Get The Facts on Ticks and Lyme Disease

Ticks and Lyme Disease

Sunny and beautiful spring days have seemed a bit hard to come by in New England this year, with cold and damp weather ruling the day. Unfortunately that’s not great news when it comes to our tick population, which thrives in the dampness and is less active in the dry, hot weather. 2017 promises to be a banner year for these pests – which means the diseases they carry pose an added concern for all of us. When it comes to the most common one – Lyme disease – the recent surge of cases has sparked a lot of awareness and some rumors, too. So how do we separate fact from fiction when it comes to tick-borne illness, and how we can best protect ourselves?

First, some basic facts about ticks and Lyme:

  • Ticks aren’t born carrying Lyme disease; they contract it from animals they feed off of, and then spread it to other animals and people through bites.
  • Ticks are most likely to infect people when they are at the nymph stage, when they’re the size of a poppy seed, and their bite is painless. In fact, some studies report that only about 30% of people diagnosed recall ever getting a tick bite.
  • Contrary to popular belief, not all people infected with Lyme get the tell-tale bulls eye rash! So it’s important not to rely on that visual cue to determine your risk.
  • The most common early symptoms of Lyme include flu-like feelings (achy, feverish, nauseated); painful or swollen joints; feeling light headed; feeling especially stiff in the head and neck area; and shooting pains in limbs.

So how can you best protect yourself and your family from tick exposure? Our experienced teams at Freedom Pest Control can come to your home and assess your risk. And there are also preventive steps you can take on your own right now:

  • Cut your lawn. Ticks like hanging out in the cool long grass, waiting for a person or animal to latch onto.
  • Move leaf, wood, and mulch piles. These are other favorite spots for ticks to hide and breed. Bag up the leaves, get rid of extra mulch, and keep wood piles off the ground and away from the house.
  • Keep deer and rodents away. Ticks don’t usually move by themselves, but rather hitch a ride typically with mice, rats, and deer. Deter rodents by moving any bird feeders out to the perimeters, where any tasty seeds that drop are well away from the house. If you live near an especially high deer population, consider installing a deer fence; alternatively, dot the property with patches of fragrant lavender and herbs that help mask the scent of shrubs that deer love to nibble on, like azaleas, fruit trees, berry bushes, and clematis. Stone walls are a magnet for mice to hide in – so if you’re thinking of building one, consider alternatives.

Want more information? We’re here to help! Call us anytime at 888-974-3902, or chat with a live representative on our website!

Wasps: What You Need to Know

Most insects are annoying to have around; but wasps can be aggressive and downright painful, and smart homeowners don’t want them anywhere near their house or family! Unfortunately, they’re a fact of life in New England, often looking to nest on our around your home in the springtime, and moving indoors to find a cozy place to hibernate in the winter. Here are some helpful basics about these pests to help you know what to look for this spring, and how to prevent them from settling into your domicile!

Let’s start with the varieties you’re most apt to come into contact with, living in New England. The three most common in these parts are the paper wasp:

 

 

 

 

 

the yellow jacket, which some people mistake for a bee:

 

 

 

 

 

and the bald-faced hornet (sometimes called white-faced), which has a bit of a different look:

 

 

 

 

 

The wasp mating season runs from March/April through October/early November, which means they’re busy now building nests and preparing to hatch their next brood. Now’s the time for you to be on the lookout for nesting activity!

Typically, wasps make umbrella-shaped nests under ledges or eaves of a house, behind shutters, and also in attics and chimneys. These nests are made of chewed up wood fragments and salivary secretions, and look like this paper wasp’s nest

 

 

 

 

It’s important to deal with any nest promptly – not only to protect your home and family today, but to also prevent these pests from hibernating in your home over the winter months, only to reappear in full force the following spring.

If you find a nest anywhere inside or on your home, we strongly recommend against attempting to remove it yourself. Turning to YouTube to learn the best way to recaulk your bathtub is one thing; but trying to deal with a wasp’s nest without the proper training could be asking for trouble. When disturbed, wasps tend to become highly aggressive, and their stings are quite painful; you may even provoke an allergic reaction. Nests that are made outdoors – in trees or shrubs, for example – and well away from your home – are also a potential threat for multiple stings.

