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Bed Bug Resurgence

We were fortunate to attend the bed bug forum in Denver, CO sponsored by the National Pest Management Association.  The three day program included presentations by leading entomologists, pest management companies from various parts of the country and live demonstrations of treatment and detection methods in the House of Learning.

Dr. Michael Potter from the University of Kentucky offered several reasons for the current resurgence of bed bugs.  These tiny insects are great hitchhikers, difficult to detect initially and the most difficult pest to eliminate.


When bed bugs last surged in the early to mid-1900s, Americans trained themselves in "eternal vigilance".  They checked for bed bugs every time they ventured away from home.  Dedicated search and destroy missions by parents and public servants virtually eradicated the pests by the late 1950s.

Increased Travel

Between business and vacation, domestic and international, we travel more today than at any time in our history.  Even though there has been a great deal of media coverage in the past year, travelers still don't understand the risk or how to protect themselves.


People today have more stuff which means more places for bed bugs to hide.

Second Hand Furniture

In years past, if a person wanted to offer used furniture for sale, it had to be fumigated.  Today we advertise on Craig's list or set unwanted goods on the curb without any sort of inspection or treatment.


Bed bugs have genetically adapted to be resistant to currently available insecticides and banned ones such as DDT.

Attitudes, the "ick" factor

"Americans think it's our birthright to live free of vermin.  Get over it, " said Dr. Dini Miller of Virginia Tech University.  Miller went on to say "We are going to need to watch for and identify the bugs, typically the size of an apple seed, and keep an eye out for their eggs".


People have many misconceptions including the idea that having bed bugs in your home is somehow shameful.  Pest control professionals have reported home owners asking them to come after dark or in unmarked vehicles  This is foolish, bed bugs are equal opportunity pests.  We also tend to over react.  Panic won't help.  "It is insane to shut down a school or building because one bedbug was found" Dr. Potter said. Exterminators have treated infestations in homes, hotels, schools, hospitals, movie theaters, offices, college dorms, ambulances and elsewhere.  "It's just a matter of time before you are routinely finding them in all these places," Dr. Potter said.

Cost of Treatment

In a survey of more than 1,000 pest control professionals, 76% of respondents considered the bed bug the hardest to eradicate, compared with 13% that cited ants and 7% who said roaches.  Termites finished a distant fourth.  Dr. Miller said, "People must accept that controlling infestations probably will require repeated spraying by more than one chemical cocktail and/or destruction by carefully managed heating techniques.  Then, follow up.  Then, follow up again."

If you suspect you may have an infestation of bed bugs, call a professional immediately.  Early detection is the key.  This pest is prolific, pervasive and one bug you don't want to deal with on your own.

For a Free Home Pest Inspection call 214-763-2758

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People often ask us if termites feed in the winter.  In Texas the answer is Yes!

Termites and ants survive the cold by moving into the deep areas of their underground colonies below the frost line.  They huddle together and eat food they have stored.  In Texas we don't ususally have a frost line.  If a termite colony has established a sheltered route to a food supply that is warm they will continue to harvest cellulose (wood).  This could be a fallen tree, a pile of wood or your home.  They will also continue to feed on our termite bait stations as long as the ground is not frozen and there is plenty of aspen wood and refined cellulose.

We have seen termites foraging in homes in winter where there had been previous water damage.  If the weather turns exceptionally cold, the termites will retreat to the depths of their colony.  They will not return to the surface until the cold snap has ended and the ground has warmed sufficiently.

Forage activity is also decreased because a mature colony will be preparing for the spring swarm.  As nymphs (immature termites) progress toward the adult stage (i.e.,alate) they molt several times.  They develop wings, eyes and functional reproductive organs.  Nymphs ultimately molt into sexually mature, fully winged adult male or female alates.  When triggered environmentally they will fly from the colony in swarms to reproduce and start new colonies.

