GreenleafOrganicPest.com Blog

How to Protect Your Pantry From Weevils

Posted by Mark A. Puglisi, ACE on Mon, Dec 05, 2016 @ 10:25 AM

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You scoop out a cup of brown rice and pour it into your rice cooker. Just before you add water and turn the rice cooker on, you look a little closer-some of the grains of rice seem to be moving. On even closer inspection, you find that some of the rice isn't rice at all: your rice is actually infested with small, wriggling creatures. You have weevils.

Has this experience ever happened to you? If not, you might have had this same problem with other foods. Maybe you pulled out a half-eaten box of graham crackers only to find the surface of the cracker you wanted to eat was swarming with oblong brown bugs. Maybe you scraped the bottom of your sack of flour and came up with a half-cup of reddish-brown specks instead.

No matter the situation, the experience was alarming, disgusting, and expensive, since you had to throw out whole bags and boxes of food that the bugs claimed for their own.

Below, we'll talk about bugs that threaten pantries everywhere: granary and rice weevils. These small little bugs can wreak havoc on your kitchen, but it's possible to prevent them or exterminate them completely if they invade your pantry.

What Are Granary and Rice Weevils?

Different species of weevils infest everything from cotton to hemlock to whole-wheat flour to dry lentils. Even if you've never had weevils before, you've probably heard of pests like the boll weevil, which can destroy entire cotton fields. Wheat and grain weevils have a similarly devastating effect on your pantry.

Weevils are small beetles that usually don't grow longer than an eighth of an inch. Their size allows them to infiltrate any type of food that isn't sealed in an airtight container. Rice weevils and granary weevils are red-brown and similarly sized.

The main difference between the two is that rice weevils can fly while wheat weevils can't, and granary weevils look glossy while rice weevils look dull. Also, if you live in southern California, you're more likely to encounter rice weevils than wheat weevils because they prefer warmer climates.

The good news is that consuming rice weevils might be disgusting, but it won't actually harm you. In fact, it's more than likely that you've consumed rice weevils before. Most food manufacturing plants do everything in their power to keep rice weevils away, but one slips through every once in a while.

Of course, no one would willingly choose to consume weevil-infested rice or grains. Weevil infestations can spread quickly, so once you find weevils in one bag of rice or flour, you usually have to throw out any open box or bag of dry goods, including cereal, crackers, and pasta.

How Can You Keep Weevils Away From Your Rice and Flour?

Take these steps to ensure weevils leave your pantry alone.

1. Deep-Clean Frequently

You probably sweep and mop your kitchen floor at least once a week, but how often do you take everything out of your pantry and scrub down the shelves? Probably not often enough.

At least every few weeks, remove everything from your pantry. Use hot water, soap, and a dishrag to rinse off all the shelves. Make sure you get into the back corners-weevils love to lurk just out of sight, and they're so small that they're easy to miss.

Cleaning out the pantry also gives you an opportunity to get rid of old, partially eaten boxes of crackers and other dry goods. If you don't clean out the pantry that often, you might find open boxes of pasta or Saltines that make the perfect undisturbed habitat for a weevil infestation to grow. If you aren't going to eat the food soon, put it in an airtight container or throw it out.

2. Seal All Containers Completely

The best way to keep weevils away is to store your flour and rice in airtight containers rather than the paper sacks or plastic bags they come in. Invest in large Ziploc bags or storage bins that keep bugs out.

You should also make sure everyone in your family reseals boxes of cereal and crackers. Roll the inner plastic bag up tightly, and then close the cardboard lid.

3. Use Herbs That Keep Bugs Out

Some herbs and spices, especially cloves and bay leaves, naturally repel weevils. Hang small bags of whole cloves or dried bay leaves around your pantry and switch them out when they start to lose their scent.

What If You Already Have an Infestation?

If you already have an infestation, throw out all the infested food immediately. Rinse the sides of your pantry down with vinegar, soap, and water, and vacuum out crevices and hard-to-reach corners.

If you pantry's shelves are removable, there might be small holes or notches up and down the pantry's sides that let you adjust the shelves' height. Your bug infestation can recur if bugs hide in small spaces like these, so cover the holes or notches with masking tape to cut off the bugs' air supply.

Following these steps should help you keep weevils out of your home and destroy an infestation if one happens. If you want additional advice or assistance as you protect your pantry from rice and granary weevils, call our professionals. We're happy to help! 

Tags: weevils

Snakes in the Garden: Why You Don't Need to Panic

Posted by Mark A. Puglisi, ACE on Thu, Nov 03, 2016 @ 10:57 AM

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Snakes and humans have had a complicated relationship throughout history. They've been a symbol of both evil, as in the Biblical story of the Garden of Eden, and of life, as in the Australian Aboriginal stories about the Rainbow Serpent, which created the world and humans. Many early civilizations even told stories about human-snake hybrids, like the Gorgons of Ancient Greece.

In modern times, popular culture often takes a negative view of snakes. The great adventurer Indiana Jones is terrified of snakes, his major weakness. In the animated Disney version of The Jungle Book, the giant python Kaa attempts to hypnotize and eat the main character. In the Harry Potter  series, the antagonist can speak to snakes, and snakes and snake symbolism are used frequently for evil purposes.

