Small Ants

Of all the insects that are commonly noted in our area, few are more prevalent than the small pavement ant. They are subterranean (their colonies exist below ground) and they are widely dispersed in a variety of soil types throughout the Midwest.

In the spring, fall and summer they can easily be seen outside in limitless quantities building ant hills on sidewalks, driveways, parking lots and in yards. These exterior infestations are typically a non-issue for most people who seldom identify this activity as troublesome. It is when these insects and their sand mounds occur indoors that occupants of homes and commercial buildings take exception.

For the most part small ants become problematic in “slab on grade” structures (no crawl space or basement.) Examples include but are not limited to, the main levels of small homes, apartment buildings, schools, churches, hospitals, assisted living facilities, professional buildings, restaurants, etc. The ants live in the soil directly below the floor and forage inside through expansion cracks in the concrete that allow them access into the main level.

Expansion cracks may be found in the following areas:
1.) All along the base of interior perimeter foundation walls (walls with windows.) The concrete floor must be poured separately from these walls during construction to allow for contraction and expansion as temperatures rise and fall. Small ants as well as the sand they bring with them will most typically be noted along these walls around the baseboards.
2.) In large slab buildings there are interior expansion cracks where separate sections of concrete are poured up to one another. These cracks exist in the interior areas of the building away from the perimeter walls.
3.) Areas where sub slab utility lines penetrate the concrete (plumbing lines, electrical lines, ductwork, etc.)

Every spring warming temperatures and moist soil conditions induce small ants to emerge from their winter slumber and reach peak levels of activity. This is the time of year when they aggressively search for food sources and can be easily seen foraging from ground level onto window sills, kitchen cabinets, sinks and counter tops. Often this activity involves extremely large numbers of ants which motivates the occupants of the house or building to hire a pest control professional.

Controlling small ants presents challenges since we do not have direct access to the colony. Other insects such as carpenter ants, spiders, wasps, ground beetles, etc. live above ground and are more accessible/vulnerable to our various treatment methods. Treating for small ants involves the use of attractive gel baits and slow acting liquid insecticides, the active ingredients of which are transported by the foraging worker ants to the remainder of the colony. Excellent control is typically the norm but a bit more patience is required from the client as the insecticides slowly take action within the colony.

We recommend supplementing the interior service with a very thorough exterior treatment as well to control exterior populations. This application is rendered with our truck mounted “power spraying” equipment and will provide the added benefit of preventing numerous other insects which are also at peak levels of activity, from foraging into building.


Mosquito Management

Mosquitos may be the most hated pest in America due to their ability to completely ruin our enjoyment of the outdoors. Beyond the fact that they are a horrible nuisance they have, throughout history transmitted diseases such as malaria, yellow fever and encephalitis. In more recent times they have been conclusively linked to the transmission of West Nile and Zinka Virus’s.

In order to manage mosquito populations around our homes and yards it is important to understand just a little bit about how these pests reproduce. The adult female mosquito lays her eggs on the surface of standing water. These eggs hatch into tiny larvae (“worms”) which live just below the surface of the water and eventually advance to the pupal (“cocoon”) stage. The winged adults emerge from the pupal stage and after mating the female looks for a blood meal so that she can lay her eggs and continue the life cycle.

Elimination of standing water around the exterior of the home will limit the number of breeding sites and reduce adult population. Areas where standing water gathers and creates breeding sites may include (but are certainly not limited to): Clogged gutters, bird baths, ornamental pools, discarded tires, wheelbarrows, tarps covering stored items or firewood, flower pots, cans, etc.

While moisture reduction is quite helpful for controlling insect numbers it is typically not relied upon as a “stand alone” measure. Regular residual insecticide treatments to key areas around the home are strongly recommended since adult mosquitos are airborne and migrate from adjacent woodlots and other neighboring properties. These key areas are basically resting sites and include vegetation, weeds, shrubbery, tall grass, flower beds and heavily shaded areas.

Residual insecticide applications have little value until good numbers of mosquitos have emerged which varies year to year based on environmental conditions. We consider June through September the best times to treat the resting sites for mosquitos but it may begin sooner and end later.

For more information on our mosquito management program or to schedule and estimate please contact our office staff.


Where Are These Mice Coming In?

One quarter of one inch. The width of a house key. 3 nickels stacked on top of one another. The width of a fettuccini noodle. This is all the space that a mouse requires to gain access to a home or building.

Anyone that has ever been startled by the sudden appearance of a mouse knows that they disappear as quickly as they emerge. For those who have been curious enough to investigate where the mouse came from or went, it can be mind boggling since no apparent access holes are visible.

