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It’s the morning of March 26 and there’s something weird happening outside my office. The wind is blowing, and when I walk outdoors my face gets hit by a strange kind of pain. How can I describe it? It feels like a million tiny knives are cutting me all over. I believe in some parts of the world they call the sensation “cold.” 

After a freakishly warm January and February, it was a bit of a shock to get some bitter cold days in March. I’ll bet all those early-blooming  daffodils were cussing out Mother Nature as they shivered away.

Anyway, spring is in the air and that means I’ll soon be in your neighborhood spraying oak trees for leaf rollers.

Leaf rollers are the fuzzy green worms that roll themselves up in young oak leaves, then munch away to their heart’s content. So, how do we Home Defenders protect your trees? We treat them with a safe product, lovingly coating the tender leaves with a gentle protective barrier that lasts until warm summer breezes beckon us to beaches, bikinis and barbecues. (Did I lay that on a little too thick?) 

Do you want your sheltering oaks treated this spring? Then call our office today, before those hungry worms take your shade away. I’ll personally come out, inspect your trees, and give you a free estimate.

If the cool March weather continues, I guess I’ll have to invest in an exotic garment foreign to us Southern Californians. I believe in some parts of the world they call it a “coat.”

I just hope it doesn’t cover my 70’s style hairy chest because all the foxy ladies love that. (Now that was laying it on too thick.)

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Señor Gopher says, “Ooh La La”

They say good things come in threes, but what about bad things? Better yet, what about mountain pests?  Here’s my list of the critters dominating mountain homes this past month:

Ants — No one ever thinks, “Gosh, ants sure are interesting.” Until, that is, a platoon of the beasties invades their bowl of fancy imported chocolates. Mind you, I don’t blame the ants. Those European chocolates filled with “creme de vanille” and “ganache” are oh so delicious. If you want to save your ganache, call us here at Home Defenders today.

Rodents — If you think ants love imported candy, you should see rats go bananas over those fancy French chocolates. And why not? The delectable Euro-treats are chock-full of nuts, sugar and butter—the three basic rat food groups. Yum, call me a rat any day.

Gophers Good news, everyone. Señor Gopher doesn’t eat chocolate. But he does eat the roots of roses, tomatoes, and other outdoor plants. And there’s more bad news. Even though March was colder than the Wicked Witch’s backside, we were still getting calls. Be ready for the coming tide of hungry gophers.

Yeah, I know, in the past I’ve portrayed gophers as adorable little rapscallions that drive gardeners crazy, but, after getting, uh, counseled by rose lovers, I promise not to make jokes about gophers any more. Roses are serious business!

Still, have you ever seen a gopher poking its furry little head out of its tunnel? Isn’t that the cutest thing you ever saw? Why, just the other day I saw a gopher with a single red rose in his mouth, no doubt heading for a rendezvous with a foxy lady gopher. Ah, spring is in the air.

Sorry rose lovers, I just couldn’t resist …

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“Now Mike,” the elegant lady said to me, “be sure and soak my ceiling with bug juice like you did last month.”

“Uh, OK Mrs. Smith, but, uh…it might stain the ceiling.”

“I don’t care! I hate cobwebs in my ceiling.”

As I soaked the chocolate brown open beam ceiling, pesticide dripped all over her fine furniture. But she’d watch with a big smile on her face, satisfied she was getting her money’s worth.

When I started in pest management in 1986, we didn’t have many effective weapons against spiders. In those days we mostly relied on an age-old technique known as, ahem, “soaking the home with smelly pesticides.”

After three months those dark beams were stained white. But spider webs kept appearing, so she complained to my boss. He went to the home and was shocked to see the ugly stains. When he got back to the office, he gave me what could be called a good, old-fashioned butt-chewing. From then on, I knocked down spiderwebs with a cobweb brush on an extension pole.

Nowadays, we have many effective products against spiders, and customers always get their money’s worth. Just a tiny amount in a few gallons of water will eliminate most spiders from a home. No ceiling soaking needed. Call today for your free evaluation.

Yes, folks, these are the good old days of pest management, and everyone wins. Customers win because they have fewer bugs with less chemical exposure. Pest techs win because they have safer products that really work. And lastly, we pest control company owners win because we no longer have to give out good, old-fashioned butt-chewings to our field techs.

A wry smile and snide comment works just fine.

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The spider was making tracks for the safety of my fridge, and I was in hot pursuit. With seconds to spare it ran underneath, and the chase ended in frustration. Darn spiders!

Does that sound familiar? It should, because it’s still cold outside and spiders are living the good life inside our warm homes.

Customers call and ask me, “Are the spiders in my home poisonous?” Actually, all spiders have venom but only a few have fangs long enough to penetrate human skin. Black widows have long fangs, and though they’re common on the mountain, few people freak out over them. Familiarity breeds indifference, I guess.

