Bring out the noisemakers and balloons, Home & Garden Pest Solutions is celebrating its fifth anniversary.
The story really starts in April of 1996, when my husband Robert went to work for Orkin Pest Control in Wilmington. Orkin is the Mercedes Benz of pest control companies. They offer their employees the best training and schooling. That, coupled with Robert's natural yearning to learn new things, led to where he is now. The funny thing is that, as a young boy he loved bugs, and lizards, and all kinds of critters, then all of a sudden, he found himself in a dream job. He dove in head first. When he saw a bug he didn't recognize, he looked it up on the internet, or sent a sample to the Pest Control Division of the State Department of Agriculture for them to help him identify it. He found the first lablab in Brunswick County (see Spring 2013 Newsletter). Because of commuting problems, Robert left Orkin in 2002, and went to work for a local pest control company, where he worked until 2008. He wanted to be free to do the best for his customers, and the only way to do that was to open his own business. Home & Garden Pest Solutions was born out of that dream.
From a handful of customers, the company has grown to what it is now. He started out with an old Ford Ranger, which has over 200,000 miles on it, but still runs like a champ. The second vehicle came in 2010. He added to the fleet by his recent purchase of a third company vehicle, another Ford Ranger. This year he also did a radio commercial for WGNI 102.7 in Wilmington. If you'd like to listen to the commercial, you may do so on the website, www.homeandgardenpestsolutions.com.
Of Winter and Insects
We have more kind, gentler winters here in the coastal, subtropic region where we dwell, than most. That leads many to unrealistic expectations of how nice winter should be. Every winter I am inundated with comments about how, "this is the coldest winter we have ever had". So I actually took some pleasure at hearing that lament this past winter and knowing it was finally accurate. I took less joy in being out in it each week - which is how I knew it hadn't been true in the past.
There is another mistake I expect from the public in general now that we have had this icy, frigid, extended winter, and that is, that its saving grace will be that it will have an epic impact on insect populations. This will not be true for most insects. Most people underestimate how durable these tiny creatures are. The best news is that it was not an unseasonably warm winter. That would have allowed the populations to continue to be active over the winter and would have led to higher than usual populations. Extreme cold weather would have a more detrimental impact if it were constantly changing from warm to cold over and over. In that case, the bugs would expose themselves to the warm weather, and then be caught unprepared with the following cold snap. Much like happens to crops or flowering plants, which are really hurt with the first freeze of fall or a late freeze after they start to sprout or bloom in the spring.
Bees and Wasps
We receive many calls and questions about bees and wasps. There is a great deal of fear and apprehension about them. Many think they are eager to sting. Actually, most bees/wasps only sting when provoked. For most it means death by disembowelment or by an instinctive swat.
Many people also assume that all bees/wasps are part of a large hive and that the hive is nearby. This is untrue. A great deal of them live solitary lives. And most that you see during your day are out "shopping" for food to take home, possibly miles away. If you go to a mall or grocery store, you don't assume that those people live there nor that they all live together.
There are two things that will trigger a sting. The main cause would be if you are threatening the hive itself. Different varieties have different definitions of what a threat constitutes. Most of them you would actually have to jostle, or get very close (within a couple of inches) to it. Others take far less provocation - honey bees, yellow jackets and bald-faced hornets have a very itchy trigger finger. Merely walking within 100 feet of the nest can get a painful response. If you were to do the same thing around drones hovering about a flowering bush they would never cause you any harm. The second reason for a sting is the random encounter, such as a wasp trapped in the water tension of a pool, caught in your hair, or stepped on by a bare foot. If death is imminent, the fear will trigger a last ditch sting.
We do not kill bees/wasps willy-nilly. They are essential to pollinating flowers, trees and crops and are, more often than not, no threat to people. In fact sometimes, spraying where they are pollinating or mating, will create the "imminent death" scenario and make the risk of stings more likely than if they are allowed to go about their regular business and go home far, far away. Also, because of the recent Hive Collapse, there are varying laws in place to protect the bees. We at Home & Garden Pest Solutions have always striven to protect the bees against over spraying, since they're an integral part of our environment.
Please Welcome the Newest Member of Home & Garden Pest Solutions
I’d like to introduce David Way to all my customers. I have high standards for this company and am extremely happy to have happened upon David. He possesses the intelligence, work ethic and desire to please the customers which are a must to uphold my standards and the standards each of you have come (and should) expect.
