Wednesday, December 14, 2011

They Seem to be Everywhere.

      Normally, at this time of the year we are getting a lot of calls for mouse problems, but this year there doesn't seem to be that many of them. HOWEVER, what seems to be literally coming out of the woodwork are flying squirrels. These are adorable little critters which seem to be in everyone's attic this year. Some are getting down into the living area of homes, where I have spent much time chasing them around before being caught and relocated.
       These little critters are about the size of a chipmunk and have a large flap of skin between their front and hind legs. When they jump off a roof or tree limb they put their legs out and become little gliders. The fur on their tail is flattened top to bottom and this is used as a rudder to steer when they are airborne, and as an air brake when they are about to land. Unlike other species of squirrels (gray and red) which are seen hopping around during the day, flying squirrels are nocturnal. The are out at night. They can be quite noisy when they leave in the evening and when they return just before daylight. Most people don't hear them leave (shortly after dark) because usually people are active then, talking, the TV is on, and supper is being prepared, but in the morning (just before it starts getting light out) is when they are heard, because the house is usually quiet at that time.
        They are omnivorous, eating just about anything. They will eat seeds, nuts, berries, fruit, mushrooms, carrion, bird eggs, etc. Occasionally, they will come into bird feeders at night, if you move very slowly they can be approached quite closely. They are preyed on by owls, snakes, raccoons, and house cats. In the trees they are very agile and hard to catch, but they are nearly helpless on the ground, but they are rarely ever on the ground.
       They mate in March and April and give birth during April and early May to 2-6 young. The young will start going out with the adults at about 6 weeks, so no exclusion work should be done until the end of June at the earliest otherwise the young will be left behind to die.
                                                                                                                                                                     Here's the link to a video of a job we did last summer. - Flying squirrel job

Flying squirrel
Flying squirrel gliding

Monday, September 19, 2011

I'm Buried in Postcards

Every year in early Fall, I send out fliers to previous mouse customers advertising the annual mouse treatment. These fliers contain a postcard that the customer can drop in the mail and when I get them back, I call and set up an appointment. It works great for me and the customer. They don't have to remember to call from year to year, because they get a reminder from me. The only "problem" is that as my business grows, the pile of postcards gets bigger and bigger every year. It's one of those "problems" that's nice to have. Right now, I have two piles. People I've called, and left a message, and people I haven't gotten around to calling yet. Once I talk to them, and set up an appointment, the card goes in the waste basket. The ones I've done so far has shown that last winter was a very good year for mice (lots of them around). I use poison bait, and the bait that is remaining this year is a lot less than usual, meaning there were a lot of mice last winter.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Yellow Jackets and Bald Faced Hornets

        We're getting close to their "season". I've already run across a couple of nests. They are about as big as a softball right now and are nearing "critical mass" where they will explode in size and population, seemingly almost overnight. I get calls from people saying they have a big "bees" nest and it wasn't there yesterday. It was there, it was just much smaller and easily overlooked.
         Bald Faced (sometimes called White A**ed) hornets typically build nests that hang from tree branches, in shrubbery, or attached to a building (typically at the peak of the roof, on flood light fixtures, or under the soffit).

         On the right, is a picture of a Bald Faced Hornet's nest. Below that is a picture of the hornet.

      Yellow jackets (picture below) will build nests in a variety of places. They will build nests similar to Bald Faced hornet nests in the same type of location (shrubs, trees, and on buildings). They will also build nests in the ground in abandoned rodent burrows, under or in wood piles and brush piles, leaf piles, and under anything laying on the ground. They also have a nasty habit of building nests in the structure of homes and subsequently chewing through ceilings and walls (usually ceilings). If you ever notice what appears to be a wet spot, about the size of a dime, on a ceiling or wall, anytime after mid-July, DO NOT poke your finger or anything else into it, because you will put it right through into the nest and you will quickly have a room full of yellow jackets.
       These two members of the wasp family (they are NOT "bees") can be extremely dangerous and cause most of the allergic "bee stings" that occur every summer. They are extremely aggressive, attack in multiple numbers, and each one can sting multiple times. They do not lose their stinger and, therefore, live to "sting another day". Yellow jackets are the "bees" you see trying to get a bite of your hamburger or a sip of your soda at summer outings and picnics.

