Homeowners in Oceanport, NJ, had an ongoing problem with rodents gaining entry into their crawl space. Usually, rodents will first gain entry inside a home by locating openings around the foundation. And, for mice, it doesn’t take much. These tiny animals that weigh less than an ounce can easily squeeze through gaps as small as a dime. Common rodent entry points are gaps around pipes and wires, garage doors that don’t fully close or are missing weatherstripping, and, the entry point with this home — an access door to the crawl space that no longer did its job. As you can see in the photo, this metal access door had seen better days. It was warped, rusted and had an opening that was an open invitation for rodents. Mice have a distinct knack for finding weaknesses around the foundation, and it was not surprising that they exploited this one.
Cowleys has a contractor division that is staffed by an experienced, professional home repair and renovation crew that handles a variety of crawl space improvements, up to and including complete crawl space encapsulation for homeowners with chronic water, moisture, and humidity issues. We also happily handle smaller projects such as this one. Here, we removed the damaged crawl space door and replaced it with an air-tight Everlast door.
Everlast covers help block outdoor air and moisture from entering the crawl space, which can trigger mold formation and cause wood rot and structural damage. However, these doors are also an effective barrier against rodents and other pests. They are made with a hard durable plastic that stands up to the harshest outdoor elements that we face in New Jersey.
Everlast vent covers are a major improvement over wood or metal doors. These maintenance-free doors will not rot, warp, crack, or rust, and they never need to be painted. Also, they can be installed against either wood framing or masonry. Although these doors create a solid barrier preventing mice and any other pests using this common access point, for humans, they allow for easy crawl space access. These doors have four large easy-to-grip knobs that you or a repair person can twist off in seconds. Homeowners have commented that they wished opening up pickle jars were this easy! As you can see from the before and after photos, this Everlast crawl space door was far more than just a rodent barrier. It was a major aesthetic improvement for the home’s exterior perimeter.
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This past week I was scheduled for a termite treatment in Freehold, N.J. I explained to the customer that the treatment for termites is a chemical treatment to the soil which included digging a trench around the exterior foundation of his home. The customer was concerned that his landscape that he prides was gonna look horrible after the job was done. I assured him I'd do my best to make it look like I was never there. Another happy customer.
Cowley's received a call from one of our commercial accounts located in Belmar, NJ. When I arrived at the account I did an inspection of the exterior of the building, and did not find any pipe chases or holes along the foundation. I then inspected the exterior rodent bait box (LP) located by the rear door. I refreshed the bait in the box.
Still looking for the source, I did an interior inspection and started under the equipment, seeing if there was any evidence of rodent droppings. I then checked the metal catch boxes (Tin Cat) and snap traps under the equipment.
Heavy rodent activity was observedby the ice machine at the rear of the building. Rodent bait boxes (RTUs) previously placed in the basement had no activity. We added an additional Tin Cat and snap traps upstairs under equipment where rodent activity was observed by customer.
When I discussed the rodent problem with the customer, she said that her
parents had started the business 23 years prior and had never had a rodent
Problem: Due to the extremely cold weather, a higher than normal rodent activity has been observed. While doing the interior inspection, found the rear door has been damaged, with a slight bow at the bottom leaving a slight gap at the bottom of the door. That’s all it takes for rodents to find a way inside. We suggested that a door sweep be installed on door to prevent
access to rodents and we will return in two weeks to evaluate the progress.
We had an appointment at a home in Deal, NJ that had water seeping in through the crawl space walls. The crawl space had approximately 2 inches of water on the floor. We needed to install a sump pump and then used drainage matting to direct the standing water towards the sump pump. We covered the walls and the floor with 20 mil vapor barrier to keep the moisture down and then installed a professional grade dehumidifier to control the relative humidity.
We highly recommend yearly inspections of your crawl space to maintain the sump pump, dehumidifier and inspect for wood-destroying insects.
Today I found several bed bugs nesting behind the outlet covers in a bedroom. Seems like an odd spot but once you learn about bed bugs habits you will realize why they make a great hiding spot. Bed bugs love to have pressure on their back and stomachs when resting. It makes them feel secure and safe.
Signs of bed bugs include black spots near where they nest. Here, we saw black spots the outlet covers. After I discovered the visual droppings, I unscrewed the outlet cover and found several live bugs nesting.
When treating around electricity you need to be extremely careful and cautious of electrical current. I vacuumed the outlet, then I applied a thin layer of dust around the box and sealed the cover back up.
Always be on the lookout for black specks and call a professional if you are concerned that you have bed bugs.
A homeowner called with noises in their attic. We performed an inspection to the three story house. We found that the squirrels were climbing a tree very close to the house to gain access to the roof. Once on the roof they made a hole in the trim board. We set our traps at the entry point. Over a short period of time 3 squirrels were caught. After monitoring the entry point we determined there was no more activity and sealed the hole.
I was called out to a home in Neptune, NJ. The customer was seeing hundreds of "flying ants" in her bathroom. As soon as I walked in the bathroom, I realized she was having a termite swarm.
I then went into her crawl space to locate the source of the swarm. Directly under the bathroom was the Termite mud tube the swarmers were emerging from.
Cowleys will treat the entire perimeter of the home by trenching and soil rodding Termidor® termiticide into the soil around the house, and also drilling the block under the bathroom in the crawlspace.
The customer was seeing hundreds of "flying ants" in her bathroom. Soon as I walked in the bathroom, I realized she was having a termite swarm.
I then went into her crawlspace to locate the source of the swarm. Directly under the bathroom was the Termite mud tube the swarmers were emerging from.
Cowleys will treat the entire perimeter of the home by trenching and soil rodding Termidor termiticide into the soil around the house, and also drilling the block under the bathroom in the crawlspace.
This formidable opponent is back!! This Red Bank home owner experienced natures clear warning that “You have termites in your house!!” Termite colony's swarm to expand their colonies into new colonies. Maybe you've experienced this before. Have you ever seen the classic Alfred Hitchcock film " the birds"?? Well a termite swarm can be a scaled down version of that. As they emerge from their swarm castle they find a mate to create more termites with, in doing so they discard their wings. And often times, homeowners will find discarded wings all over their foyer, or near a window. As these are not your "worker " termites. They are a clear indication that those little albino looking buggers are certainly close, and more importantly; they are doing damage to your largest investment.
When I arrived to the home, I found discarded wings and crawling swarmer termites all about the foyer. This particular homeowner already knew what may be happening to his largest investment. His Home!! While being moderately aware of the damage that is occurring, he was unaware of what his treatment options were. Or that he actually had, options.
He was concerned about drilling his newly installed paver patio. He also didn't like the idea of gallons of pesticides be injected into the soil around his home. As this is an effective method, he was just a bit uncomfortable with that approach.
This customer is the proud new owner of the Sentricon® baiting system by Dow agriscience.. Termites relentless search for food (wood) keeps going even after finding wood, and when the Sentricon® baiting system "always active" is found by the foraging termites. It's then ingested by the foraging termite and brought back to the colony. This is then fed to the rest of the termite colony by regurgitation. Delivering a lethal dose of the active ingredient to the colony.
Henceforth this homeowner can relax knowing that his home will be termite free..
This picture was taken in an apartment in freehold today. This book to the untrained eye would seem harmless. It was in fact a mystery novel but that's not the point of this story. This particular book was from the public library. The black stains on the pages are fecal stains from a bedbug. This resident informed me that she's had the book for quite some time and always reads in bed. If she had returned this book what's to say she wouldn't also transport bedbugs as well. Just be careful of what you bring into your home not knowing where it was before. Used furniture, borrowed items, even belongings of close friends are harborage areas of bedbugs.
While doing a routine bedbug inspection in Deal NJ today I stumbled upon bedbug eggs. The eggs were located inside the head of a screw on back of the head board. Bedbug eggs are so small that it takes a highly trained eye to locate them. Imagine a piece of very white dust and that's what a bedbug egg looks like.
Finding bedbug eggs is a very critical step of the treatment process. Once the eggs are located we can focus our efforts on steaming those areas to kill the eggs making them unable to hatch.
The customer was so happy that the eggs are found and eliminated. It's a satisfying feeling to have solved her problem.
Whenever I’m called in to resolve a bed bug infestation, I’m inevitably asked how bed bugs were brought into their home. The answer is always bed bugs infestation have nothing to do with sanitation. The only way bed bugs can get into a home is if someone inadvertently let them in. These parasites are stealthy hitchhikers that can hide in the smallest of locations. If you are unlucky enough to be next to someone carrying bed bugs, whether seated next to someone in public transportation or at the movies, or you check into a hotel where the previous guest carried them into the room, these insects are always on the lookout for a new food source — you! They hide in your belongings or on your clothing and these bugs follow you right into your home.
Fortunately, this customer in Wall Township did the right thing and contacted us early, before the bed bugs had time to settle in and multiply. This particular infestation was caught early and handled quickly. I pointed out to him, common habits that can spread bed bugs to others. Here, this customer kept his work boots at the end of his bed every night. What a wonderful dark, quiet place for the bed bugs to hide during the day. Bed bugs would be happy to use the cozy toe box of the she as a "bus stop,” waiting to be transported to their next destination. Wherever the customer and his boots went the next day, the bed bugs would come along for the ride, get off at a new destination, and look for a new victim, continuing the cycle of infestation.
To help reduce bed bug infestations, we all need to be conscious of what we are bringing into our homes, especially after overnight trips sleeping in other locations. And if someone has a bed bug infestation, he should be aware of what is leaving the house to help avoid others from becoming infested.
New Jersey is one of the top states for reported Lyme Disease cases, and most of tick bites happen in May, June, and July. Ticks cling onto vegetation, and when a host brushes by, the tick climbs aboard and looks for a place to attach. Many sufferers of Lyme disease have been bitten by ticks right in their own backyards.
Fortunately, homeowners can dramatically reduce the chance of tick bites and Lyme disease. First, any of us who live in New Jersey and enjoy the outdoors should always be aware of ticks. We should routinely do tick checks on ourselves and on our children whenever returning from the outdoors. Second, you can actively reduce tick populations around your own home.
I recently serviced a homeowner in Freehold Township who requested our tick-reduction program, a series of well-timed, targeted treatments to knock down ticks at all stages of their life cycle. First, I conducted a property analysis to determine the tick activity level and design an appropriate treatment plan for that home's specific landscaping and surrounding environment. There are numerous ways to make your yard less attractive to ticks, from placing a wood chip barrier along wooded areas to to simple steps like frequent mowing and yard debris removal. By restricting tick migration and tick harborage, tick populations drop dramatically.
In addition to this "habitat modification," I apply a tick treatment to those areas where ticks are likely present such as tall vegetation as well as the lawn perimeter, paying careful attention to forest lines. This targeted approach is most effective for long-term tick control. And for households with children and pets, this approach is far safer than blanket treatment of the entire lawn.
With tick-reduction programs, early spring is the ideal time to begin treatment. Spring is a peak time for eggs and tiny nymphs. Reducing these younger tick populations in the spring means less adult ticks down the road. Also, because of their size, nymphs are difficult to detect and these tiny ticks can just as easily transfer diseases through their bites.
As a home protection technician, one part of my job I especially enjoy is helping families enjoy their property during the spring and summer. For me, looking forward to these precious months is what gets me through our tough New Jersey winters. For me, there is a lot of satisfaction helping a family and seeing their kids enjoy their own backyard without the threat of biting, disease-carrying ticks.
I was recently called to Manasquan residence involving a stinging insect problem, which typically means bees, wasps, or hornets. There are many different kinds of stinging insects and each have their own markings and distinct behavior. Upon arrival, the customer immediately let me know that she saw a nest in the peak of a gable in the back of her home. When I got to the back side of her home, I looked up, immediately recognizing the distinctive grey spherical paper nest. It was the beginning stages of a bald faced hornets nest.
Bald-faced hornets are about three-quarters of an inch longs and are black with ivory markings on their faces and abdomens. They are highly aggressive and very territorial around their nest. They are a physically strong insect and more than capable of stinging through a layer of thick clothing. There is an old saying about not stirring up a hornet's nest when it would have been better to have left something alone. It's a great expression because when you don't want to be around when a hornet's nest is disrupted. You'll anger some ornery stinging insects that hate being bothered -- and they will let you know it in the worst sort of ways. Any loud noises or sudden movements around a nest can easily trigger multiple, painful hornet stings. Because an active hornet or wasp nest is so potentially dangerous, it's best to have an experienced professional remove active nests.
From personal experience, even full body suits and face protectors are not impermeable barriers against stings. Wherever possible, I keep my distance and avoid getting too close up and personal with wasps or hornets protecting their nest. For this nest in Manasquan, I used my extension pole, attaching our top-of-the-line, professional use aerosol to knock down all hornet activity. Once the hornet activity stopped, I removed the nest, packaged it, and took it with me. There is always a chance of a few stunned hornets inside the nest. My goal with any stinging insect job is to give the homeowner peace of mind that, with the insects killed and the nest gone and off their property, the problem is resolved.
Homeowners often assume that buzzing, biting mosquitoes are flying into their backyard to bother them, not realizing that mosquitoes, which do not fly great distances, are often home grown and the females are laying eggs somewhere on their property. If your lawn has more than its fair share of mosquitoes, I could walk with you around your property and show you at least a half-dozen potential mosquitoes breeding grounds.
I was conducting a routine exterior service to a Middletown residence and noticed many areas where one lone female mosquito could lay her eggs -- and a lot of them. Upwards of 200 eggs a few times throughout the season! The key is to look for anything capable of retaining water. With this house, I told the homeowner about kids toys left outside in the yard, a tire swing, clogged gutters, and a bird bath. The tinniest of objects, even a bottle cap, is enough water for a mosquito to lay her eggs. The accompanying photo is a perfect example of a potential breeding site. I took this photo as I was walking back to my truck along the street.
If all the species of mosquitoes found in New Jersey weren't enough to deal with, over the last decade or so, New Jersey has become another state invaded by the Asian tiger mosquito. These little pests got their name from their area of origin and their coloring. They are an invasive species, native to Southeast Asia, were first identified in New Jersey right here in Monmouth County in 1995. They soon spread to other areas of the state. They are called "tiger" mosquitoes because of their coloring, a black background with distinctive white markings including a white strip running down the center of its head and back and white bands on its legs.
Also called the tree hole mosquito, the females lay their eggs in small hard-sided containers rather than swamps or marshes. While they like to breed in tree holes, they are happy to use anything else where they can glue themselves to the sides like flower pots, an old bucket, a tin can, or tires. In fact, the spread of this mosquito has been attributed to the interstate transport of used tires.
Unlike other mosquitoes that tend to be active at dusk, this particular species is equally active during the day,making them even more of a nuisance than other species. The Asian Tiger mosquito is an aggressive, persistent biter and can transmit diseases like the West Nile virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis.
Most of my days are filled with dealing with nuisance wildlife problems. I find the best solution to capture and relocate the animals, clean up whatever damage they have made, and close up the entry points into the home to prevent a re-infestation. I love my work and dealing with animals. Many forget that us wildlife technicians are all animal lovers at heart, or we couldn’t be in this type of work. Our job is a win-win. We help homeowners resolve wildlife infestations, but we also help wildlife by relocating the animals to an area that is better suited for them. We have a responsibility to treat animals humanely and with compassion, especially as we continue to take over more and more of their natural habitat. As our living spaces expand, the inevitable consequence is more human-wildlife encounters. My job is to resolve those animal interactions that have become too close for comfort and pose a threat to a family, we can never forget that animals have a basic right to live on this planet too.
Every so often, I have a special day at work that leaves me with great memories and some interesting stores to share. This was one of them. I was assigned a routine job of trapping some raccoons that had taken up residence in a homeowner’s attic. Even though I’m often around wildlife, I witnessed something pretty unusual. This homeowner was himself an admirer of wildlife, and had been feeding deer in the area. He has been doing so with enough frequency that some deer recognized him as a friend, someone non-threatening. It reminded me of the same initial interaction from which wolves slowly became domesticated as dogs; those less aggressive wolves realized that they could have a pretty good life hanging around humans for food and protection. You can call it survival of the friendliest. In this case, over time, deer actually approached the homeowner. If I did not see it with my own eyes, I would not have believed it. A doe and her two fawns were literally eating food out of his hand! According to the homeowner, this little family would leave the nearby woods and stand by his side door, every day at the same time, waiting for some treats. He said that they were so consistent you could almost set your clock to when they would arrive. They loved apples, of course, but, surprisingly, they also liked bird seed. Most of my days are spent separating nuisance wildlife from human habitats for the benefit of both species. On special days like this, however, it was a wonderful change of pace to see people and animals getting along. It’s a great reminder that we all live together on this planet, and our connection with wildlife can be a positive one. For the rest of that day, as the saying goes, I had a smile on my face that nobody could wipe off.
I was sent to an older home in Brielle for an annual inspection covered under our carpenter ant contract. The home had previously been treated for an infestation of these wood-destroying insects, and I wanted to make sure the home was still free of any infestation. Usually, you will find carpenter ants nesting inside dead, damp soft wood. Unlike termites, they do not consumer the wood; rather they bore holes to establish and enlarge their nests. They are capable of hollowing out sections of trees, and, one particular species, the black carpenter ant, likes to infest wooden buildings and structures, causing major structural damage. I thoroughly inspected inside the home and along the sill plate in the basement, and found no evidence of carpenter ant activity. But as often happens, when inspecting for one insect you find evidence of another. With this Braille home, one of the main beams was damaged by powderpost beetles, a type of wood-boring beetle capable of causing extensive damage, in part from the wood being exposed to water damage from the exit holes. (See picture.)
Powderpost beetles are the most destructive beetle pest of seasoned wood. They are second only to termites in the amount of damage caused to wood and wood products. These small, wood-boring insects damage both hardwoods and softwoods, although hardwood infestations are more prevalent. The term “powderpost” refers to the type of damage done by these insects. The larvae of these beetles feed on wood and, given enough time, can reduce it to a mass of fine powder. You’ll see this powdery wood dust as the beetles emerge from their nests. Powderpost beetle larvae spend months or years inside wood while developing, feeding mainly on the starch content. Their presence is only apparent when they emerge as adults, leaving behind pinhole-sized openings. They may also leave piles of powdery frass, which is the waste excreted by the insects when boring through the wood.
The interior and exterior of this home had been treated three years prior after a Cowleys technician had discovered carpenter ant activity by the back porch area. Since the property was covered by a warranty plan, after treating to the exterior of the home, I informed the customer about the powder post beetle damage in the basement. We set up an appointment to treat the support beam before any more damage could be done.
This Braille job is yet another example of the importance of periodic, thorough pest inspections. Insects are seeking to infest your home from every direction, underground, on the ground, and in the air. Pest inspections are a critical part of those steps a cautious homeowner takes to protect his home investment. Insects, especially termites and wood-destroying ants and beetles, are silent destroyers of property. Early infestation detection translates into easier, localized treatments and less property damage.
A Holmdel homeowner contacted Cowleys because of a possible wasp infestation in his attic. Upon arrival, I asked whether he had any pest issues in the past. The customer stated that, except for the wasps, everything was good, but a home inspector did find possible bat droppings during his inspection. Well, that was a pretty big “but!” I was surprised he did not immediately call Cowleys for a possible bat infestation since toxic bat guano is a much greater potential health hazard for a home’s occupants than wasps. Bat guano can be a very dangerous health threat because of its toxic fungi, and if guano particles are inhaled, they can cause histoplasmosis, a serious lung disease. Guano should only be removed by trained technicians using personal protective equipment.
I entered the attic hoping that the inspector was wrong. I could not believe my own eyes! At one time, this attic had been used as a massive bat cave for nesting. There were tons of toxic bat droppings all over along with holes in the attic space. I immediately knew this was bat guano. Their distinctive droppings are shiny and speckled because of their insect diet. The good news for this Holmdel homeowner is that all of the bats were out of the attic. All that was left was their toxic mess.
We vacuumed, sanitized, and deodorized the attic until all remnants of a bat infestation were gone, and bat-proofed the home by finding and sealing the entry points. Much of the attic insulation was damaged by the bats, and I informed the homeowner the Cowleys is licensed to install TAP Pest Control Insulation. TAP, which stands for Thermal, Acoustical, and Pest Control, offers superior thermal and acoustical (sound-deadening) properties as well as a pest control component. The paper fibers are treated with a borate solution that is harmless to people, but lethal to many insects including ants, beetles, and termites. The homeowner was pleased with our service to restore his attic, and said he would be happy to arrange a meeting with a Cowleys insulation specialist.
I was called out to a Red Bank residence. The homeowner had called Cowleys after seeing a "pile of wood shavings on the porch" that she correctly suspected was caused by insects. Sure enough, as I was walking up the porch stairs while inspecting the property, I observed a large pile of “sawdust” wood shavings under the railing. I immediately recognized this as carpenter bee frass, the tell-tail sign of carpenter bees. This material collects below any holes where the bees have been boring into the wood.
Carpenter bees are large bees that resemble bumble bees in both size and appearance. Upon closer inspection (which generally isn’t such a good idea!), carpenter bees have smooth shiny black abdomens while bumble bees are fuzzy all over. Also, carpenter bees are not social insects. Carpenter bees nest alone while bumble bees live in small colonies. For homeowners, the most important difference is that carpenter bees cause property damage. These wood-destroying insects bore holes into wood to construct their nests. Unlike termites, they do not actually eat the wood. Rather, the female carpenter bees hollow out holes approximately 1/2 inch in diameter and bore out tunnels, usually at a 90 degree angle to the entrance. Once the tunnels are excavated, nests are made with pollen to feed the developing larvae.
If the insect infestation is not stopped, these bees tend to reuse the same tunnels year after year, continuing to extend the damage into the wood. Over time, this tunneling weakens the wood not only because of the drilled holes, but also because of accompanying wood rot due to rainwater entering the entrance holes. The male carpenter bee, which is unable to sting, is most often noticed hovering around the entrance hole.
I treated the bee burrows on this Red Bank patio with an application that quickly resolved the infestation. After, I caulked the holes so they would not be reused. The homeowner was grateful that I was able to resolve her problem so quickly. Even though the female bees rarely sting, no one likes buzzing bees flying around. Also, it is important to resolve carpenter bee infestations to ward off wood damage because of their nesting behaviors.
Outdoor moths come in a variety of shape, size, and color depending on the species. Some are large, such as the two unusual large moths that were perched on the siding of this Holmdel residence, while others are small. Some have brilliant colors while others are the drab brown or grey that we associated with moths, especially indoor infesting moths.
Moths are a nuisance pest. With indoor moths, it is the larvae that causes property damage, not the adults. Once a moth reaches adulthood, it will lay its eggs amongst materials that supply food for the developing larvae after they hatch. The larvae of webbing clothes moths can decimate entire wardrobes as well as bedding and furniture. These destructive moths consume natural fibers such as cotton, wool, fur, and silk and even synthetic fibers containing some natural fiber content. The larvae of pantry (Indian meal) moths contaminate food. These moths are especially attracted to bird seed, flour and meals, cereals and grain, and pet foods. The larvae will spin webs in the infested food, you’ll often see clumps of webbing and the larvae itself resembles little worms. Needless to say, these tiny pantry moth eggs can cause big problems in the kitchen.
Outdoor moths are usually seen staying very still on flat exterior walls near light fixtures. Outdoor moths are certainly a nuisance when they hurl themselves against your patio porch light and disrupt summer outdoor gatherings. But certain outdoor moths are more than an annoyance. They can leave a path of destruction behind them. Most notably, gypsy moths, which unfortunately are found throughout New Jersey, feed on hundreds of varieties of trees and shrubs, and are attracted to maples, elms, and especially oaks. They can strip trees completely of their foliage in one season, and with their larvae boring into wood, they can kill entire groves of trees over several seasons. The gypsy moth is considered the worst pest to endanger hardwood and, according to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, the gypsy moth in its caterpillar stage is the most destructive hardwood defoliator to ever occur in the state. Fortunately, this Holmdel homeowner did not have a gypsy moth infestation. If you have oaks and other hardwood on your property, you should periodically insect your trees for defoliation or gypsy moth egg nests.
