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Well, I just had an infestation of mice in my own cabin, and yes, I do feel embarrassed about it.

You may wonder how a professional exterminator gets mice in his own home. Well, I had an electrician working on my cabin three months ago and in the process he left an opening in my home’s foundation—one small hole for man, one superhighway for mice. To make matters worse, I know that construction workers frequently leave openings and I failed to do a thorough inspection after he finished the job. That’s on me.

I used snap traps to get the mice out, but I hated hurting them. They’re just so cute and this situation was easily preventable. Nevertheless, mice leave droppings and chew electrical wires and we must get them out of our homes. They can live, born free and all, out in the forest. 

Over the years I’ve learned that there are three kinds of mountain cabins: those that have had mice and a professional exterminator has gotten them out; those that currently have mice; and those that will have mice simply because the world is always turning and churning.

I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but mice are masters at sneaking into our homes. Send your complaints to Mother Nature. And, for the love of Pete, call us if you hear running or scratching sounds in your walls. The quicker we get to work, the easier the process will go for all concerned.

Now the good news: the vast majority of cabins can be sealed so that mice are blocked out and then you can live happy and born free and all…until some construction worker unwittingly leaves a small opening and the mice get back inside.

We exterminators call that “job security.”

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Is there a paradise on earth? Does such a place exist? If it does exist, where is it?

I was hiking around Bluff Lake Reserve on the south side of Big Bear yesterday and I was struck by the beauty of the area. Powerful quartz monzonite boulders stand guard as Indian paintbrush, mountain trumpet, and a wide variety of other wildflowers show off their charms. The area is so enchanting it looks like it was created by a theme park designer. But it’s not the work of man. No, Bluff Lake was made by Mother Nature herself… on one of her good days.

And no trip to Bluff Lake is complete without a short hike over to the Champion Lodgepole Pine, one of the biggest lodgepole pines in the world. When I’m up there, I always pay homage to the champion, which was a sapling before Shakespeare was born. To be a champion, or not to be? 

Unfortunately for homeowners, the critters that inhabit Bluff Lake are the same ones that invade our cabins. Right now we’re getting lots of calls for ants and spiders, as well as rats and mice. Old mountain cabins are sitting ducks for wily rats and mice. That’s the thorny side of paradise, I suppose. Call us and we’ll bring a little sunshine back to your home.

After my hike, I headed back to my cabin. On the way I saw my neighbor walking her dogs and we chatted for a few minutes. “It’s another sunny day in Big Bear.” she said. Flush with emotion, I responded: “You know, we’re the luckiest people on earth.” 

Are any of you readers saying, “I second that emotion?” I sure hope so, because Mother Nature is listening in the wind up here in paradise.

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The spider was making tracks for the safety of my washer/dryer, and I was in hot pursuit. With seconds to spare the critter made it to the finish line, and the chase was over. Does that sound familiar? It should, because it’s summer and spiders are living the good life inside our homes.

Customers ask me, “Do we have poisonous spiders on the mountain?” Yes, we have black widows, and they’re notoriously poisonous, but few folks freak out over them. Familiarity breeds indifference, I guess.

“But what about those Brown Recluse spiders?” a few ask. Uh, how can I put this gently… that Brown Recluse scare in the Nineties—those sensational stories of people who’d supposedly had arms and legs and other body parts amputated—was pure media fabrication. Sorry folks, Brown Recluse spiders aren’t native to California, and you’ll never do battle with one.

“But I saw a news report about Brown Recluses on the TV, gosh darn it!” insist a few holdouts still wearing baggy pants and Doc Martens. 

My reply to that is Claude Rains 101: “I’m shocked, shocked that TV news would steer you wrong!”

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.

Oh, and here’s more news for anyone still stuck in the Nineties: Teenage heartthrob Leonardo DiCaprio is just about due for his first colonoscopy; “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’ve been painted on.

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

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Ding dong, the witch is dead. Which old witch? Those army cutworm moths, that’s which witches.

Well, everybody, the moths are finally gone. How do I know? I monitored them at my Big Bear cabin all of May and June as they hid under my folded patio umbrella. Then, on July 2, they were gone. Every single one of them. A few are still trapped inside my cabin, but they’ll die of dehydration soon enough.

Where did the little devils go? Most likely back to the wheat fields of Kansas or wherever it is these agricultural pests come from. I suppose that the males and females are mating right about now, lucky little critters. All I do is work. 

Big Bear homeowners saw massive numbers of army cutworm moths this year, and they can drive you crazy. One night I went to bed and as soon as I turned off the light, sure enough, a moth flew right on my face. The next morning I headed to the hardware store and bought weather stripping for my doors. Enough is enough.

