Warmer temperatures can invite pests, including sink bugs, into the home.
Warmer temperatures can invite pests, including sink bugs, into the home. (FILE PHOTO)
Ah spring.

Many folks welcome the season. They feel the urge to open windows and air the house out especially after a winter that seemed to stay past its welcome.

But warmer temperatures can also invite pests including bees, wasps and spiders into the home.

"Spring is definitely a big ant season," said Dave Schrom, owner of North Codorus Township-based DS Pest Management, which serves areas including Dallastown, Glen Rock, New Freedom, Red Lion, Shrewsbury and York.

Schrom has been in the pest control industry for over 20 years.

Lately, he's been getting a re markable number of calls from folks who have carpenter ants, he said.

"I've done more carpenter ant services this year already than I did all of last year," he said of the large black ants that tend to nest in house decks, wooden floors that are soft due to water damage and inside dead trees.

"They only attack rotted wood," Schrom said. "They don't eat wood. They just chew it and excavate it for their nests."

Why are the carpenter ants so bad this year?

"I have no clue," Schrom said. "That's one of those great mysteries of the insect world."

A carpenter ant queen decides what the insects in her colony will eat, he said of sugary and starchy foods.

"That's why any baits might not work well," he said.

"Carpenter ants are social in sects," he said. "They work as a team and they communicate amongst each other."

To eliminate the ants, Schrom uses a combination of liquid and dust insecticides, he said. He also treats for infestations of the brown marmorated stink bug, an invasive species that can damage fruit and vegetable plants.

When a homeowner complains of stink bugs, Schrom inspects for cracks and crevices where the in sects can enter a house. He also conducts preventative treatments this time of year for bees, wasps and hornets.

Schrom cautions folks to under stand honeybees are a, well, en tirely different animal.

A tiny odorus house ant sits on a pest expert s thumb during his visit to a Dover Township home. Ants are on the march into many county homes already this
A tiny odorus house ant sits on a pest expert s thumb during his visit to a Dover Township home. Ants are on the march into many county homes already this year (FILE PHOTO)

"We don't want to kill honey bees because we need them," he said of the critters that are essen tial for pollination of plants that produce food for people and live stock.

Schrom said one of the toughest pests to eliminate is the bed bug.

"They haven't died down at all," he said of the parasitic insects that feed on human blood. "They just keep getting worse."

Often, folks unknowingly distrib ute the bugs when they haul an in fested mattress or box spring outside for garbage collection, he said.

"They're spreading them throughout the whole house," he said adding that folks should talk to an insect expert or pest control spe cialist to make sure they have bed bugs, then wrap infested items in airtight plastic.

"Bed bugs can work their way into a house even from a curb," he said.

He also said the use of insect foggers is a bad idea for bed bugs.

"It chases them deeper into cracks and crevices," he said.

Schrom recommends folks find a qualified professional to elimi nate pests.

"The pest control industry is a very specialized type of service," he said. "There's no substitute for ex perience."

Other bugs are also on the in crease, but so are better methods of treatment.

Greg Pettis, owner of Dominion Pest Control, which covers areas in cluding York County, said his com pany in recent years has seen roughly a 15-percent increase in the number of annual calls about ter mites.

A technician with Dominion Pest Control sprays the window of a customer s bedroom to help rid the home of stinkbugs.
A technician with Dominion Pest Control sprays the window of a customer s bedroom to help rid the home of stinkbugs. (file)

The use of transferable insecti cides might be part of the reason for those calls, he said.

"These products take advantage of the social habits of termites, such as touching to communicate, and grooming," Pettis said via Facebook message. He said termites do not detect the presence of those insecti cides. "These types of products are different compared to the termiti cides that we used in the (1980s) and (1990s) that were designed to repel the buggers away."

That method was sort of a "cat and mouse game," he said.

"We couldn't kill the colony," Pettis said. "Treatment conditions could really contribute to effective ness such as rocks buried along the foundation wall. Since you couldn't actually see where the product was going, you had to trust your treating instruments like a pilot trusts his or her navigation instruments."

About 13 years ago, new termite control products allowed pest con trol professionals to kill entire ter mite colonies that included up to a million of the insects in a one-acre territory, he said.

"Before these non-repellents, we would actually chase the termites down the street ... like feral cats and they went to the neighbors looking for food," he said.

However, man hasn't claimed victory over the termite, at least not yet, he said.

"Now, even with non-repellents, termites are making a comeback," Pettis said. "We have not been able to conclude it is due to resistance issues, common in insecticides over longer periods of times, so we are still looking to data to point to something conclusive."

Pettis said many homeowners are surprised to learn they have termites.

"While they may be equivalent to an indoor hurricane, one should not panic, these guys are not the ones doing the damage," he said of individual termites. "It's the rest of their family you need to worry about - the workers underground and in the structure."

Bite by bite, termites can "eat you out of house and home," he said.

But don't assume everything that swarms inside a structure is a termite, he said. Many species of ants exhibit similar appearance and behavior.

"A lot of people ask me, 'How did I get these termites in my home?'" Pettis said adding the bugs are into foraging.

"Foraging is the natural habit of subterranean termites that drives them into anything that has wood fibers," he said. "It could be your tree stump in the backyard, a wood pile up against the house or simply wood siding that is too close to the soil."

Those conditions encourage a termite colony already present in the ground to move inside a house, he said.

Pettis recommends folks look for spots in their house that have ac cessible wood.

"I do not mean exposed wood necessarily," he said. "It may not just be wood that (termites) are looking for, but moisture."

That includes damp crawl spaces, he said.

"If you do not have a concrete floor in a crawl space, you might have termites tunnel under the crawl space foundation and come right in," Pettis said.

"What is amazing is that the moisture brought them in," he said adding wooden floor joists made for a "pot of gold" for the termites.

"Given enough time, along with a house's natural settling process, cracks in foundation walls can allow for termites to wait until the opportune time to enter a home," he said.


Learn more online

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How to select an exterminator


Edward Johnson, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving the eastern and northeastern Pennsylvania region, provided tips on how to select a rep utable pest control business.

The Better Business Bureau annually receives thou sands of inquiries and complaints on the pest control in dustry, he wrote in a recent news release.

"Make certain you are not left with more than just the insects as a point of annoyance in your life," he said the BBB and the National Pest Management Association that recommend folks heed the following advice before signing a contract:

· Check the pest controller's BBB review and rating at www.mybbb.org.

· Find out if the company is a member of a profes sional pest control industry association or BBB accredited business.

· Ask friends and neighbors to recommend pest con trol companies they used successfully and how satisfied they were with the service.

· Always deal with an insured, qualified and licensed pest management company.

· Ask to see the company's license or other creden tials.

· Get bids from several pest management compa nies. "Since you are paying for professional knowledge as well as skillful application of pesticides, look for someone whose judgment you can trust," Johnson said.

· Before signing a contract, be sure to fully under stand the nature of the household pest to be exterminated, extent of the infestation and work necessary to solve the problem.

· If a guarantee is given, know what it covers, how long it lasts, what to do to keep it in force and what kind of continuing control might be necessary.

· Beware of companies that offer bargains that sound too good to be true.

· Ask for a written inspection report - with an itemi zation of charges - if a pest treatment is recommended.

· If pesticides are being used, make certain to under stand the toxic effects, if any. Safety concerns, such as al lergies, age of household members and pets, should be noted in the contract and reflected in the choice of pesti cide that is used.