Small annoying flies

There are two types of flies that show up in a big way this time of year, in Northwest homes: Fruit flies and Phorid flies.

Fruit flies like fermenting fruit. Phorid flies like rotting organic matter. Mmmmm, what’s not to like? And hey, doesn’t that sound kind of similar?

Fruit flies are found in garbage cans, recycle bins, empty un-rinsed anything which has had fruit juice in it, and on fruit. (OK beer is not fruit and they love fermenting beer – but it’s fermenting!)

Phorid flies are found in over-watered house plants, drains with organic build up, and areas where water accumulates, usually on a regular basis.

Tips to get rid of Fruit flies: Empty your trash daily. Rinse out your recyclables and keep them outside. If you keep an inside compost container, empty it daily and rinse it out. Consider storing your fruit in the fridge or inside brown paper bags. Consider making a nifty do-it-yourself Fruit fly trap. Google it. Vinegar traps work

Check your onions, potatoes, bananas, etc.. for spoilage and get rid of it.

Tips to get rid of Phorid flies: Over watered plants can be a problem. You can repot them into another pot that drains better, and you can set them aside until the moisture level drops, but there is a four week life cycle, so even if you let the plant dry out between watering, you can have some gnats. Rake the top soil of the plant as this will help kill fungus at the top of the plant. You can either remove the top few inches and treat it with an insecticide, or add a couple inches of treated soil to the top of the plant. (We can help)

If they are coming up out of your drain, you really need to scrub the drain line. Modern plumbing, with built in kitchen disposal units, often creates a thick viscous gel in drain lines that the flies breed in. Hot water won’t do anything. Bleach probably won’t do anything. The layer of slime needs to be physically removed. You can try a drain cleaner, but you may need to take a few things apart and use drain brushes to break everything up.

Other areas need to be dried up, sealed, moisture proofed – you name it, so that they remain dry and stop accumulating water and organic matter.

How can you tell which flies  you have?

It’s not easy. Are they landing on the wall or on the ceiling – on the wall? You have fruit flies, on the ceiling? Phorid flies. It’s possible you could have both.

Can pest control help?

Yes, if you consider sanitation inspections, pest control. We do. Pesticides in a drain – not recommended. We can put enzymatic agents in there that break down soap and kill flies. It may not work on really badly slime plugged plumbing pipes though. We can spray dumpsters, and trash areas with both insecticide sprays and baits. These baits might help around your home – ask your tech if you would like your home surveyed for flies, your trash can lids treated, or for other helpful suggestions.

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Setting the right expectations for spider control

  • Communicating with your service pro
  • Spider Control Materials
  • Product Labels
  • Magic Bullets
  • Getting the best spider control

 

Communicating with your service pro

First, if you are on a regular service, contact your service tech and let them know how you feel about spiders. Some customers love their spiders and become outraged at the thought that our outside sprays might harm them. Others become outraged because seemingly no matter what services are provided, they still see some spiders. Yeah, spiders, a tad bit rage inducing. Trust us. And please put down the flame thrower.

Let your tech, or better yet the office, know how you feel – so we can write down your preferences on your account info. Customers who opt for super thorough spider control services do typically pay extra, as those services take more time and material.

Spider Control Materials

The same people who make the ‘do-it-yourself’ materials make our professional grade materials. Their reps, their info sheets, and our years of servicing thousands of homes, show that their professional quality materials last really strong, about 3 to 4 weeks. Kind of strong, but fading, for another 3 to 4 weeks, and then fading into not controlling spiders at all, for the next 3 to 4 weeks. Homeowner grade materials, according to their reps, last really strong about a week, regardless of advertising claims.

Product Labels

The labels on “Perimeter Defense” products implicitly show that their product is to be used at the base of a home and around doors and windows, in what appears to be a six inch band. This is partially to keep you from ending up with the material all over you, partially to protect bees and other non-target species, but also to protect your plants, as over the counter products kill plants.

Labels on professional spider control materials have broader labels. We can spray up from the base as far as three feet, and out as far as seven feet. We can also spray around doors, windows, overhangs, eaves, and areas where spiders are or where spider webs are. We have lots of limitations though, too. We cannot paint a home with pesticide, which means that there will be places a spider could hang a web, where we cannot spray. Other areas we could spray, you probably would not like us to spray – like the glass of your windows.

