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Fleas

Last Updated: December 30, 2016

Fleas are any of over 2,000 bloodsucking parasitic species in the order ‘Siphonaptera.’ In greek, ‘siphon’ means tube, referring to the tube through which fleas suck blood, and ‘aptera’ means wingless. Fleas are very small (1/16th to 1/8th of an inch) wingless parasites that feed off of the blood of mammals and birds. Fleas are generally dark colored, ranging from reddish-brown to black. They are fast and very agile, able to jump nearly seven inches (over one hundred times their body size!). This agility allows fleas to move between hosts with relative ease. Fleas have very thin bodies with bristles facing backwards to allow them to move rapidly between the hairs or feathers of their host. In addition they have durable bodies, which make them resistant to scratching and swatting.

Fleas lay eggs directly onto their hosts, about twenty at a time. The eggs then generally roll off in areas where the host sleeps. Eggs hatch into small larvae that feed on food around them including feces, rotting food, and rotting animals. The larvae are blind and like to stay in small dark places like cracks in walls, sand, and linens. After a few weeks, larvae become pupae and after another few weeks, adult fleas emerge out of the pupae. Fleas can survive the winter by staying in the pupa phase of their life cycle. Some fleas emerge from their pupae only when they sense a potential host is near.

Adult fleas are relatively long-living insects, able to live for several years in ideal conditions and to go for several months between feedings. Female fleas can lay thousands of eggs in a lifetime, allowing for tremendous population growth. Adults generally make up a minority of any flea infestation. The majority of the population at any given point of time is the eggs. Fleas thrive in warm and very humid environments. Flea bites though not generally painful can become itchy and swollen. Fleas can be dangerous as transporters of disease. Some of the most common fleas are dog fleas, cat fleas, and human fleas. There are hundreds of fleas capable of feeding on human blood. The human flea (pulex irritans) is one such flea. Despite its name, the human flea is actually capable of feeding on dozens of different mammals and birds. As with most fleas, it is possible for the human flea to transfer various diseases and parasites.

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Fleas in Curtains

Last Updated: December 30, 2016

Fleas love to infest and lay their eggs on pets, and carpets, but another often overlooked and untreated area where they infest is curtains. Curtains provide some of the perfect needs for fleas, such as dust accumulation and warmth from the sun as well as heaters in the winter season. In fact curtains are often the major source of flea infestation in the home, and it’s often the most overlooked area.

So many folks hang their curtains, and hardly ever clean them. Curtains often become one of the dirtiest things in a home over time. They hang motionless for long periods of time, allowing dust, human skin particles and animal hairs to rapidly build up on them. Not only do fleas love curtains to hide in and infest, but mites do too. Curtains can easily becomes a major source of not just flea infestation but a major source of allergies.

Cleaning and maintaining your curtain depends upon the type of material they are made of, and other things. First of all if you know the curtains are just some cheap material and you are not too worried about damaging them, take them down, and place them in a washing machine large enough to hold them. Your best bet in washing something as large as curtains is just take them to a laundry mat and use the large machines to wash them. Use any laundry soap that you normally use for washing clothes, and dry them until they are almost dry but not all the way. It’s better to hang curtains when they are slightly damp, so they stretch back out a little, and static does not stay in them from the dryer when they are still damp, this makes a lot less dust attract to them.

If you are unsure about the material the curtains are made of, or if they are valuable, you may wish to contact a professional cleaner that does curtains, or take them to a dry cleaner for consultation and possible cleaning. Some curtains have tags on them, that tell you the exactly materials and methods they should be cleaned with, as well as the dryer settings.

Once the curtains are rehung, you can gently mist the curtains with an organic (natural) flea killer, these types of sprays are the most gentle to fabrics as well as pets and people. Like using any product, first do a small spot test on a part of the curtain, to make sure the product will not cause it to stain or change the color, etc. Once you find a safe flea spray, gently mist your curtains as often as the product says to do so, and remember to wash your curtains on a regular basis, at least every quarter, to keep them smelling and looking fresh, and also flea free.

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Bed Bug Extermination

Last Updated: December 30, 2016

If you are looking for detailed instructions on how to get rid of bed bugs, click here. Before you try to fix your bed bug problem on your own, however, you need to consider whether you want tackle the issue by yourself, or hire a professional (an exterminator) to take care of the problem for you. This section will help you to choose and gives tips for finding and working with a quality exterminator.

