Please read through the following list of most common
consumer questions about pests and how to manage them. Just click on
the question below and you'll find answers to your questions.


· How can I tell if I have a termite infestation and what are the signs of damage associated with termites?
· Can you tell me which method of termite control - bait treatment, soil treatment or wood treatment - is most effective?
· What can I do to make my home less susceptible to termites?
· Can termites be controlled without using pesticides?
· Can you recommend any products I can use or any procedures that I can follow to get termites out of home?
· How long does a typical subterranean termite treatment, applied by a professional, maintain its effectiveness?
· How long does it take to get rid of termites and what sort of warranty is usually given after a termite treatment is performed?

General Pests:

· What are the most common household pests and what steps can I take to help keep my home pest-free?
· What are the best sources for information about common household pests?
· What is the difference between ants and termites?
· Is there anything that I can do to keep cockroaches from returning after a professional treatment has been applied?
· What can I do to keep ants out of my home?
· Is there anything I can do to keep mosquitoes out of my home and reduce their populations outside?
· What can I do to control pesky fruit flies?
· What's the best way to get rid of mice without using pesticides or poisons and how can I keep the mice out of my house?
· Is there anything I can do to get rid of silverfish and keep them out of my house?
· What can I do to remove ladybugs from my home?
· Are there bees that are harmful to wood?
· How do I keep wasps from nesting near my home?
· I've found small moths in my closet - What are they and how do I get rid of them?
· I've found moths in my pantry flying around the food. Are these insects dangerous and how do I get rid of them?
· How can I be sure that the pesticides being used in either over-the-counter products or by professionals are safe for my home and family?
· Are there any safe and effective alternatives to spraying pesticides?
· What is integrated pest management?
· Why should I hire a pest management professional?
· How do I find out what pest management firms operate in my area and what criteria should I use to select the best company for my needs?



I suspect that my home may have termites. How can I tell if I have a termite infestation and what are the signs of damage associated with termites?

Termites feed on cellulose in wood and paper products such as books, cardboard, and various other items. Termite damage in homes is usually not obvious until significant damage has occurred. Sometimes homeowners first notice termites when they swarm. Swarmers are "winged reproductives" that leave the colony in a swarm to mate, reproduce, and start new colonies. Yet, it's the worker termites - small, creamy white insects that are seldom seen -- that are the most numerous and the cause most of all the termite damage. There are many species of termites that can infest homes under a variety of conditions.

Subterranean termites, the most common type, build nests in the ground and often construct mud tubes on structures. They use the mud tubes as passageways to explore for food and travel to and from the soil. If you suspect that you have a termite infestation, you should have your home thoroughly inspected by a termite specialist. Professional termite inspectors are trained to locate specific areas in your home where a termite attack is most likely to occur. If termites are found, the specialist can design a treatment plan to control current infestations and to protect your home from future infestations.

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Help! My house is infested with termites. I've had three pest companies visit and now I'm confused. One suggested a bait treatment; one suggested soil treatment, and yet another suggested wood treatment. Can you tell me which method is most effective?

There are many treatment options available for subterranean termite control. Bait, soil treatments, and wood treatments are all methods used, alone or in combination, to control termites in many different situations. · Most soil treatments are applied directly to the soil around the perimeter of your home. These treatments set up a continuous treated area that will control termites that come into contact with the treatment. · Bait systems perform well but require more time to work. Termites must find and accept the bait then share it with other members of the colony · Wood treatments, often done as a preventive treatment, are applied directly to wood that is infested or could potentially be infested. Termites avoid the treated wood and those that feed on treated wood die. The best treatment for your home will depend on many factors that are unique to your home and termite problem. All three methods are effective if applied correctly.

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I don't have a termite problem in my house now and I want to make sure I don't get one in the future. What can I do to make my home less susceptible to termites?

There are several things you can do to help make your home less susceptible to termites: · Look for excessive moisture in and around your home especially in basements and crawl spaces. Termites require moisture to successfully live and breed in structures. Reducing moisture problems in and around your home will decrease the likelihood of termite attack. Repair leaking pipes, water lines and fixtures that may wet any wooden parts of your home. · Stack firewood, lumber and other wooden items several feet away from your home and plant flowerbeds and other frequently watered ornamentals as far away from the perimeter of your house as possible. · Ideally, wood-containing mulches should be placed at least one foot away from the foundation of your home. Wood used in decks and porches should be pressure treated. · Outdoor lights with white bulbs may attract night swarming termites, especially in the spring. Try replacing white bulbs with yellow or pale amber.

