Updated Bed Bug Communication

In a continuing effort to give our customers the best possible pest control results, we periodically update our prep sheets and fact sheets about pests. We recently updated our bed bug communications.

We have been doing a ton of bed bug work recently, the following updates will help our customers get bed bug free as quickly as possible.

It outlines what we do at each service, and what they can do to get the results they want. It will hopefully make things easier by being more specific. As always the new forms will be tweaked to remove any grammar or spelling errors, and after review by our technicians who have to do all the things I write down :)

http://0pests.com/bedbug-what-we-do.pdf

http://0pests.com/bedbug-what-you-do.pdf

 

Gary

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What is a pesticide?

Just the word pesticide is enough to trigger a negative response from a lot of people. With good reason, the word pesticide is often used in headlines, as a scare tactic to get you to read about the next big environmental panic.

The truth is that anything that kills pests, living organisms that occur where you don’t want them, is a pesticide. Undiluted white vinegar is a pesticide. It is not very effective, but it can be used to kill weeds, it will also kill tiny ants.

At Safeguard, we use naturally occurring mineral substances, vitamins, essential oils, and plant derived products – as pesticides. We also use synthetic materials based on those essential oils and plant derived products.

 

Vitamins we use as pesticides:

Vitamin d3 is used in rodent bait. This type of rodent bait is considered to be super safe around pets, and won’t kill raptors birds that might eat rodents who have consumed it.

 

Naturally occurring minerals we use as pesticides:

Fresh water diatomaceous earth is used as a health food supplement to clean out veins, arteries, and your digestive tract.

Silica Gel may help prevent the absorption of aluminum, and may have a structural role in connective tissue health, and is present in mineral water, and whole grains.

Boric acid is an antioxidant, and may detoxify heavy metals from the body, and is used as eye wash, and as a mild astringent.

 

Naturally occurring essential oils we use:

Linalool is a naturally occurring food grade ingredient found in tangerines, roses, lemons, lavender, cinnamon, chamomile and more.

Pyrethrins are naturally occurring essential oils found in chrysanthemums.

Rosemary, clove, peppermint, and germanium oil are all used as pesticides.

Cedar oil.

 

Synthetic materials we use, based essential oils and natural ingredients:

Pyrethroids are synthetic chemicals that are based on ingredients found in chrysanthemum extracts. The synthesized versions are much less toxic to humans, but more effective against insects. They don’t contain the mutagens present in the natural material, have much less odor, are way less likely to cause allergic reactions to people with allergies to plants, and last longer  – allowing them to be applied every few months, instead of every few days.

Neonicotinoids are synthetic chemicals that are similar to the nicotine found in tobacco plants. The synthesized versions are much less toxic than caffeine to mammals, don’t contain the carcinogens, or mutagens present in the natural material, and last for a few months per application.

 

About Neonicotinoids:

There have been studies that linked to neonics to bee deaths, and they may play a role, but evidence from a host of other studies show they may not be the real culprit.

Canadian farmers who grow canola oil in over 19 million acres in western Canada, where nenoics are used, report thriving bee populations.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jonentine/2014/02/05/bee-deaths-reversal-as-evidence-points-away-from-neonics-as-driver-pressure-builds-to-rethink-ban/

Many of the studies which found links between bee mortality and neonicotinoids featured aspects like injecting the material at full strength into the bee’s brains, or spraying the inside of their nests with the chemical at full strength – both of which should have caused 100% mortality!

Many bee keepers are much more worried about the Veroa mite and the Tobacco Ringspot Virus than pesticides. In Australia where Neonics have been used for many years, there is no loss of bee populations. There is no Veroa mite either. The neonics are also known to be much less toxic to bees than the materials used before neonics were introduced.

At Safeguard, we don’t spray crops or trees. We treat homes and business to keep out ants, spiders, and crawling insects. We feel that all pesticides should be used with care to make sure that they’re not sprayed on crops in bloom. We do safety inspections before each application, looking for things to avoid, such as herbs, vegetable gardens, pet toys, and places that bees go to collect pollen or nectar.

The final word about neonicotinoids isn’t in, but regardless of whether they are banned from horticultural uses, they pose minimal threat to bees when applied properly around the exterior of a home.

 

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Toxicity

Last week, our Facebook post was a link to a YouTube video on the Ames Test. The Ames test was designed to discern the cancer causing potential of different chemicals. The video noted that the mutagenic potential of modern, highly regulated, professional pesticides are very low, organic fruits and vegetables are naturally high, and coffee is off the charts. The video can be found here.

Just how toxic is coffee?

When discussing toxicity with home owners, I like to use coffee as something the average person can relate to. A lot of people drink coffee. I still drink and enjoy coffee, but I know the risks. Coffee beans are roasted, and any time you apply sustained high heat, or burn something, you run the risk of creating carcinogens.

