How to Protect Your Home from Insects This Winter

When we think of bug problems, we often think of summer with its mosquitos, ticks, fleas, ants and bees, but winter insect control is needed too. Keeping your home free of insects during cold weather is almost more important than during warmer months because your time is spent primarily indoors when things get frosty outside.

Learn about common winter pests and how you can stay bug-free throughout the chilly season.

Answering Your Top Questions About Winter Pest Control

  • What winter insects should I be worried about? The type of bugs to worry about during the winter months can vary from region to region. Here are some that are annoying just anywhere you hang your hat. The most common winter bugs are Indian Meal Moths and Carpet Beetles. Indian Meal Moths are found in kitchens and pantries. They’re especially attracted to grain and cereal products. Carpet Beetles seek food sources like silk, leather, wool, fur and hair. Carpet Beetles are commonly found in carpets, furniture, pillows, blankets and clothing.
  • What can I do to prevent a bug problem this winter? In all areas of pest control, prevention is the best strategy. A few simple steps can help you avoid a winter insect problem entirely:
    • Fill in cracks – Let’s face it—over time, cracks in the foundation of your home happen. Those cracks create portals for bugs to make the crossover into your home. This simple step can create a defense against unwanted visitors.
    • Clean up debris – Keeping the outdoor area of your home tidy may become less of a priority during winter with more indoor gatherings, but ensure to make time to clean up flower beds or anything covering your lawn. Winter insects find breeding grounds in your lawn’s debris, then make the easy trip into your home.
    • De-fruit your fruit trees – Most of the bounty from your fruit-bearing trees was consumed over the summer or fall months, but if not, that fruit could be attracting insects that can easily make an entrance into your home. Clean up the fruit from your trees to keep the pests away this winter.
    • Use window screens and seal doors – Cracking the windows during winter to let some cool airflow through is a common practice, especially when the heater is operating at full blast. Feel safe to air your home out as needed by ensuring you’re protected with window screens to keep out unwanted guests. It’s also an easy fix to check doors that need to be sealed. These do-it-yourself efforts can keep your home free from annoying bugs all year round.
    • Check shipped packages and shoes at the door – ‘Tis the season to get lots of packages at the door, but don’t let your delivered packages bring additional baggage from the outdoors. It’s also a good idea to institute a “boots off” policy to avoid the possibility of winter insects entering your home on footwear.

By following a simple list of do-it-yourself tasks, you may be able to help mitigate a bug problem. However, insects can still infest your home during the cold months of winter. To ensure you’re taking all precautions, learn about our pest control services and schedule an appointment today.

Do It Yourself (DIY) Pest Control vs Hiring a Professional

When it comes to common insects in and around your home such as spiders, ants and even roaches, many people are bypassing the pest control professionals and are attempting to do things on their own. Applying your own pest control products may seem easy, but there is a lot more to it. The first step in controlling any pest problem in your home is correct identification.

A complete life cycle has four stages – egg, larva, pupa and adult. An incomplete life cycle has three life stages – egg, nymph and adult. If you can identify the insect: which life stage is controllable and when does it typically present itself? By the time you see the damage from disease activity, it is often too late to apply a preventative pest control treatment. Again, you need to be able to identify which insect is present and know the time that will work for controlling the insect. Identifying and treating pest problems is not as easy as you may imagine.

Deciding to DIY or Hire Pest Control Professional

Once you have identified the insect, determined the proper time to control it and purchased the correct product, making the actual application may be the easiest part – if you own the proper equipment. Is the pest control material applied in a granular formulation or is it applied as a liquid application? If it is a granular product, do you have the correct type of spreader to apply it. If it is a liquid product, what type of sprayer will work best for applying the product? You also need to know the size of the area that will be treated. The rates for most products are expressed as units per 1,000 sq. ft., such as pounds for granular products or ounces for liquid products. Most homeowners do not know the size of their lawn or landscape areas, so the amount of product applied may be too high and cause damage or too low and be ineffective.

