Wednesday, December 30, 2009

They Look Like They Could Carry Off a Small Child

It's late July and you walk out into your backyard. Suddenly, you see what looks like a huge "bee" (pictured above) flying over the surface of your lawn. What is "that thing" you ask yourself? As you are asking yourself that question, it disappears down a hole in the ground that looks like the picture on the right. You have just become acquainted with a Cicada killer, a member of the wasp family. While they are huge and terrifying and capable of stinging, they are essentially harmless. You would have to really work at it to get one to sting you. They prowl the woods looking for cicadas, which are huge insects about 2" long (pictured on right). When they find one, they sting it. The sting does not kill it, but paralyzes it. The cicada killer then picks it up and carries it back to it's burrow. It drags it down into it's burrow, which can be 10-12" deep, and lays eggs on it. The eggs hatch into larva which begin to feed on the paralyzed cicada, literally eating it alive. Cicada killers prefer sandy soil with sparse grass which makes digging easy, and usually prefer to burrow into banks and not level areas. There may be more than one burrow in a given area, but there is no connection among the various burrows. They are solitary nesters, and multiple burrows only occur because the habitat is good for them. They can be treated, but are not harmful, and should just be left alone to go about their business.

The Squirrel from Hell

I promised in a recent post that I would tell this story, so here goes.

     About 10-12 years ago, around 1:00PM, I got called to a Law Office in Waterbury for a squirrel running around the office. When I arrived, the squirrel was missing in action. The office was divided by those fabric covered cubical walls most of us are familiar with. I found the squirrel hiding in a corner behind the cubical walls which had been set up against the wall, leaving about a 4" gap between the cubicle wall and the building wall. I set up a trap at the end of the wall, and put several cardboard boxes on top of it to prevent the squirrel from jumping over the trap. I took a pole I have and went to the corner and from over the top of the wall I started poking the squirrel along towards the trap. I got him about half way along the wall and all of a sudden he took off like a shot and ran right into the trap and set it off, but he turned in the trap and headed out so fast that when the trap door came down it caught him by the tail, but he was outside the trap. I had my heavy duty gloves on and managed to get a hold of him, so I could get him back into the trap. I held him with one hand, while I tried to open the trap with my other hand. It is very hard to open the trap with one hand and during my struggles the squirrel got away from me. Instantly, he vanished. I searched the office for another half hour and couldn't find him. I told the woman from the law office that I was working with that I would have to set and bait the trap, and leave it overnight. However, after his experience with the trap I had my doubts that he would go anywhere near it, but I set it, baited it, and headed home. About 5:00 PM, I got a call from the woman at the office - we had caught the squirrel in the trap! I was totally surprised! I went back to Waterbury, got paid for the job, and came home with the squirrel. When I got home I took him out in back of the house and let him go by my woodpile which is near the back door. By now my wife had gotten home from work and was inside preparing supper. I went in the house, washed up, and sat down to eat. Now, you need to know that we eat on TV trays in the living room while we watch the news. As I was eating, I suddenly heard a squirrel chattering right between my chair and the end table next to it. I slowly peeked over the edge of the chair and there was the squirrel sitting right next to my chair. Now the critter is inside my house. I motioned to my wife and slowly got out of my chair and went out to my truck to get my hoop net. This is a net on the end of a pole, which has a cable running through the handle, so the top of the net can be pulled closed. I set up the net next to the chair and asked my wife to take a broom and push the squirrel towards the net. Sure enough he ran right into the net. I quickly pulled the cable and closed the net. As I turned around to head out the door, I noticed the squirrel was hanging on the "outside" of the net. He dropped off and headed down the hall towards the bedrooms. I started looking for him again, and found him hiding behind the waste basket in the bathroom. I shut the bathroom door and told my wife we should finish dinner, clean up, and then deal with the squirrel. After this was done, I went back into the bathroom with the net, caught the squirrel, and this time I flipped the net over figuring the first time he may have squeezed out through the top which doesn't close totally tight. As I got out into the hallway, I noticed he was hanging off the outside of the net again. He dropped off, and ran back in the bathroom behind the waste basket again. It was now obvious that the net pole wasn't going to work, so I went out to the truck and got my grasper, a tool that allows me to grasp and pick up an animal from a distance. I grasped the squirrel and headed outside. I made sure the door was shut tight and went out to the woodpile. I let the squirrel go and he ran up a nearby tree trunk to a height of about my eye level. I turned around and headed back into the house. The next thing I know the squirrel is hanging on to my right leg between my ankle and knee. OK, this is enough!! I grabbed the squirrel with the grasper, went into the garage, and put him back in the trap. He spent the night in the trap in the garage and the next morning we took a ride to Litchfield (about 15 miles away) and I let him go at White Memorial Foundation, which is a 4000 acre wildlife sanctuary. I never saw him again, but that night I woke up in the middle of the night, and I just had to sit up and check the bottom of the bed to make sure he wasn't sitting at the foot of the bed looking at me.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Owl Caught in Leg Hold Trap

