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Pest of the Month: Rats!

Pest of the Month-RatsWas there ever a mammal more reviled and maligned than the rat? First to leave the ship, the nickname for anyone who acts in their own interest at the expense of others, accused of spreading disease (even when they don’t). Even animal rights activists don’t get as riled up when they’re used for scientific testing as they do about other, cuter animals. In fact, any sympathy they get is mostly from that Pixar film.

And to be sure, some of the criticism is well-earned. They are well-known to be scavengers. They have helped circulate some diseases – 35 according to the CDC – in populated areas, just not the Black Plague. That particular outbreak was likely caused by another rodent renowned for evil – or maybe not – the Gerbil. Rats eat their own feces – apparently for its nutritional value. They also can’t control their bladders. As they walk, they dribble urine everywhere.

A Problem of Perception

So it might surprise you to find out that rats are actually some of the cleanest animals around. They can spend several hours a day on their grooming. They’re actually less likely to catch or transmit diseases than dogs and cats!

They’re also incredibly loyal, loving, and community-oriented animals. A single rat will get despondent if left without companionship. By the same token, they suffer some of the same social complications as humans do – being bullied, succumbing to peer pressure, often eating new things just because all the other rats are doing it.

But as a community – known as a mischief – they care for their sick and injured, have dreams while sleeping, and make laughing sounds when they play.

It’s rumored that both Queen Victoria and Peter Rabbit creator Beatrix Potter kept rats as pets. And along with Laika & Ham the Astrochimp, one of the first mammals in space was a brown rat, launched by France.

Clone Wars?

When scientists started seriously studying genetic diversity and cloning, they began by inbreeding rats, brother to sister, for 300 generations. The resulting rats were 99% genetically identical, even closer than we’ve yet been able to achieve with cloning.

One of the reasons that rats seem to be everywhere is because of their mating schedule. A female rat can mate as many as – wait for it – 500 times the 6 hour period that she’s in the mood. And she gets feeling that way about every 3.5 weeks. So in the average rats lifespan of 2-3 years, she can produce somewhere between 4 and 18 THOUSAND descendants.  That might explain how they originated in Asia and Australia but conquered the rest of the world long before man did.

Despite that, there are 7 species of rats on the Endangered Species list.

Smarter Than They Look

Their eyesight is poor, so rats use their whiskers and scent organs in their feet to find their way around. Rats are more intelligent than rabbits, hamsters, mice, gerbils and guinea pigs. They can learn their own name and once they’ve solved a maze, they never forget which way to go. Maybe we should harness them for our GPS’s!

Did you know rats are trained to detect land mines without setting them off? They’ve even trained some to drag cable through walls for electricians.

Recent Reputation

Rats weren’t always a harbinger of doom. In Rome they were considered good luck; they’re one of the more positive signs on the Chinese Zodiac, and to this day there’s a Hindu temple in India where pilgrims come to worship and feed the rats.

Other Fun Facts:

  • Rats chew through everything in an attempt to wear down their long teeth that never stop growing. You might say that they’re in a perpetual teething period.
  • A rat can go longer than a camel without having a drink of water.
  • Rats’ tails help them to balance while climbing and regulate their body temperature since they can’t sweat.

But despite all the really cool things about rats, we know most people don’t want to see them in their homes – especially if they’re not pets! A rat can squeeze through a hole the size of a quarter, so it’s important to closely check your home if you happen upon one of the wild rodents inside. Or simply call an expert like us.

We’ll exclude all visible entry points and seal your roof vents with our proprietary covers. We then eliminate the rats or mice already in your home and set up hidden bait stations around the outside perimeter to minimize the potential intruders.

Or you can take it one step further and get our Thermal Acoustical Pest Control (TAP). It keeps insects as well as rodents out, helps soundproof your home, and is a high efficiency insulation that is not only more effective than the pink stuff, but far less dangerous for your family.  Give us a call and we can help you figure out which program is best for you!

Pest of the Month: White Footed Ants

GNPS POM White Footed AntOften mistaken by homeowners as one of species of ‘Crazy Ants,’ no one’s quite sure how the White Footed Ant arrived in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Louisiana, as well as the East Indies, but they were first identified at a tree nursery near Miami in 1986.

The Technomyrmex albipes quickly spread across Florida like they had across Japan and Indonesia 125 years earlier. They measure 2-3 millimeters long and are shades of dark brown and black. They are best separated from other ants by their pale yellow to white feet, hence the name.

Are they a problem?

White footed ants don’t bite or sting and in fact have only one defense against extinction: reproduction. It may sound funny, but it’s no joke – unlike most ant species, almost half of the white footed ant colony are reproductive females. That’s between 4,000 and a million and a half potentially pregnant ants at any time.

