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I received a call for a raccoon in a sail boat at a marina in Brick. The boat was docked at its slip. When I performed my inspection I found the raccoon asleep on a shelf inside the boat. I was able to grab the raccoon with my snare pole and put it in a trap. I relocated the raccoon to a more proper area. In addition, I advised the boat owner to keep the doors to his boat closed. He had left them open.
Funny thing is they went for a boat ride and didn't know the raccoon was inside the boat. He later found that the raccoon raided the cabinets and gorged on pretzels and bottles of water.
A restaurant in Brick contacted Cowleys to resolve an ant infestation. While insect or rodent infestations are a problem for any business, for restaurants, these infestations are potentially devastating. There are few things worse than restaurant patrons spotting an insect or two roaming around the table that is eyeing the same food. Talk about quick way to lose your appetite.
A dirty kitchen with food remnants on counters and on the floor is an open invitation for ants and worse, like roaches and rodents. This restaurant had a smorgasbord of food under their fryer (see picture).
While this restaurant had to implement procedures to keep ants out of the kitchen in the future, the first order of business was to quickly resolve the current infestation. Ants are social insects that live in colonies. For long-term results, the colony must be eliminated. Killing isolated foraging ants with a over-the-counter spray is ineffective, and the fumes are potentially harmful. A pest control technician has the chemical applications to resolve the problem quickly. Also, with food establishments the proper applications are critical because it is unsafe to use certain chemicals in food preparation areas.
I applied the proper treatment to destroy the infestation, and the kitchen staff was ready to clean and sanitize this area. When it comes to insects, restaurants must have a zero tolerance policy. No restaurant should have allowed such food and filth to accumulate on a restaurant floor. This restaurant was fortunate that I observed this issue before a health inspector. After the treatment, the restaurant would be instituting a periodic pest control treatment plan to stay on top of any potential problems. While it is difficult to keep all spills and crumbs cleaned up all the time, it is an essential task in order to keep pests out. Insects are constantly on the prowl for food and water sources, and a commercial kitchen that is not kept in tip-top shape is kitchen will inevitably face an infestation problem.
I reviewed standard cleaning protocols with the kitchen staff and reviewed the potential entry points for foraging ants to find their way into the kitchen. The smallest gaps or cracks have to be immediately sealed, and any screens on windows or doors, as well as any weather stripping, must be kept in good repair. Well-run commercial kitchens work in conjunction with a pest control professional to make sure that insects are one item that’s not on the menu.
By the time I left, the ant infestation was resolved and the restaurant was ready to put preventative measures in place. All in all, it was a good productive day — for me, for the restaurant, and, for those who were planning on eating here for lunch or dinner.
Today, I arrived at a customer’s home in Watertown for one of our scheduled visits that is included in our residential protection plans. As part of this servicing, I always carefully inspect the entire exterior perimeter of home for any active or potential pest issues. During this inspection, I observed that a tree near the home had fresh “sawdust” along the soil surrounding the entire tree, which is a sign of wood-boring carpenter ants. Upon further inspection, I observed ant galleries and ant harborage areas — all confirming signs of carpenter ant activity.
Because these ants were uncomfortably close to the perimeter of the home, I decided to be proactive and treat the infestation now. I first treated the base of the tree and the problem areas with a residual liquid application. Next, I followed up with an ant gel bait that I placed in all of the openings and cracks using a crack and crevice method. Finally, to further reduce the ant population, I applied ant bait to the soil areas around the circumference of the entire tree.
After completing the treatment, I spoke with the customer and explained the steps taken to eliminate the carpenter ant activity near her home. I set up a two week follow-up appointment to inspect and monitor the activity levels. The customer was pleased with the service and the treatment. I look forward to returning in two weeks to see the results. Carpenter ants, while not as damaging to property as termites, are still destructive wood-destroying insects. It is important to treat them at the first sign of trouble since their populations will only grow.
The transition into fall brings cooler temperatures, and the cooler weather is a trigger for numerous types of bugs and beetles start looking for a warm and dry harborage (our homes!) in which to overwinter and escape the harsh outdoor elements. One of the more common unwanted overwintering nuisance invaders is the Boxelder bug. These bugs are so-named because these they are a common pest of female seed-bearing boxelder tree. Often, when I tell a customer that they have a boxelder bug infestation and I explain that a “boxelder” is a type of tree, the usual response is that they never heard of that type of tree let alone have one on their property — and unless you are an arborist, most of us could not identify a boxelder tree even if one of its tree limbs fell on us! Even though these bugs feed primarily on the seeds of boxelder trees, they are not selective. These bugs have no issues infesting maple and ash trees, which are more commonly found. When overwintering, these pests often invade structures by the hundreds. They find their way inside by pushing through every available crack or crevice they can find. Although these bugs do not breed inside, their sheer numbers can be overwhelming to the occupants.
While performing my monthly service on one of my commercial accounts, I observed many Boxelder bugs on and around the building.
Boxelder bugs have similar behavior to the dreaded sting bug. Both seek to overwinter in warm, dry areas of a home or building. A favorite area of infestation of overwintering bugs is the attic where they like to tuck themselves under the insulation away from view.
The best way to control these pests is by taking preventative steps to exclude them from getting inside the structure in the first place. All cracks around the building should be caulked and any visible entry points should be sealed. However, despite taking these steps, these persistent bugs can still weasel their way inside. It is virtually impossible to make a building completely impermeable to insects. With this commercial customer, there was a heavy active infestation despite taking precautions. I applied a treatment around the building’s exterior perimeter of the structure to repel as many of these unwanted invaders as possible. The treatment substantially reduced the boxelder bug population, and this customer will experience far fewer bugs inside the structure.
I was dispatched to an apartment unit in Lakehurst to treat a bed bug infestation. Bed bug infestations are particularly common in apartments and other high density living arrangements like dormitories and nursing homes. Simply put, the more people coming and going, the more chance there is of a hitchhiking bed bug finding its way inside. In these cases, it is important to pounce on a bed bug problem quickly, so the infestation stays localized to specific areas and does not spread.
A thorough bed bug inspection must be systematic from top to bottom. During this particular inspection, I found something unusual: There were bed bugs congregating in the corners of the ceiling! Of course, bed bugs can hide anywhere and everywhere, but their favorite spots are those small, tight locations in and around bedding and other upholstered furnishings — those locations where its human hosts are resting or sleeping when its time for their blood meal.
During my initial conversation with the tenant, he told me that before he reported the problem to property management, he had attempted to self-treat the infestation himself. Often, as was the case here, DIY attempts make matters worse. All of those home remedies for getting rid of bed bug infestations googled on the Internet, from spraying isopropyl alcohol to spinning diatomaceous earth are ineffective. Customers wind up wasting money, and, even worse, lose valuable time, allowing the insect population to grow and spread, becoming even more entrenched. Those in the pest control business know of far too many horror stories of chemical poisoning because of people using the wrong type of pesticide, including products prohibited for indoor use, using too much pesticide, or applying it improperly. For example, certain products can cause skin reactions and should not be applied to mattresses.
In this apartment unit, the bed bugs exiled themselves to the ceiling because the tenant decided to self-treat with boric acid (see pic of product along with a few dead bed bugs). My partner technician and I explained to the tenant that self-treatment can pose a potential health hazard, and applying applications inside a home, without any training and technical understanding of how to do so, can be extremely dangerous. I explained that boric acid, another favorite Internet home remedy, was ineffective for bed bug control. Boric acid is a desiccant that dehydrates insects. If used at all, it should be limited to cracks and crevices to minimize inhalation risk. The boric acid pushed the bed bugs up into the corners of the ceiling, making the problem worse not only for himself, but also possibly spreading the infestation to other units.
I vacuumed up as much of the boric acid away from the baseboards as I could and then applied the correct professional treatment to get rid of this troublesome infestation.
