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I first saw the spider as the clock chimed eight in the morning. It was running for the safety of my icebox. I grabbed my fly swatter and the chase was on. With me and spiders, it’s kill or be killed. The creature was black, hairy, and had the crooked legs of a mangy street dog. In full sprint, I slipped on a stocking. What dame left that? Oh right, Mrs Sandrelli. The spider darted under the icebox just as my swatter went “smack” on the floor. Lucky stiff.

I didn’t need this headache. At the precinct house yesterday, Captain Mulroney had barked at me, “Get over to the sewage treatment plant. There’s a corpse stinking up the joint.” Great. Just what I needed. A murder to solve at a spider-infested hellhole.

I hate spiders. I have a fear of them. I can handle a crook with a .38, an angry broad with a stiletto, or jealous husband with a baseball bat, but I lose my marbles at the sight of a lousy spider.

I phoned those exterminators, the ones with the stories in the newspaper. “Operator, get me LUdlow-7 8623…Is this Home Defenders? Say, can you send someone over to get these spiders out of my bungalow? Thanks, doll.”

I lit my first, poured myself a double, and waited on the couch. Sure, it was early, but clocks don’t run my life. I calmed down. Maybe spiders aren’t so bad after all.

Suddenly, I saw that spider charging at me like a Plymouth on the Pasadena Freeway! It bolted up my leg as I screamed, “Don’t kill me! Don’t kill me!” but the dirty rat sank its fangs into my jugular. Then, on the brink of blacking out forever, I woke to a knock at the door.

Damn rotgut.

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…and around it goes. Where does it stop? Only the bumper sticker knows.

What’s the “it” I’m talking about? An ant with an inner ear disorder? A swirling dervish of a mouse chasing its own tail? A bat whose echolocation is out of whack? No, I’m talking about the baffled brain of a frustrated homeowner thinking, “How are those darn moths getting into my home?”

Of all the pests that drive people crazy, moths are high on the list. People tell me they despise them because they’re so unpredictable—you pick up a towel and out flies a moth! It’s so annoying. Plus, moths can come in droves. People call us, asking, “Where do they come from? How do they get in my home? Why did they pick on my house?”

Unfortunately, the lives of moths are shrouded in mystery, and there’s no clear answers to those questions. But, here’s some facts about moths: They start life as hungry caterpillars. Like all mountain pests, they come from the forest, squeezing into your home through cracks around windows, doors, and eaves.

But why, oh why, did they pick your home? Well, did you offend Mother Nature? Did you curse her name with a bitter heart? Of course not. Well then, like the bumper sticker (sorta) says, “Stuff Happens.”

If you’re being harassed by moths, we’ll fly to your home, squeeze inside and perform a free inspection. Moths are hard to control, but we can treat around the doors, eaves and windows and push back against Mother Nature’s annoying little avengers. Call today.

While most pests can be consistently controlled, moths are a rare exception. But, let’s get philosophical and turn our frustration into a new bumper sticker: “Stuff Happens…just be thankful they don’t sting!”

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For her, I suppose, it was just another morning out with the ox and cart. For me, it was just what I needed.

It’s been six months since I went to India for my annual vacation, and now it’s time to get plane tickets for my 2018 trip. We all need a vacation, especially stressed out business owners like me. I was making my travel arrangements online when I had a flashback from last year’s trip.

One sunny morning, I was jogging on a forest path near Pondicherry, surrounded by singing birds and exotic trees, when I saw a big animal lumbering towards me on the wide dirt path ahead. It was an ox and it was slowly pulling a wooden flat cart. The only concession to modernity were the rubber tires. Seated on a bench, looking like a stagecoach driver in a Western, was a blond-haired, blue-eyed woman in her twenties. As she passed, I said, “hi” and she said, “hi” in return. She had an American accent.

I was dying to say, “Who the heck are you and how on earth did you end up on an ox-driven cart in Southern India?” but I minded my own business, and her’s too, and kept on jogging. Every so often I looked back, wondering where she was going on that rig from the middle ages. But, like many things in India, it was all a mystery.

Yes, I’m busy making plans for my trip in January. All too soon, on another sunny day, I’ll be back on that trail again, back in that land of singing birds and exotic mysteries.

And the only stress will be on that ox’s shoulders.

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He called, all the way from a small Midwestern town, to share his pest management story with me:

“My neighbor Mary had a squirrel in her attic, and since the local pest company doesn’t do animal control, I offered a helping hand,” the soft-spoken man said. “I walked around the property and saw a baseball size hole in an eave. I figured that’s how the critter’s getting in. I wasn’t sure how to seal the hole, so I bought some of that expanding foam and pumped it into the hole. That was a week ago and Mary hasn’t heard a peep since. Say Mike, do you think I got the job done?”

