Keeping rodents out of your home: A four part series.

Rat

Rattus rattus

Part 1.  Make the environment around your home less attractive to rodents.

 

Rats and mice will live outside structures in blackberry bushes, brambles, ivy, and other dense vegetation during the warmer months.  The thick vegetation shields rodents from flying predators and provides an early warning system for ground based predators. Consider thinning thick vegetation and removing blackberry bushes.

In the same way, piles of debris, stacks of building materials, and other stored items outside a structure provide shelter. A quick trip to the dump can help you keep rodent free. That old car you never drive? Rats will quickly move into unused autos sitting idle.

When the weather turns colder, rodents will move into nearby structures to survive the winter. As rodents go about their nightly routines, they are always scoping for places to hide should they find themselves in danger from predators. Rodents living many houses a way will check out your yard and home, not only for shelter, but for food sources.

Speaking of food sources, dog food, left out in dog dishes all day – is a huge draw for rats. Rats will attack dogs in groups and train dogs to leave them alone as they eat the pet’s food. Pet food should never be stored outside. It should be stored in your garage in a metal container with a tight fitting metal lid. Dog feces are also a huge draw. All dog owners know that some dogs will occasionally eat dog feces. Rodents prefer fresher food than humans – but when it’s all you can get…

Make sure to store your trash in containers that have tight fitting undamaged lids. If your trash can has holes chewed in it – request a new one from your collection company. If you don’t use a collection service, then get new lids. Consider metal cans – rats can’t chew through them.

Bird feeders a huge draw too. Consider planting plants that attract humming birds and installing bird baths instead of feeders. If you must have a feeder, try to get rodent resistant feeders and understand that you make be drawing rats to your home – you should defiantly have your home inspected for rats every few years of you feed birds.

Keeping ground fall fruits picked up can help keep rat populations down too. What to do with the ground falls? Composting great, but understand that composting can draw rats. These steps may help: Add screens or hardware cloth to areas where rats and other burrowing animals can get through. If your bin is placed on the soil, lay a piece of screen between the soil and the bottom of the bin. Turn material regularly to prevent nesting. In especially tough cases, add a vertical screen (6 to 8 inches into the ground) around the perimeter of the bin. Avoid adding materials that attract pests (meat, dairy, oils) and ensure food scraps are well concealed beneath a 2-3 inch layer of “browns” such as fall leaves.

When planning future landscaping projects, keep in mind that rodents like to nest in rockery. It’s full of all kinds of perfectly sized gaps for them to burrow into or behind. Well built walls made of concrete products, such as blocks or pavers, can eliminate harborage areas.

Share on Facebook
Posted in Mice, Pest Prevention, Rats, Rodent control | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Giving.

Safeguard is having it’s best year ever. To celebrate, we want to help more people than ever.

Last year you helped us donate a couple hundred dollars to Northwest Harvest, That amount was matched by other donors, doubling our efforts to feed the needy in our area.

This year, we want to do more. For every like AND share of our posts through Christmas, we will increase our donation to this very worthy cause. Our twice weekly posts often reach 500 people or more each. We post every Monday and Friday.

Want to help? No doubt there will be another local giving event where big name corporations offer to step up and match donations to Northwest harvest, you can give and have your gift matched too! But you can also help us give, by liking and sharing this post with your friends :)

- Gary, Susan, Tim, Don, Andrew, and Nate

http://www.northwestharvest.org/

 

Share on Facebook
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Dampwood Termites – more winged insects you will see flying around soon.

Every year at the end of summer / beginning of fall, winged termite reproductives swarm. The swarmers are terrible fliers and they pose little risk to most homes, but they can still be worrisome.

They are large insects, about the size of Carpenter Ant swarmers, and they are a dark reddish brown color. They have two sets of equal length wings, while ants have two sets of wings that are of unequal length. Once the winged termites land and start walking around they typically lose their wings.

Dampwood Termite

Dampwood Termite

See the picture of a dampwood termite swarmer for reference.

We have two types of termites in our area: Subterranean Termites and Dampwood Termites. I will address Subs, in a later post.

