Thursday, November 29, 2012

Protect Your Home from Winter Pests

Simple steps to guard against intruders

Winter months bring frosty temperatures, gusty winds and slippery sleet and snow, sending people indoors to seek warmth and shelter.  The chill in the air may also send a few uninvited pest guests into your home, too.
Most homeowners don’t think about winter pests until they see signs of an infestation, at which point treatment becomes more difficult. The best way to keep pests out of your home in the cooler months is to take preventative action before you have a problem. 

Pests such as rodents and cockroaches seek food, water and shelter in the winter – all of which can be found in the comfort of your home.  In fact, smoky brown cockroaches can sense a temperature decrease of only five degrees, and chilly temperatures are a signal to them that it is time to move indoors.  Unfortunately, rodents and cockroaches can cause alarm and threaten the health of you and your family.  These pests can spread disease, contaminate food and even trigger allergies.
Follow these steps to pest-proof your home this winter:
  • Tightly seal all entry points: Monitor for cracks, crevices or gaps in siding, door and window screens, and around pipes, as these areas can serve as entry points for pests.  Both rodents and cockroaches can enter your home through tiny gaps – rats can squeeze through quarter-sized openings, and mice can fit through dime-sized holes. 
  • Trim branches, plants and bushes: Vegetation near a home can serve as a natural pathway indoors for pests.
  • Inspect firewood: Some ant and cockroach species nest in firewood, so be sure to store it on a raised platform away from your home and inspect it before bringing it inside.
  • Keep mulch away from your home: Pests such as cockroaches are attracted to moisture-rich habitats, including mulch.  Harrison recommends storing mulch and firewood at least two feet away from your home.
  • Practice good sanitation: Keep counters and dishes clean, and don’t forget to tightly seal leftovers and rinse recyclable containers prior to storing.  Empty garbage bins and vacuum frequently to avoid attracting pests.
If you do see signs of pests in or around your home, call Servall Pest Control to determine the most effective treatment and control methods!

As always Servall Termite & Pest Control is here for all of your pest control and home repair needs. Contact us today at one of our four convenient locations or visit!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving tips: Keeping your kitchen clean

There's a turkey in the oven, cranberries on the counter and enough potatoes to feed a small army boiling on the stove. Add in guests popping into the kitchen for a snack and nieces and nephews underfoot and Thanksgiving can get pretty chaotic.
That makes it all the more important to stay clean and organized as you're preparing your Turkey Day meal, North Carolina State University food safety expert Ben Chapman says in a new video. Having a system -- such as a rule that plastic cutting boards are for meat and wooden ones are for veggies and fruits -- can help.
"You want to make sure that you keep everything separate," Chapman said. "Any contamination that might go onto one cutting board is contained."
After you've thawed your turkey and unwrapped it, your next steps should be to clean and sanitize the utensils, cutting boards or platters that have touched raw meat, Chapman said. These are two different steps. Washing using dish soap will get rid of debris and juices. Sanitizing with a spray bottle of one tablespoon of bleach diluted in water will kill nasty microbes.
One thing you shouldn't wash, Chapman said: Your turkey. People often rinse their bird under the sink, but that does nothing to get rid of pathogens and can actually spread them. [Video - Thanksgiving Food Safety]
"The velocity of that water can spray those pathogens up to a yard away from your sink," Chapman said.
Cooking thoroughly will kill any bugs on the outside of your bird, Chapman said. If there are feathers or other grime on the turkey, patting it down with a paper towel is the safest bet.
Pre-washed bagged lettuce is another food that can skip the rinse, Chapman said: "You can't do anything more in your kitchen here to reduce risk."

As always Servall Termite & Pest Control is here for all of your pest control and home repair needs. Contact us today at one of our four convenient locations or visit!


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pest invaders causing billions in damage

WASHINGTON, DC - A potential threat may be lurking in the billions of tons of cargo that come into the nation every year. Customs and Border Protection inspectors are on the front lines. What they're looking for may be smaller than the naked eye can see but can cause extensive damage.

FOX5 went along with agricultural specialists at the Port of Baltimore. They're on the hunt every day, searching with flashlights, splitting wood, and sifting through rice. "I'll be searching underneath the plastic," one of the inspectors tells us.

They're not looking for drugs; they're looking for bugs capable of widespread devastation. "We find something usually every day," said David Ing, an agriculture specialist supervisor with Customs and Border Protection, although most are not dangerous. It's his job to prevent invasive pests from getting into the country. "Most people might not think of it until it becomes an outbreak," Ing said.

They can only search a small fraction of the containers that come in. These insects which can hitchhike in cargo are more dangerous than you think. Every year invasive species cause up to $100 billion in damage in the United States, more than Hurricane Katrina. "We're looking for high risk cargo that comes into the country," said Ricardo Scheller, Baltimore Port Director for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

This year the agency intercepted six insects never seen before in Baltimore, including a dangerous beetle last week discovered for the first time anywhere in the country. They can be tiny and hard to spot, some of them smaller than a grain of rice. "You could have crops that are destroyed in the United States, you could have an interception of a pest or a plant product that, you know, could make people sick," Scheller said.

