A Roach-Filled Valentine’s Day For Everyone

Image used with permission courtesy of ReMarkableHome.com

Before we begin, and you get too grossed out by the image to the left, I’ll let you in on a little secret; those are not actually chocolate covered roaches – they’re chocolate covered dates, and it’s probably a better idea to make them for Halloween instead of Valentine’s Day. But what if your sweetheart isn’t into the conventional flowers and chocolate gift, and you’re stumped? Insects don’t seem like they’d fit the bill for a Valentine’s Day token, but you’d be surprised.

Maybe your significant other would like something a little more personal. Well, the Bronx Zoo might have exactly what your beloved wants: a Madagascar hissing cockroach named after them. The Bronx Zoo’s website states, “What has six legs, a surprisingly high tolerance for radiation, and is bound to crawl into your loved one’s heart?” With a small donation, your significant other will receive a certificate featuring the newly named cockroach. You’ve heard of buying a star to name it after your love, but this sort of takes it to the next level, and I think it’s safe to stay it is a special kind of person who would really enjoy this gesture. If you’re reading this thinking that this gift is only meant for lovers and you find yourself alone this Valentine’s Day, you’re in luck. The San Francisco Zoo takes a different approach, allowing you to adopt a hissing cockroach or scorpion in honor of your ex, saying on their website, “Much like your low-life ex, they are usually found in and around low-elevation valleys where they dig elaborate burrows or “caves.” Also just like you-know-who, when a suitable victim wanders by, the scorpion grabs the doomed creature with its pinchers and stings the prey.” Yikes.

Roaches are repulsive to most people, so tossing them into the mix on Valentine’s Day is far from romantic for the majority.

However, I might have some bad news. That box of chocolates you’re planning on plowing through on the 15th? Well, cockroaches might be involved there, too. I think it’s fairly common knowledge that there are some insect parts in all the chocolate we eat. The FDA guidelines are about eight insect parts in a sample of chocolate to be safe. Okay, no big deal, just a few bug hairs or legs, so small we can’t see them. But it gets worse. This ABC article says the trace amounts of bug parts can affect those of us with allergies or asthma, often aggravated by the presence of cockroaches. So if you or your loved one experiences, hives, migraines, or cramps after eating chocolate, it might be a cockroach allergy flaring up. And there’s no way to avoid chocolate with cockroach bits; they are in everything.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m sort of turned off by all of this. I told my husband I wanted chocolate this year, but I’m kind of thinking maybe we’ll just stick to flowers this year. Oh wait. Apparently imported cut flowers (which make up a huge percentage of cut flowers sold in the U.S.) are full of invasive species – both diseases and insects – that custom agents inspect for. The influx of flowers around this time of the year means that sometimes bugs and viruses slip through the cracks, potentially unleashing a deadly pest into your local environment. Who knew that Valentine’s Day gifts were so fraught with insects? Maybe I’ll just stick to a card this year.

How to Get Rid of Crabgrass With Pre-Emergent Herbicides

Crabgrass in lawn

Crabgrass in lawn, photo courtesy Purdue University Extension

Crabgrass is the bane of many homeowners. This grassy weed can quickly infect a perfect looking lawn, and spraying pesticides or digging up these weeds throughout the summer is no way to spend time outdoors. Instead of doing it the hard way, you can use special crabgrass pre-emergent herbicides to stop crabgrass before they become a nuisance in your yard.

There’s a reason crabgrass always seems to show up in your lawn every season. Seed production of this annoying weed is extremely high, with one plant producing over one hundred thousand seeds a season. These seeds can remain dormant in the soil for a few years, letting them sneak up on you when you think they’re gone. There are other factors that make your lawn more welcoming to spreading crabgrass. Close cut grass, light and frequent watering, and grassless patches of lawn help to create a hospitable environment for crabgrass.