Dampwood Termites are considered a wood destroying organism. Like moisture ants, they are a secondary damage producer and as their name suggests they occur in areas where there is damp wood. An insect’s idea of damp is different than what you and I might consider damp.

A missing vapor barrier under your home can allow gallons of water to evaporate into the structural wood under your home every day. Closing off your sub area vents can do the same. This is enough moisture to encourage termite activity. A drier venting underneath or a plumbing leak can lead to termites too. Any where there is wood in contact with soil or ground covers is an area where there is enough moisture. Missing or damaged moisture seals in bathrooms or damaged or leaking gutter and downspouts are major culprits.

Another common problem area is around porches and patios. Often exterior concrete features are poured up against the siding of the structure. Even if the siding isn’t made of wood this traps moisture against a structure in three ways, moisture condensing up from below, moisture wicking over from porous concrete which absorbs water when it rains, and in some areas, rain water will seep down into the crack between the concrete and the structure – where it can take months to dissipate.

A home should be inspected every few for conditions which create excessive moisture conditions. Not only do these conditions attract termites, and ants of various species, they create the same exact conditions needed by wood rot – a set of living organisms that destroy more wood than all the wood damaging insects combined. The repair costs for all types of wood destroying organisms is often cited as exceeding the costs of all natural disasters combined.

The usual treatment recommendation for Dampwood termites involves moisture remediation and rot repair, although like moisture ants a treatment may be recommended if it is the best interests of the home.

Treatments usually involve the use of boric acid type materials such Bora-Care and Tim-Bor, both of which are considered to be Green Pest Control alternatives that kill all  types of rot and have some light, but effective insecticidal properties.

http://nisuscorp.com/builders/products/bora-care

http://nisuscorp.com/architects/products/tim-bor-professional

 

 

 

 

 

Share on Facebook
Posted in Termites | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Love is in the air

It’s also under your sofa, beneath your appliances, and in your coat closet. It’s in that crack by the front door. No silly, the one under the baseboard.

House spider mating season is here. “They got a thing… goin’ on.”

There are three local species of house spiders: Tegenaria agrestis, also known as the Hobo Spider, Eratigena atrica, the Giant House Spider, and Tegenaria domestica, the Domestic House Spider.

These closely related spiders are a breeze to tell apart, all you have to do is catch them, turn them over, and using a magnifying glass, compare their reproductive parts to a handy chart that YOU WILL NEVER USE IN THIS LIFETIME – STOP KIDDING YOURSELF.

All three of these spiders look the same to the naked eye, except that a full grown Giant House Spider can be 20 to 25% bigger in the body with much longer legs. When it is fully grown. Otherwise it presents exactly like the rest of them. Go ahead and wait to see if it gets bigger. No, really we can be patient if you can…

Hobo Spiders leave their nests every night in search of food. Films have documented the spider wars that happen in the average home while it's owners sleep.

Hobo Spiders leave their nests every night in search of food. Films have documented the spider wars that happen in the average home while it’s owners sleep.

House spiders are awesome if you like superfast icky crawling things racing around your home, especially at night, attacking and eating each other. Even during mating season there is a good chance of being on the menu. There has to be another joke in there somewhere.

Anyway, the Giant House Spider is in the Guinness Book Of World Records for being the fastest true spider. Remember that when you try to catch them to let them go in the wild. Just remember to take them far far away, or they will just chuckle as they make their way back inside your home from your yard—I mean, they got into your house in the first place, right?

It is important to know that none of these spiders are poisonous. Yes, although the Hobo Spider gets a bad rap, and there are plenty of people writing articles about it,  it’s just not true. Their reputation for being poisonous comes mainly from a common misdiagnosis from doctors and from folk lore.

The Brown Recluse Spider does not live in our area. Exhaustive studies involving many tens of thousands of spiders have proven this. They cannot survive here. In 30 years of killing millions of spiders, I have never seen one or had one presented to me by a customer. however, it is common for doctors to look at a patient where bacteria has caused an open, weeping wound and diagnose it as a Brown Recluse Spider bite.

There are dozens of causes for these types of wounds that do not involve spiders.