Bed Bug extermination is difficult. Bed Bugs are extremely resilient creatures and can survive up to a year without feeding. In addition, they can be tricky to find and, in the end, if you miss only a few of them, they can reproduce again and continue the infestation. Getting rid of bed bugs takes time and effort and you will likely need to do some shopping along the way. Handling an infestation on your own is undoubtedly cheaper than hiring an exterminator, but it is not without costs and is a time-taking endeavor.

A bed bug exterminator can be very expensive, and if you choose to follow this route, you will want to make sure you are choosing a high quality professional and not just the cheapest option. For a professional exterminator, you can expect to pay anywhere from $200 – $1,000 per room depending on the size of the infestation, the complexity of the room (size, furniture, etc.), and the professional. An exterminator will usually use both specialized pesticides, which work on direct contact with bed bugs, and steam heat to get rid of the infestation. Bed bugs die when exposed to high temperatures (113 Fahrenheit and higher) for at least several minutes. Due to the use of pesticides, bed bug treatment can be dangerous, and use of a professional is most likely safer. Should you choose to use a professional, you will want to keep the following things in mind:

  • The best bet is to find a pest control company as opposed to a company that specializes in bed bugs, and make sure the company is licensed and state-certified.
  • Make sure to find an established service that has been around for at least a few years.
  • Find reviews of the company and their service either through friends or through a search on yelp.com, yellowpages.com, Google, or other such services.
  • Ask a lot of questions to gauge the company’s responsiveness, service, and experience. Some good questions to ask are:
    • What does the company use to get rid of infestations? A good service will use a mix of pesticides and heat, and will not use ‘bug bombs’ or ‘bug foggers’ as these do not work on bed bugs.
    • Does the company do follow-up visits? From a good exterminator you can expect at least two treatments and at least one follow-up confirming the bed bugs have been exterminated.
  • A good company will inspect your property before giving you a quote. After their inspection they should give you a full inspection report as well as a plan of how you can help prepare for the treatment and prevent another infestation. A high quality exterminator will base the cost of the service on what he finds in the inspection, not on a flat rate and, as mentioned before, cheaper doesn’t usually mean better.
  • Agree with the company on the service to be offered and the cost before agreeing to move forward.
  • You can help the exterminator by cleaning your residence before they arrive. Bed Bugs are attracted by human presence, not clutter, but a messy living space gives them more spaces to hide and can hinder the efforts of an exterminator.

If you have read all of this but are still confident you want to tackle the problem on your own, click here to learn how.

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Get Rid of Ants


Last Updated: December 30, 2016

The following article deals with the traditional DIY methods for getting rid of ants. Since the article was written, new products have come to market which are much easier to use and make ant control a very easy job. Look for a gel ant poison online or at a local store. What you are looking for is a Borax (Boric Acid) based tube of gel. Some good options are made by Maxforce, Optiguard, and 388B and cost around $30. These tubes are filled with a gel containing a small percent of Borax, which is highly poisonous. The remainder of the gel consists of a sugary substance which is highly appealing to ants. Squeeze small drops of the solution in different places along ant trails 1-2 feet from where the ants are coming from. The ants will find the bait and take it back to the nest where the entire colony will eat it. Over the course of a couple of days, it will kill the entire colony. This may take a few days and a few re-treatments may be necessary, but this method is cheap and highly effective. CAUTION: Do not use this around children or pets as the substance is toxic.

The most important step in getting rid of ants is to identify what kind of ant you are dealing with. In the menu at the bottom or on the left, you can find links to general information about the most common types of ants that are generally considered household or workplace pests. Every species of ant has their preferred habitat, food, and behaviors and, as such, differing methods of control and extermination. That being said, there are some basic facets of ant control that are generally the same, regardless of the species of ant. This page will explain the basic ideas included in an ant extermination strategy and offer a number of solutions and home remedies that can be used to kill ants and clear nests.

Ants multiply extremely quickly and a single nest can contain an extraordinary number of ants. The largest colony ever recorded had over three hundred million ants in it. This is, of course, an extreme, but a nest can easily contain tens of thousands of ants. Because of this, in getting rid of ants, we suggest an integrated pest control (IPC) strategy that includes ant control (killing ants), general cleanliness, eliminating ant food sources, nest & colony destruction, and prevention of further infestation. The two cornerstones of such a strategy are destroying the nest and getting rid of the reason the ants are coming to your residence (generally food).