We cannot spray plants that attract pollinators or are in bloom, we cannot spray herbs, gardens, or fruit trees. We can only spray vegetation within that seven foot, label specified perimeter, and we have to be very careful not to harm the vegetation, which means that we have to highly dilute our spray, and or spray very lightly, so our spray will not be super duper effective – even if we spray the vegetation close to your home. Dead plants or dead spiders, your choice.

Magic Bullets

It’s important to understand is that no one pesticide kills every kind of pest. The best control materials for Odorous House Ants don’t work well against spiders. Conversely, if you are on service for spiders, and often for Carpenter Ants, the best control materials for those pests do control Odorous House Ants very well.

Finally some pests such as dampwood termites, moisture ants, and sometimes even Odorous House Ants, infest homes in a way that completely bypasses an exterior perimeter spray. (All three of these pests may burrow underground, exterior sprays do not kill pests below ground.)

If you have Odorous House Ants, but also want more control of spiders, we can use one material around the base and a different one around your doors, windows, and overhangs, this can help control more spiders, but you have to let us know.

Getting the best spider control

No matter what we do or what you do, no spray will eliminate all spiders and certainly not for long periods of time. Spiders are way bigger than crawling insects and therefore harder to kill. They often spend less time on treated areas as well, but there are things you can do and we can do, to help kill as many as possible.

Cover and or remove items that we cannot spray. Read our page on ant prevention – it helps prevent spiders too. Consider having an extra, charged, full exterior spray service during the heaviest spider season (the fall), consider a bi-monthly service if you need more control. Quarterly services don’t work for everyone, they are just a nice combination of costs savings and control for the average home, the average customer, and the average concern about spiders.

If your home is next to the water, surrounded by trees, or if you really hate spiders – schedule an extra charged service and remember, it will reduce the number of spiders you see, but nothing will prevent you from seeing any spiders. Spiders spend less time on control materials, are bigger, and may balloon in (yes, float through the air as hatchlings), bypassing exterior sprays.

Note: If you have good eaves, there is no reason why your home shouldn’t be able to be sprayed if it is misting or drizzling outside. 90% of the areas we would spray are covered under most homes. However, if you have no eaves, or really short eaves, or if you really hate spiders, let us know and we will schedule your service on drier days.

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Our Forever Guarantee

We guarantee every home we service against rats and mice forever!  About that fine print…

At Safeguard we pride ourselves in the quality of our rodent inspections and rodent exclusion. The truth is that most homes can be rodent proofed. However, homes change over time, tree limbs grow back, vents get broken, rats are really good at digging tunnels, and sub area doors get left open.  Rodents can and do re-infest homes.

So…. we really can’t guarantee homes against rodents forever.

In fact, mice are even more likely to re-infest – and are much harder to exclude. They can get through holes as small as a quarter inch, holes the size of a dime.

It’s one of the many reasons we don’t push insulation replacement. We hate the idea of our customers paying thousands of dollars now, only to have to pay it again in a few years when they go to sell their home. It’s also the number one reason why we don’t guarantee any home against future infestation or insulation replacement.

If you are a current customer and have never had an intensive full home rodent access inspection – you should ask for us to perform one. A lot of our customers came to us as spider customers or ant customers and rodent control has just been an add on.

Not all homes can be rodent proofed. This is especially true where mice are involved, and some customers opt to forego rodent proofing, as the work is not inexpensive. However, all customers should know that it is available.

Our opinion of the insulation replacement industry is well known, while there may be honest people working in the industry, our experience has been that the for the most part, they have never seen a house that doesn’t need a full insulation replacement, even if that home just had a full insulation replacement.

We recently inspected a home in Magnolia that had been on service for two years with another service provider, our least experienced technician found a half dozen serious  gaps around the exterior in 45 minutes. They were on service specifically for rodents and had multiple full home inspections. This is the kind of work I dread hearing about where my techs are concerned.

People missremember rodent discussions, sure, but techs do mess up, even ours. It’s rare, but that’s why we have a quality assurance program.

Here is picture of a bunch of our techs out in the field on a quality assurance visit inspecting a home for mouse access, we found openings, but everyone learned from the inspection and our customer received a ton of free work – just another way we stress superior customer service for our customers.

