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One of our many communities I provide service to had a homeowner who was seeing wasps in her kitchen and bathroom. Once I arrived at the community in Edison I found the entry point behind the gutter. I showed the homeowner where the wasps were entering and told her once the dust application was done she should expect the wasps to be gone in a few days.
Although I’m not a herpetologist, this snake wasn’t anything exotic. It appears to be an Eastern garter snake, the most common snake found in the state and around residences. Their color varies from olive to brown to black and typically have three stripes. Garter snakes are often confused with the Eastern Ribbon snake which is a skinny, high-contrast version of the Garden Snake with a long tail and narrower heads. If you get close enough, ribbon snakes have a white spot int he front of the eye and garter snakes don’t. However, if you have no interest in snake identification and just prefer to avoid them, the most important fact is that both of these species are completely harmless. In fact, of the 22 species of snakes recognized in New Jersey, only two are venomous: the timber rattlesnake and the northern copperhead.
There are many myths and misconceptions that drive fear of these legless reptiles, and like bats, their reputation as a symbol for evil and danger is undeserved. Very few people have ever been bitten by a venomous snake and there has never been a reported snake-related death in New Jersey. Unless you handle venomous snakes as part of a religious service, you are more likely to be struck by lightening. Venomous snakes tend to stay in the most remote areas of New Jersey, and those unfortunate few who have been bitten were most likely attempting to handle them. Each year many nonvenomous snakes are misidentified as venomous and needlessly killed. All New Jersey snakes are protected under the New Jersey Endangered and Nongame Species Act.
I was called to a home in South Amboy to remove a paper wasp infestation. The wasp’s nest was hanging from a soffit of the home. The attached image show the paper wasp nest and life cycle from egg to larvae to newly hatched wasp. First, I used a liquid residual chemical to eliminate live activity. Once there were no longer any active wasps, I removed the nest with an extension pole.
Especially for nests located in difficult locations, like high up in the eves or soffits of a home, please consider hiring a professional pest control service. However, if you decide to deal with the infestation as a DIY project and are willing to accept the risk of being stung, please think twice before using a ladder to reach the nest. Confronting a nest full of angry wasps while simultaneously trying to keep your balance on a ladder is a dangerous combination that should be avoided.
Cowleys initiated a fly control program at a senior living community in Kendall Park. While maintaining sanitation and cleanliness is important to fly control, sometimes a clean facility or kitchen is not enough, and a pest control service needs to be called in for more intensive measures. There is no single fly control program that will work in all cases, and we have a variety of tools to use depending on the circumstances causing the infestation.
For this facility’s fly control program, we felt the problem would be most quickly resolved through installing fly lights, otherwise known as Insect Light Traps (ILTs) (see attached pictures). These traps use ultraviolet light bulbs to draw flies to a non-toxic sticky board inside. At Cowleys, we not only use these lights to trap these filthy pests, but also to monitor their activity level.
A week after the fly light installation, we could not have ben more pleased with the results. The head of maintenance of the senior living community confirmed that the fly defense program was completely successful. There were no longer any fly issues, and even better for him, no more resident complaints!
About a year ago Cowleys installed Sentricon termite bait stations for a Parlin homeowner. Sentricon is the premier termite colony elimination system that leverages termite biology and behavior against them. The bait stations contain cellulose bait treated with an insect growth regular that prevents molting. The worker termites bring the tainted bait back to share with the colony. The termites, unable to molt, die, and soon the entire colony is eliminated.
We inspect these bait stations annually to clean them out, make sure they are in good working order, and check that there is still bait and that the bait is still in good shape, ready to attract termites. When inspecting this station, I observed termites actively feeding on the bait. Since the homeowner happened to be there, I showed this to him. This homeowner was fascinated to see the Sentricon system in action. He commented that it was a whole lot better to see termites feeding on the bait rather than eating the wood in his home. I couldn’t agree more!
I look at a Sentricon bait station installation as an underground protective moat for homeowners, giving them peace of mind from termite damage. Bait stations do a great job luring termites away from homes. Sentricon helps prevent the significant property damage that can be caused by these wood-devouring insects.
I was called out to a home in Colonia today because a homeowner was horrified by the invasion of ants in her kitchen. She thought she had solved her ant problem last week with the use of over-the-counter (OTC) products.
Upon my arrival, I found ants swarmed and huddled into a few areas in her kitchen, and some trailing stragglers. I knew, right off, that this homeowner was self-treating with a DIY bait of some kind. I explained to her that bait is still bait. Even though she may have gained control of one colony with the use of bait, another colony moved right on in to continue feeding on the bait they didn't finish or she didn't remove. Most homeowners are unaware that placing a bait out for ants in conspicuous areas will only draw more ants in these areas.
As professionals, we primarily use bait as a quick start to get the ants feeding while we perform a full inspection. The bait is then wiped away so we can apply a residual treatment to all the locations that we see ants, and all the locations that the ants will possibly travel to in order to enter the residence. I allowed these ants to continue to feed while doing my treatment, then wiped it away. I also disinfected the areas as it is still an exposed chemical.
This just reminds me yet again how many homeowners buy OTC chemicals and begin treatment without reading the label or instructions. Unfortunately, this typically makes their problem worse.
I was called out to a homeowner in Metuchen who had the unfortunate and startling experience of finding mice droppings in her kitchen. If you have a mice infestation, you’ll find pellet-shaped droppings are found where mice are most active — near where they are exploring for food or nesting material and where they breed and nest. Mouse droppings are about 1/4” long and black or brown in color. A single house mouse can deposit 50 to 75 pellets daily! Mouse droppings can carry harmful pathogens, and serious chronic diseases can be contracted by touching or even inhaling particles of contaminated feces. Droppings should only be handled with personal protective equipment, and they must be carefully removed so the dried feces particles are not “kicked up” into the air.
Upon arrival, I conducted an inspection of the kitchen to determine the points of entry of these small pesky rodents and where they might be nesting. I always start with the most likely “hotbeds” for mice activity — under the sink, behind the stove, and behind the refrigerator. Mice especially like to nest in areas that are warm and dark, so they are attracted to heat sources such as the warmth of a stove or the compression motor in a refrigerator. During my inspection, I observed that piping from the floor or wall was not properly sealed during construction of the kitchen, and this was the likely point of entry for the mice. And they don’t need much of a gap — mice can squeeze into a hole the size of a dime.
While talking with the customer, she explained that her dog did not like eating out of a bowl, so she left dry dog food directly on the kitchen floor. Unfortunately, by doing so, she was feeding not only her dog, but a colony of hungry mice as well. The customer was surprised (and maybe a bit horrified) when I pulled out the oven drawer and showed her dry dog food that was inside the drawer where the mice were nesting, The mice had created their own secret stash of food with the dog kibbles!
I performed an exclusion of the entry point by sealing up the gaps around the piping, With any rodent or other wildlife infestation, it is critical to find and seal the access points for a long-term resolution of the infestation. Also, the homeowner now understood that she could not simply leave out dog food on the kitchen floor. Any uneaten food had to be removed immediately or she would be potentially feeding other animals besides her own pet. Finally, I placed rodenticide bait boxes in the appropriate areas to control the rodent infestation.
During my day as a Cowleys pest control technician, I periodically come across some interesting insects during my home inspection. Here, in Monroe Township in southern Middlesex County, I came across a Halloween display better than anything you could buy in a store: A beautiful garden spider was beginning to weave its treacherous web on a customer’s fence. During the fall season, it doesn’t take long to find a spider and its intricate webbing. I carefully removed this spider and let her go into the woods away from a human habitat where it could enjoy the rest of its crawly life in peace.
Like the misunderstood bat, spiders have an undeserved reputation as something that is scary, creepy, and dangerous. Out of the thousands of species of spiders, only two in New Jersey are poisonous, the black widow and the brown recluse. Of course, it’s always best to avoid touching any spider. While spiders never actively seek human contact, they will bite if they feel threatened or endangered.
For the most part, spiders are beneficial insects for humans. They are one of the best biological forms of pest control — and they don’t cost homeowners a penny! Spiders will happily feed on common indoor pests that they ensnare in they web including mosquitoes, flies, clothes moths, and roaches. Also, spiders kill other spiders in gladiator-like competitions for survival, so they maintain their own populations as well. So, if you happen see a spider, just remember that he is working around the clock helping to control insect populations in and around your home — and he doesn’t even expect a thank-you!
A Carteret homeowner in Middlesex County contacted Cowleys pest control division to handle what she believed was a mouse problem in her attic. She had never actually seen any rodents. However, she had heard noises coming from up above, and had found droppings throughout the attic. So, there was definitely a wildlife infestation of some sort. The issue was the type of pest since different wildlife are handled in different ways.
