Self Help

Things you can do

Odorous House Ant

This ant can be difficult to control because it establishes multiple subcolonies and may nest in such a wide variety of sites. The keys to control are to find the colonies and subcolonies and treat them directly. Where the colonies cannot be found, baits may be attempted; however, several baits may be required before positive results are seen. Regular inspections and service are necessary to find and treat new colonies as they move in from neighboring properties.

Eliminate piles of lumber, bricks, or other debris that could serve as a nesting site for ants.

Keep landscape mulch less than 2 inches thick and at least 12 inches away from foundations.

Ensure the sprinkler system does not spray directly onto the foundation.

Seal as many cracks in the home’s exterior as possible.

Keep tree and shrub branches trimmed to prevent them from touching the building.


Silverfish can be very difficult to control, especially in those homes which have wood shake (shingle) roofs. Shakes hold moisture and permit surface molds to grow which serve as food for silverfish. Shake roofs are also very difficult to treat completely — to reach all the areas where silverfish can possibly live. In addition, silverfish often live in the soffits and behind the fascia board behind gutters. Individual silverfish then invade the interior of the home from this “reservoir” site. Compounding the problem in attics is blown-in insulation that prevents a professional from safely venturing into the attic to look for silverfish harborages. A professional should be consulted when silverfish are a regular problem. Areas that may require treatment include:

Voids where plumbing is located.

Voids behind electrical outlets.

Molding around windows and doorways.

The attic, crawl space and basement.

The soffits.

Domestic House Spider

The key for controlling the domestic house spider is to look for webs and remove them, making sure a treatment is applied into any crack associated with a web to be sure the spider has been killed. Steps that should be taken to prevent new spiders from entering include:

Removing or limiting heavy, ground-covering vegetation near the building.

Sealing cracks and holes in the building s exterior.

Installing tight-fitting screens on all attic and foundation vents.

Sealing holes around pipes indoors to prevent spiders from entering the living spaces of the home by following plumbing lines in basements and crawl spaces.

Where numerous spiders are seen, a professional should be consulted to conduct a thorough inspection and recommend possible treatments.


Controlling a flea infestation successfully requires four steps:

Preparation for treatment.

Treatment of pets.

Treatment of the inside premises.

Treatment of flea activity sites outside.

Obviously, the pet is critical to minimizing flea infestations and regular grooming helps to limit fleas on the pet. For this reason, customers need to keep the pet groomed and treated with on-animal flea control products. Step One. Any flea treatment will be less effective if the home is not prepared properly by completing the following steps:

Remove all items, such as toys, clothes, and pet food from all floors.

Remove all items from under beds and in the bottom of closets.

Wash or replace pet bedding.

Vacuum all carpets and rugs thoroughly, including beneath beds and upholstered furniture.

Clean all wood, tile, and linoleum floors by sweeping and mopping.

Clean concrete floors with soap and water in the garage,basement, or enclosed patio where pets rest or stay.

Remove all pets including birds and reptiles. Cover fish tanks with a damp towel and turn off the air pump.

Replace any pet bedding outdoors and make all shaded areas, crawl spaces, etc. available for treatment.

Arrange to be out of the home for several hours until the treatment has thoroughly dried.

Step Two. The homeowner needs to arrange for treating the pet. A number of on-animal treatment products are now available. Treatment of pets should be done under the direction of a veterinarian. Step Three. In homes that have an active flea infestation, a residual treatment combined with an insect growth regulator should be applied.. Efforts should be focused on the areas where pets rest or sleep. These are the sites where the most fleas will be located. Step Four. Outside, treatment should be applied to shaded areas and beneath shrubs and decks where pets rest or sleep. Again, a professional has the right equipment to provide this treatment effectively.





Ant vs. Termite

There is much confusion about winged ants. Carpenter ants, as well as other ants, have a stage of development known as the reproductive or swarming stage. Flying ant reproductives are often confused with winged termite reproductives.

As a simple rule of thumb: if the body of the insect looks just like an ant with wings, it’s a flying ant, not a termite. Here is a comparison:
Ant reproductives are defined by having three distinct body segments (head, thorax, abdomen), elbowed antennae and clear, pointed wings that are slightly longer than the insect’s body.Termite reproductives have two distinct body segments (head & thorax), straight antennae and translucent, paddle shaped wings that are twice as long as the body of the insect.
Inspection Clues

Carpenter ants are very common in areas that have a high water table. They seek out high moisture areas in and around structures. Though not always the case, when carpenter ants are found in a structure, they are there because of a moisture problem somewhere inside or adjacent to it.

Carpenter ants usually nest either in damp wood or close to it. They may also be found in hollow areas such as hollow doors and curtain rods. Ants will nest in attics near clogged gutters or areas that have been subject to water leaks.

Wood found to be infested with Carpenter ants often has been damaged by wood rot. Wood rot is caused by fungus, a living organism. Wood rot destroys the structural soundness of wood. These ants compound the problem by chewing into and nesting inside the wood.