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Can termites be controlled without using pesticides?

Most active termite infestations require some type of chemical treatment. Reducing conducive conditions (such as repairing moisture and ventilation problems) will help reduce infestations of some termite populations, but these changes will not provide control. To eliminate the egg-laying queen and other reproductives, termiticides are used that contain slow acting poisons or growth regulators. These chemicals are carried in food that is eaten by termite workers and later fed to the queen and other members of their colony. To completely eliminate a colony, the queen and all other reproductives must be eliminated or sterilized. Non-chemical treatments, such as heat, cold, fungal pathogens, or microwaves treatments, have been developed to successfully treat dry wood termites. Because there are many types of termites that infest structures, you should consult a professional pest management firm that can tell you what type of termites you have and advise you on appropriate treatment options.

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I have found termites in the basement of my house and would like to try to get rid of them myself. Can you recommend any products I can use or any procedures that I can follow to get these bugs out of my home?

To handle your own termite problem you must first know the type of termites you have in your home. After considering the type of home you have and any additional structural features inside and outside of your home, you must determine what type of control is needed and what conducive conditions must be corrected. Today a wide variety of over-the-counter termite control products are available. There are chemical and biological treatments that contain stomach poisons, growth regulators, and quick-kill formulations. However, while it's easy to find and purchase these treatments, knowing how to use them effectively and safely is not quite as easy. All homes and properties are unique. Homes are constructed out of a variety of materials and the land that these homes are built on may have different soil types, slopes, and water drainage systems.

Without adequate training to correctly identify the type of termites you have and the extent of the infestation, as well as knowledge on how to eliminate favorable conditions and select correct treatment options, trying to do the job yourself may be a costly mistake. Professional termite inspectors are experienced in determining the type of termite problem you have and are knowledgeable about the best treatment strategy to get rid of the termites in your home. If treatments are mixed, applied, and monitored incorrectly, you will not have controlled your termite problem and may have compromised your own and your family's environment and safety.

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How long does a typical subterranean termite treatment, applied by a professional pest management company, maintain its effectiveness?

There are many factors that can affect the longevity of the various termite treatments applied today including the type of treatment performed, environmental conditions, type and pH of your soil, or physical disruption of the treatment site. Ideally, treatments can last for several years. Some treatments and infested areas must be monitored regularly to make sure active infestations are being effectively controlled. Soil and wood treatments may be disrupted if the treated soil or wood has been displaced through construction, gardening or otherwise. In this case, these areas may need to be retreated.

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The termite company wants us to sign a contract to continue termite treatments. How long does it take to get rid of termites? And what sort of warranty (if any) is usually given after a termite treatment is performed?

Depending on the situation it can take a few hours to several years to control a termite problem. The construction of your home, the area and extent of infestation, the species of termite infesting your home as well as the treatment method you select, are some of the factors that have an affect on how quickly termites can be eliminated from your home. If more than one colony exists in any given area, or if you live in an area where well-established colonies exist, it can take more time to gain adequate control.

There is no typical warranty in the pest management industry for termite treatments. Warranties tend to vary site to site and can depend on the extent of your home's termite infestation and the type of treatment performed. Whatever treatment or maintenance contract that you choose, make sure that you get any warranties and other guarantees in writing and stay updated on any termite problems and activity on your property. Also be sure to ask for a complete explanation of the terms of any warranty and read all documents carefully before you sign them.

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What are the most common household pests and what steps can I take to help keep my home pest-free?

Common household pests include insects such as ants, cockroaches, termites, flies, pantry pests and wasps as well as urban wildlife such as rodents, raccoons, bats, and birds. Remember, most pests need food, water and a place to live. Eliminating any one of those elements will help significantly in controlling the pest. With that in mind, there are a number of steps homeowners can take to help keep their homes pest free:
· Clean regularly and reduce clutter inside and outside of your home.
· Keep foods such as flour, cereal, spaghetti and pet food in re-sealable containers with tight lids.
· Keep kitchens, dining rooms and other areas where food is eaten clean and free of crumbs.
· Sweep and vacuum often (especially in eating areas) to help eliminate food sources for some pests.
· Keep garbage areas clean and store garbage in sealed containers that are picked up regularly.
· Seal cracks, crevices, and other gaps especially around doors and windows. · Make sure all windows and doors are screened and fit the screens snuggly in their frames.
· Many pests need moisture to successfully live and reproduce inside your home, so limit their access to water or moisture sources by sealing any cracks and leaks in pipes and faucets.
· Outside your home, keep trees, shrubs and flowerbeds well maintained and avoid having them touch the house.
· Store firewood away from the house and at least 5 inches off the ground.
· Clean gutters regularly and direct water from downspouts and drains away from your home.
· Seal any gaps where utility wires or pipes come into your home.
· Make sure that basements and attics are well ventilated.

