While all ants look relatively similar at a glance, the truth is there are many different ants living in our region that won't hesitate to make themselves at home on our properties. Each type of ant has its differing habitats, nesting preferences, and problems they cause. Two species of ants that regularly invade our Fairfax area properties are the odorous house ant and carpenter ant. Carpenter ants are large ants that nest inside of wood; when nesting in our homes. They often choose water-damaged structural wood for their tunnels and nesting galleries, causing significant structural damage in the process. Odorous house ants are small black or brown ants and prefer feeding on sweets. They also have an unpleasant odor they produce when crushed.
When most people see ants, they don't think much of it because these pests are so common in so many different habitats, including wooded areas, parks, fields, meadows, sidewalks, parking lots, and our yards. Yet, taking the time and steps necessary to keeps these small insects off of our properties and out of our homes is very important. Ants are more than a simple problem; they can be dangerous and destructive. Ants live in large groups and work together to gather food to bring to their colony, care for the young ants, and build and maintain their nest(s). As ants travel on the ground or through garbage or decaying vegetation, they pick up many pathogens and bacteria on their bodies. When in our homes, they contaminate surfaces and food, and some, like the carpenter ant, cause structural damage.
In order to make your yard less attractive to ants, it is important to take away as many food sources as possible. Ants have a good sense of smell, so keeping lids on trash cans, maintaining gardens, picking up leftover pet food, and keeping outdoor eating areas free of food debris will help to make your property less attractive to them. Removing potential nesting spots from your property is also important. Pick up fallen trees, woodpiles, leaf piles, and unnecessary rocks or landscaping ties. Keep ants out of your house by placing door sweeps on exterior doors, repairing cracks that develop in the foundation, and sealing spaces around utilities. It is also essential to make sure windows are secure, and weatherstripping is in place.
Bed bugs are nocturnal pests. They bite us and feed on our blood while we are sleeping. During the day, they hide in dark cracks and crevices. Since bed bugs aren't out and about, crawling around our homes while we are awake, it can take some time before you'll notice these pests. Knowing some of their favorite hiding spots will help you spot these pests in your home sooner rather than later, such as the seams of mattresses and box springs, behind the cushions of upholstered furniture, behind wall hangings, and baseboards. Bed bugs, while not dangerous, are unwanted. They bite, trigger allergic reactions, and cause stress, making people uncomfortable in their own homes.
Adult bed bugs are wingless insects and look like apple seeds with legs. They have reddish-brown bodies and measure about a quarter of an inch in length. Bed bugs, like other pests, like to stay close to their favorite food source, which, unfortunately for us, is human blood. Therefore these pests live and hide in areas around us. Bed bugs cannot jump or fly. In order to move from place to place, these pests rely on hitchhiking. They crawl onto people or our belongings and go wherever we take them. Places where it's common to come into contact with bed bugs include family homes, hotels, dormitories, hospitals, airports, libraries, and movie theaters.
Though avoiding bed bugs is difficult, there are some things you can do to help keep from coming into contact with these pests and introducing them into your home.
- When in public places, be aware and vigilant of your surroundings and be on the lookout for bed bugs.
- Keep your personal belongings away from other people's belongings when at work or school.
- In public areas, don't place your belongings on the floor for long periods.
- Inspect your hotel room for signs of bed bugs before bringing luggage inside.
- Take care when purchasing secondhand mattresses, box springs, furniture, or clothing; always inspect the items before bringing them into your house.
- When at a laundry mat, always bring your own baskets, immediately remove laundry from dryers, and take your laundry home to fold.
Mosquitoes are small flies. Males and females feed primarily on plant nectar, but females also require blood meals. They need the protein that is found in blood to create viable eggs. In order to feed on either blood or plant nectar, mosquitoes use their proboscis, a piercing, elongated mouthpart. Female mosquitoes feed on many different hosts (people, rodents, wild animals, and pets), which, unfortunately, enables them to acquire, carry, and spread various pathogens and parasites that cause serious illnesses. The mosquitoes in our area can spread the West Nile virus, eastern equine encephalitis, La Crosse encephalitis, and St. Louis encephalitis. These insects also spread potentially fatal parasitic heartworms to our pets.
Mosquitoes are well-known for ruining outdoor activities. Parties, gardening, playing fetch with the dog, and eating outside are impossible to enjoy with large numbers of mosquitoes swarming around. The warm, wet weather found in our area during the spring and summer months allows these pests to thrive. Female mosquitoes lay their eggs on top of standing water; the larvae develop in the water, and a short time later, new biting mosquitoes emerge. The more standing water you have on or near your property, the more problems with mosquitoes you will experience. Most mosquitoes stay within a few hundred yards of where they hatch.
Controlling mosquitoes is so difficult because they are flying outdoor pests. The best way to maintain a property not overrun by mosquitoes is to partner with a professional. In addition to professional services, there are a few steps you can take to make your property less attractive to these pests. Keep your lawn cut short and remove the overgrown vegetation that mosquitoes like to rest within. Take away breeding spots by making sure to eliminate as much excess moisture as possible by not overwatering your lawn or gardens. Get rid of areas of standing water by keeping gutters clear, storing containers upside down when not in use, and removing things like tree stumps and other debris that can collect standing water.
