The Comprehensive Guide to Pest-Proofing Your Home in 2016

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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

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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.

Watch Out for These Four Bugs in Your Home This Winter

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The temperatures have finally started to drop, and you know winter is on its way. But with the falling temperatures comes the risk for indoor bugs during the colder months.

In a previous blog, we discussed how to winterize your home against pests. Yet despite your best efforts, some insects may still find their way into your kitchen, bathroom, and window sills.

Below, we’ve listed the four most common bugs likely to enter your home this winter. Read on to learn what each insect looks like so you can better identify any pests you find inside your home.

Ladybugs

During the summer months, ladybugs serve as a great pest control feature for most gardeners-especially since ladybugs feed on other insects. But during the winter, though they pose no threat to you, your family, or your home, you may find their presence a nuisance.

Ladybugs tend to overwinter in light-colored homes. Additionally, these bugs prefer older homes that reflect high levels of heat during the cold months. And since these insects emit powerful pheromones (which sometimes reach up to a quarter-mile away), they attract dozens of other ladybugs into a home.

You can easily recognize these bugs by their small round shape and bright red, black polka-dotted exoskeleton.

However, Asian ladybugs (colloquially known as Asian beetles) are more commonly found inside Midwest homes during the winter. These insects closely resemble ladybugs, but with one distinction: their exoskeletons sport various shades of red, yellow, and burnt orange.

Ladybugs and Asian beetles don’t reproduce or feed while indoors, so you don’t have to worry about them damaging your home or belongings. But if you accidentally crush either of these insects, they’ll leave behind a yellow, smelly residue that stains surfaces.

Stink Bugs

Like Asian beetles and ladybugs, stink bugs emit a foul odor as a defense mechanism. These bugs have a dulled arrowhead shape and don various shades of brown speckles. The lower edges of the abdomen also display alternating brown and cream stripes.

In the warmer months, stink bugs live in thriving gardens, plant-filled parks, and lush landscapes. During the winter, these insects move indoors to survive the cold.

Stink bugs love to consume pumpkin juice. If you placed jack-o’-lanterns outside your home for Halloween or if you carved fresh pumpkin for your Thanksgiving pies, you’ll likely see these critters outside your home-and once it starts to frost outside, they’ll move indoors.

Once inside, stink bugs find secluded, quiet spaces to overwinter. Look for them near your walls or in crawl spaces and attics. These locations contain adequate heat and protection from predators, so you’ll want to run a thorough inspection.

Woolly Bears

You can easily recognize woolly bears by their black- and rust-colored stripes. And if you’ve lived in the Midwest for some time, then you’re likely familiar with the myth behind woolly bear caterpillars.

According to folklore, the thickness of a woolly bear’s rust-colored bands can determine the severity of winter weather. If the band is thicker, the winter will be mild. But if the caterpillar has more black bands, the winter will likely be more severe.

It’s very rare to find woolly bear caterpillars inside your home during the winter. However, you’ll likely notice their transformed moths indoors.

Better known as Isabella tiger moths, these flying insects are easily recognizable by their creamy yellow color and small black spots on their wings. These moths feed on herbs and flowering plants (such as sunflowers), so you typically won’t have to worry about these moths eating your furniture or clothing.

Carpenter Ants

During the summer, carpenter ants nest in wood structures like patio and decks. And a few carpenter ants in your backyard don’t cause excessive damage to these wood structures. But once carpenter ants move inside for the winter, they can cause severe structural damage to your home.

The largest of any ant species, carpenter ants range between 6 and 12 millimeters in length. Winged carpenter ants can achieve a length of 18 millimeters, and a queen carpenter ant reaches up to 20 millimeters in size.

Carpenter ants also look dark brown or black in color and have narrow abdomens, bent antennae, and hind wings that are shorter than their front wings. Since carpenter ants nest inside wood, you’ll likely notice wood dust, insect parts, and soil around nest areas.

Luckily for homeowners, carpenter ants are more likely than termites to venture out of their dark hiding places. This regular visibility makes it easier for you to identify any carpenter ants in your home this winter. The sooner you notice these bugs, the less likely your home is to sustain damage.