Ways to reduce outdoor moths on your property include using outdoor lighting only when necessary since lights are a significant moth attractor. Also, swap your standard white bulbs int outdoor fixtures with yellow ones. Since moths fly to the brightest light, they will fly to a neighbor’s white bulb instead of your yellow one. You can also discourage moths with the smell of certain oils like citronella candles.
If your outdoor moth population has gotten out of hand and preventative measures aren’t working, Cowleys can help. We are able to reduce outdoor moth populations by applying product through a misting system that will keep moths away from vegetation surrounding your home.
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.
A customer in Highlands contacted Cowleys nuisance wildlife after finding a few uninvited snakes slithering around in her garage. There are twenty-two known species of snakes in New Jersey. Fortunately, most stay far away from human habitats and naturally avoid people. Generally, you have to venture deep into forests or or rural areas, often near bodies of water, to come across these fear-inducing reptiles.
However, a few species, like the garter snake, can show up virtually anywhere. If a homeowner encounters a snake, there is a good chance that it’s a garter snake. These snakes are attracted to the many hiding spots in and around homes. You’ll find them under the siding of a home or in our “cavelike” basements and crawl spaces. Sometimes, homeowners catch these snakes “sunbathing” out in the open on driveways. These cold-blooded reptiles seek out comfy places like warm pavement to absorb heat and sunlight.
As happened with this Highlands homeowner, you may find snakes in that continuation of your driveway — your garage. Garages are a great place for snakes to hide from the outdoor elements and other predators and garage doors often provide easy access since they often do not seal shut, leaving a small gap in the bottom for snakes to come and go as they please. Snakes are not like raccoons, rodents, and other animals that can dig and claw their way into your home. If there is a snake in your house, shed, or garage, there is some opening somewhere allowing access.
We caught the snakes using large sticky traps placed near garage entry points. The ultra-sticky glue holds snakes firmly until released with cooking oil. All New Jersey snakes are protected under the NJ Endangered and Nongame Species Conservation Act. It is illegal for anyone to kill or collect our native snake species. If there is a snake on your property, it legally must be trapped and relocated. If you have a home that has ongoing issues with snakes, make sure all cracks and crevices in the house and outbuilding foundations are sealed. Also, backyard sheds and other structures elevated off the ground should have a snake barrier installed around the base.
Even though there are no venomous snakes in this area, all snakes can deliver painful bites. If you are not experienced with snakes, trying to catch them on your own is asking for trouble. A common DIY mistake is directly handling a snake by trying to pick it up and shove it in a try to pick it up a pillowcase. This is asking a trouble, and you may very well wind up taking an expensive trip to the hospital. The safest course of action when it comes to snake in or around your home is to contact a wildlife control technician who is experienced with snake removal.
A restaurant in Adelphia contacted Cowleys after its staff had observed mice scurrying about. Needless to say, any pest infestation in a restaurant or other food service facility, whether insect or rodent, presents potential health issues and is a major cause of concern for any restaurant owner. Pest infestations in restaurants must be deal with quickly and decisively.
Detecting a mouse infestation can be a challenge because of their small size and nocturnal behavior. However, mice and other rodents are messy trespassers that and often leave telltale signs of their presence. During my inspection, I will look for their distinctive tracks, gnaw marks, droppings, and rub marks, those dark smudges against walls or objects left by the the oils in their fur. With a little detective work, a good pest control technician can find the nesting locations of rodents. Sure enough, I located a mouse nest in a corner of the kitchen under a sink adjacent to their dishwasher. Following the droppings, I also determined that the mice were entering their nesting area from a a gap behind the tiles.
Mice are resourceful creatures that scavenge for a variety of nesting materials. This particular nest, believe it or not, was made up primarily of expanding foam — the stuff used to plug holes, gaps, and cracks. The restaurant owner had attempted to seal a hole in a half wall next to the dishwasher with expanding foam. However, when doing so, he inadvertently pushed out some other loose tile. Expanding foam may be an easy quick fix, but for pest exclusion it does virtually nothing as a barrier to keep out mice and other rodents. Rodents will not only chew and claw their way through this foam like it was butter, but they’ll steal the material and use it to build their nests.
I placed some tracking powder into the wall voids to deal with any rodents passing through the burrow. I’m confident that this treatment will quickly resolve the infestation. However, I informed the owner that, while expanding foam is a good temporary fix, the holes and gaps need to be sealed permanently with solid building materials.
I was performing the monthly rat control at a apartment complex, and here next to the exterior rodent LP is a very wide entry point for rats entering into the building through the vents. Since this is the cold season when rodents are looking for easy access into buildings and homes for warmth. I brought this to the attention of the property manager and advised him to replace the vent to avoid any further entrance of rats into building.
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.
During a termite treatment at a home in Keansburg, a beautiful Praying Mantis appeared as if to help us get rid of the termites. Mantises are special insects. In fact, their name “mantis” means prophet or seer, and many ancient civilizations that believed this insect was bestowed with spiritual or mystic powers. A mantis is one insect that commands respect. One of my favorite movies is the Deadly Mantis, a 1957 horror film where a giant praying mantis freed from the Arctic Ice terrorizes our cities.
The “praying” part of their name comes from its prominent front legs, which are bent together at an angle that makes them look like they are praying. Unlike any other insect, a mantis has the ability to turn its triangular head, which is poised on a stem-like thorax, from side to side a full 180 degrees. A mantis is both the hunter and the hunted on the food chain. A mantis scans for prey and for animals like bats and spiders who eat them. And these insects can see! They not only do they have two large compound eyes, but they also have three simple eyes located between them.
As a pest control technician, I admire these unusual insects and, to me, they are kindred spirits. Just like me, a praying mantis is a formidable predator. These efficient and deadly hunters are naturally well-camouflaged, with coloring and a shape that make them look like leaves or branches, seamlessly blending in with their surroundings. A mantis will lie in ambush or patiently stalk their quarry, and when ready, will pounce on its prey with lightening-fast reflexes, snaring its victim with its front legs that come equipped with sharp grabbing spikes. A mantis is a carnivore that eats a wide variety of insects and small animals like frogs, lizards, and even small birds. And they don’t waste any time, usually gobbling down their prey head first.
These beneficial insects are welcomed addition to the backyard, helping to reduce populations of a variety of insects that damage vegetation. Their only possible negative trait is only a concern to the male mantis. The adult female often eats her partner just after, or even during, mating. Surprisingly, the males don’t seem to mind and appear happy to reproduce — even if it means that they have to pay the ultimate price!
I carefully picked up this mantis and relocated her to a nearby rosebush where she could continue ambushing unsuspecting insects. The lesson here is that a good pest control technician should have an eye for detail, even noticing the lone praying mantis. Also, when treating a home, we focus only on the harmful insects and leave the beneficial ones like the praying mantis alone. Not all insects are “bad.” Some support us in knocking down harmful pest populations, and we should encourage them to thrive.
I was dispatched to take care of a roach infestation for a homeowner in Leonardo. She had inadvertently carried roaches from a dishpan to her fridge. I eliminated the colony using a combination of a bait and aerosol treatments. With a roach infestation in the kitchen, it is important to pull out the refrigerator to clean underneath and set bait traps. During the day, roaches hide in dark, warm spaces, waiting to forage for food and water at night. The space under the fridge near the warm refrigerator motor is a popular harborage area.
At Cowleys, we are often asked, “How did I get these nasty roaches in my home?” Roach problems are especially common in apartments and other multi-family dwellings. You may be the cleanest tenant in the world, keeping your kitchen spotless and avoiding household clutter. The problem is that others in the complex may not be as conscientious. You have no control over the behavior of other tenants. In multi-family dwellings, everyone can suffer because of the actions of a few, and once a building is infested, roaches easily spread from one unit to the next. Roach problems are compounded in high turnover buildings like college dormitories where people and their roach-infested belongings frequently move in and out.
Single-family homeowners can wind up with a roach infestation as well. Roaches, just like bedbugs and other insects, easily hitchhike their way into a home. To avoid a roach infestation, be careful about what you bring inside. If you buy a desk or dresser drawer secondhand at a yard sale, examine it carefully for roaches and egg cases. If you see dark specks, they may well be roach droppings.Also, corrugated cardboard containers with their little gaps and crevices are another way of bringing in roaches. And you don’t need to bring in a live roach. More often that not, you bring in a hidden roach egg case. Soon, you find yourself with up to 50 little roaches exploring your home, and you have the start of a major infestation.
Another important rule that we encourage our customers to follow is never store items on top of your kitchen appliances, especially your refrigerator. If those items happen to be infested, you are making it far too easy for roaches to find their way inside. We think of refrigerators as airtight safes that protect our food, but that’s not the reality. Roaches have no trouble finding their way inside, where they have a ready supply of food for the taking. Roaches will also find their way into other appliances as well. I’ve seen them infest dishwashers, stoves, and toasters, which accumulate all of those delicious burnt bread crumbs on the bottom.
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!
A restaurant in Port Monmouth found itself with a fruit fly infestation in its kitchen. These tiny, rapidly reproducing little pests, which are easily identified by their distinctive bright red eyes, are so-named because of their attraction to fermenting fruits and vegetables. Perishable food start to smell when bacteria and fungi that are decomposing the food release certain chemicals. While people may be repulsed by the smell of spoiled foods, for fruit flies, these odors are an attractant. And it’s not just the smell of overripe fruits that will lure fruit flies. They are attracted to any fermenting liquids no matter where it’s coming from. So, you’ll find these little gnats hovering over drains, garbage cans, garbage disposals, mops, grease traps, and in this commercial kitchen, dirty rags thrown in a bin inside a heated closet. The heat made the problem worse by accelerating the fermentation process. A pungent rotten odor that had permeated the closet had gone unnoticed to the restaurant staff. Unfortunately, we can become acclimated to certain odors over time and don’t even notice them.
Usually, insect and rodent infestations in restaurants can be traced back to some hygiene or sanitation issue, and fruit flies are no exception. Fruit flies will congregate around kitchen items or appliances that are not regularly cleaned and contain organic residue. We often find that pest infestations occur when proper cleaning protocols are not followed.
In sensitive areas such as commercial kitchens where food is being prepared, we strive to minimize the use of pesticides and instead employ EPA-recommended Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques that use less invasive environmental solutions. Here, the solution was simple. We resolved the infestation by removing the dirty rags and then thoroughly cleaning out the bin and the inside of the closet. Going forward, cleaning rags will be regularly washed and the staff will keep out only clean rags in a bucket of sanitized water. Restaurants and other commercial facilities that work with the pest control service by instituting and implementing appropriate procedures is the most effective long-term solution for avoiding infestations and minimizing their severity if they do occur.
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.
Two Cowleys pest control technicians were dispatched to a home in Wickatunk for a thorough roach clean-out. A residential cockroach infection is more than a nuisance or social embarrassment. A roach infestation is a serious health hazard. Roaches are vectors (carriers) of bacteria and other pathogens that can lead to a number of diseases from diarrhea to food poisoning and sepsis. These insects contaminate food and kitchen countertops. When foraging for food, they leave behind a trail of waste material, egg casings, and molted exoskeletons. When eating, roaches also regurgitate their saliva and digestive fluids. Their secretions contain allergens that can trigger rashes, sneezing, and other allergic reactions. For those with asthma, inhaling cockroach allergens can trigger respiratory attacks. Roach populations increase rapidly — a single egg casing (ootheca) can contain up to 50 eggs, and it takes a roach only about three months to morph from egg to adult. Needless to say, roach infestations are nothing to trifle with. It important to deal with these infestations in their earliest stages, and have it done right. Often DIY roach projects often make matters worse, further spreading the infestation to other areas of the home.
During our inspection, we found heavy roach clusters in numerous areas in the kitchen — behind the refrigerator, in the cabinet above the refrigerator, behind the stove, and even hidden behind the backsplash on the kitchen wall behind the sink. Roaches eat more than what we think of as food. They even consume glue on contact paper, wallpaper paste, and soap.
To treat the infestation we used a aerosol product that forces the roaches out of their hiding spots. We also treated all the baseboards and wall voids. We’ll return for a two-week follow-up visit to re-inspect and perform additional treatments as necessary. It is also imperative that homeowners ensure that good sanitation practices are followed in the kitchen. We’ll work on this job until this infestation is gone and the home is roach-free.
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.
I was sent to a home in Imlaystown after the homeowner contacted Cowleys for a possible mouse infestation. While searching the attic for evidence of rodent activity, I found larger droppings that were not from a mouse. Since the homeowner had not seen any animals on his roof or nearby his home, I contacted our wildlife division with technicians who specialize in trapping and relocating all types of nuisance wildlife including squirrels, raccoons, and skunks.
The invading wildlife was flying squirrels.Even though this squirrel is a common nuisance wildlife problem, these animals do a great job of staying hidden. They are nocturnal and are rarely seen. Homeowners may notice them if they hear strange noises coming from the attic, and quickly go up to take a peak. If they see something that looks like the lovechild of a baby squirrel and a bat. The flying squirrel is much smaller than tree-dwelling squirrels, and has a broad flattened tail. Flying squirrels can’t actually fly and propel themselves through the sky like a bird. They are more accurately “gliding” squirrels because they have a membrane of loose skin that allows them to glide from one tree to the next.
Two Cowleys pest control technicians were dispatched to a home in Allenhurst to deal with a field mouse infestation in the backyard shed and perform a thorough clean-out to remove the pungent smell of mouse urine that permeated the shed and made it virtually unusable.
These field mice (deer mice) were having a “field day” in this shed. There were mouse droppings all over the floor and shelving of the entire shed. In order to clean out the shed and get a better sense of the extent of the infestation, we removed all of the lawn furniture. In the back of the shed, there was a folding chair that was heavily soiled. As we were removing the chair, a family of six mice ran out (a group or family of mice is called a mischief, and considering the havoc they cause, it’s a great name for them!) The mice had gathered material inside the shed and made a winter nest right in the bottom of the chair.
We proceeded to vacuum up all the mice droppings and sanitized the shed of the mouse urine and droppings. These deposits are a significant health hazard, especially when small microscopic particles containing aerosolized viruses become airborne in an enclosed area and are then inhaled. Deer mice are known carriers of Hantavirus, a life-threatening pulmonary disease, and white-footed deer mice often carry deer ticks infected with Lyme Disease. After deodorizing the shed to get rid of the noxious smells, we neatly put back all of the homeowner’s stored belongings that weren’t damaged by the mice.
Keeping field mice out of backyard sheds can be a challenge. It is important to keep your shed well sealed, plug any holes, and don’t leave attractants inside whether its a food source like stored grass seed or materials that they can use for nesting.
Rats had invaded this home in Oakhurst. During my inspection of the home’s exterior to determine potential access points, I observed rats in the backyard slipping underneath the outdoor siding. Apparently, were removing insulation to gain entryway into the home behind the kitchen sink. Often, with rats, you’ll find that if there is not a pre-existing hole for them to gain access into your home, they will create one themselves. And the hole doesn’t need to be that big. Even a hole about the size of a quarter is enough for them to gain access. For mice, gaining access is even easier. Because of their diminutive size, a tiny mouse can squeeze through a hole about the size of a dime. I also found a second access hole in the closet (see photo). The homeowners tried using Brillo to stuff the hole but it did not deter the rats. They simply chewed their way right underneath.
Upon further inspection, I observed a major rodent attractant that many homeowners are unaware of — bird seed! Bird seed may well attract birds, but it can also attract a host of other unwanted animals onto your property, including rodents. The homeowners had a bird feeder set up in their backyard, and all the seeds that fell to the ground were in the same area as where the rats made their access point into the home. The lesson learned is that once rodents are on your property, it is often only a matter of time before they find their way inside. The homeowner stated she used to sore the bird seed underneath the kitchen sink, and then move the bird seed into the closet. Wherever there was bird seed, the rats soon followed!
I installed an LP (low profile) bait station outside right near the exit hole for the rats. I also applied a residual tracking powder under the kitchen sink as well as in the closet. I informed the homeowners that, because they have pets, they need to be extremely careful about keeping the doors shut, so the pets can’t snoop around.
I’ll return for a follow-up visit in two weeks to re-inspect and perform any additional treatments as necessary. At that time, I’ll also seal the points of access into the home.
As part of our residential service plans, Cowleys conducts periodic inspections of throughout the year to look for signs of insects or rodent activity. Often, homeowners are unaware of insect infestations, especially when they are in their early stages or the infestations are in non-living areas of the home or around the home’s exterior. During these visits, Cowleys also treats the home’s exterior perimeter. This is a great proactive step for homeowners to minimize the chance of pest infestations during those peak months of insect activity. Residential service plans go a long way to help homeowners keep their residences pest- and rodent-free thought the year.
During my service plan inspection of this home in Oceanport, I observed staining on the siding of the home. I immediately recognized these stains as carpenter bee stains from their droppings. I was on the lookout for carpenter bees because, unfortunately for this homeowner, carpenter bees have been returning every year to the same area of this home. These bees leave a pheromone in the egg chamber that attracts other bees, so it is no coincidence that many homeowners find these bees returning to the same location year after year. Unfortunately for the bees, Cowleys is able to quickly identify and eliminate these infestations, so they don’t cause any problems for the rest of the year.
Carpenter bees are large, intimidating-looking bees, but they rarely sting. The males don’t even have stingers, and the females usually only bite if aggravated. These resemble bumblebees, except they have large shiny black bodies instead of the familiar “fuzzy” bodies of bumblebees. During early spring, carpenter bees will emerge from their winter nesting holes and start to swarm, which is their ritual for finding a mate. Once mated, the female will find a nesting area to lay her eggs. The female looks for a place to bore into soft wood using her sharp teeth to create a chamber to lay her eggs as her life cycle comes to an end. You’ll see the new bees emerging in late summer to feed before crawling back into the holes as temperatures drop.
These bees prefer to excavate their nests into soft, unpainted woods like pine, cedar, redwood, and cyprus. Treated lumber and hardwoods are much tougher to bore through, so bees tend to avoid them. They typically dig in for about an inch and then turn to follow the wood grain for another six inches or so. On houses, the area behind a facia board is a favorite spot for the bees because this area of the home offers a safe, dry haven.
In the process of boring holes, the bees leave sawdust outside the hole (what we call “frass”) as well as fan-shaped staining secretions. If you see these signs of a carpenter bee infestation along with perfectly round holes about a half-inch in diameter that look like a vandal took a drill to your home. These insects can’t cause nearly the level of damage of termites, but they can certainly weaken wood and cause structural damage. Also, the holes can speed the rotting of the wood through water damage, and carpenter bee staining is visually unappealing.
I treated all burrows with a residual foam. We use either a liquid or dust depending on the particular area infested. Either application is highly effective. The homeowner was not surprised the bees had returned to the same spot, and she thanked me for coming out and taking care of the problem for another year. After this treatment, carpenter bees won’t be bothering her or her family for quite awhile.
While conducting a routine home protection plan servicing, I discovered staining on the siding of the home. Homeowners are often unaware of infestations outside their home or in non-living areas like crawl spaces and attics. Our periodic residential protection plan inspections often uncover these “hidden” problems, allowing us to get them resolved in their early stages before there is significant property damage.
From past experience, I immediately recognized this type of staining. This home had an active carpenter bee infestation. These large bees resemble bumble bees, except they have shiny black bodies instead of the familiar “fuzzy” look of bumble bees. During the early spring, carpenter bees will start swarming to find mates. After mating, the female will bore a hole into soft wood, making a chamber to lay her eggs. In home exteriors, we often find carpenter bee bore holes in behind facia boards. Because fascia boards are near the roof line and gutters are attached to them, they are prone to water-damage and wood rot, making them attractive nesting locations to carpenter bees and other wood-boring insects (not to mention a favorite of squirrels, raccoons, and other wildlife to gain access to the attic!).
Besides the actual holes, evidence of carpenter bee activity include sawdust piles (called “frass”) and staining nearby the holes from their droppings. Unfortunately, carpenter bees often return every year to the same area of the home because of a pheromone left in the egg chamber. We eliminate these bee infestations for the current year by using either a liquid or dust application.
I was sent to a homeowner in Allentown who was dealing with a spider cricket infestation in her basement. These crickets are not your usual run-of-the-mill field crickets that periodically find their way into a home in small numbers. This particular type of cricket usually congregates in large numbers. It is not uncommon to see 50 to 100 of these insects just sitting on a wall in a basement or crawl space. Unlike field crickets, they don’t make chirping sounds, and instead attract mates by emitting a smell. Even compared to other insects, they are quite unattractive. From a distance, these crickets resemble spiders or shrimp because of their gangly long legs and antennae.
These cricket have many names. I’ve heard them called camelback crickets, cave crickets, “land shrimp,” stone critics, spider crickets (which is often shortened to “criders” or “sprickets”). To me, however, they are simply “ugly creatures that have spawned from beneath.” The most common name for these insects is probably the camel cricket. Be aware! When frightened, these insects often jump directly at what frightens them. So, if you zoom in for a close and personal look, you may find yourself with a spider cricket firmly planted on your face — and these guys do bite!
These crickets are usually found in caves. They have a distinct preference for dark, moist, and humid conditions. Unfortunately, areas in our home, especially basements, crawl spaces and garages, can mimic cave-like conditions, especially when there is high indoor humidity. These insects thrive in enclosed spaces that are damp and moist, and you’ll often find them in homes with a mold or mildew problem because they feed off any fungi that grows on damp walls. Spider crickets are often a sign of a mold problem, any home with spider crickets should be inspected for mold. Also, they are voracious eaters with strong mandibles. Besides fungi, they’ll eat fabric, carpets, cardboard, dust, and plants — and they are not too proud to even eat each other!
In order to eradicate these insects, we performed a perimeter treatment around the exterior foundation of the home as well as an indoor treatment using granular bait and glue boards. We also recommended to the homeowner that she purchase a good commercial-grade dehumidifier for her basement to keep down indoor humidity levels. By keeping your basement dry, you remove the conditions for mold to form, improve the air quality of your home, and make the area much less inviting for insects and other pests. Dehumidification is the most important long-term preventative step a homeowner can take to stop mold in its tracks and to keep your basement or crawl space from becoming a breeding ground for all types of pests.
I was recently sent to a law office in Hazlet, NJ to treat an ant problem. Upon inspection, I discovered odorous house ants around a window frame. These ants are called odorous ants, because they emit an unpleasant smell if you crush them. These particular ants are attracted to wall voids and other hidden protective areas. The foraging ants will eventually enter rooms through gaps around window frames and even making their way through wall switch plates. Usually, these ants are found in higher moisture areas of buildings like kitchens and bathrooms where they forage for food (especially sweets!) and water.
To treat this infestation, I drilled a few 1/8-inch holes into the window frame in order to inject an aerosol treatment into the wall void. The treatment definitely hit the ant nest. Ants were pouring out if the window frame, and soon died. Next, I treated the building’s exterior where I had found an ant trail going up underneath the siding. I treated the foundation with a liquid application and followed up with a dust that I puffed under the siding. Whenever I’m faced with an ant infestation, I give it “full court press,” thoroughly treating both the interior and exterior. This way, the ants have nowhere to hide, and so I’m sure to eliminate the nest. This way, the treatment is a one and done proposition. Whenever I’m finished treating an ant infestation, I’m confident that the ants are gone for good.
The attached photo shows how I drilled and treated into wall void to reach the nest. To eliminate an ant infestation, it is crucial that you kill the nest and the queen. Just killing isolated foraging ants that you see roaming about will not permanently resolve an ant infestation.
Whenever we get called out to a raccoon intrusion, one of the first things you need to do to effectively evict and potentially trap the animal is to locate the access point into the structure. But, that's not all. I also want to pin point exactly how the animal is getting to the access, and how it's leaving. Sometimes the two are the same....some times not as in this case in Millstone Township, NJ. This raccoon was going up one place, and down another.
These two locations were on opposite sides of the house. If you have to trap away from the access, the next best place is in the animals path. If there are two, as in this scenario, I prefer to trap in the path of the animal leaving the structure. It's going out after sleeping all day, and it will be hungry. The chances are greater of getting the animal to go in the trap this way.
In addition to pest control and wildlife services, Cowleys has an experienced home improvement team that handles various projects including mold removal, crawl space encapsulation, and home insulation. Members of Cowleys home improvement team were sent to a residence in Bradley Beach, NJ. The homeowner asked Cowleys to cap or “bulk up” his existing insulation to increase its R-value (the insulation’s ability to resist heat traveling through it) by adding approximately 4 inches of our insulation on top of his existing insulation.