With all of the negative attention placed on snakes, it makes sense why many people tend to get nervous or afraid when snakes are in the area. Unfortunately, this means many people misunderstand snakes and kill them unnecessarily. Very few snakes harm humans, and many kill more problematic pests like rats and mice.

The next time you see a snake in your yard, take a minute to identify it before panicking. Once you know what it is, you'll better know how to handle it. 

Common Snakes in Los Angeles

Southern California is home to many different types of snakes, most of which are non-venomous. When you see a snake in your yard, it's probably one of these generally harmless varieties:

  • Gopher snake. These snakes are usually light brown and covered in a pattern of both large and small dark brown spots. They are often mistaken for rattlesnakes, although they are nonvenomous and rarely even bite. Their main defense mechanism is to coil up like a pit viper and strike with a closed mouth, smacking the threat with their nose.
  • Red, western, and striped racer. Each of these snakes is long, extremely thin, and faster than most snakes. Red racers are usually light red or pink, with a darker head and a mottled pattern. Western racers are solid colored and gray, brown or green. Striped racers have black scales with two thin, yellow stripes along each side.
  • California kingsnake. When domesticated, California's state snake actually makes a relatively easy-to-care for and friendly pet. The snake, which prefers constriction to biting when hunting, is larger than most California snakes and comes in many color varieties. Some may be red with yellow bands, others black with white bands, and others brown with yellow stripes.
  • Ring-necked snakes. These small, shy snakes are easily identified by their muted green coloring on top and vibrant red, yellow, or red coloring on their bellies. As the name suggests, they have a matching brightly-colored ring of scales around their neck. They prefer to hunt at night. Their submissive nature and small fangs mean they rarely bite even when handled.
  • Garter snake. These multicolored, patterned snakes are common throughout the country, especially in areas with a good water source. Amphibians make up a significant portion of their diet. Although garter snakes actually do possess a mild venom, it isn't strong enough to hurt humans even if they had a means of injecting it. Garter snakes lack strong front teeth.

When you find a snake in yard, it's more than likely one of these harmless types. However, there is one snake in California that poses a threat to humans.

  • Rattlesnakes. Because of their large, thick bodies and spotted brown coloring, rattle snakes are sometimes hard to distinguish from gopher snakes. However, rattlesnakes have a sharply triangular head and a banded tail ending in a rattle, which they use to warn away predators. These snakes strike quickly and the venom can kill if antivenin isn't administered within a few hours.

While rattlesnakes can be deadly, very few people who are bitten actually die. And rattlesnakes aren't extremely aggressive, preferring to warn people away instead of engaging. They will generally only attack if they feel threatened and the threat won't leave.

Deciding on Pest Control

It's one thing to know that a snake in your yard won't hurt you; it's another thing entirely to want to keep them around. While many snakes can keep rodent populations down, protecting you from an even more annoying pest, you probably don't want the snakes themselves near your pets or children, even if they aren't venomous. They may not know to leave the snake alone, and they may get bitten.

One or two gopher snakes in the garden probably isn't anything to be worried about, but if you notice a large population of snakes of any species near your home, look into pest control. Many companies, including Greenleaf Organic Pest Management, prefer to move the snakes to a safe location rather than kill them.

To discourage snakes from coming back, keep your grass short and keep woodpiles and lawn debris away from your home. If snakes don't have anywhere to hide, they likely won't stay in the area long.

If you're tired of snakes slithering through your yard, don't reach for the shovel. Call Greenleaf Organic Pest Management for safe, humane, and thorough removal. 

How Did These Ants Get in Your Kitchen?

Posted by Mark A. Puglisi, ACE on Mon, Oct 03, 2016 @ 02:19 PM

file000222625891.jpgIn Southern California, ants are fairly common and can easily invade your kitchen when food is left out. If you leave a bit of cake out overnight, you may wake up to lines of marching ants on your counters, floors, or walls. But how did they get there so fast? And what kinds of foods attract these ants?

In this blog, we'll discuss how ants are able to locate food and lead their colony to it, and we'll also address which foods ants prefer and don't prefer.

How Do Ants Find Food?

Ants are able to sense unique chemical combinations from great distances, and this ability helps them find their favorite foods and bring them back to the colony. But they may have to wander for a while before they sniff out the right foods.

To find food, ants essentially fan out from the nest, walking randomly until they find what they're looking for. They don't necessarily walk in straight lines, instead walking meandering paths as they push on. As they search, they lay down pheromones so they can find their way back home or so other ants can follow their trail. Every ant has a unique scent, so ants can identify if a route was left by a friend or foe.

When ants find food, they take a piece back with them to the colony, following their own trail back as they lay down more pheromones, thus doubling the strength of the scent. Once they've dropped off their findings, they'll go back on the path to further strengthen the scent of pheromones for their nest-mates to follow.

If the other wandering ants happen upon another ant's trail, they'll abandon their own and follow the scent. If they end up back at the nest without any food, they'll turn back around to keep following the trail and see where it leads. And all the while, they're laying down their own pheromones to strengthen the trail.

So, if an ant happens upon a strong trail that leads to food, they'll further fortify the trail with their own scent, and other ants will eventually happen upon the path.

