When you were young, did you ever sprinkle salt on slugs to see what would happen? I have to admit that we did when the slugs came venturing out on damp days. But I don't think Dad minded at all, since it just meant one less slug to keep out of the garden!
With March and the finally melting snows often come thoughts of our summer gardens ... and the spring and summer pests that come with those seasons ... and how we can control them this year!
Salt kills slugs because it draws the moisture of their bodies, dehydrating and killing them. It isn't a highly recommended practice for control, however, because excessive salt can also negatively affect plants, burning their foliage or roots.
There are numerous methods of ridding lawns and gardens of these damaging pests - from doing nothing and allowing the dryness of summer to send them slip, sliding away to following a six step strategy.
Photo by Guttorm Flatabo(wikipedia user:dittaeva)
Remember those lightweight, summer clothes you put away for the season? With the tough winter seen across much of the U.S., you've probably been pining for warm-weather days -- and those warm weather clothes. Even if it's not quite warm enough to wear them yet, you may want to start pulling out those clothes for a pre-season check.
Clothes moths love stored, undisturbed clothing that is made of almost any type of natural animal fiber. Although wool and furs may be more commonly used in winter clothing, there are blends of these, as well as silk and feathers that are used in summer clothing - and are just as attractive to the moths. And these moths can develop quickly in the heated buildings of winter.
If you inspected your clothing, washed or dry cleaned it, then put it in tightly sealed, insect-free containers for winter storage, your clothes are probably fine. But if you have any doubts, now may be a good time to pull out the items (especially those of animal fiber), hang them in the light, inspect them for any signs of clothes moths, and brush them out well.
If anything is found, take steps immediately to control the moths, then put some preventive action in place.
And when you store your summer items next fall, remember to take these same preventive steps first.
A couple years ago I took my first cruise, traveling to the Caribbean. I was excited, but did have a few concerns, as most first-cruisers do. Would I get seasick? Would I feel trapped on a boat for a week? Did I have enough sunscreen to keep from getting burned? Or would I have to pay what would most likely be exorbitant prices on the ship if I needed more? Would any of the recent cruise calamities occur on our trip ... storms, loss of electricity, food poisoning ...
One thing I never thought to be concerned about, and thankfully at that time it wasn't an issue, was disease-carrying mosquitoes on the port islands. Today, Caribbean visitors need to ensure they carry, or buy, as much insect repellent as sunscreen. As posted by the CDC in early February, mosquitoes in the seven of the Caribbean have been infected with the chikungunya virus and are spreading it to people through bites.
According to a New York Times article, a Caribbean spokesperson stated that precautions, such as fogging, surveillance, and a public-awareness campaign, are being taken, and About.com Caribbean Travel Expert Robert Curley provides additional recommendations for avoiding disease on your Caribbean trip.
With the harsh conditions across the U.S. this winter, it would seem that there'd be no need for pest control this spring! But there are an amazing number of pests that not only survive harsh winters, but actually thrive.
- Japanese Beetle - The grubs lie dormant deep beneath the soil all through winter, begin feeding on roots when they feel the ground begin to warm, then emerge as beetles in early summer to feed on plants above the ground.
- Mouse - With their strong teeth and tiny, flexible bodies, mice are quite adept at taking shelter in our homes. They can squeeze through holes as small as 1/4 inch and chew smaller holes to make them big enough to get through.
- Bed bug - With its indoor lifestyle, weather has little impact on this biting bug; it will take residence wherever it can get a blood meal and hitchhike on belongings to spread from home to home.
- Mosquito - If you have any doubt that insects can survive harsh winter conditions, simply consider the fact that 35 species of mosquitoes are found in Alaska - where average winter minimum temperatures can be 30 below zero.
If you Google "pest control" and the name of your city, even a mid-sized city is likely to generate tens of thousands of results. Large cities, such as Washington DC, can bring up millions. So how do you select a company from so many options? The National Pest Management Association recommends that you:
- Ask friends and neighbors for recommendations.
- Deal only with qualified, licensed companies, and check their credentials. Also ask if the company has liability insurance to cover the possibility of damage.
- Get multiple bids if the service will be costly.
- Fully understand the contract and any guarantees before signing.
- Check with your local, state, or national pest control association or state pest management regulatory agency for company listings and status.
It is also important to discuss the service with the company prior to arrival, so that you know what you may be required to do to prepare for the service, as well as what to expect when the pest control technician arrives at your home.
The latest on bed bugs is in, and it seems that there is nowhere safe from these little bugs. Not only are planes, trains, and buses becoming sites for bed bug infestations, but you'd better do a thorough check before you jump in that cab! As stated on bedbug.com, "Ultimately, you can never be sure that the person who was in the cab before you didn't leave bed bugs behind, so it is important to check your clothing and skin for bed bugs immediately after exiting."