I was sent to a homeowner in Ocean Gate who had called Cowleys in a panic. She was in the midst of an ongoing bird infestation. Sparrows and starlings were using her roof to nest and roost. Nuisance birds, which usually involve pigeons, sparrows, starlings, and sea gulls, can become a major problem for any homeowner unfortunate enough to find themselves with a bird infestation. These invading birds can cause significant property damage. Their acidic droppings do far more than create unpleasant odors. They ruin vegetation, painted surfaces, gutters and awnings, and cause electrical equipment to malfunction. House sparrows can damage rigid foam insulation, and their nests can become fire hazards.Birds also carry a host of pathogens, including serious respiratory fungal diseases like histoplasmosis.
When I arrived on the scene, I immediately noticed the homeowner had Spanish-style roofing. These clay roof tiles, with pattern of distinctive ripples, are aesthetically beautiful. However, when it comes to bird control, this type of roof poses quite a challenge. Spanish style roof tiles are very fragile, and there is always the risk of roof damage if the technician does not know what he is doing. Also, because of their design, these tiles have many gaps and openings where pest and wildlife can find easy access for nesting sites. At Cowleys, we don’t shy away from difficult projects, and our philosophy is that if others can’t or won’t do it, we will. After meeting with this distraught homeowner, I was not about to let her continue suffering for another day because of this worsening bird infestation.
It was time to “take care of business.” First, I first carefully removed any nesting material and debris left behind from the birds making sure to not damage any of the tiles in the process. I then cleaned and sanitized the problem roof areas of pathogens and bird mites. Next, I installed copper mesh in all the openings and backed it with an exclusion foam.
Bird control is all about behavior modification. The objective is to create a inhospitable environment, so they move their activities elsewhere. Every job is different depending on the structure and the type of bird, but in this case, I used a Bird Barrier Optical Gel, a type of multi-sensory bird repellent. I placed this amazing gel in plastic pucks, and glued them to each of the roof bump-outs with a silicone adhesive.
This completely safe product helps deter birds from landing in the treated areas. When we look at this product, we see only a small disk full of a bland white gel. However, birds have far better color vision that us. They have cones in their retinas that give them ultraviolet vision, a much broader spectrum of colors. As a result, under a bird’s Ultraviolet Light Spectrum, this gel actually looks like a giant fireball — a hazard that they instinctively want to avoid! Of course, there is no actual flame. It’s all one big illusion that prevents future bird issues.
Needless to say, this Ocean Gate homeowner was quite relieved that I had taken care of her bird problem that she had been dealing with. As a general matter, bird infestations do not self-resolve, and the longer they have taken over a roof, the more likely it is that they are not going anywhere without giving them a few “incentives” to leave.
A tenant in an apartment complex in Seaside Park were waking up with bug bites for the past five months. Finally, he decided to contact the property manager. Unfortunately, these delays are more common than you would think. Often, mysterious bites are the earliest sign of a bed bug infestation. If you wake up int he morning with unexplained bites, and you can’t attribute the bites to anything else, it is critical that bed bugs be ruled out as the cause. This is especially true if you have recently traveled or you live in a high-density building like an apartment or college dormitory where infestations can easily spread from unit to unit.
Upon arrival, I performed a full bed bug inspection throughout the unit to determine the extent of the infestation. Bed bug populations grow rapidly. Because of the extensive delay, by the time that I had arrived, I knew that the infestation would be bad. I just needed to find out how bad.
These pictures reflect some of what I observed during my initial inspection. It wasn’t pretty! On the bed frames, there were fecal stains, one of the more visible signs of bug activity. Bed bugs are external parasites that feed exclusively on the blood of their hosts. As a result of their diet, their excrement appears as small dark dots that resembles black pepper flakes. Because they live exclusively on blood, their fecal stains bleed onto fabric just like a marker would.
First, I vacuumed up the live bugs. While you can’t get every single of them, it’s an effective way to start treatment. I thoroughly vacuumed the bedding, all furniture, and along the baseboards. Once this was completed, I was ready to commence a full treatment with appropriate applications. This was a particularly heavy infestation, and will require at least one follow-up visit. The infestation will be considered resolved when the tenant has no more bites, and further inspections show that there are no more bed bugs or evidence of bed bug activity.
This New Egypt homeowner had chronically high indoor humidity levels in his basement. High humidity in below-grade areas of your home can lead to significant property damage. Ongoing dampness from humidity can cause the walls and foundation in your basement to rot, leading to structural damage. Also, excess air moisture can also trigger dangerous mold growth. Even when mold is not growing in your living spaces, air currents carry the mold spores everywhere throughout your home. This contaminated air is a health hazard for the home’s occupants, especially those with mold sensitivities or preexisting respiratory problems like asthma.
Dehumidification is the most important long-term preventative measure for removing excess moisture from the air and preventing condensation that may form on concrete walls, especially during the Jersey Shore’s infamous hot and muggy summer days. For this home, we installed a commercial-grade SaniDry CX dehumidifier that is specifically designed for crawl spaces and mid-sized basements. (For larger areas, the SaniDry makes an XP model.) SaniDry dehumidifiers operate in temperatures as low as 40 degrees F, and are much more powerful than traditional dehumidifiers. If necessary, they have the capability of extracting close to 14 gallons of water per day at 80 degrees F. These dehumidifiers are maintenance-free and require no human intervention. They automatically, turn on and off using a built-in hygrometer that measures indoor relative humidity. They are connected directly into the sump pump or drainage system so there is no water tray to worry about. These humidifiers will maintain a maximum humidity level of 55%, and at these low levels there is not enough moisture for mold to grow. Homeowner feedback is overwhelmingly positive. We hear time and time again how great it is to have a home circulating with with crisp, clean, dry air instead of thick, smelly, humid air.
The Cowleys team also installed a condensate pump to remove the water that is pulled out of the air from the dehumidifier. To make the unit look more aesthetically pleasing, we installed this compact, unobtrusive dehumidifier so that the cords and discharge hose were concealed.
The homeowner was pleased with our installation, and we are confident that once it’s up and running, he will be even more pleased. His family will enjoy improved indoor air quality, and his home will be protected against basement mold growth caused by high humidity levels.
A Manahawkin homeowner was hearing wildlife noises in his attic at daybreak every morning like clockwork. He realized that the problem would not self-resolve and contacted Cowleys to inspect the attic and resolve his wildlife problem. I suspected that squirrels were the likely culprits. There was heavy squirrel activity in this neighborhood and, because they are agile climbers, attics are a favorite spot for them. Also, the timing and nature of the noises coming from the attic dictated that we were dealing with squirrels. First, squirrels are diurnal animals, active during the day and asleep at night. Raccoons, on the other hand, are primarily nocturnal, although they may venture out during the day (especially females foraging for her litter). With squirrel infestations, many homeowners report hearing wildlife sounds like scampering and scratching early in the morning and at dusk. The scampering sounds of squirrels will be older than those of mice or rats because they are larger rodents. Squirrels also make some surprisingly weird vocal alarm signals.
I inspected the attic to determine the location of any access points. Often, I’ll find holes in a home’s siding or under the soffits, especially when there is wood rot. With this home, however, the squirrels did not have to do any work at all to gain access to the attic. Form the attic, I could easily see that the dryer vent connection had disconnected, allowing easy access to the attic.
Ii was time to take care of the infestation. I set live traps along the path that the squirrels were taking, and over the course of a few days, I safely and humanely trapped, removed, and relocated three squirrels from the home. Once I determined that there was no more squirrel activity inside the attic and around the dryer vent, I installed a dryer vent cover to block this potential access point for good.
A commercial property owner in Lakewood, NJ had plumbing and gas lines installed into the building and areas around the pipes were not sealed. Often, there are gaps around pipes large enough for mice to enter, but these gaps were large enough for curious squirrels that were more than happy to explore new territory. With any wildlife problem, you have to do more than just resolve the current infestation. It is critical to do the follow-up preventive exclusion work where the technician locates and seals any actual or potential access points to prevent a re-infestation.
