Bed Bugs, Yikes!
Get rid of them yourself without pesticide
Bed bugs are small, nearly wingless, flattened bugs that are external parasites of humans. There are closely related species that feed on bats, cliff swallows, woodpeckers, raptors, chickens and other types of birds. Bed bugs do not transmit any diseases, but they are probably the most profitable bug in the pest control industry. If you made a list of the 100 most dangerous bugs on the planet, bed bugs wouldn't make the list. If you made a list of the top ten most profitable bugs, they would be at the top of the list. You can control bed bugs yourself in your home or business and you don't need toxic pesticides to do so.
The first step in controlling bed bugs is to completely inspect the room to determine the extent of the infestation. Pay close attention to the sleeping areas. They can be hiding anywhere but they will stay as close to the food source as they can. Small crevices in solid structures, such as the joints in the bed's headboard or between the wall and the baseboard are the bed bugs' refuge of choice. Strip the bed so you can inspect the mattress and box spring. Examine the seams and buttons on the mattress as well as any labels. Bed bugs will hide in all of these areas. Stand the mattress on end if you have to. Examine the box spring if there is one. Stand it up and look at the underside, especially along the edges. Also look behind pictures hanging on the wall, between and behind any books or magazines in close proximity to the bed and in any furniture nearby. You may have to turn some of the furniture over and examine the underside. Carefully check anything that is under the bed including storage boxes. If there is any litter under the bed, it should be removed. Also check for dried cast skins (exuviae) from the molting process and fecal matter.
Before you start the treatment, there are a few preparations you should do. Wash all the bedding in hot water (120 + degrees). This will kill any bed bugs in the bedding. Personal items such as stuffed animals, blankets, etc. should be vacuumed and placed in plastic bags for a couple of weeks. If you have a clock, phone, radio or other appliance near the bed, they should be opened and inspected as bed bugs will hide in those places as well. Thoroughly vacuum the entire room including inside closets and dresser drawers. If the infestation is severe, you will have to use a crack and crevice vacuum tool to suck the bugs out from along the edge of the carpet, from behind switch plates which you will have to remove, from all around the bed frame, inside the box spring and inside any furniture in the room. If you see any eggs on the mattress along the seams, you can remove these by picking them up with duct tape and discarding them or brushing them off with a stiff brush. After vacuuming the room or rooms, remove the bag from the vacuum and discard it right away.
Next, use a hair dryer to blow hot air in all the cracks and crevices and along the edge of the carpet and on the furniture to get any bed bugs the vacuuming missed. You want to get as many bed bugs as you can before the final treatment.
Now it is time to treat the bed. Use a flashlight and carefully examine the seams, buttons and any folds in the mattress along with the headboard and footboard if they are present. Check the box spring and frame as well. If you missed any bed bugs with the vacuum or hair dryer, they will be visible. Spray any bed bugs you see with an EcoSmart spray as well as all cracks and crevices in the bed. Spray the underside of the box spring as well. If you don’t see any bed bugs, then spray along the seams and around the folds and all the other areas mentioned. Make sure to use plenty of solution so the sprayed surface is wet. Then put some diatomaceous earth (DE) in a duster and puff it on all the sprayed areas, including under the box spring. The EcoSmart will kill any bed bugs in several hours and the DE will prevent any from hiding in these areas in the near future. You can also sprinkle fine body/bath powder on the mattress and rub it into the fabric.
Now you have to treat all the furniture in the room including night stands, chairs, couches, dressers, etc. Make sure you carefully inspect all the wooden furniture and treat them as you treated the mattress, box spring and bed frame. If any of the furniture, such as bunk beds, have metal framing, treat inside the metal tubing with EcoSmart and DE.
Finally, you need to make your bed difficult for bed bugs to access. Tape up any tears in the box spring or mattress with duct tape or, better yet, enclose them in a zippered mattress cover used for dust mites. Put the legs of the bed in plastic food bowls or metal cans and coat the inside with Vaseline. Don’t let the bed touch any walls or let the bed covers touch the floor.
If you have any pest questions, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 505-385-2820. My book is available on my website at askthebugman.com.
