EPA Says Hiring Pros Early Helps Fight Bed Bugs

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In a recent publication, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has this advice for bed bug prevention:

“Getting a pest management professional (PMP) involved as soon as possible rather than taking time to try to treat the problem yourself is very effective at preventing further infestations. Each pest management company should have instructions for residents on how to prepare the unit for a treatment which will include laundering and cleaning.

The PMP will inspect your residence, take apart furniture if necessary and use vacuums, heat and pesticides to treat the infestation. Download this informative EPA publication.

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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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Preparing for Your Bed Bug Treatment

Watch out for these bugs! Prepare your home to have these bugs removed

Watch out for these bugs! Prepare your home to have these bugs removed

Over the past couple of years, the number of bed bug calls received by our Sacramento pest control company have more than tripled, as the prevalence of this once-nearly eradicated pest has snowballed across the country. In order to provide the most effective bed bug treatment for our customers, our team of pest control professionals has been attending training seminars, reading and researching the latest and best bed bug extermination and prevention methods and prodUcts. Earth Guard Pest Services owner Dave Picton has even become something of a bed bug expert!

But our best bed bug treatment technology will take us only so far. We also must rely on our customers to do their part, by preparing their homes or commercial buildings in advance of our professional pest control treatment.

Don’t panic! Bed bugs are more resilient and resistant than any other pest! Preparation for bed bug treatment is labor-intensive, time-consuming hard work—and usually must be repeated more than once. But rigorous preparation is the best way to ensure the best chance for successful treatment.

Of course we hope you will choose Earth Guard Pest Services as your professional pest control provider. But if you have selected a different company, or if you live outside of our five-county Greater Sacramento service area, we’re still happy to pass along this checklist we use to help our customers prepare to help ensure you the most effective bed bug treatment results possible. Your pest control professional will probably have his or her own list for you, and it’s important to follow those instructions closely.

Most importantly—please obtain bed bug treatment services from a Certified Pest Control Professional—this is no job for do-it-yourselfers, and you’re likely to make the problem worse if you try!

Before your pest control professional arrives:

1) Remove all bed linens from the beds in each bedroom that will receive treatment. Place them in sealed plastic bags or sealed plastic bins until each piece can be laundered. Launder them as soon as possible in HOT water and dry on a HOT dryer setting, and store laundered linens in new sealed plastic bags or bins until they can be replaced on beds.

2) Remove the mattress and box springs from the bed frames in each of the bedrooms that will be treated and stand them up against a wall.

3) Carefully measure your mattress and box springs—length, width and height–and record the dimensions. Your pest control professional will provide you with sealed liners to encase your mattress and box springs following treatment.

4) Disassemble bed frames for inspection and treatment.

5) Remove the tacking (fabric cover) from the bases of box spring, sofas and chairs.

6) Remove all drapes and curtains and place them in sealed plastic bags until they can be laundered or dry cleaned. As soon as possible, launder them in HOT water and dry on a HOT dryer setting, and dry clean any that cannot be laundered. Store clean curtains and drapes in new, sealed plastic bags until they are ready to be reinstalled.

7) Empty dressers, closets and cupboards where clothing, shoes and other wearable items are stored. All fabric items must be laundered in HOT water, dried on a HOT dryer setting or dry-cleaned, then stored in sealed plastic bags or bins until treatment is completed. Vacuum all shoes thoroughly with a bristled attachment, then store in sealed plastic.

8 ) Remove and discard all unnecessary boxes, papers, magazines or other similar items by placing them in a sealed plastic bag for disposal.

9) Pick up all pet toys, children’s toys, stuffed animals and pet bedding. Store in sealed plastic bags or bins for laundering (HOT water, HOT dryer setting) or for inspection and potential treatment. Once items have been cleaned, return to new sealed plastic bags or bins until treatment is completed.

10) Remove all items from walls, including mirrors, pictures and shelving, and leave in the room for inspection and possible treatment.

11) Unhook all cables from electronic devices—computers, telephones, televisions, stereos, etc.

12) Move all furniture away from walls.

13) Remove all electrical plates on walls—electric outlets, phone jacks, light-switch covers, cable outlets, etc.

14) Remove front panel from all heating or air conditioning units and vents.

15) Thoroughly vacuum all carpet and upholstered furniture, using a vacuum in good working order. Vacuum your mattress, box springs and bed frame using bristled attachments, taking care to vacuum thoroughly around edges, seams, buttons and handles. Vacuum closet shelves and inside nightstand and dresser drawers.

16) Place any remaining non-washable items—clocks, radios, televisions, telephones—in sealed plastic bags for inspection and treatment. Your pest management professional will suggest treatment options for these items.

17) Open carbon monoxide and smoke detectors and remove batteries if possible. Please note: Don’t take this step until your pest control professional is scheduled to arrive—we don’t want you and your family to be unprotected in the meantime!