Getting Rid Of Crabgrass

While maintaining a healthy lawn and practicing good lawn care habits will be a great defense against crabgrass and other annual weeds, sometimes it just isn’t enough. Using a pre-emergent herbicide formulated for crabgrass can make your life so much easier, since you’ll never even see the crabgrass, even if seeds are present. Pre-emergent herbicides work by preventing germinating seeds from growing and reaching the surface. They stop weeds in their tracks, but application of this type of product is very time sensitive.

How To Use Pre-Emergents On Crabgrass

These products must be applied at the time before seed germination. Too soon or too late and this product will not be effective. Here are some things to keep in mind while using pre-emergent herbicides on crabgrass:

  • Apply pre-emergents in the spring. Check this lawn care schedule to make sure you are using this product at the right time. Follow the label directions carefully and be sure not to over apply or use around sensitive plants, like bulbs.
  • Do not use a pre-emergent herbicide on new seed or sod.
  • If crabgrass appears in your lawn in the late summer or early fall, keep in mind that these weeds will die when cold temperatures hit. Post-emergent herbicides must be applied on very small crabgrass plants and often times they are noticed after the proper window and will not be effective. Use a pre-emergent herbicide formulated for crabgrass the following spring to head off crabgrass.
  • Identify your weeds correctly. While many pre-emergent herbicides will tackle crabgrass and other grassy annual weeds, knowing what you’re dealing with allows you to be precise and effective with your crabgrass control.
  • While applying pre-emergent herbicides will give you protection against a crabgrass infestation, try to take steps to avoid an ongoing crabgrass problem by using good cultural practices, including aeration, topdressing, irrigation, over-seeding, thatch removal, proper mowing, etc. We also recommend the use of our general selection of crabgrass killers.

Check out our selection of crabgrass pre-emergent herbicides to control crabgrass without having to break a sweat! We also carry many other kinds of pre-emergent herbicides that can be used to kill almost any type of weed before it starts. We have everything you need to keep your lawn and garden looking its best all year long.

Winter Storm Damage Can Lead To Pest Problems

Icicles can indicate ice dams. Image courtesy of University of Nebraska Lincoln

I live in the upper Midwest, where we take winters in stride, armed with our ice melt (like plant friendly Zero Ice) and boots. Even though school was cancelled today because of the very frigid temperatures, everything is generally operating as usual. Every year we get a huge snowstorm with feet of snow, which I’m still anticipating with childlike apprehension. It’s always a rare day when the whole city shuts down, but it gives everyone an excuse to act like a kid, build a snowman, and drink some cocoa while playing hooky from school or work.

Since I’ve still yet to own a home, I don’t think about how these weather events affect the buildings and homes blanketed by snow and ice. Winter weather events like blizzards, strong winds, driving rain, and ice storms, can all cause major and minor damage to siding, roofing, windows, doors, and other areas of the home that can lead to even more problems down the road.

If winter storm damage is not fixed in a timely and correct manner, it can lead to pest infestations. Most winter storm damage leads to moisture problems, which can lead to high humidity and mold. Most insects love humidity and moisture, and when homes have moisture problems they become inviting for all sorts of insects, from termites and carpenter ants to silverfish, centipedes, and cockroaches.

Types Of Winter Damage And What To Look For

Ice, snow, wind, and rain can negatively affect your home and your home’s defense against pests. Here are the ways your home can be affected by winter weather and what you should look for after a storm or weather event.

  • Snow: Snow can be very heavy and if left to pile up on roofs, it can collapse or cause damage. Melting snow can cause leaks and moisture seepage, especially if your roof does not have proper insulation or are in need of roof repairs.
  • Ice: Ice can form ice dams, which can prevent snow from melting and cause moisture backup. This can cause damage to walls, ceilings, insulation, drywall, and more. Ice also damages trees, which can break branches and fall on to roofs and cars.
  • Wind: Strong winds can cause roof damage, ripping of shingles and other parts of your home.

