Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Strategies for Vole Management

The following article By Indiana Joe appeared in the Summer Issue of WCT Magazine. Voles are a common pest in North America, and present multiple challenges in effectively mitigating the damages caused by this rodents behavior. In this article we outline an effective IPM strategy for the control of Voles, and discuss why the classical reliance on rodenticide baiting is proving to be less than optimal. Introduction The name "Vole" refers to any species in the genus Microtus, also known as the meadow mouse. They have small eyes and ears,short tails, and dark fur. Around 23 species occur in North America, but 3 species are of most concern to PMPs; the meadow vole, the prairie vole, and the pine vole. Although there is overlap in the preferred habitat of each species, usually only one type is found in a given area because of species competition and separation from the others by either an ecological or a geographical barrier. PMPs must consider the location, species, and type of damage before planning an effective IPM strategy. The prairie vole (Microtus ochrogaster) has a medium length tail and inhabits grassy fields, mixed deciduous woods and tall grass adjacent to wetlands or seasonal ponds. The meadow vole (M. pennsylvanicus) has a long tail and inhabits wet marshy areas, grassy stream sides and drier, grassy fields. Meadow voles are more of a surface dwelling species and rely on trails or runways as opposed to other species which are more subterranean in habit. The pine vole (M. pinetorum) has a short tail and is found in woods along wetlands, meadows near trees and shrubs , and where-ever mixed grasses and various forbs (broadleaf plants) are in the undergrowth. The pine vole has a more underground lifestyle than the other two, making tree wraps and baits less effective. It is interesting that the vole that has the shortest tail also spends the most time underground, where a long tail might get in the way. In general, all voles are semi-subterranean, and prefer areas with heavy ground cover. Most species of voles live in colonies. They occupy a variety of habitats, but are mostly associated with grasslands. They are active all year, both day and night. They feed on a variety of plant materials (and the occasional insect or snail) and their feeding preferences shift through the seasons. They reach sexual maturity in a few months and females can have 5 or more litters per year with 3–6 young per litter. Voles breed throughout the year, with peaks occurring during spring and summer. Voles damage lawns, golf courses and gardens with their above-ground runways and underground tunnels. Girdling of woody plants by voles can reduce the yield of fruit and even kill trees. Tree damage is most common during the fall and winter when other foods are limited. Damage to trees may not be readily noticed because the root gnawing and stem girdling often occurs under the cover of snow. Once signs of damage are noticed the trees have already received substantial damage. Management Although rodenticides offer an easy solution, they are both expensive and potentially hazardous to non-target species. There is also the potential of the target animals developing resistance and/or “bait-shyness”. Rodenticide use should be in combination with other control measures such as trapping and exclusion. Monitoring Vole population can fluctuate throughout the year, so monitoring is essential. The most useful method of monitoring voles is called apple-indexing. Apple slices are weighed and strategically-placed in the animals runway system or burrow for 24 hours. Then weigh the apple slice again and figure about one vole for every half ounce of apple eaten. This will give you a ballpark figure for the number of voles you are dealing with. The slices with the most damage are the areas most at risk. Habitat management This includes elimination of weeds, ground cover, and litter around lawns and ornamental plantings. Lawns should be mowed regularly. Vole pathways are chosen in proportion to risk associated with travel. In other words, they are more likely to take a long trip to get food if it has cover from predators than a short trip that would expose them to danger. Survival rates are lowest where dense cover is not available Exclusion If the voles are damaging trees, you can create a buffer zone around them by clearing mulch 3 feet or more from the base of trees, and placing hardware cloth tree wraps on the trunks. The mesh size of the hardware cloth used to construct tree wraps should be no larger than 1/4 inch in size. The tree wrap should be buried at least 6 inches below the ground surface to ensure that voles will not burrow under the hardware cloth. Biological Control A large variety of predators prey upon voles, in fact the short-tailed weasels specialize in hunting voles. Their diet can be up to 98% percent voles. Perches and nest boxes for avian predators such as kestrels and red-tailed hawks can be found or constructed. Hiding places for predators such as foxes, snakes, and feral cats can be incorporated into the landscaping. Repellents Repellents may provide a little protection for plants, but their effectiveness usually is temporary. If you've ever been to the city dump, you know that the smell is terrible at first, but pretty soon you get accustomed to it. It's the same with repellents. Undesirable groundcovers may be used around the perimeter as a deterrent by including unacceptable food items, such as crownvetch, myrtle and endophytic grasses such as fescue and perennial rye. Electronic devices have very little effect. Trapping The good old snap trap is very effective in reducing numbers on small to medium sized jobs, but it is labor intensive and may only be useful as a monitor on bigger jobs. Snap-traps should be placed at right angles to the runways and flush with the ground. Do not prebait in an attempt to increase trapping success, as there is no difference in trapping success in prebaited traps compared to non-prebaited traps, but non-target species are more likely to be caught. In fact many times bait isn't necessary at all; the voles will set off the traps as they run through their pathways. Live-trapping and pitfall-trapping can also be used. Rodenticide baits Baiting is most effective in winter, when populations are low, and food is scarce. Bait acceptance will be higher and secondary poisoning of non-target species will be less likely. Baits should be hand placed at burrows or placed in runways. Bait must be dry and fresh or it will be rejected by the animals, so a shingle or small board can be used to protect it from the snow. Fumigants are of limited utility due to the complexity of the network of tunnels. Voles are an integral part of their ecosystem. They reduce sagebrush in rangelands thereby increasing grazing productivity, they aerate the soil, and they offer food to numerous types of predators. As such they should only be controlled when they come in conflict with human needs.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Expanded Services