Cowleys technicians not only excluded all of the gaps around the pipes, but also fabricated boxes to fit over the pipes in order to keep squirrels from re-accessing the area.
While servicing a home for one of our home protection plan customers in Forked River, NJ. I needed to go into the crawl space to check, and replace as necessary, the bait in the mouse bait stations that I had set in a prior visit. As I opened the hatch to access the crawlspace I was greeted by a few of eight-legged arachnids (spiders).
Before I started working with Cowleys as a pest control technician, like most everyone else, I had a strong aversion to spiders. I did not have a debilitating case of arachnophobia where I was paralyzed with fear, but spiders definitely gave me the creeps. However, like many pest control techs, when you run into pests on a daily basis, you start to become a desensitized and you overcome your fears. Many insect infestations require us to inspect the non-living areas of the home like dark crawl spaces whose humid environment attracts many insects, especially spiders. Any time you enter a crawl space, it’s part of the job to run into a lot of sticky spider webbing. Spiders just love basements, crawl spaces, and garages. These cool, dark areas of the home are great places for them to hangout and wait for their prey to get stuck in their webs.
Objectively, spiders have an underserved bad reputation. Just like with snakes, very few are venomous. For example, here in New Jersey, we only have to worry about one venomous spider, the black widow, and even then, their bites are rarely lethal. The reality is that spiders are beneficial insects. Spiders are insect-eating machines, and they help reduce the populations of many other insects that carry diseases including flies, fleas, cockroaches and mosquitos. Spiders rarely bite people, unless they feel threatened or they are inadvertently sat or laid on.
So, although I'm still cautious around spiders, as a pest control technician, I’ve gained a much better understanding and respect for the benefits of having spiders around to control those pesky insects that no one wants. Of course, you can have too much of a good thing, and every so often, Cowleys has to help out customers whose homes have been overrun with spiders.
Cowleys handles all of the pest control matters for many condominiums, senior communities, and other multi-unit housing throughout New Jersey. I was recently sent to a condominium community in Lanoka Harbor, NJ for which we perform all of the preventative pest control treatments in addition to resolving any active pest infestations faced by the homeowners. The property manager informed us that the owner of one of the the units was plagued by small army of ants roaming around garage. As I was heading there, I thought that this was a somewhat unusual ant infestation because these insects are attracted to those locations in a home like kitchens and bathrooms where there is water and moisture.
Upon arrival, I inspected the garage. I observed several ants exiting a small hole in the beam going across the garage. The homeowner also relayed to me a valuable piece of the puzzle: The A/C repairman who was doing routine servicing of all of the units told her that he had found large ant nest in her neighbor’s attic. Whenever dealing with an ant infestation, one of the key objectives is to locate the ant nest so that the queen and the rest of the colony can be eliminated. It saved me a lot of time to be told the general location of the ant nest. This was also an example of how, in attached multi-unit dwellings, an insect infestation can easily transfer from one unit to the next. Here, this unit shared a common wall with another unit on the right side.
While in the garage, I observed ants trading across a garage beam. It was clear that these ants were coming into this garage from the other unit because there was no ant activity to be found on the unit’s exterior. I treated along the beam with a non-repellent application that the ants are unable to detect. We purposely don’t want the ants to avoid the product because we want them to bring it back to the nest and share it with the other ants through feeding and grooming. This way, we use the ant’s social behavior in order to eliminate the entire colony.
I was conducting an exterior inspection of a home in Brick, NJ as part of our home servicing plan. I came across holes in the paver stones. The homeowner thought that ants were responsible for the “vandalism.” However, based on the type of damage, I knew otherwise.
These multiple entranceways were the home of the aptly named digger bee. These bees make their nests below ground so that they can later lay their eggs without them being disturbed. They are quite a nuisance because, as you can see, swarms of these bees can dig holes are everywhere. In severe cases, they can even cause paving stones to collapse.
To get rid of these insects, I applied a dust to each hole individually. While this is a time-consuming pain-staking process to go hole-by-hole, it is the most effective way to resolve a digger bee infestation.
Recently, I was dispatched to a commercial kitchen in Bayville, NJ that was having a problem with flies entering their facility through their backdoor. Flies carry a host of diseases and can transfer fecal matter and other pathogens to anything that they land on, including food and counter-tops. Obviously, for restaurants or anyone in the food service industry this is a serious health hazard. Fly infestations must be resolved in their early stages before they get out of hand and before the problem is noticed by patrons.
To deal with this fly infestation, I installed a fly light that attracts and traps many types of flying insects, including flies, gnats, and mosquitoes. The fly light lures insects with a special UV light and shiny surfaces and then captures them on pheromone fly monitor boards. After this servicing, the customer decided join our fly control program so we can institute preventative measures to keep out flies and keep tabs on insect activity. These trapping boards will allow me to monitor the level of fly activity on subsequent visits. Needless to say, for a commercial kitchen, fly control is essential and restaurants should look for pest control service experienced with the unique pest control needs of their business.
When homes and other structures have ongoing problems with nuisance birds like pigeons and seagulls landing, roosting, and nesting on ledges, gutters, and other areas around the roof, our Bird Solutions division can install various types of physical barrier deterrents that instantly converts your property from a desirable bird habitat into an undesirable one. Once we remove the landing spots on your ledges and other areas, the birds simply “pack their bags” and move elsewhere.
Proper installation of deterrents by an experienced bird control specialist is essential. One of the most common physical deterrents that we install are bird control spikes. For this house in Barnegat, NJ that was having a nuisance bird problem, I installed bird spikes on the chimney caps.
The feedback from the homeowner was great. Once these spikes were installed, the birds were given a strong message that they were no longer welcomed here, and they moved elsewhere! Unfortunately, when dealing with birds, they often become someone else’s problem. ideally, we want the birds to use natural structures to land, roost, and nest instead of using homes and buildings.
Birds follow the path of least resistance and if there is a home or other structure that is making things difficult for them, there are plenty of other locations to choose from.
Bird spikes are an effective and humane deterrent that prevents birds from landing on ledges and other areas where they are installed including roof peaks, I-beams, parapet walls, and, yes, even chimney caps! They are especially effective for larger birds like pigeons and seagulls. Depending on the homeowner’s budget and the building’s color scheme, we can install virtually invisible stainless steel spikes or plastic spikes available in a variety of colors. The acidic, toxic droppings of birds are more than unsightly. They can cause property damage — even dissolve roof shingles — and are a health hazard for the home’s occupants.
One of the most common physical deterrents that we install are bird control spikes. For this house in Beach Haven, NJ that was having a nuisance bird problem, I installed bird spikes on their gutters.
Solar panels are becoming more and more popular with homeowners. Harnessing the energy of the sun saves on utility bills and is a renewable energy source that is environmentally friendly. However, at Cowleys, we do come across one problem with solar panels installed on the roof. For whatever reason, solar panels are often a magnet for nuisance birds, especially pigeons. They just love to nest underneath them where they can stay hidden and protected from predator birds like hawks and ospreys.
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. Droppings landing on occupants trying to enter and leave the home are not unread of. Also, if you’ve ever been around a flock of pigeons, they make constant sounds. The males make calls to attract mates and defend their territories and they also make calls of alarm when they feel their territory is being threatened. I have yet to meet a homeowner who enjoys having pigeons nesting and roosting on their roof. Without exception, homeowners want these “rats with wings,” as their often called, gone!!
Cowleys has a specialized division, Bird Solutions by Cowleys, devoted to the installation of a variety of bird deterrent devices for residences and commercial properties of all sizes. With this home in Barnegat Light, NJ, we excluded the birds by installing a solar panel exclusion system. This effective deterrent will keep pigeons and other birds away from the solar panels without harming them. The objective with bird control is to modify the birds’ behavior by making your property inhospitable for them. If your property is made difficult for birds to land on or there are strategically placed visual deterrents that scare the birds away, it will not take long for the birds to “pick up their bags” and move elsewhere.