Upon inspection, I observed a serious problem that required immediate resolution — there was a tremendous amount of damage to the electrical wiring, which is a serious fire hazard. A good percentage of fires are caused by damage from rodents. Why? All rodents must constantly gnaw in order to “shave down” their ever-growing teeth, and they will chew virtually anything, including electrical wires. Also, the animals bring in leaves and other nesting materials that can be ignited from wires stripped of their insulation. I informed the homeowner that an electrician needed to repair this damaged wiring immediately.
After a full interior and exterior inspection, I concluded that she has or had a rodent infestation in her attic But it wasn’t mice! Rather, the troublemakers were one or more squirrels. How could I know without actually observing the wildlife? Just like a picture is worth a thousand words, so are animal droppings. Animal droppings are distinctive. For example, a house mouse makes droppings in the shape of pellets that, to me, look like a seed. Their brown or black deposits are small,anywhere from 1/8 to 1/4 inch long, and one or both ends tapered (pointed). Squirrel deposits are not only a bit larger, about 3/8 inches, and they are cylindrical with round edges. Also, they have a light color, either light brown or a rusty/reddish color. For those experienced in rodent dropping identification, squirrel droppings have a distinct smell and appearance.
Cowleys operates a specialized nuisance wildlife division dedicated to safely trapping and relocating squirrels, raccoons, bats, skunks, and other invading wildlife. We also find the access points and set up exclusions to prevent re-infestations. Also, because animal droppings are a biohazard, we perform sanitation and deodorization services.
I immediately arranged for one of our wildlife technicians to inspect this homeowner’s attic to determine whether there was an active infestation that required trapping. Also, the technician would be able to determine how the squirrels were gaining access to the attic in order to make the appropriate exclusions. Finally, the attic needed to be sanitized and deodorized to remove the pungent smells. As mentioned, an electrician was also needed to replace the destroyed wiring.
I was dispatched to a homeowner in Dunellen who was having ongoing problems with clothes moths in their closets. Another pest control service put up pheromone lures to capture the adults before they lay their eggs. However, the homeowners were never instructed that all of their clothing had to be cleaned (or dry cleaned depending on the fabric). Once the lures were pulled, their closets were soon re-infested.
Upon arrival, I thoroughly vacuumed all of the closets and, after clearing them out, I applied an effective spot treatment to all of the cracks and crevices. The best way to deal with clothes moths is preventatively. Nothing discourages clothes moths more than keeping your woolen items clean and storing them correctly using plastic storage bags or boxes. However, you have to make sure the items can breathe to avoid condensation and you also need to be aware that some plastics can degrade fabric over time. Two natural ways of helping to deter closes moth damage are red cedar and lavender. Red cedar contains oils that can help kill clothes-moth larvae, and little bags of lavender will helps to repel clothes moths, but won’t kill the eggs or larvae. Finally, we recommend against the use of mothballs and moth crystals. These products work by releasing a fumigant gas. Some people are sensitive to the odor, and these products can even trigger allergic reactions.
We located this extremely intricate network of termite mud tubing in a garage in Helmet, NJ. Mud tubes are a major sign of a termite infestation. A much later sign that you want to avoid is destroyed wood that has been eaten from the inside out and has been turned into a hollow disintegrating shell.
Made of a “special” blend of wood particles, dirt, and their own saliva and feces, mud tubes are constructed by subterranean termites to travel between their nest and their food source — your home’s wood. These tubes protect termites from predators and from exposure to the elements. Despite their ability to destroy homes, termites themselves are soft, delicate insects that must avoid exposure to dry air to stay alive.
Sometimes termite mud tubes are no longer active. However, here, when we cracked open some of the tubes to take a peak inside, we found active termites. The termites were oblivious to us and continued about their sole purpose in life — traveling between the wood in a home (their food source) and their underground nest located deep down in the soil. Termites are resilient. If the termite colony is still active, a break in a mud tube won’t slow them down for a second. They’ll either reseal the tube or use another mud tube to start attacking a different part of your home.
To reach the wood in your home, termites often build mud tubes. These networks of tunnels, often found criss-crossing a home’s concrete foundation, provide protection for termites as they move to and from their nest to their food source, the wood in your home. The tubing, constructed from wood pulp and their saliva and feces, protects these soft-bodied insects from drying out and from predators.
I was dispatched to a home in Keansburg for a termite treatment. Unlike most other insects that either die or become inactive during the cold winter months, subterranean termites are open for business all year round. These guys stay all nice and warm by setting up shop underneath your garage or other areas that give them unrestricted access to your home’s wooden structures.
Here, during my inspection, I found active termite mud tubing on this home in early winter. Just because it’s December and the ground is starting to freeze, don’t make the mistake of thinking that termites can no longer cause any property damage. No self-respecting termite would even think of letting a little cold weather stop him from invading your home!
I arrived at my commercial account, a restaurant in Sayreville for my monthly servicing. I always start by asking my accounts if there are any pest problems or indications of pest activity. I like to hear from them as soon as there is a problem, but, if the problem is not severe, sometimes they wait until their servicing. All of us at Cowleys work hard to stay on top of any pest infestation issues, so little problems don’t morph into larger ones.
The owner stated that he recently started to have some fly issues in the kitchen. During my inspection, I observed Phorid (hunchback) flies. Phorid fly larva can only survive in decaying organic matter, so it’s common to find them breeding in areas where organic material and standing water is present. You’ll usually find them in floor drains. Fruit flies and drain flies also commonly breed in drains, and all of these flies are small “gants,” so it’s easy to confuse them. Besides their humpbacked appearance, Adult Phorid flies have the peculiar behavior of rapidly running across tables, windows, and other objects, and their flight is short and erratic.
I placed bio foam sanitizer in all drains throughout the kitchen, and recommended that all of the flooring around pipes be throughly cleaned using a soap containing enzymes that break down grease instead of regular mop soap. When dealing with Phorid flies in the commercial kitchen areas of restaurants and other facilities, it is important to look for actual and potential breeding sites and eliminate them, and it is crucial to regularly clean flood drains. Also, using bleach and hot water doesn’t cut it. You need to use a bio sanitizer that will actually dissolve the underlying organic matter that is needed by the fly larvae to grow.
Recently, I was called to service a home in Tennent, NJ to resolve an ant infestation. During my exterior inspection, I found exactly what I was looking for — an ant trail on the foundation. Ants use highly visible scent-marked trails in search of food and water. These ants were traveling from the foundation war under the siding to find their way into the home.
I started my treatment by setting a residual application to the foundation, under the siding, and around the doors and windows. We use residual applications so the ants carry the product back to the colony. Ants are social insects that can only survive in colonies, living like one giant organism. To get rid of an ant infestation you must kill the colony and the queens, not the isolated foraging ants. Foraging ants are expendable. There are always hundreds, if not thousands, more where they came from. Next, I applied a residual pyrethrin dust behind the siding and into the open pipelines and cable/power lines going into the home. Finally, I completed the exterior servicing by spreading a granular ant bait around perimeter of the home.
The customer was pleased with the thoroughness of my treatment. I’m confident that, once the foraging ants come into contact with these applications and spread them to the colony, the remaining days of the queens and everyone else in the colony are numbered. Finally, before leaving, I set up a two-week follow-up where I’ll reinspect and assess the effectiveness of the treatment. If necessary, I’ll re-treat certain areas to make sure that this ant infestation is permanently resolved.
I was dispatched to a home in Keasbey to perform a periodic routine inspection that comes with the homeowner’s residential service plan. Homeowners who purchase this protective service receive three annual visits along with an unlimited number of service calls for covered pests. Throughout the year, home protection plan clients can call us whenever they suspect is a pest problem, and we arrive ASAP to deal with it. During these scheduled visits, we thoroughly inspect the home and property for signs of infestations and conduct a preventative perimeter treatment. These visits allow us to preemptively head-off most infestations, and if any pests manage to slip through the cracks, we catch them in their early stages when the infestation is still localized and can be easily resolved.
During this inspection, I noticed some loose, torn insulation on the ground, which is an easily overlooked sign of a rodent infestation. A variety of wildlife, especially rodents, commonly use insulation materials for nesting. I focused my inspection in the immediate area to find an entry point. Sure enough, I found a good-sized hole next to the facia board above. I notified the client immediately and asked her if I could go into her attic to inspect. The homeowner was surprised that there was a possible infestation, and thanked me for pursuing it.
When I enter her attic I approached the area where the I had found the hole. I found the tell-tail signs of a squirrel infestation — several acorns and droppings. At least for those experienced in pest control, cylindrical squirrel droppings have a distinct smell and appearance. Squirrels are in the rodent family, and like all rodents, can cause significant damage with their constant gnawing and their disease-carrying droppings.
