Controlling Carpenter Ants Without Pesticides

Control Carpenter Ants Without Pesticides

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Carpenter ants can cause significant damage to a home without you ever seeing them. But because that damage takes place slowly, over time, you can identify carpenter ants and their damage, and control them.

In the natural world, carpenter ants are important decomposers of forest trees, burrowing within it to nest and feeding on insects, plants, and fruit juices. But they will move from their native woods to the structures of homes looking for water and human or pet food. Fortunately, there are several least-toxic options to control carpenter ants once they have been properly identified.

What Do Carpenter Ants Look Like?

Carpenter ants have humped backs, are about 1/2 inch long and are black with gray, yellow, or red hairs on their body and legs.

Carpenter ants are commonly misidentified, so it is advisable to consult a pest control specialist or your local university entomologist or Cooperative Extension Service agent if you are unsure whether it is carpenter ants that are infesting your home and yard.

Where Will I Find Them?

Frame houses without basements and any building near a forest are likely locations for a nest.

  • Indoors: These nomadic ants love areas of high moisture, so when looking for them in your home, you should inspect bathrooms and kitchens, and anywhere water leaks are occurring. Check for wood dust or shavings, as these will be piled outside the entry hole to the colony in the wood.
  • Outdoors: Tap on evergreen trees and hollow stumps that are within 300 feet of your home. You can use a stethoscope or empty glass to listen for rustling sounds. On the structure of the home, gently tap joists and rafters with a hammer, listening for rustling or for the hollow sound of excavated wood. If you think you have identified a carpenter ant nest, Insert a pocketknife blade into the wood to confirm your suspicions. If the knife easily penetrates the wood, it is likely that you have an infestation.

How Do I Get Rid Of Them?

Boric acid is used to destroy indoor nests and if kept dry, can be effective up to 30 years.


Although it is non-toxic to human and pet skin, a one-micron dust mask, neoprene gloves, and safety goggles should be worn to avoid inhaling or ingesting the fine dust.

Desiccating dust, such as diatomaceous earth (D.E.) and silica gel, destroy insects by absorbing their waxy outer coating, causing them to die from dehydration. D.E. should be blown with a bulb duster behind electrical switch plates and into wall voids. Silica gel combined with the natural pesticide, pyrethrin, is available in aerosol cans and should be sprayed into the same areas as D.E.

Alternative, but not readily available, controls include microwave radiation, heat treatment, and electrocution. Check your telephone book or the Internet for contractors in your area.

How Do I Keep Carpenter Ants Away?

Borate-treated lumber must be used in any home construction or remodeling. All siding and foundation holes must be sealed and rotted wood replaced, especially next to drains and gutters—cap with metal any wood that contacts soil.

Additionally, because ants (and other infesting pests such as ants and spiders) can live in cut wood, always store firewood outdoors, and bring in only the amount you will use at one time. Before carrying the wood indoors, shake it or knock it against another piece of wood to knock off loose bugs and get an idea whether other pests may be infesting the wood.

Natural Remedies to Eliminate Common Garden Pests

Nothing is more frustrating that seeing the hard work you put into your garden be ruined by pests. The good news is common garden pests can be prevented, and simple homemade remedies can help you fight off the damage.

The easiest way to prevent insect damage in your garden is to discourage them from coming in the first place. Pull out any weak plants, as they may already be infected or will attract damaging insects. Pull the plant and dispose of it away from the garden area. Minimize insect habitat by clearing the garden area of debris and weeds which are breeding places for insects.

Homemade remedies are inexpensive and, best of all, you know what is going into your garden. Many homemade sprays have been used with good results to control harmful insects. They usually involve noxious (but non-toxic) ingredients such as garlic, cayenne, stinging nettles or horsetail which are diluted in water and blended to be sprayed on the plants. Here are a few simple formulas:

Soft-bodied insects (mites, aphids, mealybugs):

Mix one tablespoon canola oil and a few drops of Ivory soap into a quart of water. Shake well and pour into a spray bottle. Spray plant from above down, and from below up to get the underside of the leaves. The oil smothers the insects.


