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)


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.


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.


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.


All of the woodpecker activity was in the eave area.


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.


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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Working With The Guys

Training doesn’t stop once you get your state licenses at Safeguard. We have regular weekly office meetings that cover safety, pesticide labels, application techniques, and the all important customer service topics, but the training doesn’t stop there.

We have in the field training exercises, sometimes as an entire company, and sometimes on an individual basis. All of our techs have a training review summary that lists all the pests and applications they have been trained on, and the ones they would like more attention to.

An added extra bonus of training with the boss, is the technician gets paid for the boss’s work!

Yesterday I worked with our Seattle tech Nate on rodent proofing a log cabin. Yep, a log cabin in Seattle  :)   Rodent proofing is a big part of what we do, and I have compared it before to origami – since so much of what we do involves the installation of intricately folded screens and sheet metal. Check out our site for more info on rodent proofing

Some pictures from our job:

Rub Marks

The black discoloration you see is called a rub mark and this is one way we can tell where rats travel.


Dark colored stains from the oil on their coats.


Much of the work we did was under the eaves in areas the rats had enlarged already existing gaps – this picture shows the screen we installed.


It was cloudy and dark in the middle of the day and many of the areas we worked in were in shadow, we used flashlights for the entire job.


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And now for something totally different

Somebody cue Monty Python’s Spanish inquisition…

Odorous House Ant (photo - 5391193 - Joseph Berger,

Odorous House Ant
(photo – 5391193 – Joseph Berger,

Odorous house ants are a huge problem in the northwest. They infest many more homes than people realize and when they do, they move in in much larger numbers.

It is also been proven that they have super colonies in our area where whole neighborhoods and many many homes are all infested with one colony consisting of dozens of nests  - which can make getting rid of them a nightmare.

This is all known and published information.

Whats new?

Odorous house ants are supposed to swarm in late June and July. They did. We are getting calls about a second swarm happening now.

Go figure.

Odorous house ants feed outside on aphid secretions and other insects. We have long suspected that one of the reasons we continue to get calls on these ants over the winter is that they will forage underground on aphids attacking the root systems of trees, shrubs, and ground cover, as readily as they will attack the aphids that feed on tree limbs and leaves.

We are left wondering what this means for activity levels next year. I’m guessing it’s going to be a banner year.

See our Odorous House ant page for treatment details.


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Preventing rot in the winter.

Here are a few things you can do now, as winter approaches, that can help keep you from having expensive rot repair bills later.

Clean out your gutters now. Especially important to do before it freezes. If you live anywhere near trees, there may be gutter areas that need cleaning out once a month throughout the winter.

Check and make sure that your downspouts direct rain runoff water away from your home. Downspouts should have functional elbows at the bottom and splash blocks. Splash blocks are devices to help drain away rain water and are a great idea if your downspouts don’t drain into a drainage system. If they do drain into a drainage system, go outside while it’s raining sometime and make sure the drain lines are working properly. If water is pooling around the surface or worse, bubbling back out – you may need to have them cleared.

Now is another good time to make sure that your home’s siding is clear of soil, beauty bark, gravel, and any other soil cover. There should be at least 3 to 4 inches of clear concrete showing between the bottom of your siding and any soil or soil cover below it.

Make sure that your flower beds do not direct water back against your home when it rains – especially not into your sub area.

One thing that many home owners do in the winter, but shouldn’t, is closing off their exterior vents.

Even with a really good vapor barrier under a home, hundreds to thousands of gallons of water will evaporate under a home every day. Good ventilation under your home keeps that moisture from accumulating and causing rot. Good ventilation also keeps the area under your home cooler. Cooler means less chance of rot growth.

Rot is a living organism, think mushroom, which needs air, moisture, and heat to grow and consume the wood of your home. Closing off your vents traps moisture and raises the temperature – the perfect thing to promote rot growth.

Closing off your vents in the winter may save you some money in the short term, but it may costs you thousands in the long term.

At Safeguard we can only recommend closing off vents if we were looking at a really severe cold snap, and then for only as long as the cold snap is here.

A much better bet for people concerned with high heat bills is better insulation. Especially when many utility companies are offering cash incentives and low interests loans for weatherization:

Finally, make sure that your drier exhaust ducts and exhaust flaps are working properly. The last thing you want is a loose or disconnected drier duct pumping hot moist air into your sub area or walls. It also makes sense to check the drier flap while you’re at it. Drier flaps are a major entry point for rodents, and if they aren’t cleaned once in a while they won’t close properly, letting in birds, rodents, and also cold winter air.

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Keeping Rodents Out of Your Home: Part Four

Sub Areas and Basements.

We inspect every sub area paying special attention to any area we couldn’t inspect from the exterior – especially under porches and decks. We look at many of the same areas we looked at from the outside (see our last blog post) and some you just cannot see unless you crawl underneath.

We look at every vent, and every foundation jog, and where different concrete pours meet, like around the area where the foundations for brick fireplaces meet the foundation of the rest of the house. Vents are typically re-screened with heavy duty wire mesh and gaps in the foundation are usually filled with concrete patch – never with expanding foam. Rats like to chew on expanding foam and its no match for their sharp and super hard teeth.

We look at how the structural wood of your home joins with the concrete foundation that supports it. Are their gaps above or below – or gap in areas where these items meet? We look at the structural members for areas where someone may have thought about installing drier vents or regular sub area vents but stopped for some reason as there can be hidden gaps which allow rodent access.

We look at the foundation for areas where the water supply coming in or the sanitary line going our penetrate – there are  often gaps around the pipes which could let in rodents. Sometimes these utilities pass under the foundation in trenches. These low spots can allow easy access for rodents to get in and out – they should be filled with mounded pea gravel.

Sub area drain.

Sub area drain.

We also look for sub area drains. Sometimes these drains penetrate the foundation wall like the utilities noted above. However, we make a point of rolling back the vapor barrier underneath every home and inspecting the outer couple feet around the sub area perimeter, because the drain lines are quite often hidden underneath.

We look for droppings and foot prints. Droppings are pretty easy to see if present, but foot prints are harder. Look at the top of black plastic drain lines and in any dust which might have accumulated on the black plastic vapor barrier.

While we are crawling around underneath, we are looking for signs that something, anything, might be burrowing under the home. Moles, rats, and other creatures will burrow under a foundation. Rats are opportunistic if tunnels exist – they will find and use them. If you have tunnels running under your home, a shallow foundation, or no foundation at all, there are some options you should consider, but it may be much tougher to keep rats out from underneath, and you might want to have us drop by for a consultation.

If you don’t have a sub area but you do have a basement:

Check  your basement to make sure that the drains have metal drain covers or grates on your installed. Check the back of your drier to make sure there are no droppings or chewed up materials.  Check that any exposed plumbing clean-outs are tightly closed, and make sure you keep your toilet seats down. Many parts of Seattle have a high population of rodents living in the sewers – its very easy for them to come up through your toilet.

And that’s it. If you have read all four parts of this post and checked out everything you should be and stay rodent free. Not only will taking care of these items help prevent rodents, if you have rodents, they may be necessary to get rid of them.

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