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Have you ever noticed how quickly gray squirrels can eat a pile of sunflower seeds? Those critters can rip through a hundred seeds like a kindergarten class through a bowl of M&M’s. And then the bravest of the bunch is peeking in my sliding glass door as if to say, “Hey, Mr. Human Man, cute squirrel here—more seeds, please!” And then, still dressed in my pajamas, I put out more seeds. I fall for that trick every time.

Have you ever wondered how squirrels eat seeds so fast. Think about it. They pick up a seed, chew off the hull, grab the meaty part, then eat it. And they do it all in about a second. Squirrels are to eating sunflower seeds what the Dodgers are to smacking home runs.

Squirrels breathe life into our forest, and they’re fun to watch, but when they gain entry into homes, especially attics, they go for the jugular. The beasties seem to take pleasure in chewing the insulation off of electrical wires—though there’s not a morsel of food in an electrical wire. Outdoors, I’ve seen squirrels destroy deck handrails and roof shingles. Yeah, they’d better be cute for all the damage they can do.

If squirrels are turning your home into a chew toy, call us Home Defenders and we’ll give you a free estimate on stopping them in their toothy tracks. And don’t worry, animal lovers, we never harm them. Our furry friends have a right to live, too.

Tomorrow morning, the little beasties will be back on my deck running and fussing and waiting to see me in pajamas with black oil sunflower seeds in hand. I’ll put out a few piles and they’ll run some more and fuss some more and jump for joy warmed by the slow orange sunrise in our beautiful San Bernardino Mountains.

Now that’s the best part of waking up!

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OK, folks, after months of waiting, it’s finally here. I know I’m ready. The question is: Are you ready? Because after the wettest winter in decades, spring is busting out all over and randy bugs are makin’ bacon like makin’ bacon is going out of style. (Once in my high school we teens lost interest in makin’ bacon when an overzealous lunch lady was caught spiking our food with saltpeter. Big scandal.) Our phones are ringing off the hook and it’s work, work, work. The only fun I can have is teaching you readers how to help prevent pest invasions. I promise the lessons won’t be as boring as, well … sitting in high school Sex Ed class under the influence of saltpeter.

My first pest recommendation is to cut back tree branches that touch your home. I’ve found so many ant trails on branches we should change the words “tree branch” to “ant highway.” The folks at Webster’s might disagree, but if they rode along with us Home Defenders for a week, they’d be singing a different tune.

Now, for the love of Pete, put down that newspaper, grab a shovel, and dig accumulated soil away from the wood parts of your home. Wood keeps your home standing tall, and dirt rots wood. Dirt is the gift that keeps on giving … to contractors who repair homes damaged by wood rot. 

Finally, please clean those piles of pine needles off your roof. Competing ant colonies fight territorial wars for that prime real estate, then raid your kitchen. They’ll thank you for the mini Snickers and add, “Now get us some Hershey’s Kisses, too.”

Well, that was fun—as much fun as I have these days, anyhow. Happily, all that saltpeter has finally worked its way out of my system so at least I can drive down to the beach on Sundays and ogle pretty girls.

Hey, whaddya know, makin’ bacon is interesting after all!

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It was one of my first pest management lessons and it wasn’t even about pest management.

I was a rookie and my manager, Bill, and I were inspecting the exterior of a home that had bat issues. Suddenly, the next door neighbor lady appeared and asked what we were doing. Bill told her there was a colony of bats in the attic and that’s when she freaked out. “Those things suck your blood!” she screamed as she ran into her home. Bill and I just looked at each other and he said, “Uh-oh.”

Sure enough, the next morning the homeowner called and he was furious, “My neighbor called and said that if I don’t get those bloodsucking bats out of our neighborhood she’ll sue me to kingdom come.” Bill grabbed the phone, apologized profusely, and offered the homeowner a discount. A week later we had gotten the bats out of the attic—and dodged a bullet.

Nowadays, whenever I’m treating a home and a neighbor says, “What’re ya guys doin’ over there?” I go on and on about how great the weather is. But there’s nothing wrong with healthy curiosity, so here’s my spring report card on which pests might be active in your neighborhood:

Rodents have been busy and those eager breeders will remain active until, well, doomsday. Spiders are laying low, but on warm days they come out to play. Bats—which do not suck blood—are vacationing in Cancun, but they’ll be back soon. We’ll need every one of them to gobble all those mosquitoes coming our way. 

Finally, speaking of neighbors and pests, I’m often jokingly asked, “My neighbor’s a pest—can you help me deal with him?” Sorry, but that question calls for an expert in the genteel world of the social graces. Try asking Miss Manners. 

Back in my domain, next week I’ll discuss the proper way to clean mouse poop. That’s about as genteel as I get.

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I’ve been back from India for a month now, but I can still give out free advice to those about to travel. Here are some phrases you may hear from the locals wherever you may be; I’ll translate what they really mean.

“That is not possible” — (Note: this advice mainly applies to India.) Translation: “That is absolutely possible if you slip me some cash while my boss isn’t looking.”

“Oh, it’s easy to find” — Translation: “I’ve lived here my whole life and it’s beyond my imagination how anyone could get lost in this thousand-year-old city that was intentionally built to confuse foreigners like you.”

“Well, I don’t see why you can’t” — Translation: “Our constitution grants me the right to have an opinion on anything and I’m going to exercise that right and make something up, especially since it won’t be me blundering into the seedy part of town late at night.”