David grew up the son of a self starter. His father owned a service station in New York for many, many years. He grew up learning how to be cordial and informative to customers, the values that make a small business successful. He parlayed his mechanical expertise into a career as one of the top mechanics for Chevrolet and Ford. He later found a wanderlust and became a truck driver, primarily for top of the line automobiles up and down the Eastern seaboard and cross country.
His father has since sold the business up north and moved to Brunswick County. He owns a fine and fairly priced limousine service. Whether going to the airport or a night on the town, you could not ask for a more comfortable experience than with them. Dave followed him south, and I couldn’t be happier.
I pride Home & Garden Pest Solutions for many things. I personally excel on customer service, an encyclopedic knowledge of insects and problem solving; but I have my negatives, as well. I am lacking in mechanical skills as well as disciplining myself with paperwork and maintenance. To save myself and you, the customer, from my flaws, I have always been blessed with my wife, Martha. She does all the bookkeeping and nagging that is essential to make me my best.
With the addition of Dave, I have shored up the handyman deficiency. He is also helpful in being superb with paperwork. I was looking for someone to aid me in handling the greater work load. I found so much more! He is a truly complementary piece with all the redundant skills my high criteria requires: great driving skills, time management, an eagerness to learn, being good with customers while still being assertive enough to actually deal with issues and hurdles. I feel confident you will all be as pleased with him as I am. Feel free to bribe him to stay for years to come.
Home & Garden on Brunswick Biz:
As most of my customers know, I have kept my business costs low by going with a minimalist approach. We spend little on overhead and advertising so we can keep our prices reasonable while not compromising on our quality. Despite the numerous, well-meaning naysayers, I started this business at the nadir of the economic downturn. Four years later and numerous rises in cost of living and materials and gas, I have steadfastly refused to raise my prices. I have not done this out of mere altruism. I do this because I started out wanting to treat everyone as I would want to be treated as a consumer. At some point my prices will need to rise, but as long as my original mission statement for the business continues to grow my customer base, I can continue to service my loyal customers without taxing them more. We have grown at a steady, yet manageable rate. Therefore, we can offer our same services at the same low prices for another year.
In offering such quality service (we have less than 2% callbacks and a 95% customer retention percentage), Home & Garden Pest Solutions has grown by 16% each of the past 3 years. I am ecstatic that the business has seen this growth. I would also like to thank each of you. That is how a business should grow! Quality service and results that create a customer base that is happy to continue with you and tell their friends and family about you.
Many things in life can shake one’s faith in this world. Starting this business, serving each and every one of you, and the reciprocated generosity and success we have had in your eyes is not one of them. Quite the contrary, it is my solace! Working for each of you, and your working with me has brought me immense happiness. I love my job, bugs and all! Primarily, because each week my customers tell me and show me that they love the services I am providing.
While we have cared for many of your homes and condos, I have not met many of you face to face. But the business has reached a small level of notoriety and will be featured on Brunswick Biz, a local show on the ATMC channel. The interview glosses over the origin of my business and has a short bio, but focuses on general pest control and termite baiting systems. It will be airing at 5:30 every workday in April. I hope you get a chance to see it. View it on YouTube by clicking here.
Thank you, each and every one of you, for making my dreams come true. I promise you I will continue to provide you with a service of value and I will continue to count on and cherish your patronage and support. Sleep well knowing my company will meet your wildest expectations with a smile and so long as we continue to grow by virtue of our work, I will keep your costs down while bringing you the services you expect and deserve.
A New Overseas Import Creating Domestic Problems
In 2009, the kudzu bug, also known as bean plataspid, lablab bug, and globular stink bug, was reported in nine counties in Georgia, having been transported to the US from mainland China, Japan and India (just as was the Kudzu they feast on). The next year, the insect had been found in over 60 counties in Georgia and in Macon County, NC. Surveys by NCSU Entomology Department and NCDA have confirmed the presence of the kudzu bug in kudzu patches, soybean fields and other plants such as wisteria in over 89 North Carolina counties and in seven states.