Pesticide Precautionary Principle
We need to do a better job on using pesticides in society and we can do this by practicing the Pesticide Precautionary Principle (PPP) before allowing any pesticide to be used. PPP means that if an application of a pesticide has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public, or to the environment, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those applying the pesticide. A burden of proof would be a scientific consensus, such a peer-reviewed paper, that the pesticide is not harmful. A statement by a distributor, applicator, the manufacturer or a government agency without scientific documentation is not satisfactory and the pesticide should not be applied until proven safe. The PPP implies that there is a social responsibility to protect the public from exposure to harmful pesticides when scientific investigations have found a plausible risk. The use of the pesticide should only occur in an emergency or when further scientific findings emerge that provide evidence that no harm to anyone or the environment will result. It should be the responsibility of the decision-makers to anticipate any damage to someone’s health and the environment before any pesticide application occurs.
The Pesticide Precautionary Principle should be adopted on all levels for all pests. It would even benefit the homeowner to insist that their exterminator practice PPP.
This is what needs to be done. When a pest is found to be problematic, on any level, including in homes, then the agency or exterminator needs to properly identify the pest and provide scientific evidence of any harm the pest can do. Not just say that cockroaches cause diseases, or mosquitoes carry diseases, or fleas, ticks and others so-called pests can cause diseases. They need to show scientific proof of what diseases the particular species of cockroach, mosquito, flea, tick, etc. can cause. Then they need to show what needs to be done to control them, and if pesticides are the only solution, the pesticides have to be proven scientifically safe in order to be used. All of this needs to be documented by the government agency or exterminator before any control methods are considered. If you have ants in your house and they are just a nuisance because of their presence, then why would you consider using potentially dangerous pesticides to control them? If you are in an office building, and no pests of any kind are present, why would you want an exterminator to come in and apply potentially toxic pesticides to baseboards when no pest is present? If you are going to have someone use pesticides, insist they follow PPP and provide you with documentation showing that the pesticides they are going to use are not harmful to people, pets or the environment. If they can’t provide that documentation, do not let them spray the pesticides.
If an agency wants to spray for mosquitoes because of the fear of Zika, and the mosquito that vectors Zika has been found in your area, make sure they know what they are doing. If they want to spray a pesticide at night to control a mosquito that is a daytime biter like the Zika mosquito is, it is clear they don’t know what they are doing. Have the agency or pest control company that wants to spray for the mosquitoes, provide you with a positive identification of the mosquito species they want to control, along with information on the habits of that species of mosquito. Also, they need to provide scientific evidence that the pesticides they want to use are harmless to humans and will not damage the environment. If they can’t provide that information, they should not be allowed to spray the pesticides.
We cannot continue to use pesticides that can harm our children, our elderly and almost anyone else and that can cause damage to the environment and that will not really control the pests. We need to rethink how we practice pest management by adopting the Pesticide Precautionary Principles.
If you have any pest questions, you can contact me at email@example.com or by phone at 505-385-2820. My website is askthebugman.com.
So cute, so beneficial, so stop poisoning them already
Pocket gophers construct burrows under the ground using their strong forelegs, enlarged claws and even their teeth. Their vision is poor because of their habitat as is their hearing. When the gopher digs, it kicks the dirt behind it with its hind feet. When a lot of loose dirt has accumulated, it turns around and pushes the dirt to the surface using its fore paws and face. The resulting mounds are an indication of their presence in your yard.
Gophers feed on the underground portions of plants, but will occasionally come to the surface and pull green vegetation underground. They live alone in their tunnel system, but males will enter female tunnels during mating season, usually early in the year. Female gophers will have one to seven young at a time. The baby gophers will disperse on the ground when they are mature enough to leave their mother and often fall victim to predators at this time. They usually have only one litter per year.
Actually they are very beneficial animals. A single gopher can move approximately a ton of soil to the surface every year. Their tunnels are constructed and then fill up with dirt as they are abandoned. The old tunnels contain the nests, waste material and partially filled pantries well below the surface where they become important as fertilizer. Soil that has been compacted by cattle trampling, grazing and machinery is benefited by the tunneling process of gophers. In the mountains, snow and rainfall are temporarily held in gopher burrows instead of running across the surface causing soil erosion. The mounds the gophers make also bury vegetation deeper, thus increasing soil quality over time. Additionally, fresh soil in the mounds provides a fresh seeding area for new plants, which may increase the variety of plants on a site. Gophers are also in the food chain and are fed upon by large birds, other mammals and snakes. Other animals such as lizards and toads take refuge in the cool, moist burrows.