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.
We were able to cap the insulation for this homeowner because the existing insulation was still in good shape. Often, our team is called in for insulation jobs after the existing insulation has been ruined. Sometimes, it’s because of a wildlife infestation. Once wildlife have taken up residence in the attic, the insulation is often destroyed. The animals will shred the insulation to use as nesting material, and they’ll contaminate the insulation with their urine and droppings. Other times, there has been a roof leak and the insulation has become water-saturated and is starting to grow mold. With these jobs, when the insulation has lost its integrity and no longer serves its purpose, we have the tedious task of safely removing and disposing of these damaged materials. On the pother hand, cap insulation jobs like this one are more streamlined. We only need to focus on installing the additional insulation since the existing insulation stays right where it is.
This insulation job went exceptionally smoothly. This highly productive crew was in and out in less than a day. The final result: A beautiful new layer of great insulation that the homeowner will come to appreciate this summer and next winter. No matter what extreme temperatures are outside, this home will be nicely regulated inside.
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.
Recently, my partner and I were dispatched to one of our commercial accounts, a condominium complex in Spring Lake Heights, to perform a termite treatment. One of the unit owners found herself with a termite swarm in the bathroom. Termites are subterranean insects that live in underground colonies. Termites feed on any product containing cellulose, most commonly wood and processed wood products. They are, by far, the most destructive insect faced by homeowners.
A mature termite colony will produce thousands of winged termites that venture out of the nest when temperatures start to warm in the spring, especially after a spring rain. Their sole purpose is to find a mate and start a new colony. To reach the open air, they will squeeze through the tiniest cracks and crevices. While termite swarms are the most visible and disturbing of any signs of termite activity, homeowners should consider it as a blessing in disguise. A swarm gives the property owner a big red flag that they have a termite problem. Otherwise, these silent, hidden infestations could easily go unnoticed until there is already significant property damage to the home.
In this particular swarm, the winged termites (plates) emerged from an exit hole in the sheetrock at the top of the shower wall. This shower wall faces the building’s exterior wall, which had a brick veneer facing. There is also a concrete sidewalk that runs along the side of the building.
To treat termites, the pest control technician must be able to access the soil where the nest is located. Often, the soil is not directly accessible and some drilling is required. With this termite treatment, to reach the soil, I needed to drill through the concrete sidewalk. Once the holes were drilled, I then injected a highly effective non-repellant termiticide into the soil, which will soon kill he entire colony, including the queen. In order to protect the rest of the building, I drilled through more of the sidewalk so that I could extend the treated area to the entire length of the building. In areas where the soil was directly accessible, I trenched and treated the soil with the termiticide.
Also, we knew that there were termites in the void between the shower wall and the building’s exterior because of the location of the swarm. To reach these termites, my partner drilled through the brick veneer so that he could treat the space with a foam termiticide. The foam application works exceptionally well in wall voids and other hard-to-reach areas.
With this treatment, we quickly resolved this condominium’s termite problem. This building now has a protective underground barrier against further termite infestations that will last for years. In New Jersey, termite infestations are an unfortunate fact of life. Homeowners and residential property managers should periodically have a termite professional inspect for the often subtle signs of termite activity. It’s an easy way to avoid potentially significant property damage and protect your investment.
Drilled concrete sidewalk and Brick veneer. The shower is on the other side of this wall.
Carpenter bees are solitary bees that bore holes in wood in order to lay their eggs. These large bees tend to return year after year to the same areas, reusing galleries and building new ones. Over time, their wood boring activities can cause significant property damage.
This carpenter bee treatment for a home in involved dusting behind the fascia along the peaks of a house. We also perform exclusions, which is sealing potential access areas of infestations. Exclusions are often associated with rodents and other wildlife, but we perform exclusions with insects as well. This particular exclusion involved installing plastic mesh style ridge vent behind the fascia so that the bees are unable to nest behind it. Ridge vents stop pests from getting behind the fascia while still allowing the attic to ventilate. It’s a great barrier to stop pests from getting into the fascia along the roofline.
When it comes to trapping wildlife, this particular job demonstrates the importance of setting traps based on where the wildlife is observed — either directly or by signs of wildlife activity like nesting materials and droppings. It doesn’t matter whether those areas happen to be convenient and accessible for the wildlife technician to set the traps. Sometimes they’re not!
A homeowner in Eatontown, NJ contacted Cowleys because squirrels were running rampant on his roof and he wanted them trapped and relocated. Here, we needed to set up two ladders on two different roofs in order to set and access the traps. To finish a wildlife job as quickly and effectively as possible for the homeowner, we need to go where the wildlife is — not where we would like them to be. Wildlife trapping is as much of an art and a science and there is no substitute for experience. When it’s done right, wildlife can be trapped and relocated quite quickly. But when it’s done wrong, it’s a frustrating process for both the wildlife technician and the homeowner.
I was sent to a home in Keyport, NJ after the homeowner contacted Cowleys because of skunks that had taken up residence on his property. Because of the time of year and a few other clues found during my inspection, I felt that there was a high likelihood that I was dealing with a mother skunk and her babies. In these cases, it’s critical to keep the family together. Depending on their stage of development, the babies, without their mother, will die.
After about a 60- to 75-day gestation period, female skunks give birth to a litter of three to ten pups. The most common months of birth are May and June because breeding usually occurs in late winter or early spring. Every so often, if there is a mild winter with a lack of snow, more food will be available. That is when we sometimes see the first baby skunks of the season in April, but it’s an unusual occurrence.
Skunks are one of the few mammals that have the ability to delay their pregnancy for almost three weeks. Called delayed implementation or embryonic diapause, the fertilized egg temporarily ceases to develop and does not attach to the uterine wall. Instead, the eggs free-float in the uterus until the female is ready for them to develop.
Baby skunks are born blind and helpless, weighing just over an ounce. These kits must remain hidden in their nest until they can see and are strong enough to follow their mother. Once weaned, at about eight weeks, they will start to "trail" their mother on foraging trips.
When trapping for skunks during baby season, you do not want to set up any “one way” exclusions. “One ways” are devices set over access points of a home that allow an animal to leave, but not return. Just like a one-way valve, it only allows movement in one direction. While these devices are usually a humane way of evicting animals from an attic or elsewhere in the home, they are a problem during baby season. When using a one-way, there is a good possibility that if you evict the mother, her helpless young will die of starvation.
Baby skunks develop their stink glands early in their lives, and can emit a spray after they are only 8 days old,. Leaving the babies to die would likely release the noxious spray in your attic, crawl space, or wherever the nest is located. In addition, the homeowner would have to deal with the remains and everything it attracts. Even ignoring all that, leaving the babies to die without their mother’s support is inhumane and no properly trained wildlife technician would ever consider it.
Because I was sent to this home in early July, I did not want to take any chances of harming any baby skunks — and to play it safe, I did not install a one way. Instead, I set four traps just outside the burrow. In these situations, the goal of the wildlife technician is to trap the mother first. Under the best scenario, the babies will follow behind and fill the other traps shortly thereafter.
Recently, I was sent to service one of Cowleys commercial accounts, a restaurant in Matawan, NJ. We had set up rodent bait boxes around the building’s exterior to control the rodent population.
During the summer months, a major problem we face are garden slugs entering the bait boxes. Slugs, which are basically snails without shells, are gastropods and one of the few animals that successfully live in oceans, fresh water, and land. They are attracted to the seeds that are mixed in bait blocks to help attract the rodents. Unfortunately, with slugs comes slime. For slugs to move around soil, they secrete a kind of mucus over which it glides. Slug mucus is similar to the sticky, stringy, gelatinous excess sputum that we expectorate when we have a productive cough.
When I opened up the rodent bait boxes to monitor rodent activity, and determine whether any bait needed to be replaced, I came across the slimy mess left by the slugs. And no self-respecting mouse would lower themselves to eat bait that’s covered with slug slime! Slug slime, not to mention the slugs themselves, are dangerous for any warm-blooded mammal, including mice, because they can contain a variety of pathogens. Slug slime can contain salmonella and parasites that cause meningitis called rat lungworm. Although rat lungworm disease is caused by parasites found in diseased rat lungs, they can also be carried as larvae in slugs and their slime. Needless to say, this is an excellent reason to thoroughly wash your lettuce, fruits, and vegetables. At the risk of stating the obvious, never eat slugs. They are not anything close to escargot dishes served at fancy French restaurants. If a curious toddler eats a slug, it must be treated as a serious life-threatening medical emergency.
Since the contamination of the bait boxes happened to take place at a restaurant that I was servicing, I was able to quickly find a product that would immediately reduce the life expectancy of these vile-looking creatures to just a few seconds — salt! Salt is the kryptonite of slugs because it is a desiccant that absorbs water. Salt causes slugs to dehydrate by pulling the water out of their membrane, soon killing them.
For one of our commercial accounts, an apartment building in Shrewsbury, NJ, I conduct weekly visits to monitor pest activity, perform periodic preventative treatments, and take care of any active infestations. The objective with our commercial accounts is to catch any infestations in their early stages and “nip it in the bud” so that a little pest problem does not grow into a big one. I work hard to keep the apartment buildings that I am responsible for pest free. There are few things that upset tenants more than discovering ants or other pests in their units. And as far as property managers are concerned, insect or rodent infestations are a big headache that they don’t need.
During my inspection, I observed ants crawling up the building to the second-story floor. I treated the outside foundation of the building as well as the common area before the ants actually invaded the apartments. This situation was a perfect example of dealing with an infestation in its early stages while still outdoors before the pests make it inside the structure. By catching this problem early, while the ants were still outdoors looking for a way inside the building, I was able to head off a potentially troublesome ant infestation before they had a chance to get inside the units.
"But I keep my home spotless, how could I possibly have bed bugs?"
As a bed bug specialist for Cowleys, I hear those exact sentiments from virtually every homeowner who is suffering from a bed bug infestation. Bed bugs are often lumped together with cockroach infestations and are associated with dirty, unsavory places where there is poor hygiene and sanitation. Nothing can be further from the truth. Let’s be clear: Bed bug infestations have absolutely NOTHING to do with filthy kitchens or cluttered, dirty homes. You could be the Martha Stewart of clean, organized homes and still wind up with a nasty bed bug infestation. The reason is simple. Beds bugs are external parasites that feed exclusively off human blood. They don’t care whether your home is clean or dirty. All they are interested in is having a reliable, dependable food source — which is you! If you happen to have been somewhere were there were bed bugs and a few crawled onto you or your belongings, which you then unknowingly bring into your home, you will be the next victim of a bed bug infestation. Even bringing in a single bed bug into your home will trigger a full-blown infestation in just a few weeks.
With this particular bed bug job, I arrived at a beautiful home in Little Silver, NJ and was met by a sweet-as-could-be homeowner who was waking up in the morning with mysterious bites on her arms. She had suspected that it may be bed bugs because she could not think of any other possibilities, but still did not think it could be possible. After all, her home was immaculately clean, and as the saying goes, her home was clean enough to eat off the floor. For this homeowner, having bed bugs seemed too far beyond the realm of possibility.
She informed me that the only time she is bitten is when she’s in her bedroom. So, that’s the “hot zone” where I started my inspection. If there is one word to use to describe a proper bed bug inspection, it is thoroughness. You can’t assume anything other than bed bugs can potentially be hiding anywhere and everywhere in the smallest nooks and crannies.
First, I slowly removed the blankets and sheets from the bed. You have to remove bedding slowly and carefully. Ripping everything off the bed will turn the blankets and sheets into a slingshot, catapulting any bed bugs into every corner of the room. The first rule of any bed bug treatment is to do no harm by further dispersing the bed bugs.
At first glance, as often happens, there were no bedbugs to be found. However, persistence is the key. I next lifted the mattress and box spring right in front of the homeowner. And there they were in all their glory! She was horrified. Since I’ve seen bed bug infestations many times before, I’ve become a bit desensitized to these insects. Bed bugs in all the different stages of their lifecycle were roaming beneath her box spring, less than a foot from where she was sleeping. It’s no wonder they were feasting on her at night. This is a case of what I would consider a very severe bed bug infestation. And it did not matter that it happened to be in a very clean home.
While a clean home will not prevent bedbugs, it will certainly make the treatment and eradication much easier than dealing with an infestation in a home full of clutter. The less harborage areas, the better. When a home such as this one is clean and not cluttered, there are very few hiding spaces for the bugs, making it easier to resolve the problem. I’ve been in homes where there were a dozen shoes lying around the bed along with old magazines and various knickknacks. In those cases, all I can think of are the many potential hiding places for the bed bugs to exploit.
For treating bed bugs, the best course of action is to first vacuum up all of the live activity, and, if the homeowner wants the bed removed from the home, to encase it first so the bugs don’t drop off as it is being moved. I grabbed my HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) vacuum and sucked up all of the live bed bug activity. Once I vacuumed all of the live activity, I installed mattress and box spring encasements to seal these prime bed bug harborage. Encasements are critical for stopping any hidden bed bugs from exiting and preventing any new bugs from entering. After applying a light chemical application to all of the harborage areas, I placed the mattress and box spring back onto the bed frame.
The two major lessons of this bed bug job for any homeowner are: (1) A spotless home can still have a thriving bed bug infestation (and it’s not your fault!); and (2) periodically lift and check underneath your mattress and box spring to see what may be lurking below. The sooner a bed bug problem is found and a professional bed bug service is contacted, the easier it is to treat.
I was sent to a home in Spring Lake to conduct a periodic servicing that’s covered under our home protection plan. During these visits, we perform preventative treatments, discuss with the homeowner any pest issues that have surfaced if they have not called us, and perhaps most important, conduct a thorough interior and exterior inspection. We often find problems that have escaped the attention of the homeowner.
During my visit, I noticed an old bee nest under the homeowner’s deck railing, and removed it. Wasps (as well as baldfaced hornets and yellow jackets, both of which are a type of wasp) and bees have a lot in common — not the least of which is that they are all capable of delivering painful stings and it’s best to not have them on your property! Of the two, bees are far more beneficial. Chubby, fuzzy bees pollinate and are mild-mannered. They live on a diet of nectar and pollen from flowers. Most bees have a barbed stinger and can sting only once. Streamlined, shiny-looking wasps are voracious omnivores that will also eat other insects. Wasps are far more aggressive and can sting repeatedly. In short, at least to me, bees are mostly good and wasps are mostly evil!
One way to know the type of stinging insect on your property is by identifying the type of nest. If you have an open nest with hexagonal cells shaped like an umbrella, that’s a paper wasp nest. Hornets build nests with smooth walls that are shaped like a football. Wasps flying in and out of a hole in the ground or in a building are probably yellowjackets. Finally, nests made of a waxy substance is almost certainly a bee hive. Bees build a wax comb and live on the outside unlike hornets, which live inside their brown or grey paper-like nest.
After I removed the the old nest, I did some further checking to see what else might be lurking under the deck railing. To my surprise, I found another. And then another! By the time I was finished, I removed four small nests from under this homeowner’s deck railing.
I was dispatched for a service call in Howell, NJ to help a homeowner who was complaining of ants traveling into her home. Upon arrival, she was at a loss as to why she had an ant problem. Upon inspection, I immediately noticed the problem. There was a garbage right next to the house. The garbage was not bagged and the can had residue from food waste. This was a major attractant for ants and other insects. You could see the procession of ants trailing into the garbage can and back towards the house.
I informed the homeowner of the situation. She immediately had her son clean out the can and move it away from the house. She promised me that, going forward, she would properly dispose of any food debris in order to avoid attracting ants. To expedite the resolution of this ant infestation, I applied a granular bait in the area where the ants were trailing. This is a non-repellant product, so the ants will carry it back to the nest and share it with the queen and the rest of the ants. It won’t take long before the colony is killed, including the foraging ants entering her home.
While conducting a servicing at one of our accounts, a large residential community in Freehold, NJ, the property manager informed me that one of the residents had a wasp nest above her front door. Stinging insects, especially aggressive, territorial wasps, are a high priority infestation, and I immediately attended to this problem.
When I arrived at the resident’s unit, I observed active insect activity around the nest. I treated the nest with an aerosol and waited until all insect activity stopped. I then removed and bagged the nest so that I could transport it away from the premises. Fortunately, no one, including me, was stung. Whenever I am dealing with a wasp, yellow jacket, or other stinging insect infestation, if I am able to kill the insects and remove their nest without being stung, it’s automatically a good day for me!
I was dispatched to a home in Rumson, NJ to resolve a wildlife infestation, specifically, squirrels that were accessing the attic. This squirrel entry point was on a high, steep-pitched roof in the “pac-man” of one of the dormers. When a house has dormers, the projection creates an area where the roof meets the soffit and forms a sideways "V" shape that looks just that the greater than inequality symbol (”>”) from middle-school math. Some wildlife technicians call this roof design the "Pac-man" because it is shaped just like the hungry figure in the video game that eats everything in its path. These roof areas are a challenge for wildlife techs when trying to trap animals like squirrels and raccoons that have advanced climbing skills. For these animals, these tight spaces are much easier to reach than for people since we are not blessed with the natural climbing skills of these nimble sharp-clawed animals.
Based on my evaluation, I was dealing with a pregnant squirrel looking for a safe spot to nurse her young. I needed to act quickly before she gave birth. I decided to wire a “one-way” right into a multi-catch trap (see photo). A “one-way” is a device that allows an animal to leave the attic or other space in a home that it is inhabiting, but, just like a one-way valve, prevents its return. I was able to secure the “one-way” over the access nice and snug so it couldn't be moved. I also placed a trap next to this setup just in case the squirrel was not in the house when I set the “one-way.” Because of the roof structure, I felt that I could use the help of another wildlife technician, and Cowleys as a “safety first’ company immediately dispatched another technician to help. In the interim, the mother squirrel was successfully trapped before she gave birth. The squirrel was released far enough away from this house to not cause this homeowner any further problems.
A homeowner in Long Branch, NJ contacted Cowleys nuisance wildlife division because an animal had “burglarized” their home and set the alarm off while the family was away enjoying a short summer vacation. The homeowner thought that the trespassing animal was a squirrel; however, upon arrival, I could easily tell by the distinctive tracks that it was a raccoon. Raccoons have nimble hands and feet that, somewhat like humans, contain five long digits with small sharp claws that leave little indentations above the digits. The front tracks are smaller than the hind tracks and have a crescent-shaped palm pad. The hind tracks have a large palm pad that is curved and gets larger to the outside. When raccoons walk, their hind foot lands next to the opposite front foot creating a paired pattern of front-hind prints. Squirrel prints are much smaller that raccoon tracks, with multiple pads small digits.
I started my inspection to determine how the animal was able to gain access inside the home. I climbed up the ladder to check the roof line around the soffits and fascia boards and saw no obvious points of entry. I know how these guys think, and without finding an entry point for these large animals, by process of elimination considered the chimney to be the home’s weak spot. Just as i suspected, the chimney had to cap making it easy for wildlife to enter a home, especially if the chimney flue is not closed.
The solution for this infestation was to monitor the activity at the chimney opening so that we could later install a chimney cap. We don’t do any sealing of entry points until we first determine that there are no animals still inside the home. A wildlife technician will never separate the helpless babies from the mother. The objective with wildlife control is to trap and relocate the entire family.
Every so often, pest control technicians stumble upon an interesting insect while doing their job. On this particular day in Navesink, NJ, I not only spotted an impressive stag beetle, but managed to get its picture as well, which I’m excited to share. Stag beetles are also known as horse pinchers, thunder beetles, and oak ox. In Japan and England, these bugs are so admired that rearing stag beetles is a popular hobby and you can even buy stag beetle breeding and rearing kits.
Stag beetles are so-named because the male’s large jaws look just like the antlers of a stag (a male deer). These over-sized mandibles are used in courtship displays (After all, everybody likes a man with a strong jawline!) and to mandible-wrestle other male beetles. Stag beetles have an intimidating ferocious appearance with their dark red or brown exoskeleton and imposing, pincer-like mandibles. Their mandibles are about the same size as their head! But don’t be fooled by their appearance. These guys don’t have any interest in in biting people and they live on a steady diet of fruit juice, tree sap, and water that the drink with their furry orange tongue for the limited time that they are alive as adults. For those who handle these bugs, say that the male does not have enough strength in its jaws to bite unlike the smaller-jawed female.
These large beetles are a pretty rare find. They spend most of their life underground as larvae, only emerging to find a mate and reproduce. During their short lives as adults, the male stag beetle will spend their days sunning themselves to gather strength for the evening’s activities of flying in search of a mate, which is how I found this handsome fellow.
Stag beetles are NOT nuisance pests — they do not infest homes or cause damage to landscaping. The female stag beetles lay fertilized eggs on dead trees or stumps and the grubs (stag beetle larvae) feed only on a high-fiber diet of decaying wood for five to six years before maturing into adults. As such, they are beneficial insects that help with the decomposition of dead wood in forests. So, if you happen to see a male stag beetle with those giant jaws, please don’t harm him. Let him go on his merry way looking for a female mate. Stag beetles don’t bother or harm people or cause property damage and stag beetle larvae helps the forest ecosystem.
I was recently sent to a home in Middletown, NJ because the homeowner was having trouble with wasps on the property. Upon arrival, the homeowner's caretaker showed me the areas of concern around the property. The most serious issue was a large hornets nest attached to one of the windows in the main home.
This summer, I’ve had plenty of experience removing hornets nests from structures and trees, so I was prepared for this job. There are different methods for removing nests both efficiently and safely depending on the particular circumstances. For this stinging insect infestation, I chose to use a liquid product that would kill both the wasps in the nest as well any hornets returning to the nest. The treatment takes 2 to 3 days for the nest to become dormant, and once the nest is dormant, it can then be safely removed without the threat of anyone being stung. While there, I also removed two active paper wasps nests from the house and another active nest under a patio bench.
I later returned for a follow-up visit after giving the application time to “deactivate” the nest. The attached photos show the effectiveness of the treatment. There was not a wasp to be found in, on, or around the nest. Now, with the nest dormant, I could safely remove the nest, and most important, remove the threat to the homeowner and any visitors of being attacked and stung by a small army of agitated, aggressive, territorial hornets.
I was sent to a home in Bradley Beach, NJ. I began my inspection to look for the nest. Although I saw wasps flying around, I could not immediately locate the nest. Following the activity of these pests, I was led toward a healthy tree with lush foliage. The tree cover made it difficult to find the nest, but with careful inspection, I found what I was looking for: a distinctive grey spherical nest about the size of a volleyball or small basketball.
Based on the structure of the nest, I knew exactly the type of stinging insect that invaded this homeowner’s property — baldfaced hornets. These hornets are a relative of the yellowjacket and are often called “aerial yellowjackets.” These insects get their name from their unique coloration. They are mostly black but have a white face. Although labeled as hornets, these stinging insects are actually wasps and not true hornets. They are called hornets because of their large size and because they build aerial nests.
These social wasps build egg-shaped nests that are layered in hexagonal combs covered by a mottled grey paper envelope. And these nests can grow into huge sizes as the wasp colony continues to expand. Their nests can be as large as 14 inches in diameter and more than two feet in length! A single nest can house upwards of 400 insects at their peak, so its important for homeowners to have these nests removed as soon as possible because of the high risk of a family member inadvertently invading their territory and triggering multiple stings. For those allergic to stings, this can be life-threatening.
Baldfaced hornets build nests at least three feet off the ground, and they build them anywhere and everywhere, both on “natural” structures like in trees and shrubs as well as on man-made structures like utility poles and home and sheds, especially under roof overhangs. As mentioned, I located this particular nest in a tree. I observed the pattern of the hornets entering and exiting the nest: two would go in and one would go out. I carefully went behind the hive without being spotted by the hornets and treated the nest with an application that coats the entire hive all at once, trapping the wasps inside, preventing them from stinging me or anyone else.
I was sent to a home in Fair Haven, NJ to help a homeowner who found mouse droppings in her basement. Their daughter had put storage bins in the basement while she was home for the summer. While getting ready to return to college, she ventured back down to the basement to retrieve the bins. When she moved one of the bins, she observed a pile of droppings and immediately relayed the discovery to her parents.