So if you come in contact with a wasp’s nest anywhere on your property, stay off YouTube and call a professional instead. You could save yourself a lot of hassle and discomfort!

Questions or concerns? Call us anytime at 877-PESTS-55, or chat with a live customer service representative on our homepage!

Spring Cleaning! Around the House and Yard

Spring cleaning

Along with winter being officially over, there’s nothing better than digging into some deep spring cleaning to get rid of the winter dust and welcome those longer, warmer days. But did you know that, along with wiping down and airing out, you can also do some pest proofing at the same time? Here’s how to tackle your spring cleaning while taking steps toward protecting your home from unwanted visitors.

Let’s begin in the basement, where dark corners and unfinished spaces are the perfect places for bugs and rodents to come in and stay. Go through storage spaces, eliminating clutter where possible and replacing any cardboard boxes with covered plastic tubs. Bring along some silicon-based caulk to seal any visible cracks or crevices that are potential entry points. Mice can squeeze in through an opening as small as a dime, and bugs can by with a lot smaller than that! So go through the space with a careful eye, and take your time.

Next up are bathrooms, where dampness can attract bugs like cockroaches and silverfish. These pests can only survive one week without water, so getting rid of any extraneous water source is an essential step in avoiding infestations. Look under the sink and around the tub and toilet for evidence of any leaky pipes, shower heads, or faucets. Replace the shower liner, and do a thorough check inside the medicine cabinet.

Now on to the kitchen, where both water and food sources can create an almost irresistible attraction for all kinds of critters – in particular, ants, cockroaches, meal moths, and mice. First, take all food items out of your cabinets and pantry, and throw away any outdated or stale spices, flour, ground nuts, cereals, and grains. Wipe down all shelving and install fresh shelf paper to cover residual food traces. Pull appliances and any containers off the counters, wiping down thoroughly with a mixture of dish soap and water.

Next, pull back any floor-standing appliances away from the wall. Here’s where you may see evidence of a winter infestation – mouse droppings, for example, or carpenter ant shavings. If you do see any such signs, your next move should be a call to your exterminator. Otherwise, do a through vacuum to get rid of food crumbs and dust. Lastly, give the floors a good mopping with a mixture of dish soap and warm water.

And don’t forget the outdoor spaces, which unfortunately are full of opportunities for rodents and pests alike. Look for signs of winter deterioration and remove them, like rotting roof shingles or worn down fascia. Clean out clogged gutters and downspouts to remove clumps of rotting leaves where pests can burrow. Look for loose mortar around the foundation and windows and repair it to avoid points of entry. Last, don’t forget to trim bushes and branches away from your home to prevent pests from hitching a ride; and be sure to remove rotting stumps, and move any mulch piles far away from your house – both attract termites.

Want to learn more about how to protect your investment from unwanted pests and rodents? Our team will create a plan for you to keep your home and family protected, 12 months a year. Chat with a live customer service representative on our website, or call us toll free at 877-742-2350!

Rats and Chicken Coops

Chicken Coops

You’ve no doubt noticed a big shift in the food scene around farm-to-table eating, with an emphasis on preparing and serving as much locally sourced food as possible. This movement has caused a huge uptick in homeowners trying their hand at raising chickens in backyards, hoping to enjoy fresh eggs they can harvest themselves. Not a bad idea – except that chicken coops can be a huge draw for the kind of locals you don’t want around your home, namely rats! Unfortunately there’s lots about chicken coops that these rodents love and will seek out. If you’re thinking of trying your hand at poultry farming this spring, here’s how to create a home for your feathered friends while keeping the rats out:

  1. Keep all feed in a metal container. On our site visits, we see a familiar pattern with coop owners: they start out keeping everything neat and tidy, with no grain on the ground. Within a few months, they loosen up, and start tossing some feed on the ground for an extra treat – and that’s where problems start. Hungry rats’ number one mission is to find food, and it won’t take long for them to find that grain and set up shop. Never ever ground feed, and never keep food in anything but a metal container.
  2. Remove used hay bedding. That soft cushion you give your chickens to sleep on quickly becomes filled with urine and droppings, creating the kind of warm and moist environment that rats love. Change out that bedding daily to keep the rats away!
  3. Seal up your compost. If you plan on having a compost pile, keep it in a sealed container well away from the chicken coop. Don’t give rats another reason to keep coming by for a meal.
  4. Build the coop away from your home. No matter how clean you keep that coop, animals are living, eating, and relieving themselves in it. Keep it well away from where you live – and considering you’re always somewhat at risk for a rat infestation, the last place you want it is anywhere near your own kitchen and pantry.