 

As you prepare your home for winter, consider the bugs listed above. Remember what each looks like so you can easily identify them if they enter your home. When and if you do see any of these insects in your home, contact your local pest control specialist. These professionals can clear your home of any bugs and help you further winterize your home as well. Contact a Professional today to help eliminate any these pests and get your home ready for the coming winter months.

10 Movies with Memorable Bug Scenes

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From arachnophobia (fear of spiders) to entomophobia (fear of insects), creepy-crawly creatures earn top spots on lists of what humans fear most. Many scientists say we developed these fears as a result of evolution. We cringe at these spiders and insects because our ancestors learned to associate them with life-threatening bites.

Filmmakers have noted this widespread fear of bugs, and have created numerous on-screen stories that prominently feature pests. If you enjoy getting a good scare from the safety of a movie screen, check out these 10 movies with memorable bug scenes.

  1. “The Fly”

Before Paul Rudd become a bug-inspired superhero in “Ant-Man,” Jeff Goldblum assumed the role of half man, half flea in “The Fly.” Goldblum plays a scientist who uses his invention on himself with disastrous results. Fans of the film may also want to view the original 1958 version, starring Vincent Price. Both versions have sequels as well.

  1. “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids”

For a family-friendly bug film, watch this 1989 Disney movie. Rick Moranis stars as the inventor of a shrink-ray that accidentally unleashes its powers on his two kids and two teenage neighbors. While the kids journey through their backyard jungle, they encounter several over-sized bugs, including a bee, an ant, and a scorpion.

  1. “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”

The second film in the Indiana Jones franchise is actually a prequel to “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” In one notable scene, Indy and his entourage attempt to enjoy a dinner with live bugs as a primary protein option.

Later, leading lady Willie Scott, played by Kate Capshaw, must wander through a tunnel overrun with insects to save Indiana Jones and his pal Short Round from peril. The scene used real insects-so many that crew members often found them crawling in their hair and clothes off set.

  1. “Arachnophobia”

The title of this 1990 Jeff Daniels film tells you exactly what creatures it features: spiders. A small town must take precautions around arachnids when an extra-venomous species starts to bite and kill citizens. This film’s special effects and plot feel somewhat campy today, but this movie still contains plenty of jumpy moments. Actual arachnophobia sufferers likely want to stay away from this flick.

  1. “Dr. No”

Is James Bond afraid of spiders? Evidently not. At least that’s what the first film in this long-running franchise seems to indicate. The movie’s villains attempt to take out Bond with a tarantula, but the MI6 agent uses his trademark moves to conquer the spider.

  1. “The Swarm”

Over his long career, Michael Caine has acted in many critically acclaimed films, but this 1978 movie isn’t one of them. Caine plays a scientist connected to a series of killer bee attacks in Texas, and many other top actors join him on screen. Film buffs should watch this sci-fi horror film just to see Henry Fonda, Olivia de Havilland, Patty Duke, and Jose Ferrer face off against the swarm.

  1. “Them!”

This 1954 film plays on more than humans’ inherent fear of bugs. It also draws inspiration from Cold War fears about atomic bomb technology. After bomb developers test their creations in the desert, the radiation fallout produces a race of giant ants bent on eradicating humans before they get exterminated themselves. This black-and-white classic earned an Academy Award nomination for special effects.

  1. “Mothra vs. Godzilla”

What happens when an airplane-sized moth faces off against a dinosaur-like monster? Find out in “Mothra vs. Godzilla.” Japanese filmmakers made numerous movies with over-sized bug villains during the 1950s and 1960s, and many critics hail this film as the best of the bunch. Be sure to watch the 1964 original before moving onto the 1992 sequel, “Godzilla vs. Mothra.”

  1. “Men in Black”

This summer blockbuster features Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as a secretive team of government agents (named “Jay” and “Kay,” respectively) who manage aliens that live on Earth. Jay and Kay’s nemesis is an extraterrestrial species whose members look like giant cockroaches. One bug comes to Earth to lead an invasion and disguises itself in the body of a farmer. “Men in Black” was the second-highest grossing movie of 1997, surpassed only by “Titanic.”

  1. “A Bug’s Life”

No list of bug movies feels complete without this Pixar Animation Studios film. This kid-friendly motion picture teaches that bugs aren’t always scary. Inventor-ant Flik recruits other bugs to help his colony stand-off against not-so-nice grasshoppers in this retelling of “The Grasshopper and the Ant.” Adults will enjoy hearing the voices of famous actors like Kevin Spacey and Madeline Kahn.

