Sunday, December 19, 2010

Great Year!

      The ants, bees, wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets have all gone to Florida for the winter (not really, they just go dormant). Bats have left their summer attic roosts and gone to their winter hibernaculas (caves and mines where they hibernate for the winter), hopefully free of white nosed syndrome. Woodchucks are hibernating and skunks, raccoons, and possums are hunkered down, but will come out occasionally. Squirrels, and mice are always active. The squirrels are getting ready to breed and as soon as that happens (late December - Early January) they will start investigating attics, soffits, and chimneys for a place to build a nest. If they fall down chimneys, they can't get out and will die unless they are rescued. Mice will continue to move into homes for a warm place to spend the winter.
      2010 was another banner year. For the 15th consecutive year, gross revenue was up from the previous year. This year by almost 10%, and we still have 2 weeks to go. Recession, what recession! Here's hoping 2011 continues the trend.
      To all our loyal customers, friends, and family we wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Mowing the Lawn? Trimming the Hedges? Be Careful! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!

       Remember the fairly mild winter we had, and all that nice warm, sunny weather we got back in April, and May. Well, that was the perfect storm for all those yellow jacket and white faced hornet queens that left their nests last fall and went dormant for the winter. They came out of winter dormancy about a month early to start their new nests for this year and we have had no cool weather to slow them down. I have already been getting calls for them. The nests are already about the size of an orange or grapefruit. They normally don't get that big until the end of July, so they seem to be about 4-5 weeks ahead of schedule. I mentioned mowing the lawn because yellow jackets will nest in the ground, and a lot of people find them (very painfully) with the lawn mower when they run over their nest. They will also build gray paper enclosed nests in shrubs, trees, and on houses, and can also nest within the structure of a building. White faced hornets build the same type of nest in the same places as yellow jackets except they never nest in the ground.
       Don't confuse yellow jackets with Mediterranean wasps which are totally different. The differences can be found at our website:

Thursday, June 10, 2010

I Saw a Bat!

Most people have heard or read about "White Nose Syndrome" which is killing off thousands of overwintering bats. Well, it didn't get all of them. The other day I was doing a mouse job at a house, and as I was poking around the attic, I told the customer that he had bat droppings on the floor around his chimney. He said "I know and there it is now". I looked up and there was a bat flying around the attic. I asked the customer if he wanted to get rid of it, and he said, "Nah, it's up here all the time and I don't mind having it around". How many people do you know who would be screaming, barricaded in their bedrooms, with a towel over their head? While I wouldn't want bats or any other animal in my attic, it was refreshing to see this kind of attitude towards them.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

'Tis the Season - Seeing Sawdust Below Your Roof or on It?

Every year during late April, we'll get a real warm day and all of a sudden you may some huge bumblebee like creatures flying around your house, especially the roof line. You may about to be infested by Carpenter bees (see picture on the right). These gentle creatures (the females can sting, but I challenge anyone to get one to do it) tunnel into wood. They emerge from winter dormancy in late April here in the Northeast. They proceed to go about their mating flights. They fly around, hover in one spot, and chase each other around, and finally mate. After mating, the males die. The females then go about drilling their holes.As you can see from the picture, one of their favorite spots to drill their holes is in back of the trim board that runs along the edge of the roof. Each bee is a solitary nester, meaning there is not a "nest" containing more than one (other than the young). They drill a half inch round hole about half way through the board and then turn at right angles and drill a tunnel 6-7 inches long, leaving a pile of sawdust on whatever is under their hole. Sometimes they will drill holes right into the face of log homes. They prefer unpainted wood. Most people with normal hearing can actually hear them chewing the wood. They lay eggs in the tunnel and provide those eggs with "bee bread", a mixture of pollen and nectar from flowers. Each egg is sealed in separately and after the female is done with her egg laying, she dies. This usually occurs by the end of the first week in June, so their "season", when active drilling is occurring is only about 6 weeks long. The young emerge as adults later in the summer and spend the rest of the summer foraging on flowers (they are great pollinators). The young may overwinter in the holes they were "born" in. As  you can see from the picture they leave a tell tale droppings stain right under the entrance to their tunnels. The holes on the outside of the board are made by woodpeckers looking for the nice juicy larva growing inside the tunnels in the wood. This damage is the most significant damage done. They do no structural damage. Their damage is purely cosmetic. They can be killed with pesticides, but the most permanent solution is to physically exclude them. Depending on the situation (and it is not always possible to do this), this can be done with paint, flashing, hardware cloth, or anything that will prevent them from accessing the area where they want to drill their holes.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