If you’re sick of seeing spiders running down the home stretch, we have great new products to get them out from your house. Call us for a free evaluation.

“But what about those Brown Recluse spiders?” a few always ask. Uh, how do I put this gently? That Brown Recluse bite scare in the Nineties—those sensational stories of people who’d had arms and legs and brains amputated—was pure media fabrication.

Sorry folks, Brown Recluse spiders don’t live in California. You’ll never see one. “But I saw a news report on TV!” a few holdouts still wearing baggy pants and Doc Martens insist. I can only reply, in my best Claude Rains impression, “I’m shocked, shocked that TV would steer you wrong!”

Oh, and there’s more news for anyone still stuck in the Nineties: Marky Mark the rapper is now Mark Wahlberg the actor and he makes like fifty million dollars per film, “Saved By The Bell” was canceled for insulting the intelligence of everybody in America. and modern guys wear pants so tight they look like they’re painted on.

I suppose that’s to keep those Brown Recluses from crawling up their legs.

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Wow, who knew ticks were such a riveting topic.

Last week, I wrote about my little brother having a tick removed from his ear, and almost everyone in our office had their own tick story to tell.

Standing near our office coffee pot, Nicole said, “My little sister had a tick in her ear too, and my parents used a lit incense stick to force it out.”

Alejandra said, “Last year, my dog Palomito was itching and scratching and we looked and found a tick on him.” She added, “Eww! Those things give me the creeps.”

Then Erika chimed in, “I just watched a reality TV show where one of the characters had a tick burrowed in where the sun don’t shine.”

When I called my Mom in the Midwest, where ticks are as thick as weeds, and asked her if she had any stories, she said. “Last year, we were on vacation at Kentucky Lake. My friend Peggy and I hiked in the woods, and a few days later we were itching like mad. The doctor told us that tiny ticks had burrowed under our skin. We had to undress, then they rubbed us down with castor oil to force the ticks out by cutting off their oxygen. I’m just glad we didn’t have to burn our clothes.”

Luckily, we don’t have those skin-burrowing ticks in California. But make no mistake, ticks do live here in the San Bernardino mountains, often in fenced yards with dogs. If you need a free estimate to treat your yard, call us today.

I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t revolted by the sight of a tick crawling northward up their leg. The only good tick is one that’s deep in the forest where nobody but nobody cares if the sun don’t shine.

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What bug on the mountain repulses you the most? Putting the question another way, what’s the one creature you don’t want crawling on your skin?

Returning from a hike and wearing shorts, I was sitting at my computer yesterday when I felt an itch on my leg. I looked down and saw a tiny bug. As I inspected more closely, I was appalled to see the bug I detest most: a tick.

I grew up in Illinois where ticks are as common as homegrown tomatoes. One weekend, at my grandparents house in the country, my little brother complained of ear pain. Grandma looked in his ear with a flashlight and, you guessed it, a tick had made a cozy home in there.

So did they take him to a doctor? Nope. My practical grandparents had their own solution. They lit one of those punk sticks used to light firecrackers and carefully put the smoldering end in his ear. I still remember the terrified look on my little brother’s face. Mercifully, the tick hightailed it out of there, Grandpa crushed it with a hammer, and the incident was over. I was horrified, and I’ve despised ticks ever since.

Ticks, eight-legged beasties, burrow into skin and suck blood. If you find ticks in your yard, don’t smash ‘em with a hammer, let us knock ‘em out with the bug busting power of science. Call us today for a free evaluation.

So, do I still fear getting a tick in my ear? Yes, but there’s another region of my anatomy I definitely don’t want invaded by a tick. I can just picture the nurse at the doctor’s office asking me, “What brings you in here today, Mr. Nolan?”

“Uh, well,  I found a tick nestled in my …”

God, I loathe ticks.

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When you were a kid, who got rid of pests at your home? Was it a cigar-chomping guy in coveralls blasting smelly chemicals from a spray rig that  blared like a 747 engine? Quite possibly. Well, at my home in the 1970’s, the “bug guy” hated cigars and wouldn’t have been caught dead in drab overalls. That bug guy was my mom.

And Mom was pretty good at zapping Mother Nature’s critters. She’d run down to Midland Farm Supply, buy a jug of chlordane, mix it up in a Hudson sprayer, treat the exterior perimeter of the house, then spray along the indoor baseboards. The stuff smelled like diesel fuel, but it kept the bugs at bay.

The Eighties came in with a legislative bang, and the EPA took chlordane off the shelves. Mom the bug guy was put out of business. From then on, she hired a pest professional to rid our home of ants and spiders.

Pest products have improved since those days, and with today’s rapid advances in technology, I’m wondering if futuristic, nanobot-based pesticides will soon hit the store shelves. Mom could be back in the game.