 

Even if you get a thrill out of watching giant bugs or swarms of insects wreak havoc on the big screen, you don’t have to tolerate bugs at your home or workplace. Contact a professional pest management team whenever you suspect spiders or insects are getting too comfortable.

For more facts about pests, read our other blogs posts.

Your Home, Not Theirs: Winterize Your Home against Pests

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Cold weather can be deadly for rodents, insects, spiders, and other pests. As a result, the changing season makes your home particularly vulnerable to infestations. Once inside, these pests go right to work and destroy everything in sight-they chew through wires, get into your food, and shred insulation.

Pests aren’t just destructive-they’re dangerous. A rat in your house could expose your kids to salmonellosis, Hantavirus, and rat-bite fever. And with recent reports of the plague in Michigan, you have even more of a reason to protect your family from rodents.

Worst of all, pests breed-and they breed fast. For example, give six mice three months, and you’ll have 60 mice to deal with. If left unchecked, those 60 mice also reproduce and the infestation cycle continues until you have too many mice to deal with.

You want your home to be a refuge from the coming winter, but you don’t want to share it with rats, bats, beetles, ants, and spiders. Your best defense? Keep them out. Below, we’ll teach you how to winterize your home and seal it against pests.

Examine Your Home’s Exterior

Did you know that a mouse can squeeze through a hole the size of a dime? That’s just 1/4 of an inch in diameter. Critters of all sizes will try to get into your home this season, and they’ll get through any space you leave exposed to them, big or small.

The Big Three-rats, mice, and squirrels-are a homeowner’s first concern when autumn arrives. Should a rodent enter your home, you’ll have to consider poison or traps, and you’ll need to contact your pest-control company immediately. But if you’d rather skip the hassle of fighting angry rodents inside your own home, you’ll need to evaluate your home’s exterior and check for any cracks and holes.

Many homeowners prepare their abode for winter-weather conditions anyway, so take this extra step to safeguard against any unwanted pests. While you examine the walls of your home, look for light coming through cracks and check for air movement to clearly identify any potential entryways.

Seal Holes and Cracks

Any crevice you find should be sealed immediately, and it’s easy to do-hardware stores provide inexpensive tools and materials to weather- and pest-proof your home.

Check the sealing around your windows and doors (including basement and garage openings, which often get passed over). If the caulking or weather stripping looks chipped or broken, replace it. Examine your home’s foundation for cracks, and check the wood for rot or water-damage.

Make sure that the screens on your vents have not been chewed through or damaged. Cover any remaining vents with secure screen wire.

If you had anything installed or repaired in the house during the year, check for opened spots around the site. Dishwashers, washing machines, and refrigerators often aren’t sealed properly, and installers can leave holes in unlikely places.

Eliminate Potential Habitats

During the summer months, pests create cozy spaces for themselves near available food and water sources. They need these items to thrive, and as autumn approaches, they begin to winterize their habitats, just like you do. Many of these nests will be located near your home, and they can cause significant damage to your home’s exterior.

Use the following tips to eliminate potential habitats:

Clean out downspouts and gutters.

Remove debris near or against the house, including compost and rock piles, bricks, and other materials. Store trash cans and firewood away from the house.

Remove leaves and mulch.

Prune plants so that nothing touches your foundation, hangs over your roof, or rubs against your walls or porch.

Many pests will attempt to enter your home when they sense warmth and light. Another way to safeguard against pests is to keep the clutter around your house and inside your basement, garage, and attic to a minimum. Clutter creates space for pests to nestle in and make themselves at home.

Talk to a Specialist

As you prepare your home for winter, consider asking a pest control agency to inspect and troubleshoot your house. An expert may be able to spot potential entry points that you’ve missed, and they even set up glue traps and other chemical barriers to keep your home free of pests.

 

Should rodents, insects, or other pests enter your home this winter, call pest control immediately. Pests multiply quickly, especially in a habitable area, like the walls of your home or your attic insulation.

Many home owners try to tackle pests on their own by setting up complex traps and laying poison around their home. But if you take matters into your own hands, you could inadvertently cause unintended complications. A pest control company can eliminate hassle, danger, and frustration as they eliminate pests in humane ways. For more information on different pests you may encounter, visit the rest of our blog.