A percentage of Hobo Spiders in those same exhaustive studies did test positive for traces of a bacteria that can cause tissue necrosis, open weeping wounds. It is possible that other types of spiders may also carry this or other similar bacteria, but venom from the spiders did not cause open wounds and wasn’t particularly toxic to humans.

Also, this is the time of year when spiders spin webs all over the darn place – from your eaves and gutters  - across every single square inch of your property that you want to walk—sometimes multiple times as day. It’s too early to tell if we’re going to have the out of control spider season like we did last year.

Last year the population was so high that we could barely keep up, so I hope so :).

 

 

 

 

Share on Facebook
Posted in Spiders | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Flying Ants II – The Sequel, Flying Now In a Home Near You.

Moisture Ants come in three different colors and sizes. The female is large and reddish brown - as big as a carpenter ant, the makes are small, almost like a gnat, the workers are small and red.

Moisture Ants come in three different colors and sizes. The female is large and reddish brown – as big as a carpenter ant, the males are small and black, almost like a gnat, the workers are small and red.

All over Seattle the ants are taking wing.

Moisture ants are at home under the ground. The live in the base of trees, fence posts, and in any other type buried wood. They like buried wood because it is moist. They need a 25% or better moisture content to nest in wood.

Sometimes our homes will have moisture conditions above the ground: leaky flashing in a roof or cracks in a roof membrane, gutters or downspouts that leak back against your home, cracked tile, grout, or caulking in the bathroom, old aluminum windows that sweat, earth to wood contact where the siding of the home meets the exterior landscaping, or buried wood under a house – all these are common home conditions which invite moisture ant infestations.

Moisture ants damage wood but the moisture which attracts them also damages wood because it is the same moisture level which allow wood rot to flourish. Wood rot and moisture ants aren’t always present in the same home, but they are quite common.

Taking care of the moisture problem is really important, but so is eliminating the ants. If you plan to have home repairs done to take care of rot it is important for you or your contractor to understand how rot works.

Rot is a living organism. It’s tendrils extend deep into the wood, well beyond the areas that look soft or are discolored, think several feet. Repair work should extend well beyond what is soft or discolored as well.

All nearby wood should be treated while the reconstruction area is opened. Boric acid solutions, especially ones that contain ethylene glycol are especially effective – and low in toxicity, if pets are not in the area and the materials is applied properly.

Because reconstruction may take weeks, months or years before homeowners get to it, and because we can never be sure how much replacement will take place – we do recommend treatments for this pest.

We can treat with an insecticide for quick knockdown, or with a boric acid solution that helps kill rot as well.

More? http://safeguardpestcontrol.biz/moisture-ants.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share on Facebook
Posted in Ants, moisture ants, Wood Decay | Leave a comment

The Bane of Books Everywhere!

silverfishSilverfish love starch and have enzymes in their gut that digest cellulose. They damage books, wall paper, and the paper backing on sheetrock and / or insulation. They can infest dry starchy foods, and they feed on fungi. They are known to eat other dead insets, and they thrive outside in dried vegetation. While they will feed nightly, they can go for months without eating.

Silverfish move into homes from the exterior. I have seen heavy infestations most often in homes with certain kinds of paper backed insulation – where thousands of silverfish were nesting inside attic and wall voids, in homes with older style real paper and paste wallpaper, and in homes where people collect books.

Silverfish are shiny, silver or pearl gray, and about 1/2 inch long when fully grown (see photo).

It can take 1 and half years for silverfish to complete their life cycle, well beyond the residual life of current pesticides, if you have silverfish, especially if you have lots of them, you will probably need an ongoing pest control service.

Silverfish damage paper by scraping it off in incremental swipes, and they can carry types of fungi that discolor paper

Silverfish are active when you aren’t. To tell if you have silverfish you can use sticky spider traps from your local home center, or we can put some out for you.  You also can use small, glass jars – covered on the outside with masking tape. Silverfish will climb up the tape, fall into the jars, and can’t climb back up the slick sides. Place traps or jars in corners and along your baseboards where you suspect they might be, or in areas where you have things to protect.

Keeping books and magazine collections tidy can make it easier to spot silverfish.

