Ep 5: Common Household Pests and How To Deal With Them

House At Work Home Repair Clinic

In Episode 5, Jim and Peter discuss some of their experiences with dealing with mice, ants, termites, and squirrels in homes as well as common ways to address different types of pest problems.

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Jim Salmon:                      Hello everybody and welcome to the Houseatwork.com Home Repair Clinic podcast. My name is Jim Salmon along with Peter Schick. Good morning, sir.

Peter Schick :                    Howdy.

Jim Salmon:                      Or good afternoon or whatever it is.

Peter Schick :                    Good afternoon. Yeah, it is afternoon.

Jim Salmon:                      I shouldn’t say what time of the day it is because people then … Who knows what time they’re listening to the podcast?

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, it could be like the middle … It could be 2:00 in the morning or whatever.

Jim Salmon:                      Well, anyway, hello everybody. We are going to talk home repair and we also have a website where you can go and send us an email, if there’s a particular topic you’d like to talk about. Send us a question and Peter’s going to tell you what that is.

Peter Schick :                    Yep. Just send us any questions you want us to talk about at [email protected]

Jim Salmon:                      All right. Today, this subject of this podcast, is pests. Now, I’m not talking about your wife or your girlfriend.

Peter Schick :                    Not talking about you, Jim.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah. Or particular people you know in your life. We’re talking about pests that try to get into your house. It is you versus them. It’s the mice, it’s the carpenter ants, in certain parts of the country including here, it’s termites. It can be raccoons, groundhogs, and whatever.

Peter Schick :                    Raccoons, yep.

Jim Salmon:                      I bought a rental house a few years ago and there were five little baby groundhogs that were living in this crawlspace. My buddy, the plumber, would drive by and he goes, “Yeah, your whole family of these … ” He’s needling me. “Your whole family of groundhogs is eating your grass.” It’s you versus the pests and our goal with this podcast is to try to talk you down off the ledge on some of that stuff. I’m a firm believer in do-it-yourself, but when you get in trouble with termites or carpenter ants, it’s off the wall.

Peter Schick :                    That would be a major issue and it really depends on how far along it is. Say, if it’s just, hey, I have a trail of ants going through my kitchen or whatever. Hey, find out where they’re going and get rid of the food source is typically the first thing you want to do.

Jim Salmon:                      Right.

Peter Schick :                    If it’s actually these termites or carpenter aunts are burrowing into the wood in your house, now that’s a whole other issue.

Jim Salmon:                      That’s another matter.

Peter Schick :                    That’s a whole other problem, that’s a whole other you need to take completely different considerations with that.

Jim Salmon:                      Now, what I do for a living is I’m a home inspector. You hire me to go inspect a house before you sign off finally on it and buy the house. I don’t, too many times, get to find where the carpenter ant nest is, but one in a while I get lucky. They need a food source and they need water. The band joist area in the basement, sometimes I’ll take my little probe and flick some insulation aside and there’s 50,000 ants up in there.

Peter Schick :                    Oh, really? They’ll actually make a colony within the house?

Jim Salmon:                      Right. There’s a colony somewhere.

Peter Schick :                    Okay.

Jim Salmon:                      Now, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s in the house. I can be in a stump out in the backyard or a particular tree.

Peter Schick :                    Yep. That’s what I’ve seen a lot of. You’ll see the ants, they’ll have a colony in the backyard or close to the house, and then they send their little scout guys inside to find food. Then, of course, they leave their little trail, their pheromone trail. Pretty much they leave these chemicals on the ground for their buddies to follow.

Jim Salmon:                      Follow along, yeah.

Peter Schick :                    Then get the food and bring it back. Yep.

Jim Salmon:                      One of the more fun things that I’ve seen in my career is there’ll be a telephone line, old land line. A phone line is like a flat strip of wire and it goes from the pole over to the house. I’m looking up there and you see carpenter ants, one right after another, they’re about a quarter of an inch apart, and there’s 5,000 of them and they’re heading right in on that landline. In a previous podcast, we were talking about siding, holes, rot, and whatever.

Peter Schick :                    Yep.

Jim Salmon:                      They’ll find entry points, and get in there, and the thing with carpenter ants that separates them from termites is carpenter ants don’t eat the wood.

Peter Schick :                    They just burrow.