Ants living in the wood smooth it out with their chewing mouthparts and then live within the galleries they create to take advantage of the high moisture content that they favor. Unlike termites, carpenter ants cannot digest the cellulose in wood and thus do not destroy the wood in the same way as termites.

Conducive Factors

Some things to check for when there is a carpenter ant infestation include:
leaks from the roof or gutters or downspouts
improperly caulked windows and doors (including patio doors)
water entering around window air conditioner frames
steady or intermittent plumbing leaks
leaking dishwashers or washing machines
improperly caulked bathtubs, showers, sinks or improperly grouted tile showers.
rotted railroad ties, decks or fences

overhanging tree limbs, etc..
This list is not complete, but provides the most common things to check to help minimize attracting ant to a structure.


New Technology Points to Baiting

As with cockroaches, baiting for ants has become a very popular. There are a number of reasons. First, baits are much less toxic than sprays and relatively small amounts of product are needed to for the treatment. Next, baiting can eliminate ant colonies while sprays simply kill individual workers. Ant colony are likely to produce more workers to replace the others which means that spraying for ants becomes a quarterly requirement. Finally, baits are usually less objectionable because they are either odorless or have very little odor.


Bed bugs


Adult bed bugs are oval, wingless, about 1/5 inch long, and rusty red or mahogany. Their bodies are flattened, they have well-developed antennae, their compound eyes are small, and the area behind the head (the prothorax) expands forward on either side of the head. The immatures appear identical to the adults except for their smaller size, thinner outer skeleton (cuticle), and lighter, yellowish-white color.

Bed bugs are readily distinguished from another common blood-sucking species, conenose bugs by their smaller size, more rounded shape, and lack of wings as adults. Conenose, or kissing, bugs may be up to 3/4 inch long.

Female bed bugs lay 200 to 500 tiny, white eggs in batches of 10 to 50 on rough surfaces such as wood or paper. Glue-like material covers the eggs, which hatch in about 10 days. After hatching occurs, the eggshells frequently remain stuck in place.

There are five progressively larger nymphal stages, each requiring a single blood meal before molting to the next stage. The entire life cycle from egg to adult requires anywhere from 5 weeks to 4 months, depending on temperature and availability of food (blood). When temperatures are in the range of 20° to 25°F, development occurs most rapidly.

Nymphs and adults generally feed at night and hide in crevices during the day. Common hiding places include seams in mattresses and box springs, cracks in bed frames, under loose wallpaper, behind picture frames, and inside furniture and upholstery. Occasionally people pick up bed bugs in theaters or on buses and trains. They also can bring them into their home on clothing, bedding, luggage, or firewood.

Bed bugs can go without feeding for 80 to 140 days. Older stages of nymphs can survive longer without feeding than younger ones, and adults have survived without food for as long as 550 days. A bed bug can take six times its weight in blood, and feeding can take 3 to 10 minutes. Adults live about 10 months, and there can be up to 3 to 4 generations of bed bugs per year.


Bed bugs feed on humans, usually at night when they are asleep. They feed by piercing the skin with their elongated mouthparts, which consist of two stylets that normally fold under their body when at rest but fully extend during blood-meal feeding. One stylet has a groove that carries saliva into the wound, while the other has a groove through which body fluids from the host are taken in.

A single feeding may take up to 10 minutes, and feels like a pin prick, but because feeding usually occurs at night when people are asleep they are not aware they have been bitten until afterwards. However, saliva injected during the feeding can later produce large swellings on the skin that itch and may become irritated and infected when scratched. Swelling may not develop until a day or more after feeding, and some people do not show symptoms. Bed bugs currently are not considered to be disease carriers.

Distinguishing bed bug bites from the bites of other arthropods such as mosquitoes, fleas, and spiders is difficult. People often confuse itching bed bug welts for mosquito bites. The only way you really can confirm bed bugs are the cause is to find the bugs in your bed or bedroom. Often people are bitten when traveling, making diagnosis even more difficult.

In addition to the direct injury to humans, bed bugs have stink glands that leave odors. They also leave unsightly fecal spots on bed sheets and around their hiding places. These spots are darkish red in color, roughly round, and can be very small.


Managing a bed bug infestation is a difficult task that requires removal or treatment of all infested material and follow-up monitoring to ensure the infestation has been eliminated and does not return. Management will require employing several nonchemical methods such as vacuuming, washing bedding at a high temperature, using steam or heat treatment, and sealing up hiding places.

Insecticides may be required to eliminate serious infestations; however few active ingredients are federally registered for bed bugs for over-the-counter use. At the professional control level, there are more registered products; however, resistance among bed bug populations is common, and low-level infestations are difficult to detect. There has been some success combining chemical and nonchemical products with increased sanitation and habitat modification.

Monitoring and Detection. You can detect a bed bug infestation by searching for the pests or their fecal spots, egg cases, and shed skins (exuviae). Current research reports more than 85% of bed bugs are found in or near the bed, so inspections for infestations should focus on the mattress, bed frame, and headboard areas. Lift the mattress and inspect all seams and surfaces as well as the box springs. You may need to dismantle the bed. Use a flashlight to aid the inspection process.

Remember, these nocturnal insects are small. Although you can see adults and aggregations of nymphs with the unaided eye, seeing the eggs requires a hand-magnifying lens. It may be easier to detect dark spots of dried bed bug excrement or the insects’ light-colored shed skins. A foul, rotting, bloody-meat smell might be present in heavily infested areas.

In addition to the bed area, the remaining 15% of infestations usually are in upholstered furniture other than beds, in bedroom cabinets, along baseboards, under wallpaper, and in carpets, wall hangings and similar hiding spots. Bed bugs prefer fabric or wood surfaces to metal or plastic. For heavy infestations, adjoining rooms, filing areas, and clutter can be out-of-way shelters. It takes patience and perseverance to find low-level infestations of such a persistent, nagging problem.

Recent research has shown searching with dogs can be an effective method for finding bed bug infestations. Under laboratory and simulated-field conditions, using dogs to search for bed bugs was 97% effective. Other recent research indicates using small, double-cupped monitors that are easily installed on the leg ends of beds trapped six times more bed bugs than were found from human visual searches alone. This trap, Interceptor, is commercially available.

A new university study indicates an airborne aggregation pheromone, a behavior-modifying chemical, might help control infestation levels. With this new research, hopefully traps attractive to bed bugs soon will be commercially available.

Prevention. People usually bring bed bugs into their homes, in luggage or on clothes, after visiting an infested dwelling or hotel. If you travel frequently, watch for signs of bed bugs in your hotel room by checking under sheets and inspecting mattresses, especially if you have been bitten. If you suspect bed bugs, check your luggage before leaving and wash all your clothes as soon as you get home.

You also can bring bed bugs into your home on bedding or furniture. If you purchase second-hand furniture, especially beds or mattresses, thoroughly inspect the item before bringing it into your home. If you remove infested mattresses or furniture from your home, do not leave it on the curb or porch. Take it immediately to the dump.

Managers of hotels, furnished apartments, dormitories, homeless shelters, and other facilities that house transient populations need to train staff to recognize signs of bed bug activity and take action as soon as they find an infestation. One proactive step a manager can take is to regularly replace beds, mattress, and bedding materials. Frequent laundering of bedding and placing items that could be infested in walk-in freezers during tenant change and turnover can help prevent the spread of bed bugs.

It is much easier to control a population when the infestation is small. Keep clutter down, so it is easier to inspect and bed bugs have fewer hiding places. Also, seal up cracks, crevices, and holes in bedding or furniture and other potential hiding sites.

Nonchemical Management. In addition to preventing the introduction of bed bugs, a number of other nonchemical control methods can help manage this pest. These methods are directed at killing or removing bugs or restricting access to beds or bedding materials.

You can remove bed bugs and eggs with the suction wand of a strong vacuum; however, you must target the vacuum on the seams of mattresses and box springs, along perimeters of carpets, under baseboards, and in other areas where bed bugs live. A single vacuuming rarely gets all bugs and eggs and, therefore, should be repeated. Portable steam cleaners can also be used to clean mattresses and furniture.

Commercial heating services are available to treat entire rooms in homes for bed bug infestations. The current label use for commercial heating services is 50°c for two hours or 45°c for three hours, which will kill most bed bugs and eggs. In California, providers of heat services must be licensed and bonded by the Structural Pest Control Board when treating for wood destroying pests. Chilling to a temperature of 0c or lower and maintaining this temperature for several days also will kill bed bugs.

For suspected infestations in clothing or bedding, a home laundry drier is very good at killing bed bugs; only 10 to 15 minutes exposure is needed.

Mattress encasements specifically designed to keep out bed bugs are commercially available. Encasements are particularly useful for hotels or other facilities with many beds; however, their effectiveness at excluding bed bugs has not been thoroughly researched. In many cases, the best approach may be to throw out the mattress, clean the area thoroughly, and install a new mattress—with or without an encasement.

Other management practices include sealing up hiding places such as cracks and crevices in walls and around windows and doors where bed bugs can hide. As a temporary measure, you can exclude bed bugs from clean beds by coating bed legs with petroleum jelly or placing them inside glass jars or metal cans, which are too slippery for bed bugs to climb.

Insecticides. Insecticides alone won’t control bed bug infestations. Their use must be combined with a program of removing and cleaning infested beds, bedding, and other harborage sites then following up with a regular detection program to ensure treatment was effective.

The most effective bed bug pesticides are available to commercial pesticide applicators only. Professionals also have the equipment and expertise that allow a more effective application of insecticides than residents could do themselves. In addition, professionals have the training to detect and isolate infestations, which often allows for more effective control.

Insecticides may be applied as liquids directly to cracks, crevices, bed frames, baseboards, or similar sites, or they may be applied as dusts in cracks and crevices. Pesticides generally are not applied to mattresses or bedding because of risk to people.