Tips For Reducing Termites
Most pest control companies deal mostly with the result of pest problems, and not so much with the cause. Well, with over 5 Billion dollars in control and repair expenses each year for termite infested homes it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why.
Termites can potentially damage every home standing because they are like food pods to a termite. It doesn’t have to be this way, nor does the cost have to be so high if we just took some preventative steps to take the bite out of termites from turning your home into their next main course.
Termites require food, shelter and water just as you and I do to survive. Managing our homes and the property they sit on can greatly reduce your contributions to the multi-billion dollar pit of repair money each year. As an Entomologist, it’s a key factor in control of all pests to understand the biology and habits of insects in order to control them, with or without pesticides.
We are an Organic minded company always looking to use the least toxic material when it is required for a treatment strategy. Taking an IPM (Integrated Pest Management) approach when dealing with pests that invade our homes and businesses, it makes good sense to focus on prevention rather than wait until it requires treatment.
Below are some of the reasons and causes that make it possible for termites to feast on your home, and the things you can do to help reduce that risk. Knowing these in advance can save you a lot of trouble and money.
Water is an essential resource for most living things, especially termites. Keeping a close eye for leaks on exterior water sources like hoses and faucets, will assist in identifying potential problems before they become one.
Timers for sprinklers are another source of excessive moisture since most are a “set it and forget it” device. Like clocks and daylight savings, they need to be adjusted yearly. Heavy brush and mulch retain more water than some of the other areas of a yard. It’s a good idea to keep all mulch away from the foundation of your home.
Faulty grade can lead to water finding its way under the home, creating over saturation that has no place to go.
Damaged and missing gutters along roof line can be a serious source of excessive moisture and dry rot, especially when the gutters are full of organic debris like leaves, pine needles and other plant growth. Cleaning these gutters each year will help reduce issues that will attract termites
Storage of firewood typically is too close to the house as a rule since no one wants to walk out to the back-40 in the rain and cold to get wet firewood, so it sits under an eve against the house or worse yet in the garage. Placing wood on the ground is bad practice since “earth to wood” allows easy access for termites to get a free trip indoors.
Form boards from cement work are usually left behind after construction, or worse yet tossed under you house where it stays out of sight. Termites don’t need much of reason to search out more wood once the scraps are gone. Termites don’t rest or sleep and don’t belong to a local Union so they are committed to eating your home 24/7.
Buck Stops Here
If you take the time to evaluate your home and the conditions that are conducive to termite infestations, you could save yourself thousands of dollars in repairs.
If you haven’t had a termite inspection in the last 12 months, do yourself a favor and have your home inspected by a professional termite inspector, in most cases we offer a FREE inspection. Typical inspection takes about 2 hours, depending on the type of home you have. If you have any questions about termites or any other pest challenge, we are always here to help.
HOW TO REDUCE PEST AROUND THE HOME WITHOUT PESTICIDE
Winter time brings lots of special pest challenges based on the changing tempetures and the pest that increase activity. Rodents, ants and other common pest will look for easy access to your home. As an organic pest control company, I get asked a lot how to reduce pest around the home without pesticide? I’ve shared many tips in the past and have posted a homeowner guide on our website, but I would like to go into a couple areas that are typically overlooked.
We all love our gardens and landscape designs around our homes, but have you thought about how location, water, growth, fruit, and weed control barriers affect your pest control? Sure you could “plant” cement all around your home and that would certainly reduce pest activity. But who wants a concrete jungle around their home anyways. So how can we have the best of both worlds without compromising our safety and risk damage to our home? Knowing a little about pests can sure help when you are planning landscape design.
Access is a key element, especially rodents finding their way in to your home. Trees can be one of the biggest points of access, especially when the trees are close to the home. Rats can jump 4 feet vertically to a roofs edge and can drop many times that without being hurt, so keeping trees trimmed back and away from structures will certainly help with rats, squirrels, ants and other pest from having an easy access. If you are thinking about planting any large trees around the house, remember to think down the road once these trees become established. The damage that a poorly placed tree can be not only a pest haven, but can cause catastrophic damage to roofs through adverse weather, pest (beetles) infestations that weaken the limbs and lift walkways, foundations and bust sewer lines, which all can be access and harborage points for all kinds of critters. Keeping gutters clean will also help reduce “aerial nest” of pest.