It's Getting Close

     The days are getting longer, the sun is getting warmer, and pretty soon you are going to notice one of the creatures on the right flying against a window in your home, trying to get out. What are they? They are wasps. The bottom one is the ordinary paper wasp and the top one is the Mediterranean wasp, an introduced species which is slowly pushing our native wasp out. The Mediterranean wasp is very easily and often confused with a yellow jacket, but they are entirely different. They build unenclosed nests similar to the ones pictured below. They overwinter in attics and walls, and as the weather warms, they come out of their winter dormancy, and will sometimes find their way into the living area of your home. When this happens, they fly right to a window, because they want to get outside. Once the weather gets warm, and stays warm, they won't be problem inside anymore. They are not particularly aggressive, but can and will sting if provoked. They start building their nests, which are made out of paper, as soon as the weather starts getting warm. They normally start new nests each year, but may use old ones sometimes. They may build a new nest right next to an old one, giving the impression they are using the old one. Sometimes they can be found flying around untreated decks, old wooden fences, wood piles, etc. and no nest is found. What are they doing? They are getting wood fibers to use to make the paper for their nests.
     A unique trait of wasps is that any female can become the queen. This presents a problem when trying to get rid of an existing nest, because if every wasp is not "at home" when the treatment is done. Any returning female can "declare" herself the new queen and the nest will continue on in the same location.
     For nesting locations, they like areas behind shutters, enclosed light fixtures open at the bottom, the louvers at the peak of the house, under the rake board (the trim board that follows the edge of the roof at the ends of the house), and in the open ends of pipes on portable basketball backboards.
     We can do prevention treatments which will drastically cut down on or totally eliminate them from building nests on and around your home. The treatments are guaranteed for the season, and should be done every year. After 2-3 years the treatment will become close to 100% effective.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Omigod, It Must be Rabid

Spring is a few months away, and that will mean animal babies all over the neighborhood. Baby birds with their mouths wide open in nests, waiting to be fed. Pollywogs swimming in vernal ponds. Baby raccoons, skunks, foxes, possums, etc. living huddled together in hollow logs and trees, in old stone walls, under sheds, decks, and raccoons in chimneys. They could be at your house. You're sitting at your kitchen table late one morning in late May, drinking coffee, and watching the new leaves on the trees and the new green grass filling in after the winter. Suddenly you see it! An adult raccoon is walking across your back lawn, It's daylight, and they're nocturnal. They aren't supposed to be out in daylight. Something must be wrong. It must be sick. Could it be rabid? Relax. You're right, they shouldn't be out during daylight, and normally aren't, but out back is that old dead tree with the hollowed out area near the top. You've been planning on having it taken down, but haven't gotten around to it. Well, inside that tree are four baby raccoons about four weeks old and they are hungry and getting hungrier every day. The days are getting longer, the nights shorter, and the babies need to be fed, so the mother is forced to stay out during some daylight in order to get enough food for her kids. A normally nocturnal animal, seen outside in daylight during April, May, June, and into July is not a major cause for concern, as long as they appear to be acting normally. It's that kids will be kids and they need a constant supply of food. Always use caution around wild animals, but in this case, enjoy watching something you normally don't see.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Squirrel Flue

At this time of the year, gray squirrels are breeding. After they breed, the females start looking for a place to build their nest and have their young. They prefer hollow trees, but will get into attics, or build a nest (made out of twigs and leaves) in the crotch of a tree branch. One annoying habit they have, however, is that they will check out chimney tops as possible nesting sites (thinking they are hollow trees) and if they fall down the chimney, they are trapped. The flue liner inside the chimney is too smooth for their claws to hang on to, so they can't climb back out. If the damper on the fireplace is closed, they are trapped on the smoke shelf above the damper. If the damper is open, Oh, Oh, they are in your fireplace. Hope you have glass doors on the fireplace, if you don't, they could be in your house. They can also fall down chimneys into wood stoves, if they are connected to a chimney. They also sometimes fall down chimneys right into furnace pipes. They normally don't survive this. There are two basic ways of removing them. The first is dropping a very heavy (at least 1" in diameter) rope down the chimney from the top, thereby giving them something to climb out on. If you attempt to "do this at home", use extreme caution. Some newer houses are built with roofs that make this almost impossible without special equipment to get you up there. The second way is to go into the fireplace, grab the squirrel, and carry it outside and let it go. Not recommended for amateurs! This whole problem can be prevented by getting your chimney(s) capped. That will keep out raccoons, also.