Termites in Atlanta

Wednesday, February 2, 2011@ 6:35 PM
Author: Ken Martin

Like most places in the world, Atlanta is home to termites.  Lots of termites. Termites are small, white, tan, or black insects that can cause severe destruction to wood found in and around buildings. Along with the rest of the southern U.S, Atlanta has more than it’s share of termites. A common saying here is, “There are two kinds of houses in Atlanta: Those that have termites and those that are gonna get termites.”  Thankfully we don’t have to deal with drywood termites here in Atlanta.  Our primary concern is Reticulitermes flavipes, the eastern subterranean termite.  With 10 to 15 colonies per acre, and an average of 300,000 termites per colony, they are worthy of our concern. Remember this.

Termites don’t care what neighborhood you live in or how much money you make or even what kind of car you drive. They just want to devour the very walls around you.  Treating a home for termites is a more complex job than treating for most other insects.

So whether you are trying to prevent termites or you already have them, you have a myriad of choices to try and make sense of.  Should you hire an exterminator?  Should you treat it yourself?  Should you use termite baits?  Should you use a liquid treatment?  What termite bait is best?

It’s enough to make you crazy. Let’s take a look at some of the options, and hopefully we can help you make an informed decision.

For many years, the traditional method of controlling subterranean termites was to apply a liquid insecticide known as a termiticide, to the soil. The object was to apply a chemical to the soil around and beneath the structure in order to block all possible routes of termite entry. Any termites attempting to penetrate the treated soil were either killed or repelled.

There are, however many obstacles to forming such a barrier. Frequently, termite entry points are hidden behind walls, floor coverings, and other obstructions, making detection and treatment more of a challenge.

The development of new termiticides that can’t be detected by the termites has tilted the battle in favor of the home owner.  Dominion 2L has emerged at the front of the termiticide pack.  It’s affordable, long lasing, and very safe to use.

Other options include termite baiting and wood treatment.  The Advance Termite Bait System has proven itself over the years and is used throughout the country by most of the top termite control firms. Termite baiting is a good alternative to soil treatment, especially in preventative treatments.  When there are active termites in the home, baiting is a good second tier treatment to use in conjunction with soil treatments.  This allows you the option to go with a spot treatment of the infested area or a complete treatment.

Wood treatment, while not recommended as a standalone measure, can be combined with other methods to treat critical areas and provide additional protection.  BorRam is a low toxicity spray-on wood treatment that lasts for the life of the wood.  Unlike many other wood treatments, BorRam is readily soluble in cold water, making it the clear choice for ease of use.

Remember that our trained staff of pest control experts can help you with any questions concerning mixing or application of the products. We are only a phone call away and eager to help you “Do Your Own Pest Control”.

Termites in Los Angeles

Thursday, January 27, 2011@ 1:04 PM
Author: Ken Martin

Los Angeles is home to several species of termites. There are two in particular that, while quite different in their habits, are both capable of causing major damage to your home. We are talking about the Western Subterranean termite (Reticulitermes hesperus) and the Western Drywood termite (Incisitermes minor). Most of the U.S. is home to one or more species of subterranean termites, and Los Angeles is no exception.  Los Angeles, however, has to deal with the Western Drywood Termite as well. While much more common in southern California, drywood termites can also be found well north of Los Angeles along the coast, and in the Central Valley region.

Drywood Termites

Unlike their subterranean cousins, drywood species need no contact with the soil.  They can survive on the moisture found in the wood.  Drywood termites infest dry, sound wood, including structural lumber as well as dead limbs of native trees and shade and orchard trees, utility poles, posts, and lumber in storage. From these areas, winged reproductives seasonally migrate to nearby buildings and other structures usually on sunny days during fall months. Drywood termites are most prevalent in southern California (including the desert areas), but also occur along most coastal regions and in the Central Valley.

Drywood termites have a low moisture requirement and can tolerate dry conditions for prolonged periods. They remain entirely above ground and do not connect their nests to the soil. Piles of their fecal pellets, which are distinctive in appearance, may be a clue to their presence. The fecal pellets are elongate (about 3/100 inch long) with rounded ends and have six flattened or roundly depressed surfaces separated by six longitudinal ridges. They vary considerably in color, but appear granular and salt and pepper like in color and appearance.

Winged adults of western drywood termites (Incisitermes minor) are dark brown with smoky black wings and have a reddish brown head and thorax; wing veins are black. These insects are noticeably larger than subterranean termites.