Determining which product to use can also be a challenge. There are even some products that claim to be organic and not harm beneficial insects. These products work well, but the can does not go very far.  You may need to use four or five cans to treat around your entire home – one time.

Almost all the control products that professional lawn and tree care companies use are considered General Use products, meaning anyone can purchase and use them. Many of these products are not sold in the typical hardware store, garden center or home improvement center. This is not because they are dangerous to use, but because they are expensive to purchase or are sold in quantities that the typical homeowner will never use up. There is still a wide selection of insect control products available to purchase, but most people don’t spend the time to look at the label to determine if the active ingredient will control the pest that is being targeted.

Spring-Green Pest Control*

Not all insect control products will control all insects. Reading the product label is the most important aspect of using any pest control product. There is more to the label than target pests and application rates. There are instructions on watering and mowing requirements as well as the need to use any personal protective equipment such as rubber gloves and/or boots along with eye protection. There is more to controlling pests and that includes instructions, process, and safety.  Spring-Green offers several insect control services such as Perimeter Pest Control to prevent bugs and other intruders from entering your home, and Mosquito Protection Program that creates a barrier around your home to control mosquito activity. Using a professional lawn and tree care company like Spring-Green will ensure the correct products are used at the proper time to control these pesky pests!

*Not available in all locations

Perimeter Pest Control: Keeping Insects Out Of Your House

insects

The estimated number of insects per acre of land on Earth range from 10 million to 400 million.  It is also estimated that there are close to 90,000 spiders per acre included in those totals.  It is no wonder why bugs can invade our homes, looking for a place of protection and food.

Common Insects Invading Homes

The two most common insects that invade homes are probably ants and spiders. Most of them nest outdoors and move inside the home to look for food.  Once the weather starts to turn cold, many more species of insects will begin looking for a place of refuge inside.  These common indoor invaders include flies, beetles, true bugs, mites, cockroaches, silverfish, springtails, centipedes and millipedes.

Insects don’t need much of an opening to move into your house. A good point of reference is if an insect’s head can get through the opening, most likely the rest of the bug can get through as well. Even the opening in a fine mesh screen may not be small enough to keep out all insects.

There are numerous points of entry in an average house, such as openings around windows and doors, cracks in foundation walls, crawl spaces, openings around dryer vents and numerous other tiny openings that you may never notice.

Keeping Insects Out of Your House

It is a good idea to check around your house for these types of opening and try sealing them with chalk or other materials that insects will not feed upon.  Another practice to keep bugs from entering your home is to trim bushes and other plants that come in connect with walls or windows.  These can act as a type of highway for insects to invade your home. Also, rake back any mulch that may be in contact with the house as insects like the security of hiding in and under mulch.

Sometimes the vinyl on a threshold can wear out and no longer remain in good contact with an outside door.  These are easily replaced and will also help to keep out insects.  Repair rips or tears in window and door screens is another good practice.  Of course, making sure doors are not left open for an extended period of time is also a good idea, but can be a challenge if there are small children in the home.

As was mentioned earlier, most little critters live outside and travel indoors for protection from the weather and predators.  Although this occurs throughout the warmer times of the year, the mass migration of insects usually occurs in the fall as the weather becomes colder. A great way to control these migrating insects whenever they are active is to apply a preventative barrier of an insect control material around the outside perimeter of your home.

This barrier should extend three feet up on the side of the house and about 6 feet out from the house into the landscape or turf areas. Be sure to also spray the threshold area in front of doors.  As bugs move through this barrier, they will be controlled. Most insect control products have a 21 to 28-day residual, so replying this application at least once a month during the period when insects are active will ensure a bug-free indoor environment.

Spring-Green offers Perimeter Pest Control services in most states.  Contact your neighborhood lawn care professional at Spring-Green to schedule this service and keep insects outside where they belong.

All about Army Cutworms (Miller Moths)

I have heard of army worms, I have heard of cutworms, but I have never heard of army cutworms, until our lawn care franchise owner in Olympia, WA , Mike Bell, sent me a picture of a caterpillar he had not seen before.

