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The Cowleys home improvement crew was sent to a home in Colts Neck to remodel the homeowner’s outdoor access to his crawl space. His old crawl space entry was cumbersome to open and close, and even worse, it provided virtually no protection from the outdoor elements. Whenever it rained, the current crawl space access allowed a stream of water to rush inside. The homeowner was concerned about standing water in the basement and the problems it could cause, and rightly so. Standing water in the crawl space is an open invitation for mold growth and is an attractant for mosquitoes, other insects, and all sorts of wildlife.
We wanted a crawl space access that was easy to use, blocked rainwater from entering, and provided protection from the outdoor elements. To meet these objectives, we replaced the entry cover with one of our Everlast doors. These Everlast vent covers completely block outside air and moisture from entering the crawl space. They can be installed against wood framing or masonry, work exceptionally well, and are aesthetically pleasing. Made with a hard durable plastic, they stand up to the worst weather conditions, and are completely maintenance free. They should never rot, warp, or crack and they never need to be painted. From out experience, they are virtually indestructible. Also, if you or a repair person needs crawl space access, they are easy to open. All you need to do is twist a few easy-to-grip knobs, and you’re in!
Given this homeowner’s water issues, we wanted to have a second barrier to prevent water entry. We decided to install a product manufactured by the Bilco Company, which makes a variety of USA-made specialized doors and other specialty access products for the building industry, including the StakWEL window well.
What’s a window well? And why would Cowleys want to install a window well around a crawl space door? Glad you asked!
Most basements have windows, especially finished basements since it’s nice to have some natural lighting and a way to let in outdoor air. Windows installed in basements that are mostly below-grade require window wells — those semi-circular “dig-outs” you find on the basement window’s exterior. This well needs to be supported by some materials or it will eventually collapse.
Window wells help prevent water penetration around the window framing and window damage (Basement windows are prone to damage since they are at or near ground level.). Window wells also allow for emergency egress out of the basement. This is important because most local building codes require basement windows to provide emergency egress, in which case, the well needs a built-in steps or ladder. Window wells should also have covers to keep out leaves and debris and help prevent water and snow from collecting inside the well.
We decided to install a window well around this crawl space door for many of the same reasons that a homeowner would want to install one around their basement window. This homeowner was having a serious water intrusion problem whenever it rained. The safest course of action was to give him a second barrier in addition to the Everlast door, and the StakWEL window well fit the bill perfectly. It’s is made out of a tough corrosion-resistant high density polyethylene, and it’s modular, which greatly simplified installation. As a bonus, these wells have a grip-step design so you don’t have to have the agility of a mountain climber to enter and exit the crawl space access area. The window well also has an optional cover for extra protection against the elements.
After we were done, the remodel of this crawl space access looked great, and we are confident that his water issues will finally be over. The homeowner was quite pleased, and he said that he’d let us know after the first heavy rain how his crawl space was holding up. We expect to here nothing but good news!
We went out on a service call for a homeowner in Colts Neck, NJ who was hearing birds chirping in his attic. As we arrived and began our inspection along the roof we discovered a severe "roofline gap" or a "builders gap.” This term refers to when the roof decking is left slightly shorter than the rafter ends creating a gap between the roof and the gutter. Although covered by a layer of shingles this gap extends the full roofline of your home and is an ideal place for wildlife and birds to enter.
The gap was located under the last tab of shingles where the plywood meets the fascia board (the board behind the gutter). As we examined the gap, we found several birds nest inside. Birds nesting in your attic isn’t just annoying but is hazardous to your health. The nesting material they use can harbor many different types of parasites, including bird mites. Bird mites are microscopic parasites that feed on the blood of birds. They have flat, oval bodies, and are nearly white when unfed, but become bright red when recently fed. Once birds have abandoned their nests, bird mites migrate indoors from an abandoned nest, entering through the attic via openings in the ceiling or interior wall surfaces, and feed on the blood of humans.
For treatment, we sanitized the nesting areas with a product that specifically targets bird mites and then carefully removed all the nests. Next, we installed a product called "leaf proof" all along the roofline gap. A leaf proof is made of an aluminum metal that slips under the bottom of the last shingle in between shingle and plywood and attaches to gutter with a small screw. This product still allows the water to run into the gutter but blocks and protects from birds and other animals from accessing the attic area. Now the homeowner's attic and gutter are properly protected from invasive wildlife and birds.
The birds were using this broken dryer vent as shelter and were building a nest inside it! Fortunately, when we inspected, the birds had moved on, but we still had to be careful when removing the nests!
First, we carefully removed the nesting debris and deodorized the vent with a solution that targets bird mites. Birds mites are blood-sucking parasites that can invade a home once birds have left their nests. If disturbed while removing, bird mites will make their way inside and quickly infest the home.
