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Rats, ants on the rise in Smith Co.

POSTED: Thursday, May 7, 2009 - 5:16pm

UPDATED: Wednesday, March 17, 2010 - 12:02pm

Pest control agents say they're seeing more calls than ever

TYLER - Dennis Newberry has been on pest control in Smith County for over 30 years.

"We D Bug" his long standing company motto for Alpha Pest Control Co.

But these days - his calls have more to do with rats.

Other pest control companies around the state agree with the sentiment. Recent media reports in Fort Worth and Waco show those cities, as well, are battling a huge rat population.

Newberry says the rate of rats running around East Texas is at a record high. He explains his theory, including a higher density population and more people living in the cities. Other experts we spoke with said a mild winter and early rains are to blame for the booming rodent population and when they 12 babies at a time, it adds up.

But these days around the area, mice aren't the only thing mounting.

Tyler resident Francesca Perdomo says she's noticed more ants than ever this spring.

"This year the children and I grew califlower and cabbage," she said. "The leaves are delicate and the ants get up in there and damage my garden."

Newburry says sometimes thousands of colonies are buried under the ground in one acre of land. He said it's impossible to tell how many colonies are under there until the rain comes and they have to run to the surface to avoid drowning.

Other horticulture officials around town say the "town ant" is costing property owners big bucks.

Researchers say they can be extremely destructive to landscape plants, gardens and some crops.

Newberry knows first hand. He once responded to a local business and found mounds of "town ants." He said they came up from under the building and as high as 50 feet.

To protect your garden and yard from pests, experts offer these tips:

- Find a reputable pest management service to spray early like Alpha Pest Control Co. It is always a good idea to get several estimates from reputable companies. Make sure the company has a good rating with the Better Business Bureau.

- If you have fire ants, Newberry says don't pour gasoline on them because it's not safe. He says they can be successfully managed if you stay on top of them. The main goal with any treatment is to eliminate the colony via the queen, if not you will only have limited success. It's not good to use gasoline because when you disturb a fire ant nest, you run the risk of causing the ants to move, thus making your problem worse.

- We asked Newberry if it's true that you can't get rid of roaches? He says they're very pesky but you can get rid of them, especially the American Roach, which is extremely common in East Texas. He says the first thing to determine is what type of roach you are dealing with. If it is a roach that infests inside, like a German roach, that treatment will be different than for outdoor roaches.

Roaches are adaptable pests, which is why they have survived for so long. If one product is not working, it may be time to try a different formulation. There are numerous products available for roaches that are available to pest management professionals, so if you are not seeing results, suggest to your company that they try something else.

Finally, clean! Good sanitation is key!

- To combat mosquitoes in your yard, you can put down any lawn insecticide and kill a few mosquitoes, but don't forget to treat the areas in and around your shrubs as well as those are popular mosquito breeding grounds.

And do the birds a favor by rinsing out the bird bath which flushes the mosquito larvae away and gives our feathered friends some fresh water.

- Newberry says to spray from the outside of the home, like the brick, out about a foot. That way there is no way the critters can escape inside.

Plants that grow close to the ground, such as mint, rosemary and thyme, provide cover for helpful ground beetles, which feast on ground-dwelling pests.

· Rosemary and basil effectively deter mosquitoes from a garden. Basil also repels flies.

· Fragrant lavender will ward off ticks and is thought to repel mice and moths.

If you have potatoes growing in your garden be on the lookout for Colorado potato beetles. These voracious feeders can quickly devour potato leaves, resulting in greatly reduced yields and even plant death in severe cases. Controlling these beetles early in the season, before populations explode, is essential to protect your potato crop. Adult beetles are currently laying masses of bright orange eggs on potato leaves so now if the time to search your plants for these insects and take control measures if any are found.

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