There are several turf damaging caterpillars, such as sod webworm , army worms and cutworms, but they are generally not a serious pest problem in the Pacific Northwest. I told Mike that it looked like an army worm as it has the characteristic “inverted-Y” on its head.

What Is an Army Cutworm?

Mike did some further checking on his own and sent me an article on the army cutworm, which was news to me. I guess that is what makes being in lawn care so enjoyable, there is always something new to learn. This has been my week to learn some new things. The last blog I wrote about was on the Ash Flower Gall Mite and this week it is the army cutworm.

army cutworm

When I researched the army cutworm, I discovered it is more of an occasional, but significant pest on oats and wheat in the Plains states. The moth is commonly called a “miller moth” due to the fine scales that rub off easily and remind people of the dusty flour that covers a miller’s clothes.

What Kind of Damage Can Army Cutworms Cause?

Miller moths can be a nuisance pest in many homes when the moths migrate in the spring and fall. They often move to Alpine climates and can reach populations large enough to be a favorite food of black bears. These moths are actually very nutritious for bears as the moth’s body can contain up to 70% fat.

I am glad that there is not a new pest problem in the Pacific Northwest, but army cutworms can cause some significant damage on home lawns. So far, the damage has been sporadic and isolated to just a few locations. As you can see in this picture, the damage can be fairly extensive. Fortunately, the turf often recovers on its own, but the feeding can cause some true concern.

Insects generally feed on specific plants, but they can change their feeding habits if conditions change. They are somewhat opportunistic and will feed on plants that are similar to their favorite foods. This may be the case with the army cutworm.

For other outdoor pest or insect questions, ask the Spring-Green Lawn Care expert. Or, if you need some help getting your lawn back in shape because of insect activity, get in touch with your local Spring-Green owner —we provide all manner of lawn care, lawn disease control, perimeter pest control, and other services.

Outdoor Ant Control: Killing Ants in the Lawn

lawn damage caused by ants

Do you have an ant problem in your yard?

The following question came from a reader through Spring-Green’s Ask the Lawn Care Expert Q & A. Read to learn how Harold suggests removing an ant problem in your yard.

“Dear Lawn Care Expert,
I have patches of slightly dry, yellow grass amongst healthy green grass. When I dug up one of the yellow patches, there was a large amount of ants underneath! Can the ants damage the grass roots? What chemicals can I use to best treat this problem? Thanks in advance.”

Thank you for sending in your question! Generally, ants do not feed on grass roots, but their activity can loosen the soil around the roots. This lessens the turf’s ability to seek water and nutrients and can lead to eventual death of the grass plant. This is especially true during dry periods. We don’t normally recommend an insect control application for ants as they don’t cause significant damage, but there are always exceptions to any rule. When thinking about how to kill ants in the lawn, the first thing I suggest you do is to keep the area well-watered (one inch of water per week). I also suggest you purchase an insect control product that contains either bifenthrin or permethrin and apply it to the areas where the ants are located. Be sure to read and follow all label directions before using any pest control product, including those for outdoor ant control. Bayer Advanced makes a product called Complete Ant Killer Plus; it is labelled for residential use and contains two active ingredients that will control the majority of ants in your lawn.

Do you have a question about your yard? Contact our lawn care expert, Harold Enger!

Our Top Trusty Tree Care Tips

trusty tree care tips

Caring for your trees and shrubs may seem like a fairly straightforward task, and one that almost any homeowner can handle. When it comes to trees and shrubs, you can plant them, water them, spray them, feed them, and even prune them—which all sound like simple tasks, but the devil is in the details. To help you, we put together a list of our top trusty tree care tips.

Choosing Your Tree

Most homeowners are fairly good at picking out the correct tree or shrub, but occasionally, they will choose the wrong plant for the location. These are probably the two biggest errors that homeowners make: they don’t think about the amount of sun that the plant will receive or the eventual size that the plant will grow to be. When shopping at the local nursery or garden center, plants usually come with a small tag that provides information on whether or not it needs sun and how big it will become. Shade-loving plants will scorch in the direct sun. Sun-loving plants, especially flowering plants, will not flower as profusely when planted in the shade. Many homeowners are anxious to have their landscape fill in as quickly as possible and have a tendency to over plant their landscape beds. In a few years, plants are crowding each other or are covering doors or windows on the house.

