I would often be called to a clients home around this time of the year for ants in the pantry. Most of the time we were dealing with either Pavement or Argentine colonies; but they were both attracted to one thing, “SUGAR.” I felt bad requesting that I be allowed to throw away the Cap’n Crunch, Frosted Flakes, and pop tarts that the ants have by then- thoroughly besieged; and an even harder time requesting that we also get rid of anything not sealed properly.
Thoughts come to mind of this woman in tears who had just gone shopping the day before and could not afford to throw away the new pantry goods. I advised her that I was merely suggesting that we throw the food away; however she can keep the goods if she would like if she would store them in the freezer for a couple of hours in ziplock bags or sealed containers. Ultimately there was a compromise that she would keep the food that was “barely infested” and throw the cereal box (Frosted Flakes) that was heavily infested. I recommend that all known food sources that have been tainted to be trashed; but I hear its fashionably fitting to eat insects in communities around the globe. Maybe some of that extra protein will provide a more balanced breakfast. (Trying to be funny)
Something not so funny are the pantry pests that I would like to quickly introduce. My least favorite pantry pests are:
- Indian Meal Moth
- Mediterranean Meal Moth
- Sawtooth Grain Beetle
These are the pantry pests that show up in your flour, rice, nuts, herbs, dog food, fish food, pasta, grains, dry-goods, etc. The Indian and Mediterranean Meal Moths look like maggots/caterpillars when they are in their larval stage. This is often when they will be found infested in flour, grains, herbs, etc. If you find small beetle looking creatures in your flour, grains, etc, it is most likely the Sawtooth Grain Beetle. These buggers are persistent once in the home and because of their “saw teeth” can get into most packaging.
The worst part about infestations with these types of pantry pests is that it is usually necessary to empty out the whole pantry; and the subsequent use of plastic storage containers is required/suggested to be used from ‘there on out.’ Providing a crack and crevice treatment with your choice of insecticide will help solidify that these pantry pests problems do not persist.
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If you have worked in the Pest Control Industry long enough you eventually develop some level of respect for the “other side.” I often find myself amazed by the ability of these pesky little critters to adapt to their environment. Seriously, they sometimes all learn to live with each other despite their differences. Literally, living on top of each other. I know that is gross but after a while it was pretty cool treating a new home’s water box and watching the various “insects” scurry into the sunlight. You could tell if the last bug guy was not very thorough…because you literally would find a vast amount of insects in these water boxes.
I have seen black widows, wind scorpions, crickets, silverfish, scorpions, roaches, etc…all come out of one water box. It amazes me that prey would live with predator. But I guess “fight or flight” kicks in and foes become friends in order to survive, sharing the last known safe haven on the premises…at least until a thorough inspection is performed. This is my long introduction to my short paragraphs about how these pests are nature’s hidden miracle.
I think it is common sense how bugs and insects are important in nature. Bees provide cross pollination, while other insects help decompose organic structures to be reabsorbed within the cyclical tides of Mother Nature. I could go on and on about how this insect helps in this way, that way, etc…But I want to briefly talk about scorpions-who generally get a bad wrap.
I guess scientists have found a way to utilize scorpion venom to fight cancer. I have read that Senator Ted Kennedy’s doctors were considering using it as a preferential alternative treatment. So be nice next time you see a scorpion and think twice before you go “squash,” or contact a bug exterminator.
Hopefully you enjoyed my tribute to the 90’s. One of the “Things that make you go hmmmm” I think are common misnomers that not-to-careful pest technicians utilize. This is probably a good reason why you may want to either learn about taxonomy, or use the vague word “pests” when referring to the “all too easily mistaken for insects” category.
These are the top “non-insects” labeled insects:
- Spiders: Not an Insect…Arachnid.
- Pill bug: Not an Insect…Crustacean/(Malacostraca)…more closely related to shrimp or crayfish.
- Millipede: Not an Insect…diplopod of diplopoda.
- Centipede: Not an Insect…Chilopod of Chilopoda.
Hopefully this will help you impress a customer next time she tells you that she was gardening and had been frightened by the many roly-polys, millipedes, or centipedes under the large rock she had just moved. If you really want to impress her you could tell her that pill bugs (roly-polys), relatives of the shrimp and crayfish need lots moisture and actually breathe through gills.
Maybe you will be better prepared for the customer’s home that you go to who has a bug collection who wants to test your knowledge. Believe me, there out there. I know customer’s ask questions, but this guy had approximately 300 bugs on a poster board in his garage of pests caught around his yard and wanted to see if I could name them all. Good thing I could name most of them…thank goodness for the PCT insect guide I kept in the glove compartment!
Well now you are armed with even more knowledge about insects and non-insects…..Go Get emmmmmmmmm Tiger.
PEST CONTROL MYTH #4
An important part of your pest control treatment is dewebbing. Dewebbing is the physical removal of spider webs from the many nooks and crannies around the perimeter of your home. Some technicians believe that it is best to remove spider webs or deweb at every service. This is quite alright depending on the expectations of your customer; who may not want to see any spider webs around the house; although you should inform the customer that there is a better way to handle his spider issue. Pest Control Myth # 4 is that it is always better to deweb at each service.
The best way to deal with spider webs, especially new spider webs, is to dust the web and leave it intact; then schedule a callback service for dewebbing the following day or as soon as possible.
The problem with removing the web is that the spider will be quick to relocate, or possibly recreate his/her web. Ultimately you decrease the likelihood of removing the root problem. By lightly dusting the web you leave a gift for “spidey” when he/she returns home.