Treatments can be broken down into two categories:

1. Fumigation

2. Topical and spot applications.


Fumigating a home is absolutely the most effective means of eradicating drywood termites.  However it is expensive, labor intensive, and provides no protection against re-infestation. In addition it must be done by a professional exterminator with a license for fumigation.

Topical or Spot Applications

When the infested wood is readily accessible, spot treatment may prove to be effective.  Concentrates, such as BorRam are useful on unfinished wood.  They can be sprayed or painted on the wood.  If the wood is painted or finished, you can often drill inconspicuous holes and inject aerosol foams into the affected area.  Premise Foam is ideal for such applications.

Drywood termites can be challenging, but you can do something about them.  Feel free to give us a call and speak with one of our termite technicians. We can help you determine the best treatment strategy for your particular situation.

Rodent Proofing Your Home-Part 2

Tuesday, January 4, 2011@ 1:01 PM
Author: Ken Martin

Ok.  You’ve found and sealed every opening you can find from the ground.  That was the easy part.  Now we’ll deal with the roof line.

I could go on and on about how you should be careful on a ladder, but it’s not like me to nag.  However you really should visit this site dealing with ladder safety. http://firstaid.about.com/od/injuriesathome/qt/06_ladders.htm

Our first order of business is to check the screening on the soffit vents and the gable vents.

soffit vent

gable vent

These can be screened from the inside or the outside.  I prefer to use ¼ inch mesh hardware cloth.  It’s sturdier than screen wire but still small enough to keep out the smallest rodents.

A common entry point that often goes unnoticed by us humans (but not by the rodents) is the “construction gap” between the fascia board and the roof deck.  If you go to the “gutter side” of the house and lift the bottom shingle, you’ll often see a gap from ¼ inch wide to 2 or 3 inches wide.

construction gap being sealed with drip edge

This gap can be sealed with “drip edge”, an angled length of galvanized metal. The top edge will slide snugly under the shingles, while the bottom edge can be secured to the fascia board using sheet metal screws.  The ends should overlap an inch or so.  If you feel that this job is a bit more than you want to tackle, there are numerous pest control and nuisance wildlife control firms that can do it for you.

Next on our list to seal is the chimney.  If your chimney doesn’t have a chimney cap, it should.  More chimney damage is caused by the lack of a chimney cap than any other source.  A chimney cap will stop rain as well as birds and animals from getting in your chimney. Just like chimneys, chimney caps come in all shapes and sizes. You can buy the more common sizes in any home improvement store.  Fancy chimneys will need a similarly fancy custom chimney cap with a fancy custom price tag.  As with the drip edge there are many firms that can help you with the installation.

Remember, the best rodent proofing job in the world won’t keep out a rodent who has already been living in your home.  Sealing them out will just force them to chew a new entry way.  Think of it like this:  If you came home one day and someone had changed the locks on your house, would you just go find another house?  No. You would get in somehow, some way. So will the rodents.  You’ll need to trap and remove the rodents first.  Only seal everything up, once you have eliminated them.

If you have any questions just give us a call.  We have a full staff of trained experts waiting to help.

Now go and get busy!  The rodents are coming!

Insect Identification

Monday, November 29, 2010@ 1:53 PM
Author: Do-It-Yourself Pest Control

A friend just told us about this handy tool to help identify your pest! We think it’s pretty helpful – http://www.insectidentification.org/

Household Nuisance Flies

Monday, November 29, 2010@ 12:26 PM
Author: Don Lowry

There are 4 different small flies commonly found inside a home.  To effectively treat for each fly you need to identify which fly you have.

Fungus gnat.  These small flies can go through their life cycle in the potting soil of house plants.  They look like a small mosquito and do not like to fly.  To treat, drench the roots of the house plant with a very diluted wettable powder insecticide.  Demon WP, diluted at one packet to 2 gallons of water, works well.

Fruit Fly. This is the most common small fly found inside a home.  They are small flies, good fliers, and when examined look like a miniature house fly with large red eyes.  To eliminate these flies, get rid of their food.  Fruit, spoiled potatoes or onions are the most likely sources.  Also check for small leaks underneath kitchen appliances.  In restaurants, fruit flies can easily multiply in the small leakages of soda fountains or beer taps, dish towels, mops, and any other wet place undisturbed for 48 hours or longer.  For short term control an aerosol containing Pyrethrum such as PT 565 will kill all flying nuisance flies.  Black lights, fruit fly traps and glue traps will all aid in long term maintenance.

