Living Smart: How to rid your home of 5 pests likely to invade it

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Summer brings to mind many things: sunshine, warm temperatures, vacation ó and bugs.

Many insects lay dormant for the winter and make their grand reappearance when the weather warms up. We talked to several highly rated pest-control experts to find out which pests customers most often call about, and best ways to treat them.

Ants

"The highest number of residential calls we get is due to ants," says Rick Steinau, owner of Ace Exterminating in Cincinnati.

To treat the colonizing crawlers, Steinau says the homeowner must first identify the species. "Just because you see ants doesnít mean that all ants get treated the same way," he says. "Different ants are attracted to different types of food."

If you need help identifying the species, try asking your countyís extension agent. Then, Steinau says, look for ant bait. Most retail stores carry it, but be sure to read the label to make sure itís the right kind for the species in your home.

He says treatments purchased from a retail store cost $20 to $30, but some professional-level products are available online for about $10 more. For spray treatments, he charges $110 to $120.

Terry Singleton, owner of Termite Terry Pest Control in Costa Mesa, Calif., says he also offers spray treatments. These generally cost about $180 for a one-time treatment, or $85 every two months if you sign up for a treatment plan.

Bed bugs

"All socioeconomic groups can get bed bugs," Steinau says. "You can pick them up in the movie theaters, at a restaurant, on a plane or a bus or sitting at the doctorís office. Itís a very common problem now."

Ray Johnson, owner of Johnson Pest Control in Sevierville, Tenn. says his company treats bed bugs on a daily basis. "We see terrible situations," he says. "Itís really sad. A lot of people are trying to self-treat, and when they go out and buy a can of something, the problem gets worse and they spread."

Experts say the best way to completely eliminate bed bugs is to hire a professional to either fumigate with chemicals or perform a heat treatment.

Johnson also advises homeowners to protect their mattresses. "Use mattress encasements," he says. "A lot of people find out they have bed bugs and throw out the mattress and bring in a new mattress, but theyíll still get them from the springs." Placing a protective cover over your new mattress prevents bed bugs from infesting it and feeding on you at night.

Steinau says spot treating bed bugs usually requires three treatments to deal with all life cycles of the pests. The first treatment can cost $100 to $150 per room, with two follow-up treatments costing $60 to $90 each per room.

Heat treatments usually cost about $1,500 to $2,000, he says.

Cockroaches

"Weíre seeing a lot of roaches in this area," says Bell Dash, customer service director of Bug Out Service in Jacksonville, Fla. To treat cockroaches, she says, her company conducts an inspection to target any areas with sanitation issues and then uses bait to kill them.

Howard Richardson-El, production manager of City Wide Exterminating Service in Philadelphia, says German cockroaches prove to be the hardest pest to get rid of because they live inside the home, whereas other cockroaches migrate into the home.

Johnson says he applies pesticide with a fogging machine and crack and crevice treatments. Since some cockroaches wonít be killed immediately if not exposed to the pesticide, it can take months to completely rid a home of the pests, and can cost hundreds of dollars.

Termites

Singleton says most of his calls involve termite troubles, which require a professionalís touch to treat. "Many of the houses require fumigation," he says. "We also do a variety of localized treatments."

Fumigations cost about $1,200 or more, he says, and localized treatments start at about $550 and go up, depending on the extent of the problem.

Millipedes

Dash says recent calls from Florida customers also involve millipedes, which require treatment from the outside.

"Pull mulch away from the house," she says. "Get rid of any moisture or drainage issues. They like to nest where itís moist. They get underneath the mulch."

Itís best to get rid of the millipedesí environment before treating with chemicals, she says, because itís hard to apply pesticides underneath mulch.

As for the millipedes already in your home, she offers a piece of advice. "If you have millipedes, a vacuum is your best friend."