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Seattle Pest Control and Home Services: April 2013

Monday, April 29, 2013

What To Do About Water In My Crawl Space.

Having water in your crawl space can mean trouble.  There are a lot of things that can cause damage to your home, but nothing is more damaging than water.  Think about how the outside of your home is designed.  Think about the pitch of your roof, the shingles and the siding and you will see that its primary purpose is to keep water off the house.  But, water on the outside of your home is easy to spot.  Some of the most damaging water accumulation happens right under your nose.  Or, more precisely, right under your home in your crawl space.

Water accumulates in the crawl space a few different ways, but once it gets there, it doesn't really go anywhere.  All crawl spaces are damp, dark places and getting a crawl space to dry up can take awhile.  Also, in order for a crawl space to dry up, water vapors rise, which can soften and damage the structural members of your home.  In almost all cases, it is critical to pump water out by installing a sump pump. 

How to install a sump pump

This is a very dirty job and grueling hard labor.   It consists of digging trenches that flow toward a sump basin.  These trenches are typically at least 6 inches deep and 4 inches wide and are filled with corrugated piping and gravel.  The basin itself will need to be deep enough to install a submersible sump pump.   The water remediation is pretty simple, water flows through the trenches and toward the lowest point where the sump basin and pump are installed.  Most pumps are designed to automatically kick on when the water reaches a certain level and then pumps it into an exterior drain (typically by tapping it into the drainage system that your gutters are hooked up to).   Doing this job always reminds me of what it must be like to dig your way out of prison.  You are wet, muddy and have to use little tools to dig because it is such a tight space that you are working in.

Vapor barriers

Sounds easy, huh?  After your done putting in the drainage system, you no doubt will have to replace your vapor barrier (black plastic covering the ground in your crawl space).  A lot of companies will go through and tape all the seams of your vapor barrier and make it look all pretty, but keep in mind, you have a water problem and want it to drain properly.  A vapor barrier does you no good if you have standing water on top of your vapor barrier, so make sure that the seams overlap, but are not taped.

Listen, water in your crawl space is bad news and it is very tough work to rectify it.  If you have this issue under your house, I would welcome your call and I can get a bid in your hands or at the very least, offer you some friendly advice.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Black beetles are covering my home! What do I do?

Do you remember that Alfred Hitchcock movie, "The Birds"?  An innocent little town starts to notice that there are a lot of birds around.  No big deal, right? Well, then the birds just keep coming and coming and then they start attacking people!  This is what one of our recent customers felt like was happening to her last week, but it wasn't birds that were frightening her, they were black beetles covering the side of her house.

She had Box Elder Beetles and they were everywhere!  Maybe you have them too.  They are disgusting black beetles with long legs, long antennae's and orange/red marking on their back.  It is right about this time of year that we start to see them congregate on the side of our homes.  Luckily, they do not do any damage and they will not harm you like Hitchcock's birds, although they have been known to "buzz the tower" by flying close to your head.  So, that can be unpleasant.

Mostly though, they are just unsightly when you see thousands of them on your home crawling around.  All they really want to do is lay in the sun and make babies (what a life, huh?).  Before long, a small problem turns into a very big problem because of how fast they reproduce.  You will start to see more and more of them on the south side of your home, facing the sun and when that side fills up, they start moving to the west side.  We have seen homes so completely covered that you can barely see the siding on the home!

With so many of the bugs on the outside, they can start to show up inadvertently inside of the home as well.  Even with a closed window, they often squeeze their way in, bringing the infestation into the home. 

Fortunately,  despite the large numbers of these beetles, they are still fairly easy to get rid of.  There are basically three options:

Option #1:  Do nothing and wait for them to die off on their own (not recommended).
You can wait them out and they will eventually go away since they are a seasonal pest.  This option requires that you don't really care what the outside of your home looks like, but if you can stand it, this is the cheapest way to go about it.

Option #2:  The Do-It-Yourself spray (worth a try).
If you have access to a power sprayer, this might be worth trying.  Mix in some dish soap with your sprayer and blast away.  Box Elder Beetles don't like soap and it will work as a deterrent and also have the added benefit of cleaning your exterior (if you do go this route, be sure to test the soap in an inconspicuous area to make sure that it does not stain).  This will not kill the beetles, but can keep them at bay for awhile.

Option #3:  Have a pest control treatment (of course I am going to recommend this).
If you are looking for a solution that is tried and true, you can call me or another pest control company to treat your home with a product that will kill and deter them.  Usually they will start dying off within  a couple days after a treatment and the problem will be solved.