Cowleys has a team of technicians who specialize in wildlife, I and explained to her our humane “trap and release” program. We never harm wildlife. Rather, our wildlife technicians trap and then relocate them far away from human habitats. After the wildlife is removed, we clean and sanitize any contaminated areas, and seal and patch any entry points to prevent a re-infestation.
The homeowner was anxious to go ahead with the squirrel trapping, and made arrangements for the wildlife division to take over and resolve this rodent infestation.
Bed bugs often leave a trail of evidence behind once they have infested your home. You might not always find a live bed bug, especially in the early stages of an infestation, but that doesn't mean that they haven't been there!
What are some good signs indicating that you have a bed bug problem? Here’s a few.
First, check yourself! Unexplained, often itchy bites, that often come in rows are a common early sign of bed bug activity. These parasites feed on us for our blood while we are resting or sleeping. They do their dirty work and leave before we even know what hit us. happened.
Next, skin casings are a great way to identify bedbugs. As a bedbug grows and matures through its life stages, it will molt and shed its outer layer of skin just like a snake. If you happen to come across an undisturbed skin, it will often be the same exact shape as a bed bug itself.
Finally, small black spots or specks on your sheets, some as small as the size of a pinhead, is another great way to make a bed bug identification. Those spots are dried blood that a bedbug defecates before going back into hiding. Once the blood dries, it typically turns black.
By keeping a watchful eye to things, that will help with early detection and elimination. If you are worried that there could be a bedbug issue, call Cowley for a thorough inspection.
One of our commercial clients, an apartment complex in South River, was having a problem with oriental cockroaches. These roaches, also called water bugs, have a preference for dark, damp, cool areas. You’ll often find them under sinks and washing machines, and crawling around damp basements. These are a larger than the German roach, our primary nemesis in the roach family, and are noticeably more sluggish than other roach species. Like all roaches, they carry diseases since they often travel through sewer pipes and live on filth.
A tenant had reported to the property manager that there was a bug problem near a washing machine in the building’s laundry room. When I inspected that area, I immediately noticed that a roach trap monitor I had previously set was chock full of black oriental roaches. I immediately saw the cause of the roach problem: A pipe adjacent to the washer was leaking, and water was pooling on floor. An oriental roach could not have asked for a better home!
I pointed out the leak to building maintenance, and asked that they try to fix the pipe as soon as possible. Otherwise, the roach problem would not be resolved. To help get rid of the current infestation, I spot treated around the washer and did a crack and crevice aerosol treatment where the roaches were exiting. I then replaced all of the roach monitors monitors in the laundry area to help me gauge the level of insect activity for my next visit.
I was doing my routine commercial service in Port Reading at an assisted living center that serves primarily lower income residents. During these service visits, I inspect all rooms and treat as needed. I am especially cautious in senior living facilities to ensure that there is not a bed bug problem, especially when there have been bed bug problems in the past, like with this facility.
Bed bug infestations are especially common in high density living arrangements such as apartment complexes, college dorms, and nursing and assisted living facilities. Unfortunately, the elderly in these facilities often have diminished senses, especially vision, and diminished mental capacity to even recognize that there is an infestation. Also, many of the elderly in these facilities are on steroid medications like prednisone to reduce inflammation from arthritis and other conditions. As a result, they are less sensitive to, and may be totally unaware of, bed bug bites.
Fortunately, my caution paid off. During my inspection, I observed active bed bug activity in one of the units. Bed bugs are expert hitchhikers that latch on to a person or their belongings to go from one host to the next. I don’t want to inadvertently have a bug crawl onto me where I could carry it back to the Cowleys offices (and have my boss Bill Cowley upset with me) or to my own home (and, even worse, have my wife upset with me). I went back to my truck and put on a Tyvek suit to seal my clothing from any bugs.
The first step for bed bug treatment is thorough vacuuming. I vacuumed the entire unit to remove all the active and bed bugs and their remnants, including their shed skins from molting, from the bed, bed frame, and around wall line. Any crack or crevice is a potential harborage space for these parasites. Once I collected all of the live bed bugs, I was ready to treat the room. I placed my applications around base boards, bed side furniture, and bed frames. Once finished with my treatments, I dusted all of the electrical outlets to kill any bugs hiding in the walls that may have escaped treatment.
Finally, I noticed that the encasement on this resident’s bed had small splits and holes. For bed bug encasements to be effective, they must form a complete impermeable seal around the mattress and box spring. I spoke with the manager of the assisted living center and asked him to replace the encasement as soon as possible. Fortunately, he found an extra one in their storage room. I helped him place the brand new encasement on the infested bed. This encasement will trap any bed bugs hiding in the mattress and stop them from biting the resident. These bugs feed exclusively off human blood, and I did not want to leave this facility until I was sure that these bugs would not be given another opportunity for a blood meals from this hapless resident who had suffered enough.
Homeowners in Plainsboro found termite damage on a section of sheetrock (drywall) inside their garage. While most everyone knows that termites devour wood, many are surprised to learn that termites can also damage processed building materials. One of the most common materials destroyed by termites is sheetrock. Sheetrock is a plasterboard made of gypsum sandwiched between two sheets of heavy paper. Gypsum is a soft mineral that is used as a fertilizer and as a primary material in sheetrock and other building products. While termites do not eat gypsum, as this homeowner found out, they easily destroy sheetrock by eating its “edible” paper coating.
Termites infesting a home can potentially eat and destroy any material made of cellulose. What’s cellulose? It’s an organic fiber that is a type of carbohydrate. Cellulose is the main component of plant cell walls. It’s what gives wood its remarkable strength. Because of its strength and durability, we use wood to build many of our long-lasting structures, including homes, that are still standing, even after more than a century.
Humans don’t have the enzymes to digest the cellulose. For us, it’s just an undigestible fiber that helps keep our digestive tract flowing smoothly. However, many other animals can digest cellulose. For example, cows, horses, and many other animals eat grasses and plants. However, none of these animals holds a candle to termites. These insects are the true kings of cellulose digestion. They not only eat wood (whether it’s a dead tree stump or the plywood used to build a home), but also any processed materials containing cellulose. Termites will eat and destroy a variety of cellulose-containing materials that bear no resemblance to anything that was once living. We’ve seen termite damage to carpet, insulation, cardboard, fabric, and, as this homeowner learned the hard way, sheetrock paper.
Unfortunately, termites typically damage walls form the inside out and visible wood damage is a late sign of termite trouble. Earlier signs, such as mud tubes built by termites where they enter the home, are subtle. Often, they are only observed by a licensed termite expert during a termite inspection. It’s important to periodically have your home inspected for termites, not just when you require to have one in order to sell your home. By then, you may have already suffered significant hidden damage. Also, many homeowners proactively protect their home against termite damage by installing a Sentricon termite protection system.
Today, I performed the initial home protection service for a home in Piscataway. Upon arrival, I asked what types of infestation problems the homeowner had encountered in the past, and what ongoing problems they’ve been having. The homeowner told me that they have had occasional mouse activity, especially as temperatures drop and the mice are looking to get indoors to escape the cold.
Mice require only very small entry points to gain access into a home. The general rule of thumb is that if a mouse is able to poke its head through a hole or gap, the rest of their body will follow. Because mice have no collarbone, they are able to squeeze through a hole about the size of a dime. Needless to say, finding all of the potential access points for mice is a challenge and requires a thorough methodical inspection of the home’s exterior perimeter. Commonly overlooked entry points include those small hardly noticeable construction gaps in the foundation, gaps around utility lines entering the home, and under garage doors that do not completely seal when shut. Mice are also excellent climbers and can even enter through construction openings in the roof to gain access into the attic.
Because mice commonly enter and ground level and this home had a basement, I conducted a careful inspection of this area, and observed mouse droppings on the sill plates. I placed some bait boxes and snap traps on the sill plates to capture any mice that still may be lurking around in the house. More often than not, because mice are nocturnal and do their foraging at night, homeowners will usually stumble across evidence of mouse activity, such as droppings or nesting materials or even smell a rotting mouse carcass, before seeing live mice. still in the house. Mice often wind up in the kitchen area to forage for food, often maneuvering around the house entering and exiting through wall voids. So, as part of my inspection, I checked under the kitchen sink and behind the oven and refrigerator to check for droppings. Fortunately, there were no indications that mice had invaded the kitchen.
Next, I focused on the exterior inspection, which is critical for stopping ongoing mice problems. The objective during these inspections is to find and close any potential entry points. Overall, this home was well sealed, although I did find some openings in the basement window frames that would have allowed easy access for mice to enter the basement. I sealed openings in each of the four basement windows. While it is next to impossible to make a home completely impermeable to mouse entry given their size and the number of potential access points, sealing these openings will go a long way in stopping future mouse infestations in this home. I told the homeowner to not hesitate to call us if he finds more droppings or other evidence of mouse activity. Unfortunately, a mouse infestation may require follow-up visits before it is completely resolved.
