GUEST POST from Don: Bigger Problems

This pest means you have a bigger problem…

Having engaged in pest control for 3 decades, I know how most customers think: “Ick.  I have creepy things in my house.  Kill them.”

However, THESE critters are in your house BECAUSE you already have a much larger problem.  You have a leak, had a sewage backup, gaps and holes, a dead animal, or bad potatoes.  The following is a short list of critters which tell you WHERE to look and WHAT to look for…

Green or Blue Bottle Flies.  These housefly-sized insects have a green or blue sheen.  These “Bottle” flies are telling you that you have a dead animal in or near your house.  They lay their eggs on decaying animal protein (like a dead bird in your gutter or a squirrel body in your attic).  By the time you see these flies the animal is fairly putrid.  It also could be that you threw animal protein in your dumpster near the house a week before the trash was picked up. (Keep it air conditioned or in a freezer until closer to collection day.)  If an animal died in your attic, you should remove the carcass and seal the entry point so this does not happen again.

Red-eyed Fruit Flies.  As the name suggests, these critter breed in decaying fruits and vegetables.  Shine a light toward them and you will see a reddish hue at the head.  Look for a bad potato, onion, ripening bananas or tomatoes on the counter … or something that has rolled under the stove or fridge.  It could also be that you use your garbage disposal to grind and flush away potato skins or other things (don’t) and you need to use bacterial enzymes to clean it out.

Black-eyed Fruit Flies.  (Like the red-eye variety, they fly really well.)  You are looking for something quite rotten or your dishwasher is on the fritz.  Like the red-eyed variety they can come from your kitchen sink drain. (See below for solutions to that.)

Scuttle Flies (also called Phorid Flies).  They look similar to black-eyed fruit flies, except they prefer to run across the counter before they fly.  (Put your hand on the counter behind the fly and move it slowly toward the fly.  If the thing runs before taking off it is probably this insect).  This critter likely is coming from your drain.  It breeds in disgusting stuff there.  (Read the next section…both have similar causes and solutions)

Moth Flies.  These dark gray, paddle-wing flies often rest on the wall.  They also come from your drains.  Maybe it is as simple as your drain trap has dried up. (Traps are installed on most drains to prevent odors and insects.)  Or you could have had a sewage backup.  First, pour some water down the drains.  If the problem does not improve after a few days, use bacterial enzyme drain cleaner. (Do not use caustic cleaners for this.)  If your problem does not improve…call a professional.  Both Scuttle Flies and Moth Flies can deposit sewage gunk everywhere they land.  Wash surfaces before preparing meals.

Fungus Gnats.  These black gizmos are poor flyers.  They often head toward windows or lights.  The problem is moisture which allows fungus to grow (which these things breed in).  Maybe you have moisture in a wall, or a pipe leak … or maybe you just over-water your plants.  (Let’s hope it is the plants thingy!)  Start with the plants because that is easier.  Remove the bottom of a small plastic Dixie-type cup.  Dig a hole in the dirt.  Place the cup in the hole. (Do not re-fill the inside with dirt.)  Water only into the cup.  If the gnats do not become fewer within a week…start looking for a moisture source elsewhere.

Acrobat ants.  These small ants have a “heart-shaped” butt (more or less).  They usually build their colony near a moisture source.  So…if you have them in your house there is a good chance there is a leak.  It could be bad flashing near the chimney or a poorly installed window.  (Once I was trying to figure out why acrobat ants were in a frame in a basement daylight window…when the automatic lawn sprinklers came on…and the poorly aligned nozzle sprayed the frame and glass…and had been doing it every day for months.  Mystery solved.)

Carpenter ants.  These large ants love to move into water-damaged wood.  If they are showing up in large numbers, especially in the winter, you likely have damaged wood somewhere in your structure.  If you do not eliminate the bad wood, and stop the leak, they may move in again next year.

If you see a mouse in your house…expect to find more.  They travel by twos.  Mice do not chew their way into your home…well…not usually.  (They will chew holes in old or weak screens, like where you have crawlspace vents.)  You allow them in because there are holes and gaps in your foundation.  If a mouse can get its head through a gap, it can squeeze its body through.  In 30 years of pest control I can count on 2 fingers the times mice entered a home through a gap that was MORE THAN 24” above soil level.  So, fill every gap and hole  (* but be sure to eliminate all the mice living in your home first*).  Mice feel “breeze” coming from your house with their whiskers and just follow the air.  By the way, air flowing out of those gaps equals heating and cooling money lost, too.

That being said, many people do EVEN MORE to invite them to their homes.  Mice love food like bird seed and compost scraps.  Do not put feeders or compost drums near the house.  They also love housing, like bags of leaves or piles of firewood.  Again, keep these things away. They prefer to stay hidden under tall plants or low decks or clutter of any kind.  So, too many bushes or clutter near the house is an invitation.

The best way to KEEP your mouse problem:  Get a cat.  Cats seldom eliminate and never prevent them.  Plus, if you are planning on becoming pregnant you should know that there is a disease cats can get from mice and pass on to their owners… which is especially dangerous in pregnant women.

The best way to RID yourself of mice is prevention.  Fill the gaps, etc.  Once and done.  No cat to feed or litter box to scoop.

I have lost more time than I like to think about explaining these things to people who just want me to “Kill the things!”  The critters are there because you have another problem.  Solve THAT problem and these critters may not return…often no pesticide required.


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