If you are dealing with a box elder infestation and would like some help, please give me a call.  I would be happy to answer any questions for you or schedule a time to come over and treat for you.  Also, mention that you read this whole article and since you managed to stay awake during it, you should get your home treated for 50% off.  Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

What spiders are venomous in the Pacific Northwest?

First of all, every spider is capable of producing venom, but not all spiders pose a threat.  Just because a spider looks big and creepy, does not mean that it can actually hurt you.  In fact, most people will tell you that the typical Daddy Long Legs spider is the most poisonous spider in the world, but its fangs are not long enough to pierce a humans skin.  This "fact" is actually completely untrue.  Their fangs are too short to do any harm, but they are not venomous to humans and not even really insects for that matter.

So, don't believe everything that you hear. 

Luckily, here in the Puget Sound area, we really do not have too many spiders that we need to worry about.  They are kind of gross and you may want a pest control company to come and get rid of them anyway, but the purpose of this article is to inform you of how rare "poisonous" spiders are in our area and help you to identify these spiders when you see them.  So, let's get started:

Black Widow Spider:  Most people know what a Black Widow Spider is or at least have heard about them.  They are not common in our area, but can be brought here from warmer climates to the south of us.  In all my time in pest control up here, I have only come across a handful of these types of spiders in the past decade.  There are quite a few sub-species of black widow spiders that you will not need to worry about that have a large rear end.  Sometimes they will even have a white hourglass marking on them that is indicative of a male Black Widow.  However, these spiders are not the poisonous types.  What you will want to look for is the prominent red hourglass shape on the underneath side of the abdomen.  They will usually hang around under furniture or in other dark places.  If you see a spider that fits this description, I would recommend giving us a call, but again, they are very rare.

Brown Recluse Spider:  These types of spiders are also very rare and typically are found in the southeast areas of the United States.  You will want to look for a few distinguishing marks that will let you know if have a Brown Recluse.  They have a prominent "violin" shape marking on their back and are often called a "Fiddle back" because of this.  This in itself, is not enough to determine if it is in fact a Brown Recluse because other non-poisonous spiders have similar markings.  Also, if you get close enough, a Brown Recluse has only 3 eyes (most spiders have 8).

Hobo Spider:  If you are going to worry about a spider, this is the only one that is somewhat common to this area.  They are large, brownish spiders that can do some damage with their bites.  Typically, they are identified by a V shaped pattern on its back.  They also do not have different colors on the joints of their legs like most spiders do and they have a lighter colored stripe running down their sternum.  They are easily mistaken for what is known as a "Giant House Spider".  These creepy spiders are about the same size as a Hobo Spider and look remarkably similar.  In fact, in treating for Hobo spiders, I would say 3 out of the 4 times people think they are seeing a Hobo, they are actually seeing a non-poisonous Giant House Spider.  Either way, they are definitely creepy and should be treated since they are hard to tell the difference between the two without looking under a microscope.

Most people choose to have treatment for spiders because they creep them out, but it is important to know that most spiders cannot typically hurt you.  If you don't care if they can hurt you or not and just want them gone, please give me a call.  Also, if you have a spider that you think might be one of the spiders listed above, you can send me an email with a picture and I will help you identify it.  If you have any questions or need any other help, we would love to assist you.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Why Am I Hearing Noises In My Walls?

Have you ever seen the Ghost Adventures show on the History Channel?  It is one of my favorites, but I can never seem to decide whether it is real or fake. They have ghosts caught on camera, ghosts threatening them by name and even a ghost throwing a brick at them in one episode!  It seems almost too crazy to be true.  One thing that I always chuckle about is how many times they say in a quick, startled voice, "did you hear that?!" with big eyes as they walk around their haunted houses.  I am not a drinker, but if I was, that would be a good drinking game, taking a drink each time they say that.

Sometimes it can be just as creepy when you are sitting at home and you hear strange scratching noises inside your walls.  Chances are that it is not a ghost, but it still is kind of disconcerting.  So what could it be?

It is likely that it is a pest issue, so there are a couple of things that we are going to need to ask in order to figure this out.

#1- Where are you hearing the noises?
#2- When are you hearing the noises?
#3- What does it sound like?

Noises in the attic:  Generally, when people call a pest control company to come out and inspect, we will find either squirrels, rats, raccoons or birds in the attic.  If you are hearing a scratching noise at night or early in the morning, I would suspect rats or mice.  If it is during the day, it would likely be a squirrel or bird.  Larger animals like a raccoon or opossum will make a lot more noise and can often be heard thumping around in the early morning hours.  If you are hearing little footsteps scampering around up there, you might not have anything in the attic at all and it might actually be on the roof.  When a squirrel runs on the roof, it can make a lot of noise and make you think it is in the attic (this would be the best case scenario).