Just look at what the brown marmorated stink bug has done. It's a native of China, first spotted in Pennsylvania nearly 15-years ago. The stink bug spread along the east coast, finding refuge in homes and trees during the winter and then emerging in late summer to feast on crops. Maryland farmer Bob Black's Catoctin Mountain Orchard was hit hard this year. "You can see when the stink bugs will have already sucked some of the juice out of the cells," he points out as workers harvest his apple crop.
On close examination, the darkened indentations are clearly visible. A large percentage have the markings of a stink bug bite. These cannot be sold in stores, where they would fetch the highest price.
They are damaged goods. He'll have to sell these apples for juice. "There's more damage than what I anticipated," he said surveying the bins. He'll get only have the price he would for an apple that was bite free and sold in stores.

The problem with invasive pests like this is there are no natural predators here. So farmers have to spray to keep the crop damage down, that increases their costs, a cost which is passed onto you in the food you buy. The cost of this year's crop damage he says is "a million dollar question." He's sorting through now, trying to decide whether he'll need to file an insurance claim.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Inspection Service or APHIS for short helps identify suspicious bugs. Anything found at the ports or airports comes here. The danger isn't just to crops. Giant African snails now multiplying in Florida can spread deadly diseases. "One of the biggest problems we've found is that they're big and they eat a lot but they also carry parasites. They're bad for humans. I believe you can die from the parasites," said Jim Young, an entomologist with APHIS.

On the East Coast, APHIS is fighting the emerald ash borer and Asian long horned beetle which are wiping out trees en masse. "It can happen pretty fast. That's why it's important that we find these quickly so we can put them down before they get too out of hand," said Paul Ijams, the APHIS state plant health director.

Once an invasive pest gets into the country, it can cost billions of dollars to eradicate if it's even possible. The USDA is now experimenting with a type of wasp that may prey on the stink bugs, but there are good species of stink bugs that the wasp may wipe out too.
At Bob Black's farm, the USDA set up a line of traps at the edge of his fields trying to find a way to stop them. "We still don't know rhyme or reason of why they're feeding, when, where," Black said with frustration.

Meanwhile back at the port, one of the inspections resulted in a discovery. It's a beetle in a tile shipment from Italy. "We did find one hitchhiker, but he may be dead," the agriculture specialist said. He put the bug into a glass vial, covered it and waited to see if perhaps it came back to life in the warmth but it didn't. It turned out to be harmless and the shipment can go out. Cargo found with invasive pests are fumigated or sent back. It's the first line of defense in what is now a multi-billion dollar bug battle.

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Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Challenges of Non-Traditional Pests

Non-traditional pests are impacting the pest management industry more than ever before. Whether a regionally introduced pest, like the kudzu bug or the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB), or a global resurgence like the bed bug, these pests have brought to light challenges that must be overcome. Our industry, and more importantly our service professionals, must be able to address these challenges to be successful.

One of the first challenges faced when dealing with non-traditional pests is a lack of information on those pests’ lifecycles. As all pest management professionals are aware, and according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) definition, the basis of an Integrated Pest Management program is a comprehensive knowledge of the pest’s lifecycle. With most of these non-traditional and introduced species, our knowledge of lifecycles is limited to information on how they interact in natural environments. Knowledge of how the pests will react in new environments — environments where they are increasingly found — is far from comprehensive. In the absence of natural predators, with an abundance of resources and a more favorable environment, history has shown that these pests tend to thrive in many cases.

The IPM Challenge. The BMSB is a perfect example. When first encountered as a structural pest, it was believed that based on information from its native environment, that existing control practices could limit its expansion. Unfortunately, BMSBs thrived, producing up to five generations per season, causing surges of insects into homes throughout the mid-Atlantic region. Unfortunately for businesses receiving calls from consumers overwhelmed by the BMSB, this lack of information posed a challenge in creating an effective IPM program.

Another pressing challenge has been the availability of effective materials for the control of non-traditional pests. Many industry products are not specifically labeled for the pests we are trying to control and therefore are not legal to apply. The kudzu bug is an example: first encountered in Georgia in 2009, the kudzu bug has steadily increased its range every year since. For an exterior application to be made, the site of the application must be listed on the label. However, there are many states that require the specific pest be listed on the label, regardless of the site. As the kudzu bug continues its trek across the United States, professionals, manufacturers and state regulators will need to take a look at these products and regulations to make a determination on how to best proceed in an effective and legal manner.

New Frontiers. Even the resurgence of the bed bug has highlighted the challenges encountered with the use of non-traditional IPM practices. Most notable is the use of canine scent detection teams as an inspection tool, a strategy that has gained momentum in the industry. Nevertheless, the effectiveness of such a method is often questioned in the absence of a singular certification program to verify its effectiveness.

In fact, a simple Internet search will provide information on many different organizations offering training and certification. Even the NPMA website provides information and links to three different canine inspection certification organizations. Businesses also must contend with the additional costs of caring for and training the dog and its handler.

Another bed bug challenge for our industry has been the increased use of heating equipment to control bed bugs, which has been well documented. While temperature modification is not a new practice for pest management, it has recently become the preferred method for control of bed bugs. Like traditional pests, the challenge for the industry has been an overreliance on older, inaccurate information regarding the bed bug’s lifecycle and reaction to heat. Newer information has allowed professionals to develop IPM strategies for more effective control of pests.
Non-traditional pests are having an impact on our industry and will continue to do so. There is much more to learn.

As always Servall Termite & Pest Control is here for all of your pest control and home repair needs. Contact us today at one of our four convenient locations or visit!