After a storm or weather event, it is very important to carefully inspect your home. Some areas, like the roof, may be very difficult to safely inspect, so hiring an inspector or roofing repair company to do an assessment is a good idea if you do not feel confident in doing it yourself.

  • Roof: check for loose or missing shingles, damaged or missing flashing, chimneys and skylights, and more.
  • Attic: peek into your attic to make sure there is no leaks coming from the roof or moisture build up. Attics are often overlooked, and can suffer from improper ventilation and lead to mold and water damage on insulation, walls, etc.
  • Downspouts or gutters: Make sure all gutters and downspouts are clear of debris and the downspouts are emptying away from your home.
  • Siding, doors, and windows: inspect for any damaged or missing siding, seals and caulking around doors and windows, and door thresholds.
  • Basements and crawlspaces: check for moisture seepage on floors and walls, and make sure crawlspaces and basements are free from standing water.

Avoiding Moisture and Pest Problems

If you find any damage while inspecting the above elements of your home, it is important to fix these as soon as possible. The water and moisture damage can lead to mold problems and high humidity in areas of your home. If the mold isn’t bad enough, moisture and mold can invite all kinds of insects into your home. Cracks and crevices all around your home can also be perfect entrances from critters as small as mice to as large as raccoons. While this may seem like overkill for a few loose shingles or a cracked piece of siding, fixing these issues will prevent pest problems in the future and keep your home sealed and protected against insects.

Pre-Emergent Herbicides: Stop Weeds Before They Start

Crab grass

Crab Grass, photo courtesy of Michigan State University

One of the more annoying things about warmer weather is the yard maintenance you have to do on a regular basis, but pre-emergent herbicides can cut down on one of the worst: weeding. Weeds are prolific and can ruin the look of your lawn. While you can use weed killer products on the weeds after they have grown into your turf, it’s even easier to control them before they grow. This will also help prevent more weeds from spreading, and your lawn will have far less weeds to contend with, giving you more time to spend relaxing and less time spent weeding.

There might be snow on the ground where you live right now, so talking about spring lawn maintenance may seem a little strange. But it is never too early to plan out your lawn care schedule in advance, especially when dealing with a time-critical product like pre-emergent herbicides. Don’t let weeds interrupt your leisure time this summer, and use a pre-emergent herbicide to reduce the number of weeds in your yard, especially helpful if you have a weed-prone yard year after year.

About Pre-Emergent Herbicides

Pre-emergent herbicides, also called weed preventers, are products that prevent weeds from growing in your yard. They attack weed seeds while they are still underground and prevent their development, so they do not sprout above the ground. Both grassy and broadleaf weeds, including crabgrass, knotweed, foxtail, ryegrass, purslane, spurge, and more can be controlled by a pre-emergent herbicide. However, it is important to choose the best product for your particular problem.

How To Use Pre-Emergent Herbicides

These products are a little bit trickier to use than your standard post-emergent herbicide. You must anticipate the weather, ground temperature, and other factors, so you can make sure you have success in your annual lawn weed control.

  • Choose a product that will control the weeds you most commonly see each year, since your problem weed might not be controlled by every product. Also ensure that your lawn will be safe once you apply this product, since some products may damage existing grass seeds and some bulb plantings. Simply read the labels to make sure it can be used on your type of lawn and to check what the product could damage.
  • Since these products work underground, you must time the application so the product can affect the germinating weed seed before it starts to grow above ground. Once the soil temperature reaches 55 degrees Fahrenheit, you can apply this product to the soil. Seeds will begin to germinate once the soil has been about 55 degrees for three or more days in a row, so you have to be on top of it when planning to apply this product.
  • It is also important to know whether you have a warm or cool season lawn. Early spring applications are essential to success, so in warm season lawns, timing is usually February through March. Cool season lawn application is a bit later, in March through May.  The main thing to remember is the soil temperature. Lawn care schedules can be helpful to reference for all your lawn care throughout the year, and also help to identify what type of lawn you have.
  • Most pre-emergent herbicides are granular products, and should be applied with drop or rotary spreaders that are commonly used for fertilizers.
  • You also have to either time application near a rainfall, or you must water the product in application, so it can be penetrated into the soil to reach the germinating weed seeds.