Keep shrubs and bushes at least 2 feet from any wood windows, and siding. Plants need water and water doesn’t mix well with wood. Automatic sprinkler systems are great but need constant monitoring. Many watering plans water more non-growth areas than green and this is not just a waste of money and water, but it creates additional problems. Water constantly hitting stucco walls creates a warm, wet interior wall that can promote mold and pest harborage for many insects such as termites and carpenter ants. Overwatering and off site application also creates puddles which promotes many unnecessary problems. This time of the year you should be reducing the frequency of your programmed sprinkler system. Most homeowners don’t make the changes and this keeps the grounds saturated, so when rains come the property floods and pest “move” to a more suitable site, such as your pantry or bathrooms. How many times have you seen sprinklers going off in the rain or on days that known rain is in the forecast?
It’s a great idea to walk around your home monthly to look for and identify conditions that would be conducive to harborage and access. You would want to check screens and door weather stripping for possible repair or replacement. Remember, pests are opportunist and will find their way in your home through many access points. If you have a concern, don’t hesitate to contact us.
Tips To Control Nusiance Animals
We all have heard that prevention is worth a pound of cure. I am a firm believer in this when it comes to Nuisance Animals in and around your home. Many factors have contributed to the increase of nuisance wildlife in our neighborhood communities. More and more communities are moving out to traditional wildlife habitat areas and contact is becoming more prevalent. As a professional in the pest control industry I have seen a huge increase in nuisance animal activity in valley communities, so much so that we had a need to open a Nuisance Animal Division in our pest control department to provide animal trapping.
I’d like to add some general information and techniques for property owners when wildlife becomes an issue.
SIGNS TO LOOK FOR:
- Dug-up areas of your lawn. Skunks and raccoons “grub” tearing up sections of your lawn looking for grubs.
- Vents torn open
- Noises coming from above or below your home
- Visual sightings
- Change in behavior of your indoor pets (their hearing and smelling ability is far more sensitive)
- Stop feeding wildlife! They will lose their fear of humans and have lots of reason to set up house on or in your property.
- Keep trash properly contained. Some trash containers are no match for these animals, so keep tight lids or latches on the lids.
- Pets and pet food should be brought indoors and keep these areas clean.
- Clear fallen fruit from around trees
- Keep tree limbs and branches away from structures so these animals don’t have easy access to your roof.
- Close all openings around the structure that would allow access to your subarea. Animals such as raccoons can pull off just about any vent cover if they so desire, so inspect your grounds regularly.
- It is illegal to trap and relocate an animal to another area
- Soak a rag in ammonia and place the rag in or on the trash can(s) or building(s) that are having problems. The smell will discourage future visits.
- Moth balls placed inside of trash cans also help and achieve the same results. Moth balls will evaporate and will need to be replaced weekly.
- Remove bird feeders from around your property. This is a huge attraction to all rodents and animals.
- Pass on this information to your neighbors. It’s likely that they also are having issues or at the very least, sightings.
- Install chimney caps on your fireplace.
Nuisance animals have no problem invading houses and trashcans. They easily adapt to our environment and are nocturnal, meaning that most of their activity is at night. These animals are also seen during the day because food may be available and they may no longer have a fear of humans, especially if you haven’t stopped feeding them. Some of these species, like skunks and raccoons will dig under your foundation and establish a den where they will nest and raise young. Typically you will smell skunks, but may not detect raccoons.
A WORD ABOUT RABIES:
Rabies is a deadly disease that can be contracted by any mammal. It’s most common in bats, raccoons, foxes, and skunks, and is passed along to others through nervous tissue saliva. Testing of the brain tissue or spinal fluid of the animal is necessary to confirm the presence of rabies if a person or pet has had contact with the animal.
- Signs of an animal infected with rabies: MAY behave unusual aggressiveness or tameness.
- Excessive drooling, “foaming at the mouth.”
- Dragging the hind legs, mobility problems
If you hire someone to handle the problem for you, make sure they have the proper trapping licenses and NEVER handle or move any trap that may be placed out.
The word Prevention is a powerful word when it comes to things that have the potential to harm us, our family and our food supply. No I am not talking about natural disaster or civil unrest; I am talking about Pest Prevention.
Many of the more serious issues with pest infestations can be avoided altogether if you know a little about the things you could do to help eliminate the threat or mitigate the damage after a pest issue is discovered.
Here are lists of things that can help prevent or eliminate pest infestations in your home.