For lawn or garden grubs, there is a natural remedy called milky spore. The granules are spread on the soil and cause the grubs to contract a disease that kills them. This natural control affects only the grubs, leaving the beneficial organisms, like ladybugs and praying mantis, unharmed. Milky spore multiplies over time and will sit inactive, waiting for grubs to infect. One treatment is said to last 40 years. The grubs are actually the larvae of Japanese beetles. So, when you kill the grubs you kill the beetles, so no more need for those unsightly green hanging beetle catchers!

Mites and other insects:

Mix two tablespoons of hot pepper sauce or cayenne pepper with a few drops of Ivory soap into a quart of water. Let stand overnight, then stir and pour into a spray bottle and apply as above. Shake container frequently during application.

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Earwigs, slugs, and other soft-bodied garden pests:

Sprinkle diatomaceous earth over plants and around edges of garden beds. Diatomaceous earth comes in the form of a chalky powder, and is the natural fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of hard-shelled algae. The diatoms particles are very small and sharp — but only harmful to the small exoskeletons of insects, slugs and snails. Insects cannot become immune to its action, as it is a mechanical killer — not a chemical one.

Fungal diseases:

Mix two tablespoons of baking soda into a quart of water. Pour into a spray container and spray affected areas. Repeat this process every few days until problem ceases.

Powdery mildew:

Mix equal parts milk and water and spray on infected plants. Three treatments a week apart should control the disease.

Insects and fungal diseases:

Combine one tablespoon of cooking oil, two tablespoons of baking soda and a few drops of Ivory soap into a quart of water. Pour into a spray container and apply as above.

Insects on fruit trees:

Lime sulfur and dormant oil, available at nurseries and garden centers, can be sprayed on the trunk and branches of dormant fruit trees. This concoction will suffocate insect egg cases. Because the oily spray is heavy compared to the other water-based sprays, you`ll need a pump sprayer. These are fairly inexpensive, and are available to rent from some nurseries. Only use this method while the tree is dormant, however, or it can kill the tree.


First, secure any open food sources, especially the compost bin. Sealed compost bins, such as compost tumblers, are recommended if you have rodents in your garden. As a deterrent, soak a rag or cotton balls in oil of peppermint (found at most health food stores), and place in areas of rodent activity. Place under an eve or under a cover that will keep the rain from diluting the peppermint. Rodents are allergic to peppermint and will avoid it. This method is also effective at deterring rabbits.

Story image: Aphid feeding on sap, courtesy of Sanjay Acharya via Wikimedia Commons.

How To Get Rid Of Bed Bugs

How To Get Rid Of Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are a type of insect that feed on human blood, usually at night. Their bites can result in a number of health impacts including skin rashes, psychological effects and allergic symptoms. Bed bug bites may lead to skin changes ranging from invisible to small areas of redness to prominent blisters. Symptoms may take between minutes to days to appear and itchiness is generally present. Some individuals may feel tired or have a fever. Typically, uncovered areas of the body are affected and often three bites occur in a row. Bed bugs bites are not known to transmit any infectious disease. Complications may rarely include areas of dead skin or vasculitis.

How to get rid of bed bugs – a complete guide

There has been a resurgence of bed bugs in recent years, and this has increased interest in how to get rid of an infestation.

It has also increased the chances that people will take action to prevent an infestation in the first place.

Depending on the stage of the infestation, it may be possible to get rid of bed bugs using natural means. If the infestation has taken hold, however, these methods may not work.

Insecticides are available from stores, but these are not usually strong enough to be effective. Many people will need to call a pest controller for professional help.

Some factors make it difficult to get a bed bug infestation under control. First is the difficulty detecting them, as they are small and well adapted to hiding in small places. In addition, growing resistance means there is a lack of effective insecticides.

Here are some key points about getting rid of bed bugs.

Bed bug infestations have recently become more common again in the U.S.

Infestations are difficult to control because they evade pesticides and are not easy to see.

Tips for avoiding bites during an infestation include encasing mattresses and box springs in special impermeable fabrics and installing traps at the bases of bed legs.