We want your lawn to look its best all year round, which is why we carry a huge variety of pre-emergent herbicides, as well as an extensive array of lawn and garden products. We have everything you need for the best yard on the block.

 

How To Keep Deer Away During Winter

Image Courtesy of University of Maryland Extension

I think winter is, despite its faults, a beautiful time of year. I love the stillness of the cold and that silence that only comes in a snowfall. I miss seeing all the little critters that roam the outdoors. They’re still there, though. All the birds that visit the feeder during the cold months are snowbirds that stick around all year or come to my state to live in the Wisconsin winter. The squirrels are still scurrying about, and even the deer are still roaming around.

We often think that all wildlife animals are hibernating, so we don’t need to worry about them until spring arrives again. However, deer are still abundant and might still look to your property for some food. If deer are a problem during the warmer months, it’s even more important to maintain your control efforts even during the winter.

Winter Deer Behavior
Deer eat about half as much food in the winter, eating a lower protein diet that is less digestible. This means it takes more energy to break down the food, resulting in less calories consumed. However, they may still come by to nibble some branches or twigs from your new tree or scrape bark off of others.  It is important to prevent deer from establishing a feeding pattern on your property all year, and allowing deer to enter your property during the winter can potentially undo all your deer control efforts from the spring and fall.

How to Keep Deer Away During Winter

There are several steps you can take to prevent deer from damaging your plants and protecting your property from deer browsing. All it takes are a few preventative measures and a little diligence to keep your yard or property deer free even in winter.

  • If there are any potential food sources available to deer, try to remove them as often as possible. Spilled bird seed can supply the food deer want, so consider using bird seed cakes instead.
  • Protect shrubs, low plants, and young trees from deer damage by wrapping the shrubs, plants, and trees in burlap, frost blankets, or other plant covers, and use tree tubes on trunks of trees. Wire cages can help to protect larger trees.
  • Fencing materials, like snow fences or temporary roll out fences can create a barrier that will help to deter deer from specific areas or groups of trees.
  • Deer repellent products can still be used in winter. Just be sure to follow the label’s suggestion for winter use. Using them before the frost and snow can be helpful.
  • Visual and audio deterrents, like motion activated floodlights, Mylar tape, and wind chimes can help to startle and deter deer from the area.
  • These steps are most important if the deer pressure in your area is high and you often have difficulty with deer. If deer pressure is low, you may only have to wrap your plants or hang up wind chimes to keep deer away. Assess your situation to pick the best combination from this list.

Bed Bug Myth Busting: Get The Facts

bed bugBed bugs are always a hot topic, and they’re not going anywhere anytime soon. Even though they’re common pests, there are a lot of misconceptions about bedbugs, and the knowledge people have about them can be skewed by rumors or misunderstandings about how they operate.

Knowing the facts about a pest you want to control is one of the most important parts of DIY pest control. It makes controlling and dealing with these pests easier, because you’re armed with the knowledge of what to look for, what to expect, and what to do. Bed bugs are no exception, and it can be even more crucial to know all the facts about bed bugs, since these bugs are major public health pests.

Hopefully you will learn some important facts here about bed bugs, and will be armed with a bit more information before you tackle your own bed bug infestation. Misinformation can impede your efforts, and get in the way of preventing and controlling bed bugs in your community and throughout the country.

It takes lots of hard work and patience, but we are here to help you with all aspects of doing your own bed bug control, from proper control tactics and the best products and how to use them. Check out our many articles and products on getting rid of bed bugs, so you can be totally prepared for a bed bug infestation.