Our experts are always available to inspect your property for any problem spots. If you suspect an issue, or want to prevent one, give us a call at 877-742-2350 to schedule an inspection!

Ticks and Tick-borne Illness: Not Just a Warm Weather Threat

Tick ControlWith the instances of Lyme disease in New England increasing each year, there’s a fair amount of awareness out there as to the dangers of tick-borne illness. But there’s also a bit of a misperception that the weather can play in the tick life cycle; many of us assume the threat goes away once the snow falls and the temps drop. Unlike mosquitoes, which die off in the colder months, ticks survive the winter in a number of ways, depending on their species and the stage of their life cycle:

• Ticks can go dormant outside, hiding in leaf litter and woodpiles. Snow cover doesn’t kill them, but rather ads a layer of protection and insulation.
• They can survive inside your home, garage, car, or woodshed for months without requiring a meal, dormant in rugs, carpets, walls, and tiny crevices.
• They can latch onto a larger host. The blacklegged tick, which carries Lyme disease, stays active all winter long. They typically begin their feeding activity around the time of the first frost, and will latch onto anything from a mouse to a dog to a human, any day that temps are near to or above freezing.

When you’re outdoors, particularly during the milder spells of winter, it’s just as important to practice tick awareness and check yourself and your pet before going back inside.

There are other key steps to protecting yourself and your home during the winter months, including:

• Clear any lawn debris away from the house – leaves, branches, etc.
• If you have a woodpile, keep in mind that they’re often nesting and resting places for mice and other rodents, as well as ticks. Keep it well away from the house, and check logs carefully before bringing them inside.
• Remember that mice are the preferred host for most tick species; all the more reason to act swiftly at the first sign of them nesting in your home, barn, or garage.
• Check your pets regularly, and continue to give them regular doses of tick prevention medications.
• If you live near a wooded area, or enjoy walks in the woods, be mindful that ticks are often found on tree trunks and hardwood habitats.

Want to learn more about how to guard against ticks? Our team will create a plan for you to keep your home and family protected, 12 months a year. Chat with a live customer service representative on our website, or call us toll free at 877-742-2350!

Killer Raccoons!

This has got to be the best pest control experience ever.  Not a dead raccoon, no the press won’t pick that up.  Not the Co2 detector on the second floor that was not registering any problems.  Not even the levels of Co2 on the first floor. The order less gas was high enough to kill within no time. Nope this is a great story because the couple didn’t eat dinner and then retire into the living room to watch TV.

If that were the case there would be a news story involving someone’s parents that had succumbed to the Co2.  Instead the only one to die was a full grown raccoon.  It died in the exhaust vent of the furnace blocking the chimney.  The only reason they are alive today is that they smelled the dead raccoon cooking from the heat of the furnace.  Then they called the gas company who in turn called me. The levels of Co2 were deadly in the basement and were rising on the first floor. Which is where, had they not smelled the raccoon, someone would have found these folks they didn’t show up to their next day’s appointments.

So a happy ending all around.  Point of this blog is simple enough, now that the gas guy told me, install Co2 detectors near the combustion equipment and near your bedrooms.

Campus bed bugs coming home!

One of the holiday events occurring this time of year is our children coming home from college. In addition to cooking the turkey, parents this year may be faced with the reality that their son or daughter may bring home some unwanted hitch hikers. That’s right, bed bugs.  A college dorm is a great place for bed bugs to thrive as there is plenty of food (students), heat and clutter. As commented in the Washington Post, “Almost all campuses are dealing with bed bugs now.”