We dust under baseboards and cabinetry, dust inject walls at plumping and electrical outlets, and dust attic and sub areas with food grade, fresh water diatomaceous earth. Diatomaceous earth should never be applied in areas where it will become airborne, through the action of fans or vacuums. Which is why we do not sprinkle it on carpets. In some home with heavy infestation we may take additional measures such as sealing gaps into possible nesting areas, or spraying baseboards. All homes with silverfish should consider an exterior spray program to keep them from moving back in.

You can make your home less attractive by removing exterior plant debris, but there is nothing you can do to prevent them fully if they occur outside in your area.

Interestingly, silverfish can and do live in ant nests

 

Share on Facebook
Posted in Silverfish | Tagged | 3 Comments

Earwigs. Ick!

earwigsEarwigs are another example of a non native pest species introduced to the United States.

Earwigs feed on other insects, including aphids, which is good, but they also feed on plants, especially young plants or new growth – which is bad.

Organic Option #1. Change their environment:

You might be able to cut down on the earwigs you see by: clearing away plant debris from the base of your home, clearing away stacked items such as firewood or lumber, and removing any rubbish piles. This would give the insects fewer places to breed or hide.

Removing and replacing old and decomposing mulch around your house can help reduce these pests, as well as several others, and should be considered.

Organic Option #2. Trap them out:

A key element of an organic earwig management program is trapping. Place numerous traps throughout the yard, hiding the traps near shrubbery and ground cover plantings or against fences. A low-sided can, such as a cat food or tuna fish can, with 1/2 inch of oil in the bottom makes an excellent trap. Fish oil such as tuna fish oil is very attractive to earwigs, or vegetable oil with a drop of bacon grease can be used. These traps are most effective if sunk into the ground so the top of the can is at soil level. Dump captured earwigs and refill cans with oil.

Other common types of traps are a rolled-up newspaper, corrugated cardboard, bamboo tubes, or a short piece of hose. Place these traps on the soil near plants just before dark and shake accumulated earwigs out into a pail of soapy water in the morning. Earwigs can also be dropped into a sturdy plastic bag and crushed. Continue these procedures every day until you are no longer catching earwigs.

Pest Control Option #1. 

You can try garden center chemicals containing spinosad (e.g., SluggoPlus baits or spinosad sprays). They can be effective, environmentally sound products. However, baits often aren’t very effective where there are other attractive food sources. Only apply liquids containing spinosad during those times when bees aren’t active – these materials work best when you have already changed the environment around your home and trapped out large populations.

Pest Control Option #2.

Have Safeguard treat your flower beds with Essentria IC3 – a mixture of organic essential oils that kills a wide variety of insect pests and meets the tough criteria for Organic gardening and food production.

Pest Control Option #3.

If these options do not work for you and you would like to opt for stronger control options, we would be happy apply a material that works for you and meets your needs for safety and effectiveness.

 

Share on Facebook
Posted in Earwigs, Environment, green pest control, Organic pest control, Pest Prevention | Tagged | Leave a comment

Green Pest Control

Safeguard Pest Control Offers a variety of green, pesticide free, natural, and organic pest control services and programs.

Most homes have pests for years before they are noticed.

Most homes have pests for years before they are noticed.

Our cornerstone green service is pest prevention. We perform inspections of both homes and businesses with an eye to preventing pests both insects and rodents, write up reports indicating what you can do, or have us do, to make your home, office, or other business less attractive and more difficult to infest.

 

In addition, we offer the following:

 

A green quarterly pest inspection / control service.

This service includes an exterior inspection for pest activity and pest prevention recommendations, manual removal of visible wasp nests on eaves, and removal of cobwebs and spider nests present at the time of our inspection. Additionally it can include insect traps and monitors, spray applications for specific target pests, or rodent control work. Approved materials for our green program include: Fresh water, food grade diatomaceous earth, rodenticides containing Vitamin D3 as the active ingredient, and essential plant oils that are certified for use in USDA Organic certified processing and handling establishments.

We can transition any current pest control program into a green pest control program.

 

Screen, flashing, and concrete - green pest control includes exclusion.

Screen, flashing, and concrete – green pest control includes exclusion.

Pest Exclusion.

