Pests in Christmas Decorations?

Yes. There are pests in your stored (and maybe fresh) Christmas decorations. A huge part of keeping your home pest free is never letting the pests get into your home. The squirrel scene from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation never gets old, and it’s a perfect example of how a pest can hitchhike into your home. Maybe it’s a little dramatic for comedy’s sake, but there are plenty of simple ways for pests to come into your home. The easiest is the boxes of Christmas decorations!

Blame it on the kindergarten teacher!

As you unpack those precious ornaments your children made long ago, do you notice they have been nibbled on? Maybe your ice cream cone Rudolph is missing his cinnamon candy nose this year…that’s because pests have been feasting for the past 11 months on your decor. Pests enjoy the edible ornaments children make every year. Candy cane reindeer, candy covered snowmen, and even some ornaments that we might not consider to be edible, pests do!

It’s not just the ornaments…

The packaging for your Christmas decor can prevent or promote pest invasion. Cardboard boxes are not an option, invest in air tight plastic containers. As you lug those boxes to and from your attic, basement or storage rooms, consider how mice, roaches, termites and more can get in the box. It’s not hard to get into a cardboard box if you are a pest. When you bring that box into your house, you are bringing ALL of the contents into your house.

Squirrel!!!

In that infamous scene, Chevy Chase is attacked by the squirrel living in his tree. It could happen. It could also be prevented. When you bring any living things into your home, even a simple potted plan, you are risking bringing “other” living things inside. A simple shake out or inspection will be that ounce of prevention we are always talking about. Now, let’s talk about the day AFTER Christmas.

That’s a wrap.

Whether you take your Christmas decorations down the day of (I had a neighbor who did just that) or you choose to wait until Valentine’s (guilty) or later (guilty, again) putting away day is as important as decorating day. If you have an artificial tree, wrap it up tightly in plastic. In this video, learn to wrap up tree, lights, ornaments and all in one quick wrap. If you have hung artificial wreaths or garlands outside, shake them out and wrap them just as tightly. At the very least, store them in an air tight plastic tub until next year. 

It’s never too late.

You may have already put your tree up and hung the edible ornaments. You may have noticed the little missing pieces and the droppings in the boxes as you unpacked your decorations. You can redeem yourself when you put them away.  Remember what Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

Now you know better. 

Maya Angelou wasn’t talking about pest control when she said that, but it applies to most everything in life, right? Whether you are about to hang the lights or are already tired of your Christmas decor, keeping pests away is important. Starting with a basement, attic, storage room and home that are already pest free helps keep pests away year round is something we can help control.

Being careful about what you bring into your home at the holidays is something only you can control. Let Lawn and Pest Solutions in New Albany, MS help you prevent pests year round. We have licensed technicians who are trained to thoroughly inspect your home and treat them for your specific needs. We service Memphis, TN and all over North Mississippi and would be glad to provide pest services for inside and outside of your home. Contact us here to begin your pest free holidays. 

What are occasional invaders?

The term “occasional invaders” sounds somewhere between a piece of fancy furniture and an early 80’s video game. You might not think of pests in your home when you hear that phrase. What is the definition of “occasional” anyway?

oc·ca·sion·al

/əˈkāZHənl/

Learn to pronounce

adjective

adjective: occasional

  1. occurring, appearing, or done infrequently and irregularly. “the occasional car went by but no taxis”

Why do some of the occasional invaders have to be so cute?

In the South, many of us think of Herbie the Lovebug when we hear “doodlebug”, and even play games when we see Volkswagen “beetles” on the road. But…

According to the Illinois Department of Health occasional invaders are pests that aren’t really that bothersome until they infest your home. One or two occasional invaders like a doodlebug or a ladybug don’t send us up on the sofa with a rolled up newspaper. The same may not be said for a spider, and a single cricket has been known to cause a sleepless night for many. However, as with many of the pests and issues that involve home pest control, it’s all about the numbers. You know it, that dreaded word, “infestation”.

Here is a list of reasons to avoid an infestation of occasional invaders

Some secrete foul odors (that’s enough for me right there)

Some cause damage and/or staining to your fabrics inside

They can damage your indoor plants

They may bite or pinch you or your pets

When they die, their bodies can attract other pests

Sometimes their dead bodies and skins that have been shed (plus their droppings and such) can cause some people to have allergic and/or asthma issues

Who are these occasional invaders?

