Celebrate National Cleaning Week By Conquering Your Spring Cleaning Checklist

Posted on March 23, 2014 by The Social Team

It’s National Cleaning Week! Every year, the fourth week of March is reserved on our calendars as a time to put away our winter essentials and tidy up our homes in preparation for spring.  HomeTeam Pest Defense is celebrating this year by sharing our favorite spring cleaning tips that help us stay organized.
Celebrate National Cleaning Week By Conquering Your Spring Cleaning Checklist
Create A Schedule
Attempting to clean a dirty house can quickly become overwhelming. Make it easier on yourself by writing down what needs to be cleaned and what day it should be conquered. Breaking your to-do list down step-by-step will also help you realize which areas should be a higher priority.  If you find yourself having a hard time developing a schedule, feel free to use our 30-day guide to help you stay on top of your cleaning checklist.  
 
Tackle One Room At A Time
Once the cleaning is underway, it is easy to find yourself wanting to scrub, polish, and dust everything in sight at once.  Separate your to-do list one step further by focusing your energy on cleaning one room at a time, and do not move on until you have accomplished cleaning the entire space. By designating one day for the kitchen and living spaces, another for bedrooms and bathrooms, and another for the garage, your daunting list will seem to shrink in size. 
 
Start From The Top and Work Your Way Down
When tackling each room, start high up and work your way to the ground. Many people overlook ceiling fan blades, hanging lights, and air vents, so start by wiping down each of these fixtures.  Then move on to washing the windows, blinds, doors and doorframes until you reach the floor.  Once you begin wiping the baseboards, checking corners for cobwebs and vacuuming, you will collect up any extra dust and grime that might have fallen off of higher places.
 
Don’t Be Afraid to Move Around Furniture
When is the last time you moved your couch or peeked under your refrigerator? Junk has a way of accumulating under living room furniture, beds, and appliances, all of which are attractive places for pests to hide. Avoid missing hard-to-reach places by moving your furniture around to check for hidden dust bunnies. After washing or vacuuming the area, pick up any scraps that were previously hidden out of sight. Keeping these areas clean will help prevent future pest infestations.
 
Spring cleaning is a daunting task that all homeowners have to deal with, but staying organized and keeping up with your to-do list can make the chore much less intimidating.  Maintaining a clean household is also the best way to prevent pests from inviting themselves into your home. If you find any traces of pest activity while cleaning your home, contact your local HomeTeam Pest Defense service professional.

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Identify Termites Before the Spring Swarm

Posted on February 18, 2014 by The Social Team

Homeowners rank termites as their most concerning pest with good reason. They are responsible for more than $5 billion in damage to homes in the U.S. every year according to the National Pest Management Association, and more than 10 percent of homeowners have a problem with them annually. Termites are difficult and expensive to treat, and their treatment is not typically covered by home insurance policies. They can affect the structure and value of your home, and spring is an important time to check for them and take action if needed.

Termites remain active all year, even during winter months. During cold, they move deeper into the ground to access the warmth they need to survive. Subterranean and drywood termites seek shelter and food in your home’s foundation and walls, which keeps them protected from the outdoor temperatures. As spring approaches and brings rising temperatures and rain, swarming or winged termites begin to emerge and set out to start new colonies.

Swarming termites may appear as early as February in warm and moist areas like Florida. One question we are often asked is how to tell the difference between a winged ant and a termite. Here is a link to our previous blog on that topic.

February is a great time to inspect your home for signs of a termite infestation. Some key things you should look for are:

Swarming Termites: Massive swarms are usually the first sign of termite infestation, and they can be very alarming with tens of thousands of termites in the swarm. Winged termites are attracted to light and will fly towards windows and light fixtures. If you find piles of small insect wings near your windows, doors, light fixtures, or in spider webs, there is a good chance that a swarm of termites is near and a termite colony may be nesting in your home.

Mud Tubes: Termites use these tunnels to travel from their homes in the soil to feed on the wood in your house. The tubes are usually brown and the width of a pencil, and are made of soil and partially digested plant material stuck together. Mud tubes run along concrete, drywall, or any other type of surface that extends upward. Even if you are have not seen evidence of a termite swarm, you should always check around your house for mud tubes, which are often the most visible sign of termite infestation.