Noises in the walls:  You can pretty much rule out anything bigger than a squirrel here.  Most of the time if you are hearing something in the walls, it is a mouse.  I have heard a lot of people say that it "makes too much noise to be a little mouse", but sure enough, it usually is.

Noises in the air ducts:  Most of the time when you think you are hearing something in the air ducts, it is actually not in the ducts, but just running on top of them.  If something was in the ducts, it would probably be a rodent and it is usually not a place that they like to be when your heat kicks on.  If they were in the ducts for any length of time, you would start to smell their urine when you used your heating or cooling system (yuck!).

Noises in the crawl space:  This is the most common place in the home to have critter activity.  Generally, if you do have critters in your crawl space, they can go a long time without be detected since most of us do not frequent this area of the home and their noises do not travel very well in an insulated crawl space.  If you are hearing something, you can rule out birds and usually even squirrels.  Depending on how loud the noises are, it is probably a rodent or something larger like a raccoon, opossum, cat or skunk.  The first thing, that you want to do is walk around your house and look for entry points.  Check your foundation vent screens and if you see one missing, you know you might have something large down there.  If you do not find any obvious opening, you might have rodents (a mouse needs only an opening the size of a quarter).  I do not recommend going in the crawl space to inspect unless you know how to deal with wildlife.  If you pop in unannounced on a mama and her cubs, it could mean trouble.

Other things to consider:  If you are always hearing the noises in the exact same spot each day, there is one other thing to consider.  Carpenter ants will make a scratching/ chewing noise when they excavating wood, so that is another possibility.

Listen, dealing with strange noises in your home can be frustrating and alarming and if you need help, I would love to assist you.  I am available to take your call at Healthy Homes Pest Control, even if it just is to answer a few questions.  Let me know if I can help you!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Sugar Ants. Worst Year Ever?

I posted a few weeks ago about how to get rid of sugar ants because I was getting a lot of calls and it seemed to me that people could use the advice.  Lately, however, I am starting to feel that this might be the worst year for sugar ants that I have ever seen!  So, here are a couple of thoughts on sugar ants that I hope will be helpful to you.

Why are they so bad this year?

There are a lot of factors in why they are so bad this year, but primarily it is the weather.  We had a very mild winter and are having a warm streak here in early spring.  Already, we are seeing ants as bad now as we typically see in May or June.  Sugar ants move around more when we have a lot of barometric pressure changes (basically, drastic changes in temperature).  We just went from very cold, to quite warm in about a week and what we are seeing is a flushing process where lots and lots of ants are coming out.

An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure...

The longer you wait to treat sugar ants, the harder it is for you or for a pest control company to get them under control.  My advice to you is to start treating them now.  Even if you don't have an ant problem right now, it might behoove to do a preventative treatment before the weather warms up even more.  Preventative pest control treatments are pretty affordable in the Seattle, Washington area.  At the very least, you might want to pick up some store bought repellents to spray around your house.  These will generally last about a month or so (although the labels on a few somehow make the claim that it lasts for 12 months) and can at least give you a chance to stop ants from getting in.

I already have bad ants, what do I do now?

You might want to read my Squidoo page for some helpful hints, but if you want to just know the basics, here they are:
1- Clean
2- Clean

3- Clean (This step is kind of important, so be sure to do it.  Make sure you do not have any food sources laying around and clean behind the fridge and oven for any grease spots.  Make sure they do not have any free meals.

4-DON'T use a repellent indoors!  Any pest spray product that you buy in the store has some repellent in it and this will cause sugar ants to scatter and reproduce at a greater rate.  If you are DIY type, just pick up baits at the store and put the can of Raid down.

5- Wipe the water from your counter and sinks.  Just be doing this, you take away one of their major needs (water) and they can sometimes move on.  You will have to be very diligent about this and keep a towel handy each time you use the faucet.

6- Don't use citrus based cleaners (orange or lemon) as these can be an attractant.

If you can do all that, you will greatly reduce your need to call me.  If you are in the Puget Sound area and you do need to get pest control, let me offer you an affordable solution.  We are running a buy one/ get one free ad for pest control treatments through Craigslist.  Basically, if your neighbors also have ants, you can both have treatments at the same time for half the price!  Click here for pest control coupons.

If you are determined to solve this on your own, I would still be willing to answer your questions.  Just email me and we can work out a plan to get these under control.  Thanks for reading!