When discussing rodent access points to homes and commercial buildings the possibilities are limitless and vary greatly depending on structural features. Just a few of the more common examples where suitable entry points exist are listed below:

  1. Overhead garage doors.
  2. Utility line entry points on the foundation wall (water, gas, sewer, AC and electrical lines.)
  3. Dryer vents.
  4. Exterior doorways.
  5. Loose siding or siding extending below grade level.
  6. The soffit or overhang near the roofline along the exterior wall.
  7. Cracks in the foundation walls.
  8. Concrete porch stoops that are cut into the header board in the basement or crawl space.
  9. Roof vents.
  10. Chimneys.
  11. Old coal chutes.
  12. Crawl space vents.
  13. Expansion joints in concrete slabs.
  14. Plumbing lines.

When building occupants begin to notice signs of mice (i.e. droppings or chewed food items) they want to know how the rodents are getting in. Most people believe that it is a simple matter of locating their entry points and then taking corrective action to seal them out. In addition to their ability to squeeze through small openings, mice are excellent climbers, burrowers and jumpers. They are tremendous athletes! While thorough exclusion efforts will often limit rodent access and are recommended, they are seldom successful as a stand- alone solution.

Experienced pest control professionals understand that total exclusion is difficult and focus their control efforts in other areas. Mice exhibit two traits that typically lead to their demise: they are curious and they are nibblers. They will readily investigate all changes to their living environment and are therefore easy to trap. They have an excellent sense of smell and will sample all new food sources within their “home range” which makes them susceptible to baiting programs. The final determination of the best control program is dependent on many factors and will vary from client to client.

Go ahead and seal them out. Caulk all visible cracks, fix the screening, install door sweeps, patch the foundation wall with mortar, tighten up the siding and use expandable foam where the utility lines enter the home. When you are all finished congratulate yourself on a job well done. When the mice droppings keep showing up in the pantry call a professional!


Spiders

 

 

Fall in Indiana and Illinois is a wonderful time of year. Cooler temperatures provide a welcome relief from summer heat and humidity, leaves are beginning to turn and football season is underway. It is also the time of year when spider activity peaks and many homeowners seek the services of a pest control professional to provide relief from these intimidating pests.

 

Most species of spiders are simply common household pests and are not poisonous. Occasionally spider bites may cause mild pain, swelling and irritation but it is mostly their unsightly webbing around the home that motivates people to initiate control procedures. Often it is the disturbing experience of being “faced” (i.e. walking into an unseen spider web) that causes most people to declare war on the fall spider!

 

Spiders have spent the entire summer feeding and often have become rather large by the time they begin spinning fall webs. They are attracted to the warmth of the home as evening temperatures begin to drop and they find excellent ambush sites for flying insects around light fixtures, decks, doorways and windows. For those who live on or near lakes where the flying insect numbers are extraordinarily high, large spider webs may be encountered daily.

 

Ground dwelling spiders are quite common at this time of year as well and they are often noted building “ground webs” along landscape timbers, in bushes and on the lawn itself. These spiders are regularly noted in basements and screened in porches where they build webs along the baseboards most often in the corners. The webbing from these spiders is much thicker than the intricate webs that are weaved by common spiders and they can be spotted from long distances.

 

Control procedures typically involve a very thorough exterior and interior application with an approved insecticide. Although they are technically arachnids and not insects, they are quite easily controlled with a high quality insecticide since they hang in corners and in webs and are most often totally exposed and vulnerable. While an initial “knockdown” is assured and customer satisfaction is outstanding, long term control for arachnids will typically last for a shorter period of time than with insects (30-45 days.)

 

Interior and exterior treatments for spiders are quite affordable and free on-site estimates are available upon request. The courteous office staff at Monroe Pest Control Co. Inc. will answer all your questions and schedule an appointment at your convenience.

 

Enjoy the beautiful colors, football season and a spider free living this fall!


Yellow Jackets

yellow jacket

yellow jacket

Late summer and early fall is Yellow Jacket season in Indiana and Illinois. Yellow Jackets are easily identified by their black and yellow striping and are commonly noted in large numbers hovering around trash receptacles and dumpsters at fall festivals, picnic grounds, supermarkets and in residential areas. These are the “bees” that are especially attractive to sugars and are regularly noted swarming and entering unattended soda and beer cans thereby presenting a serious health risk to the consumers of these beverages.