Quality Assurance

Quality Assurance

 

 

 

 
(PS: They were not standing on stairs, really, the redhead is like ten feet tall!)
(PPS: JK)
 

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Pesticide – in your toothpaste, make-up, and seasonings?

If you brush your teeth, wear make-up, eat food, or take aspirin – even vitamins, you are eating pesticide. Every day. Just how bad is it? Remember, a pesticide is any substance which is used to hinder, eliminate, or otherwise interfere with pests.

Amorphous silica gel is used by the pest control industry to kill bed bugs, ants, wasps, carpet beetles, and other damaging and invasive species. What is it, and why are you eating it?

Silica gel is a synthetic, hydrated form of Silica, and should not be confused with crystalline or fumed silica. The largest buyer of this type of silica is McCormick Seasonings. Being edible, it is used to “Bulk out” powdered spices and seasonings. It’s an anti-clumping agent used in cake mixes.

Silica gel is widely used in the pharmaceutical industry to “bulk out” tablets (medications/supplements). If you’ve taken an aspirin, you’ve probably eaten silica gel.

Silica gel (Hydrated Silica) is a high performance abrasive that is most commonly used in toothpastes, because it appears to be the safest and most effective abrasive available. This material is insoluble in water, and therefore can be used to create a gentle exfoliating action in aqueous systems, such as Creme Cleansers, Micro-Peels, Micro-Dermabrasion products, Body Washes, Shower & Bath Gels, etc.

Silica gel is used in many custom formulated mineral make-up powders because of its ability to absorb excess oils on skin.

Silica gel is Generally Recognized As Safe by the EPA and is a food grade additive. In pest control it absorbs the waxy outer coating of insects, causing them to die through dehydration. It is not a central nervous system inhibitor. Additionally, it is much safer than other types of dusts as it does not stay in the lungs or cause silicosis.

We use silica gel because it works against pests and it is thought to be one of the very safest pesticide materials available.

 

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The truth – it stings, it bites, it crawls really slowly across your window.

At the end of summer, yellow jacket nests produce the future queens that will start next year’s brand new nests. These future queens, together with the female reproductives of other social wasp species, search out temporary nest sites at the end of autumn which will keep them safe and sound through the winter months.

Some of these wasps will burrow into and under woodpiles. Some will find stumps, logs, or piles of dense leaf debris to crawl into. Some will crawl into the gaps in your home and nest in sub areas, between floors, and especially, in attics.

Why attics? Attics are several degrees warmer than the great outdoors, they are also dry, they are generally free of birds and other critters that might consider them snack food, they are very easy for the average wasp to get into, and…. they might just have been nesting there to begin with.

The average home has at least a dozen small social wasp nests in it. Some have many more.

As the weather gets colder, these wasps will burrow down into the insulation. The closer to your ceiling, and the closer to your canned lighting, the warmer they will stay, and the better their chances of survival.

Every year at the beginning of spring, we start getting calls from people who experience these wasps making their way into the living areas of their home. This happens when the wasps see daylight through small gaps around vents or lights. The wasps that work their way inside searching for the source of that daylight are lethargic and confused and easily killed, one by one.

Since they’re waking up from hibernation, their metabolism is very slow, so slow that they don’t absorb pesticides fast enough to kill them before they show up in your living space. Also coming in from random areas, scattered throughout your attic insulation, they probably will spend very little time on a pesticide applied in your attic. Pesticides would have a very difficult time penetrating the insulation.

As a matter of ethics, we are very careful to tell customers that pesticides will probably not solve this issue. However, we do get service requests from people who are both afraid of stinging insects and worse, allergic – so what can be done?

First we can try to identify where these wasps could be coming inside: Recessed lighting, vents, fireplaces, and heat exchanges are common areas. Next we can recommend ways to seal these areas to keep wasps out without damaging your home.

Self sealing saran wrap around vents can seal them temporarily without altering the long term function of the vent. If the pilot light can be turned off, a trash bag can be taped over a gas fireplace. If the canned lights contain cool CFLs or LEDs, saran wrap can often be used here as well. If they don’t have cool lights, we can discuss changing out those lights, or seal off one here or there with aluminum foil. All of these steps and more can keep the wasps out for the short term.

Pesticide free, longer term solutions can involve adding framing around canned lighting and installing fine mesh screen, installing new screen around exterior vents, alterations to chimney flues and flue caps, and more – all customized for your home.