Exclusion is the process of sealing openings that would allow pest to gain access to your home. This can be done not only for rodents of all size, but insects. Typically any opening larger than ¼” would allow not only insects, but rats and mice. Cracks around pipes and electrical boxes can be sealed with caulking as an example of a common material used in exclusion work. Installing door sweeps on the bottom of doors will keep pests from walking in and help keep dirt out as well.
Most living things need Food, Water and Warmth to survive. When we move around our home we typically focus on the inside and the outside. But what about what is under our home and above it. Subarea and attic are normally places we would rather not go in. The fact is these two voids can be a great place for pests, since it’s dark and quiet and humans aren’t in the way.
Here in California many homes are built with a raised foundation. Vents are installed all around the foundation which was designed to keep the subarea ventilated. The fact is this is a bad idea since it creates the very issue that builders were trying to avoid. Moisture is an enemy to wood, but life sustaining to pest. These areas are ideal for pests, but often the homeowner has never gone under their home, and who can blame them. Dirt filled crawl spaces are, well just nasty. They are “bone yards” for plumbers, contractors and electricians. Usually the “replaced” items that these trades remove such as old pipes, sinks, heaters etc. are just left under the house. These items become harborage for many pests, much like a sunken ship in the ocean. Making sure the screens are in good shape will keep out rodents such as rats, mice, cats, opossums, raccoons, skunks etc. You should check these once a month because these vents are used as access points for plumbers, cable service, phone lines and air conditioning contractors when they install their equipment. I rarely see all the vents on a home totally secure for one reason or another.
Attics are another favorite place for all kinds of pests because they are normally warm and dark. Fiberglass insulation is a favorite among rats and animals. feces and urine can saturate attic insulation and create a foul smell in your living space. Attics many times have unique “built in” access because of roof gables, pitches and roof vents designed to keep water out, but not pests. Tile roofs are also a challenge since older homes have no underlying sheeting and rodents can crawl right into the attic from the eve line. Roofers can resolve these issues.
There are many issues around homes that can be addressed that will greatly reduce the likelihood of pest issue with minor adjustments. Firewood stored on the ground and against a structure is a bad idea. They become home to termites, beetles, rodents and carpenter ants. Firewood should be stored off the ground and as far away from the structure as possible so pests are away from the house. Wood should only be brought into the house when ready to burn.
Standing water is also a common problem around houses. Wheel barrels, wagons, tires, pots, buckets, trash cans, ponds that no longer circulate water are great breeding sites for mosquitoes.
Obviously there are good and bad choices in landscape design and types of plants you choose. Many landscape projects start with some kind of weed barrier. The two most common types are a thick plastic or a meshed fabric which can be covered with bark. Plastic created a serious environment that harbors ants and other pests. The plastic allows moisture to build underneath and at the same time won’t allow a pesticide or fertilizer to reach the soil should it need treatment. The cloth type works very well as a barrier for weeds and it also allows moisture to pass both directions making it the product of choice and will last much longer than plastic sheeting. Keeping plants health discourages pests eating their leaves and reduces fungus and various plant diseases.
Trash cans are also another highly place for pests. Flies, rodents, nuisance animals and odors can be an issue if stored near the house. Tight fitting lids are a must and these trash receptors should be washed out after before taken back to where they are stored.
If you love pets as I do, then you know they also can be a source for pests such as fleas and ticks. Our pets may spend a lot of time outdoors which puts them at risk for bringing in fleas and ticks. It’s important to keep your pets health and well groomed. Where, and how you feed your pet is also can be a key source for pests. You should have a designated time to feed your pets, this way you can pick up their food when their done so food isn’t just sitting left out. Food should not be left out inside or outside longer than is absolutely necessary. Many health concerns that relate to your pets can be from food that has sat too long, allowing flies and other harmful pathogens to be ingested that can make them very sick.
Prevention is always the best way to deal with pest issues, but when they arise we’re here to help.
Pesticides Isn’t Always the Solution
I am often asked to take care of a wide variety of pests in and out of homes. There are times when pesticide isn’t always the solution to resolve every pest issue. Not all pests require pesticide to control all pest infestation. As an organic pest control company our focus is resolving issues with the least toxic material available, when a pesticide is needed and only after pesticide options has been evaluated, which is referred to as Integrated Pest Management or IPM.