The cycle of nest building and reproduction begins slowly each spring since it is only the mated queen who survives the winter by seeking shelter in a secluded location. She builds a tiny nest called a “carton” which contains a small number of “cells.” The nests are of a light weight, paper-like material made from wood fibers mixed with the queens salivary secretions. Within these cells she places and egg which eventually hatches into a larvae or maggot. The queen feeds and cares for the larvae until they enter the pupal or cocoon stage. When the adult (winged) workers emerge from the pupal stage they take over nest building duties and begin caring for the larvae. In this manner the colony begins to grow and by August the nests are approaching the size of a soccer ball.

Yellow jackets prefer to build their nests in secluded “void” areas to protect them from wind and rain and as such the “carton” is seldom visible. These nesting sites are easily identifiable on account of a constant “stream” of flying workers (performing their feeding and building duties) coming and going out of the opening used to access the nest. These insects are extremely protective of their nests and become highly aggressive when they perceive nearby activity as a threat to the colony. Yellow Jackets possess the ability to sting repeatedly and their venom has been known to cause intense pain, severe swelling and allergic reactions.

Yellow Jacket attacks are typically the result of an accidental encounter and can be divided into two categories: outdoor and indoor. Most instances of outdoor attacks happen when an unsuspecting homeowner or landscaper disturbs a nest that is at or near ground level. Since yellow jackets like to build their nests in rodent burrows and landscape timbers it is quite common that stinging episodes occur regularly during the course of lawn and garden maintenance. Other outdoor encounters occur where yellow jackets have a nest built within the exterior wall or attic of a home and maintenance activity such as carpentry work or painting near the exterior opening threatens the nest.

Indoor encounters and attacks can be quite unsettling to the homeowner who just prior to this activity was relaxing comfortably within the sanctuary of their home. It is quite typical that these insects will find openings around the exterior foundation of the home and build a nest within the walls or in the attic space. A few examples where these openings exist include but may not be limited to utility line entry points, poorly sealed windows, outdoor lighting receptacles and gaps between the soffit or overhang and the exterior siding. Once inside the walls the worker yellow jackets will tear away the drywall slowly for nest building purposes. The thinning drywall is further compromised by the moisture that exists within the nest itself, and often times mildew and mold will be visible on the ceiling in the area of the nest . When these insects eventually break through the ceiling the entire area will be swarmed with panic stricken, aggressive yellow jackets.

As the “dog days” of summer turn to fall stay ever vigilant for yellow jacket activity around your yard and on your house. Early identification is the first step towards eradication and the best way to prevent a surprise attack.


Wasps and Decks

As the spring rains give way to the abundant sunshine and steady heat of mid- summer, wasp activity reaches its peak.  Paper wasps build a simple nest consisting of one layer of open cells called “combs.” These nests typically hang suspended from horizontal surfaces that include but may not be limited to window ledges, shutters, overhangs, swing sets, decks, fences, gazebos and porch roofs.

Stinging behavior is typically a defensive reaction that occurs when the wasps feel that the nest is threatened. Unfortunately human activity in the form of painting, power washing, roofing, window cleaning and recreation in the areas where nests exist provoke these attacks. Although wasp encounters can and do happen regularly in many different settings they occur most often on wooden decks.

Elevated decks are typically positioned to allow direct sunlight to reach most parts of the structure which brings humans and wasps together regularly. The vast sub structure and railings provide plenty of secluded and warm horizontal surfaces for nest building. Disturbance on deck boards and hand railings resulting from the movement of chairs, walking, sweeping, flower care and entertaining account for most instances of paper wasps attacks every summer.

We were hired last year to provide wasp control services for a client who agitated a nest when he set the lid to his Weber grill on the deck railing one evening. A medium sized nest had developed near the grill and the vibration that occurred when the lid was placed directly over the wasps provoked an aggressive “swarming” reaction from the wasps.

Since most homeowners are reluctant allow a few wasps to keep them from enjoying their decks they typically seek some form of pest control when these encounters persist. Some will purchase over the counter products and “spot treat” known and exposed nesting sites while others will hire a pest control professional to provide a more thorough application.

Monroe Pest Control Co. Inc. provides an exterior treatment to homes and decks that will eliminate existing wasp nests and repel future infestations. Our application equipment allows us to reach and effectively treat all areas of the house and deck providing outstanding control for up to 60 days. Since we use a general insecticide that is effective on numerous other pests our “wasp clients” also enjoy control of carpenter ants, spiders, earwigs, etc.

We offer our exterior service as a remedial treatment when the wasps develop nesting sites but also as a preventative measure.  Many of our regular clients understand in advance that warm sunshine on wooden decks will result in annual wasp activity each summer to some degree.

 

 


Swarmer termites, flying ants and sports

What do Baseball, The Masters, The NFL Draft, Kentucky Derby and the NBA/NHL playoffs have in common with termites and ants? They are all unstoppable forces of spring! They can’t be avoided and you can set your watch by their arrival each year when the dreary gloom of winter gives way to the lush greens and budding colors of April and May.