There’s a Bug in My Food! 6 Common Pantry Pests That Need to Bug Off

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The following scenario can happen to anyone: You open the cupboard and pull out a box of oatmeal-only to see weevils inside.

Short of screaming for help and dropping the box, what can a home or business owner do?

Before you can fight common pantry pests that invade your food cupboard or commissary, you need to know your enemy. Only then can you find a permanent solution for annoying pantry insects. Browse the list below to learn more.

  1. Indian Meal Moths

You may remember reading about Indian meal moths in an earlier blog post. However, if you’ve never seen them before, watch for them in grain products, nuts or seeds, dried fruits, and legumes.

Depending on your food container, you can salvage infested food by either freezing it for seven days or putting in an oven (set to 140 degrees) for about fifteen minutes. Otherwise, toss it out immediately and take the disposable bag to the outside garbage can. This way, infested food won’t contaminate anything else indoors.

  1. Flour Beetles

Despite their name, flour beetles are attracted to both cereal and flour. Today’s flour and grain mills have to stay on constant guard against them.

Flour beetles come in several varieties, including the black, false black, red, broadhorned, and depressed flour beetles. Despite having wings, most flour beetles don’t fly-the red flour beetle being the exception.

Most adult flour beetles can easily crawl into packages, even if the packages appear sealed. If you notice that flour smells bad or appears discolored, suspect flour beetles and throw the flour away. Wash and disinfect all nearby containers and cupboard shelves.

Keep in mind that flour beetles may prove too resilient to eliminate fully on your own. If so, contact your pest control company for help.

  1. Sawtoothed Grain Beetles

Like flour beetles, sawtoothed grain beetles like cereal. However, you may also find this beetle species in a package of dried fruit or beef jerky, a bag of pasta, or in nuts and seeds.

Each beetle averages 1/10 of an inch. Look for slim, reddish-brown or nearly black bugs with jagged teeth (hence, the ‘sawtooth’ name) on the bug’s thorax.

As previously mentioned, throw away any and all infested food right away, sealing garbage bags tightly and leaving them outside or in a metal waste bin with a close-fitting lid. Thoroughly clean cupboards and adjacent areas.

  1. Weevils

These insects are slim, brown, and marked by a large tube-like snout between the bug’s antennae. Some weevils also have orange spots on their wings.

In practice, weevils generally target whole grains and seeds. Some species target flour, but you’ll more often find grain weevils in bags of rice or wheat. If you notice whole kernels containing round holes, suspect weevils and throw the grain out.

  1. Silverfish

Once you’ve seen this slim insect with a teardrop-shaped body, you’ll recognize the species easily over time. Silverfish have a silver cast but may also look blue-gray or even slightly brown.

Silverfish love damp places, so they often live in the kitchen or bathroom. Although silverfish don’t eat human foods per se, they enjoy starches and sugars found in food packaging, book-binding blue, and liquid soap. You may find them in unopened packages in your pantry or near damp areas in your kitchen.

If you see signs of more than one or two silverfish, contact a pest control expert.

  1. Ants

Few pests are as persistent as household ants. Whether they be tiny black ants or larger species, any ant represents one too many when it comes to protecting your kitchen cupboards.

Like many other pests, ants gravitate toward sugary substances and foods that sit on the counter too long. You may resort to folk remedies like cinnamon (sprinkled near the base of your building) or Formula 409 spray-but some ant species resist every method you can devise.

If nothing seems to work, call your pest control technician. An experienced pest management company will understand local species better than you, and certified technicians will have a smart plan to get rid of ants in your pantry.

Final Thoughts

Most bug companies advise home or business owners to keep their food in glass containers with airtight lids. Metal also works, so long as lids have a tight seal.

Inspect packaging each time you buy food at the store. If the seal is loose or the container is slightly crumpled, the package becomes an easier target for bugs. Choose another package instead.

If you can avoid buying a lot of grains and cereals in bulk, do so. The longer your goods sit in the pantry, the easier they are for bugs to infiltrate over time. Canned goods are no problem; just watch out for thin cardboard packages or plastic bags closed with twisty ties.

Finally, clean your pantry regularly and put perishable foods in the refrigerator so they don’t invite insect invaders.