        An owl was found in Moodus last Wednesday with it's leg caught in a leg hold trap. Unfortunately, it has since been euthanized. Leg hold traps are designed to merely hold the leg of an animal and they have padded jaws. You can take your fingers, put it in the trap, set it off and it will hold your fingers. It will not break or crush them. These are the only traps legal to use in Connecticut. The trap I saw on the news was not a padded trap, was severely rusted, and to be honest, it didn't look like it would function properly. I know about these traps. I ran a trapline when I was in High School. Leg hold traps are a valuable wildlife management tool, used by DEP and wildlife professionals to control populations of animals and to capture and eliminate or relocate problem animals. I don't use them in my business, only because cage traps work much better in most situations I run across, plus they have that media generated "evil" associated with them. Apparently, from what I have learned, the trap this owl was caught in was baited (illegal), set on dry land (illegal), and did not have the owner's name on it (illegal). Will somebody please explain to me how banning a useful tool when used properly and legally is going to prevent someone from using one illegally? I guess the same way more gun control legislation will stop young drug dealers from shooting each other with guns they possess illegally.
        I find it extremely suspicious that for two years in a row now, an owl has gotten caught in a leghold trap, shortly before the State Legislature is scheduled to start it's session, and "Ban the leghold trap" legislation is always on the agenda. The people backing this legislation, particularly the Humane Society of the United States, are mostly Animal Rights organizations. But, Jon, the Humane Society runs shelters for animals and everything. No, they don't. They are a National Animal Rights group that does nothing but propagandize, and start law suits to stopping hunting and trapping, and urge people to become vegans, etc. Do a google search on Wayne Pacelle, who is their head guy and see what it says about him. They don't spend one penny on animal shelters or animal welfare. They have NO connection with local Humane Societies, which do help animals and do wonderful things to take care of abused animals, find homes for them, etc.
        I suggest that anyone who supports banning these traps, go do a little research on what happened in Massachusetts with their beaver problem after leghold traps were banned in that state. I could tell you, but I'll leave it up to you. It ain't pretty!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Tiny Jumping Bugs

I have received about 3 calls for these in my first fifteen years in this business, then the other day I got two calls in one day. We went to the first job, because the customer had said they had a flea problem. I asked if they had any pets and they told me they had dogs and cats, so a flea problem made sense. We got our flea stuff together and headed out. When we arrived, we were met outside by the customer who took us around to the back of the house and pointed out that they had been seeing them clustered, inside and outside, where a sun room met the house. Clustered? Outside? Immediately, I began to dismiss the possibility of fleas, because they are not normally seen outside and don't cluster together. We went inside, and sure enough there were some crawling on the floor. I got down and looked closer. I touched one, and it jumped about three inches, just like a flea. I immediately knew what we had. They were "Springtails". These are very tiny insects, actually about half the size of a flea. They have a appendage on their "rear end", called a "furcula", that will snap down and allow them to be "thrown" quite a distance.There are about 700 different species of them in North America. One species is the "snow flea'. This is one of the only insects that are active when snow is still on the ground in the spring. They are black and sometimes huge numbers of them can be found on top of the snow. Normally, Springtails live outside in decaying organic matter where they feed on fungi, mold, and bacteria. Occasionally they will come inside. The problem inside is usually high humidity. There is really no need to treat them with pesticides, because they are just a nuisance, and won't get into food and they don't bite or sting. Setting up a dehumidifier will usually solve the problem. When the second customer
called, I was able to explain to her over the phone what her problem was and how to take care of it. Knowing what they were from her description saved me the trip.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