White footed ants also spread more readily than other ant species. Between July and August, a small percentage of winged males and females do a mating flight, copulating in mid-air, then landing and starting a new colony. The colonies also spread by budding, where a group of non-flying nestmates will set out on a road trip to found a new colony.

Why are they so annoying?

White footed ants are not known to cause any structural damage, and as mentioned earlier, they don’t bite or sting. They’re just very annoying to homeowners as they seek out sweet foods and once they’ve established themselves in an area, are difficult to get rid of.

When not dining in your sugar bowl, White footed ants tend to go foraging along branches and trunks of trees and shrubs that have nectars and/or sap-sucking insects that produce honeydew. Once a food source is located, pheromone trails are laid down, which is why you often see lines of the ants moving back and forth between food sources. And yes, into your home.

Unlike most ant species, the foragers don’t carry food back to the colony, regurgitate it or share it with others. Despite being non-fertile, these foraging ants lay what are called ‘trophic eggs,’ which the young and the fertile feed on. This method of food production also protects the colony from toxic ant baits, as only the ants eating the bait perish. Even if they survive to lay trophic eggs, the poison isn’t handed down. Oh, and White footed ants are very good at detecting and re-routing around chemical insecticides.

Where do they live?

Technomyrmex albipes – also sometimes classified as Technomyrmex difficilis – nests in trees and bushes, tree holes, under palm fronds, in loose mulch, under debris, in rain gutters, wall voids, and attics. Also, they tend to nest outside more often than inside.

So how do I get rid of them?

Sadly, it seems that white footed ants are here to stay. Once they find their way into your home, it is almost impossible to eradicate them from it, even with professional help. One thing you can do is trim trees and bushes and arrange decorative mulch so that none of them are in direct contact with your home. You can also seal any cracks or crevices that could lead into your home, like around windows, doors and where electrical, phone or cable lines enter your home or attic.

The best defense we can recommend is our Go Green Plus 3 protection. Our trained technicians inspect the interior and exterior of your property, making sure proper precautions are taken, then they treat the perimeter foundation, entry points, eaves, plant beds and trees with reduced–risk, safe, green products. And we’ll repeat the process 3 more times during the year – and return any time there’s a new problem, without any added charges.

To be doubly sure, you might also consider our Thermal Acoustical Pest (TAP) control. While its primary purpose is to refresh your attic after a rodent infestation, it also protects your attic against most other insects, including White footed ants (TAP contains boric acid, a safe chemical that is effective against them). TAP nearly pays for itself in sound-proofing and is more energy efficient insulation than the pink stuff that funny looking cat sells. And it’s fire-retardant.

If you’re having an issue with white footed ants or any other insects, give us a call today. We’ll inspect the property and give you the best options available from our array of family-friendly, 100% organic pest solutions. We’ve been taking care of our customers from Sarasota to Punta Gorda for nearly 30 years and we’d be happy to bring you into our family of satisfied clients!

Bed Bugs Love Dirty Laundry!

Bed Bugs Love Dirty LaundryWe’ve mentioned before that no one knows for sure why Cimex lectularius – better known as the common Bed Bug – has recently had a huge resurgence in North America after almost disappearing in the 1950’s.  A lot of theories and pieces of the puzzle have been suggested, but none of them fully explain the phenomenon.

Now, scientists at a research college in England have discovered a startling new clue to the mystery – and certainly one that explains the rapid spread of the insects across both the United States and the globe.

It’s so simple, once you hear it, it’s almost too obvious – one of those right in front of your nose discoveries. Oh, and speaking of noses…

Blood, Sweat & Tears

Most folks are aware that bed bugs feed on blood. Preferably human, but they’re not always too picky when they’re hungry. We also know that the little critters can hibernate, not eating for up to a year.

But what the researchers at Sheffield College discovered was that bed bugs are drawn to humans because of their smell. And, as a result, if they can’t find one of us to munch on, they’ll hide out in our dirty clothes.

Much like our old friends the mosquitoes, bed bugs are attracted to the smell of human beings. They even have a technical term for it. Insects that are hematophagous. Higher levels of the carbon dioxide we exhale triggers a foraging instinct in both bugs. But that instinct is released when they smell our blood.

By the way, bed bugs can sense 104 different chemical elements and compounds in the smell of our skin.

A Little Extra Carry-On Weight

When bed bugs are in the foraging mode, the smell of a person causes them to have a both an electrophysiological and behavioral response. So, they naturally seek it out and often nestle down in dirty laundry and the suitcase or clothes basket carrying said laundry.

