Bug Archives: New England

Who Is That Knocking At Your Door??

Woodpeckers Drilling & Drumming

In the spring and fall, hundreds of homeowners are awakened by a woodpecker drumming on metal outside their house or have become aware of holes in their siding created by a drilling woodpecker. Four New England woodpeckers are known to drill and drum on houses: the Hairy Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, and Northern Flicker. The most common offender in Massachusetts seems to be the Downy Woodpecker.

Woodpeckers are superbly adapted to life in the trees. Their feet have two toes pointing forward and two pointing rearward, and sharp pointed claws, enabling the birds to scale vertical tree trunks and other vertical surfaces. Their stiff tail feathers act as props (like a third leg) when the birds are climbing. All woodpeckers have straight pointed bills and reinforced skulls to absorb the constant shock of pecking and chiseling.

Woodpeckers excavate cavities in wood for places to rear young during the breeding season, and to roost during the winter. They are the only birds in our region to make tree cavities and therefore have an important role in the ecology of the forest as a whole. Kestrels, owls, Tree Swallows, Crested Flycatchers, chickadees, nuthatches, bluebirds, flying squirrels, and other species all use abandoned woodpecker holes for rearing their own young. Drilling and chipping for food and shelter also contribute to the necessary decomposition of dead trees.

Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers lay an average of 4-5 eggs in a tree or branch cavity during the month of May. The male and female take turns incubating the eggs (the male brooding at night) for about 12 days. After hatching, the young are fed at the nest by both parents for 20-22 days and for another three weeks after they leave the nest.

Primarily insectivorous, woodpeckers consume beetles, ants, aphids, flies, and caterpillars. The birds use their long tongues with bristly tips to extract insects from holes in wood. Woodpeckers may locate prey acoustically. They seem to be able to hear the rustling and chewing sounds that insects make in the wood. Flickers feed mainly on the ground and are often seen hopping about lawns looking for their favorite food, ants. Woodpeckers will also eat acorns, pine seeds, nuts, and berries. The Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers commonly come to feeders for suet and sunflower seeds.


Although woodpeckers are beneficial members of the wildlife community, they can at times come into conflict with people. To a woodpecker, a wooden house is simply a large, oddly shaped tree, and the birds frequently choose houses as drilling or drumming sites.

Drilling and drumming are two distinct types of behavior.

When woodpeckers drill on a house, they actually chip out wood and create holes in the search for food or the need to create cavities. Those houses that are attacked are often dark in color (browns and grays), or are natural stained cedar or redwood. Damage is usually located in shingling or corner posts, and the holes are generally quarter- to half-dollar sized and fairly deep. There may be one or two holes, or dozens, and the damage can be extensive. Often there is no particular pattern to the placement of the holes. Most of the drilling on houses occurs in the fall (September through November).

Northern FlickerSeveral theories have been put forth to explain drilling behavior:
A primary driving force behind these drillings may be the need to excavate nesting and roosting cavities. In the fall, woodpeckers excavate several roosting holes in preparation for the coming winter. In the spring, there is a resurgence of drilling activity in preparation for the nesting season. These are the two times of year when woodpecker activity on houses is most prevalent.

2) One suggests that the culprits are inexperienced juveniles that are stressed for food in the fall. A house with hollow-sounding wood may seem like a likely place to search for insects. In fact, many small insects such as earwigs, cluster flies, and wasps, do hibernate under shingles and clapboards on houses in the fall. However, the presence of a woodpecker drilling on your house does not necessarily mean that you have a harmful infestation of insects. In fact, we have not heard of any cases in which the cause of woodpecker damage to a house was an insect infestation.

3) It has also been suggested that the woodpeckers are attracted to the buzz of electrical wires and appliances in a house. It may be that these sounds mimic the rustling of insects in the wood. However, in many instances the birds are found drilling in areas far from any wiring. It seems doubtful that this is a significant factor in drilling behavior.

In all cases, it is best to start deterrents as soon as the bird is noticed on the house, and before it becomes too attached to the site. Bear in mind that this is a temporary (seasonal) problem and that these measures can usually be discontinued in a few weeks.

Woodpeckers show strong preferences for particular sites, and are difficult to dissuade from drilling and drumming on favorite spots. However, there are some things homeowners can do to protect their houses. A large sheet of plastic, such as a painters’ drop cloth or a heavy duty garbage bag, can be tacked over the wood or metal on a house. Attach the plastic sheet at the top and leave the bottom free to bunch and blow in the wind. The birds will then not be able to get a good footing on the plastic, and the movement of the plastic will help scare the birds away.

In other areas of the house, such as corners or under eaves, bird netting (i.e., fruit tree netting, available at garden supply centers) can be stretched (keep it at least 6 inches from the surface) so that the woodpecker cannot reach the wood or metal.

