Don’t Let Them Bug You

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Men laying new hardwood flooring

Ants, roaches and other pesky insects are as much a part of summer in Atlanta as Braves baseball or backyard cookouts. Bugs like the mild climate just as much as humans do, making the Southeast a veritable Bug Belt. But even though insects thrive here naturally, you dont have to give them room under your roof. A few simple preventative measures, along with careful use of some readily available products, should minimize the number of unwelcome pests that you see.

The first step in debugging your house is keeping insects out in the first place. Ninety-eight percent of all insects found in a house come from outside, says Billy Blasingame, vice president of pest control operations for Arrow Exterminators, which has 20 offices in metro Atlanta. Sealing cracks and crevices and fixing screens can reduce the number of bugs getting in.

When insects do come in, they are looking for food, water or shelter. Sanitation measures, such as cleaning up food spills and repairing leaky plumbing fixtures, will cut down on your homes attractiveness to bugs.

One of the best ways to ensure that your home stays bug-free is to hire a pest control service to spray your house on a regular basis. The most requested and sold service package is the quarterly pest control service, followed closely by termite control services, says Steven Arnold, owner of Peachtree Pest Control. The quarterly service costs about $75 for an average three-bedroom house, and they also offer monthly, semiannual and annual service agreements.

Whether you sign up for a regular service or decide to do your own debugging, its helpful to know a little bit about the pests you may find around your home. Ants are the No. 1 pest Arrow hears about, Blasingame says, followed by roaches and other creepy-crawlies. Here are some tips from the pros on dealing with some of the most common pests you might find intruding on your house and yard.

ants

The little brown trail-building ants commonly known as sugar ants are actually Argentine ants, which came to the United States in a coffee shipment more than 100 years ago, according to Dan Suiter, a University of Georgia Extension Service entomologist. They nest in pine mulch and leaf litter and need moisture for their developing larvae. Colonies can have a million inhabitants by midsummer, and their trails can be 350 feet long, so the ants that form a line across your kitchen wall may not even live on your property.

The large black ants that you may see skittering around your bathroom, basement or other areas where moisture is abundant are carpenter ants. They get their name because they nest inside wood, Arnold says. This can cause damage to your home and can weaken trees in your yard, as carpenter ants are also known to hollow out tree limbs for nest sites.

Fire ants are the small, very aggressive red ants that like to build mounds in your yard. They can also cause damage to your home, as well as to telephone wires and air-conditioning units. And, as many of us learned by stepping into their mounds as kids, their stings are painful.

All ants start outdoors, so outside is where the control process should start, Arnold says. A bag of Ortho Fire Ant Broadcast Granules costs around $20, and one application can last for up to four months. Baiting works especially well with ants because they share food. There are a variety of good ant baits on the market, including granules, liquids and bait stations. Suiter likes gel baits, which can be used inside as well as out. A box of six Terro Bait Stations costs about $6. Put out small amounts of the bait in many locations, and be aware that it takes a few days for baits to be effective as ants spread the poison throughout the colony. Sprays, like Raid Ant & Roach Killer (about $3 per can), are good for short-term use, such as ridding your deck of ants before an outdoor party.

roaches

Most roaches youll see in the area are one of three species: the little brown German roaches, the larger American roaches, and smokybrown roaches, sometimes called Palmetto bugs. Keeping the kitchen clean, reducing clutter, and moving grocery bags (both paper and plastic), cardboard boxes and firewood outdoors are ways to avoid German roaches, according to Blasingame. Smokybrowns nest in tree holes, landscape ties, hollow walls and other voids. They thrive around water and can be found in areas such as attics or crawl spaces where there is a moisture problem.

As with most insects, Georgias warm climate affects the roach population. They grow larger, produce more offspring and hence cause more problems, Arnold says. Recent studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Pest Management Association have shown that asthma is directly associated with roaches in the environment. Roaches also play a major role in food contamination.

Because roaches are strongly tied to health issues, its a good idea to call in an expert to ensure that they are eliminated. However, gel baits and bait stations can be effective and should be placed in areas where roaches are found. A pack of eight large roach bait stations from Combat costs about $10, or for a quick fix, try Raid Ant & Roach Killer for about $3 per can.

fleas

According to Suiter, fleas are making a comeback. For a decade, pest control companies had seen their flea-removal business wane as pet owners used products such as Frontline, Advantage and Program on their dogs and cats to control fleas. Now, theres speculation that fleas may be developing a resistance to these products.