Mice droppings are spindle-shaped with pointed ends and are about the size of a grain of rice. Their color ranges from blackish brown to grey depending on the mouse’s diet and the age of the droppings. Like the fall leaves, mouse droppings change color. Fresh droppings start out as black, then turn brown, and finally a powdery grey. Fresh droppings are soft while older droppings crumble on contact. Never touch these pellets. Mouse droppings contain dangerous pathogens that can easily become airborne when disturbed. Even though mice are small, they are prodigious poopers, leaving behind up to 75 pellets a day. Also, they poop as they move, rather than staying in one location. You’ll often see a trail of droppings along their pathways that they use to forage for food.
Mice can find their way through very small openings — as small as 1/4” — and finding potential mouse entry points, which are often around the home’s foundation where they first enter the crawl space or basement before venturing to the living areas of the home, especially the kitchen.
To treat this infestation, I conducted a thorough inspection of the basement and home perimeter to find potential mouse entry points. I also set interior and exterior bait boxes and glue boards. The bait boxes do not trap the mice. They simply provide an attractive bait that later kills the mouse. I also set interior glue boards to help me monitor the level of rodent activity before my next visit. With the access points sealed and the bait boxes set, I’m confident that this hidden mouse infestation in the basement will be quickly resolved — well before the daughter returns home for Thanksgiving Recess!
This homeowner in Farmingdale, NJ found himself with a significant raccoon infestation in the attic. Unfortunately, when maintenance on a home is neglected or postponed, those areas needing repair can be exploited by wildlife looking to inhabit a structure. For raccoons, attics are private warm locations to nest and escape the harsh outdoor elements, and if you give persistent raccoons the smallest opportunity to gain access inside your house, they will exploit it..
Weakened, soft, rotted wood and wildlife infestations often go hand in hand. Raccoons, with their razor-sharp teeth and claws can easily rip through weakened wood and other building materials. Unfortunately, a wildlife infestation compounds the problems and expense for the homeowner. The needed repairs are often made worse by the animals and the homeowner now has to deal with cleaning and sanitizing the areas inhabited by wildlife, not to mention replacing damaged materials, which often includes insulation that has been torn up by the animals and used as a receptacle for their urine and droppings.
With this home, the roof shingles were in such bad shape that they actually started to slip off the roof simply by touching them. This roof problems made the home not only vulnerable for animal entry, but created a situation for water intrusion into the attic.
Here, I came out to assess the damage. I’ll be returning soon to trap the animals, and if the homeowner, so chooses, our home improvement division can support roofing contractors in making the necessary repairs to exclude the wildlife and make this homeowner’s attic safe and reusable once again.
Once a home or unit in an apartment has a bed bug infestation, one of the biggest challenges is finding their harborage areas. When they are not feeding for their blood meal, bed bugs can be hiding anywhere. Recently, I was sent to a residential complex in Asbury Park, NJ to treat a bed bug infestation in one of the units. When bedbugs are in high-density locations, it is important to treat the infestation before the bugs have a chance to spread to other units.
With this infestation, I found bed bug activity and performed a treatment. After the initial treatment, the tenant informed me that she was still waking up with bedbug bites in the morning. The reality is that bed bugs are persistent, resilient bugs and treatments can be challenging. We always have follow-up visits until we know that the infestation has been completely resolved.
I was determined to find their harborage area that managed to escape my first treatment. I thoroughly checked the entire unit and even the tenant’s wheelchair since these parasites like to hide near the host that they are feeding on for their blood meal. Bed bugs bite when we are stationary when sleeping or resting. They don’t like moving targets! After a thorough inspection, I could not find a single bed bug anywhere. Finally, I asked the tenant, who is wheel-chair bound, to take off her sandals as a last resort since I could not think off any other location. I was not expecting to find any bugs, but by this point, I was stumped. To my surprise, bedbugs were hiding right under her feet — literally! Now that the bed bugs were found, I could resolve this infestation for good. The tenant was more than happy to throw out these sandals and get a new pair. I bagged up her sandals and removed them from the unit.
These homeowners in Englishtown, NJ found themselves with groundhogs nesting under their porch. Often, we deal with these critter control problems by installing Dig DeFence, a patented drive-in fencing system that extends the protection of any sense below ground. It stops dogs from digging out of your home’s fencing and also stops wildlife from entering areas like decks and patios that seem to be magnets for burrowing wildlife. Since these are steel drive-in panels, you can avoid the time and expense of trenching in order to install an underground barrier.
We determined that for this particular home, these panels would not be effective because of the condition and spacing of the lattice on the porch. We wanted the right solution to keep out wildlife from under their porch even if it meant some extra work on our part. We decided the best way to keep out burrowing groundhogs and other digging animals, we did some digging on our part and buried thick wire mesh one foot down and bent it at a 90-degree right angle pointing one foot outward. We secured this “L”-shaped fencing to the porch structure, extending it over the lattice that had wide gaps in it for many types of wildlife to enter. This mesh will prevent the most determined groundhog or other burrowing creature from entering underneath the porch, either above ground or through digging.
I was recently sent to one of our commercial properties, an apartment building in Cream Ridge, NJ where we handle all of their pest control needs, including both preventative treatments and to handle any emergency insect or wildlife infestation. We were contacted by the property manager after tenants informed them that a yellow jacket nest had formed in a bush that was nearby a building. Fortunately, no tenants had yet been stung, and I immediately went out to resolve the problem and keep it that way.
An active yellow jacket nest is an especially challenging situation where there is a high risk of being stung, even for a pest control technician wearing protective gear. Of all the different types of wasps, yellow jackets have earned a reputation as being particularly aggressive and territorial when it comes to their nests. These predatory social wasps can have colonies that may contain thousands of workers. Suffice it to say, of all the stinging insects that can invade your property, attempting to remove an active yellow jacket nest is not a good weekend DIY project. The risks are far too great without the right products and the right protective gear.
This particular nest was located in the root system of the bush with the path of the foraging wasps about chest high. Often, I can safely treat a nest safely without using a protective bee suit and just using the equipment I have at my disposal. In this case, because of the location of the nest, there was no way to treat the hive without getting in the direct line of a small army of angry yellow jackets. There was a high probability of being stung. These wasps are fierce defenders of their colony, and large numbers will swarm and follow an invader a great distance from the nest. Even when you are far enough away to no longer pose a threat, these insects just won’t stop. So, my first course of action was to protect myself as much as a could and don a protective suit. I was then able to the approach the nest safely, without the fear of being subjected to a massive wasp attack (there is always the risk that one or two of these relentless insects will find a way to sting you despite the protective gear).
I used a slow-acting non-repellent product on the nest that affects not only the wasps in the nest, but also the foraging wasps returning to the nest. This way, the entire colony is eliminated. I returned a few days later to give the application time to work. The nest was dormant and the comb was dug up by a wild animal that was attracted to the honey.
About seven months ago, I completed a wildlife job for a homeowner in Fair Haven, NJ. I successfully trapped and evicted a raccoon that decided to take up residence underneath her front porch. Although raccoons are not burrowing animals, this little rascal was able to dig up enough of a hole in the surrounding pebbles and dirt to gain access to the private area underneath the porch.
Before I set up the trapping, I had recommended to the homeowner for Cowleys to install a Dig Defence system around the porch to prevent future wildlife intrusions. Dig Defence is an underground fencing that we can easily install without the need for extensive digging or trenching. The Dig Defence underground fencing panels can be placed directly into the ground. At the time, the homeowner declined our recommendation, so we simply trapped and relocated the animal. Although we replaced the dirt and pebbles, we left knowing that this area under the porch was susceptible to a re-infestation. Why would lightening strike twice? I was concerned that the pheromones and urine left behind by the raccoon would serve as an attractant for other raccoons. After all, if this spot was good enough for one of my “brothers,” why wouldn’t it be good enough for me?
As it turned out, my reservations were well-founded. Fast forward seven months. The homeowner once again called Cowleys for a wildlife infestation. Same problem, most likely a different raccoon considering that we relocated the first one far away. For this homeowner, experiencing the same problem twice proved to be enough of a reason to install the Dig Defence panels. These panels are buried at least one foot underneath the ground with the top staying flush with the bottom of the porch. In order to trap the raccoon, I installed a one-way device where a small section of the Dig Defence was left out (for now). The idea is to funnel the animal into the one-way since the access to the rest of the patio is now blocked. The one-way device, just like a one-way valve, allows the raccoon to leave, but prevents it’s return. I’ll return in a few days to remove the one-way once I’m assured that the raccoon has vacated underneath the porch.
I’ll then complete the Dig Defence so it will serve as a complete barrier for critter control underneath the porch. Once the Dig Defence is fully installed, this entire front porch will be protected against further wildlife intrusions. Unfortunately, it took a second infestation for this homeowner to decide that critter control to prevent further access underneath the porch would be a worthwhile home investment. But the good news is that this second infestation will be the last time that a raccoon will decide to take up residence underneath her porch.
With a hornets nests, you sometimes have to look carefully in order to find them. This particular large hornets nest was camouflaged by the trees on this residential property in Englishtown, NJ. For me, when dealing with a nest of this size, I don’t take any chances and wear a full bee suit for protection.
Wasp nests are built by social wasps that live in large colonies with hundreds of workers, all of whom are ready to sting to protect their nest from any intruder. Thenest is made up of paper paste using chewed up wood fibers mixed with the insect’s saliva. Normally, these aerial hornets prefer to build their nests in trees (others, like yellow jackets, prefer holes and cavities for their nest-building).These use the nest for only one season. However, simply removing a dormant nest will not resolve the issue because the surviving overwintering wasps will construct a new one. The most effective way to deal with a hornets nest is to kill the colony while it is still active.
For this nest, I used an aerosol formulated for a knockdown of the nest up to 20 ft away. A light application is enough to eventually kill all the wasps as they pass through the opening of the nest. Just as important as killing the insects in the nest, it is critical to kill the foraging workers returning to the nest as well. When these insects come into contact the chemical over the next couple of days, there will be a complete kill of the entire colony. With the nest removed and the queen killed, the homeowner does not have to worry about this particular colony rebuilding.
Solar panels are becoming more and more popular with homeowners for obvious reasons. Solar panels save on utility bills and it’s a “green” thing to do — solar is a renewable environmentally friendly energy source . However, we sometimes see one downside to these panels. Solar panels provide pigeons and other nuisance birds with a great hiding spot from predator birds.
Pigeons are one of the worst nuisance birds out there. With their prodigious (not to mention toxic and acidic) droppings, pigeons can make a mess of your roof and the surrounding area of your home. Also, if you’ve ever been around a flock of pigeons, they make constant sounds. I have yet to meet anyone who enjoys having pigeons nesting and roosting on their roof. Without exception, any home or business owner want these messy, nasty birds gone!!
Bird Solutions by Cowleys is experienced in installing a variety of bird deterrent devices. For this home in Atlantic Highlands, NJ, we excluded the birds by creating a solar panel exclusion system using bird netting. This netting will keep pigeons and other birds away from the solar panels — and it won’t harm them in any way. We make homes and commercial properties inhospitable to birds, so they’ll move elsewhere. Even though this homeowner will no longer have to deal with pigeons thanks to Cowleys and the Bird Solutions crew, there is a good chance that these birds will become someone else’s problem. Pigeons are attracted to human habitats for food and shelter and when evicted from one location they soon find another.
During the servicing of one of our commercial accounts in Englishtown, NJ, I came across a Halloween display better than anything you could buy in a store. I crossed paths with an orchard orb weaver. This beautiful spider was beginning to weave its treacherous web on the customer’s building.
Many spiders, such as this one, have brilliant coloring and fascinating patterns. Orchard orb weavers have shimmering silver-white, green, and gold on their abdomens. Their classic wheel-like orb-shaped web is nearly horizontal and the spider hangs underneath it. Other orb weavers that we commonly find in New Jersey are the cross orb weaver and the spotted orb weaver. During the fall season, it doesn’t take long to find a spider and its intricate webbing. I carefully removed this spider, put her in a container, and relocated her into the woods nearby the building so she could enjoy the rest of its crawly life in peace.
Unfortunately, spiders, just like bats, have an undeserved reputation as something scary, creepy, and dangerous. That’s far from the truth. Out of the thousands of species of spiders, about fifty are found in New Jersey, and of those, only two are poisonous, the black widow and the brown recluse. Of course, it’s always best to avoid touching any spider. Although spiders try to avoid human contact as much as we try to avoid them, they will bite if they feel threatened or endangered.
Why did I go through the trouble of saving a spider? This lone spider was outside and just minding its own business. It wasn’t posing a threat to anyone. More important, spiders are beneficial insects. They are one of the best biological forms of pest control (as are mosquito-devouring bats) — and they don’t cost us 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 for survival including poisonous ones like black widows.
So, if you happen see a spider or two in your home, don’t kill them. Their webs are catching many nuisance insects. It’s worth the trouble to trap them in a cup and relocate them to freedom outside. Spiders and their webs silently and efficiently trap many nuisance insects in and around your home or business — and they don’t even expect a tip!
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.
I was recently sent to a home in Hazlet, NJ to remove an active baldfaced hornets nest. Baldfaced hornets, a type of aerial yellowjacket, build large nests for their every-growing colony. As the colony continues to expand, their nest keeps growing larger as well. The nest has an outer paper-like covering that they make by chewing wood into a wet pulp with their saliva. To accommodate the additional combs and cells, they will tear down the old walls of the nest to create new ones. These insects stay busy foraging for food and constantly making new additions to the nest.
The larvae feed on flower nectar or chewed up insects supplied by the foraging workers. The adults are carnivorous predators. They’ll consume meat, spiders, ripe fruit, tree sap, and a variety of other insects. Since they eat other insects, baldfaced hornets are beneficial to humans in some respects. The problem is that they are territorial and highly aggressive. So, if they happen to build a nest on or nearby a structure where people are moving about, there is too great a risk of a wasp attack to not treat the infestation. These wasp attacks can be quite dangerous since an individual wasp can sting multiple times, and for those who are allergic to the venom, it is a serious life-threatening medical emergency. I’ve been stung by both bees and wasps, and from my personal experience, a wasp sting is far more painful.
Out of curiosity, once the nest was dormant and I was able to remove it, I decided to crack it open to look inside and see what activity was going on. As you can see from the photos, the inside of the nest consists of layers of cells, shaped a bit like a pie plate, with each layer slightly smaller than the previous one. Each of the cells contains a developing larva. The queen lays an egg in each little “cubby hole,” and the larvae (grubs) will hatch in a few weeks to become worker hornets.
These wasps use their venom to kill other insects. They just happen to sting us if they feel their nest is being threatened. If you happen to come across one of these foraging wasps that is away from the nest, they have very little interest in people and it is highly unlikely that you’ll be stung. When I opened up the nest I saw quite a number of cicada killers, which is a popular insect “food” for wasps. In fact, there is one type of wasp that enjoys eating cicada killers so much that they are called cicada killer wasps.
During a routine home protection servicing of a home in Millstone Township, NJ, I found an active baldfaced hornets nest. These are large wasps that are primarily black, with white or ivory markings on the face, thorax, and toward the tip of the abdomen. The wings are translucent dark brown. These wasps are social insects that live in large colonies. They are a type of aerial yellowjacket that building their papery nests above ground.
I happened to get a couple of great photos of an exceptionally large baldfaced hornet that looks like it was on steroids. While these wasps are big, this one was exceptionally large. Also, these wasps tend to be aggressive and territorial only when defending their nest. This particular wasp was so docile that he landed in my hand. You can see how big this wasp was in relation to my palm.
I was sent to a home in Eatontown, NJ to remove a mature baldfaced hornets' nest that had grown to a pretty impressive size by the time I had gotten there to deal with the infestation.
Baldfaced hornets are a type of aerial yellowjacket that prefers to build their nests a few feet above the ground. Yellowjackets, on the other hand, prefer to conceal their nests in hidden locations, and usually, build them in holes or cavities such as underneath a home’s exterior siding. This particular nest was in a common location — the nest, about five feet from the ground, was built in a tree nearby the home. The homeowner’s son was recently stung by one of the wasps from this nest, and the homeowner did not want to take any chances of a reoccurrence. One wasp sting is one too many! Baldfaced hornets are large wasps, and their stings are especially painful.
Before treatment, I put on a protective suit. Baldfaced hornets, like their yellowjacket relatives, are highly aggressive and territorial. If they feel that their nest is being threatened, they won’t hesitate to sting. And because their stingers aren’t barbed, a single wasp can sting multiple times. Needless to say, I had no interest in being on the receiving end of a baldfaced hornet sting, and I took the appropriate precautions.
I treated the nest with a foam aerosol that quickly eliminates the colony. Once I saw that the nest was dormant, I sawed off the tree branch from which the nest was hanging so that I could safely bag the nest and remove it from the property.
Recently, I was called back in early October to a home in New Egypt, NJ that had been previously treated for a carpenter bee infestation in the front porch railing of her home. Carpenter bees are wood-boring insects. The female dig galleries into the wood to repost their larvae and, by doing so, can cause extensive wood damage. Every so often, there is a re-infestation, and of course, we will immediately return to treat the affected areas and resolve the problem for good.
Candidly, on the way to this job, I was a bit skeptical of the homeowner’s claim of a re-infestation. I have been in this line of work for quite a number of years, and I’ve never seen or heard about active carpenter bee activity extending beyond the summer months this late into the year. But as the saying goes — never say never, especially when it comes to pest control. Insect behavior never ceases to amaze me, and once you think that you have them pegged, they turn around and surprise you.
Upon arrival, the homeowner showed me what was clearly a small pile of “frass” — a sawdust-like waste product of the bees boring into the wood and nearby, a dead carpenter bee. Sure enough, the homeowner was right. Some carpenter bees decided to rear their ugly heads well after what anyone would consider active bee season. In the picture, you can see the white dust that we had applied into the boreholes to used to treat the initial infestation. Seeing the dead bee indicates the long life of this product. Clearly, the treatment was still working.
To treat the re-infestation, I inspected for new boring holes and applied to dust to treat those holes as well as the existing holes. I’m confident that that with this re-treatment and dropping temperatures, this homeowner should not be dealing with any more carpenter bees.
I was recently sent to a condominium complex in Hazlet, NJ for which Cowleys handles all of their pest control needs, both periodic preventative inspections and treatments as well as being ready to handle any active pest infestations as needed. On this particular visit, I was called to the complex in order to treat and remove a wasp nest that had formed in an entryway.
Upon arrival, I found an active paper wasp nest attached to the soffit above a stairway that led into one of the units. These particular insects are called paper wasps because of the paper-like material they use to build their nest which is made from chewed up wood fibers that they mix with their saliva. They are sometimes called umbrella wasps because of the distinctive shape of their nests. Their nests have open combs with a stalk that anchors the nest to some structure.
Paper wasps are not as aggressive as yellow jackets or baldfaced hornets, and their colonies are much smaller. Nevertheless, there was a potentially dangerous situation because these wasps are still social, territorial insects. They can and will sting if they feel that their territory is being invaded and their nest is being threatened.
I was fortunate that at the time of this servicing during the cooler fall temperatures, the wasps were very sluggish and not interested in a fight. I used my telescopic bee pole to carefully remove the nest. After removing the nest, I spot treated the area to prevent any wasps from re-establishing a new nest.
I came across this beautiful baldfaced hornets' nest during a home protection plan servicing in Eatontown, NJ. Home protection plans are a great way to stay on top of pest infestations and protect your property. We perform periodic inspections and preventative treatments of the residence throughout the year and often locate infestations that the homeowner was not even aware of. For example, these homeowners were completely unaware that there was an active wasp nest on their property.
I carefully treated and removed the nest. Anytime I deal with stinging insects, and I’m not stung by one of these ornery fellows, is a good day for me. Today was a good day!
I was recently sent to a home in Spring Lake, NJ. The homeowner contacted Cowleys because groundhogs were actively burrowing underneath a backyard shed. They were causing significant damage to his yard and he was concerned that they would start to bore their way into the shed itself.
To catch the groundhogs, I placed two traps near the burrow holes used by the groundhogs to hide underneath the homeowner’s shed. The idea behind successful trapping is to put the animal at ease and not give them any cause for concern by making the trap look like an old familiar friend! For example, when baiting, I use the same or similar food that the animal is used to eating, and I always put organic materials like mulch, dried grass, dirt on the floor of the trap to project a familiar environment for the animal. I’m confident that my “secret” combination of bait and lures will be too irresistible for even the most cautious and wary groundhog. I’ll check the traps in a couple of days, and told the homeowner to contact me immediately once any critters are trapped. I know how these guys think and how they behave. It won’t take long for these burrowing groundhogs to be captured, and this homeowner’s groundhog problem to come to an abrupt end.
As often happens when we service homeowners for wildlife and pest control, we find issues other than the particular one that we were called out for in the first place. Often, the problems are interrelated and one exacerbates the other. For example, high moisture conditions or a water intrusion from a leaky pipe or a roof leak will not only attract insects but also cause mold formation, and then the mold attracts mold-eating insects as well, so one problem compounds another. Also, we often find weaknesses in a home’s structure, such as wood rot of the fascia and soffits caused by water damage, leads to both insect and wildlife infestations. Some insects, especially wood-boring insects like carpenter bees and carpenter ants, as well as wildlife are attracted to soft, rotting wood. For wildlife, especially squirrels and raccoons, softwood gives them easy access for them to claw and chew their way into the attic.
This homeowner in Holmdel, NJ contacted Cowleys because of a wildlife problem. The homeowner was fortunate to have called us. During my inspection for potential wildlife entry points, I discovered some hidden termite damage and active termite activity underneath a portion of the home that had direct soil contact with the ground. While finding out you have a termite infestation is never good news, it is certainly better to discover a termite problem early so that the infestation can be treated and property damage minimized.
Termites called the silent destroyers of homes for good reason. These wood-consuming subterranean insects rarely make their presence known. These fragile insects avoid the harsh outdoor element and travel either underground or inside mud tubes that they construct in order to traverse from the soil over concrete foundations to reach the wood in the home. If a homeowner does not notice the often subtle signs of termite activity, the problem goes unnoticed until there is either substantial damage to the structure or the termite activity is discovered during the home inspection of a pending sale. Needless to say, the homeowner was extremely grateful that I had found the termite damage during my wildlife inspection.
I was asked to resolve a hornet infestation in Long Branch, NJ. As shown in the photo, the hornet’s nest was hanging perfectly from a tree branch. I treated the nest and removed it from the property without incident. This dispatch took place in early November when temperatures had already dropped. Not surprisingly, most of the Hornets had already left the nest to seek overwintering sites to escape the harsh outdoor elements and there were not many hornets remaining inside the nest when I had opened it.
These particular hornets are social wasps that live in colonies made up of a queen and supporting workers that build and expand the nest, take care of the larvae, and forage for food. They make the nest using a papery material of chewed-up wood fibers mixed with their saliva. Normally, these hornets prefer to build their nests in trees, as they did here, although sometimes we see them attached directly to homes underneath eaves. Social wasps are aggressive and territorial if they feel their nest is being threatened. Also, a wasp is capable of stinging multiple times since their stinger is not barbed. Although yellow jackets tend to be the most aggressive wasp, these paper wasps should still be approached with caution. They can and will sting if provoked.
The wasps only use the nest for only one season. However, removing the nest once it is dormant will not resolve the issue because the surviving wasps, come spring, will simply construct a new one. The most effective treatment is to kill the queen and the rest of the colony before removing the nest. This can be done using an aerosol formulated for an instant knockdown up to 20 ft away. A light application is enough to kill not only the wasps in he nest but any foraging wasps that are returning as they pass through the nest opening and come into contact with the product. Since most of these wasps had already left the nest to overwinter, this homeowner may find himself with a new wasp nest in the spring. If so, I told him to contact Cowleys should these wasps return, and we’ll be there immediately to take care of the new infestation.
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!
Recently, I was performing a routine servicing at the clubhouse of an active “over 55” community in Brielle, NJ. Upon arrival, I spoke with the property manager to determine what pest issues, if any, had been reported to him. He told me that a hornets' nest had formed on a tree in the front yard of one of the homeowners in the community. Because of the cold weather over the past few weeks, I was confident that the nest was likely abandoned.