Drain Fly. These flies are also known as moth flies.  They are small flies, weak flyers, and their wings are much too large for their body.  No other small nuisance fly looks anything like them.  They breed in the same locations as Phorid  flies (humpbacked flies).

Phorid Fly. These flies are also known as drain flies, sewage flies and hump backed flies.  When disturbed they have the habit of running before flying.  On examination, they will have a very pronounced humped back.  They do not have the red eyes of the fruit fly.  Because the fruit fly and the phorid fly breed in different locations, it is necessary to identify which fly you have before you begin trying to eliminate it.  The breeding locations and treatments of the phorid fly and drain fly are the same.  Breeding locations can be any of the following:  Damaged septic lines, air conditioning drains, toilets (the seal may be broken) or the toilet may be used infrequently, drains, small leaks under appliances, loose tiles in the bathroom, sliding shower doors.  If there is a sewage odor in any room of the house this should be corrected.  Sometimes a plumber with a smoking device will be needed to find the broken pipes.  To see if drain flies are present in a drain place a sticky tape over the drain at night.  Place the tape over 2/3 of the drain only.  Check tape the next morning.

To treat a drain, use a long handled bristle brush to clean the drain if possible, flush with hot water.  Treat with Invade Bio Drain Gel, frequently at first and then less often for maintenance.  All of the Invade products contain a mixture of bacteria that eat the gunk formed around the inside of the drain, depriving the fly maggots of their food source.  They contain no pesticide or caustic material.

To treat a shower, use the Invade Hot Spot.  This product can be applied around the edge of the shower stall, around loose tiles, and along the shower door.

For health clubs or restaurants, consider using the Invade Bio Zap for toilets and the Invade Bio Mop Cleaner for a mop rinse.

To kill the adult drain flies, use a pyrethrum aerosol such as PT 565Black lights and glue traps will also catch the adult flies.  Phorid flies take 2-4 weeks to go through their life cycle, so eliminating the problem will take time.

Conclusion:  You must identify the fly before you can choose the right methods to eradicate the fly. Upon identification, choose the treatments that make the most sense for your particular problem.  Feel free to call us for suggestions.   

Rodent Proofing Your Home – Part 1

Friday, November 19, 2010@ 4:25 PM
Author: Ken Martin

First of all, we’d like to apologize for the hiatus! We’re back and ready for action so keep the questions and comments coming – we’ll try to get back to everyone!

Ok.  You are about to begin rodent proofing your home.  I think it is important to have a target pest in mind as you begin.  The average adult mouse weighs less than an ounce, and can slip through an opening the size of a dime.  Obviously this makes mouse proofing a home a bit more difficult than rat proofing.  Norway Rats tend to burrow, and their entry points are going to more likely be found low to the ground.  Roof Rats are excellent climbers, and as such will be more apt to enter the home around the roof area. However I have seen Norway Rats in attics and Roof Rats burrow into crawl spaces, so don’t make too many assumptions.

Let’s start with the doors.  Check for gaps around the bottom and the side of the doors. If you are inside on a sunny day and can see light under the door, this should be addressed.  Installing or replacing door seal or sweeps should be all that is needed.

Next let’s look for any utility penetrations.  Water pipes, gas lines, electrical conduit, dryer vents, and cable TV wires are all common entry points. Look for gaps around these penetrations. A great product for sealing these gaps is Stuf-Fit Copper Mesh.  It can be wedged into place and it’s nearly impossible for rodents to chew through.  It doesn’t rust like steel wool, so staining is not an issue.

Now let’s inspect all foundation vents and screens.  Any broken or missing vents should be replaced.  If the screening on the foundation vents is damaged it should be replaced.  I recommend ¼ inch mesh hardware cloth. It is much sturdier than screen wire and can’t be chewed through by rats or mice. It’s easy to work with and can easily be cut with a pair of tin snips.

Mesh hardware

Mesh hardware

The vent for the clothes dryer is another potential entry point.  If it has no screening on it, replace it with a new one.

Screened dryer vent

Correctly screened dryer vent

Now check for a gap under the bottom board of the siding.  Depending on the size of the gap it can be sealed with anything from caulk to Stuf-Fit Copper Mesh.

In our next installment we’ll discuss the roof line and all of the fun you’ll have closing and sealing gaps while standing on a ladder.

