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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Moving into a brand new home? A home that’s brand new to you?

Do you already have housemates? Are you sure?

Most homes have pests for years before they are noticed, and most pests can’t be seen by just walking through the living areas of a home.

You could have uninvited house guests.

Even brand new homes, built by the very best builders can have pests, as pests will often move in as the homes are being built.

Have you been down into your sub area or up into your attic?

Even if you had a home inspection when you bought your home, you could have pests – or openings for future pests. Most inspectors only look for a small portion of the pests that could infests a home – and then only for their presence, not for their ability to move in later.

Most homes have pests for years before they are noticed.

Most homes have pests for years before they are noticed.

Be sure: have your home inspected by Safeguard.

Every 3 to 5 years, you should have someone look at your home and give you a pest prevention inspection. Some pests can damage homes and their contents. Some pests can make you love your home… less.

If you are a current Safeguard Pest Control – keep your service when you move, by transferring it to your new home!

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Where Do Yellow Jackets Go In The Winter? And What Are Snow Fleas?

Why do pest control companies get 70% of their phone calls from March through October? Where do pests go in the winter? Are there pests that are more active when it’s cold outside?

Most pests are in homes for years before they are noticed. Termites can cause thousands of dollars before some unlucky homeowner steps through the floor. Carpenter ants are usually in a home for two to three years before being noticed, and a few additional years before a homeowner decides to call someone to do something about them.

One reason people call about pests more when its warmer is because they, the people, are more active in the areas that the pests are active. If you’re outside working in your flowerbed, you are much more likely to see the trail of ants leading off your deck.

Another reason, is that it takes a certain amount of pest activity for humans to notice it. Yellow jacket nests start as soon as the temperature start creeping above 40 degrees. Most calls start coming in, in late July – after the nests are well developed and there is enough wasp activity that the constant flying back and forth grabs your attention.

Where do pests go in the winter? Yellow Jackets and other pests will snuggle in somewhere that they think will be warm enough to keep them from freezing. Often that is inside your attic insulation. We get lots of call about wasps dropping down out of ceilings every spring. Sometimes its in firewood…. (another good reason to dust attics and sub areas during the winter)

Some ants will slow their foraging down and while activity continues all winter long inside their nests, you are less likely to see it. This upcoming winter may change that. Other ants, especially Odorous House ants, may forage on aphids that attack the roots of trees and bushes and they may be active all year round. Most ants will show up in greater numbers in the spring when their preferred, outside food sources explode with the warmer weather, and then often they will drop back down below that visible threshold, shortly thereafter.

Rats are active all year long and are often in homes for many years, until someone goes down into the sub area or up into the attic.

Spiders? Spiders usually gather around light fixtures, windows and doors, and vent openings. There just as many spiders active in the winter as in the spring if you know where to look. See below:

There were 13 healthy adult spiders found in this one area and double that number of spider egg sacs. This is one reason why a house can seem to have spiders everywhere come spring, that is when the spiders come out of hiding and start spinning webs.

If you know where to look- spiders are everywhere, all winter long

If you know where to look- spiders are everywhere, all winter long

At Safeguard, we like to dust attic and sub areas, and inspect these areas for both pests and moisture during the winter. The dusts will help control overwintering pests, and pests that try to move in for up to a year. The dusts we use is all natural and some people consume the material as a health food supplement. (ask your technician for details)

What’s a snow flea? Springtails are sometimes noted in areas where early snows melt and they are small and they hop about much like fleas do, although they don’t bite. Not to be confused with snowfies which are selfies you take in the snow :)

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NASA is talking about your rats, are you listening?

A nice cold winter will drive rodents indoors looking for warm places to survive. It also makes it harder for them to find food sources outside, and works to lower rodent populations. NASA’s weather forecast for this winter is about to throw a big monkey wrench into that.

NASA says that not only are we in a El Niño weather pattern, but it is going to be one of the strongest ones in quite some time. This means we are set to experience a warm wet winter.