Next, we installed a DryerWallVent®. The DryerWallVent’s large opening and angled damper provide maximum airflow efficiency for the safe venting of the dryer. Integrated magnets keep the damper closed when the dryer is not in use, keeping pests and elements on the outside.
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Here at Cowleys Pest Services we not only adhere to the highest pest control standards, our goal is to provide you with an excellent experience and service in Colts Neck and nearby NJ.
From your first phone call through treatment and follow-up we at Cowleys Pest Services pledge to give you great customer service while fixing your pest problem.
Since 1991, we have been treating a wide variety of pests, bedbugs, insects and rodents -- just contact us to get more details on your home or building's issue. Take advantage of our expertise to get rid of unwanted pests or animals in your Colts Neck, NJ home.
At Cowleys Pest Services we also have pest control plans where we routinely inspect your home or building and apply needed solutions ahead of developing a recurring pest problem. Our pest service plans have different levels too, to best suit your needs that you can change over time if needed. From our Green Service Plan to our Platinum Service Plan, we'll keep your home pest-free.
Recently, we went on a service call in Colts Neck, NJ for a homeowner who was complaining of Starlings gaining access into his home. Starlings are chunky birds with short tails and long, slender beaks. In flight, their wings are short and pointed. Starlings nesting in the attic pose a serious health risk. These birds can transmit histoplasmosis, a fungal disease and it can spread through the house and cause infection.
We began inspecting the exterior of the property and noticed the dryer vent on the side of his home appeared to be damaged. Upon closer inspection, we discovered an empty birds nest. The real concern with sterlings nesting in your home is they will bring huge amounts of debris to their intended nesting area full of parasites that can crawl their way to and infest other areas inside your home.
After carefully removing the nests, we sanitized and deodorized the dryer vent with a solution that targets bird mites. Bird mites are parasites that feed on the blood of birds. When birds leave their nests, the mites are left behind without a suitable host for their next blood meal. They will make their way into a home, and once inside they will take over, climbing all over your walls, ceilings, and beddings.
After sanitizing the area, we spoke to the homeowner and mentioned that we can seal up the dryer vent, but that will only temporarily fix the issue as the vent needs to be replaced. The homeowner agreed and called up his brother-in-law, who is a contractor, to fix the dryer vent. In the meantime, we sealed up the opening with hardware cloth to eliminate any further breaches by birds.
Recently, a regular Cowleys customer called our office from her home in Colts Neck, NJ to report that she was stung by bees while raking her backyard. She wasn’t sure where the bees came from, but she knew the area in her yard where she was attacked. She wanted our help and she wanted is NOW! I arrived as soon as I could that very day. While on my way over, since she did not see an aerial nest and the bees were aggravated when she was raking, I had a strong suspicion that these were ground-nesting bees. There are many types of bees and wasps that build their nests in underground cavities, either digging their own little holes in the ground or using rodent burrows or other pre-existing cavities.
When I arrived, she looked at me through the window and pointed me to the problem area on her lawn. After being stung, she was afraid to leave her house and go out on the lawn. I don’t blame her. The venom of stinging insects is extremely painful. I walked to the area and began scanning for a possible nest. I did not rule out aerial nests and I looked up in trees for a possible nest. Out of nowhere, I saw a bee flying toward my face. I reflexively took a few steps back. I looked down and right below where i saw standing was a ground bee nest. Ground nesting or miner bees are solitary bees that create underground galleries. Instead of living in a colony like social bees, these queens live on their own to hatch their eggs and tend to the larvae until the bees become adults. The entrances to their nests are small piles or patches of soil. Although solitary bees are not considered as aggressive as territorial bees, if you are stung by one of them, as this homeowner was, you may have a different opinion!
These ground bees appeared primed and ready to sting me, and I did not want to take any chances. I returned to my supply van and put on my bee suit. Just because I’m a pest control technician, doesn’t mean that I like getting stung. Now, with my “bee armor” on, I was ready to treat the infestation. I dusted the entry points to the ground nests. This is a highly effective way to treat stinging insects that are ground-nesters. The bees will try to clean the dust out the the nest, and by doing so, come into contact with the dust. The dust absorbs through their skin and, as the saying goes, that’s all she wrote. After treating the area, there was no more bee activity. I informed the client that it was safe once again to venture into her backyard. She was extremely thankful for taking care of the problem and our quick response. Cowleys always makes every effort to get to a customer as soon as possible after a call into our office, especially when it is an emergency situation like stinging insects.