Carpenter Ants

Tuesday, August 3, 2010@ 12:36 PM
Author: Don Lowry
Carpenter Ant

Carpenter Ant

Carpenter ants are becoming more of a pest in our homes because of the decreased use of pesticide sprays, the use of more natural building products and building houses in wooded areas.  If you see carpenter ants in your house you should take steps to eradicate them before they do serious damage.

IDENTIFICATION: These ants are normally much bigger than the average ant, and are not seen foraging in great numbers.  Colors vary and there may be different sizes in the same colony.  All carpenter ants have a humped back with no indentation, while other ants have one or more.  All ants, whether flying or not, have a very narrow waist (flying termites have no waist).

INSPECTION AND ELIMINATION: Large flying or foraging ants seen inside the home usually means the colony is inside, not outside.  The surest, quickest, cheapest way to eliminate the colony is to find the nest and apply dust directly into the gallery.  An inspection of the crawl space, basement, fireplace, attic, roof, gutters, windows, bathrooms, sinks, door frames, etc. is recommended.  You are looking for sawdust, dead ants, and moisture problems.  If you find the water leak the ants will be there also.  Tapping on the wall will excite the ants and make them start clicking which will pinpoint the nest. (Nobody wants to do this inspection, but carpenter ants often mean water leaks, and that needs to be corrected).  So you did the inspection and you found nothing, now what.  Try putting out tuna packed in water (not oil) and watching them take the food back to the nest.  The ants forage more actively at night.   Upon finding the nest, drill several ¼ inch holes into the nest and apply Drione dust with a bellows duster.  The colony will be dead within minutes.  Do not apply a liquid or an aerosol, the ants will probably escape and relocate from this treatment. In some cases there are more than one colony in your house, so continue to be on the lookout for foraging ants.

CARPENTER ANT BAITS: Maxforce carpenter ant bait and Advance granular bait are available for baiting.  Use both of these at the same time.  Refresh bait once a week.   Allow 4-12 weeks for control of the colony.  Do not use baits and any kind of spray at the same time.  These baits usually work, but I still recommend you find the colony and kill it with the dust.  Remember that the colony is often found in conjunction with a moisture problem.

PREVENTION: Trim overhanging tree limbs and bushes.  Keep the wood pile far from the house.  Remove dead limbs and stumps from trees in the yard.  Spray a residual insecticide such as Bifen on the outside of your house 3 times a season to keep ants from entering your home.  Correct all moisture problems in your home.

As always, call us if you are stumped.  Maybe a fresh look at the problem will help you find the colony.

Brown Recluse Spider Bites: The Facts And The Fiction

Friday, July 30, 2010@ 1:19 PM
Author: Ken Martin
Brown Recluse Spider

Brown Recluse Spider

You know how sometimes a story will take on a life of it’s own? Like how chlordane was magical mystery potion and lasted for 400 years? Or that there is a special rat poison that dries the rats up so they don’t smell if they die in the wall?  Well, the latest one that I am hearing on a regular basis is how brown recluse spiders are the most dangerous thing since wearing a Red Sox Jersey at Yankee Stadium. Everyone I meet these days either has been bitten by or knows somebody who was bitten by a brown recluse.  Then they go into all of the gory details of the wound and how horrible it was. It’s a wonder anyone is still alive with all the mayhem brown recluse spiders have unleashed on mankind.

“So what’s the real truth Ken?”, I can hear you asking.

The truth is this: Brown Recluse Spiders are not as common as you think.  They are primarily found in the Central Midwest and to a lesser extent south of there.  As a rule they are not found along the eastern or western coasts or the Rocky Mountain States or in any state bordering Canada. The vast majority of bites blamed on them in these areas are mis-diagnosed.

“But my doctor said mine was definitely a Brown Recluse bite.”, I can hear you say.

Well, according to Rick Vetter, University of California Entomologist arguably the world’s foremost authority on the misdiagnosis of brown recluse spider bites, bites from recluse spiders are routinely misdiagnosed. The public often overreacts based on wrong or misleading information and arachnophobia, says Vetter.  This can often make it difficult to separate the facts from the legends. Wounds are often blamed on spiders, and particularly the recluse, when there is absolutely no way to verify it. Vetter explained that there are many things that can cause wounds that are virtually indistinguishable from the recluse’s bite, including Lyme disease, diabetic ulcers, herpes or ringworm. Then there are other spiders that bite and can cause wounds.  The Yellow Sac Spider is one of the most common spiders in North America. Many experts believe that they are responsible for more spider bites than all other spiders combined. And here’s the thing.  Their bites, and the resulting wounds, are almost identical to those of the brown recluse, with one exception.  They are not as severe. So there is all of this hysteria about the Brown Recluse Spider and it turns out that they are getting a bad rap from a completely different spider.