What else will the warm weather do, besides lower my chances for a white Christmas?

Allow pests to flourish.

Freezing temperatures in the winter kills off lots of overwintering wasps. It forces many types of ants (like carpenter ants) to go semi-dormant.  It kills off rodents and slows their population growth. It doesn’t really kill spiders, if you know where to look you will find spiders everywhere outside during the winter – but it keeps you from seeing them.

It will still be cold enough to encourage rodents to look inside for nice warm places to live, but not cold enough to lower their populations. There will be neighbors feeding birds this winter, dogs being fed outside, and easily accessible trash bins everywhere. I predict a great winter for rodent exterminators, and a huge year full of bugs in 2016.

This is part of a noticeable trend. We used to wait until mid to late March to get our first calls about Carpenter Ants, now we get calls about them being active inside throughout the the winter, and the first exterior sightings start in early February. There have also been a growing number of infestations of imported fire ant sightings in our area.

It’s good to be needed :)


Link to an article about NASA’s report: http://www.bitsofscience.org/nasa-2015-el-nino-paris-climate-summit-6629/

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It Probably Is As Bad As You Think.

What does more damage to more homes every year than all the floods, fires, and earthquakes combined? Give up? It’s probably in your home right now.


Ha ha. Sort of. :)

It’s termites. Termites can be terribly destructive, they can literally eat you out of house and home.

There are three common types of termites in mainland US: Subterranean, Drywood, and Dampwood.

Drywood termites have yet to establish any colonies here, as the prefer much warmer climates, but they can be shipped in. If we continue having the type of summer we had this year, who knows, maybe they can get a foothold.

Subterranean termites are the most destructive, and they do exist here, they are quite active in West Seattle, and there are small pockets of activity which have been noted throughout the Greater Seattle Area. You should be concerned if you live in West Seattle, but every home should be inspected for wood destroying organisms every 3 to 5 years.

Dampwood Termite

Dampwood Termite Swarmer

Dampwood termites very common. They can nest in any wood with a high moisture content. Stumps, hollow tress, fence posts, telephone poles and…. most homes.

One of the reasons to have your home inspected every year for wood destroying organisms is that this type of inspection should look for excessive moisture conditions, conditions that could lead to dampwood termite infestations. These are the same conditions that can lead to  moisture ant infestations, and worse, rot conditions. Wood rot is a fungus, and the leading wood destroying organism in the Northwest. Inspections can save you thousands of dollars in repair costs if performed in time.

Dampwood termites are swarming. Now. (Late summer.) If you see large winged insects flying around at dusk, flying toward your windows or light fixtures, you are seeing dampwood termites. While dry sound homes are not in danger, it should be a wake up call to make sure your home stays sound and dry – and free of termites.

Want to know more?  Dampwood termites


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Silverfish Control

silverfishSilverfish live outdoors all over the Pacific Northwest. They are commonly found in and near greenbelts and drainage reserves. They will also live in damp plant debris and under plastic vapor barriers installed under planting beds around area homes.

They  move inside because they can have larger more successful  nests in homes because homes are heated throughout the winter,  and because we build our homes with materials that they view as food.

Among the items silverfish eat, is paper, and while that causes particular consternation among book lovers, they will also eat the paper in wallpaper, as well as the paper backing of insulation and sheet rock.

As they are attracted to humidity in particular and moisture over-all, some moisture modification may be necessary for your home.  Moisture control may involve simple things, like making there is a band of clear concrete showing beneath your siding all the way around your home, and that your gutters are working well.

However, it might be wise to have a technician look at your home for excessive or contributory moisture conditions – taking care of these issues might not only help control or prevent silverfish, they could help prevent rot damage as well.

For information on how we get rid of silverfish, visit our silverfish control page.


Once inside your home, silverfish nest inside sub areas, attics, and wall voids.


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Hobo Spiders, The Truth is Out There.