“It’s a good thing you did the work during the day because the squirrel was likely outside foraging,” I said. “Most likely it was a solitary male, because if you’d have sealed out a female with young she would have chewed through that foam like a chain saw through butter. If Mary hasn’t heard any noises in the attic, and the foam is undisturbed, it sounds like you were successful.”

“Well, great!” he said, sounding pleased.

So, who is this mystery man? He’s the one who taught me how to ride a bike, catch a fish, and hit a baseball. Why didn’t he call me before starting the job? Well, I can only guess he wanted to remain a heroic father figure in my eyes. I wish he had called first, though, because I would have advised him how to do the job like a seasoned professional.

Nevertheless, I tip my pest guy hat to Dad. Without asking for anyone’s permission or help, he ran to the aid of a damsel in distress, thought up a plan, scaled a ladder, and got the job done.

Just like heroes do.

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“But Mike, I can’t possibly seal all the openings in this big old house,” the homeowner said. He had seen mice in his buildup and had called me for free advice on how to seal them out.

“You don’t necessarily need to block every opening,” I said. “Just the main ones. Mice have pea brains and they won’t try to get in on the other side of your home. They only know how to find their particular entry point.

“Oh, OK, that’s better,” he said, sounding relieved.

It’s summer and do-it-yourself animal control soldiers are on the warpath. If you’re one of them, here’s my advice: When you decide to seal mice from your home, if you can’t seal all entry points, at least seal as many as you can. You may get their main entry, and the mice might move on to greener pastures. And always remember my Mouse Seal Motto: “A man with a plan seals what he can!”

For those of you who want professional help, call us and we’ll be happy to give you a free evaluation. And to help guide you along, here’s my “Be Mouse Savvy” poem:

Hickory dickory dock.

The mouse ran up the clock.

Whilst singing it said, “I’ll play all night!”

But the homeowners cried, “Don’t give us a fright!”

And lo, when the critter dashed down the wall,

To Home Defenders they made a call.

“Good sir, please leave!” we beseeched of the mouse.

“I will!” it peeped and skedaddled the house.

“Oh, thank you, Defenders!” they offered with laughter.

And everyone smiled merrily ever after.

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Writing a weekly article is a funny thing. I mean, every week I write words and every week you readers bring those words to life inside your own head. So, in some sense, as you read you have a little Pest Pro rooting around inside your brain. Kinda neat, huh?

Anyway, I’ve got ants on my brain this week. Let’s go over the three major home invading ants in the mountains:

Carpenter Ants—Big, black, wood-destroying ants that make small piles of grainy sawdust. They don’t eat wood, as some people think, but rather bore tunnels. Their presence often indicates excessive moisture in walls.

Velvety Tree Ants—Small black ants that trail from old trees into your home. Like carpenter ants, they tunnel in wood, leaving lots of fine powdery sawdust—not the grainy kind. If you see a large pile of sawdust in your home, they’re the culprits. Call us right away to put a stop to the problem.

Odorous House Ants—These little guys are famous for invading bathrooms and kitchens, and have ruined many a sugar bowl. Crush them and they give off a acrid smell like vinegar. Most of our ant calls are for these invaders.

As long as I’m still inside your head, do you mind if I take a look around? No? Ok, thanks.

Wow, it’s like a haunted house in here…it’s dark and there’s lots of nooks and crannies. I think I’ll mosey over to this hidden recess and take a look and…whoa!…oh my gosh!…my goodness gracious!…what was I thinking?…why did I even go there?

Uh, I’ll be back next week and I swear I didn’t see a thing!

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We modern Americans aren’t the only ones with termite problems….

I recently saw a TV program about an ancient African tribe called the Mofu. These poor villagers were having problems with termites damaging the wooden structure of their hut’s roofs. They’d almost caved in due to the ravenous appetites of the wood-eating insects, and the Mofu had to do something about it. Does that sound familiar?

But the Mofu don’t just pick up their phones and call the local exterminator. Rather, they’ve developed—or so they claim—the ability to communicate with a fierce termite-eating ant they call Jaglavak. So when termites threaten their homes, the Mofu cry out, “It’s time to call the Jaglavak man!”

In the TV program, I watched with great interest as one of the village elders captured some Jaglavak ants in a gourd, broke an opening in a termite mound poking through the hut’s dirt floor, and dumped the enraged ants down inside. During this procedure, the elder pleasantly talked to the ants, imploring them to drive out the termites. As the program wound down, the unusual remedy appeared to have worked. Good for you, Jaglavak Man!

