Bug battling tips from a warrior
Tis the season for swarms, and homeowners need to prep for battle.
Just as Rid-A-Bug's Tim Hiatt. He's seen a swarm or two, and has some tips on how you, the homeowner, can win the war.
"They're attracted to light inside a house, so they'll swarm outside, come right up to a house and crawl in through a window," he said.
They? "Carpenter ants, regular ants, termites."
There are a few things, however, homeowners can do to fend off the hoards, he said.
"Keep your trees trimmed back," Hiatt said.
It's important for two reasons. Not only do branches against a house give insects a nice walkway to your living space, but the shade the trees provide can lead to moisture, which, according to Hiatt, is exactly what the bug battler doesn't want.
"Moisture up against a house or under a house in a crawl space area is a bad idea," he said.
"Termites have to have a certain amount of moisture in the ground for them to survive. So do some beetles." This includes wood boring beetles, which - you guessed it - bore into wood.
Make sure water isn't draining against the house and mulch is pulled away (Hiatt prefers pine needles).
"Millipedes and things feed on dead decaying matter ... there's others that will feed on the molds and bacteria," he said, so keep the moisture in check.
"Keep the weeds and lawn mowed," he said.
That way, you don't have "weed flowers" reproducing and making the seeds pests like mice love to eat.
Check your house for holes and make sure your chimney's not providing an entryway for rodents and bugs.
"Clean up clutter," he said.
Not only will moving the junk alert you to problems, it will give bugs and rodents less places to hide and nest. It's important inside and outside the home.
"Those wood stacks against the house, bad idea," he said.
So you move the woodpile away from the window and find a swarm of fire ants with perfect access to your kitchen: Step one? Don't panic.
The number one toxic mistake?
It, and the history of toxic chemicals no longer used, are what give the pest control industry a bad reputation, Hiatt said.
Make sure it's an outbreak. If it's one or two bugs, "The heel of your shoe is the best form of pest control," he said.
If you overuse chemicals, you could have "secondary outbreaks."
"That's where the stuff you're putting out there is no longer working because bugs have built up an immunity," he said. "You have to be careful and switch it up."
Overspraying is not any more effective than spraying the appropriate amount of pesticide, Hiatt said, and, unless you're in a strict-sanitary environment like a restaurant, total elimination might not be an option. They call it pest control and not pest elimination for a reason, he said.
"There's always going to be some," he said.
Tools like sticky boards can help him gauge the seriousness of an outbreak, so he knows how to proceed. After all, no matter how twitchy and googly-eyed, not all bugs are harmful.
"The insect world is so huge ... out of all the bugs that you see, there are only 2 percent that cause harm," he said.
Even non-harmful bugs, however, can be pests inside the home, and there are always ways to control even the creepiest critter.
Got an outbreak but shy away from chemicals? No problem, Hiatt said. There's a growing trend of green pest control that's effective using some surprising ingredients, like rosemary oil and peppermint oil.
Hiatt recently finished a job at the Hunger and Health Coalition using green products.
"Wintergreen oil, vanilla ... it works on insects," he said.
While the product may cost a little more, there is no risk of environmental contamination (though Hiatt insists the modern traditional method doesn't have to be environmentally caustic when used appropriately).
Regardless, if you're using amateur means to battle bugs, be careful, he said. There are a lot of products, and you have to do your research.
"There's so many people out here trying to sell a product ... but you have to look and see what the studies are saying," he said.
When in doubt? Don't shy from picking up the yellow pages and calling a professional soldier like Hiatt to get the job done.
A scary thought: Did you know mice will only travel about 25 feet from the nest, but rats will come as far as 100 feet ("from across the street," Hiatt said)?
It's facts like this that ensure Hiatt will always have a job.
"As the pest control industry goes, it's not going anywhere," he said. "It will always be here. People are going to protect what we got."
One termite at a time.