July 13, 2020 | Josh Skapin
Uninvited guests: five common household pests and how to show them the door
There are few things more annoying to a homeowner than uninvited guests – especially when those guests have four, six or eight legs.
Insects and rodents are attracted to some homes. A passerby is one thing, but if they set up shop, homeowners can be left with unsettling – and occasionally costly – consequences.
Due to a range of environmental factors, the frequency of some pests fluctuates. However, here are five of the most common culprits on Calgary-area properties:
It's been a big year for the little rodents.
"I think our voles increased by, I'd say, about 400 per cent," said Jarrod Warkentin, owner of Spartan Pest Control.
"Due to the winter we had ... a lot of people saw a lot more damage this year from voles. The snow never melted, so it didn't expose the runways and their nesting areas."
Golf-ball-sized holes under a deck, shed or the front concrete steps are a common sign of a vole problem, says Warkentin. The holes are typically four-to-six inches apart.
Unfortunately, a vole infestation can be expensive.
"They can chew up underground wiring, your sprinkler system, your trees," said Bill Martin, owner of Martin's Pest Control. "They can do structural damage."
Warkentin suggests people mow their grass as short as possible just before winter, which decreases "harbouring areas" for voles.
He also recommends keeping the yard and its perimeter clear of potential food sources.
"Make sure bird feeders have a catcher on the bottom to help capture any seeds to fall to the ground," he said.
People tired of spending their days scratching mosquito bites can call in a professional to handle the infestation for around $400 to $600 per year, depending on the company.
Thankfully, there's also a do-it-yourself route that's quite effective, says Warkentin.
"The best way to treat them is liquid garlic and you can get a product like that on Amazon for $20 to $30," he said. "Those are one of those rare occurrences where you can buy something that has a good effect."
Large volumes of rain so far in 2020 could mean more of these six-legged crawlers going forward.
"Ants, I think, are going to be big this year," said Warkentin. "Because of the flooding we've had this year, it tends to promote ant activity early in the season.
"Ants can be aggressive, depending on the species."
Some of Warkentin's clients order treatments to be proactive, while others have tried products they've purchased and have found to be unsuccessful.
"Unfortunately, some people make home remedies that will sometimes make the problem worse," said Martin. "Some have sugar in them, which ants love."
If people want to handle a modest ant problem themselves, he suggests using a soapy water solution outside the house and a vacuum cleaner inside the house.
The size of the ant population is one way to tell if professional assistance is required, as is the size of the ants themselves.
"You can get really big ants – then you know you've got carpenter ants (that) can really cause a problem to your house," said Martin.
Carpenter ants are concerning because they damage buildings by excavating wood to build their nests.
When it comes to getting rid of these stinky visitors, Martin says traps should be avoided.
"I don't recommend trapping them," he said. "If you just trap them and relocate them, they're going to become someone else's problem and you're going to get more skunks in the hole you just liberated."
Instead, he recommends eliminating the skunks' home.
"We have techniques to get the skunks to leave on their own through coercion," he said. "You need to eliminate the structural issue. You might need to pour concrete in the hole, put a piece of steel in front of it. You need to do something very permanent."
Increased activity among some of the bug pests mentioned above could mean an upswing in these winged irritants.
"They feed on small insects, too," said Warkentin. "If there is an abundance of ants and mosquitoes, wasps will spark up quite a bit."
A nest that resembles a paper ball hanging off the side of a structure is likely to belong to wasps. It's possible for homeowners to remove wasp nests themselves, "if they have the skill to do so, know what they're doing and are not allergic to them," said Martin.
"If you have a wasp living inside a hole in your wall in your house or in a part of your structure inside the building envelope, you need to call a professional to do it right."
Making a mistake here could result in wasps entering the home.
"One of the problems we often get is someone will go out in the middle of the night, seal a hole with caulking and think the wasps are dead," said Martin.
"Then they'll call us the next morning because the wasps have chewed a hole in the wall and are now inside their living space."
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