Home & Garden Pest Solutions was the first to report that the Lablabs had progressed to Brunswick County, as you can see here, when we informed Clemson University and the US Dept. of Agriculture. Discovered on a home in Ash, we recognized this was a new insect to the area. Researching it allowed us to know what we were dealing with, when later that year, when we were called to a beach house for bed bugs we easily identified them as lablab bugs that had come in around a bedroom window and spread in and around the bed.
Identification, Biology and Behavior
Kudzu bugs are about 1/6" - 1/4", bell-shaped, and olive-green colored with brown speckles. They are "true bugs" and so they have piercing-sucking mouthparts. Aside from kudzu, these insects are known to feed on a wide variety of legumes (soybeans and other bean species, as well as wisteria and some vetches. Kudzu bugs have several generations per year. In the spring, they feed extensively in kudzu patches and on other legume hosts. In July-August, they will move into soybeans where they feed on stems and foliage and can have a significant impact on crop yields. The bugs continue to feed and lay eggs into the fall on kudzu, late-planted soybeans, and other hosts.
As temperatures and day length decline, kudzu bugs seek out sheltered areas where they can pass the winter, such as under bark or rocks, or in leaf litter, etc. They are most common along the edges of kudzu patches and soybean fields; near residential areas we can expect to see them invade homes with behavior similar to another nuisance pest - the Asian lady beetle. The bugs will often congregate on light-colored surfaces. They will then move under siding, or into gaps around doors and windows, or through penetrations such as around air conditioners and water pipes. The following spring, the bugs become active again. As a result, those bugs which have overwintered inside homes (inside walls, attics, etc.) may end up inside the home instead of heading to food sources. They may also land on siding and will deposit their eggs on non-plant surfaces such as brick, vinyl, windows and other siding materials.
Kudzu Bug Control
Kudzu bugs pose a problem in both the spring and fall. In late September and into October, homes near soybean fields or patches of kudzu are more likely to be invaded. Similarly, spring will bring activity as the bugs respond to warming temperatures and look for food sources such as wisteria and kudzu. Although most common household insecticides will kill the bugs on direct contact, control of the kudzu bug by treating the exterior of homes is likely to produce poor-mediocre results for several reasons. Most people do not have the proper equipment to apply an insecticide to areas high up on their homes where the bugs may congregate. Also, because the insects are actively feeding even in the fall, their movement out of these plantings may take place over several weeks which would require several applications.
Like most any import that takes the US by storm, this one is also a double edged sword. They manage to weaken and fight back the kudzu which has bedeviled the south for decades, but they also will cause significant economic problems to soybean crops and frustration for many homeowners.
The first step in solving a problem is identifying it. Rest assured Home & Garden Pest Solutions will be at the forefront of information and identification of problems to best serve you.
Extremely Warm Winter Could Lead to a Hot, Busy Summer
We all know that this winter has been warmer than usual. I went through the historical records to see just how much warmer than average it has been. For the sake of accuracy, I focused on just one central location of the Home & Garden Pest Solutions service area. In the 92 days between December 21st and March 21st the temperature averaged 5.1 F above average. Considering that 26 of those days the temperature was the same or below average (but except for a couple of cold days on January 3rd and 4th never much below average), the average rise in temps was closer to 7.5 F.
Not only do all of us locals know it, but so do the plants, animals and insects. The azaleas and hydrangeas are already in bloom. Pollen started to cover everything in early March. A mosquito has already bitten many of us; but more importantly and informative is how this will most likely translate in the future. This is a practice that separates the great pest control technicians from the merely satisfactory ones. Treating homes and businesses is pointless in stopping what has already happened. It must predict future high level threats and defend against those scenarios. So what will we need to prepare for and/or what can homeowners do to insulate themselves?
The cold of winter usually decimates insect populations: This year we can expect the insect populations to get a vigorous and early start. This will be easiest to gauge in mosquito and Red Imported Fire Ant populations. With their numbers at a peak it will lead to greater reproduction and egg laying which will continue to rise throughout the Spring and Summer. This will almost certainly lead to much higher lizard and frog populations since there will be no shortage of food.
