Answers to Questions About Indoor Insect and Pest Control

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Q. I have found a large wasps' nest. I found two different types of sprays at the department store, however, they say not to use in a vent to the house. The nest is getting larger each day and our son has been bit already. Is there another way to eliminate the wasps' nest without a spray?

A. If the nest is in an air exchanger or connected to your furnace, you can shut off the fans connected to it. Use the foaming type wasp killer. If you have access to the nest opening, a good blast inside the opening immediately fills the nest with foam, so that no wasps are able to escape. Be careful not to fill the opening of the vent because you may force them into your house.

Q. In the summer months we have terrible swarming of black gnats. They generally do not bite, but get in your ears, eyes and drive you crazy. Are there any ideas on controlling these pests?

A. These are likely what is commonly referred to as no-see-um or biting midge. They are frequently found near water. They do not venture far from their breeding area and tend to swarm around together. They tend to pretty much stay in the same location, so you might be able to simply move to a new location and get away from the gnat farm.

They are called no-see-ums because it is hard to see 'um. They are less than 1/4 inch long. They will bite, and it will hurt and itch. The females are the bloodsuckers. The tiny gnats swarm around their prey in a cloud. The females take blood from mammals, reptiles, and other insects. Male no-see-ums are much sweeter; they are nectar feeders. The larvae breed in water, mud, or moist dead leaves, and along salt marshes. The larvae feed on dead plant and animal matter. No-see-ums prefer calm, humid days, and are more active at twilight and early evening. They are strongly attracted to artificial light and will come in through window screens if not a fine mesh.

Q. Spring is here and the dreaded cave crickets have made their appearance. They mostly stay in the basement, but a couple have been spotted in the living room and bedroom. How do I get rid of them?

A. Cave, or camel, crickets are frequently found in basements and eventually upstairs inside your home. Although cave crickets might look similar to the field cricket, they are from a different family. They are brownish in color and look a little hump backed. They like cool damp conditions and are frequently found in caves, so that is why they get their name.

Exclusion is the best control measure. Seal all entries into your home around foundation, doors, and windows to keep out insect pests, especially basement doors and windows. Make sure basement doors have a threshold or sweep that properly fits. A regular perimeter insecticide treatment on foundation and on soil along the perimeter of your structure tends to keep most insects and their predators at bay. Eliminate hiding and breeding sites around the foundation by keeping the perimeter clear of stones, leaves, bricks, boards, etc. While insecticide sprays indoors are effective, they should be a last resort. Use some of those sticky traps in your basement. It would be the most effective, non-chemical process. If this does not work, call a couple of Pest Control firms and have them come out for an inspection.

Q. Any ideas on how to get rid of ants? I have tried Raid ant traps and they have not worked. I spray clean every area with an orange cleaner every time I go into the kitchen. It kills the one it meets but they will not leave. I have not tried spray ant killer because of pets and a small grandchild.

A. Insecticide sprays will kill live ants that you see. Ant bait such as Terro is necessary to eliminate the colony. Bait will be carried back to the colony where it will eventually eliminate the colony. It will take time, patience, and persistence, but ant baits do work.

Q. I do not want to set up traps that can harm my pets, so what can I do to get rid of a mice infestation?

A. Both the EPA and Consumer Reports state there is no scientific evidence to substantiate the effectiveness of ultra sonic devices, despite testimonials to the contrary. This is the time of the year when cooler temperatures arrive and mice seek a warmer environment to nest. It is extremely important to inspect the exterior of your home to seal all nooks and crannies where insect and rodent pests can enter. Trapping is the preferred method for eliminating mice. Baits may result in dead mice trapped inside walls where their decomposing bodies result in odor problems. It takes several weeks or longer, depending upon the size, for the body to completely decompose and the odor problem to dissipate.

Seal all entry points immediately and set traps to catch those that are hiding in your home. Place traps along walls with bait facing baseboards where they tend to travel. Place bait on trap and wrap with a few wraps of fine sewing thread in which mice will get their teeth caught. One must be persistent and patient to eliminate mice within the home. In the meantime, practice good sanitation, keeping counters and floors clean and seal food in airtight containers. Remove pet food dishes from the deck or patio as well as birdseed and any other food source that may attract them to your residence.

Q. I have just purchased some "Pic Boric Acid Roach Killer III" to get rid of the flea infestation in my house. I heard that Boric Acid is safe. I read the bottle and it says it is very harmful if it touches the skin and clothing. I didn't want to have to deal with something that is dangerous in my home. I treated my carpet and waited about an hour to vacuum it up. Is this going to he hazardous?

A. Boric acid may be harmful or act as an irritant if inhaled. EPA considers boric acid as a moderately acute toxin due to eye and skin irritation. Proper care and adhering to label directions and precautions should reduce exposure and any associated risk. Borates are the most effective treatment for many crawling insects including, roaches, silverfish, larder beetles, carpenter ants, and other woodborers, as well as wood decay organisms.

Apply directly to carpets where pets frequently traffic or sleep at the rate of 1.5 pounds per 150 square feet. Vacuum the area at least twice prior to application of boric acid. Work powder deep into fibers and mat. Any powder visible after application must be brushed into carpet fibers. Allow powder to remain for a period of three weeks to achieve maximum flea control in carpets. For tile and linoleum, dissolve boric acid in water and wash all floors with it. Vacuum the boric acid up 24 hours later. It is said to prevent fleas for one year or until your carpets are shampooed.

Pharmacy grade boric acid is used to make eye wash for eye infections. Boric acid is used commercially in the manufacturing of glass, paper, adhesives, detergents, antiseptics, insecticides, and flame-retardants. Boric acid is by far the safest insecticide for use in the home. It's even widely used in areas where food is prepared. It works by dehydrating the insects it's used against to kill them. Don't let the word "acid" fool you into thinking it will eat your skin off. Most water is acidic, strictly speaking. If you're still uncomfortable using it, you can use one of its salts, sodium borate, also known as borax (the stuff people used to wash clothes in) for the same effect.

Q. Vector Control told us we have an infestation of Springtails in our house. What can we use to get rid of them?

A. Springtails like wet leaves, soil, and plant material along a house foundations or sidewalks. They also can occur around floor drains, in damp basements, and crawl spaces. If you have lots of them, sweep them up and discard them. Once the soil dries out, they will disappear. Make sure your gutters and downspouts are clear and carrying water away from foundation of home. Make sure soil around perimeter is sloped to carry away water. Make sure basement and/or crawl space are dry and well ventilated. Inspect your floor drains. Springtails can also breed in houseplants with too moist soil. Inspect and let soil dry out and clean and disinfect saucers under pots.

Springtails will not survive under dry conditions. Improve ventilation and take measures to promote dry conditions. Remove wet leaves any other organic material around the home. You can use a household insecticide, but as long as you have conditions that allow them to breed, you will continue to have the problem.

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