Here are a couple of videos of these critters:

Monday, July 11, 2011

Upside Down Powder Post Beetles?

Saturday, we went to a customer who was complaining that she had small piles of sawdust on the floor of an out building. We investigated and sure enough, we found about a dozen piles of sawdust that looked like the picture on the right. The sawdust was very fine with the consistency of talcum powder. This is characteristic of powder post beetles, but they are usually in overhead beams and we couldn't fine any holes in the wood on the ceiling, so where was it coming from? I took one of the piles and blew the sawdust away.  As you can see from the next picture, on the floor was a hole (it's right dead center in the picture), the adult beetle had laid eggs in a crevice on the surface of the floor and the larva from the hatched eggs were tunneling into the floor and pushing the sawdust out behind them. Very unusual! They were feeding on the wood and then would emerge at a future date as adult beetles and the cycle would repeat itself. We treated the floor. They have occasionally been reported emerging from newly installed hardwood floors, but this is first time I've ever done this for powder post beetles seemingly just starting into the floor. Powder post beetles and other wood destroying beetles can be as damaging as termites, it just takes them a lot longer to do the same amount of damage.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Barely Keeping His Head above Water - Literally!

Yesterday morning I went to do a carpenter ant job here in Woodbury. I checked in with the customer, told him what I was going to do, and went to the the truck to get my equipment. As I started toward the back of the house, I noticed they had an in ground swimming pool in the back yard. As I got a little closer, I noticed something in the pool. It was a young skunk, probably about 8 weeks old, who apparently had fallen in, on one of his first trips out of the nest with mom and his siblings. The poor little guy appeared to be "skunk" paddling in slow motion. He was going just fast enough to keep his head above water. I have no idea how long he had been in there, but he was obviously extremely exhausted. I went and told the customer what was going on, and asked him if he might have a 2x6 or 2x8 that I could slide into the pool, to give him something to crawl out on. He said he didn't have one, but he had a long handled net that was used to clean stuff out of the pool. So I took that to the pool, extended it almost all the way out (about 15' long), and placed it under the skunk and scooped him gently out of the pool and placed him on the lawn. He stood there for a minute, then made a half hearted attempt to shake himself off, but you could tell he decided he should just rest for a while. I kept my eye on him, and proceeded to close up the net handle. As I was putting it back, I noticed the classic strong skunk smell. I turned around and the little guy was gone, but to show his gratitude at being rescued, he had sprayed in the net while he was being lifted out of the pool. Nobody got sprayed, but the back yard was "stunk" up pretty good for a while. You're welcome, little skunk!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Carpenter Bees

      While carpenter bee (these are the huge "bumblebee" looking critters you might see flying around your roof line) season is almost over. At least as far a active drilling goes, there is only about another week to go and they will be done for the season. In the past, we have done treatments that were designed to kill them, but since over the past few years it has become evident that a lot of the good pollinators (carpenter bees, bumble bees, and honeybees) are in serious trouble and are declining, we have changed our "method of attack". Now what we do, if at all possible, is attempt to physically exclude them, rather than kill them. We make it impossible for them to access the area they want to be, so they will move to a different location where they can successfully reproduce.
       Carpenter bees don't do any serious structural damage. The damage they do is mostly cosmetic, and that is mainly due to their droppings stain on the side of the house. They are very gentle creatures and while capable of stinging, they will never do it, They are big and loud with their buzzing, but are totally harmless.
      While the "kill them" treatment can only be done during their reproductive season (about the last week of April thru the first week in June), the exclusion can be done at any time. If you had them this year, and you don't want them back next year, the exclusion (if appropriate for your house) can be done anytime before next winter sets in.

Below is the link to the Carpenter bee page on our web site.