I was dispatched to a customer's home in Sewaren, NJ for a routine spring visit that is included with our home protection plan. Homeowners who are enrolled in our residential service plan receive three check-up visits per year where a pest control technician conducts an inspection and performs a preventative perimeter treatment. Homeowners are often unaware of insect or rodent activity, so these visits can make all the difference in nipping these problems in the bud before they get worse. In addition to these monitoring visits, the homeowner has unlimited visits for any pests covered under the service agreement.
Upon arrival, I asked the customer if he was aware of any activity or signs of activity inside the home. He did not see anything amiss and thought everything was fine. As often happens during these visits, I found a pest problem — rodents! While inspecting the home’s exterior, I discovered a rodent burrow under the foundation to left of the front door. There are numerous animals that dig burrows (tunnels) to move from place to place while escaping detection and to use as a cozy home. Typical burrowing rodents found around homes include meadow voles, moles, chipmunks, ground squirrels, deer mice, and rats. The holes leading down to the burrows are usually 2 to 3 inches in diameter.
I went ahead and completed the regular servicing around the home’s exterior before addressing the burrow problem. A good way to tell if a burrow is still active is to stuff something inside it and check the following day as to whether it has been removed.
I didn’t want to take any chances, so I treated the burrow while I was there by dusting it with a toxic tracking powder. If a rodent traverses through the burrow, it will pick up the powder on its fur. Later, when the rodent later grooms itself, it will ingest a lethal dose of the powder. I also filled in the burrow to prevent a non-target animal from picking up the powder. If a burrow is still active, rodents will clear out the tunnel again, and when doing so, will pick up the powder that is mixed in with the dirt. in addition to the burrow dusting, I set up a low profile (LP) bait box nearby the burrow that will control other rodents that may be in the area.
I’m confident that this treatment will successfully get rid of this rodent infestation around the home’s exterior. Fortunately, there was no indication that the rodents had yet accessed the inside of the home. I told the homeowner what activity I had found and how I treated the problem. I told him to immediately contact Cowleys if he saw signs of rodent activity in or around his home, and that I’d be back to check on things.
This particular job shows the value of pest home protection plans. During a routine visit, I found and treated a rodent infestation that was unknown to the homeowner, and took care of the problem before these disease-carrying animals found a way to gain entry inside the home.
I was sent to a home in Perth Amboy after the homeowner contacted Cowleys because of an ant infestation in her kitchen. Upon arrival, she was justifiably quite upset because these ants formed their foraging trails inside her cabinets where food and her tableware was stored.
As often happens, the homeowner first attempted a DIY treatment prior to contacting a professional pest control service. She removed all of the cabinet contents, and treated for the ants with an over-the-counter pesticide. Not surprisingly, this did nothing to failed to resolve the infestation. You can’t get rid of an ant infestation, or any social insect infestation for that matter, by killing the foraging workers. Foraging ants are expendable, and there are plenty more where they came from! To resolve an ant infestation, you have to kill the colony and the breeding queen. These DIY sprays simply chase away the ants to every hiding place they can find. The also make it more difficult for the technician to find out the source of the ant infestation because they disrupt their pheromone trails.
During my inspection, I did not observe any ant activity in or around the cabinets because of the spray. That did not mean the infestation was gone, only that the ant had moved to other locations, repelled by the spray. Fortunately, as I was applying a crack and crevice treatment along the back of the counter, I observed ant activity behind the backsplash on the other side of the stove. After observing even more ants trailing along the cabinet kick plates underneath, I knew that I found the “hot spot” attracting these pests. I pulled out the stove and found the culprit — several pieces of dry dog food that managed to roll underneath.
Often, homeowners are very conscientious about sealing all of the food in their cabinets or on their counters, but overlook hidden food sources for pests, especially food that winds up on the floor and gets stuck underneath kitchen appliances. After cleaning underneath the stove to remove the insect attractant, I finished my treatment with a non-repellent product that will be carried back to the colony, killing the queen and the other pests. Now, the homeowner's ant problem in her kitchen has been properly resolved.
Take a look at the damage caused by raccoons in this Cranbury, NJ attic. We discovered this as we were preparing to install TAP Pest control insulation. We also notice some damaged ducts and as soon as those are fixed we will schedule the installation.
Cowleys is a licensed installer of TAP Pest Control Insulation, a loose-fill cellulose insulation that is environmentally safe, ENERGY STAR designated, UL classified, and fire retardant. “TAP” stands for Thermal, Acoustical, and Pest Control. This insulation offers superior thermal, acoustical (sound-deadening), and pest control properties. Homeowners are often surprised when they first hear that we offer insulation that can help with pest control. Its paper fibers are treated with a borate solution, which is harmless to people, but lethal to many insects including ants, beetles, and termites. Because TAP insulation does not affect mammals, homeowners must still use traditional pest-control for mice, squirrels, and other wildlife. Because of this pest control component, TAP can only be installed by licensed pest control operators.
Added insulation is a great home investment that yield many benefits. Perhaps most important, adding insulation increases the enjoyment of your home. It improves the temperature regulation in your home and increases the comfort of your living environment. Adding insulation also has health benefits. It acts as a barrier that helps to keep environmental pollutants and allergens out of your home. It is also a moisture barrier. By keeping out unwanted moisture, a good insulation layer helps avoid mold growth and other excess moisture problems. There are also substantial cost benefits. By keeping your home cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, added insulation reduces both your environmental footprint and your economic footprint! Improved insulation pays for itself through by reducing your energy bills and lowering the use of your air conditioner and heating system.
I was sent to perform a routine service call for one of our commercial accounts, a large office building complex in East Brunswick, NJ. While inspecting an electrical/telecom closet, I saw that one of our insect monitor glue boards had captured several pavement ant reproductives. We use glue boards as our eyes to help us gauge the level and type of insect activity between our routine visits to inspect and provide preventative treatments.
Reproductives are winged ants (swarmers) that come out of the nest to mate. Often, people are surprised to learn that some ants have wings and can fly. Ants crawling around are bad enough, but flying ants seem a whole lot worse. Flying ants, also called alates, are the fertile males and females. They have one sole purpose in their lives: To reproduce and start a new colony. Ants will swarm when the temperature, humidity, and wind conditions are just right.
Swarming ants look markedly different than your run-of-the-mill worker ants. Notice their fairly large size, especially compared to tiny pavement ants. To the untrained eye, these ants could easily be mistaken for carpenter ants or, even worse, as termite swarmers. Termites are social insects just like ants and breed the same way, sending winged fertile insects out of the nest to mate and start a new colony. A licensed pest control technician can distinguish between ant and termite reproductives, and can also identify the correct ant species. This is important because you need to know the insect that you are dealing with, especially if its termites, in order to decide the correct treatment plan.
Ant swarmers enter structures through very small cracks and gaps in a building’s foundation, especially concrete slabs. Once inside, they will make their way through the building to search for a place to start a new colony. These ants likely entered this little upstairs room through a pipe chase (the enclosed space used to house and conceal pipe runs).
Ants require a source of water to survive. These particular unlucky swarmers found themselves inside a closet area with no source of water, so they perished on their own long before my arrival. The good news is that these were harmless pavement ants and were not property-destroying wood-eating termites or even wood-boring carpenter ants. While pavement ants will commonly invade buildings to forage for food, they do not present any risk to people and do not cause property damage.
Of course, any ant infestation, no matter the species, is a major nuisance. With an ant infestation, we’ll inspect the building foundation and exterior perimeter to locate the ant trails, trace the trails to the nest, and treat the area to eliminate the queen and the rest of the colony.
One of our home protection plan customers in Parlin, NJ reported a mouse problem in her basement. Home protection plan customers benefit by periodic preventative treatments throughout the year. In addition, the homeowner can always call us for a pest control technician to come out and take care of any covered insect and rodent infestations as part of the service.
I was dispatched to take care of her mouse problem, and was able to get there that day. Mice are persistent and this was not the first time that these little rodents managed to find their way inside her home. I conducted a perimeter inspection to determine where the mice were entering the home and sealed the point of entry. I also replenished the bait in the rodent bait boxes. It may take a few days, but I’m confident that this homeowner will not be seeing or hearing any more mice scurrying about in her basement.
While at her home, the homeowner let me know that she also had large bees swarming around the home and her mailbox. She was especially concerned about bees around her mailbox because she was afraid of being stung every time she went to get her mail. She also did not want the mailman to risk being stung when delivering her mail.
Upon inspection, I observed gallery holes consistent with a carpenter bee infestation. Carpenter bees are wood-destroying insects, but unlike termites do not actually eat wood. As their name implies, they bore holes into wood. More specifically, it’s the females that do the boring. They tunnel into wood to lay their eggs. Common nesting sites are fascia boards, eaves, window trim, deck posts and rails as well as outdoor sheds and outdoor wooden furniture. Carpenter bees holes look as through they have been drilled with a 1/2 inch drill bit.