Dusting attic spaces with all natural, food grade mineral dusts, like amorphous silica gel in late summer, and spraying exterior eave and roof vents, skylights, and wooden chimney chases are also an option that many people who are concerned with wasps might want to consider. We have a large number of happy customers who are on quarterly service for wasp control.

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Five things you need to know about ants

Ants don’t like your cooking, or your food, or that ant bait you bought from the home center. Ants are predators, they eat other insects and insect secretions. Even in species of ants that will feed on baits, only a tiny fraction of the ants in any nest will ever partake. The worst thing about most commercial baits? They’re too strong. Ants will stop feeding on bait that kills too many, too quickly. But your ant bait is filled with hundreds of dead and dying ants? About that…..

Ants wake up in the spring time. In the Northwest all the ants are active… now. You should start seeing them, if you’re going to, very soon. Here are four more things you should know about ants:

The ants you see are the tiniest fraction of the ants in your home. Hundreds dead in your home? Odorous house ant nests can have hundreds of thousands of ants, and a home can have multiple nests. Even carpenter ant nests can contain tens of thousands. Most homeowners vastly underestimate their ant problems.

You’ve had ants for a lot longer than you think. Pests have to pass a threshold of continuous activity in human occupied areas before being noticed by people, couple that with the fact that they don’t like our food and rarely come inside, and it’s easy to see why most homes have ants for at least a couple years before the humans in the house know about it. Humans usually know about it for a few years before asking for professional help. Most humans stop doing something about the ants when they drop below that visual threshold, but when they still have ants.

Ants live a long time. Worker ants can live ten years or more. Queens can live thirty years or more. Couple that with the fact that ants can sense most over the counter insecticides and you can see why many homeowners are unsuccessful when trying to control ants. The ants just wait around for the pesticides to stop working.

The ants in your home? All those ones you can’t see? The rest of the iceberg? Usually they are part of an interconnected series of related nests outside your home, scattered between the homes and yards of your neighborhood. All of these nests, and all of their food sites, are connected with scent trails that say things like, the aphids on these roses in the late summer are plump and juicy, and here is where nest number 6 is. These scent trails are made of formic acid and are reinforced every time they are walked by an ant, and they last for years. A major reason why homes are reinfested. Even our professional strength chemical barriers stop working after a few months.

 

 

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Bad Science

I try to post twice a week. I try to post about things that relate to what we do, about things that are in our customer’s best interest, and about things that our customers would find interesting.

As I surf the internet in my spare time, I find myself drawn to articles, as we all do, that reinforce my own position on subjects. It’s called confirmation bias. Friday I went through six posts that I had bookmarked and looked at the science behind them, and the credentials of the poster.

I found problems in all the articles. If the science itself wasn’t in question, the source certainly was.  Our customers rely on us for honesty. I had to pass. Today, I had a nice little article set aside about toxicity. Everything it said was true. It cited no studies, it cited other blogs. Opinions on top of opinions.  *sigh*

It’s not enough. We set a high standard, but your worth it.

Coming up next week: an update on woodpecker control – yep, its that time again.

Later this spring: a bee support program where we will pay our customers to plant bee gardens – details still in the works.

In the meantime: Here is a picture of a cat breathing fire. Disclaimer: I did not check this photo to see if it’s real, but I hope so.

Looks real to me, but I'm not a cat expert.

Looks real to me, but I’m not a cat expert.

 

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Zika Virus: What You Need To Know

If you haven’t heard about the Zika virus yet, you will. The effects on unborn children and of course, their parents, are devastating.  The toll its taking on people living in the Caribbean and Brazil is horrendous.

The virus is spreading and has been found in the United States. As far north as New York city. Below are some resources to learn more:

  • EveryDayHealth: 10 Essential Facts About The Zika Virus
  • TampaBay.com (Tampa, FL): Here’s What You Need To Know About The Zika Virus If You Are Living In Florida; Tampa Bay Times has also run several articles in print about Zika mentioning NPMA including one titled “Bugged About That Skeeter?” and another titled “Zika’s Sting Turns Up In Hillsborough”.
  • New York Daily News (New York, NY): The Buzz On Zika, A Mosquito-borne Virus – Be Wary But Not Terrified
  • Weather.com: Reporter interviewed Dr. Fredericks on January 26.
  • Tallahassee Democrat (Tallahassee, FL): Reporter interviewed Dr. Parada on January 19.
  • CBS New York Radio (New York, NY): Reporter interviewed Dr. Parada on January 22.

