PEST-PROOFING CAN HELP KEEP PESTS OUTDOORS THIS SPRING
Hulett Environmental Services offers tips to help homeowners pest-proof their home
Spring is here and that means weekends throughout April will find homeowners opening windows, packing away the winter clothes and returning patio furniture outdoors. While partaking in these annual “spring cleaning” routines, Hulett Environmental Services is also encouraging people to add pest-proofing inside and outside of the home to their spring to-do lists.
“As the weather continues to warm, homeowners should expect to see increased activity from various insects such as ants, termites and cockroaches,” said Greg Rice at Hulett Environmental Services. “Taking preventive measures early in the spring season is the best approach to avoiding infestations and the subsequent health and property risks associated with these pests.”
Experts at the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) and Hulett Environmental Services recommend the following steps homeowners can take to keep unwanted pests outside where they belong:
- Seal cracks and holes along the foundation of the home including entry points for utilities and pipes.
- Screen windows and doors.
- Eliminate sources of moisture or standing water around the house, including birdbaths and in clogged gutters.
- Keep tree branches and other plants cut back from the house. Store firewood at least 20 feet from the home and on a raised structure such as concrete blocks or poles.
- Keep kitchens clean by wiping counters and emptying the garbage frequently.
- Avoid leaving pet’s food dishes out for long periods of time.
- Inspect the outside of a home for nests built by stinging insects — typically found in the eaves under roofs.
If you suspect you have an infestation, contact a licensed pest professional to identify the species and recommend a course of treatment. For more information, please visit www.bugs.com
WASHINGTON, The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) today announced that it is dedicating the month of April to sharing information about the threat that invasive plant pests, diseases and harmful weeds pose to America’s fruits, vegetables, trees, and other plants—and how the public can help prevent their spread. APHIS works each day to promote U.S. agricultural health and safeguard the nation’s agriculture, fishing and forestry industries.
“Invasive pests hit close to home and threaten the things we value,” said Rebecca A. Blue, Deputy Under Secretary for USDA’s Marketing and Regulatory Programs. “We need the public’s help because these hungry pests can have a huge impact on the items we use in everyday life, from the fabric in our clothing, the food on our table, the lumber used to build our home and the flowers in our garden. During one of the most successful periods in history for U.S. agriculture, it is important that we step-up our efforts to educate Americans about USDA’s good work to protect our nation’s food, fiber, feed and fuel from invasive pests.”
Invasive pests are non-native species that feed on America’s agricultural crops, trees and other plants. These “hungry pests” have cost the United States billions of dollars and wreak havoc on the environment. USDA and U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection-working closely with state agriculture departments and industry-are dedicated to preventing the introduction and spread of invasive pests. The goal is to safeguard agriculture and natural resources from the entry, establishment and spread of animal and plant pests and noxious weeds.
But federal and state agencies can’t do it alone. It requires everyone’s help to stop the unintended introduction and spread of invasive pests. The number-one action someone can take is to leave hungry pests behind. USDA urges the public to visit www.HungryPests.com to learn more about invasive pests and what they can do to protect American agricultural resources by preventing the spread of these threats. Here are a few actions that people can take today:
- Buy Local, Burn Local. Invasive pests and larvae can hide and ride long distances in firewood. Don’t give them a free ride to start a new infestation-buy firewood where you burn it.
- Plant Carefully. Buy your plants from a reputable source and avoid using invasive plant species at all costs.
- Do Not Bring or Mail fresh fruits, vegetables, or plants into your state or another state unless agricultural inspectors have cleared them beforehand.
- Cooperate with any agricultural quarantine restrictions and allow authorized agricultural workers access to your property for pest or disease surveys.
- Keep It Clean. Wash outdoor gear and tires between fishing, hunting or camping trips. Clean lawn furniture and other outdoor items when moving from one home to another.
- Learn To Identify. If you see signs of an invasive pest or disease, write down or take a picture of what you see, and then report it at www.HungryPests.com.
- Speak Up. Declare all agricultural items to customs officials when returning from international travel. Call USDA to find out what’s allowed:
(301) 851-2046 for questions about plants
(301) 851-3300 for questions about animals
At www.HungryPests.com, a website available in both English and Spanish, visitors can access the interactive Pest Tracker to see what pests are threatening in a selected state, and to learn how to report suspected invasive pests. The public can also engage on the invasive pests issue via Facebook and Twitter. HungryPests.com is optimized for mobile devices. Public service announcements in both English and Spanish will air on television and radio throughout April and at peak times for domestic travel this summer. APHIS has also been actively collaborating with a number of state partners who will conduct targeted stakeholder engagement on invasive pest issues with state-specific outreach materials.