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 dispatched to Toms River, NJ to help a homeowner get rid of some nasty yellow jackets. Fortunately, no one had yet been stung, and I wanted to keep it that way. Yellow jackets cause more concern than most other stinging insects, and for good reason. They are highly aggressive and territorial. Yellow jackets are social insects that live in colonies with a reproducing queen and workers that forage for food to feed the larvae, build the nest, and protect it against threats. Because yellow jackets do not lose their stinger when they inject their venom, a single yellow jacket is capable of stinging multiple times. Also, a yellow jacket nest can grow to several thousand of these insects, so a yellow jacket attack can result in dozens and dozens of painful stings. Compounding the problem of a yellow jacket infestations is where they build their nests. Unlike many other stinging insects, especially those that live in colonies, they don’t build their nests above-ground where they are easy to spot, and hopefully, avoid before it is removed. Instead, yellow jackets prefer to dig their nests in hidden locations. We find these nests built anywhere and everywhere around homes including holes in the ground and in wildlife burrows.
This particular homeowner wound up with a yellow jacket nest built right in the ground underneath a cable box in front of his home. Because of the location of this nest, it posed a huge risk to the home’s residents. There was no question that this colony had to be eliminated and eliminated quickly. Because these insects are so aggressive and will quickly attack anyone they deem to pose a threat, the first thing I did was to put on a protective suit. Just like everyone else, pest control technicians don’t like getting stung. It’s an occupational hazard of the job, but we do our best to avoid it. With any stinging insect job, we always have our guard up to protect ourselves, and we take safety precautions such as wearing protective suits.
After I was suited up, I injected a dust into the opening where they were entering and exiting the nest and marked the nest location with a flag to identify its location. This product is highly effective and will eliminate the nest within 24 hours.
When I was first assigned to this particular wildlife job at a golf course in Jackson, NJ, I was reminded of that classic 1980 film “Caddyshack.” The comically deranged Carl Spackler, the assistant groundskeeper for an exclusive country club, played by Bill Murray, is tasked with stopping a gopher infestation that is destroying the course. One particularly destructive, elusive gopher outsmarted him at every turn (and even whimsically poked its head out of its burrow to dance to the movie’s theme song, the Kenny Loggins song, “I’m Alright.”) Frustrated Carl tries to shoot, drown, and even use dynamite to kill the gopher, all without success. That’s where any similarity to Caddyshack ends! Unlike Carl, professional nuisance wildlife technicians use only proper and humane trapping techniques to capture the invading animals — no shooting, no drowning, and, certainly, no explosives!
This Jackson, NJ golf course was invaded by groundhogs. Like gophers, they are burrowing rodent capable of causing extensive property damage. Gophers and groundhogs are often confused. Gophers are, by far, much smaller than groundhogs. While gophers only weigh a few pounds, groundhogs can grow to ten pounds or more. Also, gophers have thin rat-like tails, while groundhogs have bushy tails similar to squirrels. Perhaps, most important, is what they have in common. All burrowing rodents are wild animals, no matter how “cuddly” they may look. Even Punxsutawney Phil and all of the other groundhogs that are displayed on GroundHog Day are not pets. They are wild, biting animals. These rodents will become aggressive when cornered or threatened, and their powerful biting jaws and sharp claws can cause serious injury. Groundhogs are also a rabies vector species in New Jersey and must be approached and handled with caution.
From past experience, this area in Jackson, NJ is known for having high groundhog populations. This job was not the first time we were called out to Jackson to deal with groundhogs. A common issue we face with high nuisance animal populations is “trap-shy” animals. If an animal has had a close call with a trap but managed to escape, they learn from the traumatic experience, and they’ll do their best to not be tricked into entering a trap again. It’s that old saying — fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Since it is next-to-impossible to get trap-wary animals into traps the conventional way, even when enticed by their favorite, most irresistible foods used as bait, we instead use a special trap that can be placed directly over a burrow hole. This trap will secure the animal, no matter which direction it is traveling, the first time. Essentially, they enter the trap involuntary, and by not giving them a choice, we are able to trap the critters before they even know what’s up! This method of direct trapping over entry/exit points is highly effective — whether it is a burrow opening for excavating rodents like moles, voles, gophers, and groundhogs or openings used by more aerial critters such as squirrels and raccoons to gain access to attics and other structures.
I’ll be back to check the traps in a few days., and I also told the groundskeeper to contact me immediately as soon as a groundhog is caught. I’m confident that these nuisance groundhogs will be trapped shortly and their days of digging up the golf course are numbered. I won’t stop until this property is free of these burrowing, property-damaging rodents.
The Cowleys home improvement team recently installed a dehumidifier for a homeowner in Brick, NJ
Dehumidification is critical for long-term control of moisture and high indoor humidity levels (especially in basements and crawl spaces). When areas of a home are kept dry and the moisture content in the air is kept below certain levels, mold cannot grow. Without proper dehumidification, homeowners run the risk of mold formation. Cowleys installs and services commercial grade Sanidry dehumidifiers. They are built specifically to work in basements and crawl spaces. They stand apart from the store-bought dehumidifiers we are familiar with, both in their functionality and reliability. Here’s a quick comparison:
Store-bought dehumidifiers cover, at most, no more than 500 square feet, which is often far less than the needed coverage area. Also, they have a pan to empty, which makes it practically unworkable for non-living areas like crawl spaces. If you don’t get to the pan in time, and it overflows, you have a big mess — a water intrusion problem that can, by itself, trigger mold growth. Also, dehumidifiers from the big box stores just aren’t meant for heavy-duty applications. for instance, they pull in, at most, 70 pints/day from the air. During those hot Jersey Shore summer months, that just isn’t enough to bring down moisture and humidity to acceptable levels.
The Sedona Sanidry covers up to 3000 square feet - 6X the area of a regular dehumidifier. Also, with the installation of a condensate pump (which usually leads right to the sump pump), these machines are maintenance-free with no pan to empty. Also, these machines are workhorses, able to pull in 100 pints/day from the air, if necessary. You’ll appreciate how hard these machines can work during those unbelievably humid days of summer when you are drenched just from standing outside. Finally, these are serious machines that are built to last — they come with a 5-year manufacturer’s warranty.
We recently received a call from a homeowner in Manchester Township, NJ for a bat infestation. Most bats are insectivores; they live on a diet of insects, mostly mosquitoes, moths, winged ants, and other pests. Very few bats bite mammals for blood, and of those that do, none live in the United States. Bats have an undeserved bad reputation. They are actually beneficial in keeping down insect populations. However, you don’t want to get up close and personal with a bat in a small enclosed area. They will bite if threatened, and these mammals are known carriers of rabies.
When we get a call to deal with a bat infestation, inspecting for bats that have taken up residence in a home is not what most people expect. Many think that we simply just go into the attic and look for bats. If only it were that easy! Bats are nocturnal creatures. They do their foraging for food at night. During the day, while they are in the attic, they are sleeping. They crawl up into tight crevices between rafters and trusses and stay hidden away. Unless there is a heavy infestation, we rarely see the bats themselves during our inspection. However, we do see bat guano (droppings) in the attic, but even that isn’t especially helpful other than telling us that bats have been there. It is difficult to tell how recent the bat droppings are and they don’t tell us how and where they are entering the home. Rather, for bat inspections, most of the evidence is found outside of the home. The bats we have in New Jersey are small and they can get into attics with openings as small as 1/2”. Of course, bats follow the path of least resistance, and if there is a larger hole, you can rest assured that bats will take advantage of it if they are looking for a way inside.
What really helps us during a bat inspection is their behavior. Bats are creatures of habit. They will use the same access point to go in and out every time. As I mentioned, the bats need to leave the attic at night to forage for food, and they return to use the attic to sleep during the day. Bats are mammals, and they have oils int heir skin, just like us. When bats squeeze through an opening the oils rub off along the edges of the entry point. This brownish ring is a clear sign that bats are using this gap or crack to find their way inside, and once you find this ring, you have positive proof as to where the bats are gaining entrance to their way inside. Also, another confirmation sign for bat entry is guano. There will usually be guano just below the hole stuck to the home’s siding as well as on the ground immediately below the hole.