  • Centipedes (usually found in shower drains)
  • Earwigs (usually found in moist areas)
  • Pill Bugs (aka Roly Polies or Doodle Bugs)
  • Crickets
  • Beetles (check out our previous blog on beetles)
  • Silverfish (attracted to paper like wallpaper, books and envelopes)
  • Ladybugs (check out our previous blog on ladybugs) 
  • Spiders (check out our previous blog on spiders)
  • Cluster flies
  • Stink bugs

Occasional invaders aren’t mysterious pests that suddenly appear in the winter, they are active year round. Most of the time they are outdoors and we don’t notice them until they start getting inside our homes for the winter. As with almost every pest we battle, keeping them OUT of your home is most of the war. Paying attention to cracks around windows and doors, tears in screens, piles of leaves or branches around the home helps. Repair any possible entryway for pests so they can’t get in your home. Remove piles of leaves and sticks and overgrown vegetation. Eliminate areas where water can collect. Check under your sinks for leaking pipes and repair. 

If all else fails, know that you can count on Lawn and Pest Solutions to help you wage war against the “occasional invaders” . We are also here to protect your home from termites, roaches, ants and more. Our licensed pest technicians will thoroughly spray inside and outside of your home on a regular schedule to ensure this problem is taken care of now and later. Contact us here to learn more about our #pest360 program. 

Of Mice and Rodents

“Of Mice and Men” didn’t come to mind immediately upon reading the subject for this blog, it was when I said “Mice and Rodents” out loud that my brain was triggered.  Were you made to read “Of Mice and Men” when you were in junior high like me? If you don’t remember the book, here’s a clip from the 1992 movie. But don’t worry, this blog shouldn’t make you cry. 

Of Mice and Men was written by John Steinbeck, but the title was taken from a line in the poem “To a Mouse” by Robert Burns. The simplest interpretation of that line is, 

“The best laid schemes of mice and men / Often go awry.”

Supposedly the poet wrote it immediately after plowing over a mouse nest in the field. That’s a pretty tender hearted reference, especially when blogging for a pest control company! Homeowners today are not interested in composing poems about the mice and rodents in their homes, they just want to get rid of them!

Did you know rodents are the largest group of mammals in the world? In Mississippi, we have 22 kinds of rodents including mice, rats, voles, and squirrels. While rodents have a bad reputation, they do have a few positive attributes. When they dig and burrow under your lawn they are helping to aerate the soil. Aerating the soil helps the lawn grow and absorb water. Rodents are also a food source to other animals. Not surprisingly, the negatives outweigh the positives when it comes to rodents.

The first of the bad news…

Rodents gnaw on electrical wires inside and outside of your home. They also like to chew on the wood and insulation in your walls and attics. Rats and mice can carry diseases and parasites that are harmful to humans and pets.

The worst of the bad news…

Mice and rodents like to reproduce, and they are really good at it. They have several litters a year! Mice are especially “active” and can start having babies at just a few months old. Even though they typically only live 8 months to a year long, one female can have 8 litters of babies. One mouse can have 50-60 babies in less than one year. You must be wondering by now how to keep mice and rodents out of your home.

This would be easier if you never let them in.

Mice and rodents need food and a nice house, just like in the Robert Burns poem. If someone mows down their mouse house in the field, they will be looking to move in with you. If you have gaps around your windows, doors, siding or brick, caulk those gaps. If you have plants or trees leaning on or against your home, trim those away or remove them. Branches, limbs and vines give mice and rodents an easy path to your home. 

We say this almost every week…

Keep pet food in air tight containers and don’t leave pet food sitting out at night. (This is a huge draw for roaches, too!) If you are providing access to the inside of your home AND leaving food out for pests, how can you blame them for moving in with you?

Don’t let your “best laid schemes go awry”

If the poem, book or even movie softened you to mice and rodents, this is worth repeating. One mouse can have 50-60 babies in less than one year.  Our licensed pest technicians know exactly what to do when dealing with mice and rodents. Contact us here and we will be in touch with you ASAP. We service the Memphis and North Mississippi areas with trained and trustworthy employees. 

