Learn how to pest-proof your home from spiders, ants, centipedes, and flying/stinging insects such as bees and wasps with expert tips from Tom Kraeutler and Greg Baumann.
TOM KRAEUTLER: Welcome to The Money Pit Pest Prevention Podcast presented by Orkin . I’m Tom Kraeutler. Well, as we begin to thaw out from the winter weather we also get our homes ready by doing a bit of spring cleaning to welcome the warmer weather ahead. But just as we tackle these tests it’s important to remember that pests will be readying themselves for the warm weather too. As the temperature increases so does the populations of spiders, ants, centipedes and stinging insects like bees and wasps . Fortunately there are ways to manage those insect populations, and with me to talk about that is Greg Baumann. He is the Vice President of Training and Technical Services for Orkin. Welcome, Greg.
GREG BAUMANN: Well, thank you very much, Tom.
TOM KRAEUTLER: And coming up in this episode of The Money Pit Pest Prevention Podcast we’re going to talk about the single most important step that you can take to prevent spring insect invasions. We’re also going to find out which four biting spiders  can create the biggest problems for people. And a fun fact, find out why, contrary to their name, centipedes really don’t have a hundred pairs of legs. [1:00] They can actually have more or less than a hundred, but they never have exactly one hundred. Well, Greg, we’ve waited a long time for the winter weather to fade and spring to start, and as it warms the insects really start to go to work and present themselves, I guess when the temperatures go over about 60 degrees, right?
GREG BAUMANN: Yeah, I’d say 60 degrees is about the critical point. Nice warm sunny day, things just explode with activity.
TOM KRAEUTLER: And what are the most common insects that are going to come out in early spring?
GREG BAUMANN: Well, in spring we’re going to see several different types of bugs, not all of them insects but bugs as we call them. A technical term, you know. These would be ants, bees, wasps, centipedes and spiders.
TOM KRAEUTLER: All right, technical term for the insect/bug nerds, what is the difference between a bug and an insect?
GREG BAUMANN: Well, a bug is going to be anything icky and small with multiple legs. How’s that for a technical term?
TOM KRAEUTLER: So kind of a term of art?
GREG BAUMANN: What’s that?
TOM KRAEUTLER: Kind of a term of art.
GREG BAUMANN: A term of art, yes. An insect technically has three segments and six legs.
TOM KRAEUTLER: All right. [2:00] So spring is the time we can agree that the bugs start to come out. It’s also the time we do a lot of spring cleaning. Can our efficiency of that cleaning process reduce the chance that these insects are going to get in the house?
GREG BAUMANN: Oh, it sure can. At the same time, it’s a good time as you’re doing the spring cleaning to walk around the house, look for any types of maintenance that might be necessary from a tough winter: cracks in foundation, caulking that may have fallen out from around the windows, and door sweeps that need to be repaired. There are a bunch of other things that we can do as well, and this is going to be good for just about any type of pest: remove firewood from near the foundation, make sure that you have good attic ventilation , make sure that you don’t have leaking hoses. You know, if a hose has been sitting out they may have split, and when you turn off the water they could be dripping and dripping and dripping. This creates one of the main things that pests need: food, water, a place to live.
TOM KRAEUTLER: Now, let’s talk a bit about some of these pests individually, and I’m going to start with centipedes. As I was joking earlier in the program, people think that centipedes, they get their name because they have a hundred pairs of legs. [3:00] But it’s interesting that centipedes really never ever have an even number of legs.
GREG BAUMANN: Yeah, it’s fascinating. And the thing about centipedes is they’re multiple species, so that’s why the number of legs will vary.
TOM KRAEUTLER: But is it true that they can have is it 15 and 191 pairs, that’s the range?
GREG BAUMANN: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, it’s amazing. And there’s one pair of legs for each body segment. Hey, here’s a little tip for you. Millipedes, we know about millipedes, those thousand-leggers, they have four legs or two pair per each body segment. So that’s kind of a fascinating little tip, centipede…
TOM KRAEUTLER: So if you’re ever on a quiz show, there’s the $64 question right there.
GREG BAUMANN: There you go, we’ll be happy to share it.
TOM KRAEUTLER: All right, so centipedes though are kind of creepy when you find them crawling across your floors, your counter tops, in your closets. How do they get in? Do they nest in the house, do they nest outside?
GREG BAUMANN: One of the very fast-move hunters.