I applied a residual insecticide dust to the gallery holes that I could find outside the home. This method, while more time-consuming than spraying, is highly effective for eliminating the female from the gallery. With the female out of the picture, the nest will soon die. As a bonus, the dust kills the male bee as well. Even though the male does not do the wood boring, he goes into the gallery at night when temperatures drop, and would be exposed to the dust at that time. Finally, the dust has a long residual effect, which is so important with insect infestations. Once the larvae mature into bees, they will be killed as well. The dust will patiently wait for them.
Next, I ventured out to the mailbox. There was an active infestation with carpenter bees were swarming around. It was easy to see why this homeowner was afraid to get her mail with bugs circling about!
I found several carpenter bee holes bored into the old support post of the mailbox. Since there were only a few bored holes bored holes, I decided to use the same treatment that I did for the home — an insecticide dust. Because of its excellent residual properties (that is, it continues to work for a long time after it is applied), I like to use the dust whenever I can. Spraying works well when there are many galleries. However, to me, , when there are a limited number of holes, the dust treatment has the advantage of pinpointing the treatment areas and making sure that the female bees and the larvae are killed. By killing multiple generations of insects, you know that the infestation will be resolved for good.
Shortly after dusting the holes, I also noticed ants swarming out on the post covered with dust. This dust will also kill the ants. So, I was able to effectively treat for two insect pests at the same time. This would be a good time to change the expression “killing two birds with one stone” to “killing two insects with one application!”
The homeowner was pleased that I was able to resolve three different infestations — mice, carpenter bees, and ants — during one visit. She was also happy that she could now pick up her mail from her mailbox without worrying about being stung. I’m also glad that I could help the mailman — he should now be able to deliver the mail without worrying about being attacked by stinging insects.
I performed a termite treatment for an Avenel homeowner who made the unfortunate discovery of a termite swarm in his bedroom. Termite swarms are when a small army of winged, reproductive termites are released from the subterranean nest to mate and start new colonies. Sometimes, these swarming insects manage to find their way inside homes through cracks in foundations and other gaps. While it is disturbing to see, finding a termite swarm can be a blessing in disguise for homeowners. It is an “in your face” sign that you have a termite problem. Otherwise, signs of termite activity can be quite subtle, and you may not realize that you have termite activity before there has already been significant property damage. Termites eat wood from the inside out so superficially the wood look okay until the hollowed out shell collapses from its own weight or disintegrates after you try to screw something in it.
After our inspection and consultation with a homeowner, I determined that termite baiting would be the best solution to this problem. Termites are fragile subterranean insects that travel through soil. They cannot be exposed to the outdoor elements, and even when traveling from the soil to the wood in your home, will build protective mud tunnels over concrete foundations. After strategically installing bait stations around the perimeter of the home, swarmers began massing around one of the installed bait stations. This set-up will soon resolve the termite infestation and prevent any termite damage to the home down the road. In the attached photo, you can see the swarmers in the foreground with the bait station in the background.
This past winter, the food supply for ants spoiled or depleted much earlier than usual because of the warm, dry weather we experienced. Since then, we’ve had a cooler wet spring. As a result, as we enter summer, ants have been unusually active and aggressively seeking food. As a result, we’ve had a large spike in calls from homeowners dealing with ant infestations.
To resolve an ant infestation, you have to kill the queen and the rest of the colony. It is not enough to kill a few isolated foraging ants. One of the most effective ways to control and eliminate ant infestations is by employing a granular ant bait. Granular ant bait is brought back by the foraging ants to the colony, where it is shared and eaten by the reproducing queen and worker ants. This bait, in combination with a liquid application treatment available to pest control applicators, virtually ensures that the ant population is knocked down quickly.
In the image in Dayton, NJ, you can actually observe ants transporting the granular bait back to the colony immediately after I set the bait. Ants just love this stuff, and even better, they love sharing it with the rest of the colony!
I was sent to a homeowner in Fords, NJ who was one of our home protection plan (HPP) customers. She contacted Cowleys because there was a swarm of bees outside her front door. She was especially concerned about the potential for stings, especially because of her husband’s frail health. He was in no condition to be recuperating from painful bee stings.
Upon arrival, I immediately observed a large swarm of bees covering a portion of a garden hose reel about 15 feet from the front door. It soon became apart that it was a swarm of honey bees on the reel.
Honey bees are valuable, beneficial pollinating insects. As many are aware, there has been concern about declining honey bee populations since the late 1990s that has been attributed to habitat loss and industrial agriculture’s use of pesticides. About 1/3 of our food supply comes from pollination, and the majority of that from honeybees. Also, these bees are the only insect that makes food we eat. Unprocessed honey has an indefinite shelf life, and has many health benefits.
We don’t come across honey bee swarms too often, but when we do, we approach them carefully. Honey bees are protected in New Jersey and it is illegal to kill a nest unless it is located inside a dwelling. At Cowleys, we virtually never attempt to treat honey combs ourselves and kill the bees. As a practical matter, sprays are not effective because the intricate structure of the honey comb blocks the spray from reaching all of the bees. The remaining hive members inevitably regroup and continue to grow. Beyond that, we consider it irresponsible and environmentally wrong at Cowleys to kill an insect that is so critical for producing many of the fruits and vegetables that we enjoy.
With this particular swarm, there was not yet even a honey comb built. These bees were swarming around a resting queen looking for a structure to build the comb. It was likely that the bee swarm would soon be moving away on its own. However, considering the concern of this homeowner, I did not want to work on the timetable of the bees and when they decided to leave. The best and most effective course of action would be to call in a professional beekeeper to remove the bees.
I informed the customer that the bees did not pose a danger as long as they weren’t undisturbed. Honey bees are not aggressive like wasps or hornets. We gave the homeowner the contact information of a reputable beekeeper that we work with in these situations. Beekeepers are skilled in removing the combs filled with honey and larvae and transferring it to a bee hive box that will become their new home. The collect any remaining swarming bees by either scooping them up or vacuuming them up in a special bee vacuum.
The beekeeper keeps bees to collect their honey and other products the hive produces, to pollinate crops, and to produce bees for sale to others. These beekeepers, by caring for these insects, are providing a much needed environmental service, and I, for one, am thankful for the work they do.
This particular job in Iselin, NJ is a perfect example of why proper home maintenance is so important for preventing wildlife infestations. Delaying repairs is an invitation for other problems to develop, which just compounds the cost of repairs. Here, the homeowner failed to do something as simple as clearing the leaves and debris out of his gutter. The clogged gutters, a lack of overhang from shingles, and no flashing along fascia boards created the perfect storm for extensive water damage to the roof line. Ultimately, the fascia boards and gutter fell from the side of the house!
Cowleys offers gutter cleaning services. If homeowners don’t have the time or the mobility to be climbing up and down ladders, it is well worth the cost to have someone do it for you. Clogged gutters can lead to expensive unnecessary repairs. Water pooling in the gutters will saturate the facial boards, causing rot and weakening the entire structure. Here, the damage progressed to the point where the fascia could not even hold the weight of the gutters, and everything just collapsed.
If the damage to the home wasn’t enough, wildlife will seize on these weaknesses. They have no hesitation to exploit any opportunity to access a home. Raccoon mothers are especially attracted to attics and other structures in a home to use as a safe and private den to give birth to their litter and take care of their helpless kits. This damage to this home’s roof line provided multiple access points for raccoons to move into the cozy space between the roof and ceiling. Luckily for the homeowner, Cowleys was able to trap and relocate the animals, as well as help prevent them from returning.
I was recently in Woodbridge, NJ to service one of our multi-unit residential accounts. The property manager had told me that some tenants had observed mouse activity in the garbage room, so I was especially interested in locating potential rodent access points into the building.
During my inspection, I immediately found the source of the problem. The door to the building’s garbage room was missing a door sweep, leaving a large gap for mice to enter. Mice do not require much of an opening to enter a structure. Because of their size, mice are able to squeeze through a hole the size of a dime. The good rule of thumb is that if a mouse can poke its head through an opening, the rest of its body can follow. For a mouse, the gap underneath a door that is missing a door sweep was a wide open invitation to explore inside and forage for food. Garbage rooms are major mouse (and for that matter, insect) attractant because garbage, at least in residential facilities, inevitably contains food waste. And for a mouse, our food waste is their treasure!