Many studies have shown that your average cup of dark roast coffee coffee contains carcinogens in much greater amounts than even the organic vegetables noted above.

There are studies that show that drinking a reasonable amount of coffee each day poses very little risk of cancer to the average consumer. Risk is a very important term. No one is going to tell you to stop eating organic vegetables because they carry a higher load of carcinogens than non-organic, pesticide treated vegetables. The risk is very small and greatly outweighed by the fact that you are eating fruits and vegetables which contain vitamins, antioxidants, and other essential ingredients.

The cancer risk from having pesticides applied around the exterior of your home is extremely small. They pose a lower risk than the organic vegetables, and a much lower risk than your average cup of coffee.

At Safeguard we don’t use any control material which is a known carcinogen, mutagen, our teratogen,  In fact, many of the materials we use are either natural or based on natural materials – there will be more information on that in our next post.

But what about the short term risks? Many materials, from vinegar to natural essential oils to pesticides, are rated for their acute, short term, ‘as it is applied’ – toxicity. The higher the number, the greater amount of the material is required to cause toxicity. (Without getting into a huge explanation of how the rating system works.) The materials below are listed from least toxic to most toxic along with their LD50

Suspend SC 15,000 mg/kg  – Professional pesticide
Table salt 3600 mg/kg – Seasoning
Arilon 1909 mg/kg  – Professional pesticide
Caffeine 250 mg/kg – Ingredient in coffee
Nicotine 50 mg/kg – Ingredient in tobacco

The figures listed above are for oral exposures. Skin exposure to most chemicals is going to carry less risk. Caffeine, which you drink in coffee, is almost 4 times more toxic than Arilon and 40 times more toxic than Suspend SC, one of the materials we use most commonly.

Less toxic than caffeine, and less of a cancer risk than organic fruits and vegetables. More information next time on pesticides, the information might just surprise you.

 

 

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Hantavirus Prevention – Technician Guidelines

 

Be Alert:

If you see mouse droppings, or have any reason to suspect mouse activity, assume that you are dealing with mice that can carry the Hantavirus. (In our area, that’s the white footed deer mouse. However, assume the worst until you know better.)

Understand that the virus becomes airborne when you handle any item which may be contaminated with feces or urine, including the animal itself.

You will not always know exactly where mice have been. Assume they have been in more places than you have definite proof.

 

Be Safe: 

Always wear gloves while in a crawlspace or when inspecting for mice.

Consider using a respirator when working in areas that are likely to have mouse activity, especially attics and sub areas.

Always wear coveralls in sub areas. When in doubt, spray your coveralls and safety gear down with Lysol. Lysol contains phenol which kills the hantavirus.

 

Be Informed:

Mouse droppings are no loner contagious when the virus dies. This happens after about a month on it’s own. Try to schedule any clean-ups at least one month after you have stopped seeing any signs of mice.

All homes should be fully mouse proofed for at least one month, with no signs of mouse activity before commencing a rodent clean out for mice. Testing for mice must be done – sunflower seed monitors placed in areas of activity or suspected activity.

Give homeowners a link to the CDC which discusses the hantavirus:  http://www.cdc.gov/hantavirus/

 

Cold hard facts:

There are approximately 30 confirmed exposures in the US every year to HPS (the hantavirus) with a mortality rate of about 33%. In our state there have been 44 confirmed cases in 21 years. One would assume, approximately 15 deaths. That is 1.4 deaths per year. 2 people die each year in our state from ladder related accidents. 436 from traffic accidents.

There are thousands upon thousands of people working under houses, in attics, and in other areas, either in contact with areas of mouse infestations or actively working to control them, so chances are very slim that you will catch it, however, use precautions, learn the symptoms:  http://www.cdc.gov/hantavirus/hps/symptoms.html, and be safe.

 

 

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Pavement ants in slab structures.

Completing the big three, pavement ants are starting to show up inside as well.

Pavement ant are small and dark, although not as small or dark as Odorous House ants. In the early spring they will take ant baits, but true control will take exterior spray applications.

Like all ants they eat aphid secretions, and other insects. These ants nest under concrete slabs, concrete walkways, asphalt pavement, pavers, and rocks. There nests can be very large and it can take multiple applications to eliminate a nest.

It is important to  spray these ants with a non-repellent spray material as over the counter sprays from your local home center this can force them indoors and make them much harder to control.

In office buildings it can be hard to find the source of the ants, but one thing to look for are small piles of super fine gravel. This particulate is larger than sand, more like tiny rocks.

They do not damage homes like carpenter ants, but if left unchecked for a long period of time, large nests can remove enough dirt under a slab to cause it to crack.