Contact Chem-Wise if you need help getting rid of further persistent pantry pests!

The Importance of a Bee-Friendly Garden

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Few things taste sweeter than freshly baked bread drizzled with honey, or a warm cup of tea mixed with a spoonful of honey. That glorious golden ingredient enriches your favorite dishes, adding subtle nutty, floral, and even earthy tones.

But how often do you stop to think of the bees that made your honey?

Experts estimate that the average bee has to visit around 2 million flowers and fly 55,000 miles to create one pound of honey, essentially circling the globe 1.5 times. And a single hive can only produce about 60 pounds of honey in a good season.

In the US, the average adult consumes 1.3 pounds of honey per year. Although beekeepers across the nation produce 149 million pounds in a year, we still have to import much of our honey to meet the demand.

Why Help the Bees?

With so many hives and colonies in the US producing honey, many homeowners wonder why they should do their part to help local wild bees. After all, we can always breed more domesticated bees, right?

However, domesticated colonies only account for a fraction of the bee species in the US. And the remaining wild bees play a key role in pollinating crops such as apples, almonds, avocados, blueberries, and cherries. Without bees, you’d also have a hard time growing cucumbers, kiwi, melons, and several other fruits and vegetables.

Recently, domesticated and undomesticated honeybees worldwide have faced colony collapse disorder (CCD). With this disorder, many of the worker bees in a colony disappear, leaving behind a queen and a few nurse bees. Some areas note honeybee losses as high as 75%, and researchers have yet to discover the cause behind the condition.

A few experts suspect the collapse could be due to high concentrations of parasites and fungi. Others hypothesize that the declining populations could link to pesticides, genetically modified crops, or climate change.

But no matter the reason behind the collapse, you can do your part to help the bees when you create a bee-friendly garden.

What Do Bees Need?

Like you, bees need food, water, and shelter to thrive. Even if you don’t have a lot of landscape to work with, you can still create a welcoming environment for these vital insects with the following methods.

Food

Bees depend on two primary food sources: pollen and nectar. To ensure bees have plenty of each, plant a variety of native flowers that bloom at different times of the year.

The following flowers and plants attract bee species, so include them in your yard if you can:

  • Blueberry
  • Chives
  • Aster
  • Crabapple
  • Lavender
  • Goldenrod
  • Primrose
  • Sunflower
  • Squash

Be careful about the flowers and herbs that you choose! Many plants from industrial-sized garden centers contain high levels of neonicotinoids, which are highly toxic to bees and other pollinators. Even if the chemicals don’t kill the bees immediately, neonicotinoids impair the bees’ sense of navigation and damage their immune systems.

Instead, purchase young sprouts and seedlings from local nurseries who use organic methods, or go organic yourself and grow your plants from seed in your backyard. Water

Bees and other beneficial insects need fresh water to drink, but most have difficulty landing near a conventional birdbath.

To create a bee-friendly water source, line a shallow bowl (or even a plate) with small rocks. Fill the bowl with water. The rocks give the bees a place to land.

Keep in mind that shallow pools of water will evaporate quickly, so you’ll need to refill the bee bath at least once a day.

Shelter

Bee species live in a variety of locations. Some solitary bees prefer water and mud, while others like to hollow out reeds or branches to form a nest. If you feel serious about attracting bees to your yard, follow these steps to construct a small bee “house” for them to nest:

  1. Take a small wooden box and use organic paint to make it a bright color (white or yellow).
  2. Layer the box with nesting tubes that stand upright.
  3. Turn the box on its side and mount it at eye level in a sheltered area, such as on a tree or post.
  4. Dig up the ground nearby to expose clay and dirt (which the bees will use to build their nest).

If you prefer to keep bees at a safer distance, you can still offer them shelter by protecting your yard and garden from the elements. Use a combination of fencing and privacy screens to serve as windbreakers, and leave a few weeds or “wild spots” at the edges of your landscape to give the bees a few more natural resources.

Does Your Garden Attract Other Pests?

With the above techniques, you can help local bees stay healthy when they visit your property. But of course, your picturesque garden may also attract a variety of unwanted pests, including wasps and mosquitoes.

If you notice these bugs buzzing where the bees should be, talk to your local pest control expert. He or she may recommend treating affected plants or making minor changes in your landscaping to keep unhelpful pests to a minimum.

