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Spring

Ant Inspections

By | Home Inspections, Home Maintenance, Pests, Spring | No Comments

Ant Inspection

by Nick Gromicko

Ants are among the most prevalent pests in households, restaurants, hospitals, offices, warehouses, and virtually all buildings where food and water can be found. While mostly harmless to humans, ants (especially carpenter ants) can cause considerable building damage.  Inspectors can expand their knowledge base by being able to identify some of the telltale signs of ant infestation.
Ant Behavior
Ants are social insects that live in colonies divided into three castes: queens, males and workers. Most of the ants you may observe, which are responsible for gathering food, are sterile female workers. Winged males and females will leave the nest to mate, and to find suitable locations for new colonies. After mating, the males die and the impregnated females (queens) shed their wings and lay eggs that will hatch into the legless, grub-like larvae. The queen takes care of these larvae as they develop until they finally become pupae. Within a few weeks, adult worker ants emerge from these pupae and take over the job of tending the young.

Distinguishing Ants from Termites

Winged ants are often mistaken for winged termites, which also leave their nests to mate. These insects can be distinguished from one another by three main characteristics:

  • The ant’s body is constricted, giving it the appearance of having a thin waist, while the termite’s body is not constricted.
  • The ant’s hind wings are smaller than its front wings, while the termite’s front and hind wings are about the same size. Wings might not always be present, however, as both species eventually lose them.Ants and termites are different in three key ways
  • Winged female and worker ants have elbowed antennae, while the termite’s antennae are not elbowed.

Termites and ants both construct nests in moist wood, but ant nests are typically smoother and lack mud structures commonly found in termite nests. Also, termites actually subsist on wood, so the structural damage they leave it their wake is generally more severe than that caused by ants, which merely tunnel through wood.

Nests

Carpenter ants nest in both moist and dry wood, but they prefer moist wood. Accordingly, nests are more likely to be found in wood dampened by water leaks, such as wood around bathtubs and sinks, poorly sealed windows and door frames, roof leaks and poorly flashed chimneys. Nests are especially common in moist, hollow spaces, such as the wall void behind a dishwasher and in a hollow deck column. As there will often be no external signs of damage, probing the wood with a screwdriver helps reveal the excavated “galleries.” Another technique for locating hidden nests is to tap along baseboards and other wood surfaces with the blunt end of a screwdriver while listening for the hollow sound of tunneled wood. If a nest is nearby, carpenter ants often will respond by making a rustling sound within the nest.

Inspection

The following clues are evidence that a building is host to an ant infestation:

  • long trails of ants, perhaps numbering in the hundreds or thousands. Ants assemble in long trails along structural elements, such as wires and pipes, and frequently use them to enter and travel within a structure to their destination. Follow the trail to locate their nest or their entry point, such as an electrical outlet, or gap along a baseboard or around a water pipe;Ants entering, or exiting, a lightswitch
  • a few straggler ants. These are scouts in search of food and nesting sites. They, too, may be followed back to the nest to betray their family;
  • holes or cracks in walls or foundations, especially where pipes enter the building, and around windows and doors. These can provide entry points for ants and other insects. Kitchens are other food storage and preparation areas are particular problem areas;
  • frass deposits. Frass is the fine sawdust produced after galleries are carved out of the wood. If you suspect that a piece of woodwork hosts a gallery, you can tap on it with a screwdriver tip and see if any dust falls away;
  • a distinctive rustling sound similar to the crinkling of cellophane. Ants are small, but nests are large enough to produce perceptible noise; and
  • outside, inspect for nests in mulch and vegetation next to the foundation. Check under potted plants, patio blocks, stepping stones, in piles of rocks, lumber and firewood.
Exclusion Practices
A number of steps can be taken by homeowners to reduce the potential for future ant problems, such as:
  • Store food items that attract ants, such as sugar, syrup, honey, and pet food in closed containers. Wash them to remove residues from outer surfaces.
  • Rinse out empty soft drink containers or remove them from the building.
  • Thoroughly clean up grease and spills.
  • Remove garbage from buildings daily and change liners frequently.
  • Correct roof and plumbing leaks and other moisture problems that will attract ants.
  • Eliminate wood-to-ground contact, such as where landscaping has pushed soil or mulch up against the wood siding of a home.
  • Clip back tree limbs and vegetation touching the roof or siding of the house. Limbs and branches serve as bridges between tree limb nests and the structure.
  • Seal cracks and openings in the foundation, especially where utility pipes and wires enter from the outside.
  • Stack firewood away from the foundation, and elevate it off the ground. Never store firewood in the garage or other areas of the home, as firewood is a major ant nesting area.
In summary, ants are complex creatures that create structural defects in buildings. Inspection and exclusion techniques should be practiced.

Credit of this article goes to Nick Gromicko of InterNACHI.

Early Spring Lawn Care

By | Home Beautification, Home Maintenance, Spring | No Comments

Caring for your lawn depends on the climate. For cool-seasons, there is a technique gardeners can do in order for their lawn to maintain the lush and green characteristic. There is some tweaking here and there whenever the season changes, but the basic program indicated here is what most lawns in Canada need.

Know Your Soil
During growing season, you have to know your soil by conducting soil tests. Some of these come in pre-paid boxes that can be ordered online or bought in the store. The soil test indicates the amount of acidity (pH), the main nutrients such as phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium, present, the organic matter and the micronutrients. The test will also point out the deficiencies which can be corrected.

Healthy soil needs biological activity. Therefore, there is a need for microorganisms and earthworms. The biological activity entails enough organic matter in order for the lawn to flourish in its natural green state.

In early spring, there must be the cleaning up and aeration of the lawn. Here is how you can do it: Wait for the snow to melt and the lawn to dry, then power-rake to remove excess and aerate the lawn by using spiked clogs.

Why Aerate?
Aeration alleviates the compact thickness in between the ground’s density which results from gravity and winter snows. Through this cleaning up process, the soil gets injected by oxygen, making it easier for biological activity to take place. It also helps the penetration of fertilization in the roots.

It also helps to apply organic herbicides. The amount should be at least 20 lbs for every 1000 sq. ft. Choose organic herbicides that are made from corn gluten meal or have been proven to be a pre-emergent herbicides that are organic.

Afterwards, apply complete organic fertilizer. The amount is the same as that of the herbicide – 20 lbs for every 1000 square feet. You can alternately apply herbicides and fertilizers every six weeks. Choose a fertilizer that is made from the best blended organic materials.

Mowing Tips
When it comes to mowing, it is best to do so at a cutting height of 3 inches as a short lawn will be less resistant to weeds and will dry out and burn faster. The root system mimics the length of the length of the blades of grass, so the longer the stronger. The exception to this rule is when they are the last cuts of the season by cutting low to an inch. We recommend to leave clippings on the lawn and keep the blade of your mower sharp. Research shows that there are benefits to cutting the lawn. One of which is that the weeds are choked out, therefore making the roots develop and resistant to hardiness and drought.

Thanks to Carlos Armando Siguenza for providing the information above! If you are in the Calgary, Alberta area and looking for a landscaping specialist – check out Armandos Gardening!

Armandos Gardening
www.armandosgardening.ca
(403) 589-0019

Landscaping services in the Calgary Area.

Landscaping services in the Calgary Area.

Other Helpful Articles:
Green Law Care – Edmonton Journal.