We do a great deal of work sealing up homes to prevent rodent, bird, bat, and insect access including screening, flashing, concrete and mortar applications, and caulking. We have applied copper strips to keep slugs out of basements.

 

Green solutions for specific pests.

Labor intensive - but still effective :)

Labor intensive – but still effective :)

Depending on the pest in question, we are more than happy to pursue green options and often list the green options here on our blog. Contact us about any pest for discussion of your pest and and your concerns.

 

Things to keep in mind:

With green programs you have to be committed to pest prevention. This may mean modifying your home or landscaping. You have to be willing to be patient while less toxic control materials work more slowly and often, only with repeat applications – especially for active infestations. It also means paying a bit more. Green programs often cost a bit more because organic materials are more expensive, pest prevention techniques are labor intensive, and those extra applications, when necessary, mean more trips to your home. Some customers on green programs have bi-monthly or even monthly services spring, summer, and fall, depending on their level of pest activity.

 

In addition, visit our green pest control page: http://safeguardpestcontrol.biz/GoingGreen.html

Share on Facebook
Posted in Environment, green pest control, Organic pest control, Pest Prevention, Service Programs | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ground Nesting Bees

Sweat Bee

Sweat Bee

Historically, most people calling us about ground nesting bees actually had Yellow Jackets, but in the past several years, as our springs and summers have gotten warmer, we are getting more and more calls for sweat bees, digger bees, and cellophane bees – all ground nesting bees.

When Yellow Jackets nest in the ground you will see lots of insects flying in and out of the same hole, and the hole is large – about the size of a silver dollar.

Lots of holes that look like ant hills.

Lots of holes that look like ant hills.

A ground nesting bee’s nest looks a lot like an anthill but with a larger opening. Only one bee comes in and out of the hole, and there will often be many of these nests in one area.

These bees are important pollinators, if you don’t step on them with bare feet – they won’t sting you. They are not aggressive. We highly recommend leaving them alone or better yet, planting bee friendly plants with lots of pollen and encouraging them.

If you must get rid of them, the long term answer is to change the soil. They typically nest in bare soil in dry rocky areas that get lots of sun. You can: Add mulch to these areas, water these areas on a regular basis, plant ground cover to shade the soil, or add pea gravel, and this will make your yard or flower beds less attractive. (Tilling the soil, removing the rocks, and adding in compost and other soil amendments works too – just make sure to do that in late fall after their nesting season or in the late winter before their nesting season.)

Interestingly enough, I have sprayed a few large housing complexes with heavy infestations of these bees several times a year over 3 years or more, with THE pesticide that has been linked with honey bee mortality, and they are HIGHLY resistant to control. The nesting chambers are well below ground, and multiple treatments are often necessary, every year. Professional pest control materials can help with this pest but non-pesticide measures are your best long term answer.

As always, Safeguard is happy to help you with all your pest control needs, and our page http://safeguardpestcontrol.biz/BeeWasp-central.html has info and links to Yellow Jacket Control, Wasp Control, and Bee Control.

 

 

 

Share on Facebook
Posted in Bees, green pest control, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Grilling Season Is Here

original30+ years of killing bugs. Maybe I have been looking at this the wrong way all along.

A customer sent me links to the following enticing and enlightening reads:

A United Nations report on Food Security:  http://www.fao.org/docrep/018/i3253e/i3253e.pdf Insects are apparently safer than fish, healthier than beef, packed with nutrients, and have, yes tiny little carbon footprints. Also, once you get past the squirm factor, some are quite delicious.

And

A web article about the culinary aspects of insects: http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2013/09/why-how-and-where-you-should-start-eating-bugs/

Maybe I should stop wasting all these fresh food supplies and start making snacks. It’s a growing trend, and not just in strange far away countries, insects are becoming a part of the menu here in the US.

Don’t think ‘tiny creepy crawly and icky’, think ‘mini land lobsters in butter sauce’. If you eat lobster, shrimp, or crab, eating their cousins should be right up your alley.

Instead of getting rid of pests, we could explore ways to attract them, and fatten them up. Bee friendly, environmentally sound, totally organic! I could equip the trucks with portables grills and a nice selection of sauces. Who’s hungry?

Share on Facebook
Posted in Fun | Leave a comment