Decluttering and disposal followed by careful vacuuming and cleaning help to reduce the numbers of bed bugs and eggs.

To get rid of an infestation, it may be necessary to call a professional pest control company, as they have stronger pesticides that are often more effective.

The first step in removing an infestation is detection.

If a person is bitten by a bed bug, they may notice spots of blood on the sheet. Symptoms of a bite include lesions, wheals on their skin that can reach 5 centimeters (cm) in diameter, and intense itching.

Bites usually happen overnight, because the mattress is infested. Bed bugs tend to hide along the mattress piping and to live within 8 feet of where people sleep.

Bed bugs start as eggs and pass through juvenile to adult stages. They grow from 1 millimeter (mm) to 5 mm in length.

Evidence of various life stages can be found in the piping, along with dark spotting from feces.

The first step is to remove the bedding and isolate the bed.

Strip the bed linen directly into a double plastic bag, to reduce the chance of spreading the bugs.

Wash bedding in hot water for at least 30 minutes and then dry at a high temperature for 30 minutes. Seal and discard the inner plastic bag when you put the linen in the washer.

Vacuum to remove any remaining bed bugs and eggs as far as possible. This may not remove deeply harbored bed bugs.

Dispose of the contents of the vacuum cleaner outside, into a sealable plastic bag.

Ensure the bed frame is free of bugs by spraying it with a pesticide.

The second key element to isolating the bed from bugs is encasement. You encase the box spring and mattress in a fabric that traps the bugs inside and prevents introduction from outside.

Special zippered sheets are used to achieve this. The cost of these commercially available products is lower than the cost of a replacement mattress. Encasement should be left on for at least one year.

Encasement removes hiding areas and makes it easier to spot bed bugs. This helps prevent infestations of new mattresses.

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Follow the home measures described above before encasing the bed.

Moat-style traps may be used to isolate the bed and intercept bed bugs between their hiding places and their journey to bite the host.

Sticky pads under the legs of the bed can catch bugs, but they can be messy.

Such “interceptor” devices are available for purchase online, but they can also be made at home.

Scientists from the University of Florida have produced the following video, available on YouTube, explaining how to create home-made moat traps.

Laundering in hot water is an effective way of killing bed bugs on fabrics.

Bed bugs die when their body temperature is over 45° Celsius, or 113° Fahrenheit. Exposing the bugs for an hour to temperatures higher than these can kill all stages. At temperatures over 60°C (140°F), all bed bugs are killed rapidly.

Heating a room is unlikely to work, because of the high temperatures needed. It may also spread an infestation, because bed bugs will seek the cooler areas in the room, beyond the reach of the heat.

Bed bugs can be killed by cold temperatures, but it requires temperatures below -18°C (0°F) for at least 4 days in order for the cold to penetrate an object and kill all the bugs and eggs.

Smaller items that may contain bed bugs can be put in a suitably cold freezer and the 4-day period should be counted from when the center of the object reaches -18°C (0°F). This takes longer for bulkier objects.

However, the EPA note that home freezers may not be cold enough to kill bugs, and it can take a long time for this to work.

Gas systems designed for instant freezing are ineffective and may spread an infestation, as the high air pressure can blow the bugs away.

Turning off the heating and leaving windows and doors open is not an effective strategy. The temperature is unlikely to be cool enough.

Leaving a room empty for more than a year can be effective for killing bed bugs as this deprives them of sustenance. They may, however, migrate to a nearby property and return later.

Some chemicals are available for purchase online or from hardware stores. These can be hazardous when used indoors.

It is important always to use an approved product and to follow the instructions with care.

pyrethrins and pyrethroids, derived from chrysanthemum flowers

desiccants, such as boric acid and diatomaceous earth, which dry out the protective coating on bugs

biochemicals, specifically cold pressed neem oil

pyrroles, of which cholfenapyr is the only registered product in the U.S.

neocotinoids, a synthetic form of nicotine that affects the bugs’ nervous system

insect-growth regulators, which affect the growth process of bugs

You will find more detail on these below.