Planting Your Tree

Planting trees seems like a simple process. You dig a hole in the ground, place the plant in the hole, fill it back in with soil, and everything is done. But what else goes into the seemingly simple task of planting a tree or shrub? To start with, how big do you dig the hole? Many landscape professionals state that the hole should be twice as large as the width of container of tree ball. The depth should be at a point where the top of the container of tree ball is at or slightly higher than the ground level. If the plant was grown in a pot and the roots are growing in a circle, they should either be cut or gently coaxed out of their circular growth pattern. If not, the roots will continue to grow in a circular pattern and could eventually girdle or strangle the plant in several years.

Bonus Tree Care Tip: Some people think it is a good practice to replace the existing soil with a nice mix of pulverized top soil, peat moss, and other additives. This can result in the roots growing within the nice fertile soil and never pushing into the native soil. So, it is often best to use the soil that was removed when the hole was first dug.

Pest Control

If you need to apply an insect or disease control to a tree or shrub, after identifying the problem, you need to know where in its life cycle the disease or insect is currently in to be sure that whatever control application you use will work as intended. You also need to make sure the product you are using is labeled to control the correct pest and that you read and follow all label directions. Do not think that “if a little is good, a lot is better.” Following this adage may result in damage to the plant. Depending upon the severity of damage, the size of the plants, and amount of plants that have to be sprayed, it may be a better choice to leave this work to licensed, trained professionals.

Feeding Your Trees

Feeding your plants is another task that seems fairly easy to handle, but again, there are aspects of tree feeding that require some expertise as well as specialized equipment to supply the nutrients to the area that produces the best results—the roots. Foliar feeding is okay, but if the roots cannot handle the increased leaf growth, the plant can suffer. This is another practice that is best left to the professionals.

Pruning Your Trees

Finally, pruning a tree or shrub may seem like an easy task to handle and, in many cases, it is fairly easy (if you can keep both feet on the ground). Generally, you should prune flowering shrubs after they have flowered. Don’t wait until fall, as the blooms for next year are often set by the fall. The same is true with evergreens, such as yews or junipers.

Prune after they have produced their spring flush of growth.

Whenever you are pruning a limb on a tree, make the cut right after a shoot or other branch. Never make a cut in the middle of the branch. Most homeowners can handle the shearing of shrubs or minor pruning of trees. The hardest task is not the pruning work itself, but the clean-up. If you need to do drastic pruning, especially of large trees, hire a certified tree care company to do the work. It can be dangerous work if you don’t know what you are doing, and improper pruning can affect the overall health of the plant.

Of course, there are other considerations that may be required to keep your landscape healthy and attractive other than these basic tree maintenance tips. Hiring a professional to do the work for you may be your best – and safest – option.

Digger Bees and Crane Flies – Pest Control Tips from Spring-Green Lawn Care

Spring and summer always seem to be the busiest time of the year with questions from our website visitors. Whether it’s a lawn disease, some pesky pests you’re having trouble controlling or even something as unusual-looking and unidentifiable as dog vomit fungus, our resident expert, Harold Enger, is available to assist. Among the questions we received this week were two readers asking for advice about some common flying pests, digger bees and crane flies.

diggerbees

Question:

“How do you get rid of digger bees? They are covering my front and side lawns, digging into the ground and leaving little mounds. They go away after about a month but destroy the lawn.”