Safeguard and it’s employees are not experts about viruses, and the scope and nature of this threat may change. Stay tuned.

Most homes in the Northwest have tight fitting screens, which is good, and we haven’t seen reports of the virus in our yet, but who knows what warmer weather will bring?

Mosquitoes prefer to feed within 100 feet if where they breed. We can provide site inspections and  prevention measures to reduce the number mosquitoes that breed around your home. We can help you make your home and yard less attractive, and we can provide treatment services to reduce mosquito populations.

We cannot get rid of all mosquitoes in a neighborhood, we can’t treat your neighbor’s home without permission, and we cannot guarantee you won’t get bit, but we can help. Let us know – if you need us!

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Rodents outside

Sometimes, the rats aren’t nesting in your house. Sometimes they’re nesting on your property.

One common area that rats like to nest in is drain lines. While they will commonly use drain lines to enter sub areas and basements, and more rarely,  roof lines via connected downspouts, they will also live inside drain lines – even if they don’t lead inside.

Keeping rat out of drain lines can take some ingenuity. And some anti-bacterial.

Concrete drain line

Common concrete drain line. Often connects to drain lines inside sub areas and basements.

Concrete drain lines can take some effort, especially when you want the drain to still function as a drain.

Cut 1/4 inch mesh screen to about the outside width of the drain pipe.

Cut 1/4 inch mesh screen to about the outside width of the drain pipe.

You can’t drill into anything, you have to get creative.

Trim off the corners.

Trim off the corners.

1/4 inch hardware cloth (mesh screen) is like duct tape for the pest control industry.

Make small cuts in the screen, every few inches around the perimeter.

Make small cuts in the screen, every few inches around the perimeter.

If installed properly, tension will keep the screen in place.

Push the screen down slowly and firmly. If necessary, Mortar or concrete patch can be used to keep the screen in place.

Push the screen down slowly and firmly. If necessary, Mortar or concrete patch can be used to keep the screen in place.

If not, you can use a little concrete patch or mortar.

The hand holding the camera was bleeding too.

The hand holding the camera was bleeding too.

You will almost certainly nick yourself up when you work with metal mesh – the edges are very sharp.

PS: Facebook cover – Yes, crawling inside bushes, in the rain, not the funnest part of this job. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

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Rodent Exclusion Tip #4001 (Approximately)

The only mouse you want in your home is the one that works with your computer. Or maybe that little cute fluffy one in the cage. OK, or Mickey. Mickey Mouse would be pretty awesome!

But that’s it. Right?

There is an old adage that steel wool works wonders for keeping mice and rats out of homes. Only it’s really doesn’t work very well. It only works for small gaps, and only in areas where it will always be dry. If used outside, even if it’s in a sheltered area, it will soon rust and deteriorate.

We use brass wool, a much better choice in any area where there could be moisture. It is available online, and at some marine service centers. The type we use is referred to as ‘Stuffit’. It’s expensive, but worth it.

We still use steel wool, but mainly in very dry areas, in very small gaps, and mainly as a backer for thin set concrete. Concrete works great for keeping out rats and mice. Expanding foam is the worst choice for rodent exclusion – it does not hold up to rodent teeth at all, and it is actually attractive to them – they like to chew on it. If you must use expanding foam somewhere, us it as a backer.  What am I talking about?

Hole in brickwork where gas line was installed.

Hole in brickwork where gas line was installed.

Here is a gap around a natural gas line.

Leaf block foam - used to keep gutters clear, could be any foam, or even steel wool.

Leaf block foam – used to keep gutters clear, could be any foam, or even steel wool.

This is a foam is used to keep leaves out of gutters.

Easy to install

Easy to install

Foam as a backer inserted into the gap.

Concrete patch - find it in the paint section.

Concrete patch – find it in the paint section.

This is ready made concrete patch, from your hardware store.

Easy future access - but totally rodent proof.

Easy future access – but totally rodent proof.

This is what it looks like when you cover up the foam.

Bonus, should the gas line ever need serviced, the concrete patch can be removed in a few minutes with a sharp screwdriver.

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