Myth 1: Bed bugs are only found in dirty, urban areas

A clean house will not protect you from a bedbug infestation – if only it was that easy! Bed bugs have been found everywhere. Clean or dirty, suburban and urban, they do not discriminate. While cluttered areas make it easier for bedbugs to hide out during the day, as long as they have a food source near, they are happy to set up camp anywhere.

Myth 2: Bite marks are always a sign of bed bugs

Bite marks are not the best way to diagnose a bed bug infestation in your home. This is because of two reasons: bed bug bites and other insect bites can often resemble each other, and some people do not experience any reaction from a bed bug bite. In fact, even if people are sleeping in the same bed, one may wake up with bite marks, itchy welts, and more, the other may not. You probably won’t even feel the bite as it happens. While bite marks can indicate bites, looking for live bugs, cast skins, fecal smears, and other more telltale signs is a more useful way to determine if you have bed bugs.

Myth 3: Bed bugs can spread diseases and are a threat to public health

Bed bugs are not known to spread or carry any diseases. While they are public health pests, they will not make you sick or put you in danger in any way. The worst you will experience are itchy welts from the bites, and perhaps some psychological torment because of the bugs living in your home.

Myth 4: Once you have bed bugs, you should get rid of all infested items, including furniture and clothing

Luckily, this is not the case. Many times you can simply launder any clothing and washable items to kill any existing bugs and eggs on the items, and furniture may be properly treated if it can be taken apart. Mattresses and bed frames do not have to be discarded. There are many products on the market today, like Sterifab and bed bug couch covers, which allow you to keep your items despite a bed bug infestation.

Myth 5: Bed bugs only bite in the dark and will not come out in a brightly lit room

It’s true that bed bugs prefer dark spaces, but if they need to feed, they will no matter if it is night or day, dark or light. They generally hide in tiny cracks and crevices during the day, simply because no one is resting or sleeping and they have no opportunity to feed. However, if someone is resting or napping in a lit room or during the day, they are still susceptible to bites.

Myth 6: Bed bugs are only in your bed

This myth can really hurt your bed bug control efforts. Bed bugs can be found all over your home wherever people sleep or rest. A favorite recliner or couch is just as susceptible to harboring bed bugs as your mattress and box spring. For that matter, bedbugs are not confined to hiding in the furniture. You might find them hiding in your dresser, behind picture frames, or really any crack or crevice near the rest area. When doing bed bug inspection, it’s crucial to check all of these areas, not simply the couch, chair, or bed. Check out our bed bug inspection guide for the most thorough approach.

 

5 Rat Facts You Need To Know

ratA while ago I posted about mice, and all the little things you may not know about these prolific pests. Well, it’s the rat’s turn. Rats are just as unwanted as mice in your home, and these facts are definitely something you’ll want to check out. Not only are they pretty interesting (as much as facts about rodents can be), they’ll help you to understand these nasty pests better so your rodent control will be successful.

In this instance we’re talking about Norway rats and roof rats, grouped into the Old World rat category. They’re the most common rats you’ll deal with.

1) Rats eat a lot – and will eat almost anything.

You’re probably thinking you already knew this, but I’m not sure you quite understand how much rats actually eat. Every day, rats eat about ten percent of their body weight. Every day! And while they prefer a nice, balanced diet of fresh foods, they’ll scavenge to meet their needs and will eat anything from garbage to other rats. They also need about an ounce of water every day, too, which is quite a bit for a fairly small creature.

What this means for rat control:

It’s going to be pretty tough to get rid of all the food sources that will attract rats. Rats need food and water every single day to survive, and limiting these sources can help to put the rat population in a stressed state and make your home less desirable.

2) Rat Populations Can Explode-fast.