The early start will lead to much larger bee, wasp and ant nests: This may actually be a godsend for the struggling honey bee populations, but in general it will be a greater than normal nuisance for the two-legged creatures that always rise in numbers at the beach in the summer. Social insects often start a new nest each spring. The queen(s) start an initial brood which then grow to tend to the duties of the nest. With an early start and higher temperatures, the reproduction will be at a maximum. Yellow jacket and other paper wasps, honeybee, hornet and ant nests will most likely see a 25-50% rise in numbers per colony. We professionals, as well as each of you, need to keep a watchful eye on places where we would most likely come into contact with these stinging, protective creatures: under decks and patio furniture, when uncovering the grill, mowing and other activities near the tree line between the yard and the woods.
Greater deer populations: Winters also kill off many deer, but not this winter-in-name only. This will lead to much higher tick populations, probably a spike in Lyme Disease cases, and casual encounters with deer in gardens and on roadways. A cheap plastic “horn” that can be bought at most auto parts stores and placed on the front of your vehicle will create an ultra high whistle to scare off deer down the road and possibly save your life. Also, though this should go without saying, check yourselves for ticks anytime you return from a nice hike or picnic in wooded areas. Despite what many think, ticks do not generally crawl onto people; instead they scale a tree, hang from their back legs and wait for a host to stroll past. They then drop onto their target, latching on with their thorny outstretched legs. Only at that point do they crawl about to find a favorable spot to tuck away and take a blood meal.
An increased chance for above average summer temperatures: This would lead to a warmer Atlantic Ocean, more tropical activity and heavier rainfalls. Most bugs are content with being outside. The conditions which drive them in are heavy rainfalls, the corresponding flooding of their normal damp areas on waterways and under the mulch around the house, and temperatures that become uncomfortable (Those usually pair closely to temps we humans find oppressive, below 40 F or above 95 F). So we could, and most certainly will, see more desperate outdoor pests seeking refuge inside. For the most part there are two ways these bugs find entry in these conditions. Firstly, heavy mulching adjacent to the building will harbor numerous bugs; high temps can dry out these areas, or excessive rain can turn them into flood zones on an insect sized scale. The bugs will begin an exodus, looking for wetter or drier conditions, respectively. This is an easy problem to prevent by using cedar mulch, and/or rock instead of the ubiquitous pine straw and chips. Also keep the mulch thin and do not over water. A rain gauge on the irrigation system is a wise, ecologically friendly and cost saving measure to take. Secondly, most roaches navigate by heat sensor. If temperatures get “too” hot, they will gravitate to cooler areas and often that is a house with the A/C running. Screens, insulated windows, good weather stripping and door sweeps are all highly effective, while economically wise, since they will pay for themselves in the savings on heating and cooling bills.
State of the Union
I figured with it being an election year and my business now being the proverbial three years old, I’d let everyone know how the business is going. It is doing very well, I am happy to say. I was very fortunate in many ways.
I had a number of great people, who were there to help in the very early days. I’d like to thank every one of my customers for not only using the services of Home & Garden Pest Solutions, but for never making my job feel like work. I am still, to this day, amazed at how easy it is to go to each of your homes and do a quality job because each of you constantly shows me your appreciation and kindness. I have become tiresome to my friends, family and employees telling them how nice everyone is and what a breath of fresh air it is owning my own business. I liken it to a grandparent unable to control himself from showing pictures of the grandkids and regaling anyone who will listen to stories of how cute and wonderful they are. There are a few people I would like to name specifically since they were there for me from the first few months. The Ginglens, Scotts and Melnichaks, Ms. Webb, Ms. Shoemaker (who even allowed me to do some construction work for extra money when I first started out), Bonnie and Chris at Lakewood Estates who sent me numerous new customers and have never been anything but accommodating to my family and me, R.H. McClure Realty for allowing me to offer my services to their clientele and specifically Richard, the owner, for putting in a good word for me with other realtors and management companies (if not for him my business would not have become as profitable in such a short time), leading to Christy and Delane of CAM who gave a new, small, local business like mine the opportunity to propose my work to their associates. Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t thank my wife, Martha, who does all the things for you and me that I’m not so good at doing: bookkeeping, paperwork, taxes and payroll. I hope each of them, as well as all of my customers, realize how much I appreciate them, and can see in my work that I intend to always validate their support and friendship.