Unfortunately there are pest control companies that will be happy to take your money without identifying a pest issue first (illegal). Some companies will treat for pest that really doesn’t exist or require treatment. Some pests don’t need pesticide intervention at all, and can easily be resolved through mechanical or sanitation changes. Education of the general public is our most effective tool sometimes, but because their previous experience has left them with conflict of information, some companies find it easier to go ahead and take the money, spray and run rather than take the time to educate.
Many clients want us to treat for pest, just because. This could be based on what they believe to be true, it may be because they always had it done by others, or they are under the impression if they are paying for service they can have whatever they think is best. Some of this comes from other companies that don’t follow regulations, some of it is bad information found on the Internet.
I want to focus a little more on the pest issues that for the most part can be addressed without pesticide treatment. It’s what every Pest Control Company should be doing for their client, the public and the environment.
Don’t always require pesticide:
- Food Pests
- Cloths Moths
- Fruit Flies
Mystery Pest, or NoSeeUms, as we call it really do exist; well maybe only in the minds of those that think they have them. If you want to know more about this “pest” give a click for FREE downloadable document I have put together.
First up is:
Stored food pest fall into two groups... Those that have them and those that will. Most believe there food got infested from bugs in the pantry, which is partly correct. Most grains have the ability to hatch the eggs that are already in the product before it went to your grocery store. How can that be you ask? Well, many whole grains can become infested with primary and secondary feeders such as weevils that “drill” holes in the seed and deposit their eggs which can stay dormant for long periods of time and hatch once they have made the travels to your pantry cupboard, leaving you with a packet or box of cast insect skin laced with pulverized grain that no longer looks like grain and certainly isn’t fit for human consumption. On a side note, many complaints of a tummy ache can be caused by ingesting of the larval stage, which in some species have tiny barb-like hairs that irritate the stomach and colon.
So now that we know some pest came from the inside of the grain in this case, you certainly don’t want to “spray” your food do you? The damage is done, pick it up and toss it out.
Some species of pest hatch out into a moth, such as the common Indian Meal Moth. The larval stage of the moth is what feeds on the product. The adult moth will die once the food source has been eliminated. Don’t stop with that one food because temperature and humidity has a lot to do with these hatchings, you should go through ALL your processed and whole grain products, opened or unopened and inspect them for possible infestation as well.
Since the “trigger” often is temperature and humidity, you can keep whole grain and processed grains in sealed containers which allow you to keep any new infestations from spreading. You can also store in your refrigerator (under 72 degrees) if you have the capacity.
Cloths moths are another common pest issue that can have many sources. Most live on the garment of natural fabric such as wool, silks and fur to name a few. Case Making Cloth Moths will build a cocoon from the very fabric they are eating making it almost impossible to see until it is too late. Again it is the larval stage that carries this cocoon around as it moves through your cloths. The moth, as in the Indian Meal Moth doesn’t cause the damage, but likely the only evidence you see other than holes. The moth are weak fliers and don’t like light, so often times damage is high before the homeowner finds their favorite suit or dress riddled with holes. Again, “spraying” your fine garments isn’t something you really want to do. Better option is to take infested items to your dry cleaner and then seal them in either a garment bag or a Space Bag and store until you are ready to wear it.
A word about cedar and moth balls as control products. These products are best used to keep infestations from starting rather than trying to rely on them to control an existing one. Foggers have been suggested by some, but I do not recommend them for much more than holding down newspaper against the floor. Again, why would you want your cloths to be covered in a pesticide?
Many clients are under the impression that Pheromone traps are for controlling cloths moths. They are not; they are mostly used to determine which species and or the absence or presence of fabric pest. I see these over used in closets, finding as many as 10 when 1 is what is recommended. Sure they can be used to monitor control measures, but to see them placed in homes as the only control measure is inappropriate.
Fruit flies are another common problem that is regularly mistreated. Treatment that is often applied is for the result of the problem and not the cause. Have you ever tossed a banana peel in your trash and let it sit for 1 day? Fruit flies seem to spontaneously appear out of thin air. Well, the cause is the banana peel and that is a sanitation issue. Fruit flies need organic material to lay their eggs in. Resolving this issue doesn’t require a pesticide, rather a flashlight serves this pest issue best.
Drains, soda cans, drip trays under the refrigerator, greasy tile grout, dirty trash cans, spillage, the list goes on and on, but I think you get the point. The life cycle of this pest is short, but the infestation can be high if allowed to continue to breed in whatever “muck” is available. I just finished posting in my last Blog a short video on these pest in a restaurant that highlights their sources.
