A customer of mine just sold his house a few months ago. About a year prior, he had called me out to take care of a small sugar ant problem. We took care of the inside problem but also treated the exterior of the house and property. We also did a follow up service visit 3 months later. When my customer sold his house, he called me after the inspection to share interesting news. Little did any of us know that while we were treating the sugar ant problem, an underground nest of carpenter ants had moved up into some of the under-support areas of the house and started chewing through the wood. Our three month follow up service had completely killed them off. The exterior work we had done for one problem had inadvertently solved a potentially larger one. Six more months of those carpenter ants tunneling away would have caused thousands of dollars worth of damage to the house. It was a reminder to me that just because you can’t see a pest problem, it doesn’t mean there isn’t one. Preventative maintenance is an important part of keeping a pest free home. Seasonal inspections and routine prevention service can help you detect more remote problems and resolve them before they become more significant.
Like all flying insects, it is impossible to completely remove mosquitos from a large area. However, some simple precautions can substantially increase your comfort level during the mosquito season. Standing water is the common denominator for finding large mosquito populations. Thus, it is the primary target for mosquito control. Here are some suggestions:
“DUNK” YOUR POND
Obviously you can’t remove a pond from your backyard but you can “Dunk” it. Dunks are available at most garden centers and home improvement stores. They contain a bacteria that is toxic only to mosquito larvae and completely non-toxic to all other forms of fish, wildlife and humans. They can cover large areas, work within 30 minutes and can last up to 30 days.
Gutters and the areas surrounding downspouts are known water collectors. Clean your gutters out thoroughly so that drainage is unblocked and make sure that the areas under downspout facilitate proper run-off.
Left unattended, an upright wheelbarrow can quickly become a breeding pool. Make sure wheelbarrows are kept upside-down and upright. If possible, keep them stored inside a shed or in a dry area.
Remember, mosquitos reproduce and spread quickly, especially if they have access to standing water. Exercising a few precautions will make for a much more comfortable summer season.
As Spring continues, many of you are doing your Spring cleaning. As one who hates clutter, Spring cleaning is one of my favorite activities. It’s a great time to purge our lives of things that we no longer use, clean our living spaces and get ready for the warm season. The kitchen is one of the rooms in our house that get the most attention. Here are some tips for making this year’s Spring cleaning doubly effective for protecting against pests.
- Wash and wipe cabinets and pantries – Over the winter, the maple syrup dripped, the flour spilled and the cookie crumbs fell. Give the shelves a good wipe down with water and a grease cutting soap.
- Drains – Pull up the rubber drains and clean them thoroughly in the dishwasher. This will discourage fruit flies from nesting and reproducing.
- Microwave Tops and Vent Hoods – These are great grease collectors and often go undetected. Ants and other pests LOVE grease.
Spring cleaning is great for many reasons. Just remember while you are doing it that certain details will double your efforts for protecting your kitchens from Spring pests.
Spring is almost here and if you live in Portland, Vancouver or the Pacific Northwest, you already know that things are blooming already. At Summit Pest Management, we are already gearing up for a busy season. Wet winters always deliver a surge in Spring pest problems. This includes ants, stink bugs, boxelder bugs, bed bugs and more. Yellowjackets, wasps and stinging insects will start searching for a safe place for their queens. Rats and rodents (already a year-round problem in the Pacific Northwest) will seek out nesting areas for reproduction. As all this happens, it’s time to prepare your homes and properties for the coming season. Here are some Spring pest prevention tips from the Summit Pest Management team.
- Check window screens for holes. Even the smallest hole is a welcome sign for bugs and crawlers of all kinds.
- Look for holes, gaps and cracks in your foundation, around window frames, exhaust vents and your roof.
- Check downspouts to ensure there is no standing water around your structure.
- Check vapor barriers, attics and under-crawl spaces to make sure there is no excessive humidity.
Remember that even our best practices will not always keep pests out, especially in the Spring when they are most active and persistent. If you detect a problem, don’t hesitate to call a pest control professional. Eliminating a problem early on will save you a lot of aggravation and potential costs down the road.
A few minutes of your time can prevent bigger problems down the road. In the meantime, enjoy the sunshine! Winter will be over soon.
During the cold winter months, one of the easiest ways for pests to get into your home is to hitch a ride onboard the many things that come inside. This could be bag of groceries, a bundle of firewood, a warehouse delivery shipment, or any parcels that make their way into your home or building. For this reason, an extra note of caution can play a key role in stopping pest problems before they start. This holds especially true for restaurants and hospitality businesses where incoming deliveries are frequent. As winter sets in, be sure to inspect the items that come into your home or business for signs of life. Look for holes in delivery boxes and bugs in food bags. Give firewood a good dusting off before bringing it inside. Inspect any seasonal items that get stored inside during the winter. All of these items are tickets to paradise for pests of all kinds. Stay cozy this winter by keeping the heat in and the pests out.
Rains have returned to the Pacific Northwest. Where there is rain there is standing water, and where there is standing water, there are rats. This is especially true when this standing water is close to your home and the small entrances that lead inside. As with all other living creatures, rats need water to survive and it is one of the first resources they look for when seeking home and shelter. Standing water close to your house or structure is also a standing invitation for rats and other rodents to set up camp. With the rainy months upon us, be sure to sweep, drain and clear standing water away from the exterior of homes and buildings. Make sure other vessels that can carry water like flower pots and plant holders are empty when not in use. After a few years of endless blue skies, it looks like we are headed for the type of rainy season that the Pacific Northwest is known for. As we head deeper into the winter season, remember that at the same time rats are looking to get out of the rain. They are looking for a winter home with a water source close by.