I immediately pointed out this issue to the property manager, and recommended that they install a door sweep to block rodent access. This rodent infestation was another example of how a little inexpensive maintenance can go a long way as part of a preventative pest control program. To resolve the active mouse infestation, I placed RTU rodent tamper-resistant bait stations in each corner of the room to monitor rodent activity (I monitor their activity by checking whether any of the bait was eaten as part of my follow-up visits). These bait stations, which require a key to open, fit flush against the wall or in a corner where mice travel. With these bait stations in place and the mouse entry point excluded, it will not take long for this infestation to be resolved.
I handle the pest control needs for a senior residential community in Dayton, NJ. The property manager informed me that they were having a serious problem with flies, so I immediately went out to resolve the infestation and determine the source of the problem. With flies, more often than not, the problem is sanitation-related. If garbage and food scraps are left out in the open unsealed, you’re asking for trouble. That trouble may come in the form of flies, cockroaches, other insects, rodents, and wildlife.
Once I began my inspection, I immediately noticed several serious sanitation issues that needed to be addressed immediately. First, there were two dumpsters that were only about five feet away from the back of receiving door for deliveries. This was way too close to the building. To make matters words, the door was left wide open. Any flies that were attracted to the garbage could be easily sucked into the building by the air current — they would not even have to try to get into the building on their own initiative. Second, I found dirty garbage cans with garbage debris and coffee grounds on the bottom. Flies are attracted to decaying food debris and garbage.
I strongly suggested that management move the dumpsters farther away from the rear entrance and and that the garbage cans be thoroughly cleaned. Garbage cans should always be bagged and the tops should have a firmly sealed lid. Finally, I performed a treatment with a residual application to the top lids of the dumpsters, around the frames of the doors, and any surface areas where flies could land.
This summer, I had numerous calls for stinging insect infestations, especially wasps. Social wasps like paper wasps, baldfaced hornets, and yellowjackets are highly aggressive and very territorial. Accidentally encroaching on a nest can trigger an attack by a swarm of angry wasps, each one capable of stinging multiple times.
I’ve dealt with the treatment and removal of both paper wasp nests and baldfaced hornets nests. Paper wasps can build their nests almost anywhere around a home. Here, I treated a pair of nests that were built in a window frame. I also treated a pair of baldfaced hornets nests in a tree and under a soffit.
No worries, after our treatment in Middlesex, NJ, I completely bagged and removed all of the nests from the property.
Usually, with wildlife infestations in the attic, we are only dealing with one species of animal at a time. Whether its larger animals like raccoons or squirrels or smaller ones like mice, they usually live alone. During our inspection we look for clues to determine the type of animal if we aren’t fortunate enough to catch the animals red-handed. The usual clues are the type of noise and the time of day when the noises are mostly heard, the size of the entry hole, the identification of the feces, animal tracks if there is dust in the attic or there are muddy prints, the type of damage left by the animal, and finally, experienced wildlife technicians can identify the trademark scent of the animal and the fur that is left behind.
Very rarely do we come across a situation where squirrels and raccoons are entering and occupying the same space at the same time. Raccoons, by far the larger, stronger, and more vicious of the two species, would simply not allow a squirrel to be in the same location, especially a mother raccoon caring for her young. Raccoons tend to be nocturnal, sleeping during the day. They would not appreciate the noise of squirrels, which are active during the day.
However, situations can sometimes present themselves where the two animals can manage to occupy the same space “without stepping on each other’s toes,” so to speak. When the weather is warm, raccoons will not necessarily return to the attic every day to sleep. Instead, since they don’t need to escape the harsh outdoor elements, they can sleep outside when the weather is accommodating (just like we do when we go camping on warm summer nights!).
With this home in Milltown, NJ, there was evidence of both squirrel and raccoon activity. The access point into the attic was more than enough to accommodate a raccoon, so either animal could have entered. Identification of animal feces indicated that bother animals were, at one time or another, present there. However, I wanted to see which animals were activity using the area in the home. i placed tape across the access hole. First, I wanted to see if any animals were actively using the space, and if so, what animal species was trespassing. When I returned to check the tape, sure enough, there was BOTH squirrel fur and raccoon fur stuck on the now-broken tape. Somehow, this odd couple of animals were able to tolerate each other’s presence.
Ince I determine the particular animal I am dealing with, I can then strategize the best solution to resolve the animal infestation and set the right traps with the right bait. In these very rare situations where I am faced with different animals, the process may take little longer, but rest assured, the end result will be the same for the homeowner — we will evict the animals from the attic and then seal the entry points to prevent a re-infestation.
As a pest control technician, you come across different situations every day. It’s one of the reasons why I love this job besides helping people and businesses deal with all sorts of insect and rodent infestations. It just never gets old. Sometimes things happen that you would not believe if you did not see it with your own two eyes. That was the situation here. This story could easily be called “Mice Find their Way in the Darndest Places.”
A homeowner in South Plainfield, NJ was ready to hop in the shower. A pretty routine activity that we do every day — almost without thinking about it. However, this time, when she pulled the shower curtain back, there a big surprise was awaiting. A beady-eyed voyeur was there to greet her. To say that this unexpected surprise startled the homeowner was an understatement. According to her, she screamed more loudly than Janet Leigh taking a shower at the Bates Motel! Fortunately, this intruder was nowhere as dangerous as Norman Bates. We were “only” dealing with a mouse.
However, perhaps most bizarre, was that this little rodent was sitting right on top of the shower head! He was acting as though he was on the observation deck of the Empire State Building! The mouse was using the shower as a personal obstacle course, running down the handheld shower cord, circling around the tub, and then going back up to the shower head once again.
Going forward, this homeowner did not want anyone joining in her shower, especially a mouse. I promised her that I’d take care of the problem. When dealing with any rodent infestation, the inspection is critical. You have to find the entry points to know how the rodents are gaining access inside the home. After careful inspection, I found their entrance way. There were gaps around the water supply line. Mice are a challenging infestation because of their diminutive size. They can fit through a hole the size of a dime, less than 1/4 inch of space!
I first treated the wall void with a tracking powder application. When it gets on their paws and skin, they lick it off, and then it’s lights out. Nest, I sealed the opening with chew-proof copper mesh. You just can’t caulk the gaps because mice will chew and claw their way right through it. Moving my inspection to the basement, I located a utility line going through the exterior wall that had plenty of room for mice to gain entry to the home. I sealed those openings as well and then placed rodent bait stations around the inside basement perimeter as well as large rodent boxes around the exterior perimeter. These measures will get rid of the mice in the home and ensure that no more mice will get inside. I’m confident that after this treatment, this homeowner will be able to take a shower without worrying about some curious mouse staring at her from the shower head!
Damage from termites cause, by far, more property damage than any other insects. These subterranean worm-like insects feed on any materials containing cellulose, so any building materials in your home that’s made of wood or paper is fair game. Some insects like carpenter ants and carpenter bees bore through wood to make galleries to lay their eggs. Termites are different. They actually eat the wood, and their damage is slow and steady. Because they eat wood from the inside out, turning beams and boards into hollow shells, it is often not discovered until there is extensive damage such as sagging floors.
Because they are silent and stay hidden, it is difficult to know if you have an active termite infestation. One common signs are mud tubes that termites construct over foundations used to travel to and from the underground nest to reach the wood in your home. Another visible sign is discarded piled up wings from reproductive swarmers left on widow sills and other locations nearby light when a termite colony swarms and thousands of winged flying termites are released to mate and start new colonies.
Fortunately, homeowners are not helpless when it comes to termites. They can take preventative measures against termite damage through having a professional pest control service install a Sentricon termite elimination system around the home’s perimeter. With this system, bait stations are installed about every ten feet around the home, effectively blocking termites from reaching the home. To me, these bait stations are like an underground protective moat that create a barrier to block termites. These bait stations contain a cellulose matrix treated with an insect growth regular that prevents molting. The worker termites bring the bait back to share with the colony. The affected termites die as they are unable to molt and and the colony is eliminated.
This homeowner in Monroe Township, NJ had a Sentricon system installed. And it’s a good thing he did. I was out there recently to perform an inspection to check the bait. I opened a station and found a slew of live termites devouring the bait. A good portion of the bait was consumed, and I replaced it. The workers will carry this back to the colony to share it with everyone else. The nest will soon be eliminated without the termites even getting close to the home. This is proactive preventative termite treatment at its best.
Recently, I was dispatched to an apartment complex in Sayreville, NJ, that we service monthly. Upon arrival, I spoke with the property manager. He told me that one of the tenants was having problems with German cockroaches. German roaches are the most common species of roaches. They are light brown to tan with two dark stripes just behind their heads. They can fit through openings as small as 3/8 inch, so roach infestations in an apartment building are a problem because its so easy for them to spread from unit to unit.
They feed on almost anything including soap, glued and toothpaste. Roaches live and breed in filth and sewage. They can pick up all sorts of pathogens and parasitic worms on their bodies and carry this waste into food or on food preparation surfaces. Roaches are a health hazard not only for the diseases they carry and food contamination, but also roach allergens can trigger allergic reactions and exacerbate asthma attacks.