Perhaps we can try to be nicer to humans and still keep the mice and rodents out of our homes. Maybe this will balance out the world as we know it.

“Try to understand men, if you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate and nearly always leads to love……Try to understand each other.”

— John Steinbeck in his 1938 journal entry

Good bugs and Bad bugs

It’s hard to use the phrase “good bugs and bad bugs” without it sounding like you are saying “good cop bad cop”. The phrase “good bug bad bug” doesn’t have the same meaning, but it does have the same flow. And what’s a blog about good bugs bad bugs without a slight detour into the number four “good cop bad cop” movie which is Beverly Hills Cop? Other than the allure of Eddie Murphy, I am not much of a cop movie person, so honestly, I had to look up the definition of good cop/bad cop. If you have read any of my blogs about bugs and lawns, you know I would try anything to parlay this into a conversation about pop culture. It just didn’t work this time.

But what about his laugh?

Sorry, guys. I had to do it. 

Back to good bugs and bad bugs. In Mississippi, people are always saying that every bug has a purpose, that every bug does something good. But there’s always that one exception. The mosquito. The jury must still be out on what good a mosquito does, but there are good bugs. Good bugs are protecting our gardens and crops and lawns.

Some of the best “good bugs” in our area include:

  • Lady Bugs or Lady Beetles, they eat aphids and rescue our beloved Crape Myrtle trees from bark scale when they can.
  • Green Lacewing, their larvae eat aphids and other insects that destroy our lawns.
  • The Brachonid Wasp lays eggs on the very destructive Tomato Horn Worm. When the eggs hatch, they eat the horn worm. If a horror movie writer hasn’t used that visual yet, they are missing out.

When you are looking over your lawn and garden, be aware that not all bugs are bad. Don’t go stomping and spraying everything that crawls and flies. Do a little research before you kill the one thing that may be saving your tomatoes! This quote from https://www.gardentech.com/blog/pest-id-and-prevention/identifying-good-and-bad-bugs-in-your-garden-infographic says it all, “Some insects are destructive and should be controlled, but of the more than 1.5 million known insect species in the world, more than 97 percent are beneficial to gardens, or simply benign. “

Now, for the bad bugs. How do you tell if they are bad?

While it is easy to just call the experts like Lawn and Pest Solutions, you could do a few quick things.

  • Is the bug eating your plants, grass, garden? Does the eating appear to be doing damage to the plant? Probably “bad bugs”.
  • Is there one bug or is there an infestation ? Probably “bad bugs”.

Who are the “bad bugs”?

For our area, the bugs that are considered to be “bad bugs” include chinch bugs and white grubs . These insects attack our lawns and cause damage there. Insects that we are probably more familiar with are those that attack US like fire ants, wasps and ticks. How is it that no one mentions mosquitoes in these lists of bad bugs? If bad bugs have made their way into your lawn, we are just a click away. Good bugs are abundant, bad bugs get all of the attention. Let us help you get rid of the bad bugs and we will leave the good ones alone. Our licensed professionals know good bugs versus bad bugs and are glad to come evaluate your situation. You can spot our trucks all over North Mississippi and in the Memphis area. See for yourself, the “Lawn and Pest Solutions Difference”.

Ladybugs, Lady Beetles and Ladybirds

Who knew that Rodney Dangerfield would appear in a blog about “ladybugs”? Well, to be honest, I am not shocked. It seems that you can Google just about any topic imaginable and find some pop culture reference. Any fun little tidbit when blogging about lawn pests and problems is always a good thing for me! Before you go downloading the movie, let’s just explore a little about “Ladybugs”. It might save you time and money…

If you just can’t help yourself

The link to the “Ladybugs” trailer can be found here. One critic from Rotten Tomatoes had these words to say about the 1992 release, “Ladybugs is the “Bad News Bears” cloned for girls soccer with sometimes funny Dangerfield bits. Though Tommy Lasorda had a cameo, it is hard to find much good to say about this movie. The best part of Googling “Ladybugs” was the Rodney Dangerfield rabbit hole it lead me down. As cheesy as the comedian was, it’s hard not to chuckle at some of his terrible jokes. 