End of the Season II

Well, the busy season is about over. The annual mouse jobs are pretty much finished. We have a few more, but not many. The ants, bees, wasps, and hornets have pretty much all gone to Florida for the winter. I never did find out where they go down there. Disney World? Just kidding, they really just go dormant for the winter. We've been doing the last of the bat exclusions now, because they are gone for the winter. They really are. Off to old mine shafts and caves that are known as bat hibernaculas. One of the best known around here is the old iron mine in Roxbury, CT. I hope that "white nose syndrome" is a thing of the past, both for our sake (more bat work next summer) and the bats. That fungus has killed tens of thousands of bats in the Northeast in the past two winters and it is rapidly spreading south and west. Bats don't reproduce that fast, so it will be a long time before their population recovers, if it ever does. As we go into winter, we'll be getting some new mouse business as they move inside for warmth, and the occasional squirrel in the attic.More about squirrels in the future, including the squirrel from Hell.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Are you kidding me?

I started this blog mainly as a informational source, and hoped to keep it unpolitical, and then this morning happened!
As most of you know, I do the Pest Control for the Region #14 School system. Well, this morning I got a call from the head of the cafeteria at Mitchell School here in Woodbury. She told me that the Public Health inspector had just been there and he had told her that they had cockroaches. Now, I have never seen any indication of roaches in the cafeteria, so I had my doubts. I told her I would be right over. Upon my arrival, I went right to the cafeteria, knowing that if they had them they were either brought in by a student from home(accidentally), or from a supplier of food for the school. She took me to the area and showed me a "sticky trap" insect monitor that I keep there and she showed me the "roach" that was pointed out to her by the Health inspector. It was a "ground beetle", an insect that sometimes comes into buildings in late summer/early fall. It is weather related and are known in the pest control as "occasional invaders". They don't get into food, don't breed inside, and usually die shortly after getting in the building. There is really nothing that can be done about them, and the problem is temporary.
My issue with this is that here we have a Public Health inspector, who works for the government, inspects school cafeterias, restaurants, nursing homes, etc. and doesn't know what a cockroach looks like. I find that outrageous. These are the people who are supposed to protect the Public health, and are leading the fight against the H1N1 flu virus outbreak. Entomology 101, anyone! Be afraid, be very afraid.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

What is this?

At this time of the year you might be getting ladybugs in and/or around your house. If you are not, then maybe you have these. They are Box elder bugs. They do the same thing at this time of year that ladybugs do - look for a warm dry place to spend the winter. They are about an inch long. They spend the summer in maple, ash, and box elder trees feeding off the juices and leaves.Unless there is a huge population of them, and usually there isn't, they don't do damage to the trees. Get out the vacuum cleaner!

Are you seeing them?