Damaged Wood: Although it can be hard to spot, look for damaged wood around your home’s foundation. Termites feed on soft wood, like doorframes and window trim. Because termites hollow out the underlying wood, thin painted surfaces may be left intact. Termites can also feed on wood for several years before they swarm. Heavily infested wood typically has soil and mud tubes in it, causing the wood to be brittle and break apart easily.

Trained termite inspectors can inspect your home at any time of year to identify active or previous termite colonies. Should you see signs of termites yourself, we recommend you contact a trained pest professional for further inspection and treatment.

For more information on termites, visit pestworld.org.

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How To Spot and Treat Common Houseplant Pests

Posted on January 10, 2014 by The Social Team

Houseplants can help keep your home bright and festive during the gloomy winter months! While including them in your home is a great way to add color, they can lead to potential pest problems if not cared for properly. Here are a few common insects that can damage indoor plants.

Aphids

Aphids are small, oval-shaped insects that are usually green, but can be black, brown, orange or yellow. They are typically found in clusters on the underside of leaves or on flower buds and new tip growth. Aphids feed on plant sap which results in yellow, misshaped leaves. If the infestation is minor, spraying the plant with water can dislodge aphids. Insecticidal soap will also do the trick.


Mites

Mites are actually more closely related to spiders than insects. Sometimes, you can even see the white webbing they produce wrapped around stems and leaves. Since mites are so small, plant damage is typically the first sign of their presence. Look for mottled leaves or small strings of silky web hanging off your plants. Spraying both the top and bottom of the plant leaves with water should be enough to dislodge mites and break up their webs.


Scales

Scales leave sticky spots that appear as brown or white bumps near the surface and underside of leaves and stems. They feed on plant sap and leave behind a sticky secretion called “honeydew” that can lead to mold growth. An early infestation of scales can be rubbed off by scrapping the plant by hand. If the problem persists, spray the plant with insecticidal soap.

Whiteflies

Whiteflies resemble tiny moths with a powdery white appearance. Infested plant leaves turn yellow and exhibit stunted growth. If an infested plant is disturbed, whiteflies will flutter around and create a white cloud before settling again. To rid your plant of whiteflies, spray with water or insecticidal soap.

Being able to spot houseplant pests will give you a leg up on indoor insect problems. Knowing how to treat your plants correctly will also prevent future pest outbreaks. If an infestation spreads to your tabletops, carpets or walls, seek help from a pest professional.

You can find additional information on houseplant pests and how to treat them from The Office of Engagement at Colorado State University.

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Avoid Unpacking Clothes Moths This Winter By Learning How To Spot Their Damage Early

Posted on December 09, 2013 by The Social Team

Seasonal clothing sometimes falls victim to hasty and improper storing. If you are pulling out winter clothes, or digging in the attic for your prized ugly sweater party attire, look out for holes, silky webbing, or leftover cocoons – all of which are signs of clothes moths.

Because adult clothes moths hide from light sources and do not feed, you probably will not see them flying around your home. The adult moths are a quarter-inch wide and vary between dark beige and light brown in color, which can also make them hard to see or identify.

Where To Find Them

Finding holes in clothes hung in closets, or stored away in the attic or basement, is the first sign you may have a problem. Clothes moths are most commonly found on wool clothes and hats, or items containing down or fur. They tend to feed in the dark, hidden areas of clothes such as under collars and cuffs. Examine your clothes, focusing on these areas, and any places stained by food spills, perspiration or sweat. Moth problems usually start when an item of clothing is put away before it is cleaned. If clothes moths hitch a ride on one of these items, it is usually not long until the moths and larvae infect an entire closet of garments. If the infestation is severe, you may even find traces of silky webbing or discarded cocoons from larvae.

How They Damage Clothing

It is the moth’s larvae stage that causes the most damage to garments. Once the adults lay their eggs, it is only a couple weeks until the larvae emerge and start munching. Moth larvae are stationary and create holes in fabric by biting off fibers, chewing them into stumps then moving on to the next closest fiber. They remain in this damage-causing stage for a couple months.