As much as I am trying to make the case that gophers have a place in our area, there are times when we have to control them. Poisons are available but I never recommend them. Most of the gopher baits contain strychnine, diphacinone, chlorophacinone, or zinc phosphide. None of these rodenticides are very pleasant and accidents can result with other animals digging them up. These products shouldn’t even be allowed to be sold in stores. There are traps available that can be placed in the burrows, but they are not easy to use and have only limited success. I have found that the best method of gopher control is simply asking them to move. You can do this by pouring a foul smelling liquid into their tunnel system. Fish oil emulsion works well and castor oil is also effective. Since gophers generally live alone, once they move, they are not likely to return unless they are forced to move again, so a repellent can be very effective.
When using a repellent, you will have to probe the dirt to find their tunnels. Generally, a tunnel will run straight between two mounds and they are normally about 18” below the surface. You can use a metal rod or even a pool cue to probe the dirt. Once you hit the tunnel, the probe will fall through. Then take a long-stem funnel such as used to put oil in cars and place it in the hole created by the probe. Pour the repellent into the funnel and move on to the next tunnel.
My latest book, “THE BUGMAN'S GUIDE to NON-TOXIC PEST MANAGEMENT FOR YOUR HOME AND GARDEN” is available. It has information and non-toxic control methods for cockroaches, ants, wasps, bed bugs, lice, flies, termites, scorpions, centipedes, spiders and other pests. It has a section on how to pest-proof your house, and a section that covers lawn and ornamental pests plus information about rodents and pigeons. There is also a list of safe products you can use to controls pests. It has a section how to pick a competent pest control company if you want to use one. It is available on my website askthebugman.com. I believe you will find the book very helpful in controlling pests around your home or business without using toxic pesticides.
If you have any pest questions, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 505-385-2820.
Velvet Ants and Sun Spiders
Neither ants, nor spiders
There are a couple of bugs that don’t get much attention and are not very well understood. First is the velvet ant. Velvet ants are not real ants. They are wingless female wasps that resemble large, hairy ants. There are several species so they come in different colors. One species is red and black. Another is yellow and black and there are others. The male velvet ants do have wings. Velvet ants are also known as cow killers, because they have a very painful sting that is said to be able to kill a cow. That may be a slight exaggeration. They are solitary wasps and do not live in colonies. They spend their time wandering around yards, digging in the soil and occasionally entering a garage or home by accident. They are not at all aggressive, but will sting to defend themselves and the sting is very painful as I said. Apparently they make a squeaking sound when stepped on. I stepped on one in my yard in Rio Rancho many years ago and I didn’t hear the squeak, but the sting was so painful I was screaming pretty loud.
They have an unusual way of making a living. The adult females feed on nectar and drink water. They go into the holes made by cicada killer wasps and lay eggs in the cicada killer’s cocoon. The eggs hatch and the larvae feed on the cicada killer larvae. Then the velvet ant larvae pupate and eventually emerge as an adult. Then the female adults will eventually mate with winged male velvet ants and start the process over.
Velvet ants do no damage at all, and as I said, are not aggressive. Pesticides are not necessary to control them. It would be a good idea not to walk barefoot in your yard.
The other “bug” I will mention is the sun spider. The sun spider is not really a spider, but they are arachnids as are spiders. They are also called camel spiders and wind scorpions but they are not scorpions either. They are not venomous and not at all dangerous. They are tan in color, have eight legs, a pair of long pedipalps and have large, muscular jaws. They can bite if picked up. Sun spiders are very fast and very good at catching prey to eat. They will eat cockroaches or any large insects, spiders, scorpions and occasionally small lizards.
They occasionally enter homes under doors or through any void, but will not infest your home. The females dig burrows outside and deposit about a 100 eggs or so. They will not breed in your house. The best method of control is to sweep them into a jar or can and put them outside, where they can continue to help you control pests outside. Pesticides are not necessary to control sun spiders.