Added Blue: “The USDA and its partners are fighting invasive pests on three fronts: abroad, at the border, and across the homeland. We’re also developing new tools, improving our systems, and working hard to educate the public on how they can join the fight and help stop the spread of invasive pests.”
There has been success in the fight against invasive pests. The Asian longhorned beetle, detected in Illinois in 1998, was declared eradicated from Illinois in 2008 with the help of local, state and federal partners and Illinois residents. The beetle was also declared eradicated from Hudson County, NJ; and Islip, NY. Extensive efforts by USDA and its partners in California reduced European grapevine moth populations in 2011 by 99.9 percent. That pest was first detected in California in 2009.
With Agriculture Secretary Vilsack’s leadership, APHIS works tirelessly to create and sustain opportunities for America’s farmers, ranchers and producers. Each day, APHIS promotes U.S. agricultural health, regulates genetically engineered organisms, administers the Animal Welfare Act, and carries out wildlife damage management activities, all to safeguard the nation’s agriculture, fishing and forestry industries. In the event that a pest or disease of concern is detected, APHIS implements emergency protocols and partners with affected states and other countries to quickly manage or eradicate the outbreak. To promote the health of U.S. agriculture in the international trade arena, APHIS develops and advances science-based standards with trading partners to ensure America’s agricultural exports, valued at more than $137 billion annually, are protected from unjustified restrictions.
When you hear of a photo contest you generally think of the usual. City skylines, pets, families, insects would all fall into the category of “usual”. This particular photo contest does not fall into that “usual” category. New York Subway Workers are Running a “Rate My Rat” Photo Contest in which they urge commuters to capture and upload the biggest, fattest vermin. The grand prize you ask? A month free transit pass. If you don’t believe me just visit www.ratfreesubway.com and take a look around for yourself. If you encounter rats I suggest you just call Hulett Environmental Services for all your rat control needs.
Making movies isn’t as glamorous as you might think.
Especially indie flicks.
Just ask a certain Parks and Recreation star about the time she got bedbugs…
Aubrey Plaza ended up with a case of the creepy parasites while filming a comedy called, of all things, Safety Not Guaranteed.
Shot on a shoestring budget in about 24 days in rainy Seattle, Plaza stars as one of two magazine editors (the other is newcomer Karan Soni) who are helping a writer (New Girl‘s Jake Johnson) track down a man (Mark Duplass) who claims he can travel back in time.
“It was a nightmare,” Plaza told me about the bedbug bites while the cast was promoting the movie at South by Southwest at the W hotel in downtown Austin. “But, you know, it happens in hotels.”
Her costars couldn’t help but mess with her about it. “I thought she was just freaking out too much and giving herself hives,” Duplass cracked.
Added Johnson, “I told her, ‘The bedbugs seem to only bite when you have a lot of anxiety.’ I think it may have just been a rash from stress.”
Kidding aside, it seems to have all been well worth it. Writer Derek Connolly actually wrote Safety with Plaza in mind. It first picked up buzz at Sundance and was a must-see at SXSW. “I read it and immediately attached myself to it,” Plaza said. “I had so much fun making the movie. It was a lot of fun.”
And that included getting to shoot a gun. But, Plaza smiled, “we were doing it at such a fast pace, I thought I was going to shoot myself in the eye.”
Hey, it certainly would have made her forget about the bedbugs.
How One Empty Home Can Lead to Pests for the Whole Block
More than 800,000 homes across the U.S. were foreclosed in 2011, and that number is expected to climb 25 percent this year to more than 1 million homes, according to the RealtyTrac. While the effects of a foreclosure are obviously most devastating to the homeowners and their family, neighbors can also be impacted.
For one, a foreclosure can drive down the value of the rest of the homes in a neighborhood. In addition, a foreclosed home that is empty and uncared for can attract a variety of pests, including termites, spiders, ants, mosquitoes, stinging insects and rodents. An overgrown or unkempt yard, for example, can harbor many more pests than a well-groomed one. In addition, a foreclosed home is more likely to be in need of repairs to the structure. Small holes in siding, rips in screens, broken window glass and cracks in foundation provide easy access inside for pests.
Pests find that an empty house makes a great home for them – providing shelter and even food (in the form of other pests, crumbs, abandoned pantry items and decaying material) and water (from leaky pipes, toilet bowls and standing water). Once these pests find their way into a foreclosed home, it is only a matter of time before the population grows and offspring venture out, seeking food and shelter in other homes on the block.
A rodent infestation is especially likely to spread from a foreclosed home to other nearby houses. As it is, rodents invade an estimated 21 million homes in the U.S. each winter, and with rapid reproduction rates (a female house mouse, for example, can give birth to up to a dozen babies every three weeks) a small infestation can quickly spread to neighboring homes. Rats, on the other hand, can travel up to a mile in a single night. They are also known as exceptional diggers and often build intricate systems, called burrows, which allow them to travel around a neighborhood undetected.