There are three species of related Tegenaria spiders in the Northwest, that commonly occur in and around homes. T. Agrestis, T. Duellica, and T. Domesticus. They have similar markings, colorings, and size, although one of the species, T.Duellica, sometimes called the Giant house spider, can grow to be much larger the other two – when fully grown. The best way to tell which species you have is to catch one and put it under a microscope…. Ha, ha! No, really. Go grab one, I’ll wait.

The Hobo spider, (T.Agrestis) is blamed throughout the US for spider bites that cause tissue necrosis – even in areas it doesn’t exist. Most of the blame is placed by people who do not have a background studying spiders. Medical professionals and nonarachnologists (you and me) alike, commonly diagnose open wounds and other dermatological lesions as being caused by Hobo spiders.

Media outlets, always looking to sell copy and create headlines are all too willing to run with stories of Hobo spider bites that cause loss of limbs or threaten lives, regardless of their validity.

There was an exhaustive study involving pest control associations and public health officials, throughout the range of the spider, along with arachnologists from area universities and museums, as well as the general public, who helped submit thousands upon thousands of spiders. The study results indicated that you are more likely to encounter T. Duellica, the Giant house spider, than the Hobo spider, except in Portland, Oregon. (Sorry Portland.)

Additionally, although there are over 30 possible causative sources for necrotic wounds, including a number of different bacteria, the venom of the spider does not cause necrotic wounds. The venom of the Hobo spider which was introduced from Europe has no history of causing necrotic wounds in Europe.

The rap for Hobo spiders causing wounds started with bad science. A study was done involving rabbits and Hobo spiders. The study was flawed and it drew invalid conclusions, because something causes necrosis in animals does not mean it cause necrosis in humans. Other spiders have proven that is not the case. In hundreds of spider investigations since then, hobo spiders have not been implicated. The usual diagnosis is, ‘I have a skin lesion, I have seen a hobo spider’ and the person or their medical professional makes the diagnosis of the wound being caused by hobo spiders, without verifying that the spider they had seen was in fact a Hobo spider, that the person had really been bitten by a spider, or that there was something in that spider’s venom that would have caused tissue necrosis.

Many of the diagnosis for Hobo spider bites come from areas where the spider doesn’t even occur. In the event that a Hobo spider bite is suspected, a culture of the wound should be taken to make sure that it was the causative agent.

The conclusion that many professionals and arachnologists share is that Hobo spiders can bite humans, the resulting bite can make a small wound, much like other insects bites, and that by itself it will not cause skin lesions. Some have conjectured that the spiders might be able to carry bacteria in their fangs that could be transmitted when a person is bitten – like going to hospital to have them remove a splinter and ending up losing your foot due to MRSA, however this has yet to be proven.

Other findings of the exhaustive study? This area does not have Black Widow or Brown Recluse spiders.

Next week, what you can to do help control spiders around your home – without using pesticides.

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Scratch, scratch, scratch – sting!

Yellow Jacket

Yellow Jacket

Do you hear scratching noises in your wall? Be Careful!! Every year at this time (and for the next 60 days), yellow jackets begin busting through ceilings and walls into the living area of local homes. Much stinging and general upsetedness ensues. We get calls from hospitalized homeowners every year, as the entire nest can empty into your home.

Yellow jackets have been nesting since late winter / early spring. In many homes, their nesting activity goes completely unnoticed. As their nests get bigger, they excavate the soft gypsum (sheetrock) of your wall or ceiling until all that is left is the last layer of paper, or in some cases just the paint.

The natural reaction is for people to put their hand, or worse, their ear up against the area with the noise. Sometimes that is all that is needed to break that thin layer of paper or paint.

From this point of the year onward, we like to get inside access to every wasp job if we can – to see if a breakthrough is imminent before we spray.  If it is imminent we want to take steps to prevent it. We use materials that are designed to kill the wasps without triggering a breakthrough but we want to keep our customers safe!

Please note that over the counter wasp freeze and pressurized sprays are highly repellent and often push the wasps into digging out through your wall or ceiling – especially if they are already close.

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