When inspecting a residence for one type of pest complaint, we often find other pest-related problems and conditions conducive to pest activity that the homeowner was completely unaware of. Here, I was sent to a home in Colts Neck, NJ to conduct a termite inspection. While inspecting underneath the deck, I observed that a pipe entering the home was not properly sealed and was leaking. The foundation wall was water-stained and the ground underneath was saturated. This water problem created an environment highly conducive to ants and other insects that thrive in moist, damp environments.
Here, a large ant colony had already formed and there was an extremely high level of ant activity. Fortunately, foraging ants had not yet found their way inside the home (or at least they had not yet been observed by the homeowner).
The lesson with this termite inspection is that homeowners must be vigilant about outdoor pest activity and conditions around the exterior perimeter of the home. Hiring a pest control service to periodically conduct inspections or signing up for a residential home protection plan is a great way to identify and resolve pest issues in their early stages and correcting conditions outside of the home that could lead to infestations, whether it’s finding potential insect or rodent entry points, water issues, or direct wood-soil contact. Insects are attracted to homes because they offer food, water, and shelter — everything they need to survive — whether it’s termites seeking out wood to eat, trailing ants foraging for food, or overwintering pests looking for harborage to escape cooler outdoor temperatures. With pest control, like with many things in life, the best defense is a good offense!
Have you ever seen a black squirrel?
Although comparatively rare to red or gray squirrels, they are not quite as exotic as they seem. In fact, they are prevalent throughout New Jersey and the Northeast. For those who happen to come across one, many not sure what to make of these sleek, beautiful animals. Is it some sort of super-cat able to leap tall trees in a single bound? Or maybe its some sort of mutated skunk without the stripe?
In fact, it’s nothing that exciting. Back squirrels are not even a separate species that warrant their own classification. Black squirrels are just plain old eastern grey squirrels with an inherited genetic condition called melanism. Melanism is a genetic mutation of the pigmentation gene that causes excess development of melanin (dark pigmentation) in an animals’s skin, eyes, and fur. It’s the exact opposite of albinism, the lack of melanin. Black panthers are a well-known example of melanism in that species.
Melanistic squirrels have a survival advantage over their bland grey counterparts. They are far better camouflaged in the dense, dark forests of the eastern United States (of which there are now much less because of human development), allowing them to hide them from predators like owls and hawks. Also, their dark skin allows them to absorb more of the sun’s heat, so they can stay warmer in the winter. Black squirrel populations decreased when humans started hunting them for their beautiful fur. For human predators, their color was a disadvantage since they could easily be seen from the ground when contrasted against the bright blue sky.
Black squirrels have the same habits and behaviors as grey squirrels, and like any squirrel, they sometimes make their way onto rooftops and find access points into the attic through the roof, soffits, or fascia. Wildlife loves the warmth, protection, and privacy of attics, especially during the winter. Squirrels, no matter what their color, can cause significant property damage once they have invaded a home. Squirrels are rodents, so they constantly gnaw. Also, their droppings can ruin attic insulation and are a health hazard in an enclosed space. Black squirrels can become nuisance wildlife just like grey squirrels once they enter homes and other structures. These animals, despite how cool-looking they are, must be safely and humanely removed and relocated.
When we are out in the field on our assignments helping homeowners deal with pest infestation, we sometimes run across insects that we are not expecting to find. During this particular job in Colts Neck, NJ, I came across a surprise visitor, a female black widow spider. This is the most common poisonous spider found in New Jersey. Even though black widow venom is more toxic than that of a rattlesnake, fortunately, they can’t inject that much of it in a single bite. So, while a black widow spider bite can cause a serious painful reaction, death is highly unlikely. Nevertheless, if you are bitten by a spider, and that bit is unusually painful or you start to see swelling, don’t take any chances. Seek medical attention immediately.
The black widow in these photos is an adult female. These are the ones you have to worry about. The fangs of the male black widow are too small to break human skin, and juveniles of either sex are also harmless to humans. Typically, the females are dark-colored and are identifiable by reddish markings on their abdomen, that often have an hourglass shape. These spiders typically nest near the ground in dark and undisturbed areas, such as in small holes or burrows made by animals or around construction openings, or underneath woodpiles. As a friendly reminder, this winter, if you are stocking firewood, remember to inspect the wood for any hidden spiders or other creepy-crawlies before bringing it into the house!
I was called out to help a Colts Neck, NJ homeowner who contacted Cowleys to remove an active hornets nest. Upon arrival, the homeowner informed me that her home was currently listed for sale and she had a few complaints from realtors who were trying to show the home. First impressions are everything, and having aggressive, territorial wasps greeting potential buyers is not the best introduction when showing your home!