Just as many wives are perturbed with their sports addicted husbands who stay glued to the TV while the grass remains uncut, other homeowners are similarly disgusted to find that termites and ants have “swarmed” into their house. Unfortunately for the wives of the sports fan there is probably no solution to their problem but for those who are under siege from termites and ants there is hope. These insects can both be eliminated but one represents a significant threat to the value of the home while the other is a mere nuisance.

With “swarmer” termites and flying ants, the level of alarm depends upon which insect is invading the structure. Flying ants can be a source of concern since their nesting and foraging activity may be undesirable but they are not wood destroying insects and represent little threat to the value of the home. Termites on the other hand rely upon wood as a food source and attack the structural timbers within the home and can cause considerable damage.

Control procedures for ants are rather basic and are fairly affordable for most homeowners who choose to hire a pest control professional. Eliminating termites from a structure is a more complicated matter involving extensive labor and materials and average costs for such services reflect these facts. Fortunately both of these insects “swarm” every spring in an effort to reproduce and as unpleasant as it may be it is often the first (and only) indication to the homeowner that there is an infestation. This can be a good thing but only when a proper identification is made.

“Swarmer” termites are regularly mistaken as flying ants and often with disastrous consequences. It is not uncommon for some homeowners to vacuum or sweep the annual “flying ant” piles around the windows each spring and then go about their business. In reality these are termites and each year the infestation goes undetected the structural damage gets worse. These compromised timbers may be hidden behind drywall in the basement or behind insulation in the crawl area and so the termite evidence goes undetected until it becomes severe and costly to repair.

So how do you tell the difference? It’s pretty simple and a basic understanding of their physical characteristics is all that is necessary to either breathe a sigh of relief or hit the panic button.  If you view image you will see:

  1. Ants have “elbowed” antennae and the termites do not.
  2. Ants have clearly defined, segmented body parts with two pinched waists and termite bodies are “cigar” shaped.
  3. Ants have a pair of short wings and a pair of long wings while termites wings are the same size.

If you should experience a spring time “swarm” and are uncertain as to their classification, save some of these insects for a positive identification. Rest assured that both of these pests can be controlled or eliminated. Call for a free estimate, text us a picture or maybe the man of the house can bring them by our office on his way to the lawn and garden store!


Termites in Northwest Indiana

It is quite common for lending institutions such as banks and mortgage companies to protect their investment and request Wood Destroying Insect (WDI) inspections for homes that are being purchased or refinanced. Licensed pest control professionals are regularly contacted to render a thorough examination of the structural timbers in these homes for evidence of infestation and damage due to termites, carpenter ants and powder post beetles.

Although these inspections include all wood destroying insects they are routinely referred to by lending agents, sellers, buyers, realtors and pest control professionals as “Termite Inspections.” The reason for this is that termites are by far the most destructive of all the wood destroying insects and represent the biggest threat to the value of the home.

It is often a source of great surprise (and irritation) to the seller or the refinancing homeowner that they are required to pay for this inspection as a prerequisite to closing. There is a common misperception that termites only exist in the south and that they are extremely rare or limited in this area. While it is true that termites are more prevalent in warm weather climates, they are well established in Northwest Indiana and Illinois.

In this area of the country subterranean (“below ground”) termites are in fact widespread. Unlike other species of termites in the south that actually nest and live in the wood of the dwellings they infest, “our” termites establish colonies in the ground.  They are dependent on the moisture content of the soil for survival and travel back and forth regularly from their colonies to their wood food sources above ground. Since soft, sandy soil is far more conducive to this foraging behavior it stands to reason they are located more often in areas where this soil type is predominant.

This soft soil prevails throughout Roselawn, Demotte, Lake Village, Portage, Lake Station, Miller, Gary, Hammond, East Chicago, Whiting, Mokena, Frankfort and Tinley Park. Termite activity and damage are routinely encountered in the course of performing WDI inspections in these “high pressure” areas.

Some soil types consist of a mixture of sand and clay and so termites are found in “pockets” occurring regularly in some areas but not at all in others. Lansing, Dyer, Griffith, Highland, Munster, Crown Point, Kouts, Hebron, Hobart, Chesterton, Porter, Valparaiso, Wanatah and Michigan City are examples of such areas.

Those of us in the pest control industry understand that Mother Nature has in fact dispersed termites throughout this area and precautionary home inspections make perfect sense. Bear with requests by the lenders to have a WDI inspection if you are selling or refinancing and insist upon it if you are purchasing.


Tornadoes, Fires and Termites.

