Pest problems can be resolved permanently, without using pesticides, by repairing leaky plumbing, and other structural deficiencies.
Using pesticides of any kind to kill off insects, such as sow-bugs, millipedes, silverfish or carpenter ants that have invaded your living space is much like using perfume to remedy a garbage spill. It may show immediate results but it is, by no means, a long-term fix. The reason being that unwanted pests in your home is usually a sign of structural deficiencies and until these deficiencies are addressed, the pest problem will keep coming back.
Back when city by-laws were first being enacted to protect people from pesticides, Paul Maloney, my father, and the original Eco Bug Doctor, got a memorable call at our office. A woman, a medical doctor, in fact, was upset by the fact that she was not allowed to use pesticides to get rid of the carpenter ants around the doorway of her home. Paul assured her that he could help the ant situation and although she was skeptical that a ‘soft’ ecological approach would have an effect, she agreed to a home visit.
An inspection of the ant-infested area revealed that water was seeping into the bottom of the wooden door frame, creating the perfect living environment for these wood-recycling ants. By finding the source of the problem, Paul was able to solve the problem, without the use of potentially harmful chemicals. The doctor was sufficiently impressed that she began promoting ecological solutions, discouraging friends and neighbors from using unnecessary toxic chemicals.
Water is the substance from which all life arises, but if you add water to a solid wood structure, over time, the wood begins to break down, releasing nutrients that allow mould (fungi) to grow. This in turn attracts detritivores (sow-bugs, millipedes, and silverfish), the insects and other small creatures that feed on decomposing matter. Then, to complete the ecosystem, the predators move in, the centipedes and spiders, that feed on the detritivores, just like wolves hunting rabbits. If you protect this wood from water infiltration and dry out the area, you will put an end to this miniature ‘ecosystem’ and permanently solve the moisture-bug problems in your house.
There’s another positive side-effect to this ‘ecological’ approach to ridding the home of pests; it may also rid the home of mould, which like man-made toxic chemicals, can trigger a host of symptoms, discomfort and health problems, including allergic reactions, asthma symptoms, irritant effects, headaches, respiratory problems and problems concentrating, etc. There is also good evidence that mycotoxins can be carcinogens, immune suppressants and neurotoxic agents. According to Dr. Schaller, author of many books on mould and illness, the most common cause of learning disorders and behavioral problems in children and adolescents that he has treated has been indoor mould contaminants.
Mould is usually not visible to the naked eye, and doesn’t always smell, although we are all familiar with the musty smell mould does give off. Washington’s Institute of Medicine, a non-profit advisory group, affirms what we have been telling clients for years: in order to prevent mould and associated creatures (such as sow-bugs) in a building you must keep materials dry, or use building materials that offer a poor substrate for growth in places where moisture is unavoidable. As we have found, in remedying a sick building, the task may seem daunting, but with a bit of creativity, lower-cost solutions can be found for addressing a whole host of structural deficiencies.
Here are some things to look out for, to uncover a carpenter ant problem:
Big, black ants indoors (especially during cold weather)
Piles of fine sawdust
Trails of ants, or ‘ant highways’ on power lines leading to your house
Trails of ants on outside walls of house (often you can find them by going out at night with a flashlight)
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