Controlling Summer Pests
The Arizona Republic
Our mild climate in Arizona definitely makes homes and yards inviting to pests of all kinds – from termites to scorpions to roaches to ants and more. And when the weather warms up and the monsoon hits, the pests multiply.
Perhaps the one critter that strikes most fear in the hearts of homeowners is the termite. Four species of termites live here, but the one most prevalent in Arizona is the desert subterranean termite (Heterotermes aureus).
Termites are active year-round, but August through the fall is a time they particularly enjoy because the temperatures are usually not super-super hot or cold and there is more rain than usual. That’s often when they shoot up exploratory mud tubes along your walls to see if they can hit wood.
Before the foundations are poured for homes built in Arizona, the site is treated with chemicals to kill termites. But after five years, the treatment breaks down and that’s generally when termite trouble starts. At that point homeowners should have annual inspections for termites or have another treatment done.
Here are some tell-tale termite signs: crumbling drywall, small holes in wood, insect wings, sagging floors or doors, and of course, those thin mud tubes, especially on the exterior of your home or inside your garage. These tiny tubes are pale to tan in color; termites often build them up or around solid objects to reach a food source.
Termite control isn’t a DIY project; you need an exterminating company armed with drills, sub-slab injectors, motorized pumps, and the right chemicals.
A termite technician will drill into the ground or even the sidewalks or patio around your home and insert a liquid termicide called Termidor. Then the holes are refilled. If you have termites in the middle of your home somewhere, a service person can remove flooring and drill into the slab to treat the termites.
On the market about a dozen years, Termidor has revolutionized termite control and is the only product that we endorse for these treatments.
Termidor contains fipronil, the same ingredient used in flea and tick control for dogs and cats. It’s odorless, so you can’t smell it; and termites can’t smell or taste it. It’s called a non-repellent, so termites can’t detect it and don’t avoid it. They die slowly and carry the Termidor on their bodies back into their colonies to infect and kill other termites, including the queen of their colony.
I’m not a believer in bait systems for termite that need refilling periodically -- except in very unusual circumstances. One possibility might be in historic homes where wooden floors make it hard to determine where termites are entering a house.
Scorpions and other strange invaders –
Another unwelcome visitor on everyone’s pest list is the bark scorpion, the only poisonous scorpion in North America. Fatalities are extremely rare after scorpion bites, but they are painful; some victims can have severe allergic reactions. When the weather warms up, scorpions become more active.
Scorpions have a yellowish brown color, just like the tile and carpeting in many homes; that makes it hard to spot them when they come indoors.
A key way to prevent an invasion by scorpions and other pests is to control the environment in your house and yard. For example, check weather-stripping around doors. If you see daylight coming through, a scorpion could easily squeeze in because they can travel through extremely small holes. Use sealant to plug up cracks in the house and around wires and pipes. Keep the foundation and areas around doors and windows sealed tightly.
Keep potted plants sitting on tiny stands in your yard, and don’t overwater. A pot in a saucer of water makes a great nest for scorpions. Yard debris will attract scorpions and also roaches, black widow spiders and earwigs. So clean up dead plants, fallen branches, wood piles and piles of spare shingles or tiles.
Many Arizona residents believe scorpions cannot be controlled or killed, but that’s a myth. When the right products and applications are used, all mixed at the correct EPA dosage, then scorpions can be controlled when sprayed directly or indirectly. You can have the outside perimeter of your house treated with a thin glaze of dust that will kill scorpions if it gets on their bodies.
What could be wrong with having a cricket or two chirping around your home? One possible reason for fighting them off is that scorpions and spiders like to eat them; so controlling crickets can wipe out a food source for more dangerous pests.
Crickets like moisture and often live under weed screed of the stucco siding on your house; they also climb into metering boxes for irrigation systems. You may need to target popular nesting sites to control crickets.
There are do-it-yourself options, but sometimes these pests persist. It may take a couple applications of pesticide. Because ants think baits are food, you may see increased activity when they are first treated. But after 10-14 days, you will stop finding them.
An exterminating company can save you time by zeroing in on what species of ant you are having problems with. A technician can also handle chemicals so you don’t have to do it yourself.
Five common species of cockroaches have lived in Arizona for decades. But because they differ, you may need to consult an extermination service to identify what brand of cockroach you have and where and how they nest. For some types of roaches, it can take several months to break the reproductive cycle.
Next week we will talk about whether the time is right to buy a cabin up north in Arizona and what you should look for before buying.
For more do-it-yourself tips, go to rosieonthehouse.com. An Arizona home building and remodeling industry expert for 35 years, Rosie Romero is the host of the Rosie on the House radio program from 8-11 a.m. Saturdays on KTAR-FM (92.3) in Phoenix, KQNA-AM (1130) in Prescott and KAZM-AM (780) in Sedona, KAFF-AM (930) in Flagstaff and KNST-AM (790) in Tucson. Call 888-767-4348.