When buying a product, you should:

check that it is EPA-registered

make sure bed bugs are mentioned on the label

It is important to follow the instructions carefully when applying the products, so that they make direct contact with the bed bugs.

“Bug bombs,” or total release foggers, are not considered effective. They are unlikely to reach the cracks where bugs hide, and they can be harmful to health. There is also a risk of explosion.

Some products, including those that contain pyrethroids, have a flushing effect. This could spread the infestation.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides a search tool that can help you find a suitable registered product.

Insecticides that are available to the public are often not strong enough to be effective, or they are unable to reach the bugs’ hiding places.

In this case, it is best to involve a registered pest controller.

Catching a bug or taking a photo to share with the professional can help them see what type of bug is causing the problem.

Pest controllers may start with nonchemical methods and then use pesticides if these do not work.

Some pesticides can only be applied by licensed professionals.

In the U.S., around 300 insecticide products are registered for treating bed bug infestations. These are the main chemical classes:

Pyrethrins and pyrethroids: These are the most commonly used pesticides for bed bug treatment. Pyrethrins are derived from chrysanthemum flowers, and pyrethroids are the synthetic equivalent. They act on the nervous system of the bugs. Some bed bug populations have become resistant to these chemicals, especially older-generation products.

Silicates: These include diatomaceous earth dust (DED). They are desiccants. They destroy the bed bugs’ waxy, protective outer coating and kill them through dehydration. The effects are physical, not neurochemical, so the bugs cannot become resistant to these products.

Insect growth regulators (IGRs): Examples include (S)-methoprene and hydropene. The insects must bite for blood before the pesticides take effect. This makes them an unattractive option.

Carbamates: Examples include bendiocarb and propoxur. They are more effective than pyrethrins and pyrethroids, but cases of resistance are emerging.

Neonicotinoids: Examples include imidacloprid. These have been found to produce no resistance and are effective. They have no residual effect.

Pyrroles: These are very slow acting, and they have limited efficacy but no issues of resistance. The only pyrrole bed-bug pesticide registered in the U.S. is chlorfenapyr.

Organophosphates have been used in the past, but they are no longer available in the U.S.

Pyrethrins and pyrethroids are largely thought to be ineffective against modern bed-bug strains. Bedding fabrics that are marketed as being impregnated with these chemicals are unlikely to be effective.

Desiccants such as DEDs are effective options against bed bugs. They have several advantages, including:

a long shelf life

low toxicity to mammals

long residual life

low possibility of resistance

they can be used as a preventive measure

Professional pest controllers can effectively remove an infestation of bed bugs.

The Pest World website provides a list of practitioners who are licensed with the National Pest Management Association.

Pest control professionals can be expected to:

Confirm the infestation

Inspect the location and possibly neighboring areas

Use a combination of nonchemical control and insecticides

Review treatment to check that it is successful

Recommend or put preventive measures in place

The key to reducing the risk from bed-bug infestation is early detection, as this is more likely to lead to effective control.

There are four stages at which intervention can take place:

when the pest first appears

as the infestation becomes established

while the bug population is growing

as the problem spreads

Tips for early detection include:

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checking bed sheets for small blood spots

looking for signs of bites on the body

monitoring areas where pets sleep

Factors that make it harder to control bed bugs include:

clutter, especially under the bed

cracks and crannies in the walls, where bugs can hide

infestation in a neighboring property

Second-hand furniture: Second-hand furniture and bedding should be avoided or checked carefully before bringing it into the house.

Reduce clutter: A tidy home that is free from clutter will have fewer hiding places for bed bugs.

Fill the cracks: Use metals and plastics to fill cracks and crannies instead of wood.

Travel check: Bugs can travel in suitcases and other bags after a vacation or visit to a home that has an infestation. Check a hotel room for signs of bugs before settling in.

Preventing spread: Use interceptor devices, such as traps and encasement, to isolate beds.