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In north central Texas we have Eastern Subterranean Termites and Formosan Subterranean Termites.  Colonies of both live primarily underground but the swarming behavior for each species is unique.

The Eastern Subterranean species is the most common and widely distributed in North America.  A termite colony will not send out swarmers until the colony is mature, generally two to four yers.  The queen doesn't produce swarmers until she has an adequate number of workers and soldiers to support her.  If you see swarmers emerging you can be sure this is a well established colony.  Swarming in Dallas occurs in the spring, during the day and usually after a rain.  The emergence of swarmers is triggered by a combination of environmental factors including warmth, light and moisture.  Swarming will occur simultaneously from separate colonies in a neighborhood or locale.  The mating of males and females from different colonies creates genetic diversity which is good for the survival of the species.

Male and female swarmers are very weak fliers.  A breeze will carry them easily.  Swarmers in your yard does not necessarily mean you have a termite colony on your property.  However, it does mean a mature colony is somewhere near by.  Swarming indoors is a good indication that there is an active infestation and you should call for an inspection.  Fortunately, only a small percentage of swarmers survive to create new colonies.

It is believed that Formosan Subterranean Termites were introduced into the United States in military supply crates following World War II.  They were first detected in a Houston, TX shipyard in 1956 and have been moving inland ever since.  They are presently in at least 30 Texas Counties.  They were first detected in Dallas County in 1998 and Collin County in 2002.

While they are in the same family as our native termites, Formosans display very different and economically important differences. 

  • The colonies are larger and much more destructive.
  • If there is adequate moisture they can live above ground.  They are dispersing in shoring timbers and recycled railroad ties often used in retaining walls and backyard planting beds.  They have also been detected in wood mulch.
  • Formosans will infest and destroy healthy trees.  They have been known to attack 47 different plant species.
  • A native colony may be tens of thousands up to 300,000 termites.  A Formosan colony can be millions of workers.  A queen can lay up to 1,000 eggs a day.
  • Formosans have been known to chew through plaster, plastics, asphalt and even this sheets of soft metals like lead and copper.


Formosans swarm in the evening in May and June.  They are strongly attracted to light so you may see them around outdoor lighting, windows or doors.  Swarmers inside a house are strong evidence of an active infestation.  They are attracted to windows.  Wings of natives and Formosans will break off when they hit the glass.  Keep these as they may be used for identification.

Termite Swarmer vs. Winged Ant Reproductive

People call believing they have a termite infestaion.  They are always relieved when we tell them they have ants.  The differences are straight forward if you look at the insect closely. The easiest identifying differences are the wings and body shape.

Wings:  Termites have two pairs of identical sized wings.  This is one of the reasons they are not good fliers.  Ants front wings are much larger than the rear pair.

Body Shape:  Ants clearly display three body segments - head, thorax and abdomen.  Jarrod likes to say the ant has a necklace and belt.  The termite swarmer  body is  straight with little distinction between body segments.

When in doubt - Natural Pest Solutions is glad to schedule a free home inspection. 

Call us 214-763-2758 or send an email -

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Managing Insect Pests Without Using Dangerous Chemicals

We all have a wide variety of insects in our gardens and landscape.  Most of them, 95%, are beneficial and we could not live without them.  The other 5% are what we call pests.  Some are a nuisance and others can be dangerous.  This is especially true for individuals who are sensitive or allergic.  Even beneficial insects such as ants, honey bees or pill bugs can be a problem when they invade our homes.

Sometimes, we are our own worst enemy.  To landscape our property we plant woody ornamentals like althea or crepemyrtle.  These attract mealy bugs and aphids.  These pests suck sap out of the ornamental trees and produce a sugary substance called honeydue.  This is a favorite food of many ant species.  We attract the ants to our home and then wonder why we have ants on the kitchen counter.

Many people simply don't like bugs.  At the first sign of any insect they run out to the garden center or home improvement store to purchase an insecticide.  Many of these products contain harsh chemicals that can endanger the health of our family and pets, even when used according to label instructions.

