Squirrels in the Attic
Almost everyone shares the same iconic image of the squirrel. While we sit on the park bench tossing them nuts, they suspiciously approach us to feed on our offerings, never getting close enough for their own comfort. However, I have run into a few homeowners in the greater Fort Worth area whose image of the friendly squirrel has changed abruptly. Squirrels have gained entry and are nesting in their attics. Squirrels in attics are a major concern because they gnaw on boards and electrical wiring. They can also leave significant amounts of feces and urine in the attic. The best way to evict squirrels is by using human live traps. However, when trapping the adult squirrels it is important not to separate them from their babies who are also in the attic. If left alone, these baby squirrels will inevitably die and create major odor issues. After trapping and removing squirrels from the attic, it is critical to cover their access points using metal flashing. As a precautionary measure, homeowners should cut tree limbs that overhang or touch their roofs. Homeowners from Saginaw to south Arlington have called about squirrel invasions of their attics. It is an issue that all homeowners in the greater Fort Worth area need to be aware of.
Ant Home Invasion
Rodents are not the only pests found inside homes during the colder winter months. I have visited two customers this week in Mansfield and South Arlington that were plagued by ants inside their homes. Once customer had hundreds of ants in her garage and they quickly spread to other parts of the house, seemingly overnight. People are increasingly finding ants inside their homes this time of year, the most prominent species being the argentine ant, the odorous house ant, the rover ant and the little black ant. These species of ants are noted for their love of honeydew, flower nectar and other plant secretions. As these exterior food sources become limited in the winter months, these ants seek to satisfy their sweet tooth inside homes. They create their indoor nest sites in wall voids, behind insulation and under carpeting or other flooring. The first reaction of most homeowners upon encountering these ants is to grab a can of Raid and go to town. Unfortunately, the use of this and other repellant pesticides usually makes the problem worse. Upon detecting pesticides, the first reaction of these ant species is to create more workers, multiplying the size and number of ant colonies inside the home. The most effective means to control these ant species in the greater Fort Worth area is using gel baits and non-repellant pesticides.
Bedbugs Go High Tech
In a previous story, we discussed how bedbugs were now being transmitted to homes via books that are borrowed from the local public library. We wise-cracked how this development could further drive readers toward electronic books. Well, it turns out we spoke too soon. Bedbugs are now increasingly being found in the bags that are used to transport tablets and notebook computers. The use of tablet computers has become very common in businesses and schools throughout the greater Fort Worth area, often replacing books in many high schools and colleges. Bedbugs are attracted to tablets and their storage bags because they provide the heat and harborage areas in which they thrive. Bedbugs hide in dark places with crevices, like the edge of a mattress or a cushioned tablet carrier. Tablet users often kick back on their beds at home while reading their tablets, making the infestation process all too easy. It has been established that bedbugs are becoming increasingly resistant to the commonly used pesticides. Well, now it turns out that they are also adapting to modern technology in ways we never anticipated. Tarrant and Parker county residents must remain vigilant to prevent the spread of bedbugs to and from their homes and places of business.
Rodents Home for the Holidays
Maybe it’s just me, but there seem to be a lot more houses decorated for the holiday season this year. This seems to be especially the case in Fort Worth, Weatherford, Aledo and other parts of Parker and Tarrant counties. When homeowners retrieve their holiday decorations from the attic or other storage places, it’s not uncommon for them to find that they have unwanted tenants sharing their home with them. As the weather cools off, rodents look for a warm, cozy place to set up for the winter. No place is more inviting to a rat, mouse or squirrel than a well-insulated attic. The first evidence of rodent activity in a home is droppings or the pitter patter of little feet emanating from the attic. There are steps every homeowner can take to prevent rodent infestation. One important step is to walk around the outside of your house and look for possible rodent entry points, especially near the eaves. Keep in mind that a rat can squeeze through a hole as small as a quarter while mice can squeeze through holes as small as a dime. A lot of these holes can be stuffed with steel wool or covered with hardware cloth. However, if you have larger holes around the outside of your home, it is wise to contact a pest professional. They can identify possible rodent entry points and seal those openings accordingly.
