What Are the Signs of Termites in Your Home?

What Are the Signs of Termites in Your Home?

Termites cause billions of dollars in damage each year. There are two main types of termites: drywood termites and subterranean termites. Drywood termites are found in warm, southern climates. They establish their colonies deep within the wood that they eat. As they consume wood, they create mazes of tunnels and chambers within the walls and foundation of your home. Subterranean termites are found throughout the continental United States. These termites build their colonies underground and emerge in search of food. They can enter your home through cracked or unsealed foundations.

Because termites eat wood from the inside out, termite damage often goes undetected for long periods of time. Often in fact, by the time signs of termites appear, colonies are well established and significant damage has already been done. Because of this, it is recommended that you get a termite inspection at least once per year or any time you find signs of termite activity. The average termite inspection cost is usually free (if no termite report is required, as in the case of a real estate transaction), or can be anywhere from $45 to over $100 depending on the size of your home and the exterminating company hired. A licensed termite inspector will perform a visible inspection on the readily accessible areas of your home looking for evidence of termites. The inspection should include a visual inspection of the entire interior of the home (including crawlspace and basement) and the exterior of the property. If evidence of termites are found, a termite exterminator will be required to provide appropriate termite control options and treatment.

Spotting signs of termites is a good indicator that a well established colony is nearby. But what are these signs? What should you look for? Here are 6 common signs of termites:

  1. Sounds: Soldier termites will bang their heads against wood or shake their bodies when the colony is disturbed. They use these sounds to signal danger to the other termites in the colony. The sound is often heard as a quiet clicking sound emanating from the walls.
  2. Wings: Flying termites are usually the first sign of a termite infestation. While they are often mistaken for flying ants, they are, in fact, “swarmers” who leave the nest in search of a mate to establish a new colony. Swarming season is usually in the spring after the first freeze. Once the termites mate, they lose their wings. These discarded wings, often found near doors and windowsills, are another common sign of termites.
  3. Warping: Termites produce moisture when they tunnel through wood. When they make their way through window frames and doors it causes them to warp, making them difficult to get open, often resembling water damage. This can also cause uneven or bubbling paint.
  4. Wood Damage: Termites consume wood from the inside out, sometimes masking damage for long periods of time. When wood is damaged by termites, it will often make a hollow or papery sound when tapped on. This is one of the most common signs of termite damage.
  5. Frass: Frass is another name for termite feces. Subterranean termites use their feces to build tunnels; drywood termites, however, push their feces out of small holes near the entrances to their nests as they tunnel. This leaves small black marks and a dark powdery substance near sites of infestation and damage. Frass is often found as piles of pellets.
  6. Mud Tubes: Subterranean termites build mud tubes to provide moisture and protect them from predators while they travel between their colonies and their food sources. These tubes are often found near home foundations. Mud tubes are made of tiny pieces of soil, wood, and debris.

If you suspect you have a termite problem or if you spot signs of a termite infestation, contact a professional termite control company who can provide you with a thorough termite inspection and a comprehensive termite protection and treatment plan.

 

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Summer Wildlife Removal: Common Home Invaders

Summer Wildlife Removal: Common Home Invaders

While we most often think of wildlife being a problem in the winter months, these animals don’t just disappear when the weather gets warm. Wildlife can still be quite active in the summer, wreaking havoc on our homes and gardens. Whatever the time of year, preventing and controlling these nuisance pests is of the utmost importance, as they not only cause damage to homes and property, but can also pose significant health risks to both humans and pets. Wildlife prevention (also known as wildlife exclusion) is the first line of control against critters; however, once they have established themselves in or around your home, wildlife removal becomes a more necessary option. Let’s look at some common summer wildlife, as well as ways to exclude them from your home.

Snakes

Snakes

Snakes are cold-blooded animals that require heat and sunlight for energy. They are more active in the summer months because they require more energy for mating. Too much exposure can overheat them so snakes are typically more active in the early morning and late evenings or at night in the summertime. They will also seek out shelter during the hottest parts of the day in cool, dark places like underneath rocks and decks or in basements. Snakes will choose where they live based on the availability of food, shelter, and shade.