If you have any pest questions, you can contact me at email@example.com or by phone at 505-385-2820. I want everyone to enjoy a pesticide free summer.
No, that's not a big, weird, scary mosquito
The first time I met a crane fly, it was scary. I was in Viet Nam sitting in back of a truck. What I thought was a large Asian mosquito started flying around me. I was terrified by its size and swung at it. I lost my balance and fell off the truck and landed on my head in a mud pile. If I had landed on a solid road I probably would have broken my neck and would have been the only soldier in the army that was killed by a crane fly.
What are crane flies? These are large insects that closely resemble mosquitoes. They can be very scary looking, particularly if they find their way into your home and start flying around terrorizing everyone. Are they dangerous? No, crane flies are completely harmless. They have a variety of names including “Mosquito Killer”, “Mosquito Hawk”, “Mosquito Eater”, “Gallinipper” and others. They do not eat mosquitoes or any bugs. The adult crane flies eat very little and mostly just nectar.
Crane flies are primitive flies belonging to the Order Diptera and the Family Tipulidae. There are many different species, some are large and others are quite small. The ones that commonly scare people are about an inch long, with a narrow body and very long legs that can exceed an inch in length. The wings are long and narrow.
The larvae are grayish brown in color and are cylindrical shaped. They are often called “Leatherjackets”. The larvae commonly are found in moist areas such as woodlands and around streams. They are found under layers of decomposing leaves and in compost piles. Some species occur in open fields, dry areas including desert environments. A few species can feed on the roots of forage crops and turf grasses. Most species feed on decaying organic matter. They can be important in the soil ecosystem as they process organic material. They are, both in the larval stage and as adults, valuable food for many animals including insects, spiders, fish, frogs, toads, birds and some mammals.
Adult female crane flies usually contain eggs when she emerges from the pupa and often immediately mates with a male if one is available. They often mate while flying. Once the eggs are laid, the adult males and females have a life span of up to two weeks. The eggs are laid in water, in dry soil and occasionally dropped from the air. The eggs are black in color.
Because of their size they can cause panic attacks if they come in your house. They are attracted to light as many insects are and they will fly in an open window or door and start running into walls and furniture. As mentioned, they are medically harmless, but can by psychologically scary.
They usually start showing up in mid-February and hang around until April, depending on the weather. Large numbers may show up and rest on plants and the sides of your house if you live near an area where they may breed.
Make sure all of your windows and doors are closed and that all window and door screens are in good repair. Leave outside lights off during the evening. This won’t guarantee you will never see a crane fly in your house, but it certainly reduces the odds.
They should be considered beneficial insects as the adult flies are harmless and that their biology is such that they contribute to the ecosystem because the larvae (leatherjackets) feed on decaying organic material and help in the decomposition process.
If you have any pest questions, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 505-385-2820. My website is askthebugman.com.
Less toxic options
This week I would like to offer some least-toxic alternatives for controlling pests. I say least-toxic, not non-toxic because if it can kill a bug, it is slightly toxic. I will mention some brand names. I have no vested interest in recommending them. I do recommend them because they work very well.
Terro Bait is an excellent ant control bait that you can buy in stores. There are several Terro products, but I recommend the box that contains 6 bait stations. Terro is a sweet gel bait made from Borax. You take a bait station out of the box and hold it upright and cut off the colored section. Then place is and the rest of the bait stations in the box label side up near where the ants are active and where they may be coming into your home. Even though the active ingredient is Borax, make sure you don't place the baits where children or pets can come in contact with it. It can make them sick if they eat it. However, this product is much safer than the bait stations most pest control companies use as they contain pesticides as an active ingredient. This bait will work on a number of different species of household ants including the very common odorous house ants (Tapinoma sessile), little black ants (Monomorium minimum) and pavement ants (Tetramorium caespitum). If you have ants that don't take this bait, then you need to get them identified. You can send me some specimens and I will be happy to identify them for you and make a recommendation on a non-toxic control method.