Three years ago Home & Garden Pest Solutions had less than two dozen customers, a used Ford Ranger, and a dining room table that doubled as a work desk. We have grown quickly to over 600 individual accounts. We converted a room into an office for Martha, started a website for the public and customers and added a second larger truck to the fleet (are two vehicles a fleet??) As promised from the beginning all new employees have been required to have an FBI background check. My son Alan got certified early and continues to help out part time. We now have a state of the art atomizer for bed bug and German roach services, I added Master Termite Technician credentials to my resumé, and Martha took accounting classes to help as the business grew. Since Alan is tied up full time in the summer months, we have had to hire another employee, Ted. He’s a good guy and very dependable. He will be training with me over the next two months and getting his certification.I started this company with absolute ideas of how I thought any company should be run: to treat everyone, customer or stranger, like I would want to be treated, to not only do the most conscientious work for my customers, but to keep them informed of what and why things were done, and to stay at the leading edge of the field through research and classes so I can continue to have an air of arrogance about my company’s work which doesn’t seem too out of whack with the work that is done. Honestly, I believe we perform the greatest pest control service that can be found for a reasonable price. More importantly, I believe I must constantly prove that to you, my customers, because your judgment is more important than mine. Home & Garden Pest Solutions would not exist if not for each and every one of you
We just finished our first Home & Garden Show as a business and Chamber of Commerce Member (Note: We were honored they named the entire event after our company. What? Oooohhhh… well back to the newsletter). The show was a two-day event sponsored by the local Chamber of Commerce. It was nice to meet or “re-meet” people in the community and everyone seemed to enjoy picking our brains and our presentation on Argentine and Red Imported Fire Ants. There were certain inquires that were posed over and over so it seems a good starting point for our 2011 Spring Newsletter.
1. What can we do about moles? Little to nothing and if any other company tells you differently, they are ignorant of the issues involved and I would highly question their honesty. If timed well, a great deal can be done to kill grubs, mole crickets and other bugs that moles feed on, but most products don’t (and shouldn’t) kill earthworms, which moles also feed on. Additionally, the large amount of damage one sees from moles in the yard is only seen in the winter and is usually done by only a mole or two. A mole can excavate 100 feet of tunnels in a single night. I personally solved our mole problem this winter. I, with all my connections, education, proper tools and license to get a wide array of chemicals, used the most old fashioned method of them all: Ricochet, my cat.
2. How do these bed bug covers keep me from getting bed bugs? Do I need them? Bed bug mattress and box spring covers cannot keep you from having bed bugs introduced into your home but it will keep them from nesting on and in your bedding, which soon leads to multiple blood stains from their fecal matter and their bodies that get crushed while you sleep. It keeps from incurring the additional cost of replacing blood-stained mattresses and box springs and, in the case of rental properties, the loss of renters that as news reports and websites make them more and more savvy, will inspect the bed for bed bug evidence and regardless of if the infestation is current or old, will request a different house upon finding the tell-tale stains. That brings me to the second question. Bed bug covers are primarily a peace of mind product for most homeowners, but in my opinion, if your home or condo is a rental property with dozens of people from all over the country, I would say your risk is much higher and the need for these covers is much greater.
Springtime has sprung. Warm rains are coming, flowers are blooming, and bugs are shaking off the winter and filling the air. Termites will swarm, and wasps will go shopping for a new home. Spring, not summer, is the busiest time in a bug's calendar. Why do you think all those pest control companies are advertising on TV and on the radio now?
Nature cannot be stopped, but there are numerous things we can all do to not make our homes the ones the pests will choose for the 2010 season.
A lot of people will start doing all sorts of spring cleaning. There are a few things you should watch closely:
1. Power washing the house and the decks will make the place look years younger, and in no way would we suggest this not be done, but undestand the short term repercussions. Most power washings include bleach in the water mixture. Bleach will neutralize any pesticides, and the high volume of water will be very inviting to any neighborhood pests. The most important thing to keep you from wasting your money and time is, if you have a regular pest control service, coordinate the power washing and the pest control service date. The best thing to do is have the pest control service done five to seven days after the power washing is done. This way the bleach will have expired, and your house will be clean and protected.
2. Whether gardening or cleaning the garage, or switching out the summer and winter clothes, be sure to wear socks and shoes and most importantly, a good pair of gloves. Despite common belief, spider bites are rare, but the easiest way to avoid them is to not stick an ungloved hand into a dark, secluded spot, such as when you go to pull out or pick up boxes. In the yard, the more realistic concern is fire ants and thorny plants. A little personal protective clothing will save a night of itching and/or illness.
