Category Archives: Pest News

Raccoon Repellents: How Effective Are They?

As soon as people find out they have a raccoon in their attic, the first thing they think about is whether they can get rid of it themselves. So, they go surf the Internet to see what other people are doing.

Out on the web are a lot of sites that have all kinds of “home remedies” or do-it-yourself solutions. These can range from coyote urine to ultrasonic emitters, to loud rock music and bright lights. Unfortunately, raccoons are highly adaptable, like suburban and urban life, are clever and relatively fearless creatures, and are not deterred by small inconveniences.

Some of these chemical repellents are basically composed of mothballs (i.e., naphthalene) or ammonia. These chemicals are very stinky and give off a smell that will permeate your house with an odor that is nearly impossible to get rid of until it dissipates on its own six or more months away. Truth be told, hey don’t really seem to effect raccoons much.

Predator urine that you can spray or apply to entrance areas is sometimes touted as the be-all and end-all of keeping raccoons or other varmints out of your attic or eaves. Although these might be great for generating revenue for the seller, they are marginally to not effective at all.

A similar story holds for the ultrasonic devices you can see being sold as repellents. Raccoons and other mammal invaders into your house are generally not affected by lights or a radio playing up in the attic. Only if you are personally up there, will they tend to vacate. As soon as you leave, though, they will return to house and home.

Raccoons, Rabies, and You

Because raccoons are wild animals and, like any other wild thing, can put up a vicious fight if they are cornered, some people think they will just get a cage and try and trap the animal themselves, thereby saving themselves some money. You should know, however, that it is probably illegal for you to trap a raccoon and then take it somewhere else and release it. If you can’t trap it and then take it somewhere else, then that means you have to kill it. Very few people know how to humanely euthanize trapped wildlife, so for your safety and to be humane, you really need to have someone involved who is licensed and is able to handle the animal humanely and, if necessary, safely dispose of its remains.

One reason many states do not allow people to trap and release raccoons is because, as we noted in a previous blog, they are the animal most often reported that is infected with rabies. In fact 40% of all reported rabies cases now come from raccoons, with skunks and foxes coming in second and third.

In fact, it is thought that the rise in the number of rabid raccoons on the east coast of the US was because some hunting clubs in Virginia wanted to restock their local raccoon populations and did so with some raccoons that had been caught in Florida. Some of these had rabies, but did not yet exhibit the symptoms. Since that time, increased rates of raccoon rabies has spread across the East and all the way up into Canada.

In fact, before 1960, most reported rabies cases were in domestic animals, but now almost 90% of the cases involved wild animals. Rabies in humans though is pretty rare; and there are only about 2 cases a year in the whole US. Of these more than half were due to contacts with bats, not raccoons.

What to Do When Mosquitoes Are Bugging You

SMACK! SLAP! WHACK! Don’t let mosquitoes ruin another summer evening for your family. When the little blood-suckers are bugging you, try these tips to keep mosquitoes at bay:

  • Eliminate standing water where mosquitoes may nest and breed. Particularly check birdbaths, flower pots, garden planters, fido’s water dish, rain barrels and swimming pool or porch furniture covers.
  • Make sure outdoor trashcans are covered and sealed.
  • Repair any tears or holes in window and door screens to keep mosquitoes from coming inside.
  • Dining al fresco? Keep the food covered until you’re ready to eat.
  • When outside, avoid wearing dark colors or floral prints as these attract mosquitoes. Loose-fitting clothing, open-toe shoes and flip flops give the little buggers more places to snack on.
  • Avoid sweet perfumes and colognes. Mosquitoes normally feed on nectar so avoid smelling like a flower.
  • Use an insect repellent that contains DEET. DEET has been proven the most effective deterrent to mosquitoes.

If you’re going to be outdoors where mosquitoes are present, particularly in the evening, dress yourself for battle: wear light-colored clothing, a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, a hat and closed shoes with socks. Spritz a little insect repellent with eau de DEET on your clothing and dab a drop behind each ear. Appropriately attired, you should have a comfortable, mosquito-free evening.

Coping With Mosquitoes: What Works and What Doesn’t

Mosquitoes are one of the more annoying pests of summer. (See our August 7 post for an up close and personal look at this backyard BBQ killjoy.) Everybody has a favorite remedy for keeping mosquitoes under control. Home store shelves are loaded with products that promise quick and effective relief. Let’s take a look at what works and what doesn’t.

  • Despite diehard supporters the holistic approach doesn’t work. In scientific tests vitamin B, ultrasonic devices, incense, etc. have not been found to have any effect on mosquitoes.
  • Want to try the natural approach? If your climate will support them, your best bet is to import large numbers of dragonflies which eat prodigious amounts of mosquitoes. Some people think that bats and purple martins can control mosquitoes, but though they eat a lot of insects, only 1% of their diet is mosquitoes.
  • Despite that delightful sizzle that lets you know another bug has hit the dust, bug zappers kill a lot of bugs and moths, but few mosquitoes. Light doesn’t attract mosquitoes. You may actually be killing the bugs that eat them!
  • Newer mosquito traps emit chemical attractants that mimic a mammal’s scent, drawing blood-sucking female mosquitoes to their doom. While effective in killing large numbers of the blood suckers, whether you’ll feel any relief will depend among other factors on the size and species of the mosquito population in your area. Developed for scientific research, to date these devices haven’t been useful in mosquito control.
  • Are you a traditionalist? Citronella candles and torches have long been used to repel mosquitoes. The insects don’t care for their perfume. If you’re close to the candles and the mosquito population in your yard is low, they will provide some relief and keep a small area relatively mosquito free. Their actual effect is easily dissipated by space, wind and the determination of the insects, but citronella can provide some relief, even if much of it is psychological.
  • DEET is still your best choice. Topical insecticides containing DEET will repel mosquitoes.

Next time: What to do when mosquitoes are bugging you.

Mosquitoes Put the Bite on Summer

You’re sitting on the backyard deck, cold one in hand, chatting with friends, watching the kids play in the yard, a pleasant end to a beautiful summer day, when SMACK! You feel the sharp sting of a mosquito on the back of your neck. SLAP! Another one nips your ankle. WHACK! That one dive bombs your shoulder and before you know it you feel like you’re the main course at a feeding frenzy. Another summer evening ruined by a thuggish pack of buzzing mosquitoes.

Most people place mosquitoes at the top of the summer pest hit list according to recent research by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA). A major summer nuisance in the U.S., mosquitoes can carry West Nile virus, malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever, encephalitis, and other diseases. In Africa, South America, Central America, Mexico and Asia, mosquitoes transmit disease to more than 70 million people annually, resulting in millions of deaths.

Largely nocturnal, mosquitoes are particularly active at dawn and dusk when they come out of their cool, dark hiding places to feed. Primarily nectar feeders, the females must also suck blood to nourish their eggs, which they lay in rafts of 100 or more on the surface of fresh or stagnant water. Within their 2-week to 2-month lifespan, females can lay a raft of eggs every third night. Most eggs hatch in 48 hours, the larvae reaching maturity in about 2 weeks, less if the weather is hot. A single busy female can create her own swarm in a matter of days!

A throwback to the age of dinosaurs, mosquitoes evolved 170 million years ago during the Jurassic era, supposedly in South America. Even back then the little buggers could pack a wallop, weighing in at three or more times their present size.

Next time: Coping with mosquitoes: What works and what doesn’t.