TOM KRAEUTLER: Okay, so they typically nest outside and then…
GREG BAUMANN: They typically are going to be outside, they’ll work their way in. [4:00] They like crawlspaces, they like basements, nice, warm, humid, lots of insects. And because they are such good predators, that means that they move very fast, and this is what scares people. They’re relatively large, and when they turn on a light at night these things will be scurrying and really put the fear into you.
TOM KRAEUTLER: Yeah, especially when you flip the light on and they’re all over the place, right?
GREG BAUMANN: That’s exactly right, yeah.
TOM KRAEUTLER: So is there a way to treat for them?
GREG BAUMANN: One of the best things you can do is prevent the infestation, so you want to get into that sealing of the cracks and crevices . But also keep the insect population down in the basement or in the crawlspace. And if you control the insect population, just like a way to control the spiders, the centipedes, just like spiders, are not going to have the food source that they like.
TOM KRAEUTLER: Now, you mentioned spiders, that’s another insect that gets pretty active in the spring. And most spiders don’t bite, but there are some that really do and can be quite painful.
GREG BAUMANN: Yeah, and the [peers? 4:48] will tell you that they’re arachnids, not really spiders [insects]. So just another little bit of a factual thing. But there are a couple species of spider that can really cause some painful stings. [5:00] Most of them are not going to cause serious long-term health effects, but you have the black widow spider, the brown widow spider, the brown recluse spider and the wolf spider. Not all these are found everywhere in the country, but regions these are very, very prevalent.
TOM KRAEUTLER: Now, spiders feed on insects, correct?
GREG BAUMANN: That’s correct.
TOM KRAEUTLER: So if you have a big insect population, does it go hand in hand that you could have more spiders?
GREG BAUMANN: Well, you know, spring time you’re starting to see these insect populations outside, and one of the best things you can do is reduce the lighting around your house. If you have to have porch lights in, put bug lights in, especially for the beginning of the season.
TOM KRAEUTLER: Now, those are the yellow lights?
GREG BAUMANN: Those are the yellowish lights.
TOM KRAEUTLER: And they really work, huh?
GREG BAUMANN: They do, they do.
TOM KRAEUTLER: Why is that? I’m fascinated by that.
GREG BAUMANN: It’s going to be a different wavelength of light and not going to be so attractive to the insects. And of course if you reduce those insects by not attracting as many, either turning the lights off or putting bug lights in, you’re going to reduce the area that would be very suitable to spiders because they’re not going to have the food. [6:00]
TOM KRAEUTLER: We’re talking to Greg Baumann, he’s the Vice President of Training and Technical Services for Orkin. Greg, let’s talk about ants. This is also a time of year when we can see ants start to show up inside of our homes. And there’s a pretty big variety of ants that are out there. Sometimes you get these really tiny ones that are almost impossible to see, all the way up to the very, very large ants that you can’t possibly miss. What are the ways to control ant populations , especially inside our house?
GREG BAUMANN: Well, ants, just like any type of pest, they’re going to need three things, food, water and a place to live. Okay, the house is a place to live. The water, no shortage of it, especially in the spring in most parts of the country. So really here’s the key to control: keep your food under control. Do not leave pet food sitting in the dishes overnight. Do not feed the pets outside. If you do, clean everything up before you go to bed. [7:00] You want to reduce the chances of ant population also by, when people are making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, you don’t want to leave that spilled jelly there because that is a buffet for ants. Again, you think about the perimeter, you want to reduce the chances of them coming in by doing proper maintenance, but you also want to reduce that food source.
TOM KRAEUTLER: Now, I understand that there are only two places in the world that ants don’t survive, that’s the north pole and the south pole. So pretty much every other spot in the country, in our country, you’re going to have them.
GREG BAUMANN: You know, ants are incredibly adaptive. In fact sometimes we have invasive species we’re dealing with, one in Texas right now, and it’s moving and moving. And it started out in one small pocket, it’s now in about eleven counties. So ants are really, really successful insects.
TOM KRAEUTLER: And they’re big travelers too. They can travel almost 800 feet from their nest to find food.
GREG BAUMANN: Yes, depending on a species of ant. I mean, they’ll go out, they’ll forage for food, they’ll bring it back to the nest, and that’s why finding the source is also very important, and that’s something that the pest control professional is going to do. The Orkin specialist will look for that nest to try to figure out where they’re coming from. [8:00]
TOM KRAEUTLER: Now, 750, 800 feet, that’s like us running a marathon to find our food.