“But if a Brown Recluse bites you all your skin will rot away!”, I hear you saying.

Not really.  Turns out that about 90% of the time Brown Recluse Spider bites leave no scars and heal quite nicely on their own.  Sure, about 10% have bad outcomes but remember that we’re talking about 10% of real brown recluse bites.  There’s no way to know just how many reported bites are actual brown recluse bites but it’s safe to assume that is far less than anecdotal evidence would suggest.

“So what are you saying, Ken?” I hear you saying.

Just don’t believe everything you hear, that’s all.  And if you see a brown spider in your house, don’t burn the place down. It’s likely not a brown recluse.  Even if it is, it’s not the end of the world.  You can buy insecticides today that are much, much more effective on spiders than the ones we had just a few years ago.  So I’ll keep doing my part to stamp out arachnophobia. I just need a little help.

Hollister NYC Store Closing Because of Bed Bugs

Thursday, July 15, 2010@ 10:08 AM
Author: Ken Martin

If ever a news story illuminated the extent  of the bed bug epidemic that faces us, this one (shown below) does.  It just goes to show you that bed bugs do not discriminate.  Be it an upscale clothing store in the SoHo district of Manhattan or government housing in the slums, bed bugs can and will exploit any opportunity they find. The Pest Management Industry needs to take the lead and advise retailers on the proper handling of returns to avoid such problems.  If it can happen at a Hollister store it can happen anywhere.

(Reuters) – Teen apparel chain Abercrombie & Fitch Co has closed its Hollister store in New York City due to bedbug infestation.

The store, in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, was closed on Wednesday, the company said. It said it was in the process of removing the bedbugs and hoped to reopen the store soon.

Abercrombie & Fitch spokesman Eric Cerny had no comment on how the store closing could affect sales and profits.

(Reporting by Dhanya Skariachan; editing by John Wallace)

Pesticide Phobia

Friday, July 9, 2010@ 9:00 AM
Author: Don Lowry

We get bombarded by the media 24/7 about all the hazards that face us if we have the nerve to leave the safety of our house.  Many of the news stations don’t let the facts get in the way, just get a scary story on the tube.

Over the years pesticide phobia has increased dramatically.  Below are what our customers tell us and what the facts actually are.

I won’t use pesticides in my house, they are poison.  Yes, a pesticide is a poison, this is the very definition of the word:  a product that kills a pest.

I only use natural, organic products in my house to control pests.  If a substance, whether natural or manmade, kills a pest by its very definition it is a poison.  Many times the home cure is far more hazardous to your health than buying a pesticide labeled to control that particular pest.

As a homeowner, what should you do?  Just tolerate the bugs, rats, etc.?  Pests can spread all kinds of disease, not to mention the damage they can do to our possessions.  To protect the health of your children and your pets, judicious use of pesticides are often required.

Today’s pesticides are tested for many years before they are allowed on the market.  Once on the market they are monitored for long-term health effects.  This is not to say they are not poisonous, but if used correctly and at the label rate they pose few health hazards to you, your children and your pets.  When using a liquid product, the pets and the children should not be in the area until the product has dried, one to two hours.  The concentrated pesticide poses a far greater hazard and should be stored where small hands and pets cannot reach them.

Whenever possible, use mechanical or pheromone traps, dusts, and baits.  The dusts and baits have pesticides in them but at very small percentages which make them a very low hazardous product.  Use IGRS.  These are insect growth regulators.  These products disrupt the life cycles of insects in various ways and provide long term insect control with almost no hazard to you or your pets.

On a side note, I know that a lot of people will only buy organic produce.  The vast majority of food poisoning in the last 20 years has come from organic produce, not from pesticide or inorganic fertilizer poisoning.  Small amounts of pesticides applied at the right time and in the right amount on crops greatly increase the yields and quality of that crop with almost no risk to the consumer.

Conclusion.  Use common sense.  Read the pesticide label.  Pick the product or products that will cure your particular pest problem.  Don’t apply a bunch of bleach, borax, baking soda, salt, diatomaceous earth, boric acid, ammonia, etc. on your carpet or in your cupboards.  You risk destroying your possessions and may put your pets and small children in hazard’s way.