Will the moths be back next year? No one knows, but we had a record number this year, and I always bet on a winner. If we have a lot of rain and snow this winter, count on seeing lots of moths next May. Nothing succeeds like success.

Homeowners have ten months to seal openings around doors, windows, and beams. Be sure and seal the smallest cracks because cutworm moths can squeeze through an opening you could shove a dime into. Yep, that’s what we’re up against, folks. 

Ding dong, the witch ain’t really dead, she’s just having a good time back in Kansas. Well, at least somebody has the right idea. 

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What pest repulses you the most? Putting the question another way, what’s the one creepy-crawly you don’t want on your skin? I found one such critter on my skin yesterday.

Returning from a hike, I was sitting at my computer when I felt an itch on my inner thigh. I looked down and saw a tiny bug slowly crawling northbound, no big deal. When I inspected more closely I saw that it was a tick—one of those notorious blood-sucking creatures. I was horrified.

I grew up in Illinois where ticks are as common as cornfields and scarecrows. Decades ago on my grandparents’ farm, my eight-year-old brother Dan complained of ear pain. Grandma looked in his ear and, you guessed it, she saw that a tick had nestled in. Life on Midwestern farms isn’t always so idyllic.

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 fireworks, then carefully maneuvered the smoldering end inside Dan’s ear canal. I still remember the terrified look on his face as they performed the procedure with practiced skill. Mercifully, the tick scrambled out, Grandpa smashed it with a hammer, and the incident was over. I have despised ticks ever since.

Ticks aren’t common in the mountains, but they do live up here, often in yards with pet runs. If you find ticks we’ll smash them with the practical power of modern science—no hammer needed. 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 never, ever want invaded by a tick…

ER Nurse: So, Mr. Nolan, what brings you in today?

Me: Uh, well, I found a tick in a really hard-to-reach bodily area. 

God, I loathe ticks.

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The following incident occurred in 1978 at Routt Catholic High in Jacksonville, Illinois. Names have been changed to protect the guilty.  

Sean Flynn was nervous and rightly so. Not only was he leaving our school grounds—a crime punishable by detention under Sister Mercy’s stern gaze—he was also on a mission to buy contraband. He slipped out the weight room door as our band of gym class brothers wished him luck. 

Twenty minutes later, a game of dodgeball providing noisy distraction, Sean slipped back in, goodies in tow. He handed me a package and the thing was beautiful—long, cylindrical, and rolled to perfection. It had a foreign name, one I’d never heard before. It was called a “burrito.”

I still remember when the first Mexican restaurant, El Gringo Loco, opened its doors in my mashed potatoes and gravy hometown. The spicy, exotic cuisine scared our parents—they only ate pot roast, you know—and that just made those enchiladas taste even better. How did I ever live without salsa?

One day, feeling adventurous, my brother Dave brought tacos home for dinner. My dad studied his suspiciously, then took a bite. The taco gods were surely hooting and hollering in delight as the crispy shell shattered into a dozen pieces. “So, Dad, do you like it?” Dave asked.  Dad’s verdict was short and sour: “I don’t like fighting my food.“ Adios, tacos.

Just as Dad doesn’t like fighting food, homeowners don’t like fighting pests. Whatever’s making your world crumble—ants or spiders or rodents—call today and we’ll rush to your home like Sean speeding to El Gringo Loco. 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 loves most in a meal: somebody else made it.

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I first saw the spider running for the safety of my icebox as the clock chimed eight in the morning. I grabbed my fly swatter and the chase was on. The creature was black, hairy, and had the crooked legs of a mangy street dog. The spider darted under the icebox just as my swatter went “smack” on the floor. Lucky stiff.

My name is Matt Saticoy and I’m a detective for the LAPD. I joined the force in 1941, the year DiMaggio set the record, and I’ve spent the last ten years wearing blue. I can handle a crook pointing a .38 at my noggin, an angry woman flashing a stiletto, or a jealous husband wielding a baseball bat, but I lose my marbles at the sight of a spider. My shrink says I have a “phobia,” whatever that is.

I didn’t need more stress. Yesterday, at the precinct house, Captain Mulroney barked, “Saticoy, get your hump over to the sewage treatment plant. There’s a corpse stinking up the joint.” That sewer plant is a spider-infested hellhole and no way was I going over there. I got out of the duty by telling Mulroney I had sepsis on my meniscus. The lug was too dumb to argue about it.

I picked up the phone. “Operator, get me LUdlow 8623… is this Home Defenders? Say, doll, can you send a guy over pronto to get a spider hiding under my icebox? Thanks.” I poured myself a double and waited on the couch. I calmed down. Maybe spiders aren’t so bad after all. I calmed down some more.