Pavement ants kick out small piles of small particulate. This is a good sign of nesting activity in a slab structure. (close up view)

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Professional ant baits can help control these ants on the interior. Here they are being applied under a baseboard. Full control will take an exterior spray.

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Pavement ants are actually quite small, about twice the size or so of the tiny Odorous House Ant, or about a quarter of the size of your average carpenter ant.

com-pave-a3

The little bits of particulate can be hard to see from a standing position, if you see something that looks unusual – you might have to get down on your hands and knees,

 

 

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Odorous House Ants: Problem Solving

We do a great deal of Odorous house ant control, those super small black ants that infest homes in large numbers. Most of these infestations respond really well to our enhanced treatment protocol. We typically perform a super thorough  inspection and a comprehensive treatment of both the structure and the yard.**

Homes can have infestations that are really difficult to get rid of. Sometimes the problem can be put down to the neighborhood. Some neighborhoods have huge problems with odorous house ants. Super colonies can infest lots of different homes over a wide area, with tremendous population pressure driving ants to re-infest a home.

Sometimes we find homes where the ants are just really well entrenched with a really large population. Most of these homes have a moisture issue. These are a few of the most common types of moisture problems:

Too much vegetation

Too much vegetation

Tree branches or other vegetation against a structure – especially the roof. This provides easy access to the ants preferred food sources – other insects, and aphid secretions. The vegetation also keeps the roof moist.

 

Siding at or below ground level

Siding at or below ground level

Siding at or below ground level. Regardless of the type of siding you have, even if it won’t rot, and is made of vinyl, brick, concrete board, etc…, when it meets the soil, or soil covers, such as gravel, crushed rock, sand, beauty bark, mulch, it creates a moisture rich environment and gives ants an easy way to get up and into your home without being seen.

Moisture seals around windows and doors need to be maintained - but bricks and stucco need to be sealed as well.

Moisture seals around windows and doors need to be maintained – but bricks and stucco need to be sealed as well.

Unsealed stucco or brick. Real stucco is a mortar type of compound that is applied over the exterior of some homes.It is a very hard surface just like brick. Both of these products, if unsealed every few years, can wick moisture into the interior of your walls, creating a moisture rich environment and often mildew and rot.

This picture maybe too small to see all the dark water stains beside the window and toward the bottom of the dryvit below the window.

This picture maybe too small to see all the dark water stains beside the window and toward the bottom of the dryvit below the window.

Fake stucco – Dryvit type systems.  This type of construction is a thin plastic membrane over solid foam insulation, topped by a thin cover of paint and a ‘topping coat’. A lot of homes built in this manner trap the moisture that naturally occurs in every home which can lead to rot in the walls, and huge ant populations. Depending on how they are seamed, they can often leak as well.

There are often moisture issues with flat roofs.

There are often moisture issues with flat roofs.

Flat roofs. Flat roofs have a tendency to leak, they often hold water on top of the structure which is really easy access for the ants, and depending on how they’re built, it is quite common for the area just below the flat roof membrane or surface to be lightly moist – all year round. (Temperature difference can create a dew point beneath the membrane.)

Wooden decks built directly against a home without flashing lead to rot and are highly attractive to ants.

Wooden decks built directly against a home without flashing lead to rot and are highly attractive to ants.

Deck abutments. Decks that abut a home without proper flashing will lead to rot, in both the home and the deck, as water trapped between the deck and the house may take days to evaporate – even in the summer when its warm and sunny, in the winter, the area may never dry out.

 

 

Sometimes these moisture issues are not easily resolved. They will take extra effort on the part of the technician and extra patience on the part of the customer. Odorous house ants can have literally millions of ants in a structure.

Possibly the most important aspect of any control program for odorous house ants is the exterior spray service. The ants must and will go outside to get their preferred food sources. As they go outside, they will go across our non-repellent control material that will eliminate them. Not overnight, but in time through attrition. It is tough sometimes to be patient for this, but spraying over the counter spray materials will not not speed up the process, and can in fact make the problem much harder to control.

 

**(Or as modified by customer request.) 

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Getting Rid of Pigeons.

The Seattle area has a huge pigeon problem. They’re expanding into neighborhoods all over the greater Seattle area. They may huge messes, the breed like rats, and they carry parasites that don’t mind biting humans.

One common place for pigeons to nest is in the sheltered, recessed areas between roof levels, on residential roof tops.

Prime Pigeon Nesting Area

Sheltered roof overhang.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A lot of customer with this type of problem ask for us to install bird spikes. Bird spikes work great against pigeons, but not in areas that are highly sheltered. In an area like the one above the pigeons would just bring grass and twigs and braid it into the spikes, and then nest on top.