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What are the best sources of information about common household pests?

On NPMA's website you can find excellent information about common household pests. After going into the consumer website, under Help I've Got a Pest Problem, click on the bug and go to technical excerpts from NPMA's Field Guide to Structural Pests. You can also find information about common household pests in your area from your local cooperative extension office. The Internet is a great place to find information about common pests, however, the information is not always correct. Another good source for information are colleges and universities with entomology departments (entomology is the study of insects).

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Every now and then I see what appears to be winged black ants all over my living room floor. I assumed I had termites but a friend of mine said that carpenter ants look very similar. What is the difference between ants and termites?

Ants typically have elbowed antennae and the midsections of their bodies have "pinched waists." Termites have antennae that are not elbowed and the middles of their bodies are thicker and not thin or narrow. If wings are present, the front and back wings of ants will vary in shape and size, while the front and back wings in termites are very similar in shape and size.

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The apartment building where I live is infested with cockroaches. A pest company comes and treats our kitchen and bathrooms only if we request it, but even with treatment, the cockroaches are still there and they can get really bad about two or three times a year. After the pest management company has treated our apartment, is there anything that I can do to keep the insects from returning?

Controlling cockroaches in apartment buildings can be difficult, but not impossible. To be effective, though, all residents need to work together to curtail any infestations. Here are a few things you can do in your apartment to minimize the number of critter visits.
· Use sticky traps (you can get them at a home hardware store or the pest management firm that treated your apartment maybe able to supply them). Place the traps in areas where you have seen roaches. Sticky traps can help pest management professionals identify what type of insects are present in your living space, locations of current pest infestations, and may indicate how certain insects are gaining access to your apartment.
· Use caulk or other sealants to seal up cracks and crevices around areas such as wall joints, where pipes connect to walls, or around the bottom of your toilet.
· If any faucets are leaking, get them fixed as soon as possible.
· Cover voids in cabinets or under sinks with duct tape. Make sure that you do not cover any vents.
· Do not let dishes sit for long periods of time in the sink or dishwasher, and frequently vacuum and sweep areas where food is consumed.
· Consider hosting meetings among residents to talk about the cockroach situation.
The pest management firm employed by the apartment building or a local cooperative extension office should be able to provide you with more helpful information on how to reduce cockroach infestations in your living situation.

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Around springtime each year, I find ants in my home, especially in the kitchen. I have used a spray that I buy at the grocery store, but it's only good for about a week. The ants just keep coming back. What can I do to keep the ants from returning?

Spraying many over-the-counter pesticides will only kill ants present at the time you sprayed. Most ants live in colonies and only a small fraction of them leave the colony at any one time to search for and bring back food. If the main colony is not found, eliminated or prevented from gaining access to you home, the ants are likely to return again and again. There are many types of ants that regularly invade homes and other structures and accurately identifying them is often necessary for successful control. A pest management professional can locate where the ants may be coming in or nesting, identify infesting species, monitor their activity, and apply treatment if necessary.

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I have so many mosquitoes outside of my house that I no longer like doing anything outdoors. The mosquitoes often get inside as well. Is there anything I can do to keep them out of my home and reduce their populations outside?

Mosquitoes are likely getting into your home through open doors and windows. Make sure that any windows and doors are screened and that the screens fit well, with no holes or gaps in or around them. Reducing mosquito populations that may be breeding on your property may also reduce the likelihood of mosquitoes getting indoors. Make sure that your gutters are cleaned regularly and are not collecting water. Also, make sure containers like flowerpots, old tires, birdbaths etc. are not holding standing water where mosquitoes can breed. Different types of mosquitoes have unique behaviors and can be active at different times of the day. Check and see if there is a mosquito control agency or prevention program in your area. Often these agencies have information on the types of mosquitoes that are or might be breeding in your areas. They can tell you what you can do to avoid being bitten and give you additional advice on how to prevent these mosquitoes from breeding on your property.

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I have a problem with fruit flies in my kitchen. What can I do to control these pesky flies and how do I keep them from coming back?