GREG BAUMANN: It sure is. I can tell you by personal experience, I tracked a nest once from a kitchen once, down into a crawlspace, outside the door, and then all the way out in the front yard to a tree.
TOM KRAEUTLER: Wow.
GREG BAUMANN: So you have to play detective.
TOM KRAEUTLER: We’re talking to Greg Baumann, he’s the Vice President of Training and Technical Services for Orkin about those early spring pests that invade this time of year. Greg, let’s talk now about some of the flying insects that we’re going to start to see, the bees and the wasps. The warmer it gets the more active these pests seem to be.
GREG BAUMANN: Well, that’s exactly right. They’re looking for food, they’re building up their nest. Depending on the species they may have started from zero in the spring, and now they’re having to get enough nourishment for all of the young in the nest, and so they’re going to be very active out there. They typically are going to be… the ones we see are typically are going to be attracted to sugary drinks. And when we want to sit outside on the back deck and enjoy something nice and sugary, you know, the stinging insects like that as well. [9:00]
TOM KRAEUTLER: You gotta be really careful as you bring that can of soda up to your lips sometimes, huh?
GREG BAUMANN: Well, that’s exactly right, people get stung a lot. And some of these insects, such as the yellow jackets, they will sting multiple times. They have no barb like a honey bee would, and so they will just repeatedly sting. It can be very dangerous. You know, about 500,000 people go to the emergency room every year due to bee stings.
TOM KRAEUTLER: Wow, that’s really serious. And let’s talk about wasps. What’s the difference between a bee and a wasp?
GREG BAUMANN: Typically a wasp is going to have a very shiny abdomen, it’s going to be a little bit more aggressive and larger in size. Very, very much into defending the nest. A bee is usually going to be defined as something that has a fuzzy abdomen.
TOM KRAEUTLER: Now, in terms of those nests, we see for example the paper nests. Are those wasps nests or are those bee nests, or could they be both?
GREG BAUMANN: It’s going to depend on where you’re at in the country, to tell you the truth, but typically those paper nests are going to be wasps nests. [10:00]
TOM KRAEUTLER: And what about wasps that like to build sort of mud tubes? We call them mud wasps, I don’t know if that’s correct or not, but I see those a lot in the northeast.
GREG BAUMANN: Yeah, exactly. There’s one called the organ pipe, and some people get it confused with termite tubes.
TOM KRAEUTLER: They’re much bigger.
GREG BAUMANN: Except that the organ pipe is going to be a lot bigger, yeah.
TOM KRAEUTLER: And much muddier.
GREG BAUMANN: A lot more mud, that’s exactly right. And that’s where they lay their eggs and that’s where the young emerge.
TOM KRAEUTLER: Wow. So this is the time of year when you really have to pay attention, because all of the insects are waking up, they’re going to work, and if you want to keep some separation between yourself and the insect world you really do need to take care of your house, to take those steps like we’ve been talking about, to keep the insects out by preventing as many of those access points and other conducive conditions as possible. And then if you do find them, call a pest professional. And I think a lot of folks, Greg, are concerned about the treatments and the chemicals that are applied to homes by professionals. I personally, my belief is that I think that consumers put themselves at a greater risk sometimes using over-the-counter products, that they don’t understand what they’re for, they apply them incorrectly, they apply them in the wrong place and the wrong quantities. [11:00] That you’re much safer calling a professional that knows exactly what to put, where to put it, how much to put it to make the problem go away.
GREG BAUMANN: Well, we focus very heavily on knowledge and education in training. And really we subscribe to integrative pest management, which is kind of a fancy term for targeted approach.
TOM KRAEUTLER: Okay.
GREG BAUMANN: So we want to go to the source, treat the source, and not over use any product.
TOM KRAEUTLER: Good advice. Greg Baumann, the Vice President of Training and Technical Services for Orkin. Thanks so much for being a part of The Money Pit Pest Prevention Podcast.
GREG BAUMANN: Thank you, Tom.
TOM KRAEUTLER: And if you’d like to learn more about how to identify and prevent pest problems in your home visit Orkin.com. The Orkin.com site is full of useful information to help you identify and eliminate insect problems in and around your home, including a pest library. Which is very helpful, because you’ll be able to look up any pest that you happen to come across in your house, as well as locate a pest control pro from Orkin to help eliminate those pests. [12:00] It’s all online at Orkin.com. Orkin, pest control down to a science.