Pigeons aren’t the only birds that will nest on bird spikes, other birds will do it too. For many birds, the spikes act as a stabilizer to keep their nest in place.  Probably not what the homeowner was looking for.

A great discussion of where bird spikes work best can be found on our webpage: Pigeon Control. The image link found there illustrates the fantastic views you can get around Seattle on bright sunny days. The web pages discuss Trip Wires, Shock Track, Bird Netting, and other pigeon control subjects.

One of the least expensive and most effective methods for keeping pigeons out of sheltered areas is screening. If done properly, the screen will keep out pigeons and have a minimal visual profile when viewed from the ground.

Pigeon Screen

Screen works far better than spikes in sheltered areas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pigeon Screening

Pigeon Screening

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From ground level the average person wouldn’t even notice this second story screen, unless it was pointed out.

We do all kinds of pigeon control work for homeowners, property management professionals, and businesses of all types.

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Commercial Pest Control

Damage due to pest activity can cost a company a lot of money. Customers experiencing pests at a place of business can damage a companies reputation and impact their bottom line. Pests at a work place can damage employee morale and productivity.

Safeguard does a lot of work for property management professionals. We provide consistently above average results and we are often called in when the work of other companies has not solved a pest problem. Additionally, since we are a full service pest control company we get a lot of calls for pests other companies don’t or can’t handle.

We do a great deal of work for condo complexes, homeowner associations, business parks, universities, and professional buildings. We also work for a select few apartment complexes, managed by savvy professionals who value quality over cheap, bottom line solutions.

On a recent inspection of a commercial site, serviced by another company I noticed the following, typical situation:

The exterior of the business was equipped with bait stations for rodent control. None of the bait stations were labeled as required by state and federal law. Some of the exterior stations were not anchored and could easily be moved by pets, children, and wildlife. While this is a technical issue that could get them in legal hot water, the part that would probably concern the customer was that the stations were not being maintained properly and would not lower exterior rodent populations.

On the interior of the building, their previous company had set out dozens of control devices, but in the three months they had been on service, they hadn’t managed to catch a single mouse. Even though their pest control vendor had been to the property repeatedly due to customer complaints. Why? They were using rat traps to catch mice, half their traps had nothing on them to attract a rodent, and the rest of the traps were sprinkled with granola from a granola bar. Hmmm…

Rats and mice can be finicky. It’s safe to assume that peanut butter will catch most rats or mice, however, if you are trying catch rodents and they aren’t accepting your bait, you have to change it. Sometimes you have to get creative. I have caught mice with yarn – they wanted it for nesting purposes. I have trapped out rats with beef jerky and pepperoni. At one Indian restaurant I set thirty traps with peanut butter and got no response, likewise with flour for Naan, and bird seed. Using Tandori chicken, I caught rats in every single trap the next night. Thirty dead rats in one night.

The point to take away from my recent visit to the commercial site is that a pest control company is only as good as the technician who services the account. The company in question touts itself as having the best training program in the industry. It certainly has the budget for it. The truth is that a motivated technician who cares for his customer but doesn’t know absolutely everything, is better than a technician who doesn’t care and is only going through the motions.

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Woodpecker Control – It’s that season again.

Woodpecker season is back. Calls are just starting to come in. Woodpecker control is  huge part of our work. We deter and repel woodpeckers using three basics: noise, movement, and reflection.

A lot of our woodpecker control work involves coming in behind work done by homeowners and even other bid control companies that doesn’t work and finding solutions.

We put a total of three deterrent sets up around the exterior in areas that the woodpeckers were targeting.

We put a total of three deterrent sets up around the exterior in areas that the woodpeckers were targeting.

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All of the woodpecker activity was in the eave area.

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This home needs to have canted screens installed on the exterior to keep the woodpeckers away. Woodpecker control often involves replacing old soft eave screens.

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A lot of woodpecker control calls are about flickers, the can be very damaging, the white ring around the eave holes represent the least amount of damage they did in an activity area.

 

This is a job we just finished in Seattle. There was insulation all over the yard from bird activity in the attic.

Full woodpecker control for this home should involve the installation of screens canted out away from the eave in a manner that keeps the birds from being able to peck on the wood behind it. More information about woodpecker control.

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Winter isn’t so bad when you have anti-freeze in your veins.

Every spring we get all kinds of calls for spider control. Here is the reason why:

Spiders in winter

The dark spot in the middle is a spider waiting for the sun to hit it. Around it are egg masses from two different kinds of spiders.

 

Spiders have some reduced activity in the winter, but they’re still there, cold weather does not kill spiders. They have special proteins that work to provide them with their own natural antifreeze. This grouping of egg masses and spiders is one of at least three dozen separate areas where egg masses and live spiders were observed at this home.

Spider hatchings begin next month. The first week of February is when we start observing ants foraging on the exterior too.

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