To prevent snakes this summer:

  • Clear away yard clutter, piles of leaves, and wood.
  • Keep your grass mowed short to eliminate coverage.
  • Trim bushes and hedges regularly.
  • Make sure birdseed doesn’t fall on the ground and clean it up if it does.
  • Block access to any potential hibernation areas.
  • Walk the perimeter of your home and seal, cover, or repair any crack or crevice that is greater than 1/4″.
  • Check your garage, garage doors, windows, and exterior doors for gaps and seal them.
  • Seal any gaps around water pipes, electrical lines, sump pumps, and other spots that utilities enter your home.
  • Ventilate crawlspaces and repair leaky faucets and pipes as these attract pests which, in turn, attract snakes.

Bats

Bats

While bats are scary to many people, they are actually quite beneficial at keeping insect populations down. In the southern United States, many bat species are active year-round. Bats enter homes through openings. They can cause damage in homes by ruining insulation, causing structural damage when their urine soaks through to sheet rock or particle board, and their urine and feces causing health concerns for occupants of the home. Bats also carry serious diseases such as rabies, with 1 to 3 cases of bat transmitted rabies occurring each year. Bats are nocturnal and emerge at dusk in search of food. Female bats search for summer roosts where they stay until they have their young. For this reason, unless there is a threat to public health, eviction or exclusion of bats should not take place between April and August. Colonies will disband in late summer as bats leave for their winter roosts.

To prevent bats in the summer:

  • If you have a bat in your home, locate any openings leading to living spaces in your home from attics, garages, walls, etc and seal them off.
    • Close all doors to the room where the bat is and open all windows and exterior doors to allow the bat to escape.
  • Inspect and caulk any openings on the exterior of your home that are larger than 1/4″.
  • Use window screens, chimney caps, and screen vents.
  • Fill any electrical and plumbing holes with steel wool or caulk.
  • If you find an entry point, cover it with plastic sheeting or bird netting and then once all the bats are gone, seal it off completely.
  • Professional removal is recommended. Professional wildlife pest control will:
    • Assess any entry points.
    • Install one-way systems to allow bats to exit but not return.
    • Seal any entry points.
    • Clear, decontaminate, and deodorize the affected area.

Armadillos

Armadillos

Armadillos mate in the fall, with their young born in the spring, making them very active in the summer months. They prefer habitats near streams or other water sources with sandy or clay soil. They are often found in forests, woodlands, prairies, salt marshes, coastal dunes, pastures, cemeteries, parks, golf courses, and crop lands. They love to nest in rock piles, around trees and shrubs, and under rock slabs. Armadillos dig burrows that can be up to 25 feet long, which can significantly damage tree roots. These burrows can also cause flooding if they are dug around crawlspaces, patios, or walkways. Armadillos have poorly developed teeth and limited mobility. they have poor eyesight but a keen sense of smell. They have very few natural predators. They are strong diggers which they rely on to find shelter and food and causing most of the damage around your home and property. Armadillos will eat fruit (especially from gardens and compost piles), grubs, worms, beetles, wasps, ants, millipedes, centipedes, and snails.

To prevent armadillos in the summer:

  • Eliminate food sources by getting rid of insects around your home.
  • Clean up any rotten fruit that may fall to the ground.
  • Maintain proper landscaping by keeping grass mowed and shrubs and trees trimmed.
  • Install sturdy fencing that goes at least 1 foot into the ground and at a slight angle.
  • Eliminate any areas of excess moisture in your yard as this leads to more grubs and worms.
  • Set traps and relocate the armadillos.

Opossums

Opossums

Opossum females are laden with their young in the summer months, making them more active in their search for food. Opossums are found throughout the United States. They live in trees and will stay in them as much as possible. They also prefer wet areas like marshes and swamps. Opossums are nocturnal and will forage for food at night. They are beneficial in they eat harmful and unwanted pests around your home. They prefer to eat snails, slugs, spiders, cockroaches, rats, mice and snakes. They will also eat nuts, grass, fruit, roadkill, and garbage. They are rarely aggressive and will play dead when they feel threatened.

To prevent opossums this summer:

  • Don’t leave pet food or water out overnight.
  • Don’t leave garage doors, pet doors, or unscreened windows open at night.
  • Pick up any fruit that has fallen from trees.
  • Cover garbage cans at night.
  • Clear out any dense bushes, shrubbery, or woodpiles.
  • Keep swimming pools and hot tubs covered at night.
  • Keep trees and shrubbery trimmed away from fences.

