World Pest Day Brings Awareness This Summer
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Threat for Pest Activity Remains High Post-Hurricane
So we have all just survived a historic week of natural disasters in our Washington, DC metro area! I can’t speak to pests of earthquakes, but I do know something about pests associated with the aftermath of hurricanes. (I grew up on a barrier island in SC and my family went through a category 3 storm, Hurricane Hugo, in 1989 in the Charleston area; I experienced firsthand the recovery that followed.)
For those of you hardest hit, you have my sympathies; let me assure you that it does get better; you are likely still assessing the damage and taking stock of what’s still salvageable. The lights and water may not yet be on. The insurance claim adjusters are just arriving. Understandably, the last thing on your mind at this time is going to be pest management. But that doesn’t mean that you won’t have to deal with pests.
The eminent threat of a hurricane may force you to evacuate your home, leaving you unable to maintain your property or repair damages suffered by the storm for several days. In addition, high-power winds and extraordinary amounts of displaced water will dramatically change the landscape of your area in an incredibly short period of time, leaving all forms of insect and animal wildlife to adapt to their new surroundings and find new sources of food and shelter. We at American Pest are concerned about the pest populations that will try to take advantage of damaged and abandoned homes, but we are happy to provide information about which pests to look out for and where to look for them once you are able to return home safely.
Understand Conditions that Lead to Severe Pest Activity
The pests typically associated with a hurricane’s aftermath most prominently include the following: mosquitoes (and other flies having aquatic lifecycles), rodents, wildlife (especially snakes), ants, cockroaches, and inevitably, carpenter ants and termites (and molds and mildew).
Mosquitoes will appear as a result of the huge volume of water left behind after the storm. This water may have nowhere to go for as the soil remains saturated and tributaries are swollen. Water may also collect in tree holes or cracks and crevices torn into structures. From there, it doesn’t take long for mosquitoes to find places to lay their eggs in stagnant water. As daytime temperatures remain warm, the lifecycle of the mosquito completes its metamorphosis from egg to larva to pupa to adult—soon to give way to a potentially massive population of disease carrying mosquitoes. In Caribbean and tropical areas, Dengue fever, malaria, and yellow fever may be present. Locally, West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis both present valid concerns for Maryland and Virginia residents.
Power outages may also provide favorable conditions for pest population outbreaks in your home. Food inside refrigerators and freezers sitting idly for days on end will spoil and attract flies and maggots. If you encounter food that has been spoiled, or if you know it will not be eaten, it should be disposed of immediately.
Eliminate Natural Pest Breeding Sites Post-Hurricane
Now is the time to walk around your home or property and in an effort to seek out and empty all sources of standing water as you are safely able. Such examples of standing water in low-lying areas in your yard include:
• Children’s toys or other container-shaped objects
• Pet bowls
• Clogged-up gutters
• Trash cans and overturned lids
• Bird baths, flower pot saucers, etc.
Identify Which Pests Pose Biggest Threat
Water saturated soils can force ants and other burrowing insects, arthropods, rodents and various wildlife into your home or structure to seek higher ground. Downed trees will force squirrels and roof rats to seek new shelter, and your home lacking a roof or siding is now a perfect location for these nuisance pests to enter into attic and other areas. Rats and mice forced from ground burrows may enter homes and businesses at floor levels.
Oftentimes, Yellow jacket wasps that nest in the ground will now seek a new nesting site. As a result of high winds and flying debris, damaged eaves, soffits, or exterior siding on homes present new and inviting entry points for stinging insect pests such as European hornets, as well as wildlife and birds.
Following the destructive wake of hurricane Irene disturbances in the wind-ravaged and water-soaked woodlands and marshes will send wildlife seeking new shelter. Reptiles and amphibians of all kinds, raccoons, bears, opossums, groundhogs, skunks, deer, birds, squirrels, bats, may all wander, crawl or fly dazed into your yard. Also accompanying these visitors are their associated ectoparasites (and possible disease), including fleas and ticks.
In the event that an evacuation or excessive damage keeps you away from your home, do not be surprised to find wildlife in or around your it when you return. (A raccoon awaited my family on the first floor, when we were allowed back on the island and into our mud-encased and roofless home!) Use caution! Remember these animals are very confused and frightened, just like you, after being forced from their environments. Unpredictable in their behavior, you must be aware of the distinct possibility that displaced wildlife may also harbor diseases such as rabies or distemper. Carry a flashlight or broom and be cautious whenever entering a home or business to avoid being scratched or bitten.
Pest Proof Restoration and Inspection.
There are a couple of key steps that you should keep in mind to ensure you aren’t inviting pests into your home following a hurricane:
• As soon as you are safely able, begin to seal up any cracks and holes on the outside of your home including areas where utilities and pipes enter.
• Make sure vents are screened and gaps around windows and doors are sealed.
• Keep gutters and vents free of debris.
• Keep tree branches, shrubbery, and ornamentals well- trimmed and off of the house.
• Keep wood debris, tree stumps, and leaf litter away from the house.
• As you manage downed trees in your yard, be sure to store new fire wood at least 20 feet away from the house and five inches off of the ground.
Longer term pest related issues will become apparent as you recover from the storm. All those areas in your home that were soaked with water may hold moisture for some time. Mold and mildew may grow; ripping out water soaked items and ventilating the area will help. And over time, moisture-soaked wooden structural members may become a haven for potential termites or carpenter ant infestations and damage. Most southern and mid-Atlantic coastal areas of the US are known for endemic termite populations; the further north into New England one goes (and overlapping in the same Southern and mid-Atlantic areas) is endemic carpenter ant infestations. Both termites and carpenter ants need only moisture soaked wood to begin damaging the structural integrity of what remains of your home. During the restoration process, have a skilled contractor or structural engineer point out any previous or beginning termite activity and damage. Once settled into more of a normal routine, have your pest management professional inspect, assess, and provide you a treatment for these pests, if needed.
And, if your home may have had a previous termite treatment before the storm, whether it was a liquid barrier or zone type placement or a series of bait stations placed around the perimeter of the home, it has likely been disrupted and will also need reassessment from a pest management professional. A licensed PMP will be able to tell you if you need to consider re-treating your home, and also what steps need to be taken to reduce the conducive conditions created by the hurricane.
How to Prepare for the Next Hurricane
A more interesting occurrence with hurricanes is the arrival of some new exotic pest species in an area never before having seen them; hurricanes are most likely responsible for the origin of fire ants in our southeastern states! Fire ants form tight floating balls that travel along oceanic currents brought on by hurricanes and may land on distant shores post storm. Interestingly, tropical birds routinely travel inside the eye of the hurricane where it is calm and are spotted in new areas where they have never been seen before.
For additional tips on hurricane preparation and pest prevention techniques, click here.
Since 1925, American Pest has been solving pest problems in the metropolitan Washington, DC area, and takes pride in continuing its longstanding tradition of providing effective, eco-friendly pest control solutions for DC, Maryland and Northern Virginia including Alexandria and Arlington. For more information, contact by phone at 1-877-282-1886, or by filling out our contact form. You can also check us out on Facebook or Twitter!
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