Autumn is a great time of year, especially in the Pacific Northwest. It brings the autumn harvest, Halloween, Thanksgiving and all the colors of the season. As I drove through some of our Portland and Southeast Washington neighborhoods this last week I thought (without dampening the fun of the season) it would be a good idea to post a few seasonal precautions that will help keep pests out of the autumn equation. Hope everyone has a great season!
- Fruit trees – Many residents and property owners in the Pacific Northwest have fruit trees in their yards. If you do, make sure as you harvest that you manage the pieces that fall to the ground. Rotting fruit invites pests of all kinds, bugs and animals alike (ants, rats, raccoons, squirrels, bats and more). Keep your yard clear and clean of rotting fruit. This goes the same for gardens and throwaways from other crop harvests.
- Pumpkin carving – Everyone loves Halloween pumpkins, including raccoons, rats, squirrels and other critters. If at all possible, keep jack-o-lanterns stowed away when they are not being actively displayed. Clean up after pumpkin carving and get rid of them the moment they show any signs of rot. In addition to providing a food source, their proximity to your warm spaces may invite critters to investigate a potential nesting spot.
- Wheelbarrows – After using wheelbarrows in the yard, lean them against a support structure standing up on end. When sitting upside down they become shelters and when sitting right side up they can gather water.
- Inspect your property. It’s getting colder and the pests of the Pacific Northwest world know it. They are already seeking their winter shelters. Now is a good time to make sure that cracks are sealed, small holes are filled, crawl spaces are secured and landscaping is trimmed back from your structure.
I was in a home last week and marveled at the array of diy fruit fly traps on the owner’s kitchen counter top. There was a half glass of wine, a plastic-wrap covered bowl with a decaying banana in it and two other similar home-made inventions. The home-owner, while pleased with the rate of capture was daunted by the fact that they still seemed to keep coming. Little did she know that the bigger problem was coming from her sink just a few feet away. Inside the drain I found fresh doses of undisposed food and a lightl film-covered rubber drain stopper covering the drain hole. Voila, a fruit fly’s breeding paradise. Your sink and drain, if not cared for provides everything fruit flies need to reproduce in mass quantities, a food source, humidity and a soft porous surface to deposit their eggs. You can capture all the fruit flies you want but if you give them a soft and humid place to breed, they will come faster than you can peel a banana. In the months where fruit flies are most active (and year round for that matter), keep your sink, drain and disposal clean and clear. More importantly, take out the rubber drain stopper and clean and sterilize it regularly. Keep the drain covered when not in use. You may eventually need a professional but in the meantime, you’ll be more effective at keeping the situation under control.
Being a homeowner myself, it would be unrealistic for me to advocate the complete removal of all the things that otherwise enhance our quality of life. However, the list below will hopefully help you make careful choices and maintain a balance between environmental aesthetic and pest prevention.
- Yard Debris – Leaf piles, hedge trimmings and all other yard debris quickly attract rats, rodents and other wildlife that seek shelter. They make for a nice “half-way” house to the even better warmth and comfort of our homes. Make sure that debris is quickly cleared and stowed in sealed containers.
- Logs, Tree Stumps – Firewood piles and decaying tree stumps make for great shelters and attract pests of all kinds. Make sure that firewood is kept as far from your structure as possible. Leaning it up against the house is just asking for trouble. Tree stumps should be ground down if at all possible. As they decay, their hollow areas are great for building nests and their decaying roots invite carpenter ants and other wood chewing insects.
- Fruit Trees – Nothing beats apples from your own backyard. That said, unharvested, decomposing apples and other fruit left on the ground represents an almost unlimited food supply for unwanted insects, rats, rodents and other pests. Harvest and use as much as you can yourself and more importantly, keep the ground clear of unwanted, rotting fruit.
- Bird Baths and Feeders – Just remember that these water and food supplies are not selective to what they attract. If you are going to have them on your property, try to keep them as far from your structure as possible. While they may be great for birdwatching, they are also a leading culprit for pest problems.
- Wheelbarrows – Wheelbarrows are great for yard work but when they are not in use, they should be left standing vertically, never upside down.
- Barns and Tool Sheds – If you have an additional structure on your property, the same rules apply as for your main property.
- Chicken Coops – Chicken Coops are becoming increasingly popular, especially in the Northwest. Unfortunately, where there are chickens, you can almost be sure there are rats. They also attract coyotes and other predators. From my own experience, the liabilities of chicken coops far outweigh the benefits. They almost always result in pest problems. If you are going to have one, keep it as far away from your main structure as you can.
- Vegetable Gardens – Telling people not to have vegetable gardens would surely draw fire. So, that said, I will simply advise to keep them as far away from your structure as possible. Also, keeping them properly contained will deter pests and protect your crops.
As stated above, balance and preventive maintenance are the keys to maintaining a beautiful AND pest-free environment. While total removal of pest attractors is not always possible, a little extra caution and wisdom can keep risks to a minimum.