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Termites can cause billions of dollars in damage each year. They primarily feed on wood, but they also damage paper, books, insulation, and even swimming pool liners. Although buildings may become infested at any time, termites are of a particular importance when buying or selling a home. A termite inspection (Wood Destroying Insect Report) is normally a condition of sale. The possibility of thousands of winged termites emerging inside one’s home is an emotionally trying experience, not to mention the thought of termites feasting on one’s large investment.

Spring is typically when large numbers of winged termites can emerge inside homes. These are called swarmers. Termites swarm to disperse and start new colonies. Due to warm temperatures and rainfall, the winged termites emerge from their colonies and fly into the air.

The swarmers will drop to the ground, shed their wings, pair off with a mate. They attempt to begin new colonies in the soil. Very few swarmers that emerge outdoors survive to start new colonies. Although swarmers found indoors are incapable of eating wood, seldom do survive. It’s best to remove them with a vacuum cleaner. Swarmers found inside a home does indicate that an infestation is present. Finding winged termites indoors almost always indicates that an infestation is needing treatment.

People often confuse winged termites with ants, which swarm at the same time of year. Termites bodies are different from those of an ant. Termites have straight antennae, a uniform waist and wings of equal size. Ants have elbowed antennae (bent), constricted waists and top wings that are longer than the bottom wings.

Termite swarmers are attracted to light. They are often seen around windows and doors. They can also been seen coming from tree stumps, woodpiles, and other locations in the yard are not necessarily cause for a concern. This also does not necessarily mean that the house is infested. Although, if winged termites are seen emerging from the base of a foundation wall or adjoining porches and patios, there is a potential of an infestation. Termite treatment may be needed. Other signs of infestation are mud tubes extending on top of foundation walls, support piers, floor joists, etc. Mud tubes are typically about the diameter of a pencil, but sometimes can be thicker. Termites make these tubes for shelter as they travel between their underground colonies and the structure. To help determine if an infestation is active, the tubes may be broken open and checked for the presence of small, creamy-white worker termites. If a mud tube happens to be vacant, it doesn’t mean that the infestation is inactive. Termites will often abandon sections of mud tubes while foraging elsewhere in the structure. Sometimes termites create tiny holes in the plaster or drywall. Ripples or sunken traces behind wall coverings can also be indicative of termites tunneling underneath. Usually there won’t be any visible indication that a home is infested. Termites are mysterious creatures and their infestations can go undetected for years. They can be hidden behind walls, floor coverings, insulation, and other obstructions. Termites feeding and the damage can even progress undetected in wood that is exposed because the outer surface is usually left intact.

Termite control utilizes specialized equipment such as masonry drills, large-capacity tanks, and soil treatment rods. A typical treatment may involve hundreds of gallons of a liquid pesticide, known as a termiticide. Termiticide is injected into the ground alongside the foundation, beneath concrete slabs, as well as foundation walls. To be quite honest with you, termite treatment is a job for professional pest control . There are TWO general categories of termite treatment: liquids and baits. Soil-applied liquid termiticides have been around for decades. The purpose of a liquid treatment is to provide a long lasting chemical barrier that will keep termites in the ground from entering buildings. In most cases, termites already in the structure die off as well because they cannot return to the soil. The chemicals used are non-repellent, therefore, termites tunneling into the treatment area are unaware that they are being killed. The non-repellent products are proving to be more reliable in their ability to resolve termite problems in the first attempt.

The other broad treatment category is Termite bait treatment. Termite baits consist of paper, cardboard, or other palatable food, combined with a slow-acting substance lethal to termites. Termite bait stations are installed below the ground in the yard, in cylindrical plastic stations. Foraging termites will consume the bait and share it with other termites in their colony, which will result in a gradual decline in the termite colony. On some properties, baits may constitute the only form of treatment, while on other property, they may be combined with liquid applications to areas where termites are being observed.

All liquid termiticides are supposed to control termites for at least five (5) years when applied according to label directions. The actual length of control on a given structure will depend on various factors such as: thoroughness of the application; environmental conditions; and the density of termite colonies in the area. If termites swarm again and continue to be a problem the year after treatment, it’s usually not from degradation of the termiticide but because termites have found an untreated gap in a chemical barrier.

Let’s be clear, termite control involves LIVING CREATURES. The best treatments performed by knowledgeable pest control firms may fail at times because the ground where a chemical barrier had been applied was disturbed. (Ex: digging up the soil to plant flowers or removing shrubs, plants, etc)  Also with the use of bait stations, if they are dug up and not replaced properly due to creation of flower beds, porches, etc, there will be a large gap between the stations to help with the control of termites as well. Therefore, termites can find their way through tiny, untreated gaps in the soil.