Niban Bait is a granular bait made from Orthoboric acid. It is an excellent bait for controlling cockroaches and is also labeled for controlling silverfish, crickets, slugs, snails, carpenter ants and some other species of ants. It also works on controlling harvester ants, the ones that make the big mounds outside and sting if you bother them. Niban lasts several months, so you don't have to apply it very often. I recommend putting Niban under and behind appliances, under kitchen and bathroom counters, around hot water heaters, in your garage and in areas around your home, such as where the water meter is. If you only have cockroach problems, you will never have to use an exterminator if you use Niban Bait. You can buy Niban online from several sources. One source in New Mexico is pestcontrolsupplies.com.
EcoSmart products are very good and are safe. They are made from plant oils and are EPA exempt. Much better than using synthetic pesticides. EcoSmart products are available in many stores.
There is an excellent fly trap that you can buy in stores. It is called Rescue Fly trap an it is a plastic container that flies will enter but can't get out. There is an attractant that comes with it that you put in the trap and add water. Flies love it. I have caught hundreds of flies in some areas in just a few hours. I would not recommend using indoors as the attractant is not pleasant smelling. The attractants are made with sucrose, putrescent whole egg solids, yeast, trimethylamine and indole. It will catch house flies, blow flies and flesh flies as well as some other species. These traps should be used on ranches where dairy cattle are kept and other livestock facilities but they work around homes when flies are present in large numbers for some reason.
Believe it or not, beer is very effective at controlling some pests. If you soak a rag in beer and put it in the middle of your garage floor at night, it will be covered in drunken cockroaches the next morning waiting for you to dispatch them. If you put some pie pans filled with beer out in your yard you will attract cockroaches who will get drunk and die in the brew. They do not check IDs and, for some reason, do not like Lite beers.
If you have any pest questions, you can contact me at email@example.com or call me at 505-385-2820. My website is askthebugman.com.
They're mite-y disease transmissive
Ticks are not insects. They are arachnids belonging to the group – mites. They are bigger than all other mites and they are very important. There are hundreds of species of ticks in the world and they are capable of spreading more than 65 diseases, many of them serious. Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Colorado tick fever and tularemia are a few. If someone made a list of the top ten most dangerous pests, ticks would be close to the top of the list. For some reason, they receive almost no attention compared to bed bugs which are absolutely harmless. Ticks mostly feed on the blood of warm-blooded animals, but some species feed on reptiles. They can be found in lawns, yards with trees and shrubs and, occasionally, inside homes. They prefer the shaded areas of your yard.
When you have ticks in your yard, here is one way control of them. Get a large piece of flannel cloth and tie it to a stick. Drag it through the entire yard slowly and pay particular attention to shady areas. Any ticks he drags the cloth over will get snagged. When you are done, put the cloth in a burn barrel and burn it or in a trash bag and seal it shut and take it to the dump. Then get some food grade diatomaceous earth and spread it all over the shady areas including along the sides of the house. Get some all along the foundation where there is dirt abutting the house. Then get some Vaseline and put some on all the outside window sills. If Vaseline is too messy you can use duct tape sticky side up. It takes 30 to 40 days for tick eggs to hatch, so you should repeat this entire process in a month and then again one month later. If ticks are in your house, you need to treat all the areas where they can hide. This would be behind baseboards, moldings, in furniture and carpets as well as around window sills. You can treat these areas with food-grade diatomaceous earth, baking soda, talcum powder or spray them with Greenbug for Indoors. All of these products will be safe for you and your family and pets but will kill the ticks. Greenbug is available online.
Most of the ticks listed below are only found in the woods and remote areas and won't infest your homes. I am listing them because they can be serious vectors of disease if you should encounter them.
Talaje soft ticks (Ornithodoros talaje)
Man, rodents, pigs, cattle, horses. Very painful bite. Found in New Mexico, Arizona, California and Nevada. It can transmit tickborne relapsing fever in some areas
Relapsing fever ticks (Argasidae - Ornithodoros turicata)
It feeds on kangaroo rats, rabbits, sheep, cattle, horses, pigs, humans, rattlesnakes and turtles. It is found in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah and California. May produce intense irritation and swelling at bite site in humans. Also produces relapsing fever spirochetes.
Rocky Mountain wood ticks (Ixodidae - Dermacentor andersoni)
Rocky Mountain wood tick immatures feed on rodents and rabbits. Adults feed on cattles, sheep, deer, humans and other large mammals. They are found from the western counties of Nebraska and the Black Hills of South Dakota to the Cascade and Sierra Nevada Mountains, and from northern Arizona and northern New Mexico in the United States to British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan in Canada. May transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tick paralysis and tularemia.
Brown dog ticks (Ixodidae - Rhipicephalus sanguineus)
Brown dog ticks are found worldwide, mostly in warmer areas. They are small and reddish-brown in color. Females can lay up to 5000 eggs, depending on the amount of blood consumed. Immature brown dog ticks feed on a variety of animals. Adults feed on domestic dogs and occasionally bite humans. In dogs, Brown dog ticks can transmit canine erhlichiosis and canine babesia. It has recently been identified as a reservoir for Rocky Mountain spotted fever in the southwest.
If you have any pest questions, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 505-385-2820. If you like you can join my Bug Club. Go to my website at askthebugman.com to join. You will get a copy of my book on safe and effective pest management and I will help you with any pest issues you have.
Trouble with Termites
Termites are swarming now because of the recent rains. The drought-like weather conditions have prolonged the normal termite swarming season, which usually occurs in March. What should you do if you see termite swarmers in your yard. If you are concerned, it would be a good idea to get a termite inspection to make sure they aren’t infesting your home. If someone finds termites, or you just want to get your home treated to be on the safe side, then make sure you hire a reputable company. When they give you a quote, they need to give you a graph of your home showing where there may be an infestation. The graph should tell you how they are going to treat it as well. They will measure your home and determine the linear footage. Most companies do this, but some of them do not measure the depth of the footer, which they need to know as the amount of termiticide they will use depends both on the linear footage of your home and the depth of the footer. If a company finds termite activity in your home and wants to use bait sticks outside, I would recommend passing on that. Why would termites leave a perfectly edible home to go out in the yard for a termite bait stick? If you opt out of getting your home treated, is that bad? Not necessarily so. We have arid land subterranean termites in most of NM and they are the least destructive species in the country. They often do some minor damage to drywall and occasionally studs, but rarely do substantial damage. However, if you are ever planning on selling your home, you should get it treated anyway, so you don’t have to deal with repairing damage later, even if it is minor. The most destructive species of subterranean termite is the Eastern species. That termite is found over much of the eastern half of the country and is found in NM in the eastern counties. That species if very destructive. Because of climate change I suspect this species will eventually expand its range over all of the state. If you have swarmers, make sure you get them identified to species. Any competent termite company should be able to look at the swarmers and identify them. It isn’t hard to tell them apart.
We also have drywood termites in NM, but they are not as common as subterraneans. They have brown swarmers, instead of black ones and they usually swarm in summer rather than in spring. They can be more difficult to treat so make sure the company you call knows how to treat them.
On another note, cockroaches are also very active now because of the weather. In some areas, they can come up through the sewer system and into your sinks through the drains. It would be a good idea to keep all of your drains closed at night, as that is when the cockroaches are most active. Check your doors also to make sure they close tightly. If you can slide a piece of paper under a door, a cockroach can come in. So can other pests like scorpions and centipedes. You may want to install door sweeps. You should also get some Niban Bait, which is a granular bait made from boric acid, and put it under your appliances, under your sinks and even around the outside of your home. You can only get Niban online. One NM supplier is pestcontrolsupplies.com. If you like, you can put out some pie pans filled with beer around your house. Roaches love beer and will go in the pie pans and drown. And they don’t check IDs. They also prefer good beer and not Lite beers. Not making this up. Another good way to catch them is with some duct tape placed sticky side up in the garage or anywhere you want, where pet can’t step on it. The roaches are attracted to the glue and get stuck on the tape. Crickets will also be attracted to the tape and get stuck.
There is no need to use pesticides to control most pests as the pesticides are potentially hazardous to your family and pets. If you have any pest questions, you can contact me at email@example.com or by phone at 505-385-2820. There is also lots of non-toxic pest management information on the blogs on my website at askthebugman.com.