How To Treat Infestations

When clothes moths infest, it is very important not to disturb live moths and spread the infestation.

  • Step 1: Dry clean anything made of wool or animal fibers that you have hanging in your closet. Wash the rest of your clothes that are in the immediate vicinity of the infected garment in very hot water.
  • Step 2: Vacuum the floors, shelves and corners in your closet to remove any traces of larvae or eggs.
  • Step 3: Store freshly dry-cleaned and washed articles in airtight containers to prevent clothes moths from intruding in the future.
  • For severe infestations, it is best call a professional.

If your closet has fallen victim to clothes moths, the damage is repairable if caught in time. Avoid the hassle clothes moths cause in the future by properly cleaning and storing seasonal clothing before packing it away and learning how to spot damage early.

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Dont let bed bugs hitch a ride during holiday travels

Posted on November 25, 2013 by The Social Team

Bed bugs can easily hitch a ride with unsuspecting travelers. While hotels are the most commonly reported location for infestations, all sectors of the travel industry are susceptible. As you prepare for the busiest travel time of the year, there are a few things you can do to help you sleep tight and preserve your holiday cheer. The following information will help you identify, prevent and treat bed bug infestations.

How to Identify Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are wingless, light brown to reddish-brown insects with flattened, oval-shaped bodies. Adult bed bugs are approximately one-fourth of an inch long, or about the size of an apple seed. They feed on blood and hide in cracks and crevices near their warm-blooded hosts. They can be found in furniture such as beds, couches, easy chairs, dressers and night tables, as well as electronic devices like alarm clocks and radios.

How Bed Bugs Travel

Infestations usually start when travelers bring bed bugs home in their luggage. Bed bugs are hard to get rid of because they are capable of living up to 12 months without a blood meal. Crowded transportation vehicles like trains, subways and taxies provide bed bugs with opportunities to move from place to place.

Tips to reduce the risk of bed bug problems
  • Check your sleeping room when away from home. Inspect the mattress, box springs and visible parts of the headboard, especially around the edges and seams. Look for little rust colored spots as a sign they’ve been around. Keep your suitcase off the floor (preferably on a flat hard surface or luggage rack) and avoid using the dresser drawers.

  • Once home, inspect your suitcase before bringing it indoors. Unpack and wash clothes in hot water and dry on high heat—the soap and water will help kill the bugs. One remedy for disinfecting your suitcase is to tightly enclose the suitcase in a large, black trash bag and set the bag in the hot sun for a few hours. The heat will kill the bed bugs.

  • Eliminating bed bugs requires professional help. If you think you have an infestation, a trained pest control technician will give you a list of steps to follow, including clearing the floor in the infested room, laundering bed linens and taking apart the bed. Three treatments are recommended by pest control professionals with visits spaced two weeks apart. The repeated treatments are needed because bed bugs can be resistant to some treatments and eggs can survive meaning they may hatch later.

Bed bugs can be found just about anywhere, even in the nicest resorts and well-cleaned homes. By knowing how to spot, prevent and treat them, you will be thankful to arrive back home with happy memories rather than a holiday travel nightmare.

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Before Thanksgiving, Prepare your Refrigerator for a Houseful of Guests, NOT a Houseful of Pests

Posted on November 14, 2013 by The Social Team

Homeowners often overlook household appliances when it comes to seasonal cleaning. With Thanksgiving fast approaching, now is the time to clean your refrigerator. Make room for holiday leftovers and prevent pests from enjoying your bounty! Here are some simple steps for a thorough clean inside and out:

  • Toss out anything past their prime, such as over ripened fruits, vegetables and grain-based foods. Signs of rot can attract fruit flies, gnats, mold, mites and earwigs.

  • Inspect cracks and crevices inside the refrigerator for food splashes and fallen crumbs. Grime can build up in these places because they are the hardest to reach and to keep clean.

  • Remove sticky food residue by wiping down interior walls, shelves and drawers. Use a mixture of warm water and baking soda (1 tablespoon of baking soda to 1 quart of water). If time permits, remove food from your freezer and turn it off to allow it to defrost before wiping it down with cleaner.

