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Tracy Frank, Published July 25 2012

Local homeowners turn to professionals for pesky pest problems

FARGO - Karen Severtsen of Fargo has used Midwest Pest Control to remove spiders and other creepy, crawly critters from her home for years.

It started after she noticed spiders in a corner of her basement following flooding in 1997, and she’s used them ever since, both at her Fargo home and a place on Pelican Lake, near Pelican Rapids, Minn.

“The value of a professional is that they’ve been there, done it,” Severtsen said. “They can tell you what to look for, and they spray in the right places. Whereas I just get out the Raid and a shoe and start whacking.”

Severtsen has also had a mouse problem at the lake house.

“It can happen fast,” Severtsen said of mice building nests in a home, “especially if you’re not there all the time.”

Midwest Pest Control helps her with that issue, too.

“It just helps,” Severtsen said. “You want to be able to live and not worry.”

Bugs like it hot

Tim Johnson, owner of Johnsons Pest Control & Lawn Service in West Fargo, said the biggest problems this year have been with bed bugs, aphids, spring tails and clover mites.

“Heat affects insects,” Johnson said. “The warmer it is, to a certain extent, the more different insects will show up.”

Spring tails and clover mites don’t cause any harm, but they’re a nuisance, he said. And they’re small enough to slip through a home’s window screens.

“Homes are not sealed off by any means,” he said. “There are air vents in windows. You just can’t stop the smaller insects from getting into a house.”

In addition to bed bug infestations, which have increased over the past 10 years, cockroaches are also a constant problem, said Alan Stokke, owner of Midwest Pest Control in Fargo.

Ants have been a bother this year, too, said Stacy O’Reilly, owner of Plunkett’s Pest Control, based in Fridley, Minn., with offices in Fargo.

“It’s been a good year if you’re a bug,” she said. “Earlier in the year it was wet enough and warm enough to get them going.”

Bees and wasps will likely become more of a nuisance in three or four more weeks O’Reilly said.

When to call in the pros

Johnson said homeowners should call an exterminator whenever they’re not sure what kind of critter is invading.

“The longer you wait with insects that are a problem like bedbugs or roaches and things like that, the harder it is for an exterminator to gain control,” he said. “The quicker you call, the better results you’re going to have.”

The same goes for spiders, he said.

While an occasional spider is nothing to worry about, if you start to see webbing around your home, you may have a problem, Johnson said.

“Spiders don’t do any harm, either, and most spiders don’t bite. Spiders are actually good because they feed off of insects, but most people don’t like the webs and don’t like spiders,” he said.

Some bugs, like roaches and bed bugs are indoor insects, so our frigid winters won’t affect them, he said.

While homeowners can always try to deal with pests like ants, bees or wasps on their own with products from a store, there are certain invaders – bed bugs, cockroaches and fleas – that should be left to the professionals, local exterminators said.

People with allergies to insect stings or pesticides should also call an exterminator instead of trying to fight it on their own, O’Reilly said.

Different bugs and critters require different methods of treatment, and professionals will try to eliminate the pests using the least amount of chemicals possible, they said.

“There is no one magic bug elixir. That which gets an ant, may not get a fly, which may not get a clover mite,” O’Reilly said. “Professionals on average use a lot fewer pesticides in a much more targeted fashion than the general homeowner.”

You should also call a professional exterminator if your first efforts fail, have a fear of the pest or just don’t want to deal with it on your own, O’Reilly said.

“For many people, especially with cabins, the last thing they want to do when they go out to their cabin is to start working,” she said.

An exterminator will first inspect your home to determine what’s there and what can be done, Stokke said.

And most pest issues can be taken care of right away, he said.

“The big thing is for a homeowner, if you feel you have a situation that needs assistance, a phone call to a professional is always free,” Stokke said.

Preventing pests

While you can’t prevent all pests from entering your home, exterminators said there are steps you can take to reduce the probability of getting as many unwelcomed visitors.

Treating the outside of your home means fewer pests will find their way inside, O’Reilly said.

“If they want to get in, they’re going to get in,” Stokke said. “About the only way to make it 100 percent mouse-proof is to hang your house from the clouds.”

Plunkett’s Pest Control has received a lot of calls for mice problems this year, and while O’Reilly said many people are successful at getting rid of mice on their own, a professional would not only catch and remove the mice, but also find the place where the mice are entering your home and seal that hole.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526