German roaches breed at exponential rates. They can breed up to six generations a year. A single roach casing (oothecae) can contain dozens of cockroach eggs just waiting to hatch. One German roach oothecae can produce 50 eggs, and all it takes is a little over three months for these babies to mature into adults! Needless to say, a German roach infestation can grow out of control in a very short period of time.
With any kind of vermin, it is essential to keep the area clutter-free. Clutter provides almost unlimited harborage sites and allows pest populations to skyrocket. With extensive clutter, it is difficult to determine the extent of the infestation because the pests stay hidden. As seen in the attached pictures, this tenant had a major problem with clutter. Not only are there numerous areas of harborage for these unwanted insects, but it also makes it extremely difficult to effectively treat the infestation because of the number of potential hiding spots.
The tenant left the apartment while I performed the service around the clutter as best as I could. the condition of this unit, for a professional pest control technician, is one of the worst case scenarios. Pest infestations often require a cooperative effort to obtain successful results. I informed the property manager and the tenant that the clutter in the apartment has to be reduced before my follow-up visit. This level of clutter is unsafe for the tenant and makes pest control treatment extremely difficult. As all property managers understand, just one problem tenant who does not properly maintain his or her living space can cause major pest issues for an entire building.
A restaurant in Old Bridge, NJ was having ongoing pest problems and decided to use Cowleys for their periodic servicing. Soon thereafter, I was dispatched with another pest control technician to do a thorough roach clean out. As soon as we started, we realized that there was an even more serious infestation that needed to be resolved — mice!
It is imperative for restaurants to have sanitation and hygiene protocols established and followed for the kitchen staff. It’s only a matter of time before a dirty kitchen finds itself with pest problems. Apparently, the other pest control service did not convey the importance of sanitation. Pest control in restaurants must be a cooperative effort with the pest control service.
As shown in the photos, the grill has not been adequately cleaned. Even worse, underneath in the grill’s catch basin there were mouse droppings. While we were doing our clean out, no more than an hour after the grill was turned off, a mouse popped his head up to see what all the commotion in the kitchen was all about. It was painfully obvious to us that this kitchen had major sanitation deficiencies. The photos underneath the deep fryers speak for themselves. It was no surprise that rodents had made this kitchen their home. Fortunately, my partner and i were there to start eviction proceedings against these trespassers!
A rodent infestation in a restaurant or other food preparation business spells big trouble, and we knew that we had to act fast to get things under control. We started out by placing glue boards in strategic places throughout the kitchen. Glue boards not only catch rodents. We use them as monitoring devices between service calls to gives us a reliable indicator of what pests are active and the level of infestation. We also set up outdoor rodent bait stations. With rodents, a major part of the inspection is locating potential entry points. Unfortunately, because of their size, mice are able to access buildings through quite small gaps and cracks around the building’s foundation. We thoroughly inspected the basement and sealed all of the access points that we could find.
An infestation this severe cannot be completely resolved in one visit. It will require constant follow-ups until we can get the situation under control. We informed the manager that the staff needs to do a more thorough job with kitchen sanitation and there must be accountability of cleaning tasks so everyone knows what is required of them. We look forward to working with this new customer and get them on track for a clean, healthy kitchen.
Recently, I completed a termite treatment in Woodbridge, NJ. The homeowner contacted Cowleys after observing termite swarmers in the laundry room and bathroom. Flying termites (“swarmers”) are dark-bodied, winged termites. Every spring, like clockwork, termites swarm to search for mates and start a new colony. These termites are completely different than wood-destroying worker termites. Worker termites do their dirty work in private. You’ll only see them if you happen to inspect a piece of infested wood or you crack open a mud tube during an active infestation. Swarmers, on the other hand, are visible. In fact, swarmers are, by far, the most visible sign of a termite infestation. When a termite colony swarms, thousands of winged termites are released. Soon thereafter, swarmers shed their wings. Should termites swarm indoors, they do their best to try to escape, so you’ll often find piles of termite wings on windowsills or on countertops near light sources. Most termites that have the bad luck of swarming indoors will die. Nevertheless, it’s still important to contact a termite pest control professional immediately. If your home has an inside swarm, there is an underground active termite colony somewhere nearby.
When dealing with an indoor swarm, it’s often difficult to ascertain exactly where the subterranean colony is located. All you know for sure is that the swarmers were able to gain access into the home through some gap or crack in the home’s foundation. It is common for swarmers to find their way inside wall voids as well. To cover all bases, I drilled and treated all four walls in the laundry room as well as the bathroom. The laundry room adjoined the bathroom with a partition wall separating the two rooms. With this treatment, even though the exact location of the colony is unknown, I treated a broad enough coverage area for the colony to soon be destroyed.
While servicing one of my commercial accounts in Sayreville, NJ, I noticed a cluster of American cockroaches around some steam pipes in the drop ceiling. American cockroaches are not common pests in most homes. They can be abundant in stores and commercial facilities such as grocery stores, prisons, restaurants, hospitals, and an office and apartment buildings. They prefer to inhabit warm, damp locations including steam tunnels, boiler room, and sewage ejector pits. Strong Flyers, these cockroaches can easily migrate from building to building. In the summer, large numbers accumulate in outdoor locations such as dumps, and yards. In the fall, they migrate into surrounding structures. Although they feed on a variety of materials, they prefer fermenting foods.
American cockroaches are particularly sensitive to drying, so it is important to reduce moisture by repairing leaks, improving drainage, and installing screen vents to increase airflow.
We treated this facility using my compressed air sprayer. I then applied a residual insecticide to the surface areas, around the pipes, and into cracks and crevices. I inspected the same area on my next service and was pleased to find that the chemical placement worked to perfection. I did a thorough inspection of entire area and there were no roaches to be found!
I was recently sent to a home in Edison, NJ, to help a homeowner with a yellow jacket infestation in his back yard. These are highly aggressive, territorial wasps. With their yellow and black or white and black striping, these feared stinging insects are readily identifiable with their distinctive warning coloration. A single yellow jacket can sting repeatedly. Multiply that with a swarm of yellow jackets on the attack, and it’s a dangerous situation, especially those allergic to their venom. A mature yellow jacket colony can contain a thousand or more workers. Yellow jackets are scavengers that eat a wide variety of foods besides just flower nectar. They seek out foods loaded with sugar like sodas as well as meats, fish, and almost all of the food debris you’ll find in garbage. It’s no surprise they thrive around people and are attracted to outdoor events where food is served.
This homeowner had an underground nest in his backyard, which is quite common for these insects. Although some yellow jackets build aerial nest, many types of yellow jackets found in New Jersey are ground-nesters, and will build their nests in soil cavities, tree stumps, rodent burrows, and other natural openings as nest sites, enlarging the cavity as the colony develops. If you see flying insects shooting out of a hole in the ground, it’s a good chance they are yellow jackets. Typically, we find that the ground-dwelling yellow jackets are even more aggressive than those that build nests above-ground.Their paper nests are completely surrounded by a paper envelope, so you’ll usually see a paper “hood” over the underground nest.
When removing a yellow jacket nest, I take all the precautions to avoid being stung and put on a protective suit. Even wearing a suit, I’ve been stung, and it’s one of the most painful insect stings out there. I used a backpack sprayer with pressure to soak a liquid treatment below ground to reach the nest. The objective is to kill the colony before the yellow jackets have a chance to respond to protect their nest.
During the summer, it is important to check your yard for holes and possible yellow jacket nests, especially if you have curious kids or pets that find backyard holes irresistible to explore. Yellow jacket stings are quite common because these nests are hidden unlike the aerial ones. Just mowing the lawn can set off a swarm. Also, since the nest is underground, there is no way to gauge the size of the colony.
Recently, I was sent to a home in Whiting, NJ, to help a homeowner with a pest infestation in her kitchen. She had seen crawling insects on her kitchen countertop. She managed to snag a couple in a baggie to show me. I immediately knew what bug I was dealing with — cigarette beetles, a common pantry or stored-product pest. The adults are usually reddish-brown in color and oval, almost square, shaped. Its head is bent downward, so it appears hunchbacked. They are confused with drugstore beetles, a similar looking pantry pest, but cigarette beetles are known for their serrated antennae. They are called cigarette beetles because they commonly infest dried tobacco. Although they love tobacco products (cigar collectors live in fear of them!), these bugs and their worm-like larvae eat pretty much anything — and not just “food grades” items like pet food, flour, pasta, and spices. These bugs will devour canvas paintings, book bindings, furniture, and even rat poison!