Correct the sanitation issue and this problem disappears as mysteriously as it started. If the adult fly population is heavy, certainly a non-residual aerosol can be used to knock them down.
MYTH ABOUT BLEACH
I’m not sure where the practice of pouring bleach down drains started, but I see this used all the time in restaurants. Bleach is a sanitizer not a degreaser and certainly not a drain cleaner. Save it for your grass-stained socks.
Who hasn’t had a child or know someone who has had a child sent home by the school nurse with a note telling them there is an outbreak of lice? Lice attach “nits” to the follicle of the Childs hair. These parasites do not live off the body and don’t require any pest control intervention. Wash their cloths and hair brush if you like, but treatment must be addressed at the source. Many over the counter products work just fine and will resolve the problem just follow the manufacturer’s label.
Bit of interesting info on the word “Nit Picker”. Nit pickers were hired to pick the Nit from the head of an infected individual. Picking nits is slow, tedious, detailed work. The origin is from the literal act of picking nits. A nit, by the way, is the archaic name for lice. Therefore nit picking is "lice removal."
Human scabies is caused by an infestation of the skin by the human itch mite. The microscopic scabies mite burrows into the upper layer of the skin where it lives and lays its eggs. The most common symptoms of scabies are intense itching and a pimple-like skin rash. The scabies mite usually is spread by direct, prolonged, skin-to-skin contact with a person who has scabies.
Consult a dermatologist, not an exterminator for treatment. Scabies generally will not survive off the human body for more than 2-3 days and require no pest control intervention.
So, there you have it. Hopefully you take away a different view of what is needed rather than what is wanted based on insect biology rather than trying to make a buck off a misinformed homeowner.
If you have a pest question, please feel free to ask me here with the link below, and I will be happy to assist you. Allow me to do what I love, and love what I do.
Tens of thousands of human deaths per year are contributed to houseflies each year.
The most dangerous arthropod in the Western Hemisphere is not the Black Widow or the Scorpion, it is the Housefly. I’m sure this is pretty shocking information to digest, but true.
Although flies don’t bite, the list of diseases the common house fly carries and spreads include many of the worst killers of mankind; Typhoid, Cholera, Gangrene, Tuberculosis, Gonorrhea, Bubonic Plague, Leprosy, Diphtheria, Scarlet Fever, Amoebic Dysentery, e-Coli, and many others.
1 fly can carry as many as six million bacteria on its feet. How does the fly transmit disease if it doesn’t bite?
Flies will transfer what is on the bottom of their feet to the top of your food. Then if that isn’t disgusting enough, they must regurgitate their stomach acids to dissolve the solids in the food and slurp them up (Jeff Goldblum in The Fly 1986 to get this fact burned in your head). I know this visual is pretty gross, but hopefully the message (visual) changes the way you think about flies. Flies have sticky pads on the bottom of their feet which picks up particles and bacteria from everything they land on.
There is no “5 second rule” for flies on your food. The bacteria transferred to your food is instant. So the next time you see a fly on your food, think twice (maybe three times) about eating it. There are six million reasons not to.
FLY LIFE CYCLE
Flies lay eggs in moist organic matter which will hatch into maggots. Maggots consume organic matter. Soft-bodied maggots need moisture to survive. When mature, maggots pupate in the soil which looks like brown seed. Adult fly emerges from pupa, ready to breed. Knowing what specific fly species you’re dealing with can aid in control, some species of flies have specific types of organic matter they prefer, so this can help a professional locate sources. Flies inside structures may be breeding outdoors or indoors. Outdoor-breeding flies follow food odors through windows and doors. Flies breeding indoors in decaying organic matter, typically this is a sanitation issue. To be a fly detective you first must identify the type of fly. Second, find its breeding source, and finally, eliminate further breeding to solve the problem.
There are many breeding sites around businesses and homes. Garbage dumpsters are pretty common in both settings, so it’s always best to have dumpsters far away from doors and windows. Sanitize dumpsters frequently to reduce breeding areas, especially in warm months. Use hanging fly traps when possible. Keep dumpster lids closed to prevent infestations of flies and other pests. Overflowing trash on a regular basis is a sign to increase pick-up frequency for businesses.
- Keep windows screens in good condition
- Keep windows and doors closed or use an Air-Door.