So what can you do to stop the unseen blood suckers from coming home for the holidays? Nothing. The first line of defense is the front door of your home. Bed bugs are not going to come out and shake your hand. You have to assume that your child has a high possibility of caring bed bugs home. That means any item your child is wearing or carrying in a suitcase or bag, could be infested with bedbugs. So be prepared by having a couple of large plastic bags at the front door for the arrival of your returning children. Upon arrival ALL items should go into the bags and the bags should then be tightly shut (twist tied). Bring the bags to the laundry area where all items that can be dried should go directly into the dryer on high (a minimum of 125 degrees Fahrenheit) for 40 minutes. The remaining items stay in the sealed bags, preferably outside, until departure. Washing is not necessary for bed bug control, just your attention to detail.

I wish everyone a joyful season of combating the hitchhikers and remember, don’t let the bedbugs bite!

Flying Squirrels

So you just found out you have a flying squirrel infestation in your attic. Sometimes confused between the noise from a mouse or a bat, the flying squirrel is active at night and is not afraid to show up in your bathroom or kitchen. To gain entrance they exploit weaknesses in your attic like the vent that runs along the roof line called a ridge vent.  The ends of the vent are left open or the caps fall out allowing these wide eyed fliers access to your attics.  Another favorite entrance is just along the dormer line where the fascia boards tie back into the roof line.

The mating season is between February and March with the offspring arriving in about 40 days. A typical size for an infestation ranges from 5-20. They do not actually fly but glide as seen in this video:

So, how do you get rid of these unwanted visitors? The removal of the colony starts with a thorough inspection Where we look find the entrance used to gain access into your home as well as any possible future entrances they may use to return once they have been  removed from your attic. The main entrance is fitted with a one way door allowing the frisky fliers to get out but not get back in. This is why all other areas that may become an entrance have to be sealed prior to the one way door installation.

Flying squirrels are rodents. They carry a multitude of parasites, however, the main reason people call for removal of the flying squirrels is due to the fact that one has showed up in the living room causing the cat or dog to chase it around the house.

Flying Squirrel Video source

Bed bugs in laptops, oh my!

Today I am sharing a recent customers experience with bed bugs. Jenifer (not her real name) called us about 2 months ago with  a possible bed bug issue in her home.  Jenifer travels every other week and her average stay is 2 nights.  The next day our technician inspected her home and found the signs of active bed bugs in her bed. Horrified as most people are when bed bugs are confirmed, our technicain explained the treatment process gave her all the educational material she needed for her treatment.

Fast forward 7 weeks.  No issues with bites or sightings for 6 weeks and then last week a blood spot on her sheet, a bite mark on her foot and her sweater she thinks may have bed bugs in it. Since Jenifer was well educated she knew what to do. Dry the sweater, bag her shoes for inspection and call Freedom fast. I have to admit this is not uncommon when people go back to the same hotel that was infested and pick up a fresh infestation to bring home. Even though Jenifer is extra careful about traveling she has another infestation. What made this difficult to figure out was the traps we use to stop bedbugs from climbing up bed posts were empty and the mattress and box spring were still properly encased. Yet she was bitten on the bed.  The weak link was her laptop. She had it on her lap at the hotel, feel asleep and in marched the bed bugs. Jenifer brought the lap top home, used it on the sofa and in her bed and both were re-infested.

After a quick clear plastic bag inspection with some carbon monoxide (I  inflated the bag) out came our little friends, ready to infest an office cube, customers site, or just another bed. You must be diligent in your everyday life to solve and remain bed bug  free.

Bed Bug image source

Tips for Travelers – How to Avoid Bed Bugs

The first thing to remember – don’t stay home just to avoid bed bugs. You can get bedbugs without ever leaving home. If you live in an attached residence you can get bed bugs. In addition, your kids can bring them from college or from a friend’s house. You could also bring them home from work. Unfortunately, bed bugs have become part of our every day reality, so simply avoiding travel will no longer keep you safe from bed bugs.

 

Find out more about bed bugs here.

 

Preparation for your vacation

Before you leave on your vacation there are a few simple steps you can take to safeguard your home from infestation upon your return. By taking the time to follow these steps prior to your departure, you will decrease your chances of bringing home bed bugs.