And, unfortunately, it is some of the cities where you are most likely to take a cab - such as Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C. - that are among the Top 10 Bed Bug Cities for 2013. What about New York, you ask? Although it was in the Top 10 for 2012, it has now slipped to #17.
That's not to say, however that you don't have to take precautions against bed bugs in N.Y., or any other non-top city - With more than 30,000 cities in the U.S., #17 is still pretty far up the list! In fact, a San Francisco, bed bugs in taxis was one of the top passenger complaints received by cab companies.
photo by Loadmaster (David R. Tribble)
Squirrels can leap as high as five feet and as far as 10 feet. How does this 12-inch mammal jump up to 10 times its own length?
A slow-motion video taken by Bill Earl just may explain how. The video shows a squirrel leaping from a bird bath, across and up several feet up to a high-standing bird bath. The slowed motion of the video shows the action of the squirrels tail - seemingly propelling it forward.
In a DiscoverWildlife.com Q&A about the video, mammal expert Steve Harris responds that although the squirrel's tail pumping doesn't prove that this aids in propulsion, the video "does seem to show the animal accelerating in mid-air."
Whether or not it's a matter of propulsion, such videos and studies reveal interesting facts about pests -- such as what it takes for squirrels to leap such distances -- and invade attics!
Diagram showing development of pesticide resistance in insects by Delldot/Wikimedia
As if the continuing rise in bedbugs weren't bad enough, we are now hearing that the tiny biting creatures are becoming resistant to the pesticides that were most effective in eliminating the populations from homes, hotels, hospitals, and other places they infest.
Bedbugs have long been known to be resistant to DDT - which is no longer legal for use anyway. But studies are now finding that some populations have developed pesticide resistance to pyrethroid insecticides - which have been commonly used, because they were considered to be safer to people and the environment, of low cost, and effective. That effectiveness, however, is gradually being lost with the growing resistance of bedbugs. Unfortunately, while many other insecticides are registered for use against bedbugs, many are ineffective or take several days to kill the bedbugs - during which time they can continue to breed and spread.
Because of this, experts recommend Integrated Pest Management approaches - combining chemical and nonchemical techniques with sanitation, exclusion, and other preventive and monitoring approaches. Such recommendations are applicable not only for bedbugs, but for pest control efforts for any pest, such as cockroaches which have recently been found to be averse to the glucose that was has long been used as an attractant in pesticide baits.
How do you know when to attempt to control pests yourself and when to call a professional?
You can start by asking yourself a few basic questions:
- Do you know what the pest is or how to identify it?
- Do you know where, how, and why the pest is entering, harboring, and feeding?
- Do you know, or do you know how to find out, what equipment and/or chemicals can, and are labeled to, control that specific pest?
- And ... do you have or are you able to legally purchase and safely use the equipment, tools, and/or chemicals needed to control the pest?
The first step in any pest control program is an inspection to identify the pest, so you can determine its habits and behavior, then use that knowledge to select and apply the proper treatment - not only to control that pest, but to exclude its entry and prevent future infestations.
So, if you are able to answer yes to all of the above questions, you have a good chance of being able to control the pest yourself. If you'd like to try, but were not completely sure on all the above questions, try following the steps in DIY Pest Inspection and Identification and The "Professional" Guide to DIY Pest Control
And, if none of these succeed or you realize it's a bit beyond your comfort level, it's time to call a professional.
As your Pest Control Guide for more than two years now, I regularly review the statistics on the articles that are most - and least - frequently read. By doing so, I can better understand the readers of About Pest Control and ensure that I continue to focus on areas you find to be of greatest importance and/or interest to you.
I found the results to be very interesting. The topics of most interest and importance to About Pest Control readers were those on spiders, ants, mice and rats. In fact, 8 of the Top 10 articles focused on these pests. Not only are these top pests, they are also year 'round pests, and those which can fairly easily be controlled by DIYers and homeowners themselves.
I also took stock of the articles that received the least readership. Although these had less of a pattern, there was some commonality in that they seemed to focus on more specific pests, e.g., those that are very seasonal, indigent to limited geographic areas, or simply less common in nature. For example, articles on specific nuisance wildlife pest tended to have less readership than those of the more common pests, such as ants, spiders and rodents. Thus, the lower ranking is to be expected.
As a result of these findings, you can expect that About Pest Control will continue to include a heavy focus on the most common pests. At the same time, however, I will not neglect the specific, seasonal and geographic pests, understanding that, while these pests may impact fewer readers, their impact can be just as great, or greater, on those who must deal with them! And, of course, we'll stay up with the trends of the pest control industry, products, and new invasive pests.
I wish you all a happy, healthy, and pest-free 2014!