Rodents are known for their prolific breeding, but a rat population can quickly get out of hand and go from a couple rats to hundreds in a matter of months. Rats can reproduce at 90 days old, and each female can produce an average of 4-6 litters every year, with about 6-12 rats in each litter. This means one female rat can produce over 70 rats each year. You can see how quickly a few rats can become hundreds.

What this means for rat control:

Since rats breed so quickly, it’s so important to make sure they can’t get into your home to begin with. Rats can get in gaps, cracks, and holes as small as ½ inch, so ensuring your home is rat and rodent proof is crucial to avoiding large scale infestations that can wreak havoc inside your home.

3) Rats Are Sharper Than You Think

Rats sort of get the reputation of bumbling garbage disposals that simply eat everything they can find. While the latter part is true, they extremely keen senses of smell, hearing, and taste, which makes it very easy for them to seek out food. They do most of their foraging at night, relying on all their senses to find available food. They can also climb very well, which allows them to reach any height to get to their food, water, and nest site.

What this means for rat control:

Rat-proofing extends inside the home as well. Putting all your food in pest-proof containers, like metal, glass, or hard plastic. Rats can easily chew through paper and plastic food packages, and will go to many lengths to get the food they seek.

4) Rats Are Very Loud

Rats squeak and fight, crawl, scramble, and gnaw. They don’t try to be quiet at all, and sometimes are so loud, you might get the impression a much larger animal has camped out in your walls or ceiling.

What this means for rat control:

This is an advantage for you, since you’ll be much more likely to pinpoint lots of rat activity based on where you hear them most frequently. Of course, you’ll probably encounter many other signs of rats, including gnawing damage and droppings, but the noise may be able to clue you in to nest sites.

5) Rats Have Impressively Large Teeth

If you’ve ever seen a rat, you’ve gotten a glimpse of their long front incisors that give them their characteristic look. These teeth can grow five inches each year, and to keep them at a manageable length, rats need to wear them down by gnawing. They need to gnaw, and it is one of the rat’s most annoying behaviors.

What this means for rat control:

Rats prefer to gnaw on hard edges like door corners, joists, siding, around pipes, and more. This gnawing can cause extensive damage, especially if rats get a hold of plumbing and electrical materials. While the gnawing damage can clue you in to a rat problem in your home, it is really tough to avoid gnawing damage once rats get in.

 

Don’t Get Cozy With Snakes: Indoor Snake Control

Snakes aren’t creatures people generally see as beneficial. I haven’t met many people who are happy to see a snake in their yard. I’ve tried and tried to convince my mother-in-law that no, a snake is not going to “get you” on the bike trail while you’re on your bike.

Eastern Garter Snake

What I’m saying is, snakes get a bad rep. I’m not saying you need to live with a bunch of snakes around, especially if there are large numbers huddling around your foundation or even poisonous ones creeping around. Snake Hibernation In the fall and winter, you might find a snake, or several, in your basement or huddled near your foundation. Snakes are exothermic, which means they regulate their body temperature by behavior within their environment. For example, a cold snake will bask in the sun, and a warm snake will seek shade. Temperatures dropping below only 60 degrees Fahrenheit can trigger the hibernation response in snakes. When you come across a large number of the same species of snakes, you have probably found a hibernation location. Indoor Snake Control

snakes in glue trap

Snakes are often found in basements and cisterns, as well as seldom used or abandoned buildings. They hole up for winter in habitats they find pleasing, and sometimes that is in your home, anywhere the snakes are comfortable. If snakes are a concern for you and your family, you should make your home and yard as unwelcoming to snakes as possible. Here are some steps you should take to eliminate snakes from your home and yard with successful snake control. Create an Unwelcome Habitat: If snakes have no reason to come into your yard for food and shelter, it’s much less likely they’ll find your home as an attractive overwintering site.

  • All season long, keep grass cut short and any vegetation trimmed. This will cut back on the shelter available for snakes. A snake moving through a short lawn makes them vulnerable to predators like hawks, so snakes will avoid these spaces.
  • Cleaning up piles of junk, boards, rocks, piles of logs, brush, etc., also reduces shelter not only for snakes but for other animals and insects that make up the snake’s diet.
  • Always store firewood off the ground and away from any buildings.