While performing a termite treatment to a home in Manchester Township, NJ, I was greeted by an unexpected guest that popped up out of nowhere as if he wanted to help me out. This surprise visitor was one of the most beautiful and interesting insects that pest control technician ever comes across when he’s out in the field. I’m talking about the Praying Mantis. These insects, with their triangular head and stem-like thorax, are deadly hunters. They 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 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.
The closest insect relatives of mantises that we commonly run across are true pests to humans are cockroaches and termites. Unlike their cousins, however, mantises are not considered nuisance pests. In fact, two species, the Chinese mantis and the European mantis, were deliberately introduced to North America to serve as pest controls for agriculture. They have since spread widely, and today, they can be found in almost every state, including right here in New Jersey.
Mantises normally live for about a year. In cooler climates, the females lay their eggs in autumn and die soon thereafter. The eggs, which are protected by their hard capsules, hatch in the spring. Many gardeners, especially those who have organic gardens and stay away from chemicals, encourage mantis populations to help control insect pests. Mantises are mostly ambush predators lying in wait for prey to come to them, but there are a few ground-dwelling species that actively pursue their prey. However, they are far from perfect. In actuality, they have negligible value as biological control agents. First, they are general predators. they pretty much eat whatever they can catch. A mantis is a carnivore that eats a wide variety of insects and even small animals like frogs and lizards. Good biological control agents specialize in a single pest insect. Also, they do not multiply rapidly in response to an increase in a prey species.
When treating a home, I focus only on the harmful insects like termites that are capable of causing extensive property damage. I leave the beneficial ones like this praying mantis alone. Not all insects are “bad.” Like the Praying Mantis, some insects support us in knocking down harmful pest populations. We should do everything we can to encourage them to thrive.
If you look closely at the photo, you can even see him staring me down. It’s pretty clear, that this guy isn’t afraid of anything — including me!
During my inspection of an exterior rodent station of one of the residential communities we service in Manchester Township, NJ, I came across a large colony of yellow ants. These ants are also known as citronella ants because they emit a citronella (lemony) odor when threatened or crushed. These subterranean insects feed almost exclusively on honeydew, a sweet material obtained from aphids or mealybugs that feed on roots. As such, they rarely invade homes and like like odorous house ants or wood-boring carpenter ants. These ants, which are very common in New Jersey, nest outdoors, often next to foundations or under slabs. However, homeowners still can find stray foraging yellow ants inside their home. These tunneling ants take the path of least resistance, and they can easily wind up inside homes through gaps or cracks in foundations, door sills, and cellar window frames or through gaps around piping like water pipes.
The flying reproductive swarmers in the fall (in fact, these ants are sometimes called fall flying ants) are frequently confused with more serious termite swarms. Although most termite swarms happen in the spring, there is one species of subterranean termite in NJ that swarms in the fall about the same time as citronella ants. (Although citronella swarms often occur in the fall, they can happen at other times of the year, including late summer and late winter/early spring.) These flying ants can vary in color from light yellow to a dark reddish yellow or reddish brown. There are a few ways to tell the difference between flying ants and flying termites based on their antennae, wings, and overall body shape. However, the safest bet for homeowners is to not guess and have a pest control professional come out and definitively determine what insect you are dealing with. If you do happen to have a termite swarm, immediate treatment is necessary. If you have a termite swarm, there is an underground nest nearby that needs to be eliminated.
Yellow (citronella) ants are considered nuisance pests. They form exceptionally large colonies and, besides having foraging ants find their way into your home, they push soil through cracks in foundations and slabs with their underground tunneling activities creating an unsightly mess. Also, it is a frightening experience to witness an ant swarm in your basement or living space, giving homeowners a “termite swarm” scare (when it comes to insects, we generally assume the worst). Flying reproductive ants can also congregate on the side of your house in large numbers.
Even though these ants had not yet entered the home, I did not want to take any chances.The ants were too close to the structure for comfort. I treated the ant mounds (which is the excavated dirt from their tunneling activities) with a residual product that will be carried by the foraging ants back to the nest to be shared with the rest of the colony. Soon, this queen and the rest of the ant colony will be eliminated — before any foraging yellow ants manage to find their way into the home.
Bed bugs are the one houseguest that nobody asks for and nobody wants. These bugs are parasites in the truest sense. They feed exclusively on blood, and, unfortunately, they have a distinct preference for human blood. These bugs do not hop or fly, and they can’t crawl great distances. In fact, the only way for a home to become infested with bed bugs is by hitchhiking their way into your home. They quietly attach themselves to a new host or find a place hidden in their belongings. Anyone who travels uses public transit, or is in a high-density area (store, movie theater, you name it) can inadvertently bring a bed bug back into their home. All you need is one lone bed bug to find its way inside, and you’ll find yourself with a bed bug infestation in no time. Bed bugs have nothing to do with sanitation issues. Even the cleanest, most spotless residence can find itself with an infestation. Often, the first sign of an infestation is finding yourself with unexplained, mysterious, itchy bites after waking up in the morning. Bed bugs like to feed while we are staying still or fast asleep.
Recently, I, along with my partner, as a bedbug team, performed a bed bug inspection at a senior residence building Forked River NJ. The resident had complained of bites, ad the property manager wanted to be sure that there wasn’t a bed bug problem. Once inside a high-density residential building, bed bugs can easily spread to other units because of all the common areas shared by the residents. Also, these infestations are especially a problem with the elderly. Oftentimes, there is a delay in discovering the infestation. The elderly may have poor eyesight or mobility issues and not even see the signs of an infestation, they may have a diminished capacity to realize that there is a problem, and many seniors, especially because of anti-inflammatory meds they are on, do not even realize that they are being bitten. It’s one of the saddest situations we come across as bed bug specialists.
Bed bug inspections must be thorough and systematic. These bugs are masters of hiding in the smallest places when not feeding, and they can be anywhere! They like to hide underneath mattresses and box springs, and nearby in nightstands and picture frames. Many times, we find them hidden in recliners and sofas. Here are a few pictures of us performing an inspection, looking at every possible nook and cranny.
Homeowners in Lanoka Harbor, NJ, contacted Cowleys to inspect and treat for a possible mouse infestation. According to the homeowners, they were gone for three months, and upon their return saw the tell-tale signs of rodent activity like droppings.
During my inspection, I found rodent droppings underneath the sofa in and around a box of photographs that was being stored underneath. However, these homeowners were not dealing with mice. There was an infestation of Norway rats, also called sewer rats. Norway rats, which are brown or grey, are larger and more aggressive than roof rats. Roof rats are more slender and have a much longer tail than Norway rats.
Since Norway rats are larger, their droppings are larger as well. Norway rat droppings can be up to 1/2 inch in length and are capsule-shaped with rounded ends. Roof rat droppings are smaller and have pointed ends like mouse droppings. Pest control technicians can often identify the type of infestation based on the appearance of the droppings and track marks.
I moved the couch to get a closer look. These industrious rats were taking leaves from the indoor house plants to use as nesting materials underneath the sofa. For any rodent infestation, I inspect the home’s exterior perimeter to look for entry points. Usually, the rodents exploit pre-existing gaps and cracks like openings around pipes entering the home. However, here, the rats with their razor-sharp teeth and strong jaws chewed through wood to enter the home.
To treat this infestation, I was especially careful to selectively apply product. The objective is to target only the pest and you want to make sure there is not possible inadvertent human contact or contact with pets. These homeowners had dogs. I also applied tracking powder to the pipe chases in the crawl space, which are a favorite route for rodents. With rodents, it is never a one and done treatment. I’ll be back for a two-week follow up to re-assess. I’m confident that this rat infestation will be quickly resolved.
Recently, homeowners in Bayville, NJ, contacted Cowleys to deal with a possible wildlife infestation in their attic. Like clockwork, the homeowners would hear noises coming from the attic the first thing in the morning, right before leaving for work. Whatever had taken up residence above them was on the same work schedule!