Once rodents do invade a home, they can pose serious health and property risks. Rodents contaminate food and spread diseases like Hantavirus, a viral disease that can be contracted through direct contact with, or inhalation of, aerosolized infected rodent urine, saliva, or droppings. They can also carry and spread fleas, which can pose serious health risks to family pets. Additionally, rodents can pose a significant property risk as they have a tendency to destroy insulation in attics and gnaw wiring, causing up to 25 percent of house fires in the U.S.
Unfortunately, if a house in your neighborhood is under foreclosure, there is little that you can do to prevent pests from infesting that home. But there are many steps that you, as a homeowner, can take to prevent those pests from finding their way into your home. Your first step should be to contact a licensed pest professional who will be able to determine what types of pest infestations your neighborhood is most at risk for, and recommend a prevention plan to help keep your home pest-free. Of course, any pest prevention plan works most effectively when a homeowner carefully follows the recommendations of their pest professional and follows simple pest-proofing tips.
By SUSAN DONALDSON JAMES
The brown recluse spider got some bad press again this week.
Nikki Perez, a fashion merchandising student at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, described how she lost part of an ear and nearly her eye sight to the venomous arachnid.
“It was terrifying,” she told the British Daily Mail newspaper. “It was spreading all over my head.”
Perez, 21, was stung at the Amarillo airport and was later hospitalized for five days in September. Her head swelled to twice its normal size and she needed a skin graft to rebuild the ear that had rotted from necrosis.
The Daily Mail sounded an alarm about a University of Kansas study by graduate student Erin Saupe, saying the “deadly” spider was “spreading … to a town near you.”
The study was published last year in the online journal PlosOne
The spider’s habitat is limited to the Southeast and Midwest, stretching from Kansas east to the Appalachian states.
But Saupe of the university’s Geology and Biodiversity Institute used computer modeling to predict how it’s habitat might move north to states such as Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and even New York.
Spiders are, after all, one of the top 10 phobias.
But Rick Vetter, the nation’s foremost expert on the brown recluse spider — loxosceles reclusa — said such media reports use “scare tactics,” and 90 percent of the time a bite causes nothing more than a red mark on the skin.
“These are distorted reports … hyperbolic media crap,” said Vetter, a research associate in the department of entomology at the University of California-Riverside.
A Kansas home, for instance, was infested with 2,055 brown recluse spiders for a period of 17 years and “not one” in the family of four was bitten, according to one of his studies, published in the Journal of Medical Entomology.
He said gnarly photos of Perez’s injuries looked authentic and he had known a 9-year-old who had lost an ear from necrosis. But such cases are rare.
The spider’s venom — sphingomyelinase D — induces red blood cell destruction. Symptoms can include pain at the site of the bite, itching, muscle and joint pain, as well as vomiting and fever.
“My crusade is to stop stupidity in the medical community,” Vetter said.
When doctors blame a skin lesion on the brown recluse, they might overlook other more serious conditions such as methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), diabetes or even lymphoma.
In a 2005 article he co-wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine, Vetter cited 40 other conditions that can cause necrosis often misdiagnosed as a spider bite.
Vetter was so tired of doctors blaming the much-maligned spider, he started the Brown Recluse Challenge. Of 1,800 specimens sent to him, only 350 turned out to be the real deal. And all were from the Midwest.
A brown recluse bite can be life-threatening in 10 percent of the cases, but Vetter estimates there are only one or two deaths a year, typically in small children.
Brown Recluse Spiders Could Head North
Vetter worked with Saupe on her master’s project, in which she tracked the spiders’ predicted migration through “ecological niche modeling.”
She used two models to predict the spider’s range in 2020, 2050 and 2080, given the effects of global warming, concluding they might move north but those left behind would die off.
Kansas is a “hotbed” for these spiders, said Saupe, who has predicted that they might become extinct by 2080 after the climate in their natural habitats becomes to warm and their mobility is restricted.
Most are reclusive, as their name suggests, and go nowhere near humans. Those that are threatened can sting, but often with just a “dry bite” that does not emit venom, Saupe said.
It is dormant part of the year, which means bites usually occur from April until October. They tend to come out at night and hide under bedding and clothes, in dark places.
Still, the spiders can be lethal.
ABCNews.com reported in 2010 on Victoria Franklin of Marietta, Ga., who had surgery to remove a necrotic breast after a brown recluse bite.
Franklin, 51, still has kidney and other medical problems related to the bite.
“I have no medical insurance at all,” she told ABCNews.com in an email. “Medication is also expensive. I have nine different medications that I have to take every day, sometime twice a day.”
Saupe’s study co-author, Paul Selden, said the species was “the commonest spider in my house” in Lawrence, where the paleontologist and arachnologist teaches at the University of Kansas Paleontological Institute.