I arrived at the residence to assess the problem. The homeowner greeted me and told me that he had not seen any wasps, but he was highly allergic to stinging insects and concerned when he found the nest. He did not even know the nest was “hiding” in the tree until the leaves had dropped. I explained to the homeowner, that unlike yellow jackets, these wasps are not particularly aggressive unless they feel threatened. He was not bothered by these wasps all the time they were there because he did not bother them. Also, in colder climate areas like New Jersey, Hornets will abandon their nest in the winter. Only the young queen and her eggs survive by finding some protected area like under tree bark or behind the siding of a home.
The nest was empty with no active wasp activity. For the homeowner’s peace of mind, I removed the nest. I set up a ladder and used a putty knife to remove the dormant nest attached to a tree branch. The homeowner was visibly relieved that I was able to remove the nest and take it off the property. For those who are highly allergic to stings, it can be a life-threatening emergency, and I understood the homeowner’s concern.
In Spring Lake, NJ, a homeowner was dealing with chronically high humidity and moisture build-up in their basement. Musty basement odor permeated the entire house, and the basement conditions were ripe for mold growth. This is a problem that will not go away on its own. Dehumidification is the only long-term solution to this problem. The excess moisture has to be taken out of the air. this homeowner had gone through two store-bought dehumidifiers. These residential dehumidifiers are not meant to be working all the time in basements and crawl spaces. Homeowners cannot be expected to be constantly adjusting the settings and emptying pans of water. Cowleys offers homeowners commercial-grade dehumidifiers that are specifically designed to work in below-grade chronically damp basements and crawl spaces.
The humidifiers we install have a built-in humidity sensor that enables the machine to turn on and off automatically depending on moisture conditions with no manual intervention. As such, they are ENERGY STAR certified for efficiency. For this homeowner, we installed the SaniDry Sedona dehumidifier, which has the capacity to remove up to 100 pints (12.5 gallons) of water out of the air daily, if necessary, and move over 300 cubic feet of dry air. By keeping the basement’s relative humidity under 55%, dangerous mold growth can’t take hold and dust mites will die off, dramatically improving indoor air quality and removing that sickening musty odor that enters the home’s living spaces, and was, for this homeowner, affecting the livability and enjoyment of her residence. We installed the Sedona so that it would drain directly into her sump pump. The homeowner would no longer have to worry about overflowing dehumidifier trays or buckets of water to empty. The lesson with basement and crawl space dehumidification is that you have to have a machine that’s up for the job — and store-bought machines just don’t cut it.
Recently, I was sent to one of our new commercial accounts, a bar/restaurant in Manasquan, NJ. The manager did not believe that there were any pest problems but wanted to set up periodic servicing and treatment as a precaution. It was a good thing he did. After my first spot treatment and gel baiting, as shown in the photo, all of my monitors were filled with nasty German roaches, which to me at least, are the dirtiest and vilest of all the roaches. Unfortunately, until there is a heavy infestation, it is easy for a roach infestation to go unnoticed since they are mostly active at night and stay hidden during the day when the lights are on. Treatments in the smallest cracks and behind appliances and certain areas is the most effective method to deal with a roach infestation along with an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Plan that includes improving hygiene to reduce the chance of future infestations.
I spoke with the kitchen manager about my findings and he agreed that a thorough clean out was a necessary first step to get this roach infestation under control. Once this infestation is dealt with, I’ll work with the manager and restaurant staff to set up proper sanitation and hygiene protocols that, along with periodic inspections and preventative treatments, will keep these pests at bay. I was pleased that this manager had a zero-tolerance policy when it came to roaches and other pests. I look forward to working with him to get his kitchen pest-free and in tip-top shape.
Two members of Cowleys residential home improvement crew were sent to a home in Brielle, NJ to conduct an inspection for a gutter cleaning.
Your gutter system is designed for one purpose: to capture and direct rainwater off your roof and away from your home’s foundation. Extensive damage and expensive repair bills can result from clogged or otherwise obstructed gutters. Types of damage include wood rot, stagnant water around the perimeter leading to foundation damage (and even collapse!), damage from water seeping into your basement or crawl space (which can also trigger mold growth and attract insects and wildlife), damaged shingles/roofing, damage from water seepage into your attic and eventually into your home’s living spaces if severe enough, damaged fascia boards on which the gutter system is attached, landscape damage to trees and shrubs around the base of the home, and ice dam formation on the lower edge of your roof in the winter.
At a minimum, gutters should be cleaned annually. However, if you have deciduous trees (such as the Northern red oak, our official New Jersey state tree!) growing nearby your home, a gutter cleaning performed twice per year would be safer. Gutter cleanings are especially during the fall when leaves are falling.
Cowleys offers full gutter cleaning services, a critical home maintenance task that homeowners ignore at their own peril. A professional gutter cleaning is especially important for those homeowners who do not have the time, interest, or mobility to climb up and down ladders to do it themselves.
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.
Recently, I was sent to a home in Morganville, NJ to resolve a troublesome mouse infestation. Upon arrival, I immediately saw that there was a separate, potentially even more serious. The home had extensive clutter. The living space was filled to the point where it was difficult to safely maneuver around the home. While we all like to hold onto things, there comes a point where so-called hoarding can become a disorder when a person has extreme difficulty discarding or parting with some of their possessions, regardless of their value or how much they are actually used. The accumulation of clutter rendered this home’s living space virtually uninhabitable and dangerous to the home’s occupants.
In this case, this homeowner enjoyed finding bargains at flea markets and garage sales. This was a small home without much storage area. It had gotten to the point where the homeowner had to climb over boxes and items, making it challenging and dangerous to move around freely. Not surprisingly, all of the boxes and clutter became a haven for mice. The rodents had virtually unlimited hiding spots and they could move around the home and stay out of sight with ease.
For obvious reasons, I was concerned. I had to convince the homeowner to remove this clutter for reasons beyond the mouse infestation. Fortunately, having an objective third-party telling him that there was a clutter issue was all he needed. He understood that most of these items had to go in order to deal with the mouse problem and make his home safe once again. The homeowner agreed to clear out most of the “stuff,” and for me to return at a later date.
Upon return, there was significantly less clutter and I could effectively treat the rodent infestation. I used bait boxes, snap traps, and glue boards to monitor the level of rodent activity. With the reduced clutter and a rodent control program in place, this mouse infestation will be knocked-down in short order. Finally, I scheduled a follow-up visit to re-assess the level rodent activity and make adjustments to the treatment plan as necessary.
Recently, I was scheduled to treat an apartment in Millstone Township, NJ for bed bugs for one of the apartment complexes serviced by Cowleys. A week earlier I had inspected the unit and determined that I could not effectively treat the apartment. There was simply too much clutter.
This tenant had accumulated so many household items that it was difficult and potentially dangerous for this elderly women to even move about. To access some areas of the unit, you would literally have to walk sideways through narrow corridors. In these situations with extensive clutter, there is an ideal environment for pests that seek out private, out-of-the way harborage areas whether its mice, roaches, or in this care bed bugs. The more hiding places available, the more breeding and exploding pest populations. In this unit, bed bugs were able to thrive, and there may well be other yet-to-be-discovered pest problems as well.
I spoke with the property administrator and showed her the unit, which was a problem on so many levels besides the current bed bug infestation. To me, based on the condition of the unit, the tenant was could adequately care for herself. It was apparent that she needed more intervention and supervision over her living space, whether from a family member or social service agency. The administrator contacted the resident’s family and informed them that the tenant needed assistance preparing her unit for bed bug treatment. I returned a week later to re-assess. While there was still that more that needed to be done, there was enough reduced clutter for me to access and treat the bed and sofa.
In these challenging situations, we do our best to be as thorough as possible and treat all accessible areas given the constraints we are faced with. Unfortunately, severe pest control issues often involve the elderly, many of whom neither have the mobility or mental wherewithal to adequately care for themselves. Their sanitation and hygiene issues in the home not only create an unhealthy and dangerous environment for the tenant, but they also exacerbate pest infestations and make them more difficult to treat.
I carefully documented what I was able to do given the constraints, and just as important what I was unable to do because of the severe clutter issues. The property manager will continue to work with family to provide a safer, healthier living environment for this tenant. Once the clutter is further reduced, I will return to continue with my treatment plan.
During a routine home protection plan, (HPP), servicing of a home in Oakhurst NJ, I observed mouse activity in and around the home. Mice were able to access the garage area of a home through an opening around an outdoor water spigot.
Gaps around utility pipes or wires going through the foundation wall are a common entry point. Often, the sealant around the pipe erodes from the outdoor elements creating enough of a gap for mice to squeeze through. And it doesn’t take much. Mice can get through extremely small gaps and cracks that are easily overlooked — they only need an opening about the size of a dime.
Here, I used copper mesh and silicone caulking to seal this entry point. The homeowner was unaware of a mouse problem since mice had only gained access to the garage and not inside the home itself. Nevertheless, these mice were too close to the house and it was just a mater of time before they gained entry. This particular job shows the importance of periodic residential inspections for pest activity. We often find pest control problems in their early stages and take care of them before homeowners find themselves dealing with a significant problem.
Recently, I was sent to a church in Matawan, NJ for a termite inspection. For termites, no building is off-limits — even a church! Here, there was extensive termite activity around the framing of a Termites seen here were having a go at the framing of a small flight of stairs leading to a stage in the church’s gymnasium. There is a common misconception that termite damage can occur only around the perimeter of a building. While perimeter damage is common, termites will find gaps in the foundation anywhere to reach wooden building materials. With these steps, the closest exterior wall was more than 100 feet away. I took some photos of some termites in action showing workers gathering food for the colony and a soldier termite tasked with protecting them.
An expedited termite treatment has been scheduled.
I was recently sent to a home in Manasquan, NJ, to remove some raccoon babies (kits). Raccoons are extremely vocal creatures and make a wide variety of sounds. Kits, just like human babies, make all sorts of noise to get the attention of their mother. Homeowners who find themselves with a den of kits somewhere in or around their home often hear all sorts of animal noises — mewing, crying, whining, and cooing. Homeowners often mistake their cooing sounds for birds.
Raccoon infestations are the physically largest nuisance wildlife that we regularly deal with. An adult can be as large as many dogs and can be quite imposing — especially when showing their razor-sharp teeth! Many are well over 20 pounds and more than 2 feet in length (excluding the tail). They are very intelligent and resourceful creatures that will eat almost anything left behind in garbage. If your garbage cans are tipped over and ransacked night after night, there’s a good chance raccoons are roaming your neighborhood.
Raccoons, as all nuisance wildlife, are potential carriers of diseases. Their droppings contain dangerous parasites like roundworm and other pathogens. In New Jersey, raccoons are the primary vector of rabies — and they can be carriers of rabies without showing any signs or symptoms.
Raccoons have a prolonged mating season. Although mating commonly occurs during the winter months, it can extend until June. With a mating season that can span over half a year, I always consider the possibility that their may be a den of babies hidden somewhere inside a structure. If I am called to a home to resolve a raccoon infestation anywhere from early spring to early summer, I work under the assumption that there is probably a den of kits and a very protective raccoon mother nearby that you do not want to mess with. Raccoon litters are typically 3 or 4 kits.
Raccoons have a relatively short gestation period. The offspring are born about nine weeks after mating. Raccoon mothers don’t plan far ahead like human moms and they’ll often make their den at the last minute right before giving birth. Raccoons will build their dens in any private location. In urban areas, they sometimes they choose our homes, commonly building their dens in chimneys, attics, and crawl spaces, under shed and decks, and on roofs.
But raccoon moms will look for any cozy, private cavity for their den. Here, I had to break a hole into a finished grill area in a spot that a little mini-fridge would slide into. I carefully removed four raccoon babies.
Often, homeowners will contact Cowleys because of a bad smell. Odors can be a sign of a mold problem. Sometimes, unusual smells are an indicator of wildlife activity. You’d be surprised how much one tiny rotting mouse carcass behind your refrigerator or some other appliance can stink!
A homeowner in Hazlet, NJ, contacted us because of a bad smell coming from her basement. As soon as i walked into the house, I knew there was something going on downstairs. It was a putrid smell. I started my inspection. At first I could not figure out where the smell was coming from. I checked behind the false walls and the unfinished areas of the basement and even checked behind the drop ceiling. Nothing. I noticed that there was a refrigerator in the corner and thought that it may have turned off by mistake and there was food rotting in there. As I got closer to the fridge, the smell become worse. And then I saw something on the windowsill — a pack of fish. My first thought was that the homeowner was just thawing out some fish for an upcoming meal. However, this did not smell like anything that I’d want to eat. I touched the package and it was hot. This fish had been sitting out for quite awhile. You did not have to be a fishmonger to know that that this fish had long since spoiled and was now stinking up the entire home.
The homeowner was a little embarrassed, and I told her not to be. We sometimes get calls that turn out to be “false alarms” or that the problem was not what the homeowner thought it was. That smelly fish could have easily turned into an attractant for insects, rodents, or wildlife. It is far better to call us and have us come out for an inspection than to ignore a problem and hope that it will go away. Most problems don’t self-resolve.
Recently, I was sent to a home in Lincroft, NJ after the homeowner contacted Cowleys because of a large swarm of “wasps” outside her home. Upon arrival, I asked if anyone had yet been stung. She replied, fortunately no.
Once I started my inspection, I immediately understood why no one in the home had escaped the wrath of a swarm of aggressive wasps. These insects weren’t wasps at all! These were a type of fly known as hover flies! These are true flies, just like annoying houseflies, so they don’t sting. How do you tell the difference between a fly and a stinging insect? Count the wings! Flies have only one pair of wings, while bees and wasps have two. I have a saying about the difference: Two wings fun, four wings run!
Many animals especially reptiles (like snakes), amphibians (like frogs), and insects (like yellow jackets) use warning coloration. They have bright colors to warn others to back off. Bight colors let other animals that I’m dangerous — I bite or sting and have a toxic venom that will put a world of hurt on you! Common bright warning colors are reds, oranges, and yellows. There are usually distinct marking with contrasting colors that make them easy to notice. People, like most other creatures, are programmed to fear anything with black and yellow coloration. Even little toddlers will run away in fear of bees and yellow jackets. Hover flies engage in animal mimicry. Mimicry is where an animal “mimics” the look of a more dangerous animal. Hover flies mimic stinging insects. Animals innately know that striped insects are bad news so they leave them alone. Mimicry is especially common with snakes. King and milk snakes with their bands of red, black, and yellow mimic the venomous coral snake, and the harmless gopher snake shakes its tail like the poisonous rattlesnake.
It is understandable why this homeowner thought these flies were wasps. You really have to know what you are looking for to tell the difference. Most wasps have antennae shaped like bullhorns that being more on the sides of the head and protrude outwards. Hover fly antennae begin more directly in the front of the head and are much shorter and smaller. A hover fly abdomen is somewhat flat while a wasp has a much rounder abdomen and have a slender wasp waist that narrows between the thorax and abdomen. Also, wasps often have a pair of spots along the back of their abdomen and hover flies do not.
Hover flies are named that for good reason. They are top-notch “hoverers,” far better than bees or wasps. With an amazingly fast wing beat, they easily hover over flowers until ready to feed on the flower nectar or pollen, and look as though they are standing still in the air. Hover flies are beneficial garden insects. They are significant pollinators and their larvae does a great job consuming garden pests, especially garden-destroying aphids. Once I explained to these homeowners the type of “infestation” on their property, they were quite relieved. I suggested that there was no reason to get rid of these insects and the homeowners agreed. They were quite insistent that they wanted to let these beneficial pollinating insects continue “doing their thing.” I was happy to give these homeowners’ some peace of mind. Not every job we go on winds up involving a nuisance pest.
In early spring, we start getting more and more calls from homeowners after observing an insect swarm. Swarming is a natural phenomenon that occurs periodically with social insects — insects that live in large colonies with a specialized division of labor. Sometimes insects swarm when they leave their nest all at once to move to another location. Another common reason for an insect swarm is when reproductive insects take flight out of the nest for the purpose of mating and starting new colonies.
Although insect swarms can be frightening to observe, for homeowners, they are often the most visible sign that there is a subterranean nest on their property. Usually, we assume the worst and it is a termite swarm. I was sent to a home in Spring Lake, NJ, to conduct an inspection for possible termite activity. The homeowners contacted Cowleys after observing an insect swarm. Fortunately, these weren’t termites. Rather, they were flying ants. It’s easy to confuse the two. Out of an abundance of caution and considering the potential property damage that termites can cause, it’s always a good idea to have a pest control professional confirm the type of swarming insect. The particular insect determines the particular treatment that’s necessary get rid of the infestation.
Here, after determining these were flying ants, I located the ant nest. Ants had formed a nest in a bait station. It was an active nest filled with larvae.
Recently, I was sent to a home in Howell, NJ, to take care of an ant problem. Ants are the most common insect infestation faced by homeowners. Almost everyone, at one time or another, is bound to come across a foraging ant or two inside their home. However, if you wind up with a full-blown ant infestation and a never-ending trail of ants, there may well be an ant nest that’s inside your home — usually in a wall or floor void. At that point, you a pest control professional should be contacted. Ant infestations can be difficult to eliminate because of the size of the colonies. Fortunately, there are professional-use treatments that quickly eliminate the queen and the rest of the colony.
As soon as I started my inspection, I immediately identified the type of ant infestation. These were odorous house ants, one of the more common ants that infest homes. Often, you’ll find them in homes after heavy rains when attempting to escape flooding of their shallow nests. Ants need water to survive, but too much water is as much of a problem as too little. Why are they odorous house ants? If you crush one of them or even just disturb or alarm them, there ants release a noticeable odor that, to me at least, smells like rotten coconuts. Also, these guys are very small ants, but what they lack in size, they make up in speed — they are fast!
Odorous ants in your home are foraging for food. Since they have a distinct preference for sweets crumbs, and water, kitchens, panties, and bathrooms are all common targets for these pests. They seek locations that are warm and close to moisture when nesting indoors — even dishwashers! Of course, they also build nests outside and then crawl through foundation cracks or around door openings to enter the home. Because of their size, sealing all of the potential cracks and openings that ants can use is virtually impossible. Instead, to control ants, it’s best to remove their attractants. Trim back trees and shrubs away from he home, keep food tightly stored, and don’t leave out pet food for extended periods of time — you don’t want your pet food to become pest food. Also, keep your counters and floors clean and dirty dishes out of the sink. Kitchen crumbs and food residue are an ant’s best friend.
With this infestation, I did a full interior inspection wherever the homeowner had observed ant activity and then inspected the exterior perimeter. Following the ant trail, I found the nest and how they were entering through cracks in the home’s foundation. To treat this infestation, I used a gel ant bait that I applied underneath the siding nearby the cracks. This will attract the foraging ants inside the house to leave. Also, the ants will carry the bait back to the nest where it will be distributed. This ant infestation will soon be gone.
I homeowner in Atlantic Highlands, NJ, was having a problem with yellow jackets somehow managing to find their way inside her home. Out of all the stinging insects that could invade a home, to me, there is nothing worse than yellow jackets. These are nasty, territorial, aggressive, predatory wasps that often seem to sting for no reason at all. She was at a complete loss figuring out how these intruders were able to gain access inside her home. There were no obvious entry points. Her home was in great condition. They were no ripped window screens and all of the doors to the outside were kept shut. At first blush, there were no entry points allowing these insects to get inside. It was as though they just magically appeared out of nowhere. Finally, after too much unnecessary frustration, the homeowner decided to contact Cowleys to determine the problem and get it resolved.
I just love pest control assignments where I have to put on my detective cap. Upon arrival, I first inspected the attic. My initial thought is that if there were no entry points for these insects to gain entry from the outside, this may be an “inside job” with an inside nest. And the most likely place for a yellow jacket nest was the attic. However, after a thorough inspection, I came up empty handed. I could not find a single sign of insect activity up above. But for me, eliminating the attic meant I was one step closer to finding the solution. I then moved my inspection to the outside perimeter of the home to look for any possible ways that yellow jackets could gain access. Something caught my eye that could have been easily overlooked since it was not at eye level. I noticed a broken dryer vent. I hopped on my ladder and, sure enough, I was greeted by an active yellow jacket nest inside the vent.
I treated and removed the nest for the homeowner. I also happened to have a dryer vent cover on my truck. I asked the homeowner if she would like me to install a new cover while I was there, and she agreed without hesitation. With the nest removed and a new cover for the dryer vent in place, this homeowner will no longer have the problem of mystery yellow jackets invading her home.
With the arrival of warm weather, when outside, we all have to be vigilant about ticks. They can be hiding anywhere waiting to find a host for their next blood meal. Recently, I was performing a routine termite treatment. I happened to notice that an insect had rudely latched onto me for lunch. Upon closer examination, I noticed that this was a lone star tick. Although these ticks are mostly found in the southern part of the state, they do reach as far north as central New Jersey and Monmouth County. Although deer ticks get the most attention since they are the primary transmitter of Lyme disease, lone star ticks can transmit diseases to humans as well, most notably a bacteria that causes ehrlichiosis as well as other diseases. Lyme is the most serious tick-borne illness and happens with the most frequency, but everyone should know that, here in New Jersey, there are other types of ticks and other tick-transmitted diseases out there.
Whenever I’m working outside, I perform frequent tick checks, especially if I’m walking through tall vegetation or grasses. In areas of high vegetation, ticks can often be found “questing.” They will crawl up the stems of grass or perch on the edges of leaves patiently waiting for passerby to latch onto. They know we are coming by our emission of carbon dioxide when we breathe.
This particular tick in Fair Haven, NJ decided to choose me! If you are bitten by a tick, removing it immediately can make all the difference. A tick must have taken a blood meal to transmit tainted blood, and it usually takes 24 hours before feeding begins. Getting the tick off your body during this pre-feeding window substantially reduces the chance of receiving a tick-borne illness. Also, tick control in your backyard can go a long way. I tell any customer who asks me what they can do to make their yard safer and keep down tick and mosquito populations to keep their lawn mowed, remove any standing water, and consider a professional tick and mosquito control treatment program throughout the spring and summer months.
Recently, there was quite a number of Jersey Shore homeowners were dealing with storm damage to their properties. Oftentimes, the building materials in and around the roof get hit the hardest. We dealt with quite a few homes that had shingles blown off, and for this homeowner in Bradley Beach, NJ had part of their soffit blown apart. The soffit is the underside “ceiling” that bridges the gap between a home’s siding and the roofline (eaves). Often, soffits are vented to allow air exchange into the attic, and are usually made of vinyl. They are more than decorative — your exterior soffits help keep wildlife like squirrels, birds, and bats from taking over your attic as a nesting area.
This homeowner found out the hard way what happens when parts of your soffit are missing. Squirrels and birds soon took advantage of the opening and made his attic their home. Our wildlife team trapped and relocated the trespassing squirrels, and afterwards, a two-person crew from Cowleys home improvement division were sent in to clean up the attic, remove the bird nesting material, and repair the soffit. As you can see, when we were done, everything was put back together and looked as good as new. You’d never even guess that this attic was once infested by wildlife. The homeowner was pleased with our repair work, and we went on to our next assignment.
Although clover mites aren’t harmful to people or their pets, they can be quite the nuisance pest for three reasons. One is their sheer number. With clover mite infestations, there can literally be hundreds or even thousands of them. Two is their size. Clover mites are pinhead small, so they are able to find their way inside homes without too much trouble. These insects are so small that they can even fit through the mesh of most screen windows and doors. And three, when squished or crushed these bugs leave a nasty red pigmentation stain on carpets, curtains, and your clothing should you sit on them.
Clover mites are most active in cooler weather, especially early spring. And this year, clover mites hav been out in droves. If you are seeing an army of tiny red bugs outside your home or around your garden, they may well be clover mites. These insects feed off a variety of plants and vegetation, including their namesake, clover. They are especially attracted to highly fertilized grasses. These mites like to lay their eggs in all of the cracks and crevices that form around a home’s foundation. The eggs that are laid in the fall become dormant during the winter and when spring rolls around, they hatch. Spring is, by far, the most common time for homeowners to be dealing with a clover mite infestation inside their home. When these bugs get inside, they soon die, but while there they are a nuisance and cleaning up after their stains can become an exercise in frustration. Fortunately, they do not infest food and contaminate kitchens like ants and all of those beetle and weevil pantry pests.
Just like with stink bugs, another common nuisance pest, with clover mites, it’s best to vacuum them up instead of crushing them to avoid staining.
