Thursday, July 9, 2009

Summer Housekeeping -- Pests




Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. "But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal. Matthew 6:19-20



Don't you love summer? The sunny days seem to bring one delight after another: garden bounty; picnics; flowers; vacations; etc.

We're not the only ones who love summer. As I mentioned in an earlier post, a number of insects flourish during the warmer months. For those who live in tropical or semi-tropical climates, these can flourish almost year round.

Two common summer pests are ticks and fleas. A few years ago, I attended the loveliest outdoor wedding I think I've ever seen. Alas, after the ceremony was over, several guests found shade underneath a beautiful tree. Two of the guests later came down with Lyme disease from tick bites.

Your first line of defense against fleas and ticks -- at least as far as concerns the inside of your home -- is to treat any pets that go in and out of doors. Today, there are many safe medications on the market. The best are those prescribed by veterinarians. If you do use something over the counter, be careful which you choose. I once applied a supermarket brand of tick and flea medicine to two cats, both of whom had a terrible reaction. When I called the vet, the vet said that they had encountered many problems with pets who were treated with this brand, as it can affect the nervous systmem. Fortunately, our cats survived, but I will not use that product again.

If your pets go outside, you are quite likely to have a flea infestation in your home, even if you do not realize it. Good housekeeping can keep the number of fleas in your home to a minimum, and you might not even notice them. However, if you were to go away on a trip for a week, you might come home to find that the few living fleas have multiplied in your absence. So, it's best to treat your pets before you see a problem.

Having said that, your second line of defense is to vacuum thoroughly and frequently. If your vacuum is the type that has bags, be aware that fleas can survive in the bag. Change bags frequently. If you know you have an infestation, change bags every time you vacuum.

Be sure to pay extra attention to the area around your pet's bedding and in any area where your pet lounges. Vacuum these areas thoroughly. Wash your pet's bedding on a regular basis -- even more frequently if you know you have a flea problem.

If you don't have pets, it's still possible to bring in a flea or tick infestation. Whether you have animals or not, check yourself and your children for ticks when you have been near or in wooded areas. Check after camping, hiking, or picnicking. Check pets for ticks, as well. Also, you might want to check your carpet occasionally to see if fleas have made their home there.

A third method of defense against fleas and ticks is to keep your lawn mowed and yard trimmed. Of course, if you live on a farm or if the area surrounding your house backs up to natural areas, you will not be able to keep down fleas and ticks simply by mowing. Again, it's wise to do vigilant checks to make sure that your family members and pets are not bringing fleas and ticks indoors.

If all else fails, and you find yourself fighting a stubborn problem, consult a pest control service that is both aware of human health and environmental concerns.

Being able to enjoy the outdoors is a delight for both people and their pets. If you take a few simple precautions, you can have fun under the summer sun without bringing unwanted ticks and fleas indoors with you.

Another summer pest is the chigger. When my husband and I were in our first year of marriage, we rented a home, and the yard was infested with chiggers. One Saturday, we hosted a cookout for quite a few people from our church. Being the newlyweds that we were, my husband and I were so excited to host our first outdoor gathering as a couple. The next day, everyone at church was itching! Our new little yard was infested with the little critters.

Here's an article which provides information about chiggers. Here is another resource.

When I was growing up, a typical home remedy for chigger bits was to brush them with clear nail polish. The belief was that this suffocated the chigger. It seemed to work just fine. However, modern thinking is that the chigger does not actually burrow into a person's skin, but only bites and leaves behind saliva. It's the saliva that actually makes you itch. So, solutions such as nail polish are not the best treatment for the itching.

Some pests do not bite living beings but prefer to dine on fibers. One way to avoid moths, silverfish, and the like is to make sure that you keep your clothing clean. Whenever you store items for a season, make sure that they, too, are clean. One way to do this is to air and brush fabric items before storing them. Bugs are attracted to soil in clothing.

One of the most persistent of summer pests is ants. Here's a useful article about managing fire ants. Here's an article about dealing with the type of ants that invade the home.

Of course, the most famous of summer pests is the mosquito. Here's a resource that details seven methods for dealing with these pesky insects.

Happy homemaking!
Elizabeth

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