Destroying the Ant Nest / Killing the Colony

Having a large number of ants in your residence may not necessarily mean there is a nest in the house. The ants may have a nest in the building, or they may have a nest outside or even just near the building and come into it only to find food. It is important to find the nest and its proximity to your house when dealing with an ant infestation. The easiest way to find an ant’s nest is to follow a trail of ants collecting food from the food source back to the nest. Many ants forage at night and shining a flashlight on them will cause them to scatter. Ants are blind to red light, so use a red flashlight to follow an ant trail at night.

When you have found the nest you will have to decide whether or not to invest in destroying it. If an ant nest is outside of your house and yard but you have ants in your house coming from the nest, cleaning your house, eliminating the ants’ food sources, and sealing your house to stop ants’ entry may be enough to get rid of them. In addition, ants play an important role in eliminating many other garden pests and getting rid of them can potentially case other issues. If, however, the nest is in or near to your house, we recommend destroying it to control the ants. Ants are extremely persistent and if a nest is near enough to your house, they will almost always find a way in. Destroying a nest can be difficult but, with the following techniques, you can either destroy the nest or cause enough damage to cause the ants to relocate. The most effective methods will kill the queen ant of the colony. The best results will be had using a number of techniques together.

  • Dumping several gallons of different mixtures directly into a nest daily will not kill all of the ants inside of it, but will likely cause enough damage to cause the ants to relocate after several days. Be warned that most of these methods will also destroy surrounding plants and vegetation. Try mixing boiling water with dish detergent or lots of salt. In addition, you can use cider vinegar instead of water. Pour the mixture in slowly so it can work its way through the nest. Repeat daily for at least three days.
  • Leave baited poison next to the nest. The principle behind using baited poison is to create a mix that is irresistible to ants and that is not too immediately poisonous. That way the ants will take the poison back to the nest where it will poison the entire colony. It is important to know which type of ant you are dealing with in order to know what kind of food they will prefer. Ants generally eat proteins and sugars, but each species has its own preferences. Try leaving out a number of different sugars (honey, sugar, jam) and proteins (fried foods, peanut butter, bread crumbs) and see which ones the ants go for. Try using both solid and liquid foods. Play around until you find the food that is truly irresistible to them. We suggest using Boric Acid (brand-name: Borax) as the poison. If the ants seem to be eating the bait but not dying, add slightly more Borax. If the ants are avoiding the bait completely, reduce the quantity of Boric Acid. Boric Acid is poisonous so make sure kids and animals do not get to it. For the best results, repeat daily with new bait for at least a week. Some common recipes are:
    • Mix two tablespoons of Boric Acid with honey, jam, or jelly to create a paste. Spread the paste on a paper plate and leave it near the nest.
    • Mix two cups of sugar, one cup of water, and two tablespoons of Boric Acid. Leave in shallow bowls around the nest and in areas of the house with many ants.
    • Mix two tablespoons of boric acid with one cup of peanut butter. Spread on a paper plate and leave by the nest.
    • Mix two tablespoons of boric acid with one cup of confectioner’s sugar and leave in small piles around the nest.
  • Spray entrances to the nest and the entire nest area with an insecticide containing Bifenthrin. Repeat daily until there are no more ants in that location.
  • Cinnamon works as an extremely effective ant repellant. After treating the ant nest with one or more of the aforementioned methods, sprinkle cinnamon on, in, and around the nest to get any remaining ants to relocate.

Eliminating the Food Source

If you are experiencing an ant infestation, there is always a reason why. Ants generally enter a residence or workplace because they have found food sources there or they have found it to be a suitable breeding ground. Unlike, for instance, bed bug infestations, an ant infestation is often a sign of a lack of cleanliness. Keeping clean and finding and eliminating food sources is an integral part of an ant control strategy. So long as there is a reason for the ants to return, they will do so. Follow ant trails through your house to see where they are going and what they are doing there. Are they all around the sink? The pantry? The trash? Once you have identified the areas the ants are going to and what they are eating there, take care of the problem area.

  • Sweep up food crumbs and spills.
  • Take out the garbage and clean the dishes.
  • Sweep, vacuum, and mop the floors.
  • Make sure all your open food is either in the refrigerator or sealed in airtight containers. Throw out half eaten bags of snacks or seal them in Ziploc bags.
  • Clean out the sink and incinerator and wipe down all of your counter-tops in the kitchen with a cleaning solution. The cleaning solution will help to erase the scent of ant trails and keep them from returning.
  • Change your pets’ food bowls regularly and make them inaccessible to ants. If you find this problematic, try the following solutions:
    • Spray a mix of one part water one part vinegar in a circle around the bowl. This will deter ants from getting to the bowl.
    • Fill a shallow plate with water and place the food bowl in the center of the plate, effectively creating a moat. This way, your pet will still be able to get at their food, but any ants trying to do the same will drown on the way.