To prevent clover mite and other pest infestations, it’s helpful to clear up any vegetation immediately around the outside perimeter of the home and thoroughly inspect around the foundation and windows for any cracks. Sealing these gaps will stop clover mites from laying eggs around your home, and eventually finding their way inside.
To treat this infestation in Fair Haven, NJ, I used an application around the outside foundation that will quickly knock down the clover mite population.
To prevent termite damage, many homeowners in our area elect to be proactive and have a Sentricon termite colony elimination system installed around the home’s perimeter. Special bait stations are augured into the ground every ten feet or so around the home. These bait stations proactively blocks termites from reaching the home. The bait stations contains bait (primarily cellulose — a termite’s favorite that’s treated with a potent IGR (insect growth regulator). An IGR prevents the termites from molting — and insects that can’t molt, soon die. The foraging worker termites bring the bait back to share with the rest of the colony where it passes from termite to termite. It does not take long for the entire colony to be eliminated.
Do the bait stations really work? Well, they say a picture is worth a thousand words and these these photos show termite workers “going to town” feeding on the bait. If these termites were not diverted by these bait stations, they would have kept going until they reached the wood in the home. The foraging drive of termites is unstoppable. Sentricon installations are often requested by homeowners after having dealt with a termite infestation. Few homeowners have any interest in repeating the experience of treating for termites and facing expensive repairs.
Does it work? J
Recently, I was sent to a home in Hazlet, NJ, to resolve a carpenter bee infestation. Homeowners will often find these large bees hovering around the outside of their homes searching for mates and favorable sites to construct their nests. At first glance, they resemble bumble bees, but carpenter bees have a bare and shiny black abdomen while that of the bumble bees is hard with yellow markings. After mating, the fertilized female carpenter bee excavates galleries in wood to deposit her eggs. A common sign of a carpenter bee infestation are deposits of “frass” beneath the entry hole. This is what we call the sawdust-like material produced from their tunneling. Their holes appear to be perfectly round and about a half-inch wide. These bees seek out bare, unpainted woods that are often weathered and soft from water damage. Painted and pressure-treated woods are much less susceptible to nesting. With these infestations, common nesting sites around homes include eaves, window trim, fascia boards, siding, wooden shakes, decks, and outdoor furniture. These bees return to the same sites year after year expanding and reusing existing tunnels and building new ones.
While carpenter bee damage is usually not nearly as extensive as termite damage, it can still be considerable and a major headache for homeowners to fix. The holes allow water seepage into the wood and some homeowners will wake up to the sounds of woodpeckers pecking away at the wood to reach carpenter bee larvae, one of their favorite foods!
To show the damage that these bees can cause, before starting treatment, I took photos of the bees’ nesting/excavating activities around the front door and side fascia boards.
Recently, I was sent to help a homeowner in Matawan, NJ who was dealing with extensive ant activity inside his home. The ant infestation was especially heavy in the kitchen area. It’s no coincidence that ant infestations are often found in kitchen areas. Kitchens are ant paradise! Here, they have an abundance of everything they need to survive and thrive: food, harborage, and water. Most insect problems can be quickly eliminated or outright prevented by removing one or more of these three key elements needed by ants and other insects to support their ever-expanding colonies.
Sometimes infestations are hidden and you have to do some detective work to find them. Other times, like here, the insects are not shy about announcing their presence. Starting my inspection in the interior of the kitchen, I immediately observed ants crawling all over the counter like they owned the place. I followed the ants’ trail to determine where they were coming from. Here, the trail went down the side of the cabinets where it disappeared under the baseboard molding. I then conducted my exterior inspection to determine how the ants were gaining entry into the home. I observed the ants trailing along the home’s decorative railroad ties where they then easily able to find their way inside the home.
To treat this infestation, I applied a crack and crevice treatment throughout the kitchen’s interior and treated the exterior perimeter, concentrating on the ant trails. Ants will bring this product back to their hidden nest. It won’t take long for this ant infestation to be eliminated and for this homeowner to have his kitchen ant-free once again.
Recently, I performed a home protection plan (HPP) servicing for a residential customer in Neptune, NJ. As sometimes happens, the homeowner was not there when I arrived. I contacted the customer by phone to let him know I was there and if there were any pest issues I should be aware of. She told me that she had seen some ants crawling around on her back deck. Spotting foraging ants outside your home is an all-too-common occurrence this time of year. Also, it’s far better to deal with these pests before they find entry points to gain access inside your home.
During further inspection of the deck, I moved a storage box and, bingo, I found ants nesting underneath. I treated the deck area, both underneath and on top, with an effective residual product. This treatment will soon resolve this outdoor ant infestation. These periodic HPP visits allow us to deal with pest infestations in their early stages, helping homeowners avoid more serious, entrenched infestations. It’s far easier for us to deal with pests outside of the home before they find their way inside.
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!
While servicing one of our commercial accounts, a restaurant in Englishtown, NJ I observed a line of foraging ants marching around the outside perimeter of the structure. These particular ant are known as crazy ants — not because they drive you crazy, but because they move very erratically and unpredictably when foraging for food. From a distance, these tiny ants look like discarded coffee ground until you realize that these little things are alive and moving in every direction.
Recently, I successfully treated another smaller species of ants, pavement ants, using a granular bait at another commercial account serviced by Cowleys. I wanted to try it here to see if it would take the “crazy” out of these ants.I placed some of the bait in the ant trail. Some were picking up the bait while others ignoring it. With ant infestations, I always try to locate the nest by following the ants. These ants seemed to be gravitating toward a tree in a parking lot island, and I saw ants climbing up the tree trunk. I kicked over some mulch and observed some pavement ants. These ants are even smaller than their crazy cousins. The pavement ants were especially interested in the bait I set out for the crazy ants. I set out more granular bait at the base of the tree to control both species of ants. With ant infestations you can’t assume you are dealing with only one species. Often, conditions that are favorable for one type of ant are favorable for others. I was glad that I observed these ants outside of the building. It’s always better to control an ant colony outside before the pests have a chance to invade the structure and find their way into all sorts of hiding places.
I was sent to Middletown, NJ, for the first visit of a new Home Protection Plan (HPP) customer. The homeowner was anxious for the plan to get started because he had seen ants in the kitchen. With a HPP, a customer has periodic inspections and preventative perimeter treatments throughout the year and they can call us at any time to treat pests covered under the plan at no additional cost. It’s a great budgeting tool for homeowners.
The homeowner told me that he was mostly seeing ants by the kitchen windowsill and on the floor by the kitchen window. Often, the ant nest is located outside nearby the home and the worker ants trail inside a home to forage for food for the colony. During my inspection, I did not happen to see any insect activity in the kitchen. However, since ants were observed trailing inside, I used an aerosol application around the windows and treated along the kitchen baseboard.
Outside, was a different story. I observed significant ant activity. Ants were trailing up the brick veneer right into an opening where the homeowner had observed ants. I thoroughly treated the exterior perimeter area outside of the kitchen, especially on the brick where the ants were trailing as well as a mulch bed right outside the foundation. Mulch is a favorite harborage area for insects and it is best to leave a foot gap between the home and a mulch bed to reduce the risk of termites and other insects reaching the home. With this residual product, as the foraging ants go to and from the nest, they will carry in back to the colony where it will be distributed. Soon, the queen and the rest of the colony will be eliminated. I was glad that I had a chance to help this customer on our first visit to his home.
I was recently sent to a home in Manasquan, NJ to deal with an odorous house ant infestation. Ants are the most common nuisance pest, and one of the most common ants that invade homes are odorous house ant. These small dark brown or black ants “earned” their name because they emit a foul odor that smells what many describe as rotten coconuts when crushed. These ants construct shallow nests in the soil, usually under lawn debris, wood piles, and under brick pavers. Although they nest outdoors, they often move their nests inside homes, and they can be found almost anywhere including in plumbing traps and wall voids. Often, homeowners find ants inside their homes after heavy rains when their nests are flooded and they are looking for higher ground. Their colonies can be quite large, and in addition to the parent colony, we often find multiple satellite nests with more than one egg-producing queen.
With this infestation, the ants had invaded the kitchen. During my exterior perimeter inspection, I observed a trail of ants that were crawling underneath the siding. Because of their size, they can enter homes through the smallest of openings around the foundation. I applied an effective treatment in the area of the ant trail. The ants will carry the product back to the nest where it will be distributed throughout the colony. It won’t take long for the colony to be eliminated and the homeowners will soon see a dramatic decrease in ant sightings inside their home.
Recently, I was sent to one of our commercial accounts, a medical office in Freehold, NJ. Based on the description of the infestation given to us over the phone, we suspected carpenter ants, a major pest problem this time of year. Sure enough, during my exterior perimeter inspection of the building, I observed numerous trails of carpenter ants. These large ants, up to 1/2 inch in length, are wood-destroying insects (WDIs). Although there are numerous insects that either consume wood or bore holes in it for nesting, the most common invaders are carpenter ants, carpenter bees, and the “kings” of property damage — termites. Carpenter ants excavate galleries in wood, most often untreated, moist, water-damaged wood. Outside, carpenter ants commonly nest in trees, tree stumps, leaf litter, and firewood. Inside, they are often spotted around doors, window sills, sinks, and areas around roofs and chimneys.
To resolve this infestation, we treated the exterior of the building with a termidor (fipronil) application. Although this application is mostly widely known for use with termite control, we use it for other pest control situations as well, including as an exterior perimeter treatment for property-damaging carpenter ants and plain old nuisance ants. Termidor works exceptionally well for carpenter ants as a foundation or perimeter spray. Just like with termites, the workers pick up the product as they travel back and forth from the nest, soon contaminating the rest of the colony. The objective with these types of social pests is to kill the egg-producing queen. Killing isolated foraging ants will not resolve the infestation.
During our inspection, we observed that the rear of the building faced a wooded area. An inspection of the trees close to the building revealed that many of them were infested with carpenter ants. I treated the trees with a waterproof long-term residual dust using a bellow hand duster to apply the product in the numerous holes bored out by the ants. Since these ants were nesting outside of the building, I wanted to see if we could knock down the ant population by treating the exterior first and delay applying product inside the building, especially since it was a doctor’s office. There was no sense in unnecessarily treating the inside if the infestation could be successfully resolved outside. I’m confident that those foraging carpenter ants that manage to find their way inside the building will soon be gone once the outdoor nests are eliminated.
Recently, I received a callback from one of our long-time customers, a homeowner in Belmar, NJ, who wanted us to remove a hornet’s nest that had formed on the front porch. As you can see from the photos, this nest was well on its way to becoming a large, mature colony of wasps. Wasps that live in colonies (social wasps) are highly territorial and will not hesitate to sting if they believe that their nest is being threatened. A wasp does not lose its stinger and can sting multiple times, so being attacked by a swarm of wasps can easily result in dozens of painful stings. Removal of a mature active wasps nest is a potentially dangerous undertaking.
First, I treated the nest with an application to knock down the population so that I could safely remove the nest. While removing the nest, I noticed that there were active maggot-like wasp larvae, the stage of development right after the eggs hatch, inside the nest.
This, at least to me, was quite interesting to observe. The wasp grubs are fed by the adult worker wasps until they are ready to pupate. The pupal stage is when their larval structures break down and the adult structures such as wings appear for the first time. In the pupal stage, the larvae encase themselves in their cells by spinning a silk cap over the top of their cell. They later emerge once they develop into adult wasps. Hornets take about one month to go from egg to full-grown wasp. Although nobody likes having wasps forming nests on their property, observing their developmental stages and the transformations that they must go through in order to become an adult wasp is pretty fascinating.
Often, raccoons, especially mother raccoons seeking a quiet, private place to raise their young, use attics and chimneys as dens. But they can and will make their nests almost anywhere. We’ve dealt raccoon nests in crawl spaces, barn lofts. and with this home in Atlantic Highlands, NJ, the mother raccoon didn’t even bother to break into the home. Here, the mother set up shop underneath some patio furniture that was covered for the winter. So, when you are ready to start using your patio furniture and remove the protective covering, please be cautious. There may be a family of wildlife squatters that have already decided to use your covered patio furniture as their own little backyard campsite! before you do!
I set up a few traps and loaded them with my secret irresistible bait recipe. It did not take long to trap the mother raccoon. As you can see from the photo, she was giving me quite the dirty look for trapping her. I rounded up the babies and safely relocated the family to a location safer for them and safer for these Atlantic Highland homeowners. Raccoons may look cute and cuddly, but they are large aggressive animals that can be quite dangerous if they feel cornered or threatened. Mother raccoons are especially protective of their helpless kits. Wildlife is wonderful, but it’s much better situation for everyone when wildlife stays in the wild and enjoyed at a distance, far away from human habitats.
Especially after extremely dry condition, a heavy rainstorm seems to rejuvenate and give ant colonies new life. Also, ants start looking for higher ground as their nests become flooded with rainwater and we see a noticeable increase in ant infestations. Here, after we had some much-needed rain, this homeowner in Atlantic Highlands, NJ, found himself with odorous house ants. We call these small dark brown or black ants “odorous” ants for good reason: They emit a foul odor that smells like rotten coconuts when crushed. Odorous ant colonies can become quite large, and often, in addition to the parent colony, these ants expand by forming multiple satellite nests with more than one egg-producing queen.
These particular ants construct shallow nests in the soil, usually under lawn debris, wood piles, and under brick pavers. I happened to find this particular nest in a termite bait station during an inspection. Because their nests are so shallow, they are prone to flooding after heavy rains. With the ants stranded and looking for someplace safe, ant infestations in homes skyrocket. The lesson is that when we experience those typical New Jersey weather swings of dry conditions followed by heavy rain, homeowners should be on the lookout for ant infestations.
During our monthly servicing of a commercial account, an office building in Millstone Township, NJ, I was alerted to a mouse problem in one of the office cubicle stations. We tend to think of commercial rodent problems as happening only in restaurants and other food-service establishments. Certainly, they happen there with much more frequency, but rodent problems can happen anywhere. Apparently, the office worker in this cubicle was the “Oscar Madison” of the office and did not have the neatest sanitation habits. He was leaving a treasure trove of food and other pest attractants around where he worked. This person left behind open snacks, crumbs, tea bags, and coffee pods, all of which were attracting mice. Mice have a keen sense of smell to compensate for the poor eyesight and have the ability to separate specific orders, such as food sources from the scent of predators. They also use pheromones (scent markers) to communicate with other mice, so if a mice finds some “goodies,” other mice will soon know about it.
To deal with this office infestation, I set rodent bait stations in the area as well as monitors to gauge rodent activity between visits. I politely advised the employee to leave snacks and drink packets in the break room if he did not wan to continue sharing his cubicle with rodents. The office manager informed me that there would be an enforced policy of no snacks outside of the break room if his staff was not responsible for keeping their cubicles free of food debris and other materials.
Recently, we were contacted by one of our larger commercial customers, a large residential community in Freehold, NJ. One of the homeowners complained to the property manager that his home was being invaded by “little red bugs,” and I was sent out immediately to resolve the problem.
I immediately identified these bugs as boxelder bugs. These destructive pests are named after boxelder trees, one of the trees that they commonly infest. Although these bugs seek out the seeds of boxelder trees, we also find them infesting maple and ash trees. These oval, black bugs with reddish-orange markings on its back are about 1/2" long. Boxelder bugs molt numerous times on their way to adulthood and the nymphs look nothing like the adult bugs. The tiny baby nymphs are often completely red in their early stages. No doubt, it was these little red nymphs, which are often found in huge clusters, that caught the attention of this homeowner.
During the spring and summer months, you’ll often see these bugs “sunning” themselves on the tops of rocks for warmth. However, once cool temperatures move in during the fall, they look for warmer places to overwinter and escape the harsh outdoor elements. This is when we find these bugs inside our homes. Often, they escape notice for quite awhile. However, problems start when homeowners start turning on the heat as temperatures continue to drip during the fall as winter approaches. Insects naturally respond to temperature changes and are stimulated into activity by the artificial warmth. Believing that spring has arrived, they become active once again, and enter the living spaces of the home in search of food and water.
The homeowner did the right thing by notifying us of the boxelder problem in the summer. It is far better to deal with bug infestations found outside of your home in the summer before they start looking to overwinter. With insects, because of their size, it’s relatively easy for them to find ways to access your home where they can become a major nuisance. For example, boxelder bugs may stain your furnishings with their wastes and feed on certain types of house plants.
For this outdoor boxelder bug infestation, I treated all of the areas where these bugs congregate including the rocks in the landscape bed, a maple tree growing close to the home, and as a precaution, I also treated underneath the adjacent siding. I wanted to be sure that this infestation was eliminated while the bugs were still outside. The infestations will become more complicated to treat in a few months once temperatures drop and the pests find their way inside.
Recently, Cowleys received a call from one of our residential Home Protection Plan (HPP) customers in Matawan, NJ. HPP customers can call Cowleys anytime for any covered pest under their plan at no additional cost. It’s a great way for homeowners to budget for pest control services. In this case, the call came in for an active hornet’s nest. This particular call highlighted the fact that hornets can build nests anywhere and everywhere, and sometimes in the worst possible locations as far as risk to people being stung. Over the years, I’ve treated hornets nests in their usual locations including trees, bushes, and under roof eaves. This time, however, the Hornets decided to build their nest on a small baby swing. You’ll sometimes see hornets build nests on large wooden swingset supports, but, for me, a nest on a baby swing was a first.
For obvious reasons, this nest needed to be removed immediately. It just so happened that on the day of servicing, it was very windy. The nest was literally a moving target, swinging back and forth with the wind gusts. I wasn’t about to tell these homeowners that I’d need to come back on another day. Instead, I deal with the wind by using a specialized extension pole enabling me to operate a can of aerosol at the end of the pole. This way, I could keep a safe distance from the nest while dousing it with the product. Once a nest is threatened, hornets become highly aggressive and territorial. A hornet can sting multiple times, so a swarm of them can easily turn into a medical emergency. By sheer coincidence, while I was there, a landscaper who was trimming the bushes discovered another hornet’s nest in an arborvitae behind the home, a much more common location for hornets to build their nest. I removed this nest as well. For this homeowner, my visit turned out to be a two-for-one special — and because hornets are a covered pest under their HPP, all at no extra charge!
Recently, I was sent to a municipal building in Wall Township, NJ to deal with a stinging insect infestation. Cowleys was called after a boy had been stung on a walking path close to one of the town’s building. The initial report we received was that the boy had been stung by “bees” hovering around their nest that had formed in a tree. As it turned out, the stinging insects in were actually bald-faced hornets, an aggressive, territorial wasp. They are a close relative of yellow jackets. These particular wasps have distinctive white markings on their face and body. One major difference between bees and wasps or hornets is that bees can only sting once while wasps and hornets can sting multiple times. With bees, their barbed stinger usually stays in the puncture wound. Since wasps and hornets do not lose their stinger, they can sting multiple times. Also, the chemical makeup of their venom is different. It’s not your imagination that wasp and hornet stings hurt much more than bee stings— they really do! Their venom has a higher concentration of acetylcholine, a chemical that stimulates your body’s pain receptors.
It goes without saying that wasp nests in areas with high pedestrian traffic must be dealt with quickly, especially if the nest is in a commercial or public area where customers and visitors and coming and going.
When dealing with wasp nests, I always take appropriate precautions to avoid being stung myself. We have full-body protective suits if we feel the circumstances warrant it. Here, to keep a safe distance, I used a special extension pole that applies a dust inside the nest. This product quickly knocks down insect populations. After pumping the nest three times, I waited until I observed no more insect activity. Once I saw no more activity outside of the nest (there still could have been some live insects inside), I carefully cut the small branch where the nest had formed to detach the nest. I immediately bagged the nest in order to contain any insects that may still be alive. Once finished, I took the nest with me so I could later safely disposed of it. It is important to remove the nesting material from the property so it does not attract other insects.
Recently, a homeowner in Rumson, NJ, contacted Cowleys to take advantage of our mosquito reduction program. This treatment is tailor-made for homeowners who find themselves with an unacceptable level of mosquito activity on their property.
Upon arrival, I started conducting a thorough inspection of the property in order to locate potential mosquito harborage and breeding grounds. Female mosquitoes require stagnant or standing water to lay their eggs. The females deposit their eggs in broods containing hundreds of eggs in standing water. The eggs float to the surface where they remain for about 48 hours before hatching into larvae. the larvae live for about 10 days and then changes into pupae for a short period of time before emerging as adult mosquitos. Suffice it to say, the mosquito lifecycle from egg to adult is amazingly short, and given the number of eggs a mosquito can lay, their populations can grow to astronomical numbers in the blink of an eye. With mosquito infestations, it happens to be the females that are the source of all our misery. They bite us, not for their own nutrition, but because they need the protein and other components in our blood to produce their eggs. Male mosquitoes may annoy us with all their buzzing, but at least they don’t bite us.
You can go a long way in reducing mosquito populations by eliminating standing water on your property. The trouble is that standing water can collect anywhere and in anything that can hold and store water — unused flower pots, children’s toys, wheelbarrows, and less obvious places like clogged gutters and depressions in your driveway. Sometimes, we put standing water on our property on purpose. Some homeowners enjoy decorative ponds and birdbaths. Also, mosquitoes can lay eggs in extremely small amounts of water — an overturned bottle cap holding a spoonful of water is enough for some types of mosquitoes. So, while you can’t eliminate every potential mosquito breeding spot, you can at least substantially reduce them. And that’s what I did here. I reviewed the conditions on his property conducive to mosquitoes. Some I could eliminate immediately while others will take more time.
After my inspection, I used a self-contained power mister to apply a highly effective residual product to all of the harborage areas, shaded areas on the property (which tend to stay moist and insect-friendly), as well as shrubbery and trees. This product contains an insect growth regulator (IGR) that inhibits the ability of the mosquitoes to grow and mature normally. This type of product works exceptionally well for mosquitoes since it targets not only the adult mosquitoes but the larvae as well.
By reducing standing water followed by the mosquito treatment, this Rumson homeowner will soon see a substantial reduction of mosquito populations on his property.
Recently, I was sent to a home in Imlaystown, NJ to treat some “giant wasps.” Upon arrival, I immediately identified the insects as cicada killers. These are non-aggressive solitary wasps that do not have the nest-guarding instinct of bees, yellow jackets, or hornets. Usually, you can walk through areas where they are active without fear of being stung. These wasps spend their days digging underground burrows and paralyzing the poor cicadas that serve as food for their grub-like larvae (hence the intimidating name of these wasps — especially if you happen to be a cicada!). Cicadas are close relatives of aphids and leafhoppers. Also, only the burrowing female wasps have stingers. The stinger-less males may hover around potential intruders, but they can’t do anything about it. Of course, your “hunter” pet cat or dog may try to catch one of these burrowing wasps, but after the first stinging encounter, they usually learn a painful lesson that it’s best to leave them alone.
The most common sign of a cicada killer infestation are piles of sand accumulating throughout the yard. These wasps dig extensive tunnels to deposit their eggs and tend to their larvae. Unfortunately, this activity can attract other animals, especially skunks, that do even more digging to feed on the wasp larvae and captured cicadas. These wasps are attracted to well-drained, light-textured soils in full sunlight near trees harboring cicadas, especially the loose soil in vegetable gardens, flower beds, lawns, and patio edges.
I applied a dust application inside the entry holes of the burrows. The treatment should take no longer than two weeks to eliminate these yard-destroying wasps. While doing my treatment, I noticed a cicada killer doing its thing — dragging a cicada into a hole for its larvae that I just finished dusting. The wasp dropped the cicada and attempted to fly away, but since she already came into contact with the dust, she didn’t get very far.
Recently, I was sent to a home in Lincroft, NJ to deal with a wasp infestation. Upon arrival, I saw that I was dealing with baldfaced hornets. These aggressive, territorial social wasps are part of the yellow jacket family. Their coloration is readily identifiable: black with white markings on their face and abdomen. They are exceptionally strong wasps that can drill their stingers through thick clothing, and even worse, a single wasp can sting multiple times since they don’t lose their stingers. The wasps that we know as yellow jackets usually build their nests in underground burrows and other cavities. However, baldfaced hornets are aerial yellow jackets that build their distinctive spherical paper nests above-ground in plain sight,
These wasps make their nests from chewed wood fibers that they mixed with their saliva to hold everything in place. Every baldfaced hornet nest is built from scratch each year, starting in early spring when the queen locates her nesting location. These nests are not reused, and the queen are the only members of the colony that survive the winter. This nest that I was called to remove here in Lincroft was a mature end-of-summer summer nest that easily had a few hundred workers. As you can see in the photos, a mature nest can grow quite large — upwards of two feet long and more than a foot in diameter!