They are ladybugs or lady beetles. They are orange with black spots, about 1/8 to 1/4" long, and right now, by the thousands, they are looking for a warm protected spot to spend the winter after a summer of living in the trees. If you have a light colored house (they seem to prefer those), you may be overrun with them. They are crawling all over the sunny side of your house. They are getting inside through cracks around doors, windows, your garage door, and where wires and pipes enter your house. Sealing those areas with caulk or something similar will slow them down, but will probably not completely stop them. The good news is that the problem is temporary and shouldn't last much longer. Once they get inside they will overwinter in your walls and/or attic. They will not get into food, infest, or damage your house. In the Spring, the cycle will reverse itself (you may get some more inside then because they forget how they got in and some will wind up inside again) and they will leave to spend another summer out in the trees eating aphids, which are very destructive insects. Lady bugs a very beneficial, and the ones that get inside are best picked up with a vacuum cleaner. Don't squash them as they will leave a reddish orange stain and they stink when crushed. This is one insect problem that there is really no "Professional" solution to. Anything we would do, and we charge for it, you can do for free.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Snakes - Oh, the horror! I guess it all goes back to Adam & Eve and the infamous serpent. Snakes are not slimy, in fact they feel quite dry to the touch. I can see some people shivering out there already. We are probably one the few pest control companies out there that advertise that we "do" snakes. What do we "do" with snakes? Well, let's give you a little background first. I get calls for snakes, and nine times out of ten they are "copperheads". No, not really, but that's what the customer thinks. After all they don't have a rattle on the end of their tail, so they can't be rattlesnakes and after all, if it's a snake, it must be poisonous, right? Wrong! I've hunted, fished, and trapped my entire life and I have never seen either a Copperhead or Timber rattlesnake, the only poisonous snakes in Connecticut and which are very uncommon and rarely seen. Most snakes seen around homes in residential areas are Garter snakes (not Garden or Gardener snakes), milk snakes, ring neck snakes, northern water snakes (not water moccasins) or smooth green snakes. All are non-poisonous and totally harmless. Although they may appear aggressive, especially if they think they are cornered, they will not attack or chase you. Like any animal they just want to left alone to go about their business. They are very beneficial and good to have around. They feed on insects and rodents. How do we handle snake calls? If the snake was seen outside, not much can or has to be done. Occasionally, a snake will be found in a basement. These are usually ring neck snakes (a very large one might be a foot long), or milk snakes. The others are not usually found inside. There are 14 species of snakes native to Connecticut. I have listed the more common ones. Others can be found on our website. So, basically, in most cases not much is done with snakes, because of the "nature of the beast", so to speak. When we do capture a snake it is released my backyard. I like having them around.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

End of Season

Are you getting some yellow & black "bees" in your house now that the weather is cooling off? These are yellow jackets and if you are getting them in the house, it means that somewhere in the structure of your home you have a nest of them. They don't have much longer, because after the first couple of hard freezes (low to mid 20's) they will be dead, but until then, as morning dawns and they become active, they will go toward the warm side of their nest. This means that if it is cold outside and they have a way to get into your warm house, guess which way they will go. They don't want to be in your house and will likely fly right to a window in an attempt to get out. They will probably be lethargic and not particularly aggressive, but if one should be on a chair when you sit down.....Ouch! It is sometimes very difficult to find out how they get inside, so the nest should probably be killed from outside. During a fairly warm part of the day, go outside and walk around the house looking for "coming & going" activity at their entrance. It is probably best to call a professional because if you spray the entrance, the nest will probably not be killed, and since the spray acts as a repellent, it will just drive more into your house.

Monday, October 12, 2009

One Man Operation No More

I started this business in 1995, after 30+ years in Corporate America doing Production Control work. I got laid off from two different jobs in a period of about two years and decided I wasn't going to do that anymore, so North Forty Pest Control was born. I have operated it by myself until last April when my stepson Matt Bryant joined the business part time. He has his NWCO (Nuisance Wildlife Control Operators) license, a pesticide Operator's license and is working on his Supervisory license. The plan is for him to work with me and gradually take over the business at some point in the future. So there will be two of us showing up on most jobs for the immediate future.

It's That Time of the Year

It's mid-October, the weather is getting colder, and all those mice living outside are sensing it, too. They want a warm place to spend the winter and what could be more inviting than your home. It's nice and warm, especially under the insulation in your attic, or behind the furnace in the basement. "Yeh, I know, but my house is sealed up tighter than a drum, no mice can get into my house". Do you have a garage attached to your house? Well, last Friday night when you came home from the football game after dark and you pressed the remote to open the garage door, did you notice that pregnant mouse that was right outside the door and ducked inside when the door opened? You now have mice in your house. They can't be kept out. If your house is really sealed mouse tight and they want to get in they will just chew their own hole. Deer mice, which normally live outside are the most common mice that move into homes for the winter. Their droppings have been linked to Hanta virus, a serious and frequently fatal lung infection. Although there have not been any cases in Connecticut, do you want to take that chance? They also are major carriers of Salmonella bacteria. One of the more common ideas is that the mice move in, in the Fall, and then go back outside in the Spring, but once they get inside they find out there are no hawks, owls, red foxes, or snakes in the house and realize that your home is a pretty safe place to live and decide to stay. Permanently! Now is the time of year to do some kind of treatment to clean out the mice already in your home and take care of the occasional mouse that will be moving in over the winter.