Jim Salmon:                      They burrow in it to next. You’ll see these little piles of, it looks to me like, in the old days when we sharpened our pencil in school and you dump that out. It’s called carpenter ants frass and that looks just like that.

Peter Schick :                    Now, carpenter ants are larger than most other ants. Say, like …

Jim Salmon:                      Well, yes. If it’s mature colony, yes, but they start out small to begin with.

Peter Schick :                    Okay.

Jim Salmon:                      It isn’t always people look at that ant and they’ll go, “Okay, that’s not a carpenter ant because it’s too small.” Well, hold on a minute.

Peter Schick :                    Well, fire ants are … Well, there’s not many fire ants, here, but say in the south or something. A lot more fire ants. Those are tiny little guys.

Jim Salmon:                      They bite, too.

Peter Schick :                    They hurt. The carpenter ants you can usually say they’re around, I’d say, maybe a quarter of an inch. Quarter up to maybe half an inch if they’re a really big guy.

Jim Salmon:                      The biggest ones are about a half an inch. Yeah, I would agree to that.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      Now, the thing with carpenter ants is you can’t always find the nest. Neither can the home inspector or neither can the pest guy.

Peter Schick :                    The exterminator, yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      What they do do is they treat and like every other cycle of life, there’s the nest, the egg, or whatever, and then they’re born, then the cocoon and all that other stuff.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      You have to treat it once per quarter for proper carpenter ant treatments. It’s usually $300-400 a shot, so you’re spending $1,000 to $1,500.

Peter Schick :                    I’ll even go over for any pests, whether it’s a mouse, whether it’s ants, whether whatever. This is what the exterminator does.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah.

Peter Schick :                    They seal out where they’re coming in, they put poison down, and then that’s pretty much it.

Jim Salmon:                      There you go.

Peter Schick :                    Then they say, “Give me $300.”

Jim Salmon:                      That’s exactly right. In our area of the world, which the northeast, western New York, we don’t have a lot of the California termites here. We do have some subterranean termites.

Peter Schick :                    Actually, I was going to ask you about that because I haven’t seen much. I have seen carpenter ant damage, but I haven’t seen termites. I haven’t seen too many of them, at least here, upstate New York.

Jim Salmon:                      I have a termite map, if you will, that I didn’t make it. One of the local pest guys made it. Of course, I plagiarized it and stole it from him. I said, “Oh yeah. Look at my map.” Anyway, in and around Rochester, New York, where we are here, there’s a town called Irondequoit. On Ridge Road going a mile or so towards Lake Ontario, there is a cluster of subterranean termite damage.

Peter Schick :                    Interesting.

Jim Salmon:                      I was in this one house, doing a home inspection, and the pest guy was there doing his thing at the same time. He said, “Jim, come over here and look at this.” There was a four foot by four foot section in the corner of this subfloor that was just eaten away. They had also gotten into the stair stringer, going down to the basement, and had eaten away-

Peter Schick :                    Oh my gosh.

Jim Salmon:                      -the left hand stair stringer. You could push on it with your finger and it was like wallpaper.

Peter Schick :                    Oh, geez. It was like balsa wood.

Jim Salmon:                      Oh, it’s horrible.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      Unlike carpenter ants, termites eat the wood. They digest it for some reason. My goal is to put as much pressure treated to them as I could, but anyway, those repairs are not only killing the termite colony or whatever you call it, but it’s also repairing the damage that they’ve done. Sometimes carpenter ants will do the same thing, but it’s usua-

Peter Schick :                    I can’t imagine the remediation, especially if there’s the colony that’s inside the house and it’s the termites. Getting rid of them at that point. First, you’ve got to get rid of them, then you’ve got to do all the remediation.

Jim Salmon:                      Right.

Peter Schick :                    I can only imagine the remediation for that.

Jim Salmon:                      Well, out in California, and the South, and other parts where climates are different and they have different types of termites, they tent the whole property. Then they spray it and you’re out of there for hours anyway, if not days. It’s supposed to kill them all. Now, that’s ungodly expensive work.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah. Not to mention the [crosstalk 00:08:08]-

Jim Salmon:                      That’s why we live here in New York. That was pretty funny. My goal as a home inspector is I’m not a pest inspector, so I’m not doing a pest inspection, but sometimes that damage crosses into my world.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah and you just got to report it. It’s like, “Hey, by the way, I’m seeing a carpenter ant colony here. Maybe you should talk to a pest guy.”

