Bugs – By Mark Govan, Host “Florida Gardening”

I have been hearing a lot of comments from homeowners seeing occasional invaders entering their homes. Occasional invaders include earwigs, millipedes, and ants. There are many theories as to why these occasional invaders enter our homes at certain times of year such as migrations, overpopulation within the insect colonies, and seeking out food sources. While each of these answers may play some part in the movement of insects, I believe this invasion can be timed to the summertime heat and rainfall we have been having. This article will help you understand the basic concepts of a proper pest management solution to these occasional invaders and what can you do to control these infestations? I will also give you a few simple steps you can use to help minimize the impact these insects will have on your home and landscape.   

            Normally, occasional invaders live in the mulched areas outside the home and homeowners rarely see them. When insects are outside the home they go about their business feeding on organic debris, honeydew, and other insects. However, once our temperatures start to consistently remain in the nineties, and the humidity is high, we start getting those daily rain showers. Some of these rain showers cause an acumination of water around the foundation of our homes. As the water collects or as the downpours continue, the ground can not drain the water off fast enough and the gathering water makes your mulch start to float. When insects that make the mulch their home sense the water intruding their living areas they immediately start to relocate their colonies above the water level. Unfortunately for many of us this means inside our homes. 

            Trying to keep these pests out of our homes does require a little work but this work will be rewarded with hopefully a pest free home. Start by raking back your mulch from around your plants into small piles. Try to expose as much of the soil as possible. Once you have exposed the soil you will need to apply a product called granular Talstar to the soil. I like to use a hand held fertilizer spreader to evenly apply this product to the soil surface. Please do not worry if you can not pull all the mulch away from your garden plants because as long as you can get a good majority of the mulch removed you will still have good control on the insects using Talstar.

            Talstar is an insecticide which will kill a multitude of occasional invaders and by placing this product under the mulch you will kill these insects where they live versus where you live. This will be your first line of defense in keeping these pests from entering your homes. After you apply the Talstar to the soil all you will need to do is to spread out the mulch you had raked into piles back around your plants then water the Talstar in. Once the water touches the Talstar, the active ingredient, bifenthrin, will activate and start killing these insects where they live.

            Now, I know many of you will ask “why I should rake back all that mulch”, “I could easily just spread the material over the top of the mulch”. Well, you could but remember the bugs forage and live under the mulch and this is where it should be applied if you want better control. Also, when you disturb the insects’ harborage sites they become more active which again will give you better control of the problem. If you have had problems in the past or if you are experiencing problems with these pests now, then this is how the treatment should be done for homeowners. There are commercial products available which contain finely grained materials which penetrate the mulch but many of these products are too expensive for homeowners to purchase. Remember, you do not have to remove all the mulch but you need to remove as much as possible if you want to get the best control of these insects. The thicker your mulch is around your foundation the more likely you will have more of these insects.  

            For ant control outside the home be sure to remove the pathways ants use to gain access to the home. Branches which overhang the roof, or touch the home give ants runways which are used to enter the home. Plants grown on trellises next to the home are also key areas you should look to in preventing ant infestations. Inspect your plants regularly to determine if any insects are present. Aphids feed on your plants which then excrete honeydew, a sticky substance many ants feed upon. You may need to spray your plants with a liquid Talstar to kill these insects and eliminate the ants. Be sure to spray the trunks and branches of your plants because these are used as runways for ants. Before we start on the inside of your home you need to walk around of the structure to identify any entryways pests may be using to gain entry into the home. Openings in the soffits, water or electrical lines that penetrate the foundation, and cracks in the stucco may be used by these insects to gain entry into the home. These areas should be sealed with caulk to prevent access. Now that you have completed taking care of the perimeter of your home let us concentrate on what can be done for the inside of the home.

            Inspect all doors and windows to be sure you are getting a proper seal. As your home ages openings can appear around windows or doors where the caulk has come loose or the home has settled. Check each window separately and make note of the ones you must reseal. This may also help to reduce your air conditioning bill. Be sure to clean up any dead insects you find on your window sill as these tend to be food sources for other insects. Use a good quality silicone caulk or one recommended by the home improvement store which fits your specific needs. A lot of times when you start looking for pests you will find them and then you will be able to identify their entry points. If you find an entry point and seal this area you may eliminate your problem.

            If you already have pests such as earwigs and millipedes in your home and you just can not seem to find out how they are getting in look to the drains on your plumbing fixtures. Earwigs and millipedes have been found to enter homes through plumbing drains and then crawl out onto your floors. At my company, ABC Pest Control, I have found bathrooms which are not used often tend to dry out leaving an area of opportunity for these insects to enter homes. You should run a faucet or shower every few days to keep water in the plumbing “S” traps which will discourage these insects. Do not forget to check the overflow drains at the top of your sinks as these become breeding areas for insects.

            If necessary, you can always call in the professional pest control applicator to treat the homes interior as this will kill any scavengers remaining in the home. Be sure to check their credentials and professional affiliations such as the Florida Pest Management or National Pest Management associations to be sure you have a reputable company before you allow them to service your home.  

            With the few easy steps I have outlined above you should be on your way to a pest free home. Good luck and as always remember, without plants we would not be here.      

2 thoughts on “Bugs – By Mark Govan, Host “Florida Gardening”

  1. Marion Fletcher says:

    i have “dandruff” on the I indian hawthorne and confused which product to get as I have so many notes from Sundays listening.
    Please give me guidance. Appreciate your help.

    1. Mark Govan says:

      You need to apply Bifenthrin as a spray over the top of the plant. This will kill the scales and other insects attacking them. Occasionally, you may also need to apply a systemic fungicide which you can apply at the same time with the bifenthrin. The fungicide will get rid of the red spots you see regularly. Good Luck!

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