Fruit flies are attracted to and breed in fermenting materials like ripening fruits and vegetables, beer and cider. They are also attracted to moisture and food that has accumulated in wet sponges, mops, and slimy areas around drains. Fruit flies often come in on infested fruits and vegetables and are small enough to get through regular window and door screens. Discard any overripe fruits and vegetables and place new produce in the refrigerator. Garbage should be kept in plastic bags and in containers that are kept closed. Discard old sponges and rags and keep drains, sinks, dishrags, and sponges clean by washing them with hot water and soap frequently.

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Help, I've found mice in my house! What's the best way to get rid of mice now without using pesticides or poisons and how can I keep them out?

Snap traps can be used with or without bait to capture mice. Place the traps in areas where you have seen mice, their droppings or near any suspect holes. Glue-type traps may also be used if you are comfortable using them. Look for small holes and openings near the ground, around the roof, and behind bushes on the outside of your home. Also, examine where wires, drains, and other utilities come into and out of your home. If you notice any openings, try to seal them up. Mice are very clever and can gnaw through a variety of tough materials. You may have to add fixtures like door sweeps, metal screen, or other sealants to keep them out. Inside, look for evidence of droppings, gnawing, and other chewing damage. You can also consult a pest management professional that has the expertise and tools for rodent monitoring and baiting. Just ask your pest management professional to install traps that use no poison. Keep in mind, enlisting the aid of a professional will likely save you both time and money.

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I've recently noticed annoying silverfish in my house. Is there anything I can do to get rid of them and keep them out of my home for good?

Silverfish are very difficult to control in most structures. Most silverfish feed on starches or mold and thrive in a moist, moderately warm environment, usually in attics, crawlspaces or basements. Try reducing the relative humidity in parts of your home where you are seeing them to less than 60% or 50% for a long period of time (maybe a month or so). Vacuums can be used to remove live silverfish, but only if you're quick enough to catch them. Very small amounts of inorganic dusts placed into cracks or crevices by a trained pest management professional are also effective in controlling silverfish. A professional will then seal off dust-treated cracks and crevices.

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At various times of the year, ladybugs seem to invade the inside and outside of my house. I know ladybugs are considered beneficial outside, but can anything be done to remove them from my home permanently?

The best time to take preventive measures is during the summer when most over-wintering lady beetles should have left your home. Try to seal up as many cracks and crevices inside and outside of your home as you can. Place weather stripping around doors and windows and place door sweeps on doors, if necessary. Vacuum as many of the beetle up as you can. The most successful treatments are applied on the outside of your home in the fall when the beetles begin to congregate on the sunny side of the house. Pest management firms are familiar with the Asian lady beetle problem and can treat your property when necessary.

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I often see what I thought were bumblebees hovering around my deck. My daughter says they are chewing on our wood deck. Can you tell me if any bees are harmful to wood?

Most likely these bees are not bumblebees but carpenter bees. Carpenter bees are large bees that have a slight metallic sheen and shiny, relatively hairless and smooth abdomens as opposed to bumblebees that have hairy abdomens. In spring, female carpenter bees prefer to burrow and lay their eggs in exposed, typically unfinished wood on buildings, decks, and fence posts but they will also burrow into painted and stained woods as well. Large numbers of the carpenter bees can cause significant damage to decks, posts and other wooden structures. If you believe that you have carpenter bees consult with a pest management professional. They can successfully treat your carpenter bee problem and tell you how to protect your deck against further infestations.

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How do I keep wasps from nesting near my home? I am worried about my children's safety.

In early spring, most social wasps come out of hibernation and look for ideal places to start their nests. They will be less likely to nest on your property if you make it less attractive to them. Make sure that garbage placed outside is kept in clean, tightly sealed containers. If you have fruit trees in your yard, consider removing them or regularly removing fruits that have fallen and begun to rot on the ground. Keep screens tightly secured on windows and doors and make sure that they do not have gaps or openings in them. It is a good idea to hire a pest management firm to remove any old nests and check for wasp activity. They can monitor and prevent wasps from successfully constructing new nests on your home. A pest manager will also be able to advise you on other changes that may be needed to reduce wasp activity on your property.

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I continually find small moths in my closet and I've recently noticed holes in some of my sweaters. What are they and how can I get rid of them?