Jim Salmon:                      The other thing is rodent activity. Mice are a nightmare sometimes, especially around September when things-

Peter Schick :                    When it starts cooling off.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah. Their goal is to get warm too.

Peter Schick :                    Yep.

Jim Salmon:                      I’m always nitpicking about the electrical panel box and all of those little knockouts in there. If you don’t have those in place, the mice get in there, because that’s a nice warm spot. Crazy!

Peter Schick :                    Another thing is little windows in the basement. Say, if you don’t have glass blocks, say you have those old kind of swinging windows in the basement?

Jim Salmon:                      The old metal ones?

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, the old metal ones. You have a little gap, it doesn’t take much. It doesn’t take much, they’ll get in through that.

Jim Salmon:                      A mouse can get through a quarter of an inch. The smaller they are the smaller the-

Peter Schick :                    Yeah. They’ll squeeze right through it.

Jim Salmon:                      I did some research not all that long ago because I’m adept at this whole show prep thing. A mouse cycle is 21 days between fornication and being born. It’s 21 days.

Peter Schick :                    Within three weeks they could already be multiplying within your house.

Jim Salmon:                      They can have up to 20 babies. You think about that. There’s a certain percentage that won’t live and whatever. They’re all over the place. Certain types of insulation in your home, like blown in cellulose, blown in fiberglass, old rock wall, and sometimes even regular fiberglass bats and rolls and so forth. The mice love that.

Peter Schick :                    Oh, yeah. They’ll make their little nests in that. I think one of the big things you’ve got to look for too is a lot of the time they’ll come in through the basement, or they’ll find some way, and now you have, say, the pipes coming up to your sink in your kitchen

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah.

Peter Schick :                    The Good Stuff, it’s actually called, The Good Stuff, the spray foam, that’s not put in there, and actually they’ll chew right through that. You’ve got to use, what’s that, steel wool.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah, I see steel wool and sometimes Brillo pads jammed in there or whatever.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah. That’s probably one way you could treat it yourself. You find any of these small little gaps or you find any of these little potential entry points around your house, put steel wool in there. They won’t be able to chew through that.

Jim Salmon:                      There is closed cell polyurethane foam you can get, too. That works. It’s a lot harder than regular, but they still … If they have tenacity they can get through that.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      Silicone works good too to try to seal things out. You were right in saying that one of the big things that you can do to keep mice out of your house is to exclude them. That’s not always as easy as thought. You have to lay on your side and look up along your foundation wall outside.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      Caulking.

Peter Schick :                    You’ve got to really know what you’re looking for, too. I’ve seen it a few times and I see the exterminator going around the house. He’ll just find a tiny crack. He’s like, “They will fit through that.”

Jim Salmon:                      There you go.

Peter Schick :                    Puts the steel wool in there. I’m like, “Oh wow, okay. That’s what I’m looking for is anything like that. All right.”

Jim Salmon:                      I have a million, as you do, real estate stories. I have a million home inspector stories. This wasn’t all that long ago either, a few months ago. I’m standing in a basement, it’s an older lady thinking of selling her house, and a lot of my clients hire me to inspect a house before it’s in the real estate transaction just to find out what the deal is.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      We’re standing in the basement and I’m going and looking at the insulation in the band joist area right by the foundation. There’s all these little tube holes where you know mice have been in there. I said, “Gee, there’s a lot of rodent activity here.” She said, “No, I don’t have any mice.” Just as she said that, right behind her head come out of the insulation, stuck the head of a mouse. I broke out laughing. She goes, “What are you laughing at.” I said, “Well, just as you were talking about that there was a mouse head.” “No, you’re kidding me.” It was really funny. Mice, you can’t find them either. Once they get in that stuff, the only way to deal with that is bait it and then there’s the smell thing. The dead-

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, they dive behind a wall or something.

Jim Salmon:                      Right. Snakes.

Peter Schick :                    Snakes?

Jim Salmon:                      Snakes, all the time. Milk snakes. We were talking about that in another podcast. I was in a house once where there was milk snakes all over the place. The brown and white ones? They’re striped. They get in through a half inch little gap somewhere. The culprit, a lot of times is the front step where it buts up against here.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      A lot of people don’t know those areas are rotted and the snake figures out how to get in there.