  1. Carefully research your hotel prior to your departure by searching on Google for your hotel’s name – include the search criteria “bedbugs” or “bed bugs”. Read any recent reviews. If they have been treated for bedbugs, you’ll most likely hear about it online. If you see one unpleasant report, please, take it with a grain of salt. However, multiple bad reviews, or reviews which repeat a particular issue, can suggest that the property is not safe from bedbugs or other pests.
  2. Call the hotel and ask questions regarding bed bugs – what is the hotel’s policy on bed bugs? Has your room had any bed bug complaints? If they fail to provide you with straight forward answers or avoid answering the questions all together, that’s a dangerous sign and you should consider changing your accommodations.
  3. If you decide to continue with your trip as planned, start by packing a small bright flashlight to inspect the room for bedbugs upon your arrival.
  4. Pack a disposable luggage encasement or large contractor trash bag to put your luggage in when you arrive at your hotel room.
  5. Bring large zip lock bags for all the belongings you will be keeping out of your luggage, such as your keys, passports, credit cards, etc.

Upon Arrival

Upon entering your room, immediately take your luggage to the bathroom and place the luggage into the bathtub. Follow these instructions prior to settling in:

  1. In a hotel room the headboard is the only item that is not disturbed during daily housekeeping and is great harborage for bed bugs.  By using your flashlight, try to get a good look behind the head board. If possible remove the headboard from the wall to get a better look behind. Most headboards are usually held on the wall with brackets, lift up 1 – 2 inches to remove. You are looking for several things – brownish black specks or bed bug feces, bed bug shells which are the bed bug exoskeletons and lastly, live bed bugs.
  2. Your next step is to take the bed sheets off the mattress and examine it carefully. Inspect the seams and the tag, as bed bugs often shield themselves in these areas.
  3. Now open all the drawers and cabinets in the room and look carefully inside for the same signs.
  4. When you have finished checking the room, carefully check to see the luggage rack is free of pests – look at it from top to bottom, and under the straps. Now place your luggage on the stand, being careful not to put any of your things on the bed or on the floor.
  5. If you determine the room to be unsafe and request another room, be sure to follow the same steps in the next room as the problem could be property wide, and not limited to one room.
  6. Once you have determined the room to be safe, take out your disposable luggage encasement (bag) and encase the luggage, being careful to only take out those items you are going to be using.
  7. Use the large zip lock bags for all belongings you will be keeping out of your luggage.

Before You Leave

  1.  Inspect all of the items that were taken out of the encased luggage. After you have determined the items are okay, immediately place them in a separate bag in your luggage.
  2. Scan through your sheets with a flashlight before you leave. If you notice blood splotches, there is a good chance you have been bitten by bed bugs.
  3. Take the luggage out of the encasement and dispose of the encasement as you exit the room.
  4. Just prior to taking your luggage back into your home make sure you use the other encasement or trash bag and place each piece of luggage into the bag.

Arriving at Home

Even if you follow all the steps listed above, it is still very important to take precautions when you arrive at your home to avoid bringing any unwanted infestation. The best rule of thumb is to assume you have bed bugs, that way you will be more diligent in taking precautions. Bear in mind bed bugs are great hitchhikers, so it is just as easy to catch them from another suitcase on an airplane as it is from a hotel room. Sometimes the signs are not as clear, so it is best to continue to use caution to ensure your home remains safe from bedbugs.

  1. Do not bring your luggage contents into your home right away; it is best to leave them in the garage or in the car until you are ready to unpack.
  2. When you are ready to begin unpacking and laundering your clothing, it is best to carry everything into your home using a bag. Prior to washing your clothing, place the items in the dryer and using its hottest setting, dry your clothes for 30 minutes.
  3. Other items that cannot be put in the dryer should be wiped down with isopropyl alcohol before bringing them into your home.
  4. Your empty luggage should be vacuumed and inspected carefully before bringing it in your home. It is normally best to leave the luggage in the encasements or trash bags while they are in storage.
  5. Finally, make sure you dispose of all the bags that were used in transporting your clothes and luggage, in addition, remember to dispose of the vacuum cleaner bag after vacuuming your luggage.