Bed bugs are a problem. They are actually considered a public health pest, but they are not known to spread diseases. Bed bugs do, however, cause a variety of negative physical and mental health consequences. The bites from bed bugs can cause allergic reactions that range from a small bite mark to welts. Also the impact of living in a home with they pesky suckers could lead to anxiety and insomnia, which has been reported by the CDC.

Let’s address what’s on everyone’s mind. How do you get bed bugs? You can get them in your home a number of ways. It could be from traveling and you brought them home in a suitcase, or on you. You could have purchased an item such as furniture that may have already been infested. You could have had someone visiting you who may have picked up the pesky bug from their travels. Any way we approach it, bed bugs can sometimes be difficult to pin down exactly where or how you could have picked them up.

What can you do if you find bed bugs? First thing is first. Make sure that you indeed have bed bugs. Don’t panic! Although it can be difficult to eliminate them, don’t give up. There are things you can do to help with the control and elimination process. Start by reducing the number of hiding places for a bed bug. De-clutter your house. Get bed bug rated mattress cover for both the box spring as well as your mattress. These need to say “Bed Bug rated” or else you will be wasting your money. Reduce the number of bed bug eggs by washing and heat drying your bedding, blankets, bedspreads, and clothing. Carefully and thoroughly vacuum your home. That means Rugs, Floors, upholstered furniture,  your beds, under the beds, bed frames, headboards, etc. Be sure to remove the contents that are in the canister or vacuum bag outside in a sealed trash bag. Do NOT, let me repeat this. DO NOT leave the vacuum cleaner canister or bag full inside of your home. The bed bugs can and will crawl out of there and re-infest your home.

Be sure to call a pest control company an ask them how they treat for bed bugs. If you have any questions about bed bug treatments, please be sure to leave a comment or email us. We’ll be glad to answer any and all of your questions.

Ants are very common insects. There are more than 10,000 known ant species around the world. Ants are especially prevalent in tropical forests and may make up to half of all the insects living in some locations.

Ants look like termites and the two are often confused, especially by homeowners who are worried about termites. Ants, however, have a narrow “waist” between the abdomen and thorax, termites do not. Ants also have large heads, elbowed antennae, and some powerful jaws.
Ants usually live in structured nest communities that can be located underground, in ground-level mounds, or in trees. Carpenter ants nest in wood and can be very destructive to buildings. Some species of ants do not have permanent homes, instead they seek out food for their enormous colonies during periods of migration.

Ants communicate with each other by using chemicals that can alert other ants to danger or lead them to a promising food source. Ants typically eat nectar, seeds, fungus, or insects. However, some species of ants may prey on reptiles, birds, or even small mammals.

So what can you do to prevent Ants from invading your home? First, ants can enter through the tiniest of cracks and crevices seeking out water and food sources. So be sure to seal up those cracks and crevices. Secondly, ants leave scent trails so other ants can be lead to the food source others have found. Be sure to clean up the sugar and creamer area around your coffee makers. Ants really love those areas. Also, clean off the counter tops and behind the faucets on your sinks. Sometimes food particles will get behind there and can become a good food source for ants. Lastly, look around the perimeter of you home and in your yard. Do you see any mounds or old tree stumps? If you do, make sure to remove the old tree stumps. Treat the ant mounds directly by sprinkling ant bait around the mounds, not on top. Prevention is the key to all your pest problems, even ants.

 

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If you’ve ever thought that Termite Bait Stations don’t work, think again. They do! This is a picture of a cartridge from a termite bait system. These bait systems actively work to monitor termite activity around your home. As you can see, the termites are very much alive and very active. Termites are constantly foraging, looking for food. This picture is even more interesting because these particular termite bait stations were placed around the dwelling only 30 days prior. Active management to prevent termites from entering your dwelling is key.

