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Bugs Be Gone

01/04/2011 04:05AM, Published by Style, Categories: Home+Garden, In Print




Have you noticed critters hiding out in your home this winter?

Don’t feel you need to share your space. We spoke with local experts on what pests to be on the lookout for, how to get rid of them, and how to prevent them from invading your walls in the first place.

PREVENTION

Prevention is the best medicine, even for your home. Be aware that most pests enter the house from the outside, so check to see that all doors and windows have proper screens installed. Also, consider exclusion – the sealing off of the tiniest of cracks. Common spots to seal off include the door to a basement, plumbing fixtures and where the rooflines meet. This usually works best for keeping out rodents, but ants, scorpions, earwigs and centipedes can make it through the tiniest of cracks.

Don’t ignore clutter. A dirty kitchen is more likely to attract pests, so wipe down counters, wash floors and avoid leaving dirty dishes in the sink. Eliminate as many hiding places for critters as possible. “Sanitation is a must,” says Dave Ridinger from Advanced Pest Control of Sacramento.

KNOW YOUR BUGS

According to Mike Kobus of Koby Pest Control, ants and spiders are the most common home invaders. “There are many species of ants in California, the most common being the Argentine ant,” he says. Other ants prevalent in the area include carpenters, or wood-destroying insects, meaning they nest in wood and leave small shavings; pine tree ants, which prefer a softer wood or polystyrene and fiberglass insulation; pharaoh ants; and odorous ants, which give off a rotten smell when crushed.

There are also hundreds of types of spiders living in California – most of them non-poisonous. The black widow, however, is highly poisonous, and Ray Shelton, owner and operator of Alta Sierra Pest Control, says his company has received new business this year due to an abundance of black widows in the area. Adult black widows are shiny and dark-colored, and the females have a red-orange hourglass pattern on the underside of the abdomen, while males may have red-orange or yellow spots and stripes on the top of their abdomen.

TAKE BACK YOUR HOME

Kobus recommends getting rid of ants with the application of a non-repellent pesticide, such as Termidor, to the perimeter and entry points of a home. This can be done effectively twice a year. “Termidor acts like a bait, but the ants don’t have to eat it,” says Kobus. “Ants forage through Termidor, get it on them, then transfer it to  other ants, which can eliminate ant colonies up to 30 feet away.”

Beyond spraying and exclusion, a professional might try trapping – a method mostly used to eliminate rodents already in the house. If rodents inside continue to be a problem, baiting outside the house will lure them to move out of the structure in search of water.

Don’t forget the importance of a pest-free outdoor space. Keep debris on your lawn to a minimum and landscaping well-manicured. Maintain at least four to six inches of clearance from shrubs and flowers from the structure, and keep sprinkler water from hitting your home. Also, maintain proper sanitation around trash cans. Additionally, consider applying a residual pesticide to the foundations, eves and yard to prevent outdoor critters.

For more information on household pests and how to get rid of them, visit ipm.ucdavis.edu.


ECO-FRIENDLY ALTERNATIVES

Want a bug-free home without pestering the environment? Kobus recommends being site specific and applying pesticides only where necessary. “More is not usually better,” he stresses. Also, the use of baits is very effective in controlling a large number of pests while having very little impact on the environment – both for the health of the earth and your family.

Shelton says that if you do not feel comfortable with power spraying your home, talk to an exterminator about exclusion and trapping, both great ways to eliminate rodents by sealing off entry points or luring animals into a trap that can later be thrown out. Spiders are more difficult pests in that they need to be dealt with head-on, so try web sweeping, having someone search out eves and windows and knock down as many as possible. Also, keep screens and doors tightly sealed. Fewer flying insects means less food so less spiders.

And finally, there is the method of ultrasonic sounds, which claim to use ultra-high frequency sound waves to chase away rodents and arthropod pests like fleas, cockroaches, silverfish and even spiders. But Korbus warns that this method has not been proven effective.


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