Why are they called Ladybugs?

Ladybugs were first known as Ladybirds in the United Kingdom and had religious connotations. The red shell was connected to the red cloak of Mary and the spots were symbolic of the seven joys and seven sorrows of Mary. In the US, ladybirds became “ladybugs”. Ladybugs are generally considered to be helpful insects. While there are many species of ladybugs or ladybeetles, most of them are useful because they prey on aphids. 

Remind me again, what is an aphid?

Aphids are true pests. They suck the life right out of our plants, trees, crops. Most recently on this blog, we learned about Crape Myrtle Bark Scale, an aphid that covers the beautiful Crape Myrtles. When ladybugs or lady beetles are found on a crape myrtle, they typically have laid hundreds of eggs right in middle of the aphids. As soon as the eggs hatch they start feasting on the aphids. Ladybugs can rescue a crape myrtle and even a crop from aphids when the timing is right!

Nature is amazing when caught on camera.

Have you ever witnessed the life cycle of a ladybug? This video is incredible. As always, one thing leads to another so you may as well watch this video of a ladybug folding up their wings. It is really mind-blowing to see how insects are made to protect themselves from predators. And speaking of protecting themselves…

Ladybugs can’t be all good, can they?

You knew this part was coming. If they were all good they wouldn’t have made it to the Lawn and Pest Solutions blog. As cute as ladybugs are depicted in art, children’s books and even bad comedies from the 90’s, they do have a few unappealing characteristics. In order to protect themselves from predators, ladybugs secrete a fluid from the joints in their legs. Some even reference it as “bleeding” from their joints. Whatever you want to call it, it tastes really bad to a predator. Yes, it also smells really bad. When the ladybugs die and their shells crumble, some people are allergic to the dust. Lastly, when an infestation of ladybugs occurs, some experience staining on walls from the secreted fluid. 

They aren’t so cute now, huh?

Ladybugs aren’t the worst invasion of pests you can experience. They are rarely harmful to humans (unless you are allergic to the dust of their dead bodies) and if they bite you, it’s a tiny bite that couldn’t hurt much. They might stain your walls and leave a foul smell in the air, and that’s something you might not ever suspect until now! 

What can you do about ladybugs?

The most important thing you, as a homeowner can do is to keep ladybugs out of your home before they ever sneak in. Make sure your window and door screens are not damaged. Make sure pests can’t crawl under your doors or through cracks in the walls. This is the time that ladybugs are starting to look inside for a warm place for the winter. If you do find them inside, it’s best to vacuum them up and safely throw them away. There are sprays available for the exterior of your home to try and keep them from entering. Lawn and Pest can help you with these treatments, but sealing your home from the outside is crucial to keeping more than just ladybugs out. As we always say, this is a team effort! 

Contact Lawn and Pest Solutions for help in keeping your home free of pests for the winter. Now is the time to check out what is happening outside your home. Our website has a user friendly app to leave your messages with our office. Leave us a message and let us show you the “Lawn and Pest Solutions Difference.” 

Moles, Grubs and Armadillos

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly?

While calling moles “good” might be quite a stretch, there are some who say they do have their good qualities. No research on this end found grubs to be anything but “bad”, and just take one look at an armadillo and you will have to agree that it’s definitely the “ugly” of the three. This is another of those blogs that after doing a few hours of research, the writer feels the need for a shower. Moles, grubs and armadillos are some of the least attractive pests to study and today, we are talking about all three! 

One of these is not like the other

The grub is what hatches when a beetle lays an egg in your lawn. It is white, soft and has legs up near the head. Grubs eat on the roots of your lovely lawn causing patches to turn brown and die. Untreated, they will grow up and become beetles and lay more eggs in your lawn. You know what happens after that…more grubs to eat your roots. The best time to treat for grubs is mid to late summer and early fall. 

So what connects grubs to moles and armadillos?

Moles and armadillos like to eat grubs. If there are grubs in your lawn, moles and/or armadillos will dig into your lawn and feast on grubs. The easiest way to first attack a mole or armadillo problem is to rid your lawn of grubs. While this may not work all of the time, it is the first and easiest way to start. While most people can tell if they have been invaded by a mole or an armadillo, grubs might sneak up on you. Look for spongy grass, perhaps a brown patch. Pull up a piece of the turf, if it comes up easily with no roots attached (like a piece of carpet), grubs have been feeding there.