Should You Worry About West Nile Virus This Summer?

Written by Chem-Wise on . Posted in Uncategorized

Summer is on its way, which means campfires, marshmallows, and growing concerns about the West Nile virus.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a total of 47 states reported West Nile virus infections.

Approximately 2,122 individuals contracted the disease, and some of these cases resulted in neuroinvasive conditions such as encephalitis, meningitis, or both.

In Illinois, 34 West Nile mosquito samples reported positive, 15 humans contracted the condition, and 2 residents died from the virus in 2014 alone.

What Is West Nile Virus?

West Nile virus is anthropod-borne virus (arbovirus). Although scientists first identified the virus in Uganda in 1937, the virus has since spread to many other areas of the world. In 1999, the US had its first major outbreak, and more than 1,700 people have died because of the condition since then.

Common Symptoms

Most people infected with the virus don’t notice or experience any signs or symptoms. Some individuals may experience a mild headache or fever, but often the symptoms go away on their own. According to Dr. Jorge Parada, infectious disease specialist at the Stritch School of Medicine, about 75% of West Nile victims don’t feel sick enough to seek medical attention.

However, some moderate cases of the disease can result in:

  • Severe headache
  • High fever
  • Disorientation
  • Sudden weakness
  • Body aches and joint pains
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Rash

And in more severe cases, individuals may experience encephalitis or meningitis (inflammation of the brain or surrounding tissues). These conditions can trigger:

  • Seizures
  • Tremors
  • Paralysis
  • Coma

Recovery from more severe cases can take several weeks or months, and a few individuals have permanent neurologic effects.

How Does It Spread?

West Nile Virus most commonly spreads via infected mosquitos, which become infected when they feed on infected birds.

But in a small number of cases, the virus spreads through blood transfusions and organ transplants. Rarely, an infected mother can transfer the disease to the baby during pregnancy, delivery, or breastfeeding.

What Can You Do to Prevent It?

Although West Nile virus symptoms and statistics sound frightening, keep in mind that the average mosquito does not have the virus. Additionally, some experts estimate that less than 1% of those infected with West Nile develop severe illnesses such as encephalitis or meningitis.

People with certain medical conditions (diabetes, kidney disease, cancer, etc.) have a greater risk for experiencing more severe symptoms. But you can take steps to reduce your likelihood of catching the disease, including the following 1. Don’t Forget Insect Repellent

Since the condition spreads via mosquitos, applying insect repellant whenever you spend time outside can help keep you safe. Look for repellents with ingredients such as DEET, Picaridin, and oil of lemon eucalyptus.

These chemicals can cause harmful side effects if you inhale or swallow the spray, so only apply the repellent as directed on the label. Wash the spray off your skin as soon as you go indoors again.

  1. Use Clothing to Cover Up

Short sleeves, t-shirts, and tank tops may provide some relieve from hot Chicago summers. But most experts recommend using clothing to cover up and reduce skin exposure to mosquitos. Some mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing, so wear heavy jeans and long sleeved jackets during peak mosquito biting hours (dusk to dawn).

  1. Install or Repair Screens

Your home should be a safe haven from insects, so do everything you can to keep mosquitoes outside. Repair or install screens on windows and doors. If you have air conditioning or fans, use them regularly. Mosquitoes become less active during cooler temperatures.

     4.  Cover Outdoor Playpens with Netting

Many doctors agree that you shouldn’t apply insect repellent on children younger than 2 years old. To protect them from mosquitoes when they play outdoors, cover any playpens or baby carriers with a fine mesh netting. If you wish, purchase playpens and cribs with mosquito netting already attached.

  1. Remove Any Standing Water

Mosquitoes need standing water to breed, and they can reproduce in any puddle or pool that lasts for more than four days. Removing standing water significantly reduces the number of mosquitoes buzzing around your home.

Pay close attention to the following, as these can easily collect water:

  • Discarded metal cans, plastic containers, and ceramic pots
  • Old replacement tires and trash cans
  • Clogged roof gutters and downspouts
  • Plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows
  • Birdbaths and ornamental ponds

If you have a swimming pool, regularly clean it and check that it’s properly chlorinated. Water can also collect on top of pool covers, so siphon away the water with a garden hose as needed.