Peter Schick :                    I seen that and also chipmunks get in that way, too.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      It’s all about exclusion. You’re absolutely right with that.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah. The exclusion piece and then once you exclude them, you can start baiting it. I think that’s really the process. Exclusion, baiting, at that point.

Jim Salmon:                      Couple other quick interesting stories. I’m on a stairway going up to the second floor. My client is an older lady and she’s kind of right behind me. Right at the top of the stairway is a door that gets me into a knee wall attic. I open the door, now bear in mind, she’s right behind me, a step or two down. I open this door and out comes a squirrel. He comes out, he runs around me, behind me, and then around and back in the hole, right? It stunned me, right? I go backwards, I run into her, she kind of falls backwards and grabs a hold of the railing. It was really funny.

Peter Schick :                    I got a really good story. That just reminded me of this. One of the things I do is I also rent out apartments. If I have a client, a lot of the time I work with-

Jim Salmon:                      Like property management.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, property management. Sometimes I’ll have a client and they’ll be, “Okay, can you rent out these apartments?” I’m like, “Okay, cool. Yeah. I can do it.” There’s this place downtown that I’m renting out. I find a guy for it. It’s like a small … It’s a studio. Like $500 a month kind of thing. I rent it out to him. We do the lease signing, everything, great. He has a cat too. I’m like, “Okay, cool. Awesome. Done.” A few weeks later he calls me up. He’s like, “I’m done. I’m moving out.” I’m like, “What’s going on?” He’s like, “Something chewed through the wall, attacked my cat, ate all of its food, and left.” What we found out.

Jim Salmon:                      It was a rat, right?

Peter Schick :                    It was a raccoon.

Jim Salmon:                      Oh, raccoon.

Peter Schick :                    A raccoon. Just imagine this. A raccoon chewed through the wall, came in, like the cat was probably hissing or whatever at it, attacked it, he had to take the cat to the vet. It got really hurt by whatever this was.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah, raccoons are tough. Boy, they’ll fight you to the death.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, they’re nasty. They are nasty. Really hurt this cat, ate all the cat’s food, and then just disappeared.

Jim Salmon:                      That’s [crosstalk 00:15:30]. Raccoons, oftentimes, live in chimneys. I’m up on a roof, and I’m taking my flashlight, and shining it down into a chimney. Every once in a while they’re right there and they don’t stay there either. They come right out.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, they’ll come running at you.

Jim Salmon:                      It was nuts. I have some stories on that too. Red squirrels are the worst form of squirrel vermin that you can come up with.

Peter Schick :                    Now, why would you say red squirrels?

Jim Salmon:                      Because they’re small, they’re rat-like, and they can get into smaller openings, and they’re extremely destructive. Now, I respect the big gray squirrels, and the flying squirrels, and there’s black squirrels out there. They’re absolutely beautiful and they have a … They’re in the woods, and they have a season of hunting, and they valuable. Red squirrels, not so much.

Peter Schick :                    I got a good gray squirrel story for you after that. After you talk about the red squirrels.

Jim Salmon:                      Yesterday morning, my goal is to get them all. Yesterday morning I shot myself my 27th red squirrel.

Peter Schick :                    Nice.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah.

Peter Schick :                    There you go.

Jim Salmon:                      It’s me versus them, it’s you versus them.

Peter Schick :                    No, you’ve got to take care of it. Actually, talking about squirrels, there is a place that we had a house and we were remodeling it. It had, above the front porch was a little roof and it had a little roof over the front porch. There was a big hole that some critters chewed through in the corner in between the roof and then the house. There’s some critters living right below the roof there. We put out a trap, it’s not a trap that kills it, it’s one of those live traps.

Jim Salmon:                      A Havahart type of thing.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      Okay.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, one of those. It turned out there were some squirrels living in there and I caught one of the gray squirrels. It was funny. We come there and we’re like, “Oh, we got the squirrel.” Then we see on the other side of the trap, there’s another squirrel just sitting outside the cage. He was just hanging out there. He wouldn’t leave his buddy. It was like he was just staying there right next to his buddy. I’m like, “Oh, that sucks.” His buddy got caught and he’s-

Jim Salmon:                      Don’t tell me you let it go. Come on, I’m begging you. Well, my wife doesn’t like me to kill stuff. The red squirrels-

Peter Schick :                    Oh, my wife’s the same way.