Raccoons

Raccoons

Raccoons are highly intelligent and curious animals. They typically give birth to their young in April and May, making them very active in the summer months. They are found throughout the United States. They prefer to live in heavily wooded areas with access to trees, water, and vegetation. They are extremely adaptable, however, and will make their homes in attics, sewers, barns, and sheds. They are dexterous, capable of opening doors, jars, bottles, and latches. They are known to carry several bacterial diseases. Raccoons are nocturnal animals, searching for food at night. They will eat almost anything including birds, eggs, fish, shellfish, frogs, fruit, insects, nuts, seeds, and even snakes. They are known to destroy gardens, tip over garbage cans, and cause structural damage in their quest for food.

To prevent raccoons this summer:

  • Secure trash can lids, especially at night.
  • Double bag any trash that contains meat.
  • Remove brush and keep shrubbery trimmed.
  • Keep grass mowed short.
  • Seal any entry points to chimneys, eaves, and attics.
  • Install motion detecting sprinklers or strobe lights.
  • Remove any fallen fruit from trees.
  • Bring bird feeders and pet food in at night.
  • Seal pet doors at night.

Rats

Rats

Rats are active year-round. The summer provides them with ample sources of food making them very active. They are also busy making burrows and storing food in preparation for the winter. Rats can reproduce very quickly so control and elimination can be extremely difficult. They are excellent climbers and are well adapted to living in human environments. Rats can contaminate food, cause fire hazards by chewing through wires, and their urine and feces can cause serious health concerns.

To prevent rats this summer:

  • Fill or seal any cracks, crevices, and holes found in foundations or siding.
  • Install chimney caps and cover vents with screens.
  • Replace any torn screens on windows and doors.
  • Remove clutter from garages and storage areas.
  • Try to use plastic storage bins versus cardboard boxes.
  • Store firewood away from your home.
  • Remove bird feeders and pet food at night.
  • Keep food and pet food stored in airtight containers.
  • Use trash cans with lids.
  • Keep your kitchen clean from crumbs and spills.
  • Empty the trash regularly.

Prevention is always a good first step at keeping wildlife away. Once you have a wildlife issue, however, prevention usually needs to shift to removal and exclusion. Consider contacting a professional wildlife control company who can assess your wildlife issue and provide you with the safest and most appropriate treatment and prevention options.

 

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Home Remedies to Keep Snakes Away

Home Remedies to Keep Snakes Away

Snakes – scaly, legless creatures that slither into your yard and sometimes even your home. While your first instinct may be to run the other way, there are several benefits to keeping them around. Snakes keep rodent populations under control, with a single snake able to eat 3 to 4 mice at one time. They also eat moles, voles, insects, and even fish.

When Do Snakes Come Out?

Snakes are more commonly encountered when temperatures average between 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit; usually during the spring and throughout the summer. They are most active in early morning and late afternoon, as summer temperatures are often too hot for them to be out in during the hottest times of day. Snake activity will pick back up again in late summer and early fall before they go into hibernation or brumation. Brumation is more common in southern states where the climate is warmer and snow is less likely. Snakes don’t actually sleep in brumation but rather their bodies adjust to the lower temperatures, slowing down their metabolism, and making them less active. On warm winter days, brumating snakes will sometimes come out to bask in the sunshine, often surprising unsuspecting people with their presence.

While calling a professional pest control company is a guaranteed and safe way to tackle a snake problem, there are also some home remedies you can try to repel snakes. Home remedies to keep snakes away offer several benefits including:

  • Availability: Most home remedies to keep snakes away contain ingredients or methods that are readily available and easy to obtain. The guidelines for their use are also easily found on the internet.
  • Affordability: Most home remedies to keep snakes away are significantly cheaper compared to the cost of professional products and services on the market.
  • Ease of Use: Most home remedies to keep snakes away are easy to make or implement.
  • Safety: Most home remedies to keep snakes away are non-toxic to humans and pets compared to professional products on the market.