“What could possibly go wrong?” — This common phrase needs no translation; it really means that the speaker is that guy who: has a pet python, monkey or tiger; goes hiking in the Grand Canyon in summer with no water; freely gives his credit card info to adult sites on the internet; thinks the freeway is a motorcycle race track; remodels his own home while still living in it (I’m doing that right now and questioning my own sanity); celebrates a Super Bowl victory by getting drunk and climbing a power pole and/or the Statue of Liberty (Still not as crazy as remodeling your own home while living in it.)

Finally, if this article seems pessimistic, then I say this: Bravo! You have absolutely gotten my point. Stay home, call Home Defenders when you have pests, and laugh at all those tourists blundering into the seedy part of town. Hey, it was you who sent them there because that place is easy to find and what could possibly go wrong?

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Sorry readers, I’m about to dredge up some bad memories, but it’s for a good cause. More on that in a bit. And since bad news sells, here’s a bitter morsel: We’ve had the wettest winter since the space shuttle Atlantis was soaring the stratosphere, and pests are drawing blueprints and getting permits from Mother Nature to invade your home. You know who to call, right? You have the phone number handy, right? Because soon you’ll be needing your local pest management professional.

I know tooting your own horn is considered bad form, but where would homeowners be without us pest professionals? Overrun with crawling, food-stealing, biting critters, that’s where.

Today’s pest professionals are light years beyond those cigar chomping, stubble-faced chemical blasters of old. You remember those grouchy guys, don’t you? Remember how they fired up noisy, smoke-spewing spray rigs bolted in the bed of their rusty old Dodge trucks? Remember how those guys smelled like a pile of oily rags? No wonder they were so grumpy—no woman would touch them with a Teflon-coated ten foot pole.

These days, we pest professionals are highly trained, mostly sweet-smelling men and women equipped with safe, high-tech products that have a big impact on pests, but little impact on people, pets and the environment. Yes, we’ve joined the green revolution, but that doesn’t mean we’re green at it—we’ve been beating bugs with modern tools for decades. (How do you like my slick, corporate style ad copy?)

This is our golden age of pest management and that means this is your golden age of having a safe, pest-free home. That’s reason to celebrate because, sooner or later, everybody needs a Home Defender.

And if anyone thinks I can’t write a straight, no-nonsense pest ad, I submit this article as proof that I can. (Except for that Teflon-coated pole wise-crack, but hey, as us slick corporate ad writers know, sex sells.)

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Here’s the question burning in the minds of many mountain folk: After all the rain and snow, are we going to have lots of pests this summer? My definitive answer is: maybe, depending on the pest.

When it comes to fast breeding bugs like mosquitoes, gnats, aphids and so on, my answer is yes—these pests will be annoying everyone when the daffodils are blowing in the wind. Forest + warm weather + water + sunshine = the most detested insects in the world. That’s a mathematical certainty.

Ants are unique insects in that they store food and survive the winter, so the number of ants we’ll see in early spring will correspond to last fall’s population. They’ll have lots of dead bugs to feed on, and by July ant populations will be as high as a Jazz Age barfly.

Rat and mice populations should also pick up where they left off last fall, and the abundant grasses, weeds and seeds will give them food and hiding places galore. I predict that rodents will be driving homeowners crazy by summer; by football season, newspaper headlines will read: “Ravenous Rodents Overtaking Tailgate Parties!”

“But Mike, what about those awful moths I find by the thousands in my house every spring?” Those moths are called cutworms and they feed on decaying vegetation in your yard. The females lay eggs in the fall and that’s when the population is set. It is possible, however, that we could see a bunch of them because the females have sensed the coming green spring and produced more eggs as a result. Or maybe not. Like I said, these are complex questions.

Speaking as the owner of a pest control company, however, here’s my definitive—and simple—conclusion: there’s going to be a whole lotta pests this year, folks, so keep our Home Defenders number handy!

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Well folks, after vacationing in hot, tropical Southern India for five weeks, I’m back on the mountain and getting treated to one of the most punishing winters since they invented the smart phone. So I’m the guy you see bundled up like he’s measuring the snow pack at the North Pole.

What do I miss most about India? The friendly people? The great food? The warm weather? No. What I miss most is learning one of the oldest languages on earth.

I spent most of my time in the state of Tamil Nadu, where the locals speak an ancient language called Tamil. It’s not hard to learn—if you’re willing to speak baby talk—especially since Tamil has no verb conjugation. So to say “I’m going to the store” in Tamil, you just say—with Tamil words— “now, me store going.” To say “yesterday, I went to the store,” you say “Yesterday, me store going.” To say “Tomorrow, I’ll go to the store, you say “Tomorrow, me store going.” There’s a simple elegance to Tamil.

I was just starting to have my first rudimentary conversations in Tamil when my vacation wound down. One day, I took a taxi to a famous temple and the driver didn’t speak English, so I said, “Yenakuh Tamil teriaduh,” (I don’t speak Tamil). He responded with, “Yenakuh English teriaduh, (I don’t speak English.) He dropped me off at the temple, and I wanted him to return and take me back to my hotel, so I said, “Ningha” (you), “ingha,” (here), “6 o’clock.” He nodded that he understood. Sure, I sounded foolish, but it beats walking.

You may wonder how a language that has no verb conjugation says, “I would go to the store but I just remembered that I forgot to pay my credit card and it’s maxed out.” Well, I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure they just say, “me no store going—me broke.”

Now that’s simple elegance.