- Install automatic door closers
- Use fans to blow across passage ways
- Keep animal waste (feces) picked up daily
- Compost piles should be covered when possible
- Certain fertilizers will attract flies
- Pick up any fallen, rotting fruit from trees
- Remove dead animal carcasses
I hope the info will help change how you view flies in your environment. Sanitation is a key component in controlling these pests. If your having fly issues, we are always here to help.
Winter pest issues
As I am sitting here watching the first rain of the season out my window in North Hollywood I’m reminded of the change in pest we are about to start seeing. Pests are like you and I, they don’t want to be sitting outdoors in the rain when we can move to a warmer and dryer environment. Pests will take the first opportunity to move inside a structure. Pests are opportunist when it comes to finding shelter when the climate changes the needs of rodents and insects habitat. What worked in the summer months isn’t going to be life sustaining in the wet, cold winter months.
Even though we have “winter” it isn’t cold enough in California to stop pest invasions. Let’s take a look at a couple of pests that will be looking for that opportunity to move indoors.
Mice and rats are top of the list of pest that will find their way indoors. The only need a space the size of ¼ inch to squeeze through and most homes have many construction deficiencies that will meet this opportunity.
- Vents and craw space doors
- Opening around pipes
- Eaves and soffits
- Weather stripping
- Old abandon sewer lines
These are the common areas that all kinds of pest gain access to our homes and businesses. Many of these pests, such as Nuisance Animals will make their own openings by ripping off roof shingles, screens and dig tunnels under your home to gain access to the subarea.
Insects, such as ants, spiders, crickets, earwigs and roaches will move closer to a structure when the rains start to escape the elements. Many will crawl under window sills, like black and brown widows looking for other insects that are doing the same thing looking for an easy meal. Ill fitting screens allow access through windows and missing weather stripping at door bottoms is another common access point.
Professional pest control products come in various formulations that are specifically designed to work in wet environments without losing their efficacy.
Prevention is a key component to keeping control of your pest needs year round, but especially during the winter months. Maintaining service throughout the year is crucial in an effective pest management program. What you do or don’t do during the winter months will have a positive or negative effect on your year round program.
This is a great time to do the walk around your home or business to inspect the above common areas of access. Armed with a tube of caulking and a flashlight you can seal up lots of openings that could offer access.
Many of the issues are best handled by a pest control professional since they know the biology of the pest and know what materials best suit the repair. I’ve seen some exclusion work that obviously took a lot of time to complete, but will not provide actual exclusion because the material used or methods were sub-standard.
SO WHAT CAN YOU DO?
If you currently have a pest control provider, my first suggestion is DON’T STOP the service. If you don’t have a company, GET ONE. Many companies offer rodent inspections to evaluate what issues may be present and give you solutions. Attics are primary harborage sites for Roof Rats (most common rat) and because of insulation in attics, you may not actually hear them running around doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t have a major infestation. Rats will store all kinds of food and nesting material in attics and subareas in order to thrive and survive the winter. One of the dangers of allowing pests, such as opossums, skunks, raccoons, foxes and squirrels to share your dwelling is they have no reason to leave.
I remember when I first started in the industry as a young kid my training and time spent was mostly dealing with insects. I never saw skunks, raccoons, or opossums because they were happy in their environment, well that all changed after all the major fires, rains, and floods we had back in the day caused them to move into urban areas. When they did, they found food, water and shelter in abundance. Pets and pet food was easily available in almost everyone’s backyard. These animals had it made, would you go back up in the hills to hunt for food when all you had to do was take it? Just yesterday coming into the office I saw a coyote walking down a residential street as if he could care less.
Winter pest control in many ways is equally important as summer, because it sets the stage for the next shift in pest activity. I understand that it is hard to justify a service when you don’t SEE the results. “We do our best job when there is nothing there”.
The spider needs a reason to bite, which is not a common thing since most spiders are not aggressive and only bite in self-defense. Spiders and snakes are probably the two most feared pests by most people. I can understand the fear for lots of reasons. News media, movie industry, childhood memories, and a host of other sources have contributed to the phobia of both. I’m going to focus on spiders in this blog post since we receive dozens of calls about people allegedly being bit by spiders each month.
The reality of this claim is far from what actually occur. Much study has been done over the years about this to see if there is actually documentation to support these claims. I remember when the movie Arachnophobia came out, much like the movie Jaws, people were afraid to go in the water or their basement. I was actually approached to represent the “exterminator” portrayed in the movie, but declined once I read the part. Our industry at the time never seems to get the respect we deserve as a public health specialist, but that’s another story.