Jim Salmon:                      They really aggravate-

Peter Schick :                    “Peter, come on.” Meh, meh, meh.

Jim Salmon:                      I take the chipmunks and stuff. I take them five miles away and drop them off.

Peter Schick :                    That’s what we did with the gray squirrel, yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      Then a guy told me, he said, “That’s not far enough. They’ll come back on you.”

Peter Schick :                    They’ll come back.

Jim Salmon:                      Well, I’m not going to drive to Toronto to let the …

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, exactly.

Jim Salmon:                      It’s in New York state, it’s against the law to trap the stuff, throw it in your car, and take it somewhere. It’s against the law.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      Not that I’d let that bother me or slow me down.

Peter Schick :                    I want to see the cop that’s going to ticket you for having a squirrel. “Well, you’re in violation of code, whatever the heck that is.”

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      The Wild Kingdom Act or something. Anyway, if you’re going to transport them you’ve got to take them a long ways away. I have another woods I take them at about five miles away.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, I took them to a park. I’m trying to remember which park it was. It was by on the edge of Monroe county. I know it was way, way out there. I forget the name of the park. I just let him go.

Jim Salmon:                      Now, we’ve had a problem this year, and the last couple years actually, with these boxelder bugs.

Peter Schick :                    Oh, yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      Millions and millions of them. They have this kind of orange star on their back or red sometimes.

Peter Schick :                    Yep.

Jim Salmon:                      They’re a beetle that is supposed to be harmless, but they’re a big time nuisance. We had a big problem with them in our sunroom. I’d vacuum up 100 of them at a time every day.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah. I’ve seen that and then, I want to say, two years ago we had issues with shield bugs, too. Or shield stink bugs, you know what I’m talking about? Those guys?

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah. Stink bugs are … Well, they stink.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah. I remember we had that too and it was at the same time when it started getting warmer. That transition of the seasons we started seeing them popping up.

Jim Salmon:                      A few years ago it was ladybugs. A version of the ladybugs.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      There were millions and billions of those. I called Cornell Cooperative extension to get an idea of what their suggestion would be on how to eliminate them. A professor guy got on the phone said, “Just vacuum them up, and take them outside, and let them go.” I go, “No. I want to mow them down by the hundreds of thousands. I want to use fazers. I want to hang them. Whatever.” It’s crazy.

Peter Schick :                    Don’t kill the bugs, man.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah. Well, I’ve not had real good luck with the Health Department or Cornell, but we had a … It’s a long story but there was a dog tied up on the farm across the street and all of a sudden I heard this commotion. Little kids running around and there was a raccoon in the tree during the day.

Peter Schick :                    Oh, wow.

Jim Salmon:                      That’s not a good thing.

Peter Schick :                    I’ve got another raccoon story like that.

Jim Salmon:                      I go over there and I take my 12 gauge and I dispatch the raccoon. He falls down, the dog grabs him, the kid runs over and starts petting the dog. I go, “This can’t be happening!”

Peter Schick :                    You just made it so much worse.

Jim Salmon:                      I’m trying to get the people out there to get the kid away, to get the dog away, to whatever. I call the Health Department. I said, “Okay, this is what happens.” It was the day before Labor Day. Labor Day was on a Saturday or something and it was a Friday. The guy actually said this, and I quote, “Put it in a garbage bag and put it in your freezer because we’ll come and pick it up on Monday.”

Peter Schick :                    Why would I do that?

Jim Salmon:                      I hung up on him. Like I’m not going to put a rabid-

Peter Schick :                    Who does that?

Jim Salmon:                      -raccoon in-

Peter Schick :                    Yeah. Let me put a wild raccoon into my freezer with all of my other food. Yeah. That doesn’t sound like a terrible idea at all. This was actually the other week. I was walking my dog and it was pretty early morning. I was around 6:00-ish kind of deal. I’m walking and I’m kind of in a suburban area. I’m not out in the sticks like you are.

Jim Salmon:                      In the middle of nowhere, yeah.

Peter Schick :                    If I see something I can’t just be like … If turkeys are in my backyard, I can’t be like, “Hey, I got dinner now. I’m going to go shoot these guys.”