Hey reader, do you abhor bug guys blasting chemicals from an eardrum-busting 747 engine? So do we. Call us Home Defenders today and we’ll quietly get critters out of your home with nary a lingering odor. Thankfully, 1970’s pest control is as dead as those goofy bell bottoms I wore in high school.

So, am I concerned about highly effective nanobot pesticides getting in the hands of homeowners? Nah. It takes years of experience to read pesticide labels—then mix and properly apply those pesticides. Besides, ants and spiders are always outsmarting our scientists. When brainiacs zig, bugs zag.

Mother Nature is still the ultimate brainiac.

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There just had to be monsters in that black hole under our kitchen floor. Wouldn’t any sensible kid assume that?

These days, I’m a seasoned pest professional who’s inspected thousands of dark crawl spaces. But I still remember the first time I dared enter one. There was a hatch in our kitchen floor that led to an excavated storage area where my parents stored Christmas decorations and canned food. Mom called it the “root cellar.”

I was a preschooler and fascinated by the mystery of that door in the floor. I was sure there were monsters lurking down there, but maybe there was treasure, too. And I was dying to find out.

One day, Dad was in there and I begged him to lift me down. He reached up, grabbed me under the arms and set me down on the cold dirt floor. I looked around—no monsters popped out, that was a good start—but all I saw was my one mortal enemy in those days: pitch-black darkness. I cried out and Dad lifted me back into the kitchen. I never asked to go under there again.

Now I’m a pest professional and not afraid of crawl spaces anymore. But many homeowners find the dark underbelly of their house mysterious and scary. And well they should. It’s the realm of real-life monsters like rats, mice, skunks, raccoons, black widow spiders, termites, and carpenter ants. On my many travels under homes, I’ve seen the damage they can do, like destroyed insulation and damaged floor joists. If you need help rooting pests out of your root cellar, call us today for a free inspection. At Home Defenders, we ain’t afraid of no underbelly!

Hmm, I just realized something: I guess I did find treasure in crawl spaces after all.

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Jesse Adair was nervous and rightly so. Not only was he leaving our Catholic high school campus during school hours, he had a handful of cash and was going to buy contraband. The risk was great.

Twenty minutes later, he came sneaking in the back door, and no teacher was the wiser. He had white paper bags in hand and he dealt them out to a small gaggle of us gym class boys. I opened my bag and there it was—long, cylindrical, and rolled to perfection. It had an exotic name, one I’d never heard before. It was called a “burrito.”

I still remember the day the first ever Mexican restaurant opened in my hometown of Jacksonville, Illinois. Mexican cuisine exploded with color and spice and a big pinch of panache—and we teens went bananas. Heck, it even had salsa.

The exotic fare scared our parents and that only made it taste better. One day, feeling adventurous, my older brother, Dave, brought tacos home for supper. My dad eyeballed one suspiciously, then took his first bite. The taco gods surely watched in amusement as the crispy shell shattered into a dozen pieces. “So, do you like it, Dad?” my brother asked.  Dad’s verdict was short and sour. “I’m not a man who likes fighting his food.“

Just as Dad didn’t like fighting tacos, homeowners don’t like fighting pests. So, whatever’s making your world crumble—ants, spiders, rodents—call today and we’ll rush to your home like Jesse speeding to the taco shop. You can count on Home Defenders to deliver the goods.

Dad eventually came around and now enjoys Mexican food. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, Mom loved Mexican food from the get-go. After all, it had the one quality she’s always loved in a meal: somebody else made it.

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Psst! Hey reader…has summer gone yet? I don’t know, because I write these articles a week in advance. Heaven knows summer has a temper. If he’s still hanging around, please distract him while I sing the praises of his arch-rival winter.

Last week, I thanked summer for all he’s done for us, and reminded him it’s time to hit the road. I’m assuming he’s gone, so I’d like to personally welcome winter to our mountain.

Wow, winter, we really missed you. You’re the best season of all! Thanks for bringing us all that snow last year, and we’re hoping you plan to flex your muscles again this year. Without you our mountain would just shrivel up and die. The ski resorts sure love you. I hope they’ll leave you a little something extra in your Christmas stocking. By the way, what’s your favorite food? Oh, mangoes, huh. Who knew.

So, how’s your husband, Surly, and your dog, Furball? Oh, so Surly wants to play racquetball with me? Well, uh, the thing is…I pulled a hamstring and my doctor told me not to play until March or so. Geez, I’ll miss playing against ol’ Surly…maybe next year.

Hey, reader, do you think that pests just blow away with the winter storms? Well, I’m here to say, “Oh, no they don’t!” Rats and mice will cozy up and raise their young’uns in your toasty warm home. So, when pests run in from the cold, call Home Defenders today for your free evaluation.

So welcome back, madame winter. Snuggle up and make yourself at home on our mountain. But…while your blasting us with ice and snow, uh, I’ll be heading to India, my Endless Summer winter vacation spot. Bye.

Come on now, don’t take it so personally!