Professional pest control is the best way to avoid problems with the pests that call Virginia home. At SPRK Pest Solutions, we work closely with our clients to identify what pest problems are present and then create a customized solution to meet your property's exact needs. By working closely with our clients, we make sure to meet their pest control needs and exceed their expectations. If you live in the Fairfax, Virginia area, give us a call today to learn more about our residential or commercial pest control options!
Rodents can be both structural invading pests and landscaping pests, depending on the species. Mice and Norway rats are rodents that regularly find their way into our structures to nest. When inside, they spread bacteria and diseases, feed on and contaminate food, damage personal belongings, and litter surfaces with their urine and excrement. Rodents like moles and voles are typically considered outdoor garden pests. Moles tunnel through the ground, searching for earthworms and insects to eat, damaging grass and small plants in the process. Voles live in grassy areas or areas of dense ground cover or vegetation. Their feeding habits cause to damage plant roots, tree bark, bulbs, and seeds in our yards.
These pests are so problematic on our properties because as we have taken over more and more outdoor space from rodents and wild animals, they have had to adapt to living with us. While rodents have no problem living with us, we should have a big problem living with them because of the threats they pose! Unfortunately, our yards and homes provide plenty of food for rodents, along with safe shelter. Knowing where rodents like to nest on our Virginia properties is vital so you can identify a problem with these pests before they can cause significant damage. Outside, rodents live in grassy areas, gardens, near trees, under woodpiles, within brush piles, and under things like decks, sheds, or construction debris. Inside our homes, rodents regularly nest in wall voids, chimneys, attics, basements, or behind cabinets or appliances.
Listed below are helpful tips to prevent rodents from making your yard or home into a place to feed or breed.
- Remove dense vegetation from your yard, maintain gardens, and keep the grass cut short.
- Remove fallen trees, woodpiles, and tree stumps from your yard.
- Repair leaky pipes, hoses, and clogged gutters or downspouts to eliminate water sources.
- Seal spaces in the foundation, repair damaged siding, fix holes along the roofline, and make sure screens are intact and secure to help keep rodents out of your house.
- Remove a rodent's temptation to feed on food in trash cans or compost bins by keeping tight-fitting lids on them.
Termites are wood-eating insects, and pests that property owners have come to fear because of the extensive damage their feeding habits cause to home and business structures. The most widespread termite species living throughout the United States and responsible for most of the damage that termites cause each year is the eastern subterranean termite. Subterranean termites build their nests deep within the ground in damp soil. They have high moisture needs and require contact with the soil to survive. These termites prefer to feed on decaying or water-damaged wood, but they do not live inside the wood they are feeding on; the workers move from the nest to a food source each day to gather food.
Properties near wooded areas, woodpiles, landscaping plants, leaf debris, brush piles, and other organic debris are most susceptible to termite infestations. Moisture is another big reason why termites are attracted to a property. If termites are in your home, feeding on structural wood, there is likely a moisture problem present. Things like leaky pipes, damaged roofs, and missing weatherstripping allows water to seep into a house and damage structural wood. Termites that have invaded a home are most likely to be found feeding on and damaging the structural wood behind walls near pipes, behind doorways and windows frames, and near sinks or tubs.
To help make your property less attractive to wood-eating, structurally-damaging termites, it is a good idea to reduce excess water from in and around your house. Repair leaky fixtures and pipes, and use dehumidifiers to eliminate excess moisture in your home. Make sure gutters are clear and cut back overgrown shrubs and bushes from your home's exterior to help keep the soil around your house dry. Remove excess wood, fallen trees, construction debris, and brush piles from your yard and reduce wood to soil contact on your property. Keep termites out of your home by sealing cracks that develop in the foundation and maintain a stone or crushed rock barrier between any soil or mulch and your home.
Wildlife are wild animals that don't rely on people to care for them, unlike our cats and dogs. They do an excellent job of building their own homes, gathering their own food, and finding water sources. However, many species of wild animals have discovered the benefits of living close to people. Why camp in the backwoods without amenities when instead you can have easy access to food and water! Squirrels, raccoons, birds, bats, and snakes are examples of wildlife that regularly choose our yards and homes to live. Unfortunately, wild animals make terrible houseguests, and we should never encourage their presence in our Virginia yards.
Two of the biggest problems that wild animals create when living in our yards are destroying property and spreading diseases. Wild animals tend to be quite damaging to our properties. Animals have no concern for how long it took you to get your garden to its peak of perfection; they will tear through it in a day while searching for food. They will also cause damage to trees, lawns, rip through trash cans, and if they make it into your home, cause structural damage. Wild animals pose significant health risks. They carry many pathogens in their saliva and excrement that can make people ill. Having problems with wild animals can also be quite stressful; wild animals like bats and snakes often frighten people and make us uncomfortable.
Prevent problems with wild animals with the help of the following prevention tips.
- Keep tight-fitting lids on trash receptacles, compost bins, and recycling containers to keep wild animals out of them.
- Remove bird feeders from your property.
- Get rid of lawn clutter that can provide animals with hiding spots.
- Keep the grass cut short and cut wooded or overgrown areas back away from your property's perimeter.
- Fill in ground holes.
- Install fencing around decks, sheds, and other structures that wild animals can borrow under.
- Seal openings in your home exterior by placing covers over vents and chimneys, repairing roof damage, fixing damaged siding, and sealing cracks in the foundation.
- Remove bird feeders and pick up pet food that could attract rodents to your yard that wild animals like snakes want to feed on.
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