When the homeowners told me what they were hearing and the timing of the noises, I suspected a squirrel infestation. Sure enough, that’s exactly what it was. The most common nuisance animals that infest attics from access points in and around roofs are squirrels and raccoons. With less frequency, we deal with bats and birds. Of course, mice and other rodents often make their way into the attic. However, they usually enter around the home’s foundation and then find their way up there through wall voids (although every so often, mice will make their way to the roof by climbing up a gutter downspout).
With squirrels in the attic, homeowners usually hear the fast pitter-patter of these light and fast animals scurrying about. Sometimes you’ll hear scratching sounds or acorns or some other nut rolling around. As these homeowners found out, squirrels are diurnal rodents — they are active mostly during the day, so you’ll commonly hear them in the morning at first light, and then again in the evening when returning from foraging.
With any wildlife infestation, I always want to determine how the critters are gaining access into the home in the first place. Here, I observed a hole at the top of the stucco chimney area. Squirrels are actually very small animals and look much bigger because of their fur. They usually weight not much more than a pound and, excluding their tail, are no more than 10 inches in length. A gray squirrel can squeeze through a hole as small as a quarter — about the same as a rat! Eastern gray squirrels have two breeding periods per year, one in early spring with the pups born in March or April, and a second litter in mid-summer with the babies arriving in July or August. Because of the time of year, it was highly likely that this invading squirrel was a female with pups.
Effective animal trapping is more than setting up equipment. It’s as much of an art as it is science. Those who don’t know what their doing often come up empty handed. It requires careful planning, a knowledge of the target species, the correct bait and trap locations, and how and where to safely remove trapped animals, among other things. Here, I installed a multi-catch squirrel trap that can catch multiple squirrels without having to reset the trap as well as three baited traps along the roofline. After successfully catching the mother, I carefully removed the pups. One of the photos shows the babies in their nest with insulation around the outside. I released the mother while leaving the pups inside the open trap. It’s important to minimize handling of the pups and allow the mother to retrieve them one-by-one and take them to her new nest.
These homeowners also had a large roof gap along the gutter line. With the high squirrel population in this area, this opening posed a risk of a wildlife re-infestation. Cowleys addressed his issue by installing a gutter guard that critter proofs the gap and prevents entry for a majority of nuisance wildlife.
As part of my monthly servicing for one of our commercial accounts in Barnegat, NJ, I always conduct a thorough inspection of the building’s exterior perimeter looking for signs of pest and rodent infestations. Many times we are able discover and treat infestations before they make their way inside and cause even more trouble. Here, I discovered a trail of ants on the exterior frame of the warehouse doors. Foraging ants will form a pheromone trail from the nest to the food source for other ants to follow. It’s the ant’s version of not re-inventing the wheel! Once we discover a trail, we follow it to see where the ants are coming from and where they are going. Here, the ants were trailing from a nearby tree to the warehouse door and then making their way up the side of the building to the gutter/roofline.
Ant infestations can be difficult to treat because of their sheer numbers. Also, it is essential to treat the ant nest itself and not merely kill off replaceable foraging workers. I treated this infestation by applying a liquid treatment to the foundation, windows, and door frames. This product will be carried back to the nest by the foragers. I then applied a gel bait around the door frame as well as a granular bait around the tree were the trail had started. The combination of these treatments will soon eliminate this ant colony. I always feel good about stopping a pest infestation dead in its tracks before they have a chance to make their way inside the structure.
Recently, I was sent to a home in Forked River, NJ, for a routine home protection plan servicing. Upon arrival, I spoke with the homeowner to inquire if she were aware of any pest control issues before stating my inspection. She told me that she would see ants crawling around her kitchen window when it rained or immediately thereafter. The timing did not surprise me. Although ants need water, thy can have too much of a good thing. Most ant species live in shallow, underground nests. It does not take much rain for their nests to become flooded. Once it starts to rain, ant nests can flood in a matter of minutesThe ants head for higher, drier ground, which sometimes includes our homes, especially our kitchens since that’s where food and water is often available. On the way into your house, ants leave a pheromone scent trail that allows them to return to the nest after the sun comes out and their turf dries out.
I first treated around the kitchen window. Afterwards, I conducted an outdoor inspection near the window to see if I could determine where the ants were likely coming from. I suspected that there was a hidden ant nest somewhere nearby. Sure enough, I noticed a few ant hills at the base of the home’s foundation right under the kitchen window. For these ants, it was a short commute! It happened to be a nice sunny day, and the ants were busy on the ground outside. But all we needed was a little rain, and once again, they would be back — scrambling up to the kitchen window to escape, what for them, is a flood. To treat the outside area, I fan sprayed product underneath the window. I also applied a granular bait. This bait is carried back to the colony by the foraging ants and spread throughout the colony. With this indoor and outdoor treatment, I’m confident that this homeowner will no longer be visited by ants come the next rainfall.
I was recently sent to a home in Barnegat, NJ, to deal with a carpenter bee infestation. Carpenter bees are one of the more common wood boring insects that infest homes and other structures. The females runner into wood to deposit their eggs, and their excavation can cause considerable damage, especially if left unchecked and the bees return year after year. Often, carpenter bees rear their ugly heads around the eaves on the sunny side of a home. But carpenter bees can burrow into virtually any wooden structural material in and around your home. These bees often bore their nesting holes into the wood of decks, bay windows, and even wooden swing sets. The common thread is that their usual choice ion wood s bare, unpainted, weathered wood that is often soft from water damage.
While treating a home for carpenter bees on the peaks of a home, I’ll always inspect the surrounding areas for not only the target pest, but for any other pest activity. Upon inspection, I noticed a pile of fresh sawdust — this “frass” is a telltale sign of property-damaging wood-boring insects. Sure enough, this little pile was right underneath an entry hole. After treating this hole, I noticed active carpenter bee activity under a bay window. I could actually hear these little buggers chewing the wood and I could hear the “munching” sound of carpenter bee activity as the females bored into the wood.
Homeowners should keep an eye out for carpenter bee and other insect activity. They don’t make much noise, and generally the damage they do is subtle and takes place over a long period of time. Carpenter bees return to the same location year after year to reuse and expand old galleries and build new ones. Over time, damage from carpenter bees and other wood-boring insects can be extensive. The earlier that these infestations are identified and treated, the better.
A residential customer in Beachwood, NJ contacted Cowleys after coming across one too many ants in her kitchen and laundry room. She would often see random foraging ants crawling around. However, she did not notice an ant trail or see them entering her home from a specific location. During my inspection, I observed ants making their way to the dog food bowl. I always recommend that dogs have specific feeding times and their food is not left out for extended periods. As this homeowner found out, leaving any uncovered food out in the open, especially on the floor, is an invitation for trouble.
I was able to follow the ant trail all the way through the kitchen and right into the laundry room. In the laundry room, after moving two boxes of snacks that I thought may have been a target of the ants, I observed an active ant trail going right into the outlet cover of the wall void. Fortunately, the ants did not reach the stored snacks. Now that I was able to trace the location of the nest somewhere in the wall void, I could effectively treat this ant infestation. We use an application that is carried back to the nest, so the entire colony is eliminated. Simply killing the foraging ants will not resolve these infestations. The homeowner was having an upcoming holiday party, and she was glad that these unwanted guests would be gone before her invited guests arrived!
Recently, I was sent to a home in Toms River, NJ to treat a pest infestation of invading ants and centipedes. Ants are an extremely common nuisance pest for homeowners, and centipedes less so. Often, a centipede infestation is an indicator of another pest infestation since they eat a variety of other insects including spiders, silverfish, and ants. Also, centipedes require wet, damp humid areas since they don’t hold in moisture and easily dry out. Inevitably, centipede infestations are concentrated in wet, damp, and humid areas of your home like crawl spaces, basements, kitchens, and bathrooms. Centipedes often stay hidden because they are nocturnal and with their dozens of delicate legs, these guys are fast — moving a foot and a half in a second — across floors, up walls, and along ceilings. And by the way, centipedes can and do bite.