Prevent Ants From Entering Your House

The most important elements of an ant control strategy are destroying nests and eliminating food sources. However, it can also be helpful to stop additional ants from making their way into your home. The following prevention methods won’t take care of ants that are already in the house, but they will stop more ants coming in from outside. It is important to consider which methods you use as certain ones can interfere with others. For instance, if you have left baited poison inside your house for the ants and then you ‘seal’ the entrances to your house with insecticide, the ants that pick up the baited poison will not be able to bring it back to the nest! Most of these methods should be used only after you have completed the previous sections (eliminating the food source and destroying the colony).

  • Ants send scouts to search for food. The scouts leave a trail of pheromones behind them so that they know how to get back to the colony. If a scout finds food, it returns to the colony and leaves a different scent of trail on the way back. Worker ants pick up on that scent and follow the trail to the food supply. Erasing the trail will stop more worker ants from following, as they will not know where to go.
    • Mix three parts water with one part vinegar and place in a spray bottle. Clear the trail of ants and then spray the area down with the mix. This will erase the scent trail.
  • Spray an indoor insecticide on places where ants enter the residence (windows, doors, cracks in walls, etc.). Be careful and read all labels properly as ant poison can be poisonous to pets as well.
  • Seal cracks or holes in walls where you suspect ants may be entering from.
  • Spray an outdoor insecticide around the outside walls of your house. These insecticides will often be labeled “insect barriers.”
  • Trim plants and trees that touch your house so that there is a gap of at least a few inches between the plant and the house. Ants often make it indoors by using trees and bushes as ‘bridges’ to get in.

Ant Control (Killing Ants)

Contrary to what you may think, killing ants is one of the least effective ways to get rid of ants. If you have an ant infestation, there may well be thousands of ants in and around your home. The most effective way to get rid of ants is what has been described in the previous sections. However, the following methods are all useful for killing ants that have already entered your home.

  • Kill ants in your yard by mowing the lawn and then spraying a ‘lawn and garden’ insecticide on the mowed grass. Spray around trees, plants, and generously on visible anthills.
  • Vacuum ants and ant trails that you can see. As soon as you have finished, vacuum some talcum powder or Diatomaceous Earth. Both of these powders will kill all of the ants that are in the vacuum machine. Be sure to do the second step or, alternatively, dispose of the vacuum bag far away from your home.
  • Use a ‘Bug Fogger.’ Bug Foggers release fumes that are fatal to insects including ants. They can remain effective for several months. Be sure to read labels carefully and to follow the directions as foggers can be harmful to people as well.

Following the directions in this page will help you get rid of the vast majority of ant infestations. If you know what kind of ant you are dealing with, then you can get more specific tips. For instruction on how to get rid of specific types of ants, check the links below.

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Subterranean Termites

Last Updated: December 30, 2016

Invasive subterranean termites cause property damage in many regions. Understanding their behavior is the first step in eradicating these pests.

Subterranean termites live in underground colonies, where they stay busy building tunnels in search of wood and other foods containing cellulose.  Eastern subterranean termites are just one of the more than 2,300 termite species described worldwide, while subterranean termites as a group are one of three termite types.

Eastern subterranean termites are the most common termite species living in North America. They are widely distributed throughout the Eastern United States, though their range is from Southern Ontario all the way south to Texas. A mature colony has between twenty thousand and five million workers, and the colony’s queen continually adds to the number, laying between five and ten thousand eggs annually.

Identifying Subterranean Termites

Subterranean termites, including Eastern subterranean termites, are social insects. They share resources, divide labor, and care for their queen and her young. These termites live according to a caste system which includes both males and females in each specific caste.

Worker caste termites  are just about three millimeters long. They have soft bodies and a round head, and are creamy white to grey in color. They are blind, wingless, and sterile. Their lot in life is to construct and repair underground shelter tubes, forage for food and water, feed and groom the other termites, and care for the queen’s eggs and help rear the colony’s young. The worker termites eat much more wood than soldier and reproductive termites do; this is not at all surprising considering the amount of labor they do on a daily basis.