  • While the freezer is defrosting, pull out the entire unit and clean the floor, walls and surrounding areas. Check under and around the exterior area for any food that might have slipped out of sight. You may be surprised at how much residue can build up unnoticed. Don’t let this become a perfect buffet for pests such as cockroaches, scorpions, ants and rodents. Also, be sure to double check for dampness and leaks, as this can be an accessible water source for pest survival.

  • Try to limit the amount of time food and produce is kept out of your refrigerator. Remember that cooked foods should also always be kept in airtight containers with lids to keep pests from enjoying their own feast!

Holidays can be fun but also stressful, so try to relax and enjoy them. This easy guide will help prepare your home for a houseful of guests, not a houseful of pests.

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Avoid creepy crawly pests this Halloween

Posted on October 19, 2013 by The Social Team

Have you ever found live spiders crawling around your plastic decorative ones? Rodent droppings in the bottom of a box? Gnats and flies circling your jack-o’-lanterns? It is not uncommon to discover these and other pests during the fall. Spiders, roaches and rodents can hide with decorations stored in the attic or garage. Jack-o’-lanterns outside can also tempt bugs and rodents to venture near your home. Even Halloween candy is capable of attracting household pests. Here are tips from the experts at HomeTeam Pest Defense that you and your family can follow to reduce the likelihood of an unintended scare:

Pay attention when unpacking decorations:

  • As you prepare to bring out plastic rats and synthetic spider webs from storage, be mindful of the real ones. Spiders, roaches and rodents are capable of finding their way into your storage containers if they are not stored and sealed properly. Check boxes for signs of droppings and holes before unpacking, and transition to plastic containers with seal-tight lids to keep out pests in the future.

Avoiding carving pumpkins too early:

  • Carving spooky jack-o’-lantern faces into pumpkins is a classic Halloween ritual, but be wary of their quick decaying process. Real pumpkins are living plants that eventually rot, grow fungus and attract bugs and even rats. Wait a night or two before Halloween to carve your pumpkins to avoiding attracting fruit flies and gnats. Or check out our Pinterest page for tips on how to keep jack-o’-lanterns from rotting: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/507358714242026680/

Keep an eye on your trick-or-treat candy:

  • Many kids still enjoy their trick-or-treat candy several weeks into November. Sugary foods and sweets can also be a treat for pests so make sure to store your Halloween candy in a container with a tight lid after checking the candy for safety.

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Stink Bug Invasion Set for Fall

Posted on October 02, 2013 by The Social Team

It’s that time of year again for football games, pumpkins, fall weather and…. stink bugs. When the temperature gets cooler, stink bugs search for a way into warm homes where they will “overwinter” from now until spring.

Stink Bug Invasion Set for Fall

According to a survey from HomeTeam Pest Defense, Washingtonians have the most problems with stink bugs.

Stink bugs are commonly found in Mid-Atlantic states like West Virginia, Virginia, Washington D.C., Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. According to a survey from HomeTeam Pest Defense, Washingtonians have the most problems with stink bugs. Fifty-nine percent of metro residents say they've experienced a problem with these smelly pests.

In recent years, the brown marmorated stink bug (the variety and type discussed here and infamous for invasiveness and smell) has also been sighted in California, Minnesota, Texas and Florida. It is estimated that stink bugs arrived in the U.S. in the late 1990s, catching a ride on container ships from Asia. They are about the size of a dime and are identified by their shield-like shape and brown color. Stink bugs feed on flowers and trees and are usually content to stay outdoors during the warmer months.

Stink Bug Invasion Set for Fall

As the name implies, the brown marmorated stink bugs’ defense mechanism against predators is to release a pungent smell through glands located on the sides and undersides of their bodies when they are disturbed.

Although stink bugs cause no harm to humans and are not considered a structural pest, their invasion can be a nuisance for homeowners because of the abundant quantities in which they arrive. In some instances, they can cover the entire outside wall of a home as they are looking for a way inside! As the name implies, their defense mechanism against predators is to release a pungent smell through glands located on the sides and undersides of their bodies when they are disturbed, but the strongest odor is emitted when they are crushed.

To help prevent stink bugs from entering your dwelling, seal potential entry points, like cracks and crevices in doors, windows and siding. If you do find them indoors, vacuum them up and discard the bag immediately. Avoid crushing them! Some infestations may require the help of your pest control professional.