It sounds like you may have a clothes moth infestation. In order to get rid of them you will have to try to locate the source of the infestation. Infestations can come from floor and ceiling crevices and any hair based accumulations under floors and behind baseboards. Infestations can also come in on many different types of garments, upholstery, and other fabrics and padding. Vacuum thoroughly (get rid of the bag after every use) and clean your rugs and garments. Dry cleaning or washing garments in hot water and detergent should kill most fabric infesting insects. Consider separating seasonal clothing such as sweater and coats when not in regular use or those that are more susceptible to infestation such as furs and woolens and place them into plastic bags or boxes, cedar chests, metal cans, or similar containers. You can add a few moth flakes, mothballs, or cedar balls to each container to help keep moths out in the future. Again, consulting with a pest management professional may be a good idea. They can identify the type of moths you have and advise you on monitoring and treatment, and offer tips on how to avoid future infestations.

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I recently opened my pantry door and found moths flying around the food. Are these insects dangerous and what can I do to get rid of them?

There are several moths that are considered pantry pests. The moths are not dangerous but are a nuisance especially when they breed and their larvae infest various foods such as cereal, flour, and grains. Larvae will feed on food in protected areas and then move away from the food to pupate or rest until emerging in their adult forms as moths. The best way to eliminate an infestation is to thoroughly clean the infested area. Seal infested food in plastic bags and discard it in the trash. Seal similar food items in clear plastic bags as well, especially if they had been stored near any infested products for very long. Vacuum all cracks where grains might have spilled. A pest management professional can accurately identify the type of moth in your pantry and prescribe a treatment that is tailored to meet your specific needs.

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How can I be sure that the pesticides being used in either over-the-counter products or by professionals are safe for my home and family?

Pesticides (which include disinfectants and other household cleaners as well) are intended to be safe to consumers and the pest professionals that use them. Before being approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for a specified use against a target pest, pesticides must undergo stringent controlled tests and studies. After approval, pesticides are subject to strict laws, regulations and controls to ensure that they are used correctly and according to approved labels. In addition, pest management professionals are required to attend pesticide safety and applicator certification at least every two years in most states. All legally registered pesticides that are approved by EPA have a registration number on their label which also contains detailed instructions to ensure that when a pesticide is used according to these instructions it will not harm you, your family or your home. Since any substance can be harmful if used incorrectly, before using an over-the-counter pesticide, read the entire label and follow all instructions.

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Are there any safe and effective alternatives to spraying pesticides?

There are several effective alternatives to spraying pesticides. All pests require access to water, food and shelter to successfully survive. If most of these factors are eliminated, there may be no need to use a pesticide. Pest management professionals can offer valuable information and advice to homeowners to solve their pest problems and to minimize the likelihood of an infestation returning. Once pests are correctly identified, pest managers will advise you on the steps to eliminate them. They can work with you to reduce the chance of any future infestations and suggest ways to keep pests from successfully surviving inside or outside of your home.

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What is Integrated Pest Management?

Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, is a broad approach to pest management that focuses on addressing the reason that the pest problem exists rather than on just the pest itself. IPM accomplishes this by eliminating the three things pests need to survive: food, water and shelter. There are five common steps involved in practicing IPM. They include inspection, pest identification, the establishment of pest tolerance levels, implementation of an effective control strategy (such as caulking cracks in sidewalks or walls, moving dumpsters away from buildings and appropriate pesticide applications), and an evaluation of effectiveness. To be acceptable, the pest management measures must be both environmentally compatible and economically feasible. The New Jersey Pest Management Association and its members support and advocate the use of IPM.

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How do I find out what pest management firms operate in my area and what criteria should I use to select the best company for my needs?

To find pest management firms that operate in your area, look for Getting Rid of Pests under the main consumer page. There you will be able to search NPMA's Pest Management Company Membership listing. NPMA also provides a locator service that consumers can use. When you fill out the profile on your location, home type, pest problem, etc., that information is provided directly to NPMA members in your area who will then contact you about the services that they provide. NPMA also offers tips and other suggestions for choosing the pest management firm that is best for you under Guidelines for Selecting a Pest Management Firm.

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Why should I hire a pest management professional?

Professional pest managers are specialists that are educated, trained, and certified to handle pest management issues. Qualified pest management professionals have the necessary experience and tools to provide protection against irritating and destructive pests. Modern pest managers practice integrated pest management (IPM) where they first identify and monitor the offending pest and then design an effective program to control, manage or eliminate the pests from your home while protecting the safety of you, your family and your pets.

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Information about Pests ©2002 - NPMA All rights reserved.
National Pest Management Association Inc.,
8100 Oak Street, Dunn Loring, VA 22027
(703) 573-8330, (703) 573-4116 Fax


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