Harold’s Response:

Thank you for submitting your question. Digger bees usually dig their burrows or nests in thin lawns, so one of the ways to keep them in check is to improve the density of your lawn by core aerating it in the late summer/early fall and over seed. This recommendation is based on assuming you have a grass that can easily be overseeded, like Tall Fescue. Of course, it goes without saying that following a good fertilizer program will also help to improve the density. If you do wish to spray for them, use a pyrethroid product, such as bifenthrin or permethrin. You can find these products at hardware stores, garden centers or home improvement centers. Be sure to read and follow all label directions before using the product.

cranefly

Question:

“Crane fly seems to be a problem in our area. When do you recommend spraying for this pest, and what product do you suggest?”

Harold’s Response:

Thank you for sending in your question. If you still have active crane flies, then you should spray your lawn with an insect control product that contains bifenthrin. This product will control the larval stage of the insect. The product is included in a number of commercially available products that can be purchased at hardware stores, garden centers and home improvement centers. March is usually the better time to apply the product, when the larvae are small and easier to control. Once they get bigger, their feeding slows down and they are more difficult to control. Be sure to read and follow all label directions before using the product.

First Detector Forest Pest Training

Earlier this week, I attended the First Detector Forest Pest training program put on by the University of Illinois Extension Service in Springfield, IL. It focused on different invasive species that threaten native plants or have the potential to cause major financial impacts on local economies in an effort to control these pests.

The first pest discussed was the Emerald Ash Borer which is causing the death of literally millions of trees in the Midwest and is moving outward from there. Currently, it can be found in 15 states and in Canada and has the potential to make its way across the entire continental U.S.

The second forest pest discussed is known as Thousand Cankers Disease, which has the potential to attack various species of walnut trees. This disease is produced by the combined activity of a canker producing fungus and a boring beetle called a Walnut Twig Beetle. The tiny, about 1 mm in length, beetle is covered with tiny hairs that can trap the spores of the disease. When it bores into the tree to lay eggs, the spores dislodge and begin infecting the tree. This disease has devastated plantings of Black Walnut in several western states and has now been identified in parts of Tennessee, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

This disease has the potential to seriously affect the timber industry in Illinois and surrounding states. I learned that the value associated with the harvesting of Black Walnut trees in Illinois ranges from $13,000,000 to $18,000,000 a year. Missouri, a close neighbor to Illinois, is one of the largest producers of walnut wood products and the spread of Thousand Cankers disease could have an even greater financial impact on that state.

We also discussed three major invasive weeds – Oriental bittersweet, Japanese Stiltgrass and Giant Hogweed. Of the three, Giant Hogweed seems to be the one that is of most concern. Giant Hogweed grows 8 to 15 feet high with very large leaves and giant flowers called umbels. The sap of this plant is photo-reactive and if it gets on one’s skin and then is exposed to UV or sunlight, severe blistering and skin rashes can occur. It is like the reaction to Poison Ivy, but on a much greater scale.

An important part of the course was how to scout for these problems and how to submit samples. I am glad that I now know more about these problems and will definitely be on the lookout for them.

The Dangers Of Fire Ants

If you live in the south or southeast of the United States, you have probably read about or seen Red Imported Fire Ants.  Since first being brought to the US as a freeloader on shipping containers arriving from South America in the early 20th century, this aggressive and highly adaptable pest has terrorized homeowners, hikers, picnickers and just about anyone else that unsuspectingly disturbs one of their nests.

Although human deaths are rare, the painful bites and venomous stings of the Red Imported Fire Ant can endanger the lives of children and smaller pets if attacked by a large population.  The bites and stings leave painful, burning wounds that can become infected if not treated.  Severe reactions can include blisters, vomiting and nausea.  With these types of severe reactions, it may be necessary to be treated by a doctor.

If you are stung, treat it as you would any wound.  Thoroughly clean the wound to avoid infection from dirt that may enter the wound.  A cold compress may help lessen the pain.  Remove the compress after a few minutes to provide some relief from the cold.  Be sure to seek medical help if signs of an allergic reaction are seen.

Treating for fire ants often means hiring qualified companies who know how to apply the proper materials at the right time and place to ensure good control.  It may take three or four years for a colony to reach a population level where the ant mounds are noticeable.  Proactively treating for them will help ensure Red Imported Fire Ants do not become a problem in your lawn or landscape.