Try hanging several, 6 foot long mylar streamers (found in party supply stores) ten inches apart over the damaged area. In hard to reach or inaccessible areas, extend helium-filled mylar balloons (with very long strings) directly in front of the area. The movement of these materials when the wind blows will help to deter the birds. The homeowner can supplement these scare tactics by squirting a hose near the bird before it gets settled in to work in the mornings.

Waste money on plastic owls or rubber snakes. These items are of no use in deterring woodpeckers. Mothballs are also ineffective since the birds do not have a well developed sense of smell. There are no repellents that will effectively and safely deter woodpeckers.

Conflicts between woodpeckers and people can generally be resolved if homeowners make an effort to discourage the birds. Plastic sheeting and balloons and streamers are effective in deterring most woodpeckers. Leaving dead trees and snags around the yard will also help provide natural feeding, nesting, and drumming sites for the birds.

All birds are protected by federal laws under the “Migratory Bird Act of 1918,” as well as by Massachusetts state laws. It is illegal to destroy, relocate or possess birds, their nests or their eggs. The only exceptions are non-native species: House Sparrow, European Starling, and Pigeon. Trained and licensed wildlife rehabilitators, who have passed a federal and/or state-administered test, are permitted to care for injured or orphaned wildlife.


Getting Rid Of Bugs, Try Eating Them??

Gross or great? Unexpected delicacies from around the world

Published July 23, 2012 / The Daily Meal

In the field of adventurous eating, those seeking flavor-packed thrills are often ready and willing to sample the world’s most exotic cultural delicacies and outrageous ingredients.
However, there are some foods out there that push those with even the most fearless palates to the outer limits of their culinary comfort zones. Considered delicacies in some parts of the world, these dishes prey on the phobias of the squeamish and even make some courageous eaters cringe.

Teriyaki Cockroaches
Hissing cockroaches are one of the the largest species of cockroach, and sometimes can grow as large as 7.5 centimeters. At the Gene Rurka Farm in New Jersey, these crawling critters are injected with honey and soy sauce, fried, and served as a crunchy treat.

Chapulines, or grasshoppers, elevate bug-eating to a gourmet delicacy. Eaten predominantly in the Oaxaca region of Mexico, chapulines are high in nutrients and provide a cheap source of protein. Classic chapuline recipes incorporate tortillas, chile, garlic, and lime juice.

Chapulines must be thoroughly cooked before consumption, as they sometimes carry nematodes that can infest the human body. Buy these crunchy critters at the Benito Juarez Market

Fried Tarantula
A delicacy of Cambodia, fried tarantulas are consumed primarily in towns such as Skuon, where they are sold in stalls at food markets. Crispy tarantulas with lime and kampot black pepper dip is served at Friends in Phnom Penh.

Locals began eating the eight-legged creatures in order to stave off famine during the reign of Khmer Rouge in the 1970s. These edible spiders are fried in oil and contain gooey insides with a crunchy exterior.

Squirrel Brains
Squirrel brains are a regional delicacy in Appalachian regions in Kentucky. Popular recipes include scrambling squirrel brains with eggs or including the meat in a stew known as burgoo.

In recent years, however, doctors have warned against squirrel consumption because of the possibility that squirrels carry a variant of fatal mad cow disease.


Florida, Hawaii, Europe, And Bedbugs… No Thanks!

We are in the middle of Summer now and people are still getting on those planes heading all over. And like all vacations you have your worries, luggage loss, money loss, someone gets sick, you lose your phone, there was a mistake and your hotel is fully booked, anything can happen. But what about the bedbug worry??? This one is a real stinker, one that can come home with you, ruining your vacation and the days, or longer after. It is smart to be prepared, be as prepared as possible before, during and after a vacation.



Unfortunately these pests don’t differentiate between a 5-star hotel or a cheap low amenity motel. To them, a bed is a bed as long as a blood meal is sleeping in it. A 2011 NPMA and University of Kentucky survey found that 80 percent of pest professionals have treated bed bugs in hotels and motels.  Most travelers will stay in a hotel at one point or another during their vacation, putting themselves at a higher risk of picking up these hitchhiking bugs. Once inside a hotel, they spread rapidly from room to room – through pipes, in vacuum cleaners, on clothing and luggage. In a hotel, bedbugs can even spread to neighboring rooms, because they can crawl through the walls between rooms.