So what can we do?  Long before the use of pesticides, farmers and gardeners knew that certain plants grew better when planted next to other plants.  Herbs grown next to vegetables can improve the flavor and the growth of our crop plant.  Plants can also return minerals and nutrients to the soil.  Flowering plants will attract birds and beneficial insects that prey on those insects we call pest and plants can repel harmful insects.  The relationship between plants and insects is known as "companion planting".

Herbs and flowering plants repel insect pests through their odors or root secretions.  Repellent plants generally have a strong scent.   Insects rely on their antennae to sense or "smell" the plant they prefer to eat or lay eggs on.  The companion plants mask the scent the pest is looking for and the oils can be an irritant.  The exact mechanism by which many companon plants protect our garden is not known.  In fact, there are skeptics that say this is nothing more than folk lore.  From personal experience, I know companion planting works.

Organic means of control are not always 100% effective.  That can be said of the harshest, most toxic chemicals as well.  We are not attempting or expecting to totally eliminate pests from our gardens.  Our goal is to promote a healthy, vigorous garden yielding beauty and a bountiful harvest.

The following is a guide to help you experiment and determine which companon plants work in your garden.

Artemisia - Also known as Worm Wood, deters slugs.

Bachelor's Buttons - Attractive to beneficial insects including: ladybugs, lacewings and beneficial wasps.

Basil -  Repels flies and mosquitoes and improves the flavor of tomatoes.

Bee Balm - Plant with tomatoes to improve growth and flavor.

Catnip - Repels flea beetles, aphids, Japanese beetles, squash bugs, ants and weevils.  A component of the essential oil in the Catnip plant (Nepeta cateria) repels mosquitoes 10 times more effectively thean DEET.

Chives - Improves growth and flavor of carrots.  Repels aphids and spider mites.

Garlic - Discourages aphids, spider mites, flea beetles and Japanese beetles.

Lavender - Deters moths, aphids and fleas.  Some say dried lavender will repel scorpions.

Marigold - Deters Mexican bean beetles, squash bugs, thrips, tomato hornworms and whiteflies.  The roots will repel harmful root knot nematodes that will destroy tomatoes, potatoes, roses and strawberries.  At the end of the growing season turn the marigolds under so the roots will decay in the soil.

Nasturtium - Helps control squash bugs, cucumber beetles and whiteflies. 

Onions - Repel carrot flies.

Parsley - May be used as a "tea" to repel asparagus beetles.  Parsley gone to seed will attract parasitic wasps which are beneficial.

Pennyroyal - Deters fleas, mosquitoes, ticks, gnats, flies and chiggers: rub the leaves on your skin.

Peppermint - Deters white cabbage moths, aphids, flea beetles and squash bugs.  Will also repel mice.

Rosemary - Repels cabbage moths, bean beetles and carrot flies.  Prostrate Rosemary deters snails and slugs.

Sage - Deters cabbage moths, beetles and carrot flies.

Tansy - Deters Japanese beetles, striped cucumber beetles, squash bugs and ants.

Thyme - Repels cabbage worms, carrot flies and attracts beneficial insects.

Yarrow - Attracts beneficial insects.

These herbs and flowering plants will repel unwanted insects, attract beneficial insects, add beauty to our world and are wonderful to cook with.  Some are annuals and must be replanted each year.  Most are perennial and will return year after year.  Soon you will enjoy sharing cuttings and seedlings of these herbs with your friends.

Unfortunately, most of us are impatient.  We want results right now.  It is so tempting to reach for that can of insecticide.  Resist!  Initially, while your companion plants are maturing, you can control pests with botanical oils, insecticidal soap, horticultural oils and by releasing beneficial insects and nematodes into your yard or garden.

Restoring the natural order in our own personal environment will take time.  Take your focus off the destination and enjoy the journey.


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