Jim Salmon:                      Right, exactly.

Peter Schick :                    It’s in the middle of developed area. I’m walking and I hear this, “Ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah.” Like this noise. There’s a baby raccoon running in these circles in this driveway across the street. It’s around like 30 feet from me and my dog. Then I see the big mama raccoon come from the backyard. This thing was almost … I have pitbulls. I have a small pitbull female and then a larger male one. This raccoon was almost the size … This was the biggest raccoon I’ve ever seen.

Jim Salmon:                      Ever seen.

Peter Schick :                    I don’t know if it’s just because it had just a thick fur coat or what it was, but it was huge. I’m like, oh, I’m going to go.

Jim Salmon:                      Did it see you?

Peter Schick :                    It was looking at us because I think it was the mama raccoon. What am I going to do? I can’t shoot it or anything. It’s in a neighbor’s yard. I’m like, well, if my dog … I don’t want my dog getting in a tussle with this thing.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah, get out of there.

Peter Schick :                    I’m going to turn around now.

Jim Salmon:                      Those mama raccoons are extremely protective of their young and you don’t want to piss them off. You really don’t.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah. It was big.

Jim Salmon:                      They have teeth, they can scratch you. A gentleman I worked with at News Radio WHAM 1180 years and years ago was a guy named David McKinley. Dave went on to be a TV reporter in Buffalo for one of the Buffalo stations. I remember him doing a live story back in the day where he was narrating. This lady was in her front yard doing some gardening. A raccoon came up and started just attacking her. Dave’s there. As she laid there in the yard, the raccoon gnawing on her leg.

Peter Schick :                    Oh my god.

Jim Salmon:                      I remember laughing my head off, bu this is one of those things, you try to beat it off and then you head right to the hospital for rabies shots.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, they do that stuff in your stomach. Well, they say that. That’s like a wives tale, isn’t that?

Jim Salmon:                      They don’t. They don’t do that anymore, but they do certain muscle groups. That’s like anytime you’re getting a shot, it’s uncomfortable.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      Nobody wants to get shots, but it’s very effective. The antidotes are great. The vaccines are figured out. The problem is, once the animal’s dead a period of time, they can’t test it for rabies. They really need it harvested right away or the best thing to do is capture it fresh and let them deal with it. They can get right into the brain and figure out whether it had rabies. That’s a nasty, nasty disease.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, it is.

Jim Salmon:                      Every once in a while I’m driving down the road and there’s a mouse running in a three foot circle in the street. Now, you know something’s on there.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, you know something’s wrong.

Jim Salmon:                      There’s normal activity.

Peter Schick :                    That’s how I felt with that one baby raccoon running around. I don’t want my dogs … My dog will run after it. He has really strong hunting instincts. He sees something, he sees a squirrel, he wants to go running after it. Sometimes I’ll let him. He almost caught one once. Almost. It wiggled out of his mouth.

Jim Salmon:                      Oh, really?

Peter Schick :                    Yeah. It wiggled out of his mouth. I think it’s like a dog that catches a … It chases after a car. It doesn’t know what it’s going to get when … It doesn’t know what it’s going to do if it actually got one. I think that’s how he was with the squirrel. He’s like, “Oh, I actually got it,” and it wiggled out of his mouth.

Jim Salmon:                      I think we’d be remiss in our discussion of pests in the house if we didn’t talk about rats.

Peter Schick :                    Yes.

Jim Salmon:                      Anything but rats. Rats are filthy. People that have rats for pets need psychological evaluation. Really.

Peter Schick :                    Those things, it just … Just the long tail. I just think of that tail and it’s just how big they are. Mice, okay, they’re these little guys. You’ll catch them with the little trap or the glue, or whatever, the bait. A rat, you see those rat traps, huge. It’s like, what is it? Eight by like three inches or something, those traps?

Jim Salmon:                      They’re big.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      Rats aren’t all that stupid either. Sometimes they figure the traps out, sometimes they don’t. I shoot them. I shoot them right out the window. I blew the window sill apart once. This was another whole long story.

Peter Schick :                    I can see what your wife would say to you.

Jim Salmon:                      Every once in a while she gets really pissed at me, she’ll open that window and say, “See that hole? That’s a beautiful vinyl replacement window with a hold in the sill.”

Peter Schick :                    What did you use? Did you use like a .22 or something?