Home Remedies to Keep Snakes Away:

 

Eliminate Food Supplies

Snakes are often found in areas where rodents are present as this is one of their primary food sources. Snakes are also known to eat frogs, birds, moles, voles, insects, and even fish. If you have a problem with any of these animals, consider getting rid of that pest issue first. Once the source of food has been eliminated, snakes will move on in search of another source of food.

Eliminate Hiding Places

Snakes prefer dark, damp places and are known to live and hide in cracks, crevices, and holes. Eliminating these hiding places can help deter snakes from taking up residence on your property. Carefully inspect the exterior of your home and your property and repair any cracks or holes you find. Repair any damaged gutters, piping, and ventilation ducts. Repair or replace any damaged screens on windows and doors. Snakes will also hide in wood piles and compost heaps. If possible, store firewood in sealed, lockable wood boxes. Try to get rid of any piles of wood chip mulch, straw mulch, leaves, etc. that may be collecting on your property.

Change Up Your Landscaping

If your yard or garden is prone to snakes, consider making changes that will deter these pests from coming in. Garden regularly to remove any snake attractants like debris, holes, and overgrowth. Keep the grass cut short to eliminate hiding places for snakes. Consider installing snake-proof fencing made of steel mesh, plastic sheeting, or catch net. If you do install fencing, make sure it is flush with the ground and angled outward and that it is at least 3 feet high and 4 feet deep. You can also use materials that make it difficult for snakes to slither over like holly leaves, pine cones, egg shells, and gravel. You can also consider planting snake repellent plants that provide a natural deterrent. Some common examples include marigolds, lemongrass, and wormwood.

Use Natural Predators

Foxes and raccoons are common predators of snakes. Guinea hens, turkeys, pigs, and cats will also help keep snakes away. If foxes are indigenous to your area, fox urine is a very good natural repellent for snakes when spread around your property.

Smoke Them Out

Snakes have an elevated sense of smell and are ultra-sensitive to odors and fumes. One smell they particularly dislike is smoke. One remedy is to dig a fire pit and let it smoke for several days – covering the embers with moss and leaves can give you the best effect.

Utilize Natural Products

There are several natural products that work well as snake repellents. Some of the more common ones include:

  • Napthalene: Napthalene is a common ingredient found in many commercial snake repellent products. It is one of the most common snake repellents. If you don’t want to spend money on a commercial product, napthalene is also the main ingredient found in moth balls. The smell of napthalene irritates snakes without harming them. Place mothballs in holes, cracks, crevices, or any other areas around your property where snakes may be a problem. One caveat to using moth balls is they can be toxic and fatal to children or pets if they are ingested so use caution or avoid using them if you have pets or children in your home.
  • Sulfur: Powdered sulfur is a great option to repel snakes. Place powdered sulfur around your home and property and once snakes slither across it, it irritates their skin so they won’t return. Sulfur does give off a strong odor so consider wearing a mask that covers your nose and mouth when applying it.
  • Clove & Cinnamon Oil: Clove and cinnamon oil are effective snake repellents. These should be mixed together in a spray bottle and sprayed directly on snakes for maximum effect. Use caution as snakes will often run in the opposite direction of the spray. This mixture can also be used in a diffuser indoors as a fumigant, as well
  • Garlic & Onions: The sulfonic acid in garlic and onions (the same chemical that makes us cry when we chop onions) repels snakes. Mix these with rock salt and sprinkle them around your home and yard for effectiveness. You can also infuse garlic into any essential oil and use to fumigate rafters, basements, and other hard to reach places.
  • Ammonia: Snakes dislike the odor of ammonia so one option is to spray it around any affected areas. Another option is to soak a rug in ammonia and place it in an unsealed bag near any areas inhabited by snakes to deter them away.
  • Vinegar: Vinegar is effective at repelling snakes near bodies of water including swimming pools. Pour white vinegar around the perimeter of any body of water for a natural snake repellent.
  • Lime: Create a mixture of snake repellent lime and hot pepper or peppermint and pour it around the perimeter of your home or property. Snakes don’t like the smell of the mixture and the fumes are also itchy on their skin.

If home remedies to keep snakes away aren’t working, consider calling a wildlife control company for snake removal, snake prevention recommendations, and possibly other exterminating services like rodent control that could be contributing to the issue.

 

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Is Termite Protection Worth It?

Is Termite Protection Worth It?