So what are the real facts about spider bites and the likelihood that they could be responsible for all these claims? First let’s take a look at some spider facts.
- Most spiders do produce venom
- Venom is used to subdue their prey
- All spiders have fangs
- Most spider venom is weak
- Not all spiders spin webs
So it seems logical that spiders have earned their reputation, right? Well not really. These facts may seem to be a good match for all the claims of bites. You really have to look at the biology of why spiders bite in the first place. Venom is a spider’s defense mechanism, so to use it prudently is a must. Some species of spiders will take up to 16 days to replenish their supply of venom, so non-prey and people are not a good use of their resources. We are not a food source for spiders. If a spider does bite a human it would be for defense when they feel threatened. Most spider bites to humans happen when they are handled. Most people would rather not handle spiders, so that reduces a huge opportunity for spider bites just on that fact alone.
So what about the daddy of all feared spiders, the Brown Recluse? You’re probably thinking, now we gotcha because there are dozens of news reports that people are bit by the brown recluse each year. I think Malcolm X said “The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power, because they control the minds of the masses”.
Here is another little widely unknown fact…they don’t exist here in California! Let me repeat that…They Do Not Exist In California. Let’s take a look at a recent study about this spider and where they do exist. A study, 2055 brown recluse spiders were captured over a six-month period in a Kansas home--400 of these spiders was big enough to inflict envenomation in humans. Despite the number of spiders that could have bitten the occupants, no one was bitten. So how is it that we have so many people claim to have been bitten by a Recluse or knows someone that has?
A true spider bite that has a reaction, a couple of things need to happen. Spiders must have fangs capable of penetrating human skin—many adult spiders lack these fangs to do that. Just because spiders have venom, not all venom triggers a response in humans. Most insects that bite or sting will cause some sort of localized redness, simply because our immune system to the foreign proteins injected can cause classic swelling and redness.
Many dermatologists diagnose the local skin reactions as “spider” bites likely because they assume the cause is what the patient is telling them. Clients tell us that their doctor said it is a spider bite… The clinical definition of a spider bits is very specific, and it is suspected that many skin lesions or skin conditions are misidentified as spider bites. There has to be three conditions to a clinical definition of a spider bite.
- Pain at the site of the bite immediately following the bite
- Collection of a spider
- Identification of the spider by an expert to verify it is capable of producing symptoms
Only then, when all of these conditions are met, is it scientifically a spider bite. I can offer some other situations that may cause “spider like” lesions here.
So after all this is said and done, random, unprovoked spider bites are rare. Spiders are beneficial and help control the non-beneficial pests.
Ultrasound, Owls and Apples are just three of these "gimmicks"
As a professional exterminator and Entomologist for 32 years I see lots of pest control gimmicks out there that people try before contacting a professional. Some of these methods have cost clients their health and in a few cases their lives. Sure pesticides are available from your local pharmacy, grocery store, and yes, the Internet, but home use pesticides are scary for most without proper training. Many on the Internet are no longer legal to use, yet they continue to sell them. Remember the Chinese Chalk? This stuff is extremely toxic and a huge health concern, but still a bargain at $1.
There are lots of alternative items to choose from like some slick, late night infomercial offering some “plug and Play” ultra sound device that guarantees that you will never see another bug or critter again, or maybe a 3 pack of those cute little
that will surly scare the bravest of all pigeons. So you rush to the phone or Internet and order the latest and greatest bug remedy and run out to the mailbox when it arrives.
Snake oil salesmen have been around forever, promising a safer solution to all your pest issues. Well I am here to tell you… Save your money!! The only thing that will be gone is your hard earned money. Yes, I am going to say it, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. There are many reasons why these items don’t work as promised. If you moved next to a train station after living in the country and found that that train wakes you up every night for a week, then what happens? You can’t sleep without the noise. Insects and nuisance animals adjust just as we do to our environment. Take this picture of the owl that was purchased to scare away birds. I have many pictures of this same scenario. Birds don’t scare from landing next to a rock that doesn’t do anything but sit there. Ultra sound devices have been sold by the millions because it sounds (no pun intended) like a good idea at the time, and who could ignore all those testimonials. However, there is a lack of scientific proof that these devices have any valid evidence to confirm the claims of effectiveness. Hedge apples fans claim that these fruits will scare away spiders and other pests, yet there again is an absence of scientific research and therefore no valid evidence to confirm these claims. It is true that many fruits and plants, even other insects have compounds that repel pests, but there is nothing magical about hedge apples to recommend the use for pest control.