18) If you plan to stay in another location during treatment, be careful not to take untreated articles or luggage with you. You may end up transporting bed bugs or their eggs to another location, only to bring them back to reinfest your treated home or business.

We know—what a hassle! Bed bugs are so difficult to eradicate that it’s important that you follow these instructions, or those of your pest control professional, carefully. Working together, we’ll get through this. Although there are no guarantees when it comes to bed bugs, we can promise you that we’ll be there to answer your questions and do our best to return your home or business to a bug-free state!

For more information on bed bugs, what they look like, where you find them and how to help prevent them, there are lots more information and articles on our pest control blog at http://earthguardpest.com. Or give us a call at 916-457-7605 to talk with one of our certified pest control professionals today.

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Earth-Friendly Ant Control on Sacramento News10

Our friends at Sacramento News 10 called recently about a story they were doing on how to get rid of ants without harming the environment. Long story short, it seems one of the newscasters had woken up that morning to find ants in her kitchen!

The news team gathered some home remedies from their Facebook fans, such as baby powder, cayenne pepper and cinnamon, white chalk and even dried cream of wheat. Then they turned to the experts!

Earth Guard Pest Management manager Barbara Romig and technican Lito Marquez from our excellent team of Sacramento pest control professionals were happy to share information about Earth Guard’s line of green pest control products, which include botanical oils that stop the ants without the use of toxic chemicals that can get into the air or water. Here’s a link to the clip on Earth Guard’s YouTube channel:

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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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Untrained pesticide use can do more harm than good

As the economy continues to slog along and homeowners become more frugal in response, a new do-it-yourself trend has caught on. More families are enjoying home-cooked meals rather than eating out. The backyard vegetable garden rage has permeated all the way to the White House. Householders are tackling home renovation projects and auto repairs on their own. And undoubtedly, more people are eyeing their pest control service as another potential way to cut costs with a do-it-yourself regimen. But pest management is one area where do-it-yourself is a bad idea. Here’s why.

Pest control is a highly regulated industry requiring extensive and continuing training of personnel. During training, technicians learn about the life cycles and habits of each species of household pest, and more to the point, they learn what kinds of treatment are most effective in eliminating infestations, how to prevent recurrences, precise quantities of chemicals to apply where necessary, and how to handle and dispose of chemicals with the least impact to homes, people, pets and the surrounding environment. Few home- or business owners, regardless of how much online research or reading they do, achieve the level of knowledge and skill that each pest control professional receives in order to be licensed. And the results of well-meaning but non-professional pest control efforts can be disastrous.

As a recent Sacramento Bee article reported, researchers have found high concentrations of pyrethroid pesticides in the American River and many area creeks that feed into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, one of the most significant ecosystems in the world and a source of drinking water and agricultural irrigation for much of California. The source of the pesticides: urban Sacramento. Scientists believe consumers may be overapplying pesticides to their lawns, gardens and homes or pouring or rinsing them down the drain.

Whereas a householder may figure, if a little is good, more is better, a trained pest control professional assesses the situation, determines the most effective treatment to meet the customer’s needs and cost considerations, and then applies a precise amount of pesticide to a defined location. And a pest control professional is trained in safe disposal and storage of unused chemicals, the source of far too many accidental poisonings and other household tragedies.

Since 1987, Pest Control Operators of California has conducted a public service campaign, Chem-Safe, to educate consumers about the proper handling of household chemicals. The U.S. Poison Control Center estimates that half of all accidental poisonings in the United States are caused by household chemical such as cleaners or pesticides. Every year hundreds of thousands of California Children under the age of 5 years of age are poisoned in the home with household chemicals and medicines.

As proud members of Pest Control Operators of California, we at Earth Guard urge you to handle and dispose of all household chemicals carefully and to consult a trained pest management professional to assess and address pest problems in your home or business. You can learn more about Earth Guard by visiting http://www.earthguardpest.com. Here are some safety tips from PCOC:

PCOC Safety Tips for handling Household Chemicals
• Keep all chemicals and pesticides locked up and out of reach of children.
• Use pesticides and household chemicals in accordance with manufacturers’ directions.
• Don’t saturate: using twice as much of a product does not mean it works twice as well.
• Don’t put products in unlabelled bottles or cans—keep them in their original containers.
• Never play chemist! Don’t mix products together because poisonous or explosive chemical reactions may occur.
• Always wear protective equipment such as goggles and gloves when using chemicals or pesticides.
• Avoid breathing mists or vapors, especially from aerosol products.
• Keep children and pets away from the area being treated or cleaned.
• Wash carefully after handling chemicals and pesticides.
• Dispose of the products carefully: containers tossed in the trash may still contain harmful amounts of the product.

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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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