To expand our range of services, Indiana Joe is now acting as a contractor for Defender Pest Control. If you have any issues with larger pests such as raccoons or opposums, James is the man to talk to. I have worked with several decent wild-life experts, but none are in the same league with James. He brings experience and ingenuity to resolve any conflict with wild-life you might have. Not only does he care about the customers, but he also cares about the animals and will always treat them in a humane manner. I am proud to call this man compañero. Visit their facebook page

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Helping You Help Us Help You

We want to help you, but sometimes you need to help us help you. For example if your technician tells you not to use that  expensive over-the-counter product you just bought, he's not trying to be bossy. It means that it may counter-act his product and undo all the progress you already made. It is as though your Doctor prescribed an MAO inhibitor, but your yoga teacher told you take St Johns Wort. I know you're trying to help, but sometimes help means following the professionals advice.
   Another way you can help your Pest Management Professional is through sanitation. If he tells you that you need to improve sanitation at your home or business, he is not trying to insult you. He is only trying to explain why you are having a problem and how you can prevent it from re-occuring.
     Suppose you have ants in the kitchen. Spray treatments rarely work on ants, so your tech wants to try a bait. If the ants have some tasty grease under the stove or FrootLoops under the fridge, they might not go for the bait. If you had a delicious sushi platter, you wouldn't look twice at a fish stick.
    Speaking of maintanance, many problems start from dirty gutters. They clog up and the water sits in them and softens the wood. Then some Carpenter Ants move in and weaken the wood even more. Now a squirrel finds the weak wood and chews in so she can have a place to give birth.  Next a raccoon finds the squirrel hole and makes it bigger. Pretty soon you have a re-enactment of The Lion King going on in your attic. And all this could have been prevented by cleaning out your gutters.
    So call us for all your pesty problems and we will tell what needs to be done. We can give you an estimate on gutter cleaning, repairs  or even cleaning your kitchen.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Why Are We Called "Pest Science"?

     There are many companies these days with "green" products or services. For the most part, they are effective and competitively priced, but there are those out there who just want to make money. They think that anyone who cares about the environment is obviously some kind of gullible hippy and deserves to be taken. They will sell you colored water if they think they can get away with it. Remember, it can't be cost-effective if it's not effective.
     They are just jumping on the "Green" band-wagon. These are the same types who go on TV to promote "So_Called Alternative Medicine".  If you have an honest Doctor, he will tell you that if has been proven to work it IS medicine. Anything else either has not been proven to work or has been proven not to work. But he can't advise you on pest control because that's not his specialty. Just like you wouldn't use some wacky alternative medicine that might interfere with your Doctors treatment, so you shouldn't waste your money on over-the-counter bug sprays that might interfere with your exterminators methods
    Sorting through all the misinformation out there can be a baffling ordeal, but we are here to help. We have done the research so you don't have to. Organic solutions are just one component of Integrated Pest Management. IPM means using every tool in the tool-box. Just because a product is labeled "organic" or "eco-friendly" doesn't mean it works better or is safer. So just like the honest Doctor, we only use materials and methods that have been proven to work. Usually, organics are safer and/or more effective, but sometimes a conventional approach is the best solution for a given problem; there is no way to tell ahead of time. We promise to always be up-front with you and discuss the pros and cons before we do anything. We will never use un-proven tools to try and solve your problem; this is why we call ourselves "pest science".

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Truth About Bedbugs

  Bedbugs have re-emerged as one of the top pests in the country. Chances are you or someone you know has had a run-in with them. They are tough, but they can be controlled. Unfortunately not every pest control company is entirely forth-coming with the whole story.
   Modern pesticides are truly marvels of chemical science, but bedbugs are very adaptable. Over-the-counter treatments or improper application can even spook them into invading other areas. Even if your pest technician knows what he is doing he can only kill about 99 out of a hundred by spraying, but that means that there is one left, and she is probably pregnant.
   This works out well for those companies that want to keep coming out every month. If that one bedbug has babies pretty soon you have a hundred again and you are paying them come out and kill 99 again. That is if the technician knows what he is doing. If he doesn't know what he is doing then the bugs can build up immunity to the toxins even faster. Pretty soon all the bedbugs are descended from the ones that didn't die and have inherited that immunity. That is Natural Selection in action.
   The best way to be certain they are all dead is the heat treatment method. This involves heating up the entire structure to a temperature that will kill off all the bugs. This has the added benefit of killing all the other pests, too, like termites and roaches, even rats. This method has a couple of drawbacks however. For example bedbugs are often found in hotels and apartment buildings where heat treatment would be very difficult. Also the equipment needed to perform heat treatment is very expensive, meaning that only the largest companies offer it, and only well-off homeowners can afford it. And talk about a carbon footprint!
    Tree Hugger Pest Science is pleased to announce that we have discovered another method to be rid of bedbugs that involves no toxic chemicals or expensive treatments. While it's not as fool-proof as heat treating, it is better than spraying. Call now to see if our product is right for you.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Hi, welcome to my new blog! I am busy solving pesty problems for families who care about planet Earth, so I don't know how often I will update this blog. But rest assured, when I do it will be interesting.