With any pantry pest, my concern is contamination of stored foods, I always start my inspection with any grain, flour, or cereal products in the cabinet. Those are the foods that are most popular with pantry pests in homes. I want to find any infested products and get rid of them. They are filled not only with bugs, but also their larvae. I don’t want any of these foods to be accidentally consumed. I saw a box of Hungry Jack pancake mix and, sure enough, it was infested with these beetles. The homeowner told me that the pancake mix had been in the cabinet for months untouched (except for the bugs that were going to town in it!). I inspected the other products in the cabinet just to be sure that the infestation was limited to this one box of food. Fortunately, no other foods had yet been infested. I believe this infestation was caught in its early stages.
I emptied out the cabinet and treated it with a crack and crevice aerosol, and told the homeowner to not use it for a few days. I put the infested pancake mix in a sealed bag and took it with me for proper disposal. Finally, I recommended to the homeowner that she keep stored foods, especially flours and grains, in plastic sealed containers that can’t be accessed by pantry pests and other insects foraging for food. The homeowner was pleased that I was able to so quickly identified what these bugs were, locate where they were hiding, and most importantly that I could resolve the infestation so quickly. There are a few nuisance pests worse than those that invade your kitchen and contaminate your food.
As part of our periodic home protection plan (HPP) visits, we conduct a thorough exterior perimeter inspection of the home’s foundation for any pest problems. Often, the homeowner is unaware of outdoor insect activity. By treating these problems while they are still outside, we can resolve many pest problem before insects start gaining access to the home. The only thing worse than an outdoor infestation is an infestation that spreads inside the home!
Here, I was sent to a home in Woodbridge, NJ covered under our HPP program where I located a busy ant trail right by the front door. I was surprised that foraging ants had not yet found their way inside or, so far, they had escaped detention. Whenever I locate an ant trail, I follow it to locate their nest. Here, I followed the trail across the front deck where it disappeared into the voids of the brick foundation.
To resolve this infestation, I used a variety of products, each of which has its own specific purpose. First, I treated the exterior foundation with a liquid barrier that prevents the ants from entering the home. I wanted to be sure that this outdoor infestation stayed outside. Next, I treated the brick voids with a powerful non-residual dust that quickly knocks down the ant population. Finally, I applied a granular bait around the exterior areas. This bait combines a mixture of foods with a hidden delayed-action product that is carried back to the nest and shared with the other members of the colony. This product substantially reduces the ant population in and around the nest and also immediately halts egg production. And no more eggs means no more colony. With this combination of products, this ant infestation will stay outside of the home for the rest of its limited life.
I always feel good about taking care of pest infestations that the homeowner was unaware of, and would have gotten worse if left untreated. This job shows one of the key benefits of a residential HPP program — it allows us to stay on top of pest infestations and treat them while they are still in their early stages and not causing too much trouble for the homeowner.
With the possible exception of bed bugs, there is no other pest that sends homeowners into a panic quite like cockroaches. Roaches are associated with filth and disease, and rightly so. Roaches can contaminate countertops, dishes, and any other surface in your kitchen that comes into contact with food. Roach waste and saliva contains bacteria and other pathogens that can cause serious food poisoning and even Staph infections.
This homeowner in East Brunswick, NJ, saw two cockroaches in her kitchen — and that was more than enough incentive to contact Cowleys. There are never just one or two roaches in your home. If you have even a single roach sighting, it’s reasonable to assume there are others. You often don’t see them because roaches are nocturnal and forage for food at night. They are light-sensitive, so when you turn on the kitchen lights, they will quickly scamper off into their hiding spots. In kitchens, they seek out dark, moist areas. We often find them behind stoves and refrigerators (especially inside refrigerator motors), underneath sinks, and even inside drains.
Upon arrival, at first blush, the kitchen superficially looked quite clean. There was no food debris on the floor or countertops. With roach infestations, however, you have to dig deeper and go beyond the visible surfaces. I pulled out the refrigerator where I found quite a bit of food debris and a treasure trove of dog food. Apparently, the homeowner recently added a new puppy to her household, and he was a messy eater, scattering food everywhere. I then pulled out the stove and found more of the same — old food debris and dog food — as well as cooking grease on the back of the stove that had dripped all the way down to the floor, which had grease all over it. While we don’t think of grease as food, roaches will thrive on it. Finally, I looked under the dishwasher, and it too was dirty underneath. This kitchen offered roaches multiple significant food sources even though anyone who stepped into it would say it was clean.
Before treatment, I cleaned out these hidden areas collecting food. Homeowners should periodically access these areas to ensure that they are kept clean. Roaches love dry pet food, and leaving out pet food can become “pest” food. I suggested that she leave out the food for limited periods of time in a place where the kibble would not roll underneath the appliances. After thoroughly cleaning these roach harborage areas, I applied a treatment that will kill the roaches and their eggs. As long as the kitchen stays clean of food debris, this roach infestation will resolve itself shortly.
These new homeowners recently bought a home in Monroe Township, NJ. As it often turns out, not everything is uncovered during the home inspection. It didn’t take them long to realize that they had a moisture problem in the basement.
Hoping to take care of the problem themselves, they purchased a generic “big box” store dehumidifier. They soon found out that these humidifiers aren’t strong enough for use in basements and crawl spaces. For these below-grade areas, you need a dehumidifier powerful enough to keep down relative humidity below 55% so that mold can’t grow. Also, most generic dehumidifiers are only rated for about 500 square feet, and they are limited in how much water they can extract. Also, there is a water pan to keep an eye on and empty. Who wants to be taking constant trips to their basement or crawl space to check the pan in the dehumidifier?
This homeowner saw that Cowleys has a division that specializes in basement and crawl space moisture and water issues. After contacting us, arrangements were made for a two-man crew to install a commercial-grade Sani-Dry Sedona dehumidifier. We installed the dehumidifier so that it drained directly into the sump pump — no water pan to deal with! The Sedona is maintenance-free and turns on and off automatically with a built-in hygrometer. These machines are rated to cover spaces as large as 3000 square feet, far more than is needed for most homes.
High indoor humidity is one of the most frequent causes of mold formation in our humid Jersey Shore climate. Proper dehumidification is the only long-term solution. The Sedona offers other benefits as well. It filters the air and removes dust mites, dramatically helping those with respiratory sensitivities and allergies. Also these dehumidifiers improve a home’s indoor air quality. They help get rid of those pungent musty smells from down below that rise up into the living areas of the home.
Recently, I was sent to treat an apartment unit in Woodbridge, NJ for a roach infestation. Cockroaches often seek out warm spots in a kitchen, for example, you’ll often find them hiding in and around appliance motor boxes. Roaches are stubborn, resilient insects and treating a heavy infestation can be a challenge, especially in high density housing where the roaches can migrate from one unit to the next. It is important for tenants to keep their kitchens clean and free of food debris.
Here, I wanted to inspect and treat two common roach nesting areas behind the oven and refrigerator and pulled the appliances out away from the wall. I also treated the interior warm spots in the appliances, including the motor box in the microwave, as well as inside the kitchen cabinets. I placed insect monitors throughout the kitchen so I could assess the infestation level on my follow-up visit as used baits and a growth regular application. Roach infestations, like bed bug infestations, don’t go away overnight and often takes multiple follow-up visits to fully resolve the infestation. Also, it is important that the tenant cooperates by keeping the kitchen area clean and sanitary and by removing unnecessary clutter to keep down potential insect harborage areas.
Bed bug infestations are one of our most challenging pests. They are tough, resilient insects and bury themselves deep in tiny cracks and crevices between blood meals. Bed bugs are rarely in plan view and it takes a detailed, systematic, methodical inspection to find them. Also, treating bed bug infestations require follow-up visits to re-inspect and provide additional treatments as necessary. You can never assume that a bed bug infestation is fully resolved after the first treatment, and the pest control service must stay with it until there are no more bugs and no more bites!
Here, a two-man bed beg team was sent to a home in South Plainfield, NJ to perform a 3-week follow-up after our initial bed bug treatment. During the follow-ups, we start from scratch, performing a full inspection to determine the extent and location of bed bug activity. When lifting the mattress, I immediately noticed significant bed bug activity including tiny nymphs (young bed bugs). Compared to adults, nymphs are much smaller, translucent or whitish-yellow in color. Because of their coloring and size, they are nearly invisible to the naked eye and can easily escape detection. However, here, the timing was good. Nymphs go through five stages during their life cycle to an adult. After a feeding, when engorged with blood, they are much easier to find. Although the homeowner stated that he had not seen any activity, the inspection revealed that there was still a major problem. Although the population was knocked down, the infestation was not yet resolved. More needed to be done.
With bed bugs, the importance of a thorough vacuuming all of the seams and stitching of bedding cannot be overstated. After vacuuming, we applied a treatment. We scheduled another follow-up with this customer. We will stay on top of this infestation until it is completely resolved. One bed bug is one bed bug too many!