3. Speaking of gardening, many people return outdoors in the spring and start to refresh and spruce up their yards. Please keep in mind that native plants require less care and keep the natural balance. This generally keeps bugs where they should be - outside. Rock and cedar mulch against the house harbor far fewer bugs than the more common pine straw. Trim back bushes and trees away from the house, with the added goal of eliminating touch points, which allow ants entry to your home. (Also, limbs touching the house will hold moisture, causing shingles and wood siding to rot prematurely, which then become nesting sites for various insects).
4. Lastly, if your lawn and ornamentals don't have a known, current problem, please refrain from suing fungicides and pesticides, "just in case". Although the causes for the 4-year old hive collapse of honey bees are unknown, there's no need to risk more harm to creatures that pollinate, not just our flowers, but nearly 2/5th of all our fruits and vegetables.
Enjoy the great spring weather!
Top 6 things anyone can do to reduce bugs in their home:
Reduce irrigation/rain gauges.
Install flood lights in the yard that are directed at spots not on the home
Keep birdseed and pet foods stored outside (shed, storage bin)
Date all beans, nuts, and grain products, and use or dispose of them in a timely manner
Locate all spider webs, and then rectify what they know
Move any pine straw away from the building
Using rock or cedar mulch will harbor far fewer bugs and allow any perimeter pest services to last longer and reach the target better
Each season, Home & Garden Pest Solutions will post a newsletter to inform our customers and the public in general of common pest situations that occur at each time of the year.
Many people find insects frightening, simply because they don't understand insects and/or why they're there. As we move into fall, the days get shorter and cooler, and the nights down right cold. Many insects will start looking for a warm place to overwinter or just survive. A handful of people will soon start seeing numerous wasps around dinner time in their living rooms and kitchens.
These paper wasps have been around all summer, in the same place, but you never knew about it. If this has happened to you, you almost certainly have a chimney. Paper wasps built a large nest outside, atop your chimney, and, on sunny days, they travelled around your yard and back to their home, and never caused you any worries. Now it gets dark early, and we have overcast days, and this has pulled a cruel trick on these wasps. They see the lights coming from inside your home, which is brighter than outside, and they head down the chimney, and into your living space. They don't want to be there - they can't survive there. If it's cool enough, the easiest and chemical-free way to stop them is to light the chimney. The heat and smoke will certainly drive the wasps out, or kill them. Please, please, please, do not spray pesticides or air fresheners or any other chemicals in the chimney, as most will not react favorably with heat, and could become toxic fumes within your house, far more dangerous to your family than a dozen lost wasps.
Soon, we will get our first freeze warning. Many of you will have potted plants outside, which you will hurriedly go rescue and bring inside. Lo and behold, there are ants nesting in the pot. In most of the cases I run into, they're fire ants. Before you grab the planter, rap on the side of it, like knocking on a door, and see if ants come boiling out from within, or directly underneath the planter. In the case of my wife, she decided to bring in numerous planters, with midge eggs and larvae inside the soil. The warmth of the home allowed the flies to bless our place with their presence. If you have a garage or large storage room, take the planters in there, do a topical spray on the soil surface and the underside of the plant leaves with any garden variety (no pun intended) ornamental pesticide, before you bring the planters inside the house.
One other phenomena that happens this time of year is people choosing to bring a whole host of bugs into their homes. Here's how: People bring in firewood, live Christmas trees, and boxes of winter clothing and/or holiday decorations from the attic or outdoor shed, any of which could be potentially filled with beetles, large outdoor cockroaches, and spiders. Bring in only as much firewood as you need for the day, leaving the remainder outside. Check any live Christmas tree thoroughly, when you buy it, to make sure it doesn't look sickly. Whenever you handle things that have been stored in an inactive place, wear gloves, because black widow spiders could be hiding behind or inside those items, and you don't want to find out about it with a bite. If possible, unload the boxes in the garage or on the porch, until you feel safe knowing there's nothing scurrying about.
Most pest problems will improve this time of the year, but rodent problems will dramatically increase. Caulking and screening openings on the outside of the house is always important, but most of you will learn about rodents in your garage, where they can easily slip in around the bay doors. Quality glue traps set adjacent to the bay doors, near the hot water heater, and behind the washer/dryer is a wise non chemical pest control procedure.