During my exterior inspection of this home, I saw that there were ideal breeding grounds for ants and centipedes. There were a number of mulch and rock beds around the home. These underground coverings retain moisture and are ideal harborage for these insects. Also, ants commonly nest under decks and paver bricks. For preventative outdoor treatments, it is helpful to spot treat these areas away from the foundation. Treating ground cover like ivy, under bushes, and around the base of trees can also make a big difference. For this home, I strapped on a backpack sprayer with an effective residual application to treat these areas. Residual products remain effective and keep working where they are applied for some length of time. Depending on the formulation, and the type and condition of the surface, these products can continue working for days or even weeks.
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 Barnegat, 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 a much better situation for everyone when wildlife stays in the wild and enjoyed at a distance, far away from human habitats.
A homeowner in Point Pleasant Beach, NJ contacted Cowleys because he suspected a possible dead animal in his crawl space. As a wildlife technician, I was sent out based on the homeowner’s call to us. Crawl spaces are notorious problem areas for homeowners. Vented crawl spaces can be fraught with water and humidity problems, and the often damp and dark environment is an ideal harborage location for termites, other insects, rodents, and nuisance wildlife. Also, unlike basements, crawl spaces are often difficult to access and maneuver about once you are down there. They are rarely visited and inspected. Problems can go unnoticed for quite awhile until either issues surface in the living areas of the home like odors from mold or rotting animal carcasses.
Here, it was fortunate that Cowleys was contacted. Although I could not locate an animal carcass, the homeowner had other crawl space issues that need to be addressed immediately. As often happens, an inspection identifies problems that the homeowner was unaware of. Here, the basement had been flooded and the crawl space floor had a layer of stagnant water. The homeowner knew this problem needed to be fixed, and I let him know that Cowleys has a specialized contractor division that handles a variety of home improvements including mold treatment and a crawl space encapsulation that alleviates water issues and converts crawl spaces into clean dry foundations. An appointment was made fro one of our inspectors to identify the source of the water problem and come up with solutions to fix the problem, both immediate and long-term.
Recently, a homeowner in Barnegat Light, NJ contacted us because of wasp activity around their swimming pool. During late summer, stinging insects are at a peak and we receive many calls for mature nests that have formed in all the wrong places. Upon inspection of the pool area, I could not initially locate any nests. I banged on the railing surrounding the pool, seeing if that would jar any activity. Sure enough, some yellow jackets started coming up from an opening in the brick paver around the pool. Unlike paper wasps and other stinging insects, yellow jackets often build underground nests in cavities, so they stay hidden until disturbed.
I treated the nest with an effective dust that gets distributed to all of the members of the colony. It works quite quickly and waited a few minutes to knock down the wasp population. Once the activity stopped, I cleaned up the area. Now, this family can enjoy their pool for the remaining weeks of summer!
Recently, I was sent to a home in Lakewood, NJ to resolve a persistent bed bug infestation for an extremely frustrated homeowner. Another pest control service had made multiple attempts to eradicate the bugs, but to no avail. The homeowner decided to try another pest control service and contacted Cowleys. We have a number of pest control technicians, including myself, who have extensive experience with bed bug infestations.
Bed bugs are challenging infestations to resolve because these bugs are masters of stealth. Between their blood meals, these insects can hide virtually anywhere and everywhere. The key to successfully resolving these infestations is a thorough, systematic, and meticulous inspection. You have to take your time and examine every gap or crack.
Bed bugs typically don’t venture far for their next blood meal. Wherever these bugs are feeding on their human hosts, it is essential to examine every item within a 2 to 3 foot radius. Since the bugs like to feed on us when we are resting or sleeping, you must examine not only the mattress and box spring, but also everything nearby. I’ve uncovered bed bugs hiding in a variety of easily overlooked locations. For example, I’ve found these bugs in nightstand screw holes, behind electrical outlet plates, in picture frames, in the nooks and crannies of bed frames, and even inside a clock radio! Here, the prior company failed to look underneath the screw tops to the four bed posts. Sure enough, when I unscrewed each screw top to the bed post, I discovered a large number of bed bug eggs just waiting to hatch and adult bed bugs patiently waiting for their next blood feeding.
If a customer is being bitten by bed bugs, they must be hiding somewhere. The pest control technician must be willing to put on his detective cap and be persistent. You can’t give up. Once their harborage areas are located, “the jig is up” for these bugs. Here, I took out my hepa-vac and carefully vacuumed up the bed bugs and their eggs. I completed my inspection and could not find any other bed bug activity. Out of an abundance of caution, I also performed a thorough crack and crevice treatment to all possible harborage areas.
I’ll be returning for a two-week follow-up to re-inspect and apply additional treatments as necessary. With bed bugs, we consider the job done when our re-inspection shows no more activity and the homeowner reports no more bites, no more sightings, and no more signs of bed bugs like tiny specks of blood or fecal stains on the sheets.
This homeowner was being bitten at night and was understandibly frantic. We came out and after a thorough inspection, found a single bed bug which had a full meal in it. This bed bug was just perched on the floor molding. We found it after throughly inspecting all her bedroom furniture, the usual places that bed bugs hide. This one was hiding right out in the open! We will treat this home for bed bugs and then follow up two weeks later with a thorough reinspection.
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.
As a pest control technician for Cowleys, one of my primary responsibilities is help to keep commercial establishments, especially restaurants and other food-related business, pest free. To do this we work hand-in-hand with the owner or manager and the kitchen staff to ensure that proper sanitation and hygiene protocols are followed. It’s a joint effort and good communication is essential. The objective is to prevent pest infestations from happening in the first place, but if they do happen, to treat them in their early stages so a minor issue does not turn into a major one.
Recently, I was scheduled for a routine monthly service of one of our restaurants in Lakewood, NJ that has been a client of Cowleys now going on seven years. I’m proud to say that there have been no serious pest-related issues with this restaurant during that time. It’s not luck. The path to success in keeping an establishment pest- and vermin-free is vigilance and not letting down your guard for a second.
Although many think that the most important job of a pest control technician is applying product, it is actually the inspection process. A thorough inspection allows us to discover potential issues before they happen and find potential entry points or attractants that could lead to an infestation. Here, during my inspection underneath the cookline, I discovered an accumulation of food debris and grease under the equipment. This, of course, is a major attractant for all sorts of pests including mice, flies, and cockroaches.
After documenting the problem on my work order and taking pictures, I immediately texted the pictures to the owner so that she was aware of the problem. The owner was quite appreciative that this was brought to her attention before matters became worse, and she assured me that there would be an extensive clean-out of this area immediately.
Recently, I was sent to a residence in Point Pleasant Beach, NJ after a homeowner contacted our office requesting a wasp nest removal. Upon arrival, I immediately saw that these were bald faced hornets, a close relative of yellow jackets. These wasps are relatively easy wasps to identify because of their distinctive coloration — black with ivory markings on their faces and abdomens. Unlike yellow jackets, which are ground-nesters, bald faced hornets are aerial wasps that usually build their nests a few feet off the ground, usually in protected locations like under eaves or hidden away in come corner. Made from a mixture of chewed wood and their saliva, their grey spherical paper nests can grow to impressive dimensions especially by the time we reach late summer/ early fall, growing as large as 14 inches in diameter and more than 24 inches in length. Like yellow jackets, these wasps are territorial, aggressive and won’t hesitate to sting if they perceive that their nest is being threatened. Any loud noises or sunken movements can get them riled up and trigger a swarm of wasps that can deliver multiple, painful hornet stings extremely quickly.
This homeowner was quite concerned about the potential manager of an active wasp nest on his property. He not only had his own little boys, but the Point Pleasant school is just a couple of blocks away and many students and school staff walk by his property on a daily basis. He did not want to risk of anyone being stung.