Is it a mole or an armadillo?

Let’s talk about moles. First, as any Chevy Chase fan would do, I had to read the difference in a mole and a gopher. “Caddyshack” featured a gopher, not a mole, so no best of Bill Murray clips today. At the introduction of this blog, the mole was the “good” of the good, bad and ugly. To be honest, there’s not a lot of good to be found here, especially if you are a homeowner with a mole problem. The only good is that they eat grubs and grubs aren’t good for lawns. Yes, it was a stretch. Moles can be fairly destructive, they live underground and create tunnels in your yard. Moles are small and have paddle like feet that help them dig under your lawn. Usually they leave a small mound of soil as their “entrance” to the underground and this is how you might discover your mole issue. Of course, the tunneling under your lawn is not good for the roots of your turf.

The pest so legendary they made a movie about it.

Again, a stretch. But who doesn’t remember the wedding cake scene from the southern classic, “Steel Magnolias” ? Please pardon one word at the end of this clip, but the armadillo shaped cake with the red velvet cake inside most likely gave (formerly silenced) grooms a voice in the wedding planning process.  We will never know how many horrified brides had to consent to an armadillo grooms cake after this movie came out. So what makes us so fascinated with armadillos?

Leprosy or quadruplets, where should we start?

Whether naming your new craft beer brewery, looking for the perfect new recipe for a cookout, or just researching one of the strangest and yes, ugliest animals ever, you can’t go wrong with going down the armadillo “rabbit hole”. This young girl gave a very intriguing (slightly annoying) presentation on armadillos with lots of cool info. Who knew that handling armadillos frequently or even eating them could result in leprosy? (Rare, it’s rare!) Heck, even prolific songwriter/singer Robert Earl Keen, Jr. wrote a song about armadillo hunters. The fact that the only armadillos in the US are the 9 banded variety and that they always give birth to identical quadruplets is really just enough for us to make a reality show about them. 

Now back to armadillos in your southern yard…

  • They thrive in warm, moist climates
  • They prefer loose and porous soil
  • They live underground, specifically under your lawn
  • They are nocturnal and forage for food at night
  • Those quadruplets? They become independent at around 6 months, so they multiply quickly 
  • They will destroy your lawn looking for grubs, earthworms, food. 

The good, bad and ugly…moles, grubs and armadillos. 

There are a lot of links in this blog that you should definitely click. Funny, gross and a bit frightening. One thing is certain, if you are suspicious that you may have moles or armadillos, you need to act now. Remember you can start just by lifting up a piece of turf to look for grubs. If you are ready to get help, our licensed lawn technicians can come evaluate your situation. We answer your calls promptly. In fact, our website has an instant chat that can get you the quickest service possible. Look for it in the bottom right corner, just type in your email address and your cell number and you will get an instant reply. Lawn and Pest Solutions of New Albany, MS is not afraid of the good, the bad or the ugly. Let us help you in the battle against whatever that may be digging a tunnel under your yard! 

Can I bug proof my home?

Sure you can bug proof your home! Just like you can “child proof” your home, there are plenty of precautions you can take to keep bugs away. While calling the Lawn and Pest Solutions technician to treat your home for pests is a great idea, we have to remember that this is a team effort. The best professional treatment in the world is not going to work if we aren’t “all in this together”. 

Were you raised in a barn?

Shut the door, ALL THE WAY. Close the windows, ALL THE WAY. If there are tiny holes in the window screens, repair those. Look for small spaces and cracks where bugs, birds, critters could crawl into your home. One of the easiest access points is the space behind your washing machine and refrigerator where water lines come in.

Water vs. Food

Water wins every time for pests. They love water. Food is next, but water is where you need to look first. Any leaky faucets or sources of water are popular gathering spots for bugs. Look under your sink, look again behind that washing machine and refrigerator, anywhere water is running from outside to inside, bugs love to hang out.

It’s house cleaning day, every day!