A baldfaced hornet nest has a thick, multilayered outer shell with a single opening toward the bottom. This opening is used by the wasps to enter and exit the nest. These nests are often attached to tree branches or shrubs, but they are also built in places where the wasps pose a threat because of their close proximity to people. We are often called out when the nests are attached to or in close proximity to homes, patrons, or sheds. While we often find these nests built under roof eves, they can be built virtually anywhere — even on the the top of a window frame on the side wall of a garage! Because of its location, I was able to get a good view of the nest on both sides.
Removing a hornets nest is risky business. With stinging insects, a DIY project can easily turn into a trip to the emergency room. It’s far safer to hire a professional service to remove the nest. These insects deliver a sting you won’t soon forget, and from personal experience, these wasps can sting someone who is protected with a full body suit.
To remove the nest, I first used an aerosol to knock down all hornet activity. Once the hornet activity around the nest has stopped, I then remove the nest, package it, and take it with me. There is always a chance of a few stunned, but still alive, hornets inside the nest. With a baldfaced hornet infestation and other nest-building stinging insects, I remove the nest off the property. With these large multi-layered nests, there is always a possibility that there are live wasps hiding inside — and when they emerge they will be quite upset that their nest has been disturbed!
Recently, I was sent to a home in Eatontown, NJ to deal with a wasp infestation. Upon arrival, I saw that I was dealing with baldfaced hornets. These aggressive, territorial social wasps are part of the yellow jacket family. Their coloration is readily identifiable: black with white markings on their face and abdomen. They are exceptionally strong wasps that can drill their stingers through thick clothing, and even worse, a single wasp can sting multiple times since they don’t lose their stingers. The wasps that we know as yellow jackets usually build their nests in underground burrows and other cavities. However, baldfaced hornets are aerial yellow jackets that build their distinctive spherical paper nests above-ground in plain sight,
These wasps make their nests from chewed wood fibers that they mixed with their saliva to hold everything in place. Every baldfaced hornet nest is built from scratch each year, starting in early spring when the queen locates her nesting location. These nests are not reused, and the queen are the only members of the colony that survive the winter. This nest that I was called to remove here in Eatontown was a mature end-of-summer summer nest that easily had a few hundred workers. As you can see in the photos, a mature nest can grow quite large — upwards of two feet long and more than a foot in diameter!
A baldfaced hornet nest has a thick, multilayered outer shell with a single opening toward the bottom. This opening is used by the wasps to enter and exit the nest. These nests are often attached to tree branches or shrubs, but they are also built in places where the wasps pose a threat because of their close proximity to people. We are often called out when the nests are attached to or in close proximity to homes, patrons, or sheds. While we often find these nests built under roof eves, they can be built virtually anywhere — even on the the top of a window frame on the side wall of a garage! Because of its location, I was able to get a good view of the nest on both sides.
Removing a hornets nest is risky business. These insects deliver a sting you won’t soon forget, and from personal experience, these wasps can sting someone who is protected with a full body suit.
To remove the nest, I first used an aerosol to knock down all hornet activity. Once the hornet activity around the nest has stopped, I then remove the nest, package it, and take it with me. There is always a chance of a few stunned, but still alive, hornets inside the nest. With a baldfaced hornet infestation and other nest-building stinging insects, I remove the nest off the property. With these large multi-layered nests, there is always a possibility that there are live wasps hiding inside — and when they emerge they will be quite upset that their nest has been disturbed!
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.
Recently, we were contacted by a commercial customer, a restaurant in Roselle, NJ to come out and resolve a persistent “small fly” problem in their commercial kitchen. Apparently, another pest control service had attempted to resolve the fly problem, but to no avail — so they decided to bring in the “big guns” and contacted Cowleys! Why was the other pest control service unable to resolve their pest issue? Simply put, their inspection wasn’t thorough enough. With fly infestations, it is imperative to find all of the sources of the infestation — where these flies are breeding and thriving — so you can treat those areas, and just as important, eliminate the underlying conditions that are facilitating the infestation in the first place.
The restaurant had numerous fly breeding sources that needed to be corrected. There were numerous wet mops filled with food debris in a “slop sink.” The mops should be wrung out to remove the excess water and then hung after use so that they could dry. Also, the kitchen had garbage cans caked with food and liquid residue in the bottoms that the kitchen staff left overnight. Talk about a “welcome mat” for flies and other pests! These are the types of conditions in a restaurant that create harborage and breeding areas for small flies (like fruit flies and drain flies) as well as other insects and rodents. Another often overlooked area in this restaurant was the drip trays of soda and juice dispensers. The sugary liquid will quickly become a home to gnats and other pests attracted to the sugar content of the liquids.
The failure to keep these “hot spots” for fly breeding and harborage clean was causing a major small fly infestation and until the underlying problem is corrected, this restraint will be plagued by flies. I reviewed the lengthy list of structural and sanitation issues with the manager and was assured that they would be corrected and daily and weekly sanitation protocols would be implemented and followed. To deal with the existing infestation, I applied a bio-foam agent to the floor drains and the drip trays of the soda and juice dispensers. I also applied an aerosol fly bait to the surface areas where the flies rest. These applications will quickly knock down the fly population, but for long-term fly control, the restaurant must get serious about proper sanitation procedures.
Recently, I was sent to deal with some stinging insects that nested in the utility closet of an apartment building in Marlboro, NJ serviced by Cowleys. A technician from the electric company was there to change a meter, came across a nest, and contacted the property manager. The information relayed to me was that it was a carpenter bee nest. Something didn’t sound right to me. Carpenter bees are solitary bees, and the females bore out galleries in wood to deposit their larvae. These bees seek out untreated, often soft, water-damaged wood. Carpenter bees don’t build nests like social bees and wasps. I was anxious to find out what insect was causing all the trouble.
Upon arrival, I had my answer. These weren’t carpenter bees — they were bumblebees! It’s easy to confuse the two. However, upon closer inspection, you’ll see that bumblebees are a bit smaller and are fuzzy while the larger carpenter bees have a shiny black abdomen. After thoroughly inspecting the area, I noticed that they were entering the utility closet from in between two doors (see photo 1). I came across some nesting material on the ground. After waiting a few minutes, I noticed the bees coming in and out of an entry point.
Bumblebees aren’t particularly aggressive insects like many wasps and hornets. However, they ae certainly capable of stinging and they will sting if they perceive that their nest is being threatened. Here, after treating their entry point into the closet and moving a bit of debris off the nest, the bees became extremely aggressive. So, if you ever encounter a stinging insect nest (such as the one in photo 2), remove yourself from the area with as little commotion as possible.
After treating the nest and observed no more activity, I safely removed the nest off the premises. The electric company technician could get back to work and replace the meter. Photo 3 shows the larvae space, which were hard to the touch. Bumblebee larvae feels almost like wood encasing the eggs. These guys are well protected!
I was recently dispatched to a home in Brielle, NJ that was undergoing some extensive renovations.We were told that there’re “flying insects” bothering the workers. Upon arrival, I observed some insects crawling around and underneath the exposed Tyvek house wrap, attached to all of its nooks and crannies.
Upon closer examination, I saw what I was dealing with. These were European hornets building a nest in a wall void. With European hornets, you’ll rarely see those freely suspended football-shaped nest that are common with bald-faced hornets and paper wasps. Instead, just like here, they usually build their nests in a hole or cavity. With these insects, their nests are usually hidden and difficult to reach and treat.
European hornets, like many other stinging insects like yellow jackets and bald-faced hornets, are social insects that live in large colonies. Social insects are often highly territorial and will aggressively defend their nests. European hornets happen to be especially intimidating because of their size. They are one of the larger stinging insects we regularly deal with — about an inch long!
European hornets have orange, brown, and yellow markings. Because they have a bit of yellow in them, they are often confused with yellow jackets. These hornets just happen to be much larger than the slender yellow jacket. For homeowners, it’s enough to know that both are aggressive insects that can deliver painful stings. Also, if these insects get inside a home, they can build nests inside wall voids, chewing their way through sheetrock.
I treated the opening with a highly effective dust. When insects comes into contact with the dust, they bring it back with them and share it with the rest of the colony. Here, once I applied it, the hornets did not even want to advance into the opening. After treatment, it takes about a day for the activity to cease. Now, the home renovations could proceed uninterrupted without anyone worrying about being stung.
During a routine outdoor termite inspection in Spring Lake, NJ, we found an infestation of at least 50 to 60 cave crickets, also called camel crickets, preparing to overwinter in a hollowed out front porch of a home. We anticipated that these hump-backed insects that we saw outside were just the tip of the iceberg, and there were probably hundreds more already hunkering down inside. Cave crickets, like many overwintering insects, move indoors when it gets colder in search of warmth and moisture. Once indoors, they search for damp basements, utility rooms, crawl spaces, garages and occasionally attics.
Cave crickets are active at night and hide in dark warm places during the day. They are also attracted to light and when discovered, their numbers can be in the thousands.
For food, camel crickets consume wood, carpet, fungi, cardboard, other insects, and even other camel crickets in some instances.
We will treat this area so that these cave crickets won't cause damage to this home.
When late summer and autumn rolls around, along with the cooler temperatures and increased rainfall, spiders become very active, and with their increased activity, there is a substantial increase in the number of spider sightings in and around homes. Most are harmless to people and, because they feed on a wide variety of insects, they do a good job keeping down pest populations. Spiders are one of the best natural biological forms of pest control.
However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that all spiders are our friends. Homeowners should be aware of two poisonous spiders found in New Jersey. The black widow and the brown recluse inject a toxic venom when they bite. These particular spiders are especially dangerous to our vulnerable populations — the elderly, young children, and those with already compromised immune systems. Even though spiders seek to avoid human contact (they can’t use us as food), like many insects, many will still deliver a painful bite if threatened. Please don’t touch or otherwise handle spiders, and let your kids know that spiders are not living toys.
Large spider infestations in a home need to be treated. Often, we find that when spider populations are blossoming inside a home, it’s because there is a plentiful food source for them — some other insect infestation that the homeowner may not even be aware of. Homeowners should consider a a large number of spiders in their home as a visible sign of another insect infestation.
As I mentioned, most spiders are harmless to people, and recently, I came across one during an inspection in Millstone Township, NJ that is worth sharing — a marble orb weaver. I just had to take a couple of pictures of this beautifully colored spider. Orb weavers are one of the more common web-building spiders. They are the spiders that build the familiar spider web of concentric circles and radiating lines that has become a favorite Halloween decoration. Their sticky webs trap insects that have made the lethal mistake of crawling or flying into their web. Once trapped, the orb weaver will deliver a paralyzing bite, and that insect is now spider food.
Orb weavers have swollen-looking abdomens and come in a variety of colors. To me, the marbled orb weaver has one of the most stunning colorations of any spider. It has a unique “marbling” of colors on its abdomen, an orange head, and black and white legs. If I were ever given the opportunity to choose the color scheme for a spider, the marbled orb weaver comes with the perfect “scary” multi-colored design.
Today, I was performing some preventative treatments for a restaurant in Freehold, NJ that has been a long-time commercial customer of Cowleys. Pest control in restaurants is a cooperative effort with the pest control technician and the kitchen staff. There must be daily, weekly, and monthly sanitation and hygiene protocols in place, and the kitchen manager must ensure that they are being followed. Food debris and organic film accumulating on the floor or in drains often lead to insect and rodent infestations. Restaurants must have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to pests.
While doing my work, I came across an unpleasant surprise. There was a mass of fruit flies in the kitchen. For such little gnats, they can be one giant pain! A heavy fruit fly infestation can be tricky to resolve and using pest control products can only assist in eliminating these little pests. The best way to eliminate one of these infestations is to find the source where they are breeding and eliminate the breeding material. Here, I tracked the fruit flies back to a sink and an adjacent recycling bin.The sink had a significant amount of food debris that hadn’t been cleaned out for some time. That decaying food debris is a major fruit fly attractant. In fact, fruit flies can identify food debris from over 100 yards away. Yes, over 100 yards away — farther than a football field! The recycling bin nest to the sink had a sticky film of soda coating its bottom. There is nothing that fruit flies like better than a film of sweet, sugary soda.
I diplomatically asked the shift manager if she would be able to have the sink and recycling bin thoroughly cleaned as soon as possible. She was anxious to accommodate my request. The kitchen staff was going crazy with the gnats. Working in a kitchen with fruit flies hovering all around, getting in your eyes, hair, nose, and mouth is quite unpleasant, to say the least.
If there is a fruit fly infestation in your home or business, the sure fix is finding and removing their breeding source. Sometimes, it takes some investigation to locate the source and thoroughly clean the area. If the problem is a drain coated with food debris, cleaning out the drains may require a bioenzyme drain gel and a long, flexible drain brush. The breeding source can be anywhere — from a hidden spill underneath an appliance to a dirty mop in the utility room. However, once their source is gone, the fruit fly population will soon die out.
I was dispatched to a retail store located in a plaza in Matawan, NJ to remove a wasp nest. Out of all the places the wasps could have chosen to build a nest, they built it directly above the store front door. Fortunately, the store was undergoing renovations at the time so there was no customer traffic to worry about. However, there were workers there doing the renovations and were not interested in running the gauntlet of wasps whenever they needed to enter and exit the store. Needless to say, this was treated as an emergency call and I arrived as soon as possible.
Social wasps that lives in a nests are often aggressive, territorial, and protective of their nest and the reproductive queen. Wasps will perceive any noises or vibrations near their nest as a potential threat to the colony, and they can come out in droves to defend the nest. Inadvertently disturbing a nest can trigger a swarm of stinging insects heading your way. To make the situation worse, a single wasp is capable of stinging multiple times. When honey bees sting, its barbed stinger is left behind and the bee dies. However, wasps don’t have barbed stingers — they can sting repeatedly injecting their painful venom multiple times.
When wasp nests are in sensitive locations such as near doors and walkways where people are coming and going, it is important to remove the nests as soon as it is discovered. These colonies expand at a rapid pace and a small nest can quickly turn into a big one. Wasps nest can grow from the size of a walnut in the spring and by the end of summer, grow as large as a basketball, or even larger.
I treated the nest with an aerosol and waited until I observed no more insect activity. I then used my six-foot ladder to remove and bay the nest, taking it with me off the property. Now, the workers could safely do their job without risk of painful stings.
Recently, a homeowner found that a pumpkin can deliver its own Halloween surprise! A homeowner in Fair Haven, NJ contacted us because of a swarm of small gnats hovering around her front porch. She was at a loss as to where there were coming from. Upon arrival, I started to inspect the front porch looking for any clues as to the source of these flies. The newest item brought onto the porch was a giant pumpkin. I took a closer look at the suspect pumpkin. I’m no pumpkin expert, but this particular round orange squash didn’t look particularly healthy. It’s stem didn’t look right and appeared rotted. I slightly moved it slightly, and saw that it was very soft and falling apart. As I was moving the stem, a swarm of fruit flies came flying out. This pumpkin was rotting from the inside out and turned into a fruit-fly breeding facility. I treated the entire porch area and removed the pumpkin. The homeowner contacted the business who sold her the pumpkin and she will be getting a fresh, new one.
If you are heading out to the nearest pumpkin patch this year for a nice house decoration or to carve the neighborhood’s best jack-o’-lantern, I located some good tips for picking a healthy pleasing pumpkin free of fruit flies or other insect infestations. A healthy pumpkin is firm and orange all over with no mushy spots, brown spots, or discoloration. And check the stem just like I did! The stem should be hard and either dark green or black. As i saw first-hand, if the stem bends or breaks, it could be a sign that the pumpkin has started to rot.
Recently, a Middletown, NJ homeowner arrived home from work only to discover a gaping hole in the gable vent above her garage. Suspecting it was some wildlife issue, either squirrels or raccoons, she immediately contacted Cowleys to arrange for a nuisance wildlife technician to take care of the situation.
During my inspection of the home’s exterior, I found at least a sliver of good news. The sole point of entry was the hole that the animals made through the gable vent, and the rest of the roof, soffit, and fascia was was undamaged and secure. With only one access point, I installed a one-way device over the gable vent. This allows the animal to leave via a spring-loaded door, but it’s a one-way trip — the animal is blocked from regaining entry. I also set two baited traps near the entrance area.
Once I am assured that no animals are inside the home, I will seal off the entry point with hardware cloth to temporarily exclude further animal “break-ins” until the homeowner can have the gable vent replaced.
Recently, I was sent to a group home in Millstone Township, NJ to conduct a bed bug inspection at a group home. Although a bed bug infestation can happen anywhere, there is a higher risk in higher density living arrangements such as apartment buildings, college dorms, using homes, and, like here, group homes. The more visitors and the more people coming and going, the higher the likelihood that one of these bugs will be transported inside.
The manager had me inspect the first room where there was believed to be an infestation. The mattress in this room already had an encasement on it because of prior bed bug issues. I saw that the encasement had staining indicating that there was still an infestation problem. I then found two live bugs as well as fecal stains around an outlet behind the bed. Bed bugs often crawl into the plug holes and hide behind the outlet plate in the wall as a harborage area. And then I found the area of heaviest infestation — a night stand box that the resident was using for storage. Bed bugs almost always stay close to their food source so they don’t have to venture far for their next blood meal. While bed bugs may be on the mattress, box spring, and headboard, they are often nearby in night stands, curtains, and other “nook and cranny” hiding spots nearby the bed of the victim. Bed bugs feed on us when we are perfectly still sleeping or resting, so beds are the most common feeding location for these pests.
Despite their name, bed bugs aren’t always found in beds. Bed bugs are a type of external parasite that live exclusively off blood. Because these bugs have a strong preference for human blood, they have always been a problem for us. Bed bugs come out of hiding for their blood meal while we are still, either at rest or fast asleep. This way, they can take their sweet time finding a good place to draw blood and feed. Although bed bugs commonly infest bedrooms in and around the bedding, they can also spread elsewhere throughout a home.
Recently, a two-person team of bed bug specialists was sent to an apartment unit in Tennent, NJ to deal with a possible infestation. Apartment buildings and other high density living arrangements are more prone to bed bug infestations, but that’s not to say that these pests can’t find their way into homes as well. Bed bugs are unknowingly carried into residences. They don’t get there on their own. They latch onto people or their belongings and enter as stowaways.
Bed bugs, when not feeding, are masters of stealth. They look for the smallest gaps, cracks, and crevices or underneath furniture to hide when not feeding. It is rare to find a bed bug out in the open in plain view. Because of their behavior, an inspection to find their harborage areas must be thorough and systematic. During the inspection we found bed bugs hiding in the couch, nesting in its tight cracks and crevices. Fortunately, the bed bugs were limited to this one piece of furniture.
We started by vacuuming the couch, being careful to not accidentally flick off and bugs or their eggs. We then treated the couch as well as the surrounding baseboards. We also noticed an electrical outlet on the wall behind the couch. These bugs will sometimes crawl into the plug holes and hide behind the outlet place! Whenever we see outlets near an infestations, we always remove the outlet cover to inspect for possible bed bugs. Here, there happened to not be any. However, out of an abundance of caution, we treated the outlet area in the wall with a dust that will kill any bugs that come into contact with it.
Fortunately, this was a limited bed bug infestation that was caught and treated early before it had a chance to spread We scheduled a two-week follow-up to re-inspect and apply additional treatments as necessary.
During a home protection plan (HPP) inspection, I found potential flying squirrel activity in Borough of Rumson, NJ. With our home protection plan service, in addition to preventative treatments, we conduct periodic inspections throughout the year and, often, we find pest and wildlife infestations in their early stages before even the homeowner realizes that there is a problem. Of course, a homeowner can call us at any time for a covered pest under the plan — and we’re on it at no additional charge. HPPs offers homeowners great peace of mind and they are a good budget tool as well.
Here, the homeowner had informed me that he was hearing loud activity in his attic during the night. Mice simply aren’t big enough to make loud noises and the the bait in the RTU bait stations were all intact. There was no indication on any mouse activity in the attic. However, I did find burrowing tunnels in the insulation and droppings that were too small to come from a grey squirrel. Based on my observations, there is likely a flying squirrel infestation. These squirrels are nocturnal and are rarely seen. Homeowners may notice them if they hear strange noises coming from the attic, and quickly go up to take a peak. The flying squirrel is much smaller than tree-dwelling squirrels, and has a broad flattened tail. Since they are smaller than grey squirrels, their droppings are smaller. They look like little pellets that resemble rat droppings, and are typically black or brown. Flying squirrel droppings are linked to causing typhus, so they should be treated as very hazardous material. (By the way, flying squirrels can’t actually fly. The only true flying mammal are bats. Instead, these squirrels are able to propel themselves through the air with a membrane of loose skin that allows them to glide.)
I made immediate arrangements for one of our wildlife removal specialists to inspect the attic to confirm the type of wildlife activity and institute the appropriate exclusion and trapping necessary to remove the infestation.
Spider infestations can quickly get out of hand. Here, I am at a home in Oakurst, NJ where a cluster of spiders took up residence in the ceiling area of the front porch. With family members and guests coming and going, it is unpleasant and frightening to say the least, especially for children. Most spiders are not aggressive to people and only bite when threatened. Nevertheless, spiders taking up residence on a porch may find a way to access the home, so it is important to have their often inaccessible nesting areas treated. Here, you can see the immediate results of the product I had applied in the gaps and cracks above — the spiders decided this was not such a good place to hang out!
To help prevent spiders from taking up residence on your porch, or if there is already a growing spider infestation problem, homeowners should start dealing with the issue by first eliminating their harborage areas. Get any potted plants, hanging flower baskets, bricks, and firewood off the patio. While these may be attractive to us, they are also attractive to to spiders. Firewood is a favorite hiding spot for many pests, including termites, and too many homeowners store their firewood far too close to their homes. Sweep the porch to remove webs and egg sacks, and spraying there area with water also helps. Trim back any shrubs growing next to the porch. It’s always a good idea to have a no-vegetation zone around the home’s perimeter. Finally, if there is an entrenched heavy spider infestation and it is apparent that they are entrenched in deep hiding places, a professional pest control service has the products and equipment to flush them out and keep them out.
Recently, I was sent to a home Englishtown, NJ to resolve a troublesome flea infestation. Fleas are tiny external parasites that require blood meals similar to ticks and bed bugs. Their lateral compressed body allows them to easily move through the hair, fur, or feathers of the host’s body. While bed bugs prefer human blood, fleas are most attracted to our feline and canine pets, and once in our homes use us for their blood meals as well. In people, they often wind up in our hair, causing extreme soreness and itching of our scalp. People can have an allergic reaction to flea saliva, and these pests are known for transferring intestinal tapeworms to our pets. Flea tapeworm is possible with humans if an infected flea is swallowed, so most reported cases involve young children.
Cats and dogs are the most common source of flea and tick infestations inside a home. Once brought inside, they are prolific breeders. A flea can lay upwards of 50 eggs a day and 2000 eggs in her lifetime. The eggs hatch in a few days. This homeowner had both a cat and a dog, so one or both of these innocent-looking animals was the likely source of this infestation.
An effective flea treatment must be a cooperative, coordinated effort with the customer. Cowleys provide a “to do” checklist for homeowners prior to our arrival to make the treatment most effective. Upon arrival, I thoroughly inspected all of the rooms. We treat all of the flea harborage areas including flooring (carpeting and rugs) and couches. Our products kill both the adult fleas and their off-spring. The customer is responsible for flea treatment of their pets. I treated all of the rooms in the house with special attention to those rooms used most frequently by the pets.
Fleas are challenging infestations because of their sheer numbers, but with persistence and follow-up visits, these infestations, like any pest infestation, can always be resolved successfully.
Recently, homeowners in Eatontown, NJ, found themselves with a serious ant infestation in their kitchen and dining room. The key to resolving ant infestations is eliminating their underground nest. Sometimes their nest is in a wall void of the home, but more often than not, it is outside nearby the home and the foraging ants have formed trails leading inside the home. It’s important to follow their trail to determine their entry point.
