Tips and tidbits about insects that invade homes this time of year
Sources: Jeff Whitworth, an entomologist at Kansas State University, and Pete Haley, owner of Haley Pest Control in Lawrence.
More advice on pest control
¢ There are some biological pesticides and home remedies, but they are not as effective as chemical pesticides. Jeff Whitworth, an entomologist at K-State, said while some people believe home remedies work, "there's no hard research data to show that stuff really works." The best home remedy is sanitation.
¢ All insects can grow in numbers inside the home. Pete Haley, owner of a Lawrence pest control business, has seen hundreds to thousands of termites, Asian Lady Beetles and ants. Every pest problem is like a new puzzle waiting to be solved, he said. "There's no easy solution."
¢ Here are Haley's basic costs for getting rid of pests: Ants and Asian lady beetles, $100; termites, $800 to $1,500; spiders, $150 to $200. Of course, the costs vary depending on the structures, amount of pests and amount of labor required.
Finally, spring has arrived. It's a great time to throw a barbecue for family and friends and enjoy the outdoors.
And then, there are the uninvited houseguests: bugs.
Not only are they inviting themselves, but all of their friends as well. They seem to be having a party of their own.
"When it starts warming up, all of those insects become active and start looking for food or mates or whatever their interest might be," said Jeff Whitworth, a specialist in entomology at Kansas State University.
Particularly bad this time of year are ants, Multicolored Asian Lady Beetles and termites.
¢ Ants are looking for food, especially after such a long, cold winter. There's not much out there for them to feast on.
¢ Asian lady beetles have hibernated over the winter in cracks and crevasses of the house and are now looking for the outdoors.
¢ Termites are swarming or leaving their established colonies to form new ones.
Their activity is driving many households buggy, and Pete Haley is hearing about it. He owns Lawrence-based Haley Pest Control and the phone began ringing this week. He's fielded calls about all sorts of insects, including termites, Asian lady beetles, silverfish, roaches and ants.
"We've had tons of calls on ants," he said. "They are real hungry because they just survived winter. They are trying to find food sources, and there's not enough stuff."
Among his customers this week were Scott Bush and his wife, Cady, who were finding about 20 ants on the kitchen countertop, mainly when food was left out. They had noticed some ant trails from the door and a few ants in the bathroom sink. They tried ant sprays, but the tiny creatures kept crawling back.
"When my wife noticed they were on the dishes, that's when she said, 'We need to get something done,'" Scott Bush said.
So, when should homeowners call for an expert? Haley laughed. There's no simple answer.
"It's whatever the tolerance level is," he said. Some people freak out over one or two ants while some can handle hundreds.
He said the Bushes represented the average ant customer. To eliminate their ant problem, Haley's employee, Vanja Mehmedovic, sprayed an insecticide around the inside and outside of their home. While Mehmedovic was spraying, Haley inspected the home and found damage from termites on the wall above the shower. There were tiny holes and brown spots where the termites had brought dirt.
While Scott Bush wasn't happy to hear about the termites, he would rather know sooner than later.
"We are looking to sell our house in the next year. It's good to find out so we can get the repairs done that we need to do," he said.
The ants were an easy problem. The spray should take care of them, and if not, Haley will come back and spray again. The cost was about $100. But the termites are a pricey problem. Haley said he would need to treat areas around the plumbing that wouldn't be easy to get to. He also would need to drill a hole in the wall where the termite damage was. He said the cost to exterminate termites can range from $800 to $1,500.
While termites can be costly to get rid of, it's best to pay for a professional, said Whitworth, of K-State's entomology department.
As for ants, he advises spraying them with a chemical treatment and keeping the house clean.
"I tell everybody ants are just actually helping us keep clean. They are just there to pick up the crumbs that we miss when we clean our house," he said.
Whitworth said a general insecticide can be used to kill Asian lady bugs, but "if you can use a vacuum and let them loose, that's best."
The beetles are beneficial because they eat aphids, a plant pest. But, they do bite.
"They can take a little nip out of you, and you can feel it," Whitworth said. "I don't know if I would say it hurts, but it's definitely a nuisance."
Sheila Reynolds knows all too well. The Douglas County master gardener said she has hundreds in her country home.
"Some of them I catch and put outdoors if I am in a good mood," she said laughing. "When you have that many, the vacuum is the best way to get rid of them.
"They really, truly, are a pest."
At least she hasn't been bitten by the bug.