Things you can do around the house to keep your house bug free include:

  • Vacuuming away cobwebs
  • Sweeping up pet food and putting it in sealed containers
  • Putting away food and keeping sink and counters clean and free of edible evidence (at least rinse your dishes off if you don’t have time to wash them)

This may cause you to sweat a little.

Look outside. That big pile of firewood stacked against the house….you need to move it. Just lift up one piece from the ground and look under it. Tons of bugs. They are gathering there to hang out and figure out how to get in your house. Try to put a few feet (at least) between the side of your home and the stack of firewood. If you can get that firewood off the ground, that would be even better. 

And while you are outside…

Clean up your yard. Every pile of sticks, limbs, grass cuttings and debris is another place for bugs to gather. Even though this is about bugs, remember anything that is growing against or leaning against your home on the outside is like a welcome mat for outside “pests” to get onto or into your home. A tree branch that has landed on your roof is just an easy corridor for all kinds of bugs, pests and critters to walk on over into your home. When you think about it like this, it’s pretty easy to see from a “bugs point of view”. 

You stuck your fork where? 

We can all use all the help we can get whether child proofing or bug proofing. As with child proofing your home, you can cover outlets and put cushions on corners all day long, but the child is still going to fall and put things in places they don’t belong. Yes, you can bug proof your home, but it takes work from all of us. You do your part, we will do ours. Call Lawn and Pest Solutions in New Albany, MS and we will work together with you to make your home “bug free”. Our licensed pest technicians will show up promptly and treat your house the same they would their own. Let a trusted and trained Lawn and Pest employee take care of you! We can be found anywhere from Memphis and Oxford to Tupelo and New Albany and anywhere in between in North Mississippi. 

A “wasps nest” isn’t something you want to unexpectedly wander into…

But let’s say you do. Don’t start swatting! That attracts more wasps, be calm and move away. Walk indoors if you can. But wait, it followed you inside? Open windows and doors and allow it some room to get out, that’s what it really wants anyway, to get outside. Wasps nests are generally found around loose piles of wood, under porches, along rafters or in empty cans, buckets, boxes etc. that are rarely used. Wasp nests can be rather large and look somewhat like a paper football.

Don’t kill the bees!

By now, everyone knows to protect the bees, but wasps, they are another story. While wasps don’t pollinate plants, they do help us out by eating other insects. Wasps, if you don’t know, pack a pretty tough punch when they sting you, but they don’t die afterwards. But how do you tell the difference between a bee and a wasp? Bees are “husky” and wasps are “slim”, bees are “hairy” and wasps are smooth. While there are other characteristics, aren’t these super easy to remember ? Husky and Hairy versus Slim and Smooth, really great names and mascots for a wrestling match. 

“Wasps Nests” can you say that three times really fast?

Wasp nests are generally designed by the queen in the spring and they grow all spring and early summer. By August, the nests are at their peak size and the wasps are at their most aggressive. The end of the summer is not the best time for you to decide to get rid of a wasp nest on your own.  By August, either get the help of a professional or just try to avoid stirring them up. Wait and let the frost get them, then get rid of the nests so they don’t move back in next spring.  If you are a self declared wasp hunter, start looking for them early in the year and destroy the nests (and the queen) before they grow and get really angry. 

Stop them before they have a fighting chance.

Here are five things you can do to prevent wasps from taking up residence with you next spring:

  • Remove abandoned nests in winter
  • Seal gaps in your home
  • Eliminate loose piles of wood and refuse in your yard
  • Clean up rotten fruit under fruit trees
  • Keep outdoor garbage tightly sealed

Wasp hunters, is that a thing?

Well of course, there’s always “that guy” who decides to either make art of an underground wasp nest (watch here). And then there’s the “inventor” type who decides to modify and old fan and make a wasp vacuum cleaner of sorts to suck all the wasps out of a nest (watch here). Personally, I am allergic to wasp stings and there’s no way I would attempt either of these unique approaches. I would call a professional pest service like Lawn and Pest Solutions and let them handle this while I stayed safely inside. A licensed technician from Lawn and Pest can assess the situation and handle it promptly and safely. We serve all areas between Memphis, Oxford, New Albany and Tupelo and everywhere in between. Give us a call and avoid wasps, hornets, bees and other angry pests!