After a while, enough ants will gather to collect food, resulting in a small group swarming a large muffin crumb or drop of syrup. This tactic allows ants to quickly find food and communicate with their nest-mates. But it can be inconvenient for a homeowner, especially when he or she finds the kitchen crawling with ants the morning after a dinner party.

What Foods Attract Ants?

Southern California is home to a number of different ant species, including:

  • Thief ants
  • Odorous house ants
  • Argentine ants
  • Pharaoh ants
  • Carpenter ants
  • Imported fire ants
  • Pavement ants

But not all ants share the same food preferences. For the most part, the diets of ants can be divided into three main groups: greasy foods, sugary foods, and everything else.

Greasy Foods

Some species of ants, such as thief ants, love greasy foods. They're attracted to foods like cheese, peanut butter, and nuts, and they'll often go for cooked foods as well. You can find them on counters or stoves, and you can sometimes find them in cabinets or sinks.

Sugary Foods

Many ants favor the sweeter foods, surrounding a lone cookie crumb or a spot of honey on the counter. These ants are often more persistent than some of their cousins, and you can find them just about anywhere in your home. They'll even target fruits and nectar, and sometimes, they'll seek out the sweet honeydew excretions aphids leave behind.

Everything Else

Other ant species are happy to eat just about anything. They'll take sugary and greasy foods, and they'll even add a few other items to their diet, including insects, meat, oil, and eggs.

Some ant species eat things that are easily found in nature, such as seeds and plants. While they may scurry through your garden, they probably won't be a prevalent presence in your home.

What Foods Do Ants Dislike?

While a variety of ants can love a variety of foods, there are some foods and spices that can drive ants away. Ants dislike foods with strong scents, such as cinnamon, peppermint, and chili powder. They also avoid cloves and bay leaves, and throwing some of these in your picnic basket can help you have an ant-free meal in the outdoors.

 

Even if you keep your kitchen and home as clean as possible, ants can still infiltrate your home in search of food. When you notice them crawling along walls and floors and overtaking your property, call in the professionals at Greenleaf Organic Pest Management. We can provide you with effective pest control for ants of all varieties.

We use natural, non-toxic solutions to keep you and your family safe, and our friendly staff members can provide tips for keeping pests at bay.

Tags: ants, food pest, Food Safety

Bees With Jobs: Learn the Roles Bees Can Play

Posted by Mark A. Puglisi, ACE on Fri, Sep 02, 2016 @ 10:55 AM

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Bees play a very important role in our ecosystem: not only do they produce honey, but they pollinate our crops. Without bees, we would not be able to grow our food.

But how do bees get things done? They live in a complex social system where each bee has a role to play to ensure the colony's continued survival. There are three types of jobs within a beehive, each necessary and important.

The Queen

The queen bee doesn't really rule the hive, unlike what her name implies. However, she is the most important figure in the hive because she ensures the hive's continued survival. Her role is to produce more bees, which she does constantly: some queen bees lay about 1,500 eggs per day, and the queens can live two to seven years, meaning she will lay millions of eggs in her lifetime.

Queen bees are marked as special at the moment the egg is laid. Most eggs are laid in a regular cell, but when it's time for a new queen to be born, the worker bees will construct a special queen cell that is bigger than the others. The larva in this cell will be fed a diet of "royal jelly," which is high in protein. Because of this special treatment, the insect will become sexually mature, unlike the other bees.

What happens when a queen hatches depends on the circumstances. If it's time for the bees to swarm and find a new home, the new queen may leave with them. However, if the current queen is getting old and this new queen is meant to replace her, she will immediately seek out any rival new queens in the hive and fight them to the death. The old queen is usually allowed to stay until she dies a natural death.

When the weather conditions are right, the new queen will seek out a drone congregation area, or a place where the male bees gather. There, she will mate with many bees and store the sperm in her body. When she comes back to the hive, she will stay there and use the stored sperm to produce eggs for the rest of her life, usually 2 to 7 years.

The Drones

Drones are male bees. They are unusual in that they only have one parent: to produce a drone, the queen will lay an unfertilized egg, meaning the drone has no father. Drones are larger than worker bees, have no stingers, and do not perform much work around the hive. Their primary purpose is to mate with queen bees.

Drones are born in the spring. During the late spring or early summer, they leave the hive to visit drone congregation grounds, where they wait for a new queen to visit. No one really knows how drones and queens manage to find these areas-the bees use the same places every year, even though the bees that visit every year have never come before.

When a queen bee visits the congregation area, the drones swarm her in an attempt to mate. Usually there are far too many drones to each mate with the new queen-only about one in 1,000 get the chance. However, the drones that do mate die shortly afterwards.

The other drones return to their colonies. Drones can only be away for maybe an hour at a time before they have to come back for more food. If drones do not mate, most hives will kill or drive them out in the autumn so they don't consume precious food during the winter.

The Workers

The vast majority of bees are worker bees, all of which are female. These bees take care of all the essential tasks that keep the hive running, leaving drones and the queen bee to worry about reproduction. Workers will:

  • Look after the queen bee (including feeding, grooming, and carrying away her waste).

  • Clean the cells the queen lays eggs into.

  • Feed the larvae that hatch from the eggs.

  • Produce wax to fix up the hive.

