      Make sure screens fit tight as to not allow small prey insects in

4)      Place storage boxes slightly away from walls and make sure they are sealed with tape

5)      Clean up and take out garbage often

6)      Trim plant growth close to the home

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If you find evidence that a spider is squatting in your home (i.e. a web) it is best to sweep it up and away.  If a spider’s home is gone by the time it returns, it simply will wander on.  Though most spiders you may encounter are not poisonous, even bites from non-poisonous species can cause serious reactions in some victims. Do-it-yourself treatment such as bug sprays may leave dangerous insecticide residues in your home and aren’t always effective, and misuse of over-the-counter products has been blamed for water pollution and other environmental problems. When in doubt, it’s best to leave treatment and removal to the pros. If you find a dead spider and would like the help of our friendly, experienced Sacramento pest control professionals in identifying it, feel free to place it in a plastic bag and bring it by our office at 4220 Stockton Blvd. in Sacramento.

If spiders seem to be a common occurrence in your home, it may be a tell-tale sign that you are experiencing an invasion of other pesky insects—attractive snack food for local spiders.  Don’t hesitate to contact our Earth Guard Pest Management team with any of your spider-related or other pest control concerns at 916-457-7605 or contact@earthguardpest.com.

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Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite!

“Nighty-night. Sleep tight. Don’t let the bed bugs bite.” When I was a child, I’d hear that affectionate bedtime tease from an older person once in a while. But never did I see a bed bug in the flesh, and for a long time I thought bed bugs were just make-believe, like the boogie man or the monster under the bed.

But as a grownup and owner of a Sacramento pest control company, I now know bed bugs do indeed exist. Practically unheard of when I was a kid, bed bug infestations have become increasingly common in the United States since the 1980s, likely as a result of increased global travel and trade, changes in available pesticides and possibly pesticide resistance. Once associated with crowded, deteriorated housing conditions, bed bugs infestations in the finest hotels have made recent headlines.

Whatever the reason for their resurgence, bed bug infestations are difficult to treat and exceptionally easy to transmit to other locations.

Bed bugs are widespread in temperate climates, most commonly in North America, Europe and Central Asia. The most common bed bug species in California is Cimex lectularius, an oval-shaped, reddish-brown insect, about one-fifth inch long, with a pyramid-shaped head. Female bed bugs lay 200 to 500 white eggs in small clusters of 10 to 50, affixed to rough surfaces like paper or wood by a white sticky coating and not generally visible to the naked eye. Often the egg shells remain in place after the bugs have hatched. During daylight hours, bed bugs hide in cracks and crevices behind headboards, under loose wallpaper and in seams of mattresses, usually not more than a few feet away from a bed and their night-time food source—you!

Bed bugs go through five nymph stages before they reach adulthood, and must take a blood meal at each stage before molting to the next stage. The life cycle may take up to four months, depending on room temperature and access to food. Bed bugs typically live six months to a year, and adults can live for a year or more without feeding.

Although bed bugs can feed on rodents or birds, their optimal food source is humans. At night, they are attracted to the warm bodies of their sleeping food sources, puncturing the skin, and feeding for five to 10 minutes until engorged. Usually the victim sleeps through the pinprick bite, not realizing he or she has been bitten until the next morning. Saliva secreted by the bed bug may cause itchy red welts and in some cases more severe allergic reactions. The only way to know the bite is from a bed bug rather than a mosquito or spider is to find evidence of a bed bug infestation.

Although there is not hard scientific evidence that bed bugs transmit diseases to humans, older scientific literature associated bed bugs with such diseases as tuberculosis, smallpox and plague. Recent studies indicate that while the bugs do indeed ingest disease germs from humans, they do not replicate or transmit the germs back to humans.

Adult bed bugs and clusters of the lighter-colored nymphs are visible to the naked eye, but because they hide so well, it usually takes a thorough inspection to spot them. Since bed bugs are almost always found near a bed, start by checking mattress seams, box springs, head boards and bed frames. They also leave tiny, dark-red fecal stains and shed skins that are sometimes easier to spot than the insects themselves. They have stink glands, and you may notice a strong, rotten meat smell where there is a heavy infestation.

Bed bugs are great travelers, and you may inadvertently bring them home in luggage or packages, from hotels, movie theaters, and bus or train seats. If your holiday plans include travel, whether you’re staying at a 5-star hotel or a roadside inn, a good rule of thumb is to leave your bags at the door of your room, pull up the bedding and check the mattress seams and surrounding nooks and crannies for any sign of these unwelcome occupants—before you start unpacking.

Eliminating bed bugs is time- and labor-intensive. Pesticide treatment must be coupled with thorough steam cleaning, vacuuming, washing of bedding in hot water, sealing up hiding places, and ongoing monitoring of the affected areas. Over-the-counter chemicals are less effective in field tests, and the most effective pesticides for use on bed bugs must be applied by licensed pest control professionals.

To read more about bed bugs and other pest control and environmental issues, visit my blog at http://earthguard.com/blog.

For more detailed info about bed bugs, try these excellent sources of information:

http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7454.html

http://www.pctonline.com/Article.aspx?article_id=37351

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Most Common Northern California Ants

Spring and summer is high season for ants and for ant pest problems in our homes and gardens.

There are some 200 species of ants in California, but fewer than a dozen are common household pests in our area. Of those, the most common is the Argentine ant, a dull-brown ant about 1/8-inch in length. Less common but also significant pests are the pharaoh ant, the odorous house ant, the thief ant and the southern fire ant. If you step on an odorous house ant, which is dark brown to black and about the same size as the Argentine ant, you may recognize it by its strong odor. Carpenter ants are black or red and black and larger than the Argentine ant at ¼ to ½ inch in length and, because they hollow out and nest in wood, can do significant damage to homes and buildings. Our L.A. neighbors are dealing with a serious problem from the red imported fire ant, which has recently established a population there; they have not yet been found in Northern California.

Most of the ants we see are easily recognizable. However, in the warm spring months, mature ant colonies produce winged ants, which travel away from the nest to mate and form new colonies. For that reason, ants are sometimes mistaken for termites.

Inside your home, ants may feed on sweets such as sugar, honey or fruit juice, or on fats and meats. Your first sight of ants may be of a long chain of them leading from the food source inside your home to their nest outdoors or in the cracks and crevices of your home.

Ants often make their trails on pipes or wires and enter buildings via cracks and crevices. Caulking can help prevent ants from entering your home. Rinsing out soft-drink and juice containers before putting them into the recycling bin and storing sugar and syrups in airtight containers also helps.

Your local pest control professional can assist you by identifying the type of ant or pest problem you have, assessing the best way to eliminate it and prevent future invasions, and helping you decide upon the right combination of pest control services for your household or business.

For a free pest assessment and estimate from our licensed, bonded and certified pest control professionals, contact Earth Guard Pest Services, (916) 457-7605 or toll-free (877) 328-4468, contact@EarthGuardPest.com.  

Source: University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program

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