Bed Bugs Hit the Books in Fort Worth
Here’s a story that’s bound to drive even more people toward electronic books. A recent article in the New York Times details how bedbugs are now infesting homes by hitching rides on library books. As the article points out, bedbugs and their eggs can hide in the spines of hardcover books. These bedbugs then find a home in the book borrower’s headboard, mattress or box spring, causing untold heartache and considerable expense (not to mention irritating bites). Bedbug activity is not limited to houses, dormitories or hotel rooms. They are now increasingly found in settings like offices, retail stores and movie theaters. An Abercrombie & Fitch store and a Victoria’s Secret in New York City were temporarily closed due to bedbugs. Bedbugs are very prevalent in Tarrant and Parker counties. North Texans who travel a great deal and spend lots of time in hotels can take precautions to avoid bringing bedbugs home with them. These precautions include checking the mattress for brown or red spots, which could be blood or excrement from bedbugs. It is also recommended that you keep your luggage off of the floor, since bedbugs can easily hitch a ride with the rest of your belongings. Residents of the greater Fort Worth area must keep in mind that bedbugs do not recognize social class and can be found almost anywhere.
The Brown Widow Spider Hits Fort Worth
The brown widow spider has become well-established in the greater Fort Worth area and has become very common around homes and businesses. The brown widow became established in the United States in the 1930’s, but was limited for the most part to peninsular Florida. However, during the last decade it has expanded significantly into the southeastern United States, from Texas to South Carolina. Like its sister the black widow, the brown widow has the distinctive reddish hourglass marking on its belly. However, distinguishing between the two is not as simple as black and brown. The black widow spider starts out as a tan spider and is often misidentified as a brown widow. The factor that most distinguishes the brown from the black widow is its egg sac. While black widow egg sacs have a smooth surface, the brown widow egg sac is covered with little spikes, sort of like a WWII mine. The good news is that brown widow spider bites are typically mild compared to a black widow bite. The brown widow’s venom is said to be twice as potent as the black widow, but they do not inject as much venom as a black widow. The brown widow bite usually results in pain at the time of the bite and a burning sensation at the bite site. Now the bad news: brown widows are not as reclusive as their black counterparts and tend to nest in areas that make humans more susceptible to their bites. They have been known to nest under wrought iron railings, inside the curled lips of potted plants and inside the recessed handles of plastic storage bins. An associate of mine recently found a brown widow in Burleson, so Tarrant and Parker county residents should remain vigilant when it comes to these newly arrived menaces.
The Most Unwelcome of Pests
As the weather cools off, rodents of all kind become more active as they look for a place to hunker down for the winter. One of the most unwelcome varieties of rodent is also the most pungent: the skunk. Upon arriving at my home at around 2pm last week, my neighbor across the street called me over. She was in a panic because a skunk was circling around the perimeter of her house. Fortunately, her dog had not confronted the skunk and the skunk had not sprayed near the house. One of the options when it comes to skunks and other large rodents is to set a large cage trap and relocate the rodent upon its capture. However, this particular skunk was behaving quite irregularly. It was foraging around her home in the mid-afternoon, which is not characteristic of skunk behavior. While skunks are not nocturnal, they are crepuscular, which means they are mainly active during the twilight parts of the day, dawn and dusk. This kind of irregular behavior can be a symptom of a rabid skunk, so the neighbor summoned the Parker County Sheriff Department. The deputy euthanized the skunk with a .22 rifle and carried off the carcass. The instances of rabid animals in eastern Parker and western Tarrant counties appear to be on the rise. This past August, authorities euthanized a rabid deer that was wandering on a golf course in Weatherford. These instances reinforce the importance of ensuring that your pets have updated rabies vaccinations, especially those pet owners who live in the rural areas of greater Fort Worth.