Soldier caste termites closely resemble worker caste termites, but instead of round, nearly featureless heads, these termites have long, black jaws protruding from large, rectangular brownish-yellow heads. Eastern subterranean soldier termites are also equipped with a gland on their foreheads which emits sticky latex. Soldier caste termites spend their time defending the colony against ants – their most common natural enemies. While all subterranean soldier termites use their jaws to crush ants, the Eastern subterranean soldier termites use the latex they produce to ensnare their enemies, as well.

Soldier caste termites are unable to feed themselves. They rely on worker termites for food; the workers carefully regurgitate partially digested cellulose, which they then feed to the soldiers.

Reproductive caste termites are about one centimeter long. They have dark skin and a pair of antennae, along with two pairs of equally sized wings which they shed after taking their nuptial flight, settling into a new colony, and mating. If you see lots of wings in a specific area and no insects to account for those wings, you can almost be certain that a new colony of termites has taken up residence nearby. Swarming occurs during daylight hours between the months of February and April, though swarms occasionally develop during the autumn months.

Eastern subterranean termites are opportunistic insects. They are capable of developing into any caste after hatching, and when they develop into workers, these workers are capable of molting and becoming soldiers.  Some newly hatched Eastern subterranean termites become alates, which are nymphs with the potential to develop into winged reproductive adult termites or to revert to worker termites.

While subterranean termites, including Eastern subterranean termites, do benefit natural ecosystems by ensuring natural organic matter decomposes in a timely manner, they can cause costly damage to homes and other structures. If you see these termites around a structure or living nearby, you should rapidly locate the colony and take steps to eliminate the infestation.

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Flea Facts – Flea Information

Last Updated: December 30, 2016

Fleas have been around for millions of years, sucking the blood of animals and humans. Fleas live on pets, mammals, in carpets, in sofas as well as other household and farm goods. In a typical room, 5 percent of the fleas will be found on pets, 10 percent flea cocoons in the carpets, 35 percent

flea larvae and 50 percent flea eggs, again in the carpets.

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Flea Diseases – Sickness from fleas – Diseases that fleas spread

Last Updated: December 30, 2016

A lot of folks know that fleas are a real nuisance to pets and even to the people who live in a house or apartment that is infested with fleas. But a lot of people are unaware that fleas can carry and spread sickness and life threatening diseases to both pets and people.

Fleas crawl and bite, and these actions alone can make a person or pet, scratch at their skin a lot. This scratching can easily lead to open wounds and sores and infection. This is just the simplest problem that fleas can cause pets and people, it gets a lot worse.

Fleas often are like hitchhikers, in that they may live on one host or creature for awhile then, hop and travel until they find another. A flea that finds it’s way to your pet or you, may have fed on the blood of a raccoon, opossum or even a rat. Now if that flea bites you or a pet, it can spread the same disease the rat or other animal was carrying.

Cat Scratch Fever – Fleas that are living on a neighbors cat that has cat scratch fever, can pick up the disease from the animals blood. Then they travel to your cat and feed on it’s blood, giving them the same disease. Later when your cat licks your mouth, or if it scratches or bites you, you may find youself with cat scratch fever. Fleas that live on the cat and are infected, leave their poop in the cats fur. When you pet your handle the cat, your fingers and hands become contaminated, then when you rub your eyes or pick your nose, etc, it’s possible to spread the disease to yourself.

Typhus – Fleas that feed on rats that have Typhus, travel to pets and feed off them and humans. The poop from these infected fleas gets into the mouths and wounds of humans, from petting their pets, and getting bit by the fleas themselves, and having the flea poop get into open scratches and sores, infecting the person with typhus. Typhus can also be gotten by a human, who is even exploring or living in an area where there are lots of dead fleas, or even old cat feces.

Bubonic Plague – When a flea feeds on an infected animal that has the plague, it can transfer this serious disease to humans when it bites. The fleas can also infect pets, and in turn these pets can transfer the plague to humans.

Tapeworms – Another nasty disease or condition that fleas can give to humans and pets, is Tapeworms. Fleas act like the hosts of tapeworms, and infected fleas can pass these tapeworms to humans when they feed off their blood.

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Fleas In Rugs – Fleas In Carpets

Last Updated: December 30, 2016

Fleas lay most of their eggs on carpets and rugs inside a house or apartment. Female adult fleas can lay up to 50 eggs per day. There is no need to emphasize the need to remove the fleas as they can transmit diseases that range from

allergies to plague.