Part of what makes this effective is a thorough inspection of your customer’s premises and adequate notes and history about each customer. This technique and the maintenance of an adequate pest barrier will ensure that your home is spider free.
If you would like to learn more about the spiders/pests in your area, please click here.
While sitting in front of my computer screen thinking about what I was going to write about next; I watch a small little row of ants walk along the edge of my desk. Instinctively, the first thing I do is try to identify the pest. When dealing with ants it can be very hard to determine the specific type of ant based on its different physical characteristics unless you have a magnifying glass available or have the “eye of a hawk” as me and my cousins used to call it. I have read many books that would say this ant is this color, and that ant is this color, etc; but I have found that in the real world trying to distinguish based on color is quite a dreadful task as different types of ants can be within the same color ranges. Here are some characteristics about different ants that may help you identify your home’s native ant-lings. (Did I go there…yes I did; Ant-lings…LOL.)
Pharaoh Ant: Primarily indoors, known for splitting into different colonies, sometimes found in wounds of hospital patients.
Carpenter Ant: The largest, Biggest, humongous, enormous fellers. (Exaggeration)
Harvester Ant: Known for producing mounds with entry points that are at least approximately 2 inches in diameter.
Pavement Ant: Generally will reside under or around pavement.
Argentine Ant: Also a very popular ant, known for producing super colonies…these infestations can grow rapidly.
Odorous House Ants: When crushed emit a coconut like smelling odor.
Red Imported Fire Ant: These ants are very aggressive and secrete a toxin when biting. These ants are what we refer to as a “quarantined” species; so if you think you have come across them contact your local department of agriculture etc for removal. Each case is required to be documented and handled in a specific fashion.
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The specifics straight down to the nitty gritty:
External Inspection: In general; places where there is moisture or cellulose.
- Drainage: Water troughs that run along side your roofs and into down spouts; should be contiguous.
- Natural flow of water away from your foundation. Like your roof, the ground surrounding your foundation should be slightly sloped to allow water to flow away from your foundation and ultimately to a civic drainage system. Water damage to the external walls; paint discoloration; molds, moldy smell etc.
- Water (hose) outlets: Leaking? Water Buildup permeating the foundation? Adequate drainage from the foundation?
- Cellulose deposits: Firewood? Anything with cellulose. How is Cellulose materials stored? Off of the ground or In contact with the soil? All wood should be raised (bricks under pallet,etc.) Against the foundation? Wood should not come in contact with any of the external walls of the home; I recommend at least 2 feet of space.
- Soil levels on the foundation; should be less than 2 inches from the top of the concrete slab.
- Does the customer have a wooden fence? If so, do wooden posts run right into the ground? Any wood to soil contact?
- Any signs of termite activity (mud tubes, wings)…both inactive and active; I also look for previous termite treatments.
- I am looking primarily at the places where moisture is present. Kitchens, Bathrooms, Mud rooms, and around HVAC entry/exit points. I am checking for signs of water damage; rots, mold, fungi, etc.
- I look at all windows and doors or other entry points on all external walls. I am looking for bulges and other irregularities in the wood. Using a stethoscope and if necessary; various probes I will look for various types of termite indicators (inactive/active).
This is basically what I would look for. I tried to keep it very simple as to give you a clue as to what your inspector might be looking for. Hopefully this will help you when preparing to have a termite inspection. These guidelines may help; but are no guarantee for a passing report.
If you do not receive an “all-clear” report; you will be notified of issues found during the inspection. Generally you are given a period of time to get these problems fixed; and the report amended. Good Luck.
I would like to take the opportunity to write about termites. Termites are very dangerous because of the damage that they cause to man made structures. There is a different test one must take before they can become certified to treat for termites in the State of Nevada. I am happy to say that I passed with flying colors. Although called the “termite” test the curriculum or certification materials covered other Wood Destroying Pests. I was a little surprised to be studying moss, fungi, rot, bees, beetles and structural aspects of homes which included; how well water flowed away from the foundation. It is interesting to see how all of these things come together when you finally get the big picture of what the inspection is all about, and how important a proactive approach can be when trying to control termites.
I will include in another post specifically what your neighborhood termite inspector will be looking for. For now, I would like to lay the framework for the “big picture” approach to a termite inspection; generally needed for various (loan) real estate transactions.
So why did I learn about moss, fungi, various other “rot,” bees, beetles, and how well the water flows away from the foundation?
Although termites are the number one wood destroying pests, there are others. There exists various types of bees and borers (beetles) that destroy wood and it is important to know about these insects to prevent the incorrect diagnosis of termites. The cost to treat for termites can be expensive, so it is very important that your diagnosis be solid.
When it comes to termites you want to make it as hard as possible for them to find a suitable place to live. This is where the various types of “rot” and how water flows away from the foundation comes in. Subterranean termites need a lot of moisture and prefer softer wood. Areas around your foundation where water builds up is a disaster waiting to happen. Over time, wood components of the foundation will eventually become water logged; ultimately developing the wood of choice for the nearest subterranean colony. Looking for moss, and fungus can easily identify places where this has taken place. Ever look at places where water damage has occurred? Moss, Fungus, or various stages of rot in/on walls is an immediate red flag for the inspector because it could be an entry point/harborage for termites.
The big picture is more than that of termites. One should learn of other wood destroying pests native to their habitat, and understand conditions that exist around the home that may be conducive to an infestation of various wood destroying pests; let alone the infamous termite.
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