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Battling Bugs While Camping

Posted on September 13, 2013 by The Social Team

There’s no better time of year to enjoy camping with your friends and family than when cooler weather arrives. However, camping trips can easily turn glum if bothersome bugs are surrounding your site.

Mosquitoes, fleas, gnats, ants, wasps, chiggers and spiders tend to be the most common insects found at campgrounds. When picking a campsite, try to stay away from thick bushy woods, deep grass and stagnant ponds that are known for attracting insects - including mosquitoes, who use the standing water to breed.

Battling Bugs While Camping - helpful guidelines for safe camping practices that will help keep bugs away.

Keeping your camping site clean of leftover food and drink is also crucial to keeping harmful insects away. Several bugs, especially bees and wasps, are drawn to the sugary contents found in common camping foods. Make sure to keep food and beverages in tightly sealed containers, and throw away any garbage or excess trash in bins that are located at a reasonable distance from your site.

Another good way to keep bugs at bay is by starting a campfire (if the campground allows – be sure to check with the park rangers or campsite administrators first). The smoke will help keep insects like mosquitoes, wasps and bees at a distance.

Here are some other tips to keep bugs off when camping:

  • Use screen-lined tents and canopies, and remember to keep them closed at all times.
  • Cover up with bandanas, hats and long pants and sleeves to add another barrier for bugs and to stay cool.
  • Use bug spray with DEET according to the directions on the label. Look for varieties made specifically for camping.

Campers are bound to run into some insects while out enjoying the outdoors, but you should be able to ward off the majority of harmful insects by following these simple guidelines.

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Back to Bugs? Expert Advice for College Students

Posted on August 22, 2013 by The Social Team

Across the country college students are headed back to school, which for most means back to a new living space. Whether moving into an apartment or dorm room, furnished or not, don’t forget to check for uninvited pests, which are often overlooked by on-the-move college students.

Residents should thoroughly inspect the property before moving in and report any problems to their R.A. or property manager. HomeTeam Pest Defense recommends the following for a full inspection before setting up shop in your new space:

  • If you are moving furniture that has been stored over the summer, or if your living space comes furnished, look for signs of Drywod termites—like chipping away in wooden parts or mysterious sawdust on the floor. Drywood termites are commonly mistaken for winged ants, but pose a more serious problem.

  • Check furniture and living spaces for German cockroaches, which hide easily and can fit into very small cracks and crevices. They are only about a half an inch long (much smaller than most common cockroaches) and are most active at night.

  • Inspect your mattress, box spring and headboard for bed bugs. Moving vans, plus the constant rotation of tenants in college dorms and apartments make it all too easy for these pests to hitch a ride from one location to another. Pull back creases and folds in the mattress fabric where they like to hide. Look for the bugs themselves (adult bed bugs are about the size of an apple seed) or tiny black or reddish dots that might be a sign they are present.

  • Inspect corners, behind refrigerators and inside cabinets and drawers to remove cobwebs (also keep an eye out for cockroach and rodent droppings). Make sure window screens do not have tears or holes. Mice can enter a space through an opening the size of a dime and rats can enter through an opening the size of a quarter.

  • Check for leaky pipes and dripping water in bathrooms and kitchens. Most household pests only need small amounts of water to breed and survive.

Remember, move-in day is not the only time to be concerned about pests. Many fall pests, like stinkbugs, rodents and crickets, will begin to look for a way indoors when cooler weather arrives. Follow these steps to help maintain a pest-free environment throughout the school year:

  • Dust and vacuum your living space often.

  • Store food in tightly sealed containers or storage bags.

  • Pick up after yourself.  Clothes and towels (damp or not) left lying around can be a warm environment for pests to live under.

  • When visiting home or friends at other campuses, be careful where you put and store your belongings to avoid carrying pests back with you.

  • Always wash your bedding in hot water and dry on high heat.

Report any pest problems to your property owner or manager immediately to resolve any issues. If you are leasing a college apartment, read the lease thoroughly to be clear if you or the landlord is responsible for pest control. It is best for residents to seek the advice of a pest control expert should they encounter a problem.

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