What To Look For:

  • Place your suitcase in the bathroom as that is the safest place for it. Bed bugs are least likely to hide in a bathroom.
  • Pull back the sheets and inspect the mattress seams, particularly at the corners, for pepper-like stains or spots or even the bugs themselves. Adult bed bugs resemble a flat apple seed.
  • Check behind the headboard, inside couch and chair cushions.
  • If you see anything notify management immediately!
  • If you do need to change rooms, be sure that you do not move to a room adjacent and/or directly above/below the suspected infestation.  Bed bugs can easily hitchhike via housekeeping carts, luggage and even through wall sockets. If an infestation is spreading, it typically does so in the rooms closest to the origin.
  • Even if you determine your room is clear of any bed bugs, consider placing your suitcase in a plastic trash bag or protective cover during the duration of your trip to ensure that bed bugs cannot take up residence there prior to departure.

When You Return Home:

  • Inspect your suitcases before bringing them into the house. Your neighbors may give you strange looks, but better safe then sorry. Take the opportunity to educate them as to why you’re unpacking your suitcase on the front porch. You might save them from a bed bug infestation in the future.
  • Vacuum your suitcase thoroughly before storing it. Consider using a garment hand steamer to steam your luggage, which can kill any bed bugs or eggs that may have hitched a ride home.
  • Wash and dry on high heat all clothing your brought on vacation, even if you did not wear them, this will kill anything on them.
  • Keep clothes that must be dry-cleaned in a plastic bag and take them to the dry-cleaner as soon as possible.

So, Do You Have Bedbugs?

Maybe you didn’t check the hotel room as thoroughly as you thought or perhaps you were too tired to vacuum your suitcase.  Perhaps you did everything right but a few days after you came home, you wake up with red itchy welts on your body and notice the telltale pepper-like stains on your sheets. A few bed bugs snuck by you and have made themselves at home. Don’t panic! Although bed bugs are a difficult pest to treat, pest professionals like A1-Exterminators have many treatment options available to them and are successful in eliminating infestations.

The key is to begin treatment as soon as infestation is suspected or discovered. Bed bugs are not a DIY pest, treatments should be left to licensed and experienced pest professionals, like A1 Exterminators. If you suspect a bed bug infestation contact us at 1-800-525-4825 today!

We’re Hot, Sticky And Getting Bit More???

Record summer heat brings out the bugs

Published July 25, 2012 / LiveScience

If you’re feeling extra mosquito-bit this summer, you’re not alone. According to the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), record hot summer temperatures are bringing out the bugs.

Ants, fleas, ticks, earwigs and black widow are among the pests that are making a strong showing this year, according to the NPMA.

“Insects are cold-blooded, which means that their body temperatures are regulated by the temperature of their environment,” NPMA public affairs officer Missy Henriksen said in a statement. “In cold weather, insects’ internal temperatures drop, causing them to slow down. But in warm weather, they become more active. Larvae grow at a faster rate, reproduction cycles speed up, and they move faster.”

Hot has been the watchword this year, with the first half of 2012 measuring up as the warmest on record for the United States. June 2011 to June 2012 was also the warmest 12-month period since record-keeping began in 1895, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Drought across the country’s midsection can also exacerbate pest problems, Henriksen said. When insects and arachnids can’t find moisture outside, they often head indoors. Areas where rain is more frequent are likely to see increased mosquito breeding, she added.

About 64 percent of the continental United States was experiencing drought as of July 19. The unusually hot summer has also contributed to incidents of heat stroke, low water supply in some areas and blows to agriculture.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2012/07/25/record-summer-heat-brings-out-bugs/#ixzz21kGnmJGs

Some Facts About The Earwig


Earwigs are small bugs that got their name from the myth that they climb into people’s ears and therein lay their eggs or tunnel into the brain. That is just a myth, earwigs may climb into your ear to get away from the cold, but that is not the only insect that may climb into your ear. But, earwigs do NOT lay eggs into your brain, your eardrum blocks the insects from getting anywhere near your brain.

Male earwigs also have two penises! Both are larger than it’s body and if it needs the second one just in case one of them snaps off! “It’s an interesting phenomenon,” says Mike Siva-Jothy of the University of Sheffield, UK. He thinks there must be some evolutionary advantage to the earwig’s “unusually long” and fragile organs.

Earwigs do not bite, but rather pinch. The pinch is really painful, but is not known to carry or transmit any kind of disease. Earwigs are not venomous and their bite may lead to a secondary infection if scratched by nails.  You need to look out for any broken pincers or curved forceps left back in your wound.

These pests rarely colonize indoors and if you do observe them inside, it maybe because you have something moist within your home or they are in to escape the cold temperatures outdoors. If there are earwigs in the house, look for cracks in your door, windows or foundation. Find the source of entry and get the door, window or screen fixed right away. You can even apply caulk or weather stripping to keep them out and get rid of earwigs.

Next, look out for moist areas, wet leaves, loose stones and rotting newspapers around your house. Clean up everything that is rubbish and moist and make sure your foundation is dry. Clean the rain gutters and sprouts and keep them a bit away from the house foundations.