Spring is tornado season in the Midwest. Small children are being marched through school hallways and drilled on how to take cover, storm chasers are doing the final check on their vehicles and equipment and the Weather Channel is primed for a major ratings boost. We have all seen the horrifying aftermath of these devastating storms and we collectively wonder how anyone ever survives the carnage.

It is not at all uncommon for the nightly news to lead with footage of leaping flames engulfing a warehouse, apartment building or a home. The dramatic video shows brave firemen battling the inferno while risking their lives to save the occupants. The charred and smoking remnants of the structure scream as a warning to all to take precautions and testifies to the destructive capabilities of fire.

Although much less dramatic and not associated with the loss of human life, there is another force in nature that is responsible for more destruction every year in the United States than all the tornados and fires combined! Termites.

Termites are wood destroying insects that require cellulose as a food source in order to survive. They do not eat greases, crumbs, syrups, plants, flowers or tree sap the way other insects do. They must eat wood in order to survive and where they can’t find it in nature in the form of dead timber they find it in plentiful quantities in wooden framed houses. These insects are subterranean meaning that they live below the ground and they attack a structure at grade level or below in the initial stages of an infestation. Unfortunately the structural timbers at the lowest levels of the home which include the floor joists, header beams and sill plates, provide the support and “carry the load” of all that exists above. When these timbers are compromised, major structural damage can and will occur and it is quite typical that standard homeowners insurance policies do not cover termite damage.

In order to prevent becoming a victim of the termite it is important to understand where they are found and what they look like. There are some areas where termites do not exist. These are areas of heavy clay soil with high moisture content that are not conducive to subterranean termite movement and reproduction. On the other hand soft, sandy soil is ideal for termites and in these areas there are extremely “high pressure” zones where termites exist in large numbers. If you are aware of the soil type where you live you will have a beginning point to determine your “at risk” status. Since termites are subterranean and found in large numbers in some areas but not in others, neighbors can be an excellent source for determining their presence or absence in any given area.

In areas where termites are present they build mud tunnels from the ground to the house by which they travel back and forth. These can be highly visible in unfinished basements, crawl spaces or garages. They also “swarm” in the spring of the year in an effort to reproduce and will often emerge in the living areas of houses where they are misidentified as flying ants. Use the internet as a tool to help identify both the tunnels and the “swarmers” as well as the termite damage itself.

Early detection is the key to avoiding serious structural damage. If you would like any more information on this destructive insect or would like to schedule a home inspection call Monroe Pest Control Co. Inc. for a free inspection/estimate.


Just say no to service contracts!

Spring is finally here! The windows are open, the grass is green, motorcycles are rumbling and the bugs are on the move. Small ants are on the kitchen counters, big black carpenter ants are cruising through the house, spiders and wasps are stirring……… you get the picture. Many homeowners find that they have a need for pest control at this time of year and seek to hire a pest control professional.

At this point a pest control company is contacted, an appointment is set for an evaluation/estimate and shortly afterwards a salesman arrives. Be advised that not all salesmen are created equal! There are those who come to actually identify the prospective client’s needs and offer them a practical solution and there are those who come with set agenda to lock the homeowner into an annual service contract. The latter approach is typically the result of a corporate directive set by executives who possess a strong sense for business but who are far removed from actual field work. The salesmen themselves are merely an extension of this ideology and are well trained in sales techniques but in most cases they too have limited experience with actually controlling pests. This sales approach guarantees the pest control company a steady source of revenue and an annual client, but it most often does not present the best solution to the pest issue.

At Monroe Pest Control Co. Inc. we believe the best way to serve and retain clients is to build a relationship. That starts with an honest assessment of the pest issue by an individual with many years of field experience to his credit. The subsequent development of a service plan is based on our professional recommendations and considers the actual needs of the prospective client.

Many of our customers experience pest issues that can be solved with a one-time service and do not require ongoing and unnecessary follow-up treatments. Others recognize the value of a preventative pest control program and hire us more regularly to control ants, wasps, spiders, etc. Our courteous office staff contacts our clients to schedule services on their terms and we coordinate treatment times to correspond with peak levels of insect activity.

We do make contracts available for those who wish to have the terms of the pest control agreement and warranty in writing. There are those who are more comfortable with this approach although it is seldom requested. We respond quickly to emergency service calls that may occur during the warranty period not because we have issued a written warranty but as a matter of good business and to retain the trust of our clients.

We take great pride in our customer retention rates which is strong evidence that an honest approach and a handshake is more than sufficient to build a long term relationship. We have found that this approach to pest control is extremely popular with our clients, makes perfect sense and is far more effective than a signed contract.