Call Pest Control

Because of the health risks mosquitoes pose, call an expert to help you eliminate any infestations you see on your yard or property. Pest control can also spot any potentially problematic areas that could harbor the insects in the future. Don’t hesitate to call in an expert if you worry about West Nile virus. Contact us today!

9 Reasons Why Rats Are Even Grosser Than You Thought

Written by Chem-Wise on . Posted in Uncategorized

Even if you don’t mind guinea pigs, gerbils, and chubby little hamsters, rats are probably not your favorite rodent. With their big black eyes, pointed snouts, and thick tails, you might already feel disgusted by rats and their mouse brethren. And if rats don’t creep you out already, they’re about to.

Rats are ingenious and resilient little creatures, but that doesn’t always bode well for you if they get in your house. Read on for 9 reasons why rats are even grosser than you thought and why you should get rid of a rat infestation in your home as quickly as you can.

  • Rats Are Found All over the World

Rats have a reputation for sneaking onto ships. And before the invention of airplanes, ships were the primary way for people to travel around the world. For centuries, the rats took full advantage of this transportation system. When humans on ships arrived at their destinations, the rats arrived along with them. As a result, rats live almost everywhere in the world.

Even to this day, you can find rats can on ships at sea, traveling between continents.

  • Rats Can Fit Through Small Spaces

Seal your house as well as you like, and the rats still might get in. Even if you think you’ve covered every nook and cranny, if a rat thinks it might find something it likes in your house, it can chew through almost any material and squeeze through spaces the size of a quarter.

Rats use their sharp teeth to munch through brick, wood, and even lead.

  • Rats Can Produce Thousands of Offspring

If left to their own devices, rats will mate like rabbits. A single female rat can mate with hundreds of males throughout the yearthey have even more fertility cycles than humans. With this kind of virility, rats can produce thousands of offspring in their short lifetimes. While they only live two to three years, they can have as many as 2,000 babies annually.

Although they have the potential to have thousands of offspring, most rats produce under 100.

  • Rats Can Swim

Have you ever seen a scary movie where a monster or creature came up through the sewer pipes and out the toilet? Well, you actually can find a rat in your toilet in a similar fashion. Rats have the ability to swim up to half a mile, and they can tread water for days. If you ever flush a rat down the toilet, don’t feel surprised if it comes back up the same way.

Because of their strong swimming abilities, rats have even been known to swim between different islands.

  • Rats Used to Populate an Entire Island

In 1780, a Japanese ship wrecked on an island in Alaska. As with most ships, especially at the time, this Japanese ship carried a few rats. When the ship crashed, the rats took refuge on the island and quickly established a thriving population. The rats did so well on the island that the land itself earned the name of “Rat Island.”

Unfortunately for the island’s native bird species, the rats wreaked havoc on their populations. To prevent further damage, the US government staged a rat intervention in 2008. Rat Island was declared rat-free in 2009 and was renamed Hawadax Island in 2012.

  • Rats Used to Fight Dogs

In a practice called rat-baiting, rats fought against a dog in a large pit to see how long it would take the dog to kill them. The practice was first developed in London after other forms of animal fighting became illegal-but not rat fighting. To keep their betting games going, Londoners put rats in a pit with a dog, started a clock, and watched the animals go at it.

Rat-baiting is now illegal, although dogs can still effectively kill rats as a pest control measure.

  • Rats Transmit Disease

Although this should seem obvious, one of the biggest reasons rats are creepy is that they carry disease. Rats have transmitted everything from hemorrhagic fevers and the black plague to humans around the world.

  • Rats Can Survive Great Falls

If you ever encounter a rat on a balcony, don’t think throwing it off will kill it. Rats can survive falls of up to 50 feet and escape unscathed.

  • Rats Can Laugh

When you picture a rat, the last thing you want to see is it laughing. Rather than seem joyous, a laughing rat seems like something from a nightmare. However, scientists have reported that lab rats make happy squeaking noises when they play with other rats, and when the scientists tickle them. Before you’re taken in with this seemingly happy picture, remember all the other creepy facts you’ve learned about rats.

 

Rats are unpleasant yet innovative creatures. If you find any signs of rats in your home, such as droppings, scratching noises, or gnawing damage, call a pest control company right away. For resilient rats, you need resilient professionals.