How does this story relate to modern pest management? Well, as termites continually develop resistance to pesticides, we professionals need to add practical, environmentally safe pest management techniques to our arsenal of weapons.  What the Mofu tribe practices is common sense pest management—and nothing succeeds like good, old-fashioned common sense.

Who knows, maybe I’ll soon be learning to speak Jaglavak in pest training seminars. What a trick that would be! I, uh, just hope conjugating verbs is easier in Jaglavak than Spanish.

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“But, Mike,” my customer asked in a pleading voice, “can’t you guys make it so I can come to my vacation home after a long absence, and never have any nasty surprises?”

She’d arrived at their Big Bear cabin for the Amgen Tour of California last weekend. When she’d opened the front door, she’d seen a dead mouse on the kitchen floor.

We’d sealed the home against rodent entry a few years before and serviced it every two months. But mice are tricky little critters, and sometimes they squeeze—or chew—their way back inside our safe, warm cabins.

I drove there, checked it for rodent entry, but couldn’t find any obvious openings. A mouse probably ran inside when a service worker left the door open. The mouse got trapped, and passed to the great furry beyond on the kitchen floor. It’s unfortunate, but it happens.

Some would say that my customer’s request to never see a dead mouse is almost impossible to fulfill. And maybe it is. But customers can ask for whatever they want, so I thought up a simple, though somewhat imperfect, way for her to come up the mountains next spring and not find any surprises.

I called her. “Next year, a few days before you come up to your cabin, call us and we’ll go ‘mouse sweep’ the place. That way, you won’t have any nasty surprises.”

OK, OK,” she said. “If that’s what it takes, I’ll do that.” “Have a good summer enjoying Big Bear.” I said.

As I hung up the phone, my thirty years experience in pest management were pushing one thought into my head: “Thank goodness that mouse didn’t die in her bedsheets!”

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I’ve always been fascinated by Mother Nature’s creatures. When I was a boy I loved sharks, poisonous snakes, tigers—any deadly animal. But my tastes, not surprisingly, are more adult now. Here’s some fascinating, mostly beneficial bugs you don’t need to call us to control:

Snakeflies—These sleek flying insects prey on your most hated plant pests, such as aphids. With their slightly raised head, they have an almost regal bearing. When I find one in my home I carefully escort it outside.

Jumping Spiders—These critters are the adorable, furry Koala bears of the bug world. Only instead of munching on eucalyptus leaves, they happily devour pests, such as flies and mosquitoes. If you want a treat, google “images of jumping spiders.” One of my secretaries saw images of jumping spiders and said, “They’re cute but kinda creepy at the same time.”

Beeflies—They have the head of a fly and the body of a bee, sans stinger. I first saw them as a rookie treating the outside of a house, and they were hovering nearby, almost like they were watching me work. There’s little scientific info about them, and that just makes them more interesting.

Lady Bugs—Who doesn’t love a brightly colored bug that kicks aphid butt? And could a Hollywood designer have done a better job of creating that distinctive look? One of the few bugs children find cute.

Looking over my list, uh…I guess Father Time is winning his war on my virility—from tigers to lady bugs, Mike? What happened to you, man?

Oh, well, on second thought…I’d love to see a tiger chomp those aphids on my prized roses!

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What sound does a pest technician most hate to hear? The hiss of a leaky hand-held sprayer spewing chemical all over his leg? Maybe. The thump-thump of a flat tire at the end of a tough work day? Could be. The boss’s voice saying, “I’m going out to check on one of your jobs.” Bingo!

I recently got a call from a customer who said, “Mike, One of your guys did a mouse job at my home recently, but I’m still hearing scratching noises. Could you take a look for me?” “Sure,” I said, “I’ll be right out.”

Mysterious noises can one of the most challenging pest calls to resolve. They can have scores of causes, including ones that have nothing to do with pests, such as tree limbs brushing against a home or acorns rolling down a roof.

I headed to the home, and after doing a thorough inspection, I found that mice were trailing from the crawl space to the attic via a complex maze of plumbing. I wasn’t angry at my technician because it’s easy to miss something like that. Checking a home for rodent entry is like proofreading an article—it’s easy to miss the same flaw over and over. Sometimes you need a second set of eyes to take a look.

If you’re hearing mysterious noises in your home, give us a call. If there is a pest behind the sound, it’s better to nip it in the bud. Pests reproduce rapidly, and the longer you wait, the harder it is to get them out. Call today—or regret the delay.

Oh, and if you see any typos in this article … that’s because my pest techs aren’t so good at copy editing.