So, to put it in simpler terms, bed bugs seek out things that smell like people. If they can’t bite you – because you’re not there – they opt to hang out in your soiled laundry. When you pack those dirty clothes into your suitcase, you inadvertently bring them along.

So an untreated outbreak of bed bugs at a hotel in Topeka, KS can rapidly spread to your home or other places you’re travelling. If the average hotel has 100 rooms, that means 50-100 new places for the bed bugs to spread, even without taking into account their ability to inbreed, or the average litter of 300 bed bugs from one pregnancy.

We’re itching just thinking about it…how about you?

What Do I Do?

Well, first off, always do a bed check for bed bugs when you first check-in to your hotel room. No hotel is immune these days, no matter how low rent or swanky it is. If you are able to, wash your clothes before you pack them back in your bags to leave. And if you do end up bringing bed bugs home with you, call us. Only a professional pest control provider can truly solve an infestation.

We also handle the everyday insects and rodents that tend to find their way into your home. And as we’re coming up on Halloween, what better time to check out our Go Green Plus 3 Program. We do a thorough initial treatment, then enhance its effectiveness with tri-annual rechecks that keep your home bug free. It can also be affordably combined with our Term-Assure 365 Termite solution or our Thermal Acoustical Pest Control that helps lower your energy bill.

All of our pest solutions are 100% natural, organic, safe for the whole family and more effective than standard chemical treatments. We’ve helped families all up and down the Gulf Coast of Florida, from Lakewood Ranch to Ruskin and North Port and we’d love to share the Good News with you too!

How Do Bugs Think: A Guest Editorial

How to Think Like a BugSo, the nice folks at Good News Pest Solutions asked me if I’d be willing to talk to you about what it’s really like to be a bug. So I thought about it and I figured, with all the misinformation and fake news out there about me and my insect brothers and sisters, why not tell people the truth for once. Let them hear it from the horsefly’s mouth, as it were. And these guys aren’t like a lot of the other pest control guys out there. I mean, instead of dousing or baiting me with nasty chemicals that are as dangerous for you as they are for me, they were nice enough to use natural means. It still got rid of me, but I figured they’d at least print the truth as I see it. So here goes.

First things first, we are not as bad as we’ve been made out to be. We just want to live in harmony with you, share your homes, your yards! With that in mind, in the spirit of cooperation, here are a few suggestions to make both our lives easier…

So, About That Trash…

It smells SO good, don’t you think? Why else would you leave it out to mold and rot than to set free that delicious aroma?! Now some of you don’t leave your trash for us to smell and feed off of. Why wouldn’t you do that? I mean, you don’t want it anymore! Yes, we know what the word trash means, and frankly, if you’re not using it, why not let us enjoy it?

Oh, and one more thing. There are a few of you out there – you know who you are – who wash the smell right out of those cans, sometimes even with bleach! That’s really not very nice, and we’d really appreciate it if you could do us all a favor and let it linger. Thanks so much!

A Little Food For Thought

And while we’re on the subject, what’s the deal with washing your dishes as soon as you’ve used them? Don’t you know how much good flavor there is, even in the dregs. We’re little guys, we don’t eat that much; is it too much to ask you give us a day or two to wipe your plates for you?

It’s really a time saver, if you think about it. Yes, we see you rinsing the plates and bowls before you put them in the dishwasher – honestly, we don’t get it, isn’t the whole point of having a dishwasher that it washes the dishes? Your language doesn’t always make sense to us, but if you need someone to sponge off the excess food, we’re here to help!

Don’t Forget Your Pets!

We love your furry friends – and not just the ones who let us hang out in their cozy coats. But we’ve noticed that a lot of you only feed them once or twice a day! We always thought you guys considered dogs and cats members of your family. But it must not be true. You and your kids get to pillage that vast cold box whenever you like, so why not leave food and water out for your four legged children too? Sure we’ll munch on a little ourselves, but we’ve had a mutual-aid agreement deal with the animal kingdom even longer than you have!

Things Are Looking Up

On another note, we’d like to thank you for making sure we always have a way to get into the house. We get why you lock your doors, but we’re not going to steal your valuables and we appreciate all the vents, and gaps in your seals, the eaves access. It’s really helpful and we like knowing the attic is always open for us. Our good friends the rats and mice enjoy it too.

Now, we have heard that some of you have started to add more insulation and sealing everything in your attics up. Sure, we all want to save some electricity, but really, is the savings really worth risking our lives? Aren’t we worth a little extra consideration?

Outside’s Nice Too

Okay, if we have to, we can live outside too. It’s kind of like camping! If we can make one simple, small request, though… We love plants and everything about them. You do too! Lots of vegetation gives us plenty of organic snacks, dry leaves to snuggle down into, and lets us feel like we’re practically in the house.