Bees, Wasps, and Hornets-Oh My! How to Spot the Difference

Written by Chem-Wise on . Posted in Uncategorized

During the spring and summer, you love to bask in the sunshine as much as possible. You sit in your favorite chair and sip lemonade, or perhaps you run on the grass and play games with your children.

But while you’re enjoying that light breeze on your face, you happen to feel a tickle on your arm.

Ouch!

Something stung you. The red bump starts to swell, and then the insect flies past your nose.

Not sure what it was? Use the following guide to help you determine the culprit.

Bees

Chicago is home to a variety of bees due to the city’s hobbyists and green entrepreneurs. Many restaurants rely on the natural honey to create cocktails or honey wine.

Yet while beekeepers tend to their hives in their backyards and balconies, you can’t help but wonder if the insect that stung you was an escapee or a natural local.

Bumble Bee

Bumblebees are fat and furry in appearance, with black and yellow (and occasionally orange) markings. They are social bees that most often live in the wild. They live in nests with 50 to 400 bees, and these nests tend to stay mostly in the ground or slightly higher. They only make small amounts of a honey-like substance that they eat themselves.

Though bumblebees have a loud buzz, they are not aggressive in nature. However, their smooth stinger enables them to sting more than once if aggravated.

Carpenter Bee

Carpenter bees look like bumblebees in size and appearance. They are fuzzy and large with black and yellow markings. However, unlike bumblebees, they are solitary creatures. They build nests in trees and in the frames of buildings where they can drill into the wood.

The male carpenter bee does not have a stinger, but it may approach people who move quickly or wave a hand in the air. If you’re approached, don’t panic; the bees are harmless. The female carpenter bee can sting, but seldom does. You must handle and provoke her a great deal before she will sting.

Honey Bee

Honeybees are smaller and slimmer than bumblebees, but they’re not as angular as wasps. They live in hives of up to 50,000 or 60,000 bees, which are often tended by beekeepers. As their name implies, honeybees make a lot of honey, which beekeepers can harvest to sell or eat.

Unfortunately, many honeybees are dying due to Colony Collapse disorder. And because they have barbed stingers, they can only sting once. The stinger lodges into its attacker, causing the stinger to rip from its body. Because of this, honeybees only sting as a last resort to protect their colony.

Wasps

While bees tend to be harmless, wasps are often more aggressive. You can often tell the difference between wasps and bees by their hair and body shape. Wasps tend to be slimmer than bees, with elongated bodies. They also lack the body hair that makes bees look fuzzy. Yellow Jackets

True to their name, yellow jackets are black with prominent yellow stripes. They have narrow wings that fold longitudinally when resting. You can recognize a yellow jacket by the way it flies: a rapid, side-to-side pattern right before it lands.

Unlike bees, yellow jackets do not produce honey. Rather, they scavenge and eat meats and sweets, which is why you can often find them in parks or picnic areas.

Yellow jackets create enclosed nests below ground, which they defend aggressively. Because they can repeatedly sting if provoked, you should take care to check for yellow jacket nests before mowing your lawn.

Cicada Killer Wasps

Chicago is home to unique wasps known as cicada killer wasps. Unlike other wasp species, many nature-lovers appreciate these insects for the work that they do. Rather than attacking humans, cicada killer wasps kill cicadas that invade and damage neighborhood trees.

Before you grab the bug spray, double check the wasp’s appearance. Cicada killer wasps are large, nearly two inches long, with distinctive black and yellow stripes and reddish-brown eyes and legs. They are mostly solitary insects that nest in bare soil and along edges of flower beds. Hornets

Hornets, or bald-faced hornets, look much like yellow jackets. They have black and yellow (and occasionally white) markings. However, hornets are often longer and thicker than yellow jackets, and their sting is often more powerful.

Unlike yellow jackets, hornets do not scavenge, so they are less likely to show up at your favorite outdoor activities. And unlike cicadas, hornets prefer to build their nests high above ground, such as high in eaves and trees.

See These Insects Buzzing Around Your Home?

While some bees, wasps, and hornets are harmless, you might still have difficulty spotting the difference. If you worry about an insect infestation on your home or property, don’t hesitate to call pest control, just in case. A professional can help you safely remove the insects and protect your home and family.