The German cockroach is a major concern. This species is the one that gives all other cockroaches a bad name. German Roaches cannot survive in locations away from human activity unless there is a steady cold temperature. Studies have shown that German cockroaches could not survive in homes without central heating in northern climates. The availability of water, food, and shelter also governs the ability of German cockroaches to establish populations and limit growth.
German cockroaches corrupt food and food products with their feces and secretions. They also transport pathogenic organisms which may cause severe allergic reactions and in extremely heavy infestations, roaches have been reported to bite humans and feed on food residue that can be found on the faces of sleeping humans. Some suggest that German cockroach infestations may cause human psychological stress and that the stigma associated with infestations alter their behavior. For example, people with houses that are infested with roaches do less entertaining and avoid the kitchen at night for fear of encountering a cockroach.
In order to get control of a German Cockroach infestation, it’s going to take some work. Everything in the kitchen cabinets needs to be pulled out and cleaned. The cabinets themselves needed to be cleaned and probably vacuumed out as well. What appears to look like dirt is actually roach feces. YUCK! You certainly do not want to spend all this time cleaning and place clean things back in that! So please, please, please use a vacuum and thoroughly clean up all the roach feces. Look behind and under the following: Refrigerator, Sink, Microwave, Oven, Dish Washer, Toaster, Coffee Maker, etc. You’d be surprised. Roaches can and will live inside of these things! By cleaning and removing their food sources, it will help get the roaches under control. Once you’ve cleaned thoroughly, take the vacuum cleaner,, trash bags, etc., outside. Let me repeat that. Take the vacuum cleaner, trash bags, etc OUTSIDE to the trash. Do not leave it inside. Clean out the vacuum cleaner outside. You do not want to leave any of that stuff inside. A typical German roach egg case contains 30 to 40 eggs. The egg case is a tiny, brown, purse-shaped capsule. You do not want to accidentally leave one or two roach egg cases behind after you clean. That would potentially be 60-80 baby roaches waiting to hatch and take over the house again. Cleaning and keeping it clean is a big part of eradicating the German Roach population in a dwelling. Once the cleaning is done, then you may use a roach gel bait sparingly in the cabinets, under the sink, and around the appliances.

If you have a bedbug infestation, it’s best to find it early, before the infestation spreads. Treating a minor bedbug  infestation is far less costly and easier than treating the same infestation after it spreads.

Often bites on the skin are a poor indicator of a bed bug infestation. Bed bug bites can look like bites from other insects (such as mosquitoes or chiggers), rashes (such as eczema or fungal infections), or even hives. While some people do not react to bed bug bites at all.

An accurate way to identify a possible infestation is to look for physical signs of bed bugs. When cleaning, changing bedding, or traveling away from home, look for:

  • Rusty or reddish stains on bed sheets or mattresses caused by bed bugs being crushed.
  • Dark spots (about this size: •), which are bed bug excrement and may bleed on the fabric like a marker would.
  • Eggs and eggshells, which are tiny (about 1mm) and pale yellow skins that nymphs shed as they grow larger.
  • Live bed bugs.

When bed bugs are not feeding, they can hide in many places. They can be found around the bed, near the piping, seams and tags of the mattress and box springs, and in cracks on the bed frame and headboard.

If a room is heavily infested, you may find bed bugs in the following:

  • seams of chairs and couches, between cushions, and in the folds of curtains.
  • drawer joints.
  • electrical receptacles and appliances.
  • Under loose wall paper, behind pictures and wall hangings.
  • At the junction where the wall and the ceiling meet.
Bed bugs are only about the width of a credit card (YES, they’re that thin). They can squeeze into really small hiding spots. If a crack will hold a credit card, it could hide a bed bug.

Bed bug Feeding:

  • prefer to feed on humans, but will feed on other mammals and birds as well.
  • Will travel 5-20 feet from established hiding places to feed on a host.
  • Primarily active at night. If the bed bug is hungry, they will seek hosts in full daylight.
  • Feeding can take 3-12 minutes.
  • The rusty or tarry spots found on bed sheets or in bug hiding places are because the adult bed bugs and large will void remains of earlier blood meals while they are still feeding.

It might be snowing, ice on the ground, or raining like we live in the Rain Forest. This does not mean that termites are inactive. They are still foraging, looking for food such as wood siding that’s been soaking up water because it’s come in contact with the damp soil. Be on the look out for suspicious mud tubes on the side of your home. It could be termites, even in these winter months.

Have you ever heard of a Wood Destroying Insect Report? Here in Texas, it is required to have one completed when either buying or selling a home. I have heard some of the horror stories of home inspectors who are not licensed in Structural Pest Control look for termites and quite honestly, the methods that some of them use make me cringe.

The best recommendation would be to find a Structural Pest Control Company that actually deals with termites, just in case termites are found. I will get calls from people saying, “So and so company did the WDI for us. They discovered termites but they don’t treat for them. Can you help us?” Of course we helped them but we have to look over the WDI report and verify what the inspector found is in fact termites or not.
Here are some things the inspector should be looking for:
Conducive conditions such as soil lines that are too high along the slab of the home; Bushes, trees, plants, etc that block the view of the slab; Standing water that doesn’t drain away from the house; Previous infestation and when was it treated; New damage and determine whether it’s carpenter ants, powder post beetles, termites, or carpenter bees.
If any of these these things are found, they should be noted on the inspection report as well as any corrective measures that need to be taken.

Even if you don’t live in Texas, you should make sure to be on the look out for these things when buying or selling your home.