Create a Snake-Proof Home: Snake-proofing your home should ideally start before snakes start to move toward hibernation, but it can be done at any time. Snake proofing, by default, will help protect your home from other pests as well.

  • Any cracks or gaps larger than ¼” should be sealed with caulk, expanding foam, or hardware cloth. Pay close attention to the ground level, making sure there are no openings at all.
  • Seal not only the outside of your home, but the inside as well.
  • Eliminate damp areas in your home by using humidifiers, fixing any leaky pipes, etc.

 Indoor Snake Removal: Getting snakes out isn’t scary or particularly difficult, but using the right tools can make it much easier.

  • Snake tongs make it easy to safely grab snakes and remove them from your home.
  • Glue traps make it easy to trap snakes if they’re not out in the open. Take the trap to a location away from your home and pour vegetable oil on the trap, which will loosen the adhesive and allow the snake to escape. If you are using these traps, make sure you are monitoring them frequently so the snakes do not die in the traps.

Christmas Tree Pests: Bugs At Home For The Holidays

Cinara Aphids on Douglas Fir, Photo courtesy of Michigan State University

This year, for the first time, I’m going to chop down a Christmas tree. Okay well, I probably will just watch my husband do it. He alluded to the fact that I’ll have to get on the ground and saw… I don’t see that happening. But I’m really excited to go to a real tree farm and choose the perfect tree. (by the way…did you know we sell Christmas trees now? Go pick one out from the comfort of your home! No sawing necessary)

While daydreaming about this tree, it occurred to me. What might crawl out of my perfect tree? I mean, we are essentially going to a little forest and taking a tree away. There’s gotta be bugs in there.

Oh, there are bugs in there.

There are probably a couple bugs in everyone’s live Christmas tree, but most of the time they’ll just stay on their branches and mind their own business. However, a few types of insects overwinter on these trees, and once they’re inside in warm environment they get tricked into thinking it is spring and they’ll emerge. Most people say to just leave them be, since they’ll probably die in your home. Still, I don’t want any bugs in my house, and there are definitely some steps to take to avoid waking up to a tree-full of insects.

Although this subject has been covered on this blog a few years ago before I worked at Do My Own Pest Control, I think it is definitely worth revisiting. Let’s quickly look at what bugs might show up on your tree and what you can do about it.

Types Of Christmas Tree Pests

Christmas trees offer a protected place for many insects to wait out the cold and snowy winter, and most will stay on the tree rather than venture out into your home. Here is a brief list of what you might find on your tree:

  • Adelgids: very small insects that secrete a cottony wax substance that looks like flocking on the tree. These insects will likely go completely unnoticed by you and will not venture from the tree.
  • Aphids: a larger aphid species, the cinara aphid, is often found on Christmas trees, and are sometimes confused with ticks or spiders. Other aphids may also appear on your tree, and most are host specific, meaning that specific aphids show up on specific types of evergreen trees.
  • Bark beetles: these are small, dark beetles that are often near the center of the tree. They bore into the tree and can produce sawdust. These will also not leave the tree.
  • Mites, scale insects: very small insects that will likely go unnoticed and don’t cause any damage or leave the tree. Scale insects often look like very small red specks that move very slowly.
  • Praying mantids: Including the large spectacular praying mantis, these insects often lay egg masses on evergreen trees. The egg masses are about walnut sized and a tan color, sometimes mistaken for a small pinecone. These egg masses can hatch once indoors, and your tree will be covered in baby mantids. This actually does happen! People often think laws protect praying mantis insects, but they’re not protected insects. You can kill these bugs without worry.
  • Spiders: We’re all familiar with spiders. They’re rarely harmful, but always unwelcome inside.