“They are in the bathroom under my sink in the cupboard,” said Selden, a professor of invertebrate paleontology, or fossil spiders. “The problem is you leave a towel on the floor and it will scurry under there. In the morning, you pick up the towel and it may be on it.”
But Saupe, 27, said, “I love spiders. …Think about their ability to construct complex webs and catch food. It’s pretty amazing.”
While scientists are relatively blase about the dangers of the brown recluse, those who have been bit are not.
Jill Hardesty, now 47, encountered one when she was 6 and living in an old house in rural Missouri.
“It got me,” said Hardesty, an editor at the University of Kansas Paleontological Institute and still has the scar.
At first, her parents thought a red, quarter-sized lesion on her thigh was a boil, but when red lines began to crawl up her leg, they knew it was more serious.
“I remember getting injections into the site and I still ended up losing quite a bit of flesh,” she said. “I still have a divot on my thigh.
“I have always been creeped out by spiders,” Hardesty added. “I still shake out my clothes and my husband shakes his shoes out. I tell the kids [19 and 16] to check the bed before they crawl in if it’s been dormant for a week or so.
“We are pretty vigilant.”
DANIA BEACH – An 88-year-old Dania Beach woman is speaking out after paying $1100 to two men in what BSO says was a termite scam.
Now, the Broward Sheriffs Office is also warning residents about the two men and their unlicensed company: Legend Tree Service.
“I think they’re both crooks,” said the victim. “I think it was very dishonest.”
She asked that CBS4 not reveal her identity, but she told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench that she wants to speak about the two men who she said took her money, and who she said are on the BSO flyer.
D’Oench spoke to her at a nursing home where she was visiting her husband.
The two men on the flyer are Michael Scott Goodwin, 51, of Pembroke Pines and George B. Scott, 52, of Hollywood.
The BSO flyer said they “have a history of exploitation of the elderly.”
The flyer said they have been handing out business cards for “Legend Tree Service” and been advising victims that their trees or gardens are infested with termites and that they must “spray immediately” to prevent the termites from destroying their homes.
The flyer says Legend Tree Service is not licensed as a company and is not licensed to spray. It said the two men have collected initial payments from victims, and then have returned on the following day to collect a second payment, even though no further work was done. The flyer says they recently targeted elderly residents in a mobile home park in Dania Beach.
A similar warning was issued by the BSO Tamarac District, which notes, “A business card alone is not sufficient documentation to proceed with an agreement for services.”
CBS4 spoke with a victim who lives at the Estates of Fort Lauderdale Mobile Home Park off Stirling Road in Dania Beach.
She said she felt she could trust the men who told her that her Robellini palm tree was infested.
“He said termites were going to get under my house,” she said. “I live in a mobile home. It was going to destroy my house. The minute I heard termites, I got all shook up so I just gave him the money, $550 on the first day and $550 on the second day.”
“He said he wanted to prune that tree and I’m going to spray all the foliage around your home for $550,” she said. “First it was $330, then $550. Then he came the next day and charged me another $550.”
She said very little work was done.
“I’ve got over a thousand dollars invested in this Robellini that he trimmed a little bit and supposedly sprayed with insecticide for termites,” she said.
The case drew a strong warning from BSO.
“These predators always look for people in the community who are vulnerable,” said BSO spokeswoman Veda Coleman-Wright.
“If someone comes to your home, then be aware,” she said. “You have the right to say give me your card. Give me your information. I’ll get back to you. You have the right to say no thank you. I don’t want to do business with you.”
“The best thing to do, the best course of action is to get the information. Research it. Get the referrals on your own. Check them out through the Better Business Bureau. Call your local Police Department to see if they’ve had any complaints on these individuals. If anything sounds suspicious, if anything tells you it is wrong, then it probably is. You need to listen to it.”
The victim told CBS4 that she has learned a lesson. “Check the guy that is supposed to do the work,” she said. “Make sure they are licensed and insured.”
She hopes her story will raise awareness about these issues and hopes she can get her money back.
While BSO is warning the public about the two men, authorities say there is no probable cause to arrest them.
CBS4 placed phone calls to the numbers listed in the BSO Event report. He was not able to reach Goodwin, but George Scott called him back and said that he was hoping to pay the victim back with a cashier’s check for $1100.
At first Scott said he would meet with D’Oench for an interview but then said he could not.
Scott said that he wanted to help the victim and said, “I’ve been working my whole life.”
The BSO Event Report says that “the subject cut hedges and put mulch down, but it is unknown what he actually did do for her and what if anything was actually needed.”
The report says Scott has a suspended license and an active warrant for driving license revoked.
“I know the police may be looking for me because of that warrant,” Scott said, “but that has nothing to do with my work.”
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