I proceeded to treat the nest, which was located between the soffit and the chimney. To quickly knock down the population I used a foaming-action residual solution that I sprayed directly into the nest opening and around the surrounding area. It not only kills any wasps on contact, but it is a residual, meaning that it stays active and does not dissipate. This way, it will also kill any foraging wasps returning to the area of the nest, preventing them from attempting to rebuild the nest anywhere in the same general area.
After waiting until there was minimal wasp activity, I removed the nest and bagged it so I could take it with me off the property. After the nest was removed, I applied a dust that will also eliminate any wasps returning to the area. With the wasp nest gone and the colony eliminated, the homeowner will not have to worry about his family or any schoolchildren being stung. I was glad to help out and remove a potently dangerous stinging insect infestation.
A homeowner in Jackson, NJ, a long-time customer of Cowleys, recently contacted us. She was fairly distraught because there was an out-of-control mice infestation in her kitchen. Mice were running around the kitchen cabinets and counters, leaving their tell-tale droppings everywhere. Once temperatures start to drop in the fall, we start to get more calls for mouse infestations. These rodents “overwinter,” that is, they seek out locations for warmth and shelter so that they are not directly exposed to the harsh outdoor elements. Mice do not have the fat reserves or the ability to hibernate like other animal. There very survival depends on finding a warm location over the winter where they have access to food and water. And our homes are an easy choice. We offer them everything they want, and usually it’s not too difficult for them to gain entry through gaps or cracks around the foundation. Mice only need an opening about the size of a dime to squeeze through.
Some feel that mice are harmless and we should just let them be. However, a mouse infestation is serious health hazard. Mice inevitably find they way to the kitchen because that’s where the food is. They can chew through cereal boxes and other cardboard containers contaminating food. Mice can also carry ticks and fleas into the home. Finally, their droppings can contain many dangerous pathogens that transmit serious, even life-threatening, diseases to people including hantavirus and histoplasmosis. When mice droppings dry out, microscopic airborne particles can be released in the air and inhaled by the home’s occupants. You do not even need to directly touch the rodents urine or droppings to get sick.
Upon arrival, I started my inspection. With a mouse infestation, the most important part of the inspection is to identify any actual or potential entry points. To do this properly, the technician must be systematic and thorough. Mice usually enter through gaps or cracks around the foundation to enter the attic and crawl space, and then travel through wall voids throughout the home. Often, like with this infestation, they forage for food in the kitchen. Here, I located large openings under the kitchen sink where the water supply was entering the cabinet from underneath. These pipes were coming in through the basement and was the likely route used by the mice between the basement and the kitchen.
I sealed these gaps around the pipes with a copper, chew-proof mesh material. It is liable and easy to form a complete seal around the pipes. After blocking their kitchen access, I set up a bait station for any mice that may still be around. I’ll return in two weeks for a follow-up to reinspect and see if there is still active rodent activity. During these follow-ups, I replace any depleted bait and take whatever additional steps are necessary until the infestation is resolved. Homeowners cannot tolerate overwintering mice in their homes. The health risk to family members is simply too great.
Recently, I went on a service call in Manchester Township, NJ for a homeowner who contacted Cowleys after his daughter spotted hornets outside her second story window. I arrived and began a thorough inspection of the entire property. Within minutes, I found the hornets' nest. I also noticed a few hornets circling around the nest. Upon a closer examination of the nest, I was able to identify these stinging-insects as bald-faced hornets.
The bald-faced hornet is a relative of the yellowjacket and gets its name from its largely black color and mostly white face. This stinging insect is named a hornet because of its large size and aerial nest. A bald-faced hornet infestation is clearly visible with the presence of a nest, which would be suspended above the ground. There will also be worker bald-faced hornets flying around the nest and nearby area if there is an infestation. They are EXTREMELY aggressive and will not hesitate to sting anything that invades their space.
First, using my extension pole, I applied a direct contact solution to the nest and then safely removed it. Then, to prevent the bald-faced hornets from rebuilding their nest, I applied a liquid residual along the soffit area. This residual is undetectable to the hornets and once they come in contact with it, they’ll be eliminated. Now, the homeowner's daughter does not need to live in fear of the hornets that were hovering around her bedroom window.
A frustrated homeowner in Toms River, NJ was having a real problem with raccoons getting into his attic. I’m sure you’re asking, how did the homeowner know he had raccoons and why was he so upset? One afternoon, the homeowners neighbor saw a raccoon going through back yards on the block, climb up on the homeowners brand new gable vent and then ripped it apart.
A common misconception is that if you see a raccoon during the day, it’s rabid. This is not the case. Raccoons are nocturnal, but there are a number of potential explanations that would debunk this myth. For example, the raccoon could have been discovered by a homeowner when they went into their attic and spooked the raccoon, which left to find a safer location where it won’t be disturbed. Another example is that a trapped raccoon may have been just been released in the middle of the day and needs to seek shelter.
After thoroughly inspecting the attic, I found evidence that there was a raccoon in the attic. In order to humanely catch the raccoon, I set up a one-way exclusion device over the gable vent. A one-way exclusion device is designed to allow a raccoon to safely exit the property and prevent it from getting back in. I placed a strip of metallic tape on the end of the one-way device to monitor the raccoon activity. If the tape is disturbed, we replace the tape and keep replacing it until it remains unbroken for a few days.
This is how we ensure that the animals are out and we can seal up the access point knowing that we aren’t trapping the animal inside the house. Raccoons get what we call trap shy. If a raccoon has been trapped before, it will remember the experience and won’t go into the trap, regardless of how well the trap is baited. Once the raccoon is safely caught, our contracting team will come out and repair the gable vent.
An office manager in Brick, NJ contacted Cowleys complaining of birds noises in the attic of his building. Once I arrived and inspected the exterior of the building I found a wide opening on the roof. As I got closer I could hear the sounds of birds chirping and saw nesting "debris" protruding out from the opening.
Birds invading a home is a serious health risk. First, birds will bring a huge amount of debris to their intended nesting area that can carry parasites such as lice, ticks, and fleas. Additionally, if there are birds, naturally, there will be bird droppings. This is not only an unsightly mess that can be difficult to remove, but it also harbors diseases such as histoplasmosis and encephalitis.
First, I needed to safely remove the birds from the attic before cleaning. To do this I set-up a one-way exclusion cone, which is a device that will allow a bird to safely exit the attic but, due to the design, prevent the bird from returning. I set-up a night vision camera to monitor the bird activity and make sure that all the birds were gone. After a short while, I returned to the office building, fully inspected the attic, and found no more bird activity.
Next, I carefully removed the nest and then sanitized and deodorized the opening and the attic with a solution that targets bird mites. Bird mites are parasites that feed on blood. When birds leave their nests, the mites are left behind without a suitable host for their next blood meal. If disturbed while removing they will make their way into a building and once inside they will take over, climbing all over the walls, and ceilings.
After removing all remnants of bird activity I then sealed up the opening with plywood to prevent any additional bird infestations. The office manager was pleased that not only did I remove the birds from the attic, but sealed up the opening as well.
I went out on a service call for a homeowner in Brick, NJ who was having an issue with camel crickets in their crawl space. Camel crickets received their name from their humpbacked appearance, which is similar to that of a camel. They’re commonly known as cave crickets or sprickets and are found in caves, damp, cool areas underneath wet leaves, stones and rotting logs. Camel crickets use their long legs to leap in the air when they are frightened to scare off predators.
When I began inspecting the crawl space I found an abundance of camel crickets all of the block walls. I took care of the problem by applying both a liquid application and granular bait treatment in the crawl space. I also sprayed the block wall and sill plate to stop the crickets from entering the home through any small gaps around the wire and pipe chases, and I placed more granular bait around the base of the foundation wall.
After I finished treating the crawl space I explained to the homeowner what I found, how I treated the infestation, and, that in a couple of days, the cave crickets will be eliminated. The homeowner was relieved that his home will be free of these nightmare-inducing pests.