If your pet has fleas, you must treat both the animal and the areas where it lies, because flea eggs will fall out of an animals coat onto its bedding or the floor. If your dog spends most of its time outdoors, give him a weekly bath with flea shampoo. Suiter recommends washing pet bedding weekly and throwing away the vacuum bag after vacuuming your pets sleeping area. Use products that include the growth regulator pyriproxyfen to treat the house.

Be prepared to leave the house for several hours if you call in a professional to take care of a flea problem, Blasingame says, adding that the label on the specific product the exterminator uses will give complete details on how long you must stay out of the treated area. Do-it-yourself foggers also include such information, but be sure to read the labels carefully. You cant kill the bug faster with more chemical, so dont try, says Arnold, who says that treating for fleas yourself is often cheaper and just as effective as using a professional.

bedbugs

If your mother always warned, dont let the bedbugs bite, you might think these pests are simply a nursery rhyme. Unfortunately, they arent, and they have become a more common problem in recent years. Suiter thinks it is likely that people are picking them up during international travel and carrying these blood-feeders home in their baggage. If youre traveling overseas, check creases in a mattress for small crawling critters before accepting a room.

Bedbugs, which look like tiny watermelon seeds, like to hide inside mattresses and bedding (human and animal), in the upholstery of chairs and sofas, inside baseboards, behind pictures and loose wallpaper, and in other nooks and crannies throughout the house. Their bites are painless but leave welts, so you may wake up wondering what bit you during the night. The only good news about bedbugs is that they are not known to carry disease.

If you suspect you have bedbugs, use a flashlight to check for droppings around your mattress and baseboards. Because they tend to multiply and scatter quickly, it can be difficult to get rid of them without help. Bedbugs are a tremendous problem, says Suiter, who recommends hiring a professional to deal with them immediately.

bees & wasps

Bees and wasps are not very aggressive and wont sting you without being provoked, but they can still cause damage to your home. Carpenter bees look like large bumblebees, and youll probably see them around your back porch or in the eaves of your house, boring holes and making tunnels in which to lay their eggs. Youll want to plug up the holes, but wait until late summer when the eggs have hatched and the bees have emerged; otherwise, theyll just unplug the holes again to get out. In the meantime, protect your house by dusting around the entrance to each hole with an insecticide containing 5 percent Sevin dust, which is highly toxic to bees.

You may also find wasps on your porch or in your garage mud daubers are the wasps that build the common organ-pipe nests, which are easy to remove once they have been sprayed. Hornets and yellow jackets are social insects and are much more aggressive, so be especially careful when dealing with them. Check eaves and overhangs for nests, says Blasingame, adding that you may also find nests in odd places, like under the grill. Yellowjackets nest in the ground or in hollow posts or voids in exterior walls.

Spraying is the most effective way to get rid of these insects, but make sure to do it at night. They are least active at this time, and they will all be at home, so youll be sure to get them all. A jet-stream aerosol spray that shoots at least 20 feet, such as Spectracide Wasp & Hornet Killer (about $3 per can), will usually work. Spraying can be tricky, and excessive stings can be dangerous, the Extension Service warns, so if youre apprehensive, call a professional.

Dont let summer in the Bug Belt get you down. Armed with the right knowledge, a few sprays, baits and traps, and the number of a good professional on hand, you can take control and keep pests from taking over your house and yard.

5 Things
You Can Do to
Keep Bugs Away

1. Eliminate food finds
Clean up spills and crumbs, both inside and outside, and store food in tightly sealed containers.

2. Seal the house
Fill in cracks, mend screens and keep doors closed so bugs cant wander in.

3. Reduce moisture
Fix leaks and drainage problems and eliminate standing water, which serves as an insect breeding ground.

4. Go easy on the mulch
Keep mulch, leaves and other decaying matter at least 18 inches from the foundation of your home, because it holds in moisture and provides a nesting area for pests.

5. Trim your trees
Keep branches away from the house, because they can serve as a bug bridge into your home.

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