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!” but the dirty rat sank its fangs into my jugular. On the brink of the big sleep, I awoke to a life-saving knock at the door.

Damn rotgut.

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

“You don’t need to block every opening,” I said. “Try to get the main ones. Mice have pea brains and to them, the other side of your house may as well be the other side of the moon.

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

It’s summer and do-it-yourself mouse warriors are out in force. If you’re one of them, here’s my advice: When sealing mice from your home, fill as many entry points as you can. Be sure and seal where plumbing pipes enter the home, preferably from the buildup side, using 1/4 inch hardware cloth and a quality sealant. Both are available from hardware stores.

For those of you who want professional help, call us and we’ll be happy to evaluate your home. And to help guide you, here’s my “Be Mouse Savvy” poem:

Hickory dickory dock.

The mice ran up the clock.

To kitchen near they all did go,

guided by scent and the buzz of gizmos.

And lo, when mice dashed down the wall,

To Home Defenders mom made a call.

“To the Bat-mobile!” I said with glee,

(I openly admit I was lost in reverie.)

With prudence I sped now sane and live,

to the home I drove and then did arrive.

“Oh, thank you, Mike!” mom said with laughter,

and everyone lived happily ever after.

(Epilogue: The mice did not live happily ever after. The end.) 

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What do the grizzly bears of Yellowstone National Park and the recent moth invasion across the San Bernardino Mountains have to do with each other? The answer lies in the bears’ notorious sweet tooth.

I was watching a documentary about grizzly bears when events took a very interesting turn. “By the end of July,” the narrator said, “the bears of Yellowstone just seem to disappear as they head above the treeline.”

What attracts the bears up there? We watch scenes of grizzlies turning over large rocks as they plunge their snouts into what lies beneath. Under the rocks are hordes of army cutworm moths, the same that invade mountain homes in early summer. “The moths,” the narrator says, “arrive in the high country to feed on wildflowers. They’ve come from as far away as the wheat fields of Kansas. They spend the night feeding on nectar, retreating at sunrise to the cool crannies in the rocks. To the grizzlies, the moths are like candy, and the bears devour up to 40,000 a day.”

For homeowners who find hundreds of the mystery moths in their cabins, this explains a lot. At sunrise, the moths squeeze into crannies around doors, windows, and open beam rafters, then get trapped inside. If you want to keep them out, seal them out with weather stripping and a quality sealant. Soon enough, though, they’ll head home to Kansas.

Homeowners in Crestline, Lake Arrowhead, and Running Springs may be baffled by all this, since moth populations there have been low. Big Bear homeowners, however, have seen large populations—suggesting large populations of wildflowers. Every rose has its thorns.

The humble moths aren’t as as noble as the grizzly bear, nor as majestic as the wonders in Yellowstone, but as they fly a thousand miles across the big western sky, they’re as sublime as anything on earth. 

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Boy, flowers sure are nasty things, aren’t they? Fools may fall for their superficial charms, but not me. Hey readers, if you love flowers unconditionally, don’t read additionally.

I received a call from a woman who told me that every morning her skin is covered with red bed bug bites. Bed bug infestations are rare in the mountains, though we do see them. Arriving at her Big Bear home, I thoroughly inspected the bed, and saw no sign of bed bugs. I asked to see the bites and she told me they had gone away. “Bed bug bites don’t just go away,” I said. “Something else is causing the red marks.”

Drawing on years of experience, I asked her if she’d recently changed laundry detergent. “I just bought a new kind.” she said. I inspected the product and, sure enough, it was one of those natural brands scented with flower extracts. Bingo. “Some people,” I explained, “have allergic reactions to detergents made with flowers. I recommend using the unscented kind. Call my office if you need anything.”

So, there’s the cold, hard truth about flowers. But, based on their reputation for soothing the savage beast, I’m willing to give them a fair shake. OK, I am now standing in front of a flower garden. Here is what I see:

Roses are red, violets are blue/good morning, cosmos, how in the world do you do?… yarrow is yellow, vetiver has verve/that show-off bougainvillea sure has got nerve!… daisies are dandy, jasmine smells fine/lilac ever sends me to outer cloud nine… spiders eye aphids, snails crawl along/nectar calls to bees in a cloud of birdsong… toyon is tops, poppies stand tall/imagine the madness and color of it all!… in a lovely garden, where seeds have now grown/a heart can sure feel what a head cannot know.

Well, readers, on second thought, flowers are pretty darned awesome after all. Have a colorful summer!