Carpenter Ants

       Once the weather broke this spring the carpenter ants became real active. These are the big black ants that can be seen crawling around inside or outside. If you have them inside, more than likely you have a nest of them somewhere in the structure of your home. These ants do damage because while they don't eat wood for food the way termites do, they tunnel out an area for their nest. When they start tunneling out the area for their nest they throw out the wood chips they have removed. This will sometimes be thrown out right into an area where it can be seen, resulting in a big pile of sawdust similar in consistency to what you might find under a table saw. If you have a sawdust pile like that, it is a guarantee that you have carpenter ants and the nest is right above the sawdust pile.
       Depending on where the nest is they can do very little damage or a significant amount of it. They can be treated, but "over the counter" type products that put a barrier around your home can act as a repellent and if the nest is inside it can make the situation worse because if the ants are inside, now there is a barrier preventing them from getting outside where they prefer to forage. All of the ants will now have to forage inside making the problem that much worse. They also don't respond well to "over the counter" ant baits.
     Because of the damage carpenter ants are capable of, it is best to hire a professional company to get rid of them. This is one of those "don't try this at home" things.
       Below is the link to the carpenter ant page of our web site which shows some of the incredible damage they are capable of.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Things Are Starting to Move

      At the middle of March, we mailed out fliers, with return post cards, to existing customers offering flea, wasp, and carpenter ant prevention treatments. We have gotten a lot of them back, and are doing those treatments now.
      We're starting to get calls for ants of all varieties, carpenter ants and the small household ants people typically call sugar or grease ants. Small household ants do no damage. They are just a nuisance. Carpenter ants however, can do serious damage depending on the location of their nest, because, while they don't eat wood for food, they tunnel it out for an area for their nest. If it is in the weight bearing structure of the house they can cause thousands of dollars of damage. If you ever run across a pile of sawdust somewhere in your house, this is normally indicative of a carpenter ant nest right above the sawdust, however, most people just see ants crawling around inside the house and never see any sawdust.
       Squirrels are becoming active in attics, but at this time of the year there may be young present. Never close up a hole where squirrels are entering, unless you are absolutely sure the squirrels are not inside, because they will chew a new hole to get out, and that hole might be in the ceiling, with the squirrel winding up in your lap.
       As soon as we get a couple of consecutive days with temperatures around 70 degrees, the phone will start ringing off the hook for people with wasps. If they are yellow and black, they are not yellow jackets, but Mediterranean wasps. True yellow jackets don't usually become a problem until late July.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

"Squirrel" in the Chimney?

      I received a phone call yesterday morning from a gentlemen here in Woodbury, who told me he thought he had a squirrel in his chimney. He had heard noises early in the morning, but had not heard anything after that. It was an old house, so I told him his chimney might not have any flue liner in it which could prevent the squirrel from climbing out and maybe he had gotten out. I told him to call me after he got home from work if he heard any more noises. About 7:00 PM he called, and said his wife had heard noises again. I told him I would come over this morning and get it out for him.
      When I got there I discovered that there were two fireplaces back to back, on an interior wall, which shared a common chimney, so the critter was going from one side to the other. This was going to be difficult. If I set up at one fireplace, the critter would go to the other side. I was debating what to do when the customer said to me, "If we light a fire in this side, won't that drive him to the other side". Customers are really smart. I never thought of that. So that's what we did. We lit a fire in one side and as we were watching, the customer went to the other room and I heard him say, "Oh, it's a..........................

Scroll down to see what the "squirrel" looked like.

It was a screech owl. I picked him out of the fireplace and took him outside. I let him go and he flew about 50 feet and fell into the snow. I went over, picked him up, and put him in a cage trap. He was probably exhausted and dehydrated from about 24 hours in the chimney. I called a wildlife rehabilitator, explained the situation, and she said to bring him over. I delivered the poor little guy, She said she would give him some raw hamburger and fluids and release him in a couple of days. A nice interesting call ended just fine.

The picture on the left is him sitting in the fireplace, and the one on the right is him sitting on the rehabilitator's hand.