  • Make cells for storing food.

  • Collect and store nectar and pollen.

  • Carry away the corpses of dead bees.

  • Keep the hive warm enough or cool enough.

  • Guard the hive from intruders like wasps.

Sometimes a worker bee can lay eggs. However, if she does so, they will be unfertilized, and the resulting bees will be drones instead of more worker bees. 

Bees are both fascinating and very necessary to humans. We need them if we want to keep growing food, and many scientists are still puzzled by their complex society.

However, we may not want them in our yards. Sometimes hives can be removed from our properties without harm, when this is possible we will recommend live bee removal by a bee removal company.  Other times they may be in a wall or in an area that can’t be safely removed and we can help with that issue.

Tags: Bees

Bee or Wasp? Why Identification Matters

Posted by Mark A. Puglisi, ACE on Fri, Aug 05, 2016 @ 12:44 PM

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You're outside, enjoying another beautiful Los Angeles summer day, when you see a black-and-yellow flying insect drift through your garden. Then you see another. Suddenly, it's much harder to appreciate your backyard because, for all you know, you could get stung any minute. You think your only option is to immediately start exterminating the dangerous insects.

However, before you rush to take care of the problem, take a moment to try to identify the insect. The distinctive black-and-yellow striped pattern usually means the insect is either a bee or a wasp. Many people lump the two together, considering them to be essentially the same insect. The problem with this classification is that you might accidentally exterminate an insect that's helping your garden.

Bees and wasps belong to the suborder Apocrita, which explains their biological similarities. Both insects work as pollinators, and many live in large social groups. However, the two types of insect vary greatly in behavior and threat level.

Bees

Southern California is home to many types of bees, including bumblebees, honey bees, and sweat bees. Most bee species live in waxy hives with a social class system divided into a queen, workers, and drones. The life cycle of the hive, as well as the responsibilities of each bee, differ according to species.

Bumblebee colonies, for instance, last less than a year, dying off in the winter. The colonies are created around February by a single queen, who belonged to another colony the year before. She finds a location for her hive and begins laying eggs, the first members of her new colony. Fertilized eggs become female workers while unfertilized eggs become male drones.

Honey bee colonies, on the other hand, store honey to help them survive throughout the winter. This extended life cycle allows colonies to grow to have up 50,000 members, instead of the 400 members that bumblebee colonies may have. When a new queen leaves to form a new colony, she takes a group of workers with her, who get to work on building the hexagonal hive right away.

Honey bees, as their name suggests, produce the honey that humans consume. While all bee species feed on nectar and pollen, bees that don't survive the winter don't need to create honey stores. And some bees, known as cuckoo bees, can't collect pollen at all. Since they can't support their own hive, they must infiltrate another hive and lay eggs there, so their larvae can feed on stolen nectar. 

If you see a bee in your garden, think twice before killing it. Bees are essential pollinators, making it possible for many plant species to make fruit and reproduce. Plants pollinated by bees also produce more and larger fruits.

Unfortunately, wild bee populations are dwindling. To make up for the loss, commercial bee colonies are becoming more and more popular, especially in Los Angeles. City residents can even have domestic beehives in their front yards, so if you start spraying when you see a honeybee, you might not only be eliminating an important pollinator and source of honey, but your neighbor's livelihood or hobby.

Wasps

Much like bees, many wasp species live socially in nests, although the nests are made of a papery substance rather than wax. Others are solitary and usually act as parasites-they lay their eggs in other insects so the eggs have an incubator and a food source when they hatch. Also, many species of wasps are predators, either feeding other insects to their young or eating the insects themselves.

While most social wasps feed on pollen and nectar like bees, they don't produce honey and few act as pollinators. However, some plants rely on certain wasp species for survival, and some predatory wasps benefit humans by killing potentially harmful insects.

When you're trying to differentiate between bees and wasps, look at the texture of the body and the shape of the abdomen. Bees tend to be fuzzy (especially bumblebees) and have a short, rounded abdomen. Wasps tend to be longer and more angular, with a sharply pointed rear.

Nearly every wasp or bee you will run into in Los Angeles will have a stinger and will use it if necessary. The difference between the stings of bees and the stings of wasps is that many wasps, especially yellow jackets and hornets, are aggressive and will sting over and over again if they feel threatened.

Honey bees, on the other hand, can only sting once, as the stinger is pulled out and left in the wound, killing the bee. Bumblebees and other species can sting multiple times, but unlike wasps, they are typically nonaggressive and will leave most animals alone.

When to Call an Exterminator

Seeing a bee or wasp in your yard does not always indicate you have an infestation. They may not pose any threat to you or your property, and they may even be helping your plants grow. However, if you notice a nest or hive, you probably want to get rid of it, especially if you or someone in your family is allergic to bee stings.

To protect yourself from vicious wasp stings and possible property damage, call Greenleaf Organic Pest Management to remove or destroy the nest. If you have a beehive, have it moved to a different, safer location so the bees can still serve the community.

Tags: Wasp, Bees

Mosquitoes, Dogs, and Heartworm: Keep Your Dog Safe

Posted by Mark A. Puglisi, ACE on Wed, Jul 06, 2016 @ 08:15 AM

Mosquitoes are annoying at best and dangerous at worst. Nobody likes the itchy bites they give, but you may also be worried about mosquitoes spreading diseases. Thankfully, most mosquito bites are harmless in the United States because of organizations like the Centers for Disease Control. This organization works to stop the spread of diseases, including those carried by mosquitoes.

However, some mosquitoes may still transmit harmful infections-and not just to you. Mosquitoes can also infect your pets. In a previous post, we discussed how pets and pests interact. In this blog, we'll focus specifically on one of the most common mosquito-borne infections in dogs: heartworm. Read on to learn what it is and how to protect your pet.

What Is Heartworm Disease?

Heartworms are small parasites that take up residence inside the hearts and blood vessels of some mammals. Mostly they infect dogs, though animals like foxes, cats, and raccoons can also get them. An adult worm may be from a few inches to over a foot long, and the worms can live for five years.

The worms spread via mosquitoes. The offspring of the worms, called microfilaria, are tiny and live in the bloodstream of an infected animal. If a mosquito bites that animal, it may pick up microfilaria with the blood. The microfilaria grow within the mosquito for several days, and when the mosquito bites again, the microfilaria leave the mosquito and go into their new host.

Once inside the animal's bloodstream, they migrate into the heart or the biggest blood vessels to find a place to live. There, they grow into their adult form, mate with the other mature worms they came in with, and start producing their own microfilaria. After entering the dog, the worms will be fully grown in about six months.

Because the worms live in the dog's heart, they make it hard for the heart to function as it should. The worms clog parts of the heart, and blood cannot circulate throughout the dog's body properly. As a result, the other vital organs, like the kidneys or the lungs, may not get enough blood supply. If untreated, heartworms can have serious side effects, including death.

What Are the Symptoms of Heartworm Disease?

The symptoms of heartworm look very similar to the symptoms of other diseases. You may see:

  • Fainting
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty exercising
  • Coughing

The good news is there are blood tests that identify heartworm, so if you take your dog to the vet regularly, you can usually diagnose the issue and get treatment. Some vets even will do tests like X-rays or ultrasounds of the dog to look for heartworms.

How Do You Treat Heartworm Disease?

Unfortunately, if your dog shows symptoms, the disease is likely far along already. If a dog does not get treatment in time, the most you may be able to do is keep your pet comfortable for a few months until he or she passes away. Fortunately, most dogs can be treated successfully.

If your dog has heartworm disease, your vet will give the dog shots that will kill the adult worms. After the shots, while the worms die and decompose, you'll have to make your dog rest as much as possible. If the dog exercises, his or her fast heart rate may push the dead worms into the lungs' tiny blood vessels, blocking them. This can be deadly. You will have to restrict your dog's activity for a few weeks.

About one month after the treatment to kill the adult worms, the vet will give your dog medication to kill the microfilaria. Once they are gone, your dog should be much healthier, and your vet can start your dog on a heartworm prevention medicine to ensure the worms do not return. Most dogs are energetic and have a good appetite again after treatment.

How Can You Prevent Heartworm Disease?

Because heartworm is so serious, it's best to try to prevent it. Many of the techniques you already know for preventing mosquito bites still apply. For example, get rid of standing water in your yard (mosquitoes breed in standing water), and put screens on your windows. You can also avoid walking your pet during dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.

However, don't try putting mosquito repellent made for humans on your dog. The chemicals in the repellent can hurt dogs. If you want to give your dog the same pest protection you enjoy, be aware that most bug repellents for dogs work on more than just fleas and ticks-many also repel mosquitoes.

If you live in an area where mosquitoes are prevalent, contact your vet about medications that will prevent heartworm from infesting your dog. However, one of your best options is to get rid of mosquitoes around your home. Call Greenleaf Organic Pest Management for help. We have been in business since 1998, and we can get rid of the mosquitoes in your yard and protect you and your dog.

Tags: Mosquitoes

How Bugs and Insects Influenced the English Language

Posted by Mark A. Puglisi, ACE on Wed, Jun 15, 2016 @ 10:16 AM

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When you hear a fly buzzing in your window, or you see a snail in your garden, your first thought is not likely to be about how these pests influenced the English language. You want the pests gone, and you don't care about their impact on the way you speak.

However, learning the origins of bug-related expressions can reveal interesting information about the interaction between bugs and humans throughout history. This way, the next time you tell your critical neighbor she's too nit-picky, you can be grateful that she's not actually picking lice eggs out of your hair.

Nit-Picking

First known use, according to the Oxford English Dictionary: 1951

As mentioned above, this phrase originally referred to the act of combing through a person's hair to remove lice eggs, also known as "nits." They affected humans all across Europe during the Middle Ages. Due to poor hygiene, lice were nearly impossible to prevent, and the only sure way to get rid of them was to manually pick the eggs out one by one.

In modern times, lice infestations are relatively rare, and specially medicated shampoos can kill the parasites easily. The act of nit-picking survives as an expression used to mean criticism of small and generally unimportant issues, likely because medieval nit-picking was a tedious task focused on removing nearly invisible pests.

Beeline

First known use: 1830

Ancient and medieval civilizations saw bees as highly organized animals with their own laws and customs. They seemed in awe of the bee's industry and absolute loyalty to the elected "king bee".

However, some of the medieval beliefs about bees have been disproved by modern science. For instance, people used to believe that bees did not reproduce, but were born from the flesh of dead cows. They also believed that bees instinctively flew in a straight line back to their hive once they collected nectar.

While bees do possess impressive communication and navigational skills, they don't hone in on the hive as the ancients believed. Modern knowledge of bee behavior cleared up many misconceptions, but these ancients beliefs remain a part of our language in the term "beeline," a noun referring to the straight, fast course one takes when fixated on a destination.

Social Butterfly

First known use: 1837

In the 1800s, society and fashion were an important part of life for middle- and upper-class men and women. Women, especially, favored elaborate and colorful gowns, making the comparison to the brightly colored butterfly only natural.

The term originally had a derogatory connotation, as these brilliantly dressed young ladies were often seen as flitting from one social engagement to the next, seeking momentary entertainment. Over time, the phrase has softened to mean anyone who thrives in social settings and enjoys being in the company of others.

This phrase isn't unique to English. In China, they refer to a very social person as "a butterfly dancing among the flowers."

Flea Market

First known use: 1891

The term is a literal translation of the French expression marché aux puces, which referred to an open-air market that opened in Paris in 1860. Many such markets exist around the world under a variety of names, but the French was called the "market of fleas" because so many older, second-hand items had to be infested with fleas.

Bug

This word has come to have a large variety of meanings since it entered the English language in the 14th century as a synonym for monster or bogeyman, or anything that causes fear. It can mean a "true bug," a category of insects that includes species like aphids and cicadas. It's often used as a general term to describe any type of small invertebrate.

In modern times, it's also used to mean a small listening device or computer error. As a verb, it means to irritate or annoy someone or to leave an area quickly (bug out). Due to its long history and varied meanings, it's hard to trace how each definition of bug came to be. Etymologists aren't even sure how the term for a monster of terror came to be applied to beetles.

The first recorded use of "bug" as slang for annoying came in 1949, described as a popular term used by jazz musicians. "Bug" as a listening device or spying technique was first recorded in 1919, and may refer to the ability of insects to infiltrate any location and remain hidden.

Of all the meanings, the one with the clearest meaning is as an issue with technology. In 1889, Thomas Edison claimed that he had spent several days trying to fix a bug in his phonograph machine. The Pall Mall Gazette, the London evening newspaper that published the expression, explained that the term draws upon the image of a small insect hiding inside the machine and causing it to break.

 

It's clear that bugs had a major impact on the development on the English language, but that doesn't mean you need to let them stay in your house. If you have a pest problem and want an eco-friendly solution, call Greenleaf Organic Pest Management.

What You Need to Know About Raccoons as Pests

Posted by Mark A. Puglisi, ACE on Tue, Apr 26, 2016 @ 02:57 PM

file4781300045861.jpgIf you were to see a raccoon, what would you think? Would you think of these critters as fluffy, friendly creatures? Chances are you might. After all, movies such as "Pocahontas" portray the raccoon Meeko as a loyal companion. And movies like "Guardians of the Galaxy" reveal that raccoons are clever and have a mischievous demeanor-but these qualities still make Rocket seem like a good friend and fellow superhero.

On the other hand, movies like "Over the Hedge" depict raccoons as sneaky thieves, while films such as "Are We Done Yet?" and "Furry Vengeance" demonstrate a more vicious side of raccoons.

In reality, raccoons are pests that can cause a lot of damage to your home and property-and they can even wreak havoc on your life if you don't remove them as soon as possible. In this blog, we'll tell you everything you need to know about raccoons so you can contact the appropriate professionals to eliminate these nuisance animals from your home and yard.

Why Raccoons Are Considered Pests

By definition, a pest is any insect or animal that causes issues for humans. Specifically, pests cause problems as they damage crops, destroy landscaping, and mutilate buildings. Because raccoons live inside houses and other buildings, and because they cause a lot of property damage (which you'll read more about below), raccoons are considered pests.

Where Raccoons Live

Usually, raccoons prefer to live in natural habitats like wooded areas close to water. In the wild, you'll most often find raccoons in brush piles, hollow trees, rock crevices, and ground burrows. However, as their natural habitat has shrunk, raccoons have adapted to life in suburban areas. These critters will den underneath decks and anywhere in backyards.

You'll also find raccoons under homes and other buildings on your property, such as a shed.

Since raccoons are nocturnal animals, they need somewhere dark to sleep during the daytime. They prefer the following areas and structures of buildings:

  • Attics
  • Chimneys
  • Crawl spaces
  • Roofs
  • Soffits
  • Vents and ducts
  • Walls

Raccoons will also den in the holes and loose spaces beneath a house or building, since these areas are well protected and more difficult for people and other animals to discover.

What Raccoons Eat

As omnivores, raccoons eat a wide range of foods. They prefer to eat water-based animals, but their diets include a variety of plants and animals, such as:

  • Birds
  • Clams
  • Crayfish
  • Fish
  • Frogs
  • Fruit
  • Insects
  • Muskrats
  • Nuts
  • Rabbits
  • Snails
  • Turtles
  • Vegetables

Raccoons will also eat any animal eggs they find near their den. If they can't find any of their preferred food sources, they'll rummage through garbage cans outside your home and eat whatever food scraps they find inside. Raccoons will also eat dry pet food if they can access it.

Why Raccoons Are Dangerous to You, Your Family, and Your Home

As previously mentioned, raccoons can cause a lot of damage to your home or other buildings on your property. In fact, raccoons can tear your air ducts apart, create large holes in your walls and underneath your home, and they can even tear apart the insulation in your attic as they build their dens.

The females especially damage a property significantly as they look for nesting sites. A female raccoon may do any of the following to your home as she creates a nest for her kits:

  • Rip shingles off the roof.
  • Tear fascia boards.
  • Claw rooftop ventilators.
  • Remove or destroy insulation air conditioning ducts.

Once a raccoon has built a den or nest, it will likely start to urinate and defecate in the area. Unfortunately, raccoons' urine and feces contain many harmful bacteria and parasites. If you and your family members (or anyone else in the building) become exposed to these parasites or bacteria, you could develop serious illnesses.

Some of these parasites and bacteria are even airborne, so you could become ill simply by breathing in these toxins. Raccoon feces and urine could cause you to develop the following health issues:

  • Salmonella
  • Roundworm
  • Leptospirosis
  • Giardiasis

If you come into contact with a raccoon and it bites or scratches you, you could also contract rabies. The raccoon must already have rabies to spread the virus to you, but bites and scratches from a non-rabid raccoon could also become infected.

What You Can Do to Get Rid of Raccoons on Your Property

If you see a raccoon in your home or anywhere on your property, contact your pest control specialist immediately. Do not approach the coon or attempt to remove it from your property yourself, as you could become injured or expose yourself to bacteria and parasites.

Rely on your pest control expert, as these professionals have the skill and knowledge to safely trap and remove raccoons from your home or yard. They can also seal your house or building to prevent raccoons and other nuisance animals from getting back inside. Additionally, look for a specialist who can clean and disinfect the area to reduce your risk for developing health issues from feces and urine exposure.

Should you require more services than nuisance animal trapping, ask your pest control expert what he or she offers so you can keep your property pest free.

Do Snails and Slugs Count as Garden Pests?

Posted by Mark A. Puglisi, ACE on Wed, Apr 13, 2016 @ 08:25 AM

Snail.jpg

California stays relatively warm year-round. You love the appealing temperatures and consistent sunlight. You especially love that you can keep a garden all year long-in fact, you enjoy eating fresh fruits and vegetables any time you want.

As you look at your garden, you notice that some of the plants seem a little odd in color. You look closer and see shiny, slimy streaks along the stems and leaves. You know that these signs likely mean you have snails or slugs in your garden.

But do these slow crawlers really pose a threat to the plant life on your property? Below, we'll discuss snails and slugs in depth so you know how to recognize these pests in your yard. Read on so you know what to do in the event of a slug or snail infestation.

Their Appearance

Slugs and snails look fairly similar. These pests are often referred to as land mollusks because they come from the same animal family as clams, oysters, squid, and octopus. Snails and slugs are the only members of this family that you'll ever find on land, though you'll most often find them in water.

Snails look ovular in shape, and range in size-these gastropods can grow up to 10 inches in length. The most prominent feature of snails however, is the coiled shell they carry on their backs. Snails also have two soft antennae on the top of their heads, and their eyes rest at the tip of the antennae.

Interestingly, snails have compound eyes. These eyes are made up of dozens of light-sensitive elements. Each element has its own refractive system that forms parts of an image, and these parts combine to allow the critter to see. This eye type and structure is commonly found on most insects (like flies) and a few crustaceans.

Slugs are incredibly similar to snails, but with a few key differences. Slugs don't have a shell on their backs at all. In fact, slugs have an internal shell that is either tiny in size or just a small remnant of the shell. Additionally, slugs can grow up to 15 inches in length.

Both snails and slugs range in color, from light yellow to black and dark gray.

Their Living Environments

Snails and slugs prefer to live in dark spaces in hot, humid climates. Since slugs don't have a shell on their backs, they can easily fit into tight hiding places. For example, you'll often find slugs hiding underneath loose tree bark and slabs of stone.

Snails are less flexible than slugs, however. Because they carry a large shell on their backs, snails can't easily hide in smaller spaces. But they can quickly retreat into their shells and use the structure for protection against predators. You'll also find snails in damp, dark places near a plentiful food source.

Their Preferred Food Sources

These critters will eat any type of vegetation-if they can digest it, they'll eat it. However, snails and slugs prefer to munch on the leaves and stems of the following kinds of plants:

  • Lettuces
  • Cucumbers
  • Carrots
  • Apples
  • Petunias
  • Daisies
  • Dandelions
  • Primroses
  • Daffodils
  • Lilies
  • Irises
  • Strawberries
  • Cabbages Peas

Land snails and slugs often eat plant matter, while their water-living counterparts are carnivorous scavengers that eat anything they can find.

Their Effect on Plant Life

Snails and slugs might seem like harmless creatures, but they actually cause quite a bit of damage to plant life in your yard and garden. They'll often chew irregular holes in the leaves, stems, and stalks of plants. These irregular holes can cause severe damage to plants.  If a snail or slug eats the fruits or vegetables in your garden, that produce becomes inedible for humans.

What You Can Do to Keep Snails and Slugs Out of Your Garden

To prevent slugs and snails from eating your fruits, vegetables, and other plants, use environmentally friendly methods.

For example, you could crush up old eggshells and scatter the pieces throughout the soil. If you have potted plants, sprinkle the crushed shells in the soil and fertilizer as well. Snails and slugs don't like the sharp edges, so they'll stay away from your plants. The shells also add nutrients to the soil to help your plants grow. Additionally, you could add coffee grounds to the soil to further repel slugs and fertilize any plants.

 

If snails and slugs become too big of a problem in your garden or yard this season, don't hesitate to contact a pest control specialist. Find a company that emphasizes in green pest control solutions. These methods allow the experts to safely and humanely rid your property of pests while reducing your exposure to harmful chemicals.

If you have a large infestation of snails or slugs in your garden or yard, pest control experts are your most effective resource. These professionals can rid your yard of any size infestation and prevent future infestations from occurring.

Tags: pests

Termites 101: What You Need to Know

Posted by Mark A. Puglisi, ACE on Wed, Apr 06, 2016 @ 08:53 AM

When you looked for a new home, you likely asked the realtor to keep a few factors in mind: overall price, square footage, and-most importantly-structural support. After you've lived in your home for some time, you hope that the price has increased and that the home is still as sturdy as when it was built.

Sometimes, however, pests can compromise the structural integrity of a building. One of those pests includes termites. In this blog, we discuss these gnawing critters so you know how to identify them and what to do if termites ever enter your home.

What Are Termites?

Simply put, termites are small insects that nest in and eat wood. However, several species of termites exist.

Drywood Termites

As the name suggests, drywood termites inhabit and consume dry woods. These insects measure about 3/8 of an inch in size, have six legs, and are long and narrow in shape. They appear light brown or tan in color and have wings and antennae.

In addition to dry wood, these termites eat plant-based products, including plastics, wallpaper, and fabrics.

Dampwood Termites

This termite's name also indicates the kind of wood it prefers. Dampwood termites typically live in and eat damp, moist wood. They range from 1/2 to 5/8 of an inch in size, have six legs, and are also long and narrow in shape. These termites look brownish orange in color, and this species also has wings and antennae.

Because these termites need damp wood to thrive, you'll usually find them inside dying or dead wood or in houses where water have moistened the wood.

Formosan Termites

Formosan termites, when found in nature, benefit the environment (which we'll discuss more below). These insects are about a 1/2 inch in length, narrow, and ovular in shape. They take on a yellowish brown color and also have antennae and wings. They live in colonies that size around 300 feet long and contain tens of thousands of termites.

These termite colonies contain three groups of insects: soldiers, reproductives, and workers. The soldiers defend the colony against predators. The reproductives only reproduce to further build the colony and provide it with additional workers, soldiers, and reproductives.

The workers build nests and tubes for the rest of the colony, and these termites maintain these areas as well. Additionally, the worker termites gather wood to feed the rest of the colony.

You can find Formosan termites in homes, boats, and other buildings. You can also find these termites in dead wood-however, these termites clear the area to make room for new plant life to grow.

Subterranean Termites

These termites also live in large colonies. In fact, subterranean termite colonies can have about two million members. The colony is also divided into the soldier, reproductive, and worker groups.

Subterranean termites grow between a 1/8 inch and one inch long. They are a creamy brown color and take on the same shape as the other classes of termites listed above. These termites also consume plant-based materials. Most commonly, they'll eat wood, but they will also eat wallpaper and similar items if they can't find a food source.

You'll usually find these termites in wet places aboveground or (as their name suggests) in wooden areas belowground.

What Attracts Termites to a Home?

In their search for food and shelter, termites can easily discover the wood that makes up your home's frame and structural support system. Because they can quickly and efficiently detect wood, termites will enter an area any way they can. Some termites will even squeeze through cracks and holes as small as a 1/32 inch big.

Typically, however, termites enter a home through foundation cracks, plumbing, expansion joints, and service entries.

How Can I Tell If There Are Termites in My Home?

If you have termites in your home, you'll notice the following signs:

  • Sagging floors and doors
  • Tiny holes in wood structures
  • Crumbling drywall
  • Wings or shed exoskeletons

Additionally, you may notice large mounds near your property that house termites. If you notice large amounts of wood damage, you could also have a termite problem.

How Can I Get Rid of Termites and Prevent a Future Infestation?

To eliminate termites from your home, get in touch with a pest control specialist. Prevent future infestations with the following tips:

  • Avoid burying, stacking, or storing wood next to your home.
  • Repair leaks as quickly as possible to keep wood dry.
  • Maintain your landscape by clearing away piles of debris, such as twigs and leaves.
  • Remove dead or dying trees from your property. Also remove decaying wood from your home. Seal any foundation cracks and holes to prevent termites from entering your home.

Think you have termites in your home? Contact your local pest control specialist to schedule a service. These professionals can inspect your home and property for termites and determine if you have an infestation or not.

Want more tips or details on how to keep your home and yard free of pests? Read through the rest of our blog, and don't forget to check back for more updates. If you have other questions or concerns, your pest control technician can answer them, so give them a call.

Tags: Termites