If you have bed bugs, do not:

panic and reach for the insecticide spay at once, but do keep calm and make a plan.

use agricultural, garden, or “home-made” pesticides, as these can be hazardous, ineffective, and may make the problem worse

use products that are not EPA-registered and do not have an English label

apply pesticides to the body, as this can be dangerous

use rubbing alcohol, kerosene, or gasoline, as these can start a fire

move things from room to room or get rid of belongings, as these will spread the problem and most things can be treated successfully

put items in black plastic in the sun, as it will not be hot enough to kill the bugs

Bed bugs are found in all 50 states, and they can affect anyone in any place, although they are more common in urban areas.

It is worth remembering that bed bugs:

do not spread disease

are not more common among low-income households

occur in both clean and unsanitary environments

are visible to the naked eye

Being observant and treating an infestation early is the best strategy.

What Trees Do Bark Beetles Attack and Can I Get Rid of Them?

Feel like you’ve heard more about bark beetles than ever? Well, you’d be right!

There are more than 600 species of bark beetles throughout the U.S. And since the bark beetle outbreak began back in 1996, these beetles have affected more than 41.7 million acres of land in the U.S. That’s about the size of the entire state of Florida!

Read on to find out why there are more bark beetle infestations now than ever before. You’ll also learn how to identify which bark beetle may be in your backyard and how to deal with bark beetles!

Bark Beetle Facts: Bark Beetle Identification, Damage and Treatment

Because the temperatures are historically higher, bark beetles are surviving winters. Plus, the heat coupled with the lack of rain have severely stressed trees.

In short, more beetles are surviving and going after stressed trees!

What trees do bark beetles attack?

Because there are SO many different types of bark beetles, it seems there’s a bark beetle out there for nearly every tree type.

But, primarily, bark beetles attack cedar, fir, pine and spruce trees. There are some beetles out there that go after arborvitae, cypress, elm, fruit, larch and redwood trees.

What do bark beetles eat?

Once bark beetles have tunneled under the tree’s bark, they begin chewing on the growing part of the trunk, called the cambium layer. It’s this layer that produces new cells that allow the trunk, branches and roots to increase in diameter each year.

What kind of damage do bark beetles do?

Because bark beetles generally go after weak trees, the trees don’t have much energy to fight off an infestation. Once there, bark beetles cut of the tree’s ability to transport water and nutrients.

As a result, the trees’ needles or leaves will slowly change color. You may also see small holes, sawdust or brick-colored tubes on the trees’ trunk or branches.

Are bark beetles worse in California in 2018? What about in 2017 or 2016?

Bark beetles have affected more forests and trees along the West Coast. Specifically, California, Colorado and even Wyoming have been hit the hardest.

Since 2010, an estimated 129 million trees have died just in California’s national forests because of the drought or bark beetles. That means 30 trees have been dying, on average, every minute!

To break that down further, in 2017, 27 million trees died. That was down from 62 million trees in 2016. Click here to see how many trees bark beetles are estimated to kill in California in 2018.

Bark beetles are not stopping there. The insects have traveled east and are causing troubles in the Northeast and Southeast now, too.

Can you help me with the identification of the bark beetle I have?

Each type of bark beetle typically only goes after a few tree species. So, the easiest way to see what kind of bark beetle is attacking your tree is to figure out what type of tree you have.

How can I get rid of bark beetles? Is there treatment for bark beetles?

Start by keeping your tree healthy. That means watering when it’s dry, properly fertilizing, and booking regular tree inspections.

Then, if warranted, you may want to treat for bark beetles proactively to prevent beetle attacks.

“We apply bark beetle treatments annually. You have to decide if you want to fight these pests over and over again. Or if you want to get rid of the tree and start over,” says Dash Schenck of Davey’s East Bay, California office.

“In regular conditions, healthy trees can withstand some beetle damage. But because of the drought, they just can’t fight it off. If you start seeing the tree brown, it’s most likely a goner,” Schenck adds.

As Dash mentioned, once you spot symptoms of bark beetles, it’s usually too late to save the tree.
By that point, you likely need to remove your tree to avoid it falling on its own and doing damage. Or if you’re lucky, you may be able to remove the dead branches and improve your tree’s health.

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