You won’t become a master mechanic because you bought a 562 piece Craftsman set of tools. You have to know what to do with them. Insect biology is your key to controlling pests, pesticides if required is just one tool to help you.
Even if you can get your hands on professional products, they don't come with the most important item...Knowledge of use. You have to know what your doing based on the mode of action, biology, and the pest habits. I have seen some of the best home products get a nose turned up when I ask "how did that work for you?" I could see their choice of placement was incorrect or the amount of the product was not properly applied, the results are typically poor at best.
As an industry we are required (in California) to meet continuing education requirements every 3 years in order to keep out licenses active. The home pest control market is dwindling because many home use products are improperly used. We are here to help you with your pest challenges. Don't risk your families safety to save a buck, it just isn't worth it.
Rodent season is just around the corner. Rodents look for opportunities to access our structures when the weather turns wet. I’m going to focus on the 3 most common rodents that will likely be the ones looking for access to your home.
I've included a bit of biology about each rodent which provides us the ability to properly identify the rodent species, and then helps us select the proper rodent control products and exclusion material needed to keep them from gaining access to your home.
Rodent droppings are also a key component in identifing which specie(s) of rodent may be infesting your home. Many insects have simular droppings or scats that may be confused for rodent droppings. Rodent droppings have hair in them and insects do not, so with a hand lens you can quickly rule out insects if you know what your looking at.
Roents are the second most successful mammal on earth, and for good reason. They have learned to live along side us and have found adaption to be pretty easy. Lets take a look a little closer why they do so well.
Rodents are almost blind and use their sense of touch for guidance, but can detect light and dark and movement quite well.
Rodents can taste up to 250 parts per billion
Newborns taste mother's diet through her milk and prefer the foods she ate when they grow up
Rodents react negatively to foods that made them feel ill and it only needs to happen once for them to remember
If deprived of a certain nutrient, rodents learn which foods fill that need and prefer those until that need is met.
Approximately 1% of rat's genes are involved in their sense of smell
They produce & release pheromones to communicate information with other rodents (i,e, colony status, reproductive behavior, etc.)
Rodents long whiskers, or vibrissae, are located all over the body, but are most prominent on the face. These hairs are used for guidance as they move along walls and other objects.
Sonic and ultrasonic range
They can hear sounds that we cannot and also communicate with sound, squeaks, clicks, and whines that we cannot hear.
6. Kinesthetic Sense
Rodents exhibit memorized muscle movement in which they effectively memorize their environment
They create memory of the environment and how to move through it without looking.
So I hope you have a better understanding of the biology of the rodent and why they have become so comfortable in our homes.
Because rodents can gain access into homes through a hole as little as 1/4 inch for a mouse and 1/2 for a full grown rat. Because of the small opening needed to gain access, many rodent jobs fail because of a poor inspection. During the inspection process, rodent droppings can tell the inspecter how old the colony is, the size of the infestation and helps locate high activity areas that will help with the implementation of the program. Looking for gnaw marks, rub marks also help understand activity levels.
Harborage Reduction is also a key component in reducing areas where rodents will hide and nest. Keeping the yard clean, vegetation cut short; tall grass protects rodents from predators. Keep overhanging trees cut back, over hanging trees provide dark shadowy areas where rodents feel safe and protected.
Keeping a 2 foot barrier of rocks or cement around the foundation of your home will help keep rodents from nesting near the structure and discourages activity.
Rodent exclusion requires special knowledge, tools and materials and a good understanding of how homes are constructed. Many homes have issues on the roof and eve lines that were never sealed when the home was built. I have found that many builders aren't really concerned with these openings because they were focusing on keeping water out, so if an eve line covers the opening they sometimes will leave a large opening that is a sure way for Roof Rats to gain access. This is typical where two different roof lines meet.
Once your home is properly sealed up to keep rodents out you should have it rechecked each year. When service companies come out and do what it is they do the integrity of exclusion work should last many years as long as vents don't become damaged or not put back properly. The cable company, phone company, electrictions, plumber, etc. will in the course of their work sometimes remove or damage vents or make new openings.