Jim Salmon:                      I was using a .22 with a scope. I was inside and the rat was right out there under the bird feeder. I aimed down and the scope threw me off a couple of inches and I blew a hole in the sill. Of course, I missed the rat.

Peter Schick :                    That’s funny.

Jim Salmon:                      Fortunately, we had a farm for years across the street from my house. A working dairy farm. They were milking 100 cows or whatever and they had silos and corn and all that. Those things are just the perfect storm of what a rat needs to live high on the hog. No pun intended.

Peter Schick :                    Exactly. They have all the food they need. They got the shelter and everything. Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      I come home one day, the guy sold the cows, sold the land to a quarry, and they burnt the house down, took all the stuff away, and where’d all the rats go? Over to my house.

Peter Schick :                    They came over to your house, yep.

Jim Salmon:                      At one point, one night, my son Jamie and I were going to go out and hunt rats because there were some in this old barn we had. Went out there at night, shined the flashlight, and there were millions of them. They were going like worms. Oh my god.

Peter Schick :                    It’s like you flash the flashlight and they all kind of scatter kind of deal? Or they’re just like, bold, screw you, I don’t care.

Jim Salmon:                      I told him, I said, “Buddy, we can’t hunt rats because we’ll just blow holes in everything no matter where we shoot.” What I did is I went on a bait thing and I baited that whole barn. We were finding rat carcasses for months. Poison is the best way, but you have to be very careful that you don’t bait where dogs and cats can get to it.

Peter Schick :                    Yes.

Jim Salmon:                      If you care about that.

Peter Schick :                    Actually, the thing you bring up about dogs and cats, that’s one of the things that bring a lot of the critters is their food, if you have their food just sitting on the floor there. My dog does this thing where he’ll take a bite of food, he’ll eat some of it, but then he spits a little out and he spits it on the floor. Then, okay, what’s that going to attract?

Jim Salmon:                      What’s that going to … Yeah. Right.

Peter Schick :                    That’s going to attract the ants, that’s going to attract the mice.

Jim Salmon:                      Sure.

Peter Schick :                    You’ve got to have something where you’ve got a have their food elevated or on a pad or something. Or you just got to be proactive with it and clean it up.

Jim Salmon:                      Clean it up.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      Dogs and cats living together. I have videos, because we live out in the middle of the country. I have videos of one of those round hog feeder pans with cat food in it or dog food or both. Three or four cats there, a raccoon, and an opossum. All in there eating at the same time.

Peter Schick :                    They don’t care. They’re just like, don’t mess with me.

Jim Salmon:                      They don’t me. You’re right. They’ll attract all kinds of pests. Their goal, especially in September, is to get into your house.

Peter Schick :                    Yep. They need to get warm.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah.

Peter Schick :                    They’re thinking about when winter comes.

Jim Salmon:                      They spend their whole life procreating and searching for food.

Peter Schick :                    Now, have you seen … I know this is probably more of like down south, you’ll see more cockroaches. I’ve seen a lot of cockroaches down south, but have you seen a lot here? I haven’t seen too many unless it’s a really bad place.

Jim Salmon:                      I find a lot in the city.

Peter Schick :                    Yep. That’s the only place where … In the really bad parts of the city.

Jim Salmon:                      When cockroaches are in a house, they’re everywhere. If I see one, I know that there’s an issue. They live in the smallest places. They live between the range hood and the bottom of that cabinet. On top and behind the stove, the refrigerator, any little area. The band joist area in the basement. It sometimes can be daunting to … It can be a couple of grand to treat for cockroaches.

Peter Schick :                    Oh, yeah. I believe that. It’s not just the typical $300 or whatever for mice that you typically see. Yeah. I’ve heard nightmare stories about that too.

Jim Salmon:                      Then, on top of all that, there’s bed bugs. Bed bugs are the most annoying thing, especially … I have some friends who are in the landlord business and the bed bugs, be in one apartment, and they go nuts on the other.

Peter Schick :                    Yep. Even after you say you fixed that one tenant, they’re still going to be in there. There’s still a very good chance that they’ll be there.

Jim Salmon:                      Oftentimes you can’t figure out what tenant it is either.

Peter Schick :                    Oh, yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      They all lie to you and they say-

Peter Schick :                    “No, it’s not me.”

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah, right. You go in there and you look under the coach and there’s a bed bug treatment thing there. When you get involved in carpenter ant infestations, termite infestations, bed bugs, stuff like that, it’s best to involve an exterminator. Believe me, I live my whole life trying to be a do-it-yourselfer guy, but when it comes to that stuff, it’s really important-

Peter Schick :                    No, I definitely agree. When you start talking, especially with bed bugs, cockroaches, some of these other critters, yeah, just get an exterminator. Sometimes you can DIY it, but don’t expect it to actually work every single time.

Jim Salmon:                      Then I know we’re getting close to the end of this podcast, but I wanted to talk a minute about bats.

Peter Schick :                    Bats.

Jim Salmon:                      All over the place.

Peter Schick :                    Oh, yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      In the city of Rochester, in the big chimneys, in these old houses.

Peter Schick :                    I’ll see them in attics.

Jim Salmon:                      All kinds of bats.

Peter Schick :                    I’ll see them in attics a lot too, yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      Bats are a good thing for the environment, they eat a lot of insects, they do have an occasional rabies issue, I think. They also have some kind of mite thing that’s reducing the population right now.

Peter Schick :                    Now are they really going to cause damage to the house? Or is it just a nuisance?

Jim Salmon:                      Bats don’t really touch the house except for getting in it.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      They’re in attics.

Peter Schick :                    I’ll see them near the gutter or something and they’re just chilling. Just clamped on there just doing their thing. It’s like, well, do your thing bat, as long as you’re not destroying my house.

Jim Salmon:                      You don’t want them in the house, because of the rabies thing.

Peter Schick :                    Oh yeah. Totally. Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      You just never know. We’ve had bats in our house for a long time and it’s all about exclusion. It’s an old house, there’s plenty of holes, and as we’ve sided it and spray foamed it and all that stuff we’ve pretty much excluded all the bats. Bats are easy to find out where they are because in the morning just as it’s starting to get light, they come back because they’ve been out all night. You stand outside your house and you just sometimes you-

Peter Schick :                    Yeah. You have a light on. You can see them.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah. You just see them coming in.

Peter Schick :                    I remember as a kid we’d have them kind of near our house and they’d be flying around right at dusk and I’d throw a rock up or something. They’d all come right at the rock. They’re thinking it’s a bug or something.

Jim Salmon:                      Giant bug, yeah.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah. Then they realize it’s not and fly off. Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      The thing with bats is that you try to exclude them the best you can. I remember when I went from the old siding I had on my house to beautiful vinyl siding, the guy started in the front and he’s working his way around clockwise. He said, “I’m going to be over on this side where the chimney is,” and I know there’s bats and stuff in there because we’d seen them coming and going. He said, “You got about two days before I get over there to get those bats out of there.” What I did was I took a tarp and I nailed it onto the roof. It hung down on that side, so the bats would come out-

Peter Schick :                    They would just hit the tarp.

Jim Salmon:                      -run into the tarp and drop down. The cats would line up like taxis at the airport and they’d pick them off and whatever.

Peter Schick :                    That’s clever. I would have never thought of that.

Jim Salmon:                      Some of them would … Yeah, it works well. There’s always … it’s not a perfect science. There were a few of them that got sided in.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, some of them were probably like not going to fall for that.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah, it was pretty funny.

Peter Schick :                    That’s clever and then the cats just dispatch them. There you go.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah.

Peter Schick :                    Interesting.

Jim Salmon:                      I don’t know what a bat tastes like, but I’m not interested in finding out either. I think we’ve pretty much exhausted our conversation on pests.

Peter Schick :                    I think we have.

Jim Salmon:                      This is the Houseatwork.com Home Repair Clinic podcast, Jim Salmon and Peter Schick. We do have an email address if you’d like to write in and suggest a topic to talk about, or something you’d like us to visit, or you have a specific question about something. Our goal is to get you to say something that’ll ruin your life and it’s all good, but we’ll be glad to help you out. Peter’s going to tell you how to get a hold of us.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah. Go ahead and email us at [email protected]

Jim Salmon:                      All right. We’ll see you on the next Houseatwork.com Home Repair podcast. Thanks. At the end I think we’re done.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      We’ll see you next time on down the line another podcast. Thanks for listening.

Peter Schick :                    All right. Have a good one.

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