Home maintenance can keep those pests away

June 5, 2013

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While the cicada invasion may not be as intense as originally predicted, June is when mosquitoes, ticks, termites, ants and other pests come out in full force in the Washington region.

Failing to properly keep up your property can create an environment that can draw the pests to your home. Some are merely pesky, but others can cause real damage so it’s best to know the signs and make the necessary changes to repel or eradicate them.

Here are some tips to help keep yourself, your pet and your home safe this summer:

Mosquitoes: The best way to keep mosquitoes at bay is to eliminate the places that the pests can breed. Mosquitoes can breed in as little as a teaspoon of standing water.

Check your property. Clean out your gutters and make sure downspouts drain away from your home. Clogged gutters create standing water and are the perfect place for mosquitoes and other pests to breed. Clogged gutters will also encourage other pests that can damage your home.

Throw away old tires, buckets and other yard rubbish that allow mosquitoes to breed.

Ticks and rodents: Keep lawns, weeds and grassy areas in check to help stop ticks. Clear away leaves. This will make your yard look nicer and eliminate areas for ticks to hide.

Be sure to use a pooper scooper after letting your dogs out. Not only is dog poop a potential health hazard, but it may attract unwanted rodents.

Termites and carpenter ants: Two problems we see a lot of at this time of year are wood-destroying insects such as termites, carpenter ants and carpenter bees. Both termites and carpenter ants are difficult to detect until it’s too late, but there are warning signs.

Termites, especially, and carpenter ants are attracted to unprotected or decaying wood. Store firewood away from your home and protect it from the elements. Watch for insect damage and remove old wood before it’s a problem.

Termites seek out moist wood for food. Wood decay fungus growing on wood may be a sign of subterranean termite activity. This fungus as well as the moisture in the wood will attract termites. Wood decay fungus will begin with a white mycelia growing on the wood.

The easiest way to identify termites is from the mud tubes they leave behind. Another way to identify a problem with subterranean termites and carpenter ants is from the waste they expel. As termites chew through wood they create channels. Workers will continually bring up dirt, creating the mud channels or piles of dirt.

Drywood termites can be identified by their fecal matter — small, hard egg-shaped pellets with grooves pressed in the sides. These termites expel the pellets from the infested areas by chewing a hole in the wood and shoving the poop through the hole. Pellets on horizontal surfaces are a sign of an infestation.

Carpenter ants don’t actually eat wood. They chew off bits and expel it as sawdust, a sign of a problem. We are seeing a lot of carpenter ant problems around homes as well as in live trees. It is important to catch and treat a carpenter ant problem early to save the tree.

Sugar ants: Another rite of spring is the return of sugar ants. The best strategy is to keep surfaces clean, wipe down counters and do not leave food out. Bug sprays will kill those ants that come in contact with treated surfaces, but they will likely come back if you do not eliminate sources of food, water and the colony.

 Brett Lieberman is owner of Mosquito Terminators of Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia. He can be reached at brett@mosquitoterminators.com.

 

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