Which reminds me, make sure those plants go right up against your house. We promise we’ll try really hard to avoid the temptation of sneaking into your house. Honest! You can trust me.

Oh, and if it’s not too much trouble, a little water is always nice. We don’t need a bowl of our own, or even a steady stream. Most of you have leaky faucets and broken sprinkler heads. All we ask is that you don’t fix them so we can continue to enjoy the much needed moisture. Besides, you’re already paying for it, and really, what’s the true value of maintaining our newly established symbiotic relationship?

Thanks again for taking the time to learn what we’re really all about. And thanks to Good News Pest Solutions for offering this forum. If you really must be rid of us, give them a call.

Keep Your Cool in the Summer Months!

Green Ways To Keep Cool this SummerAs we move into the hottest months of the year, we thought we’d share some green tips on how to keep your cool in the house while still keeping your electric bill in check.

Cool Your Rooms!

For starters, cover your windows. As much as we enjoy a little natural light during the day, experts say that 30% of your home’s excess heat is coming through your windows. Using blinds, shades or curtains can reduce the temperature in your home on a hot day up to 20-degrees. Not to mention the electricity you’re not spending on air conditioning and fans.

Speaking of fans, make sure all your ceiling fans are turning counter-clockwise. This circulates the air and creates a wind-chill breeze effect, making you feel cooler, especially at higher speeds. In the winter, you can reverse the fans back to clockwise so the warm air that naturally rises is pushed down into the room. (Most ceiling fans have a switch in the base that changes the direction.)

If you don’t have ceiling fans, how about creating your own homemade DIY air conditioning. Fill a mixing bowl with ice or a frozen ice pack and position it at an angle behind a box or table fan. The fan will draw the cool air into the room, rapidly reducing the temperature. Or, if you’re feeling particularly industrious, check out these steps on how to build a “swamp cooler” that can reduce the temperature in a small apartment for only $25!

Cool Your Furniture!

Make sure your sheets are fresh – used sheets absorb sweat and body heat and hold onto it for longer than most people think. Cotton sheets breathe easier and stay cooler.

Water works! While you’re pulling off your sheets to change them, lay a large towel or two down before sliding the fitted sheet into place. Then take a clean, empty spray bottle and fill it with cool water. Spray the top sheet with a light misting of water from the bottle and the dampness will draw heat away from your body. And store the spray bottle in the fridge for the next night!

Also consider investing in a buckwheat pillow. Not only does the pillow not collapse under the weight of your head and neck, helping promote a more comfortable sleep, the buckwheat hulls also don’t hold onto heat – so both sides are the cool side!

Cool Yourself!

Sometimes the best way to beat the heat is by reducing your own temperature! We’ve heard lots of old wives tales about licking your wrists or plunging your head into an ice bucket. We’d like to think our methods are a little more sensible.

Of course, we endorse the standard approach of keeping yourself well hydrated through hot days. Technically, any liquid will do, but we recommend light and healthy beverages like iced tea, lemonade, and, of course, cool refreshing water!

Rather than licking your wrists, a cool compress on pressure points like your wrists and neck will make you feel cooler.

Consider a cold shower. The cool water is bracing and can reduce your body’s overall temperature. It’s especially effective right before bed, even if you don’t dampen the sheets.

(Don’t) Cool It on the Home Improvements!

Certain renovations may take longer to feel the effects from – but are definitely worth the expense for the long-term savings.

Trees can be valuable for shade, but also help cut down on the sun’s heat even when it’s not directly shining on them. Palm trees are less effective, but there are many native Florida fauna that will work well.

Switch to Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulbs – you know, the curlicue ones. The standard incandescent bulbs we’ve been using for generations expend 90% of the energy they use (which itself is much higher than CFL’s) on generating heat. CFL bulbs use less energy, last longer and will reduce the temperature in your home considerably.

You might already be considering insulation, but what about insulation that saves you considerably on your energy bills, reduces sound pollution AND helps control pests access to your house?

Our Thermal Acoustical Pest Control (TAP)  system is 32% more efficient than standard fiberglass insulation and provides a barrier for roaches, ants, silverfish and the sound of your neighbor’s dog that just won’t stop barking. It reduces heat in the summer, cold in the winter and, like all of our products, is 100% safe for your whole family, including pets! And while it’s not pink and doesn’t have a cartoon mascot, it is made with 87% recycled materials that would otherwise be filling a landfill – and is EPA certified!

Call us today to get more information on this remarkable product or any of our natural pest solutions!

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