Termites can be a homeowner’s worst nightmare. Termites do their damage from the inside out and they often aren’t detected until after significant destruction has already been done. The signs of termites are often difficult to find until colonies are well established. In fact, termites cause an estimated $5 billion in damages each year in the United States. Yet many people still question if termite protection is worth the cost.

Structural damage caused by termites is the most expensive with an average cost of $3,000 for repairs. This amount varies depending on the extent and location of the damage that is caused. In addition to the structural damage caused by termites, cosmetic damage can also require repairs, costing an estimated $2,000 to fix things like discolored sheetrock, buckled floors, and peeling paint. This amount also varies depending on the materials that were damaged and the materials used to repair or replace it.

Termites must be exterminated before any repairs are done. The cost of a termite treatment not only include the termiticides or baits used in the treatment, but also the labor, training, and service hours for the termite exterminator. The average cost of termite control is $4 to $7 per linear square foot of your home. This estimate also varies based on the type of termite warranty provided, the location of your home, and the type of treatment required.

Unfortunately, most homeowner’s insurance policies do not cover termite damage and sellers are usually responsible for covering termite damage during the sale of a home. This can vary so it is always a good idea to check your state regulations. This also usually includes a termite inspection prior to the sale of the home.

Knowing the potential costs of termite damage and repair is reason enough to invest in termite protection. What options do homeowners have when a homeowner’s policy doesn’t cover termite damage? A termite bond or termite warranty is your best bet. A termite bond is a warranty between a homeowner and a termite company that functions as a maintenance contract for termite prevention, damage, and repair. Termite warranties vary by company, but they generally include an agreement for annual (or more often) termite inspections during the lifetime of the warranty, an agreement to provide treatment if termites are discovered (often at no additional charge to the homeowner), and in some cases an agreement to repair damages. Not all homes, however, qualify for these repair bonds so always check with your termite control provider about this.

A termite warranty provides you with peace of mind against termite damage. The warranty guarantees that the pest control company will continuously inspect your home and make sure that new infestations are discovered before they can proliferate. Termite warranties are also beneficial when buying or selling a home as they are often required before a sale can occur. Lenders will often not approve mortgages for at-risk homes without a termite bond. Only certified pest control companies can issue termite warranties. Yearly costs typically run $300-$400 for the warranty coverage, which includes the annual termite inspection.

Click here to schedule a free termite inspection.

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What is the Difference Between Traditional and Green Pest Control?

What is the Difference Between Traditional and Green Pest Control?

With the recent focus on going “green” and harmful impacts on the environment, many people are ramping up their efforts to establish eco-friendly practices in both the workplace and at home. Efforts to recycle, reduce energy usage, and limit carbon emissions are all common ways to make a positive impact on the environment. One area that isn’t often thought of in the “green” movement is pest control. Green pest control is an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional pest control that is commonly used in areas that house the young, the elderly, the immunocompromised, and pets. But what is the difference between the two?

Traditional pest control provides most of the same benefits as green pest control but utilizes synthetic chemicals to eliminate and control pest populations. These chemicals are used sparingly, however, with just enough used to target the specific pest issue.

Green pest control, on the other hand, eliminates common household pests with the lowest environmental impact possible. This is achieved with ingredients derived from flowers, plants, and natural elements rather than harsh chemicals. Green pest control has proven to be just as beneficial as traditional pest control methods. Green pest control uses preventative measures combined with purposeful application of natural products.

Green pest control also utilizes a 5 step Integrated Pest Management (IPM) process which is an “effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on a combination of common sense practices.” The 5 steps of an IPM program include Plan, Inspection, Pest Identification, Ongoing Perimeter Protection, and Continuous Communication.

NorPest Green is Northwest’s quarterly pest control program performed by only the highest-trained professionals, using high-quality, non-toxic products derived from botanicals. We customize a plan based on your needs, so you can be sure your home is healthy and your family and pets are protected. NorPest Green also comes with a service guarantee meaning we come back in between regular scheduled pest control visits, if needed, at no additional cost to you.

Pests are a nuisance and can be detrimental to both your home and your health. Regardless of whether you choose a traditional pest control service or a green pest control service, protecting your family is of the utmost importance. Contact a professional pest control company like Northwest for a free pest control estimate.

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