Keep The Bugs Outside: How To Prevent and Control Christmas Tree Pests

Prevention, as always, is the best way to keep insects out of your home. Most tree lots will have a mechanical shaker that will loosen debris (including needles, bird nests, and other unwelcome items) and bugs. Inspect your tree carefully after you choose it, looking for egg masses and any other signs of insects. If you do find some egg masses, that’s okay; you can clip the affected twigs or branches off. If there seems to be a lot of insect activity on your chosen tree, it’s not a bad idea to keep looking!

As far as products go, an insecticidal soap, like Bonide Insecticidal Soap, would work great on aphids, adelgids, mites, and scale insects. Don’t treat your tree with anything unless you’ve noticed a large population of insects, and never treat your tree with anything that is flammable!

And keep in mind that not every tree will have bugs, and it is pretty rare to have a totally infested tree. A lot of insects will die due to the lack of food and less-than-ideal conditions of your home. You can take back a badly infested tree to where you bought it to see if they’ll let you exchange. Whatever you do, don’t let the insects ruin your holiday spirit!

You’ve Got Mice. (Yeah – you do)

I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but there are probably mice in your home. Don’t worry, though, we’re all in the same boat with this one. Most homes, especially older ones, have enough cracks and gaps that are big enough for mice to get in and make themselves cozy. Sometimes, you’ll never even know they’re there. Other times, populations grow and mice start to appear in your day-to-day routine. Cold weather invites mice, like house mice, white-footed mice, and deer mice, into your home for a warm environment and access to food. Mice are not something you want to leave alone in your home; they won’t go away if you ignore them. Don’t panic! We’re here to help.

Mouse Facts You Need To Know

You might think of mice as fairly harmless creatures that just nibble on cheese and leave their droppings around, but they’re mostly just scurrying around. While these ideas aren’t totally off base, mice are craftier and more dangerous than you might realize. These facts make it clear why it is so important to get rid of mice in your home.

  • Mice can run vertically up walls, jump a foot in the air, and jump up to eight feet down to escape or travel around your home. They’re not limited to the floors and horizontal surfaces near the ground.
  • Mice will eat a variety of foods but prefer grains and fatty or sweet foods.
  • They will feed throughout the day, but the main feedings occur at dusk and right before dawn.
  • One mouse can produce fifty droppings a day.
  • Mouse droppings and urine spread salmonella (food poisoning), among other diseases, and since they can go almost anywhere in your home, they can contaminate anything from your dishes and silverware to your food.
  • Dead mice can also harbor disease, and if your infestation is large, the droppings and dead mice can build up and create a health hazard.
  • Mice are prolific breeders, with females continually reproducing year round, so your mouse problem can quickly get out of control.
  • Mice can enter your home through holes or gaps as small as the size of a pencil eraser, and often get in through foundations, crawl spaces, between siding, concrete block, and roofing materials.

Mouse Control

Our mouse control page has everything you need to know when dealing with a mouse infestation. Classic snap traps like this Victor mouse trap are generally effective and inexpensive, and can be baited with things you have around your home like dry oatmeal or peanut butter, but with the traps on the market today, you’ll likely be successful with whatever trap system you choose. We also have a wide selection of humane mouse traps for those who do not want to kill the mice, but need to remove them.

Once your mouse problem is under control, you need to do repairs and take steps to ensure your home is mouse proof, or exclusion and sanitation.

  • Do a thorough inspection of the exterior of your home. Try to do this twice a year, and repair any cracks, gaps, holes, and damage you see that could let in mice, rats, and other pests (including insects).
  • Keep food, especially grain products, in mouse proof containers. Metal containers are preferable, but glass or hard, durable plastic can work as well. Cardboard boxes or plastic bags of food are very easy for mice to chew through and contaminate.
  • Both of these steps will not only greatly reduce your risk of a mouse infestation, but other infestations as well, like ants and cockroaches.