I quickly determined that the stinging insects were baldfaced hornets. These wasps are large aerial yellow jackets that like to build their nests a few feet off the ground. They are called baldfaced because of their distinctive coloring. These black wasps have ivory-white markings on their face (hence “baldfaced”) and abdomen. In the spring, fertilized queens that have overwintered begin to build their nest using a grey papery material made from a mixture of chewed wood and saliva. As the summer progresses, the colony can grow to several hundred workers and the nest keeps getting bigger and bigger to accommodate the growing “extended family.” Like their feared relative, the yellowjacket, these wasps are territorial and aggressive. They’ll attack anyone or anything that invades their space, and since their stingers aren’t barbed, a single wasp can sting multiple times.
Baldfaced hornet nest removal is challenging. Aggravating the colony can send hundreds of angry wasps right in your direction. Because of the risk of stings and injury, we do not recommend removal of active nests as a DIY project, especially if ladders are involved to reach the nest. If you want to completely avoid any risk of stings or injury, my best advice is to leave the job to a professional pest control service that has the products, tools, and safety equipment to properly disable the colony and remove the nest.
The location of the nest was problematic. It was not only near a house where there was additional traffic because of potential buyers were coming in and out, but right next to the house was a soccer field where I saw little kids practicing. If one of those kids happened to kick a ball in the direction of the nest, it could easily turn into a bad situation. Since the children were practicing while I was there, I did not want to take any chances with a slow-acting residual product. Those products are useful because they kill the foraging workers returning to the nest. However, since the wasps aren’t killed instantly, they will start to swarm, and they are not happy about their nest being invaded. With children nearby, that was a risk I could not take. The nest needed to be treated and removed then and there because of its sensitive location. So, I used used a liquid application with a few additives that would stop the wasps almost immediately upon contact, making this job a fast one. I sprayed the product directly into the hornets nest knowing that this is where it would cripple them the most. Soon the nest was completely deactivated. Once there was no more insect activity, I safely removed the nest from the tree. Not a single person was stung in the process, including me! The homeowner was relieved that I could resolve her hornet problem so quickly.
Ticks are ectoparasites (external parasites) that, just like bed bugs, feed on animal blood. They seem to have a special affinity for latching onto humans. Ticks are especially frightening because they are what is known as disease vectors. Through their bites, they are able transfer infected blood from mice, deer, and other animals that may contain all sorts of dangerous bacteria, viruses, and parasites. The tick-borne disease of most concern here in New Jersey (and the Northeast and rest of the mid-atlantic states) is Lyme Disease, a debilitating illness transmitted by black-legged ticks (deer ticks). This disease, which causes tens of thousands of new cases every year, has no cure and can result in serious, permanent damage to your joints and heart.
You don’t need to be an avid hiker who ventures deep in the woods to get bitten by a tick and receive a tick-borne disease. In fact, most people who contract Lyme Disease get bitten right in their own backyard. To reduce the risk of Lyme Disease on your property, you need to make your property less hospitable to mice which carry deer ticks and less hospitable to the ticks themselves. Landscaping can go a long way: remove leaf litter, trim trees and bushes, keep your lawn mowed, and keep fire wood and bird feeders away from your home.
You can also take an important measure to control ticks on your property. Cowleys is one of less than a dozen New Jersey licensed installers of the Select TCS Tick Control System. The TCS system disrupts the tick lifecycle reducing both tick populations and the percentage of ticks infected with Lyme disease. In field trials, the results were pretty astonishing. The TCS system reduced tick populations by 80% after one year, and 97% after two years!
For this property in Colts Neck, NJ, I installed TCS tick boxes every 50 feet along the perimeter of the property at the tree line between the landscaped and wooded area of the property (“the tick zone”). These boxes hold both an insecticide that kills ticks and a bait that’s used to attract mice to the boxes. As a mouse moves through the box, it passes under a small applicator wick that brushes against its head or shoulders. I like to think of these boxes as a mouse car wash! The insecticide has an amazing track record against ticks and it’s the recommended choice of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for fighting ticks. It’s also the same active ingredient used in popular flea and tick treatments for household pets. This product will not only kill the ticks on the mice but will also protect the mice for up to 40 days against new ticks. The boxes are self-contained and the insecticide is specific to killing ticks. It won’t harm or kill the mice or any animals that may touch or eat them.
Ticks do not travel more than a few feet on their own. Rather, ticks “quest” on tall grass or shrubs, waiting for a host to someone to brush against the spot, where it then climbs on board looking for an area of skin to bite and draw blood. With these boxes intercepting those rodents that have developed territories around your property, this tick control system has a dramatic effect on reducing the tick population on your property.
I also power sprayed the tree line area as a second barrier to stop ticks from entering the property.