Biological Pest Control: What Works and What Failed Miserably

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In 1962, Rachel Carson published “Silent Spring,” a book about the harmful effects of pesticides on the environment. Carson’s book effectively launched the modern environmentalist movement and changed our nation’s policies on the use of pesticides, especially those containing the chemical DDT.

Pest control today is much safer than it was during the ’60s, and Chem-Wise Ecological Pest Management takes our responsibility to the earth seriously. However, today’s methods are the results of a lot of experiments, some of which did not turn out.

Biological pest control, or using natural forces like predators and parasites to keep pest populations low, is one of those alternatives with mixed results. Keep reading to learn which methods have proved successful and which haven’t.

Biological Pest Control That Works

Some biological pest control methods are older than human memory, and some are recent developments. You’ll find some from both categories in this list.

1. Cats

Most people today keep cats as pets, and cats have been domesticated since possibly 8,000 BCE. However, cats are often kept as pest control instead of as companions. Domestic cats in the United States kill about 1.4 to 3.7 billion birds and 6.9 to 20.7 billion mammals (primarily rodents like mice and rats) every year.

2. Dogs

Similarly to cats, many dogs were bred to hunt rodents. Most terrier breeds are natural mousers, such as the rat terrier, dachshund, and Yorkshire terrier. Their small size and high energy help them chase and fit into tight places when on the hunt.

We usually treat these dogs as companions now instead of workers. However, they still have natural instincts for chasing small prey. If you have one of these dogs, you’re probably familiar with how much they want to chase balls or dig-or chase any rabbit, mouse, or gopher that they might come across. If you also own another pet like a hamster or a gerbil, you probably have to keep the two pets apart.

3. Ladybugs

Aphids are tiny bugs that consume leaves. If an infestation develops, an entire crop in a garden or a farm can be decimated. Ladybugs offer a natural solution: ladybugs and their larvae feed on aphids, caterpillars, scale insects, and mites. Some farmers have bought live ladybugs to release into their fields to cut down the pest population.

Another way to take advantage of ladybugs and similar insects is to encourage their native populations instead of simply importing them. In England, researchers found bugs that eat aphids living in grass by the sides of the farmers’ fields. To encourage the aphid predators, the farmers planted those grasses in patches throughout the fields, allowing the bugs more places to live and ultimately reducing the aphid population.

4. Cactus Moths

One of the issues with globalization is the rise of invasive species. If a plant or an animal travels to another part of the world where it does not have natural predators, that species’ population can explode. One example of this is the prickly pear cactus in Australia-the plant was introduced as an ornamental shrub for people’s gardens, but it quickly became a weed.

In this case, the solution was to bring the cactus’s parasites over to Australia as well. To stop the spread of the cactus, scientists brought over the cactus moth, among other bugs. These parasites feed on the cactus, weakening and even killing it.

Biological Pest Control That Failed

Some biological pest control measures didn’t work, and some made things even worse. These two methods were failures.

1. Mongooses

The mongoose is native to Asia and preys on small animals like rodents and birds. In 1883, Hawaiian plantation owners introduced mongooses to their fields in an effort to keep the rat population down.

In theory, this should have worked. However, unlike current methods of biological pest control that take into account the entire environment, this attempt was short sighted. Mongooses don’t just eat rats-they eat whatever they can get. As a result, they have aggressively picked off Hawaii’s bird population without doing much damage to the rodents. They are considered an invasive species and a nuisance today.

2. Cane Toads

The cane toad is another classic example of early failed biological pest control. In 1935, the Bureau of Sugar Experiment Stations brought the toad to Australia to control the local beetle population. The beetles, though native to Australia, threatened sugar cane crops, and the South American cane toad looked like a good solution.

Instead, no evidence exists that shows that the toads have helped with the beetles. But they multiply quickly and are still spreading over Australia. Unfortunately, they can carry diseases that affect native animals around them, making them an enormous threat to Australia’s ecosystem.

 

Some biological pest control methods work, and some don’t. However, you don’t have to get a cat if you’re worried about mice-call Chem-Wise Ecological Pest Management. We can help you find a low-impact, quick pest control method right for your family. Contact us to get your pest problem solved.

Fun (and Not So Fun) Facts About Cockroaches

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Anyone familiar with insects or pests can probably recognize a cockroach on sight. They have a well-deserved reputation of being resilient and adaptable, and they’re also probably one of the most disliked insects in the world. Many people associate cockroaches with dirty environments and disease – generally a correct assumption.

If you believe you have a cockroach infestation, take a minute to learn a little more about these insect invaders. Understanding the biology and behavior of these pests will help you understand how to get rid of them and how to prevent them from coming back.

Identification

There are more than 4,600 distinct species of cockroaches, and 50 of these species are native to North America. However, very few of these species enter dwellings and pose a threat to humans.

The cockroaches you need to worry about in the Chicagoland area are the German cockroach, Oriental cockroach, and American cockroach. Each will invade your home and cause problems, although they do have some fairly significant differences:

  • German cockroaches are the most common home invader, and they’re likely the pest you’re dealing with if you have a cockroach problem. They’re about half an inch long, making them smaller than most cockroaches, and are light brown in color. They prefer to remain in the dark, and though they have wings, they can’t fly.
  • Oriental cockroaches are also known as “waterbugs” because they prefer moist environments. They can grow to be slightly over an inch long and are black in color. Males have wings that cover most of the abdomen, while females only have tiny wing stubs. Neither sex can fly very well, however.
  • American cockroaches are the largest of the three, growing up to two inches in length. They are light brown in color with long wings and can fly in warm temperatures. They prefer to live in environments above 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

Each cockroach is attracted to the walls, basements, and foundations of human dwellings because these areas tend to be darker, warmer, and moister than the Illinois outdoors, and cockroaches require these conditions to thrive.

Life Cycle and Biology

Cockroaches earn their reputation as consummate survivors because of several factors. The first cockroaches lived around 300 million years ago, and their modern descendants are still biologically quite similar.

Cockroaches are resilient and hard to kill. Most species can live for a week without water, a month without food, and 45 minutes without air. In fact, if a cockroach loses its head, it will continue to live until dying from dehydration. Furthermore, cockroaches-though mostly unable to fly-can run at speeds of up to three miles an hour, the equivalent of a human running 210 miles per hour.

Each cockroach matures rapidly, with German cockroaches reaching adulthood after 2 months, American cockroaches after 15 months, and Oriental cockroaches after 18 months. Cockroaches lay their eggs in a single capsule, which can contain anywhere from 14 to 48 eggs, depending on the species. Since German cockroaches age quickly and lay the most eggs, their populations expand the most rapidly in a safe environment, which is why they are the most common cockroach pest.

Although cockroaches only live for about a year, a female cockroach can lay up to eight egg cases during her lifetime, which can result in several hundred new members being added to the population in a short time span.

Behavior

Unlike many harmful pests, cockroaches don’t bite or sting. They pose no physical threat to humans, but their behavior and habits make them dangerous.

Cockroaches are drawn to human food, particularly food that’s kept in dark, quiet, or damp areas. Since cockroaches are social creatures, they usually live in large groups. If you see a few cockroaches in the open, you can safely assume infestation-level numbers are hiding just out of sight.

The reason cockroaches pose a threat to humans is because they are carriers of disease. They move from the sewers to homes and from eating feces to eating the food in your cupboards. They carry the bacteria with them, depositing the germs on the food you eventually consume. This can be especially problematic in areas such as hospitals, where sanitation and germ control are paramount.

Cockroaches are known to transmit bacteria like salmonella and E. coli, which can result in food poisoning and worse gastrointestinal diseases. Certain proteins on cockroaches’ skin and in their feces can cause humans to develop allergic reactions and even asthma. They also have been known to carry parasitic worm eggs in or on their bodies, which they then transfer to food.

If you see cockroaches scuttling around your home, take action immediately. Start by sealing any exposed food in sturdy containers and fixing cracks or holes around your home. Although many people claim natural methods can deter cockroaches, the best way to eradicate your infestation is to call in a pest control professional.

Call Chem-Wise Ecological Pest Management as soon as you notice cockroaches in your home. We can get rid of the pests and provide some additional information to prevent future infestations.

The Ants Go Marching: 3 Ways You’re Attracting Ants to Your Home

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Have you noticed a few ants wandering around your bathroom floor? Although you probably don’t have an ant infestation yet, these lone ants may lead to a more serious ant problem. Ants that wander places alone are scout ants that are looking for a new home for their colony. Once these few ants find a safe harbor in your home, the entire ant colony will soon follow.

Fortunately, the more you can learn about what is attracting ants to your home, the more you can prevent an ant infestation.

Here are a few things that may be attracting ants to your home.

1. Water

If you have excess moisture around your home, you may be attracting ants. Bathrooms are a common area for ants to nest because of the readily accessible water. For instance, carpenter ants tend to build nests under bathroom sinks or tiles; these areas usually hold more moisture than others. If you notice ants in your bathroom, look near sinks, toilets, and tubs for dripping or leaking water.

In addition, you should thoroughly clean your bathroom to remove any pools of water. Scrub floors and inside drawers with a disinfectant cleaner.

Along with the bathroom, the kitchen sink may also provide ants with needed water. Try to keep the area around the kitchen sink free of standing water.

2. Food

Ants may also choose to nest in your home if you have a lot of accessible food. In fact, homeowners who don’t clean food spills or messes will likely attract ants. If you want to deter ants from your home, clean your kitchen regularly and thoroughly. Make sure to clean areas that have sugar and grease residue. Ants are particularly attracted to the scent of sugar and grease.

Be proactive and diligent by quickly cleaning any spills. Take care of spills after preparing meals, and use soap or vinegar with water to clean away food. If you only clean with water, you may not entirely eliminate the food scents that attract ants. Also, keep your countertops clear of crumbs, as these substances could also attract ants.

A part of cleaning your kitchen should include securely storing food. Ants will likely smell food unless it’s stored in a container or in the refrigerator. In particular, use tightly sealed plastic containers to store sweet foods, such as syrup, sugar, and honey. If you get any sticky residue on the outsides of these containers, wipe away the residue immediately.

You may also want to keep ants out of dry-good containers, like flour, by putting a bay leaf in the containers.

Another common food source for ants is the garbage can. Never leave food in the garbage can for longer than a day. When food sits out for days, it will often emit a strong odor. Instead, try to take the garbage to an outside trash can each day.

Also, keep your outside trash cans away from the entrances of your home. Place any perishable food in a bag before throwing the items in the garbage can.

3. Shelter

One of the best ways to prevent an ant infestation is to stop ants from initially entering your home through small cracks or holes in the walls. After you have eliminated food and water sources for ants, make sure the ants can’t easily enter your home. Seal windows and doors with weather stripping to prevent ants from entering your home.

If ants do enter your home, they often use walls as a safe, secluded shelter for the colony. Seal cracks and holes in walls and floors to prevent ants from entering the walls of your home. Seal these openings with silicone caulk.

Along with preventative measures, you may need professional pest control services to avoid infestations. Some ant species are particularly hard to remove from homes, such as carpenter ants. In extreme cases, contact Chem-Wise Ecological Pest Management to remove an ant infestation from your home.

Asian Lady Beetles: Pest or Pal?

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Ladybugs are loved and adored by many. With their characteristic red shells and black spots, they’re often admired by even the most squeamish of individuals. Children allow these little beetles to crawl across their hands, and gardeners appreciate the pest control ladybugs provide.

But in recent decades, a similar beetle has swept through the states: the Asian lady beetle. While Asian lady beetles can be yellow, orange, or red with black or no spots, they can easily be mistaken for the little ladybugs that are native to our nation.

Asian lady beetles may seem harmless enough for the most part, but many homeowners and business owners struggle with lady beetle infestations in or around their homes and businesses. So, are these bugs a concern? Or are they a friend?

To learn more about the origin of these mysterious beetles and whether or not they’re a pest or pal, read on.

Where Do Asian Lady Beetles Come From?

As suggested by the name, Asian lady beetles are actually from Asia. They are commonly found in Russia, Japan, Korea, and China, and they are usually found feeding on aphids in trees.

However, to control some of the pest population in various crops, such as apples and pecans, these foreign beetles were intentionally released in various states across the US. Some people also suspect that Asian lady beetles were accidentally transported into Louisiana through a Japanese freighter.

These beetles have adapted fairly well to their new environment and successfully find food in various crops and gardens instead of trees. Even now, they’re still spreading across the country.

How Are They Pals?

If they eat garden pests, they can’t be so bad, right? Actually, in the springs and summers, these little beetles are wonderful friends. Their favorite snacks are mites, mealybugs, and aphids, so they can ultimately protect your plants from troublesome insects.

Also, Asian lady beetles aren’t known to carry any diseases, so they’re a family-friendly bug to have in the yard. They may occasionally bite, but the small nip isn’t much of a concern.

If they collect in any areas around your property, rest assured that they don’t damage fabrics, wood, or other materials. They also don’t find human food appetizing, so you don’t have to worry about infested food supplies if they come into the house.

How Are They Pests?

Asian lady beetles wonderfully gobble up the garden pests in the warmer months, but where exactly do they go in the cold months? In their native countries, these beetles often collect under cliffs or similar areas and use each other’s body heat for warmth. However, there isn’t always an abundance of cliffs in the United States, so Asian lady beetles settle for the next best thing: homes and buildings.

The lady beetles collect in cracks around roofs, doors, and windows to find a cozy place to stay for the winter. If there are cracks that go all the way into the home, many of these beetles will gather indoors, and they sometimes gather in living areas and attics.

While Asian lady beetles don’t damage wood or other building materials, many people find the small swarm of Asian lady beetles a nuisance. Also, if Asian lady beetles feel threatened, they excrete a substance from their legs in a process called reflex bleeding. This substance can leave behind yellow stains and the strong scent of dead leaves.

Furthermore, some people can have allergic reactions to the protective substance that oozes from the lady beetles’ legs. Some people can have a reaction to the beetles themselves. Lady beetles and their reflex bleeding secretions can cause asthma issues, sinus and skin irritation, and allergic conjunctivitis. So, even if you don’t have a problem with a collection of lady beetles in your attic, your body may disagree.

How Can You Maintain a Healthy Relationship With Asian Lady Beetles?

To avoid any allergic reactions or unpleasant odors, keep the lady beetles out of your building for the winter. To keep them out, use caulk to seal up any cracks in your home or building. Check for cracks by fascia boards, soffits, utility pipes, wires, doors, and windows. If you have large holes or cracks, use urethane foam or cement to fill them.

Also, be sure to replace any damaged screens on windows or doors so beetles can’t sneak through the openings. If you have any attic vents, be sure you have functional screens over each one. Use foam weather stripping to also enforce areas under sliding glass.

If you have any other questions about how to prevent Asian lady beetles from marching into your home, call a local pest control company, such as Chem-Wise Ecological Pest Management. Pest control professionals can offer effective solutions to keep your home pest free all year long.

If you should ever have an Asian lady beetle infestation, be sure to call the location closest to you, to identify the beetle and remove it from your home.

Nuisance vs. Nightmare: Which Bugs Will Actually Hurt You?

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When you see insects or arachnids scurrying around your home, you may not care whether or not they actually pose a threat to your family and pets. You probably just want them out. However, understanding what these pests are and how they affect you can help you understand the severity of the infestation and what pest control steps to take.

Some bugs spread venom or disease when they bite you, while others eat harmful bugs. Some chew your clothes and infest your food, while others keep to themselves. Before you call pest control or try to deal with the bugs yourself, take some time to figure out exactly what you’re dealing with. Some bugs you can kill easily, some you might want to leave alone, and some you should entrust to the professionals.

Nightmare: Mosquitoes

It’s safe to say that no one likes mosquitoes. These tiny flying insects live all over the world, and the females rely on animal blood to nourish their eggs. If mosquitoes are attracted to your specific scent, you can find yourself covered in itchy bites. The itchiness is caused by a substance in the saliva that prevents your blood from clotting.

If mosquitoes only caused itchy red rashes, they might be considered merely annoying, not dangerous. However, mosquitoes act as carriers for a variety of serious illnesses, including malaria, West Nile virus, and Zika. Although treatments for these diseases exist, they can still severely harm the infected person and have lasting consequences.

Mosquitoes are easy to kill one at a time, but standing water on your property can lead to a large infestation, as that’s where mothers lay their eggs in the summer. Call pest control if you’re worried about a large population.

Nuisance: Crane Flies

Because crane flies look similar to mosquitoes, many people think the two pose the same threats. Crane flies are larger, with long gangly legs, and actually feed on mosquitoes. Rather than spreading disease, crane flies prevent further spread by eating the carriers.

Crane flies are handy to have around to keep the mosquito population under control, but having giant bugs flying around your home can be irritating. They won’t hurt you, but you might want to encourage them to stay outside.

Nightmare: Brown Recluse

The good news is that brown recluse spiders aren’t aggressive. They won’t actively try to attack you. The bad news is that if you go in for the kill, they will likely bite in self-defense. While their venom probably won’t kill you, it can cause your flesh to rot if left untreated.

Brown recluse spiders are among the most dangerous pests in Illinois because they are common in homes. They love warm, dark spaces, such as your closet, basement, or attic. If you see a brown recluse, it’s better to call pest control right away, rather than try to deal with the spider on your own.

Nuisance: Wolf Spider

At first glance, the wolf spider would appear to be much more of a threat than the brown recluse. They’re almost twice the size of brown recluse spiders and have prominent eyes and “feelers,” or extra appendages by the front of their head. They tend to hunt their prey rather than waiting in webs, making it more likely that you will run across one out in the open.

Despite their intimidating appearance, wolf spiders aren’t as dangerous as brown recluses or black widows. They don’t bite often, and when they do, the venom isn’t strong enough to have lasting consequences (although it’s smart to still seek treatment in case you’re allergic.) You can approach and deal with wolf spiders individually, as they aren’t as drawn to human dwellings as brown recluses.

Nightmare: Assassin Bug

This class of bugs gets their name from the way they attack and stab their prey using their sharp nose. Although they help out in the garden by killing and eating other harmful pests, you don’t want their assassination skills used against you.

Humans who come in contact with assassin bugs receive extremely painful bites. While some species, like the wheel bug, won’t attack unless provoked, the species known as the “kissing bug” actively seeks out human prey. They act as parasites, biting humans around the mouth and drinking blood.

You can identify kissing bugs from their flat, black body, flanked on either side by red spots. They also have long, cone-shaped noses. Wheel bugs are brown, with a long proboscis on their face, and long, angular legs. Their young are black, with a bright red abdomen that curves upward. If you see either species, don’t try to get too close. Call pest control immediately.

Nuisance: Boxelder Bug

Like the assassin bug, this insect is a “true bug.” It has a flat black back, interspersed with red lines, so at first glance it can be mistaken for the kissing bug. However, they don’t pose any real threat to your garden, your home, or your family. They don’t bite, damage plants, or even come inside very often.

Like most “nuisance” bugs, however, seeing the small black insects crawling around your home can be irritating. If you’ve started seeing boxelder bugs with increased frequency, you may have an infestation.

For help dealing with any pests, dangerous or otherwise, contact Chem-Wise. We can help you identify the pest and discuss how to handle it in a way that will be safe for you and your family.

Four Reasons You Should Get Your Lawn Organically Fertilized

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Chemical fertilizers give plants three macro-nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Despite providing a critical supply of growth-promoting nutrients, chemical fertilizer products don’t include secondary nutrients such as magnesium, sulfur, and calcium. They also don’t have trace nutrients like iron and zinc.

Unlike traditional chemical fertilizers, organic fertilizers contain all of these nutrients and more. They slowly release nutrients into soil, facilitating better soil aeration, moisture, and texture. Over time, organic fertilizers dramatically improve the quality of soil in your yard.

If this hasn’t convinced you to start getting your lawn organically fertilized, we’ve outlined four reasons why you should consider it.

1.) It Increases the Amount of Organic Matter in Your Yard

Examples of organic fertilizer include manure, greensand, lime, and rock phosphate. When you apply these organic fertilizers to your lawn and garden, it slowly releases complex nutrients–primary, secondary, and trace nutrients–into the soil.

The gradual pace of the organic fertilizer’s nutrient release allows the soil to absorb and retain all of the nutrients. Because of this nutrient infusion, the soil quality improves.

Eventually, you may find that you no longer need to fertilize your lawn and garden because the soil in them has retained nutrients from previous years of organic fertilization. Therefore, organic fertilization represents a great long-term investment in your property.

2.) Earthworms Thrive in Organically Fertilized Soil

Earthworms are nature’s little compost-making machines. They graze on organic matter within soil and produce excrement rich in potassium, nitrogen, and phosphates. Their consumption and subsequent excretion of organic matter essentially turns soil into humus, making it ideal for plant growth.

As earthworms burrow through soil, they build a soil structure that enables both drainage and aeration. Without this structure-building, your lawn’s soil becomes too dense for optimal plant growth.

Unfortunately, chemical-rich fertilizers can be fatal to earthworms, preventing one of the most natural methods of soil improvement from happening.

3.) It Recycles Organic Wastes Instead of Sending it to the Landfill

Organic fertilizer ingredients can include animal and plant matter. Most people are familiar with organic fertilizers derived from animal waste, such as cow, pig, horse, and chicken manure.

Less common animal-based fertilizers, like bat guano and fish meal, are gaining popularity. Popular organic fertilizers with plant-based ingredients include kelp, bone meal, wood ash, potassium sulfate, and alfalfa.

Almost all of these ingredients, if they weren’t converted to organic fertilizer, would be considered waste material. Instead of being reused, they’d end up in a landfill.

4.) Few Chemicals in Your Soil Means Fewer Chemicals in Your Garden

Chemical fertilizers effectively grow plants quickly and, often, kill weeds, too. They have a very high concentration of nitrogen, a crucial nutrient for plants. However, this high concentration of nitrogen isn’t always beneficial.

When you apply chemical fertilizer to your lawn and garden, it gives your soil a quick dose of nutrients. But, unlike organic fertilizers that release nutrients slowly, chemical fertilizers drain much of their nutrients into aquifers.

Nitrogen then enters your groundwater, which can cause a low-grade contamination. The leached nitrogen also can upset the balance of nutrients in your soil.

As you continue to grow vegetables, herbs, and fruit in your garden, your plants will absorb the chemicals from the fertilizer. Large amounts of these chemicals can be harmful to human health. If you do continue to use chemical fertilizer in your garden, use it sparingly and get your soil tested annually to make sure you’re consuming healthy amounts of these chemicals.

Organic fertilization is a great way to improve the soil quality of your garden and your lawn. Contact a Chem-Wise Pest Management for your pest control and lawn fertilization, to start a thorough organic fertilization program this spring.

How to Identify a Brown Recluse Spider

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It’s wintertime, and that means rodents, insects, and spiders are looking for a warm place to harbor for a few more months. Your home is more likely to host pests during the cold, icy winter months than at any other time during the year. Unfortunately, some of these pests come with a bite that is much worse than their bark.

Don’t worry-an exterminator can eliminate these pests and ensure that your family and home are safe. But do you know how to recognize a dangerous pest when you see one? When is it time to call the exterminator?

Below is a guide to a venomous Illinois pest-the brown recluse spider. We want you to be able to identify this pest so that, if you see it, you know to call a pest control professional right away.

What Is a Brown Recluse?

A brown recluse spider is a spider species that lives in the United States. Their territory stretches up into Illinois, although you’re unlikely to spot one much farther north than that.

This isn’t something that most people like to think about, but some spiders are synanthropic, which means that they like to live near humans. Brown recluse spiders benefit from the shelter and warmth that humans surround themselves with, so they like to stick close.

Brown recluse spiders are one of two spider species in the US with venom that can do real harm to a human (the other is the black widow spider). Both species have venomous bites that could put someone in the hospital if they’re not careful.

How Do I Identify a Brown Recluse?

Brown recluse spiders are, not surprisingly, usually brownish. Like other species of spiders, their color and appearance can vary a bit-these spiders can be anything from light tan to blackish gray.

A brown recluse has long, spindly legs that make it appear much larger than it actually is. Its body is usually about half an inch long (although it can get bigger) and is shaped a bit like a violin (which is why you may catch older people sometimes calling it a “fiddleback spider”).

The most characteristic aspect of a brown recluse spider is its eyes. Most spiders have eight eyes, but a brown recluse only has six. We don’t recommend that you put your face close to a brown recluse to count each of its eyes, but if you need to ID the species, use a camera or magnifying glass to enlarge the spider’s appearance and count eyeballs.

Where Will I Find Them?

Like most spiders, brown recluses like dark, warm places. You’re most likely to find a spider in one of the following locations:

  • Cracks and corners (in cabinets, drawers, closets, furniture, etc.)
  • Curtains
  • Seldom-used clothing
  • Inside furniture
  • Inside bedding

You’ll occasionally find a spider in a bathtub, because spiders get trapped inside the smooth, slick basin. Be careful as you step into the shower, unfold a piece of clothing you haven’t worn in a while, or turn down your bed.

You’ll also find brown recluse spiders outside in your garden, especially in dark places like woodpiles or garden sheds. Wear gloves as you prepare your garden for spring planting, just in case.

Are Brown Recluse Spiders Aggressive?

If you spot a brown recluse spider, are you in danger? The answer is no, not usually. Brown recluse spiders are quite passive, and they only bite if provoked or startled. If you spot a brown recluse in your home, just stay away and call the exterminator. Unless a brown recluse feels threatened, it will leave you alone.

Brown recluse spiders are incredibly resilient, and can survive for months without food. They live for between one and two years, and they are very self-sufficient. For this reason, any time you spot a brown recluse in your home, it’s time to call a professional. Otherwise, you stand the chance of entertaining that spider for a long while.

What Do I Do If I Get Bit?

If you stumble across a brown recluse and happen to be bit, call the doctor immediately. Chances are that you won’t notice the bite at first, as most brown recluse bites do not sting (in fact, about half of all brown recluse bites have no symptoms at all, other than a slight, reddish, swollen bump on the skin).

That said, brown recluse bites are venomous, and some can be quite painful or lead to severe medical consequences. It’s a good idea to speak with a doctor as soon as you notice the bite, and, if possible, to bring the spider with you for identification.

When you spot a brown recluse in your home, contact Chem-Wise immediately. Chances are that there’s more than one in your home, and you want to keep your family safe. The trained Chem-Wise service technician can quickly ensure that your home is protected from brown recluse spiders and other pests.

10 Signs of a Mouse Infestation

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Most people have a strong opinion on domestic mice. But whether you think mice as pets are cute or just creepy, you probably don’t want feral mice anywhere near your kitchen, drains, or basement.

Unfortunately, mice can infest even clean, well-kept homes in urban areas. Mouse infestations often appear out of basic necessity, when the rodents get low on food or have no other source of shelter. Because of these characteristics, most mouse infestations first appear in the fall or winter months when natural food sources become scarce and the temperature begins to fall.

Mice generally only come out at night to scavenge for food, so how do you detect their presence in your home, garage, or shed? Look for the following 10 signs of a significant infestation.

1. Bite Marks

Mice chew on the items that surround them in an effort to keep their continuously growing teeth short. If you have mice in your home, you may notice gnawing or bite markings on the following items:

  • Cables
  • Carpet and rugs
  • Paper goods
  • Piping
  • Wooden furniture

If bite marks only appear in a particular area of your home, chances are that the nest is close by.

2. Burrow Openings

While mice often use existing holes to enter buildings, they may also make their own. Mouse burrow holes typically appear in baseboards, corners, and foundations. You may need to look closely to spot a mouse hole, since many measure only ½ of an inch high.

3. Droppings

One of the most telltale signs of mice is droppings, as each mouse leaves behind approximately 80 droppings per day. Mouse droppings typically appear in crevices and under furniture. These droppings appear dark and rod-like in shape.

4. Live Mice

If you see a single mouse out in the garage, you needn’t assume the worst. However, if you notice live mice in a high-traffic area, you likely have a significant infestation. You may also notice dead mice under furnishings and along the baseboards.

5. Nests

Mice make nests to live in. Most indoor nests consist of fibrous material, like shredded cardboard or fabric, and measure around 5 inches across. You may find nests in any warm, undisturbed area, including storage boxes and crawl spaces.

6. Scavenged Food

Because mice typically invade homes looking for food, you will likely notice trails to or from your dry goods. Mice tend to gravitate toward the following food types:

  • Corn
  • Dry grains, including cereal
  • Oats, including oatmeal

However, mice will eat whatever food they come across. If you notice other infestation warning signs, check any food you have stored in the pantry for holes and scavenging.

7. Stains or Smears

Mouse fur contains strong oils that become smeared on surfaces that the mouse passes. If you have a big enough infestation, you may start to notice stains or dirty smears along your walls or baseboards. These smudges usually mean that one or more mice walk close to that surface on a regular basis.

8. Strong Animal Smells

Some infestations stay confined to the insides of walls or crawl spaces, but they still leave noticeable signs. One undeniable sign of a mouse infestation is the smell. Mice use urine to navigate unfamiliar spaces since they have poor eyesight. Unfortunately, this practice means that mouse nests and the surrounding areas often smell like ammonia. You may also begin to notice the smell of mouse feces during an infestation.

9. Unexplained Holes

In addition to practical burrows, mice tend to create other holes as well. Usually these holes come from a mouse’s need to keep its teeth short. Unexplained mouse holes may appear in any of the following:

  • Containers, especially cardboard boxes
  • Clothing
  • Upholstery

Even if you don’t see through-and-through holes, mice may leave behind shavings as they gnaw at items in your home.

10. Unusual Sounds

Because mice often live and travel through walls, you may hear them as they pass by, especially during the night. Mice communicate through squeaks, many of which are audible to humans. Additionally, you may hear the scratching of mouse nails clawing on your insulation, pipes, or wall interiors.

 

If you notice any combination of the signs listed above, contact your pest control service. Remember, mice reproduce quickly, so the sooner you take care of the issue, the better. Pinkies, or newly born mice, mature in as little as 20 days, and a single adult female can have up to 10 litters every year, so it’s in your best interest to act quickly.

A pest control professional can also give you recommendations specific to your property and location to help you avoid future infestations.

For more information on identifying pests, browse our ID Your Pest section. To learn more about common pests and pest control measures you should take, stay up to date with our blog.

The Comprehensive Guide to Pest-Proofing Your Home in 2016

Written by Chem-Wise on . Posted in Uncategorized

As the holidays wind to a close and 2016 begins, individuals all over America set goals so they can start the year on the right foot. Along with setting personal or professional goals, many of them list home improvement projects to make 2016 their best year yet.

Whether you aim to remodel your bathrooms, upgrade your carpet, or reorganize your garage so the car fits better, one additional goal will help your home stay comfortable and clean all year long: eliminating pests. You don’t have to take care of this goal all at once-in fact, you can split it up into easy-to-implement seasonal sections that make this goal much more achievable.

With a little help from our guide below, you won’t have to let this particular New Year’s resolution go to waste. Instead, implement the tips we list to reap the rewards of a pest-free home all year long.

January-March

Hopefully, you’ve already read our blog about how to winterize your home. If you followed the tips listed in that blog, you should have been able to pinpoint pests’ favorite entry spots, seal up any cracks and holes, and keep pests out in the cold where they belong.

But to ensure pests don’t try to worm their way indoors, you should stay vigilant all season long. Make sure you take the following steps:

  1. Deal with leaky, wet areas as soon as you notice them. If an ice dam caused your roof to leak, repair the damage as soon as possible to prevent moist areas from becoming entry points for pests. Similarly, be on the lookout for dripping pipes, either in the walls or under sinks.
  2. Keep firewood away from your home. If you use a wood-burning stove, don’t pile the logs right next to the door or against the side of the house-and don’t store wood inside your house either. Pests from insects to rodents love to burrow in wood piles, which often become entry points to your home.

Additionally, cover your wood to keep it dry and make it less attractive to pests. If you worry about moisture seeping into the wood through the ground, set the wood on top of cinder blocks or in a firewood holder.

Finally, make sure to use all the wood in the pile before restocking it. Old, rotting wood that never moves can look like the ideal home to termites and rats.

April-June

Whether the groundhog sees his shadow or not, you can expect spring to arrive by April, and then it’s time for spring cleaning. Start as soon as the snow begins to thaw-the warmer weather won’t keep pests away for long. When you air out your house for the spring and repair any winter damage, don’t forget these important tips:

  • Repair or replace old, broken, or ripped window screens.
  • Deal with puddles of stagnant water as soon as you notice them. You could have a drainage problem that will only intensify as you move into summer.
  • Deep-clean your greenhouse or sunroom. Scour the glass and clean all surfaces to eliminate any mold, dust, and dirt.
  • Keep your gutters clear. Spring rainstorms and snowstorms can often wrench branches and leaves off of budding trees.
  • Clean up dirt, dust, and clutter around the house that could attract pests.

You can also call your pest control company to assess your property, repair winter damage like cracks or holes that let in pests, and give you recommendations on how to safeguard your property during the upcoming year.

July-September

Over the summer, you should be on the alert for mosquitos, wasps, and hornets that could take up residence in your garden. If you have a wasp, hornet, or yellow jacket infestation, contact a professional to deal with the problem. You can minimize your yard’s attractiveness to these stinging pests by:

  • Looking for growing nests and hives at the start of summer and then calling a pest control company to deal with them immediately
  • Covering the food and drinks that you serve during outdoor barbecues and picnics

Mosquitoes are a little more difficult to get rid of, but you can deter them if you avoid any standing water, including in outdoor pet bowls or bird baths. Talk to your pest control company for more tips.

October-December

It’s never too early to start winterizing your home. Trim back tree limbs and shrubs that have grown during the spring and summer-you don’t want any tree branches hanging over your home to give pests easy access to the attic. Thoroughly clear the gutters of any debris, just like you did in the spring-clear your gutters every few weeks until the last of your trees’ leaves have fallen.

As discussed in our previous blogs, fall is also the perfect time to caulk holes, seal cracks, and install weather stripping around doors and windows.

If you’ve followed the steps in this blog, you’ll have gone a long way towards keeping pests out of your home for the entirety of 2016. Hopefully, by this time next year, you’ll have enjoyed a comfortable, pest-free home that keeps your family safe and keeps insects and rodents out.

If you have further questions about pest control, want to cope with an existing infestation, or want in-depth, customized suggestions about how to get rid of pests, get in touch with our company. Don’t forget to browse the rest of our blogs to get more tips about dealing with pets in 2016.

Must-Dos Before the Holidays: Projects That Will Pamper Your Home

Written by Chem-Wise on . Posted in Uncategorized

Your big holiday party is coming up, and family and friends will soon visit your home for a night full of games, laughter, food, and cheer. You want your guests to feel comfortable in your home, so you’ve already started preparing: you’ve decorated the house, made your grocery lists, and sent out your invitations.

But as the holiday season gets busier and the date for your party gets closer, you realize that you still need to finish some home projects. A few of these projects require professional help, and you’d rather the specialists finish their work long before your friends and family arrive.

Below, we’ve listed a few tasks that you might want to take care of before your big party. These professional projects will help your guests to feel welcome and at home, and will show off your home to its advantage.

Schedule the Exterminator

You probably wouldn’t think about an exterminator in connection with your holiday party plans, but trust us-no one wants to spot a black widow spider a rodent scurrying through your home.

Winter has arrived, and rats, mice, and other pests will try to find anywhere warm to live in-including your home. If you schedule an exterminator a few weeks before your party, your pest control specialists will have plenty of time to seal your home against pests and protect your guests from insects, spiders, and rodents.

Exterminators can also inspect your home for bed bugs. The US has been in the middle of a bed bug epidemic for the last couple of years, and you need to be careful about insects in your home’s beds. After all, if you have guests staying with you during the holidays, they won’t want to share their sleeping quarters with bed bugs. You may even want to invite the exterminator back after guests leave, to ensure your home stays free of bed bugs.

Take Care of Your Home’s Plumbing

The guest bathroom sink has been clogged for ages, but you haven’t found the time to get it taken care of. Now is the perfect time to make sure that your home’s plumbing is in order. Holiday guests mean that your bathrooms will get a little more traffic than usual, and you want to be sure that your plumbing can handle the extra use.

You may need to call a plumber who can help you to deal with any annoying plumbing issues, like a running toilet or a leaky faucet. Remember to schedule a plumber in advance, because many homeowners may be preparing for their own holiday parties as well.

And don’t forget to keep your home’s pipes from freezing. Frozen pipes can cause more than an inconvenience during a party. If frozen pipes burst, you could have a real plumbing emergency on your hands. Ensure that your pipes don’t freeze by leaving a little water running during the night, and open cabinet doors under your sinks so that the heat in the house can warm up the pipes.

Turn Up the Heat

The last thing you need is for your furnace to die on the eve of your party. Your guests won’t enjoy themselves much if they can see their own breath, and you’ll have a hard time keeping everyone warm even if there are a lot of people in the house.

Now may be the perfect time to get a heating system tune-up. Your HVAC specialist can calibrate your thermostat, clean your vents, and repair or clear your furnace. A functional heating system ensures your guests’ comfort, and a calibrated thermostat makes it easier to choose an interior temperature that everyone can agree on.

As you look at your furnace, put a few drops of lavender or vanilla oil on your filters. The fan will waft the scent through the house and help you eliminate musty smells. Don’t worry-the scent is very subtle, so it won’t bother guests with a sensitive nose.

Clean Your Carpet

If your home’s carpets look shabby, guests are bound to notice. Contact your local carpet cleaner to clean your carpets and rugs. The process only takes a few hours, but it’s best to schedule a carpet cleaning long before the party arrives. You’ll need to rearrange furniture and stay off the carpet for a while after the cleaning, so call your carpet cleaner about a week or so in advance.

If you’re worried that guests will tramp mud, snow, and dirt onto your newly cleaned carpets, purchase a few inexpensive rugs at your local home decor store and lay them carefully in the entry way. Ask guests to wipe their shoes or remove their shoes entirely.

 

You want your holiday party to be perfect and for your guests to feel at home. These professional projects will ensure that your party goes smoothly and your home is a beautiful place to celebrate the season. Contact your local specialists now to schedule your appointments.