Here, I observed ants leaving the kitchen toward a sliding door in the dining room. Upon closer inspection, there was a piece of molding missing from the bottom. This was how these little pests were gaining access. I sealed the hole to prevent them from continuing to use the home as a place to forage for the nest. I also performed an indoor-outdoor treatment that will soon kill the nest. With ants, it is not enough to kill the replaceable and expendable foraging ants. There will always be more where the came from.
Indoors, I treated the kitchen with an ant gel and outdoor applied an effective perimeter treatment. As the ants cross the treated area, they will bring the product back to the nest to share it with the other members of the colony. Soon, this ant infestation will be eliminated.
Recently, I was sent to a home in Fair Haven, NJ to help a homeowner with a mouse infestation. Mice were entering the home and nesting in the crawl space. The focus of my rodent inspection is to identify and seal their entry points. Mice are tiny — they are even smaller than they look because of all their fur. Weighing less than an ounce, mice can squeeze through openings as small as a dime.
Rodent inspections have to be systematic and methodical. I look for any daylight through gaps or cracks, and I also follow their droppings. A single mouse can easily produce 50 pellets a day, and their trail of droppings can help me locate their entry points. Here, I followed a hole that started in the garage and went straight into the crawl space. Venturing down in the crawl space, I found three different nesting holes chock full of droppings. I used chew-proof copper mesh to seal the hole in the garage to block further access. Also, I set three rodent bait stations in the crawl space to eliminate any mice that were still lurking down below. It won’t take long for this infestation to be completely resolved.
I was called out to a residence in Holmdel, NJ to help a homeowner having an issue with mice in the crawl space. He needed to enter the crawl space, and when he was down below, he saw the tell-tale signs of mice: dark droppings with pointed ends that look like grains of black rice. The homeowner did not observe any rodent activity in the living areas of the home, but he knew that once they were inside, it would be easy for them to access the home. Mice usually enter homes through gaps or cracks around the foundation to gain access, and once inside they travel through crawl voids around the home to forage for food and water. We see a huge pick-up in mouse infestations during the fall and winter when they enter homes to escape the harsh outdoor elements.
To resolve the infestation, I placed two RTU bait stations in the crawl space. These triangular-shaped boxes have angled entry holes that mice do not hesitate to enter. They fit flush against a wall or corner so they can be easily placed in the pathways where the mice are traveling. Inside, there are interior baffles that lead the mice to the bait. They are tamper-resistant and automatically lock when closed to keep the bait away from non-target animals. During follow-up visits, we can open them with a special key to replenish the highly effective single-feeding anticoagulant bait as needed.
I inspected the living areas of the home, focusing on the kitchen and attic, and confirmed that there was no mouse activity. Fortunately, the problem was limited to the crawl space. I also inspected the exterior perimeter of the home to identify potential entry points. I located two possible gaps, one around the crawl space vent and the other under the front stoop. I sealed both of these openings.
Recently, during an inspection of the back storage room of a food store in Red Bank, NJ I found two dead mice in a “tin cat” mouse trap, a low profile baited trap that has the capacity, according to the manufacturer, of catching and containing up to 30 mice.
I wanted to identify possible nearby entry points into the store. After further inspection, just three feet away, I saw that the back door had an opening not he bottom of at least 1/2 inch. This gap was more than enough for rat to gain entry let alone a tiny mouse. I showed the gap to the manager and informed him that he needed to door sweep on the bottom of the door to block rodents and other pests from gaining entry. from coming inside. Door sweeps also provide a weatherproof seal that prevents drafts from coming in under the door — a nice feature during these cold winter months!
The manager asked me to purchase a door sweep for the store and install it for him. I was happy to do so, and I’ll return shortly. With any rodent infestation, it is critical to identify and seal and potential access points. Otherwise, there is always the risk of a re-infestation, especially when temperatures drop and mice are looking for warm shelter.
Recently, homeowners in West Long Branch, NJ, contacted Cowleys because of a persistent problem with mice and their droppings in the kitchen. Upon arrival, I started my kitchen inspection with the common hiding spots. The droppings left behind are a great indicator of where mouse activity is the heaviest. I moved the oven and found a significant amount of droppings. There was a gap around the gas pipe that went through the sub-flooring giving the mice entry through the basement. Mice usually enter homes through gaps or cracks around the foundation, and once inside the crawl space or basement, they easily maneuver around the home traveling through wall voids and finding holes, especially in kitchens, behind appliances. I cleaned up the droppings and sealed the openings around the gas pipe to block kitchen entry. I also checked another common mouse entry area, under the sink where there are often openings around the plumbing pipe. Any holes where there are pipes are coming trough either walls in the home or through the exterior of the home are often exploited by mice.
Next, I inspected the basement and placed bait stations and snap traps to capture those mice still hiding in the house. For good measure, I also placed bait stations in the attic. Mice tend to hide and nest in the private non-living areas of the home, and only venture into the living spaces at night when foraging for food.
Finally, I conducted an exterior perimeter inspection to locate potential entry points. Overall, this home was well sealed; however, there were two potential entry points. The basement window had a gap in the frame where it was set into the foundation. A crawl space vent had a similar gap. I sealed both openings. With the traps strategically placed in the home and entry points sealed both inside and outside of the home, mouse activity will be substantially reduced. There is always a delay from eliminating mice already in the home and preventing more mice from gaining entry. I’ll be returning for a follow-up visit to re-inspect and replenish the bait as needed.
Recently, I was sent to a home in Sea Girt, NJ, after Cowleys received a call from a homeowner who found herself with a cricket infestation inside her home, primarily in the basement. Upon arrival, I went into the basement to inspect, and observed a heavy presence of spider crickets, also commonly known as camel crickets, in the laundry room area of the basement. From a distance, these crickets resemble spiders or shrimp because of their gangly long legs and antennae.
Spider crickets are much different than a few field crickets that periodically find their way into homes. Spider crickets usually congregate in large numbers, and you can find hundreds of them can be clinging to walls in basements or crawl spaces. It’s a scary sight, to say the least! Unlike field crickets, they don’t make that familiar chirping sound we hear when the males rub their ridged upper and lower wings together to attract females. Instead, spider crickets attract mates by emitting a smell. A word of warning: When alarmed or threatened, these insects often jump directly at the intruder. So, don’t get too up close and personal with them. You may find yourself with a spider cricket firmly planted on your face — and they bite!
Because of their hump-shaped bodies, spider crickets (sometimes shorted to “sprickets”) are also called camelback, camel crickets (“criders”), or even “land shrimp.” These crickets are naturally found in caves, so they are also known as cave crickets.
They are attracted to and thrive in enclosed dark, moist, and humid spaces. Basements, crawl spaces and garages can have a similar environment to a cave when there is high indoor humidity. So, you’ll often find them in homes with a mold or mildew problem because they feed off any fungi that grows on damp walls. Because spider crickets can be a sign of a mold problem, any home with a spider cricket infestation should be inspected for possible mold. Besides fungi, these voracious eaters will consume fabric, carpets, cardboard, dust, plants, and even each other.
When dealing with a spider cricket infestation, I’m always interested in the moisture conditions causing infestation, so that the problem can be resolved long-term. Here, the laundry room had finished walls and was very dry. However, the rest of the basement was unfinished with concrete block walls. Also, there was a French drain around the perimeter of the unfinished section to drain water away from the foundation into a sump. Although the unfinished part of the basement was fairly dry, there was still plenty of moisture for these crickets to thrive.
In resolve this infestation, I treated the French drain and walls inside the basement and also performed a perimeter treatment around the exterior foundation of the home as well as under the exterior siding. However, because a spider cricket problem is an indication of high indoor humidity levels, the long-term solution is keeping down moisture levels by installing a commercial-grade dehumidifier. There are multiple benefits to dehumidification: By keeping your basement dry, you remove the conditions for mold to form, improve the air quality of your home, and make the area much less inviting for spider crickets and other invasive insects and pests. Hopefully, this homeowner will consider dehumidification.
Recently, I was called out to a home in Farmingdale, NJ, to resolve a raccoon infestation. Raccoons, with their distinctive “bandit’s mask” of black fur around the eyes, are one of the largest nuisance animals that we deal with on a regular basis. Unlike squirrels, these nocturnal mammals are not rodents, and have more in common with bears. Raccoons are intelligent animals that have adapted well to human habitats. They are omnivorous and able to eat a wide variety of foods including scavenging for the food debris in our garbage. We see raccoons throughout New Jersey in rural, suburban, and urban areas.
An adult raccoon can exceed two feet in length, excluding their bushy tail, and can weigh 20 lbs or more. They often try to gain access to attics through the roof, and, because of their size, their entry point is usually easy to find. Here, I found a large opening on a gable vent. When wildlife gains access to the roof, I always try to evaluate how they are getting up there. I perform a perimeter inspection of the home to see if I can find their travel route to the roof. Often, raccoons use trees nearby the home, especially if there are overhanging branches. This yard had plenty of opportunities with trees and the backyard had plenty of tree cover for raccoons. I also found fencing and a low roof in the back of the home. This was another easy route of access and , sure enough, I found some tell-tale “five-toed” raccoon prints. Raccoons have distinctive prints. They have dexterous fingers and are able to twist open doors and pull off garbage can lids. Here, it was apparent that raccoons had hopped up on the fencing and, from there, used the gutter, climbing up the downspout and grabbing onto the corner beam in order to gain access to a low roof. Knowing how the animals has gained roof access helps me set traps in the best locations to trap them.
I installed a “one way” device over the entry hole. The spring-loaded door allows the animals to leave, but prevent their return back into the house. I also set up traps baited with tempting food and placed them right in their pathway. Every time a raccoon goes up and down from the roof, they will have to go around a trap. I was confident that with the tempting bait inside, it would not take long to trap them. Sure enough, a raccoon was trapped. Another Cowleys wildlife technician was dispatched to remove and relocate the animal to a safe location far away from human habitats. With the animals removed, we will be able to remove the traps and one-way so that the damaged roof can be repaired.
A store manager couldn't find the entry point where mice could be coming into his store and feeding on the fresh vegetables they had on display. They called the rodent detective team at Cowleys to lend an expert eye. It didn't take me very long to find the huge gap that was only ten feet away was the front door.
As you can see in the photos,there are a large gap on the bottom of the entry door and exit door. The gap size is at least 1/2 to 3/4 inch. We discussed exclusion options and the manager decided to install door sweeps on the doors himself.
Southern flying squirrels are a relatively common infestation faced by homeowners, and we deal with them on a regular basis. They commonly nest in attics, especially during the winter when temperatures drop just like other overwintering wildlife. Flying squirrels are nocturnal and have large, dark bead-like eyes (see photo) that enable them to see quite well in darkness. Flying squirrels do not actually fly. In fact, the only true flying mammals are bats. Flying squirrels have a flap of skin that extends the length of their body on both sides that allows them to glide in the air for short distances. They do not have wings that flap and allows them to stay airborne. Flying squirrels also have a flat tail (see photo) that the use as a rudder for incredibly accurate midair control. They can literally turn 180 degrees in the blink of an eye.
Squirrels, including flying squirrels, are in the rodent family, and like mice, rats, and other rodents that have front incisors that grow continuously throughout their entire lives and must chew and gnaw to keep their teeth at a reasonable length. Outdoors, they commonly nest in oaks and other tall trees. However they are sensitive to the cold and will seek out warm dry shelters when temperatures drop. Our warm, cozy, private attics are ideal for them. Also, like most rodents, they are social animals that live and nest in groups, so if you have a flying squirrel infestation, there is a high likelihood there is more than just one.
Once it is determined that there is an infestation, it is an intricate and detailed process to remove them and prevent them from returning. These squirrels are much, much smaller than the Eastern Grey squirrel, and every void or breach larger than the diameter of a quarter must be identified and sealed.
For this infestation in Adelphia, NJ, we will install a one-way device over their main access point, which allows them to exit the home, but prevents their return. In addition, traps need to be set on the roof, and securing them properly is a skill acquired through experience. These squirrels are capable of causing ext extensive property damage with their chewing (including electrical wiring) and their droppings are a serious health hazard.
Recently, a homeowner in Middletown, NJ contacted Cowleys because of a cockroach infestation in her kitchen. Roaches can hitchhike their way into a home in groceries or hidden inside corrugated boxes. Other times, roach eggs are deposited on something brought into the home and hatch once inside. With exponential roach breeding rates, It does not take long for their population to skyrocket. DIY roach treatments are generally ineffective because the roaches hide in deep cracks and crevices that over-the-counter products simply can’t reach.
Here, I started treatment of the kitchen using an injector that disperses a fog spray that permeates deep into the cracks and crevices where roaches are hiding. For every aroach you see, there are likely dozens that are hidden waiting to come out when the house is quiet and the lights are off. I then moved onto the refrigerator. I moved it away from the wall and found the motherlode. There were dozens and dozens of roaches coming from the wall molding and hidden in the refrigerator motor. These pests are attracted to the warmth of motors so you’ll often find them around appliances. Not surprisingly, when I moved to the dishwasher, I found more hiding roaches. I treated all of the cracks and craves of the rest of the kitchen. It will take some time to work, but the roach population will be knocked down and once any eggs hatch, those roaches will be killed as well.
Another day, another squirrel infestation to be handled by Cowleys! This time the unlucky homeowner was in Adelphia, NJ. Squirrels had entered through the rooftop over the garage. When dealing with nuisance wildlife, it is important to ensure the animals are out of the home before sealing up the entry points. Here, we set up a “one way” over the entry point. These devices are hinged such that they allow the animal to exit, but it’s a one-way trip. Once outside, they are unable to return. Once we are ensured that the animals are out of the garage attic, we will repair the roof opening and permanently block their access.
Rodent infestations, whether rats or mice, are one of the most serious infestations faced by homeowners in terms of both property damage and health risks. These foraging animals contaminate food and food surfaces, and they can spread diseases through their toxic droppings, particles of which can become airborne. They also gnaw and chew through drywall, insulation, wiring, and even the clothes hanging in your closet! Why do these rodents infest our homes? Besides an ever-shrinking natural habitat, when temperatures drop, they look for shelter, warmth, food, and water for their very survival.
Homeowners in Hazlet Township, NJ found themselves with a rodent issue and contacted Cowleys. Upon arrival, I conducted a full inspection of all areas of the home, including the attic, basement, kitchen, and around the home’s exterior foundation. We look for droppings and other signs of rodent activity to determine where they’ve been and how they are moving about. Here, I did not find much activity until I pulled out a drop ceiling tile. This was where the bulk of the action was going on. The mice were traveling about out of sight, literally right over the homeowners’ heads.
I installed rodent bait stations with slow-acting bait. On the two-week follow-up visit, I re-inspected all areas, replenished the bait in the rodent stations as needed, and sealed the openings around the home to prevent any re-infestations.
Recently, I was performing a routine servicing for a commercial kitchen in Millstone, NJ that was having issues with a roach infestation, specifically, German cockroaches. Of all the species of roaches, German roaches are one of the more common infesting roaches. Unfortunately, these small roaches are one of the fastest reproducers in the roach family, and a German roach infestation can quickly spiral out of control if not timely treated. It can take only two months or less for a newly hatched nymph to start reproducing, and every roach “case” can contain upwards of 40 roaches. A single female roach and her offspring can produce tens of thousands of roaches in just a year! Roaches are also highly resilient insects that hide in deep cracks and crevices, and since they are light sensitive, you rarely see them during the day. It often takes multiple treatments to fully resolve the issue. Also, with commercial kitchens, it is important for kitchen staff to institute proper sanitation and hygiene protocols to remove the food debris and other attractants that allow these insects to thrive.
This particular job demonstrates the importance of insect monitors. In restaurants and other facilities with food preparation and storage, it is essential to monitor insect activity levels. These monitors serve as our eyes between visits and help us assess the level of pest activity and where the activity is taking place, and helps us frame the most targeted treatment to eradicate the infestation. I like to set the monitors about every six feet around the kitchen.
For roach treatment, we often use an Insect growth regulator (IGR) application that inhibits their lifecycle by preventing the insect from molting, injecting it into their deep harborage sites. In addition to our treatments, we work with the kitchen staff to identify issues that are likely exacerbating the infestation from stacking cardboard boxes inside to dirty mops and drains filled with grease and food debris.
Recently, I was sent out to a call in Asbury Park, NJ after Cowleys was contacted by the homeowner because of mouse activity that was observed in the kitchen. Mice generally enter homes through gaps or cracks in the foundation, first entering the basement or crawl space. From there, they make their way through wall voids throughout the home, and, to no ones’s surprise, they often wind up foraging for food debris in the kitchen.
Mice are nocturnal and do their foraging in the dead of night. As such, we look for signs of mouse activity, especially the tell-tale mouse droppings they leave behind. Here, during my initial inspection, I did not find any droppings or entry points in any of the kitchen cabinets or under and around the dishwasher. When I inspected behind the refrigerator I found large holes that the mice were using to gain entry into the kitchen from the basement. I then went into the basement to find the holes and there were extensive droppings in the area.
I closed the holes up with hardware cloth to block kitchen entry and set up RTU (Ready-to-Use) baited mouse traps in the basement.
Recently, we were sent on a service call for a homeowner in Holmdel, NJ who was suffering from high humidity levels in his basement and was concerned that mold might develop. Controlling the humidity levels in your home greatly influences the comfort you will experience as well as save you energy and reduce maintenance. Your home will feel most comfortable at humidity levels between 30 - 50%. Too much humidity can cause condensation on windows, wet stains on walls and ceilings, moldy bathrooms, musty odor, and/or clammy feel to the air. Rot and structural damage can also result from extended periods of high humidity in your home and can attract pests.
Once we arrived, we equipped our personal protective equipment (mold is a hazard in enclosed spaces) and began an inspection in the basement. After a thorough inspection of the entire basement, we didn't find any signs of mold growth present. We then measured the humidity levels in the basement with our hygrometer, which is a device used to measure the water vapor in the air, and determined that the humidity levels were so high that it was only a matter of time until mold develops.
To treat the high humidity levels, we installed SaniDry commercial-grade dehumidifiers. These machines are specifically designed and manufactured for the challenging environments of basements and crawl spaces. A SaniDry XP is a powerful energy-efficient dehumidifier that outperforms standard household dehumidifiers by as much as 10 times while using the same amount of energy to run. The SaniDry XP can effectively cover indoor living spaces over 3000 square feet, making it well-suited for basements and crawl spaces over 40” high.
The most important difference between a residential dehumidifier and a SaniDry commercial dehumidifier is its ease of use and automatic operation. A residential dehumidifier requires human intervention to empty the pan of collected dehumidified water. If not timely emptied the pan will overflow and the machine usually shuts off once the flow bucket is full. Since there was no sump pump present, a small condensation pump that pumps the water through a 1/2” condensate hose that runs to the outside of the basement. For this installation, we needed to drill a 1/2” hole through the foundation wall to run the hose outside.
Now the homeowner can rest assured knowing that his home is mold free and the chronic humidity in his basement has been resolved.
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.
A new residential client in Belmar, NJ was having an issue with squirrels in their attic. He knew it was squirrels because he saw a few of them running across his roof one day and heard them wrestling in the attic during the daytime. Even though the homeowner assumed it was squirrels, I still needed to conduct a thorough inspection.
As I began my inspection I came across a huge hole in the roof edge that leads right into the attic. I took a closer look and found squirrel hair inside the access point. Squirrels are excellent chewers and love to make a new home inside an attic. Once they gain access, they create a mess with their constant gnawing on structures and fittings. The roof edge is a great entry point for squirrels because the materials under the edge tend to degrade faster than any other part of your roof, due to harsh exposure from the weather, and provides an angle for them to work and chew at until they can create a space large enough for them to enter.
In order to safely reach the access point, I had to be a bit creative and install ladder brackets on the rooftop. A ladder bracket will safely hold the ladder in place and prevent any damage to the homeowner's roof. Next, I placed three baited traps near the access point to entice the squirrels. Within a short amount of time, the squirrels were safely caught. Once I finished setting up the traps, I reported the damage I found to the homeowner. He informed me that he already hired a contractor to repair the damage to the roof.
Recently, I went on a routine pest service call for one of our commercial accounts, an apartment complex in Neptune, NJ. As I was inspecting all the common areas, I noticed a few ants on glue boards that I installed in the boiler room on my previous visit to monitor possible crawling insects invaders. I continued to inspect this area very careful and sure enough, I found pavement ants in a crack in the wall.
Pavement ants are one of the most common home-infesting ants. They are approximately 1/8 of an inch long, dark brown to black, and nest under sidewalks, driveways, and concrete slabs. They are far from picky eaters as they will eat anything deem fruits and grease to other dead insects. Pavement ants feed on almost anything from sugar, fruits, small seeds, and grease.
For treatment, I applied a liquid residual application along the cracks and crevices in the basement. This application is a non-repellent and is undetectable to the ants. They will carry this application to their colony where they will groom one another. In a short amount of time, the ants are eliminated. I informed the property manager who will hire a contractor team to fix the cracks in the pavement.
A homeowner in Neptune, NJ wanted to spruce up her yard and put down new mulch around her entire property. After only two days of putting down the mulch, her kitchen was infested with ants! Although mulch provides a number of benefits for your yard, it also provides the perfect living conditions for ants and other pests. Mulch holds moisture (which attracts ants), protects insects from the sun and predators, and is a food source for different types of ants.
After thoroughly inspecting the interior of the house I found pavement ants trailing from a kitchen window to a cabinet. Pavement ants received their clever name from nesting in pavements, driveways, and sidewalks. They are darkish brown to black in color and are approximately a 1/8 of an inch in size. Although pavement ants aren't a health risk, once they make their way inside a home, they can contaminate food.
As I followed the ant trail to the exterior side of the kitchen window I came across in six different ant trails coming from the mulch up to the house shingles. The ants were able to gain access into the home from underneath the siding and the kitchen window.
I treated all the cracks and crevices in the kitchen and bathroom with a liquid non-repellent and then treated the baseboards in the kitchen, bathroom and the surrounding rooms with an ant gel bait. Next, I treated the entire exterior of the home with the liquid non-repellent. The gel bait and the liquid application isn’t meant to immediately eliminate the ants. What happens is when an ant comes in contact with either of these treatments they will carry it back to the colony and share it with the other ants, including the queen. Eventually, the ants are eliminated. I scheduled a follow-up inspection to make sure that the home is ant free and, if necessary, apply additional treatment methods.
A client in Manalapan, NJ contacted Cowleys after hearing noises in his attic late at night. I suspected it was raccoons since raccoons are nocturnal and are notorious for invading attics, but still needed to conduct a thorough inspection.
I began my inspection in the attic and immediately came across a pile of bat guano. After completing my inspection I determined that it wasn’t raccoons, but bats that invaded the attic. This is why a detailed inspection is necessary. Bats in the attic can be catastrophic for homeowners. Bat guano carries the fungus Histoplasma capsulatum. If the bat guano dries up, becomes air born and is inhaled, it will give you a lung infection called histoplasmosis. If histoplasmosis spreads beyond the lungs and into the whole body, it can be fatal. Bats are also the second largest rabies exposure threat to humans and their pets. The virus is transmitted through the bite of an infected bat, however, you can also be exposed to rabies through contact with bat fur, guano, blood, or urine. Although bat bites in humans are exceedingly rare, if you suspect you have a bat issue, don’t take any chances.
The main entry point ended up being where the soffit meets the roof. There was a tiny gap that was the perfect size for a bat to enter. I set-up a bat cone connected to a one-way exclusion device. A one-way exclusion device is a device designed to safely allow the bats to leave the home but prevent them from re-entering. A bat cone is an extension of the device that safely guides the bat out of the attic. Because of their length and cylindrical shape, once bats exit they can’t get back in. They can’t get back in because there is no way for them to land and scoot up through the tube. They will fly towards the rear end of the tube where their former access was and be blocked.
Once all the bats were safely removed from the attic, I placed hardware cloth over the main access point to seal up the gap as a temporary solution as the homeowner was replacing his roof anyway and hired a contractor to do so. Next, I equipped my personal protective equipment and removed and sanitized the bat guano. Now the homeowner can rest easy knowing that his home is free from bats!