What Should You Do If You See an Atlas Moth?

atlas-moth-sitting-on-a-tree-frond

In August 2022, reports of a giant Atlas Moth spotted near Seattle, Washington, made headlines because it was the first time this gargantuan species had been seen in the United States. It’s a beautiful species, the second largest moth in the world, but it’s also a big problem. That’s because the Atlas Moth is native to the boreal parts of southeast Asia and Borneo, about 7,500 miles away. They’re evolved for the forest ecosystems of that part of the world, not the forests of North America. So what should you do if you see an atlas moth here?

They shouldn’t be here, and they pose some very real threats here, like outcompeting native species and throwing ecosystems out of balance. That’s why the Atlas Moth has been classified by the United States Department of Fish and Wildlife as a “quarantine pest.” Essentially, that means it’s an invasive species. That’s why, if you see an Atlas Moth, the first thing you should do is marvel at it, and then it’s your duty to report it.

What Does the Atlas Moth Look Like?

Atlas Moths are awe-inspiringly large. If you see one, it will probably be the biggest moth you’ve ever seen. Its patterns and coloring look like the cecropia moth or polyphemus moth, both of which are native to the U.S., but those two species are significantly smaller.

The cecropia moth is the largest moth native to the U.S. Its wingspan can reach 7” – 8” long. An Atlas Moth, by comparison, can reach 10” or more. Polyphemus moths are much smaller than either: they’re usually about 3” – 4”. Polyphemus moths also have fuzzier bodies, and fuller wings.

How Did the Atlas Moth Get Here?

It’s an unfortunate dilemma because the Atlas Moth did not choose to come here. They’re not adapted to fly thousands of miles across the ocean. Sadly, it appears that a person smuggled them here for economic gain – there’s a thriving black market for insects. Shortly after the discovery of the specimen in Seattle, an eBay listing offering Atlas Moth cocoons for $60 each was found. However, the listing was quickly taken down and authorities have not been able to trace the seller.

It’s hard to know how many Atlas Moth cocoons were sold and shipped, but there could be many across the United States, which is why it’s important to know what it looks like – even if there hasn’t been a sighting in Bristol yet.

The Atlas Moth’s Potential Harm to Ecosystems

Anytime you introduce a new species into an ecosystem, there are unknown risks. Nature is a delicate balance, so removing one species can have a domino effect for years to come. It may not seem like a big deal, but one change can alter a natural area permanently.

We do know a few things about the Atlas Moth life cycle, and the ecosystems in southeast Asia they inhabit.

Atlas Moths are impressively large caterpillars before their metamorphosis. They ward off predators by spraying a foul smelling liquid. They’re voracious eaters, and spend every possible moment eating. (They have to – because adult Atlas Moths don’t eat at all, they survive only off the nutrients and fat stored when they were caterpillars). It’s because they’re such hungry caterpillars that lead to worries that Atlas Moth caterpillars may be able to outcompete cecropia and polyphemus moth caterpillars, and ultimately threaten their numbers.

What to Do If You Spot an Atlas Moth

Atlas Moths are not dangerous to humans. They won’t bite, and they’re not poisonous, yet they pose a significant threat to humans in their potential to harm ecosystems.

That’s why if you see one of these hard-to-miss Atlas Moths, we ask that you please notify the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife or your state’s office for plant and animal regulation.

Which Fall Pests Could Be Lurking in Your Walls?

a group of mice waiting out the winter inside a wallWhich Fall Pests Could Be Lurking in Your Walls?

Every year when temperatures drop, insects and vermin that don’t die off take part in a phenomenon called “overwintering,” which basically means they find a habitable environment to wait out the winter months. Some of these fall pests will migrate to warmer climates. Some find hiding spots outside under debris. The ones we’re most concerned about are those that make their way indoors into homes and buildings.

You should be aware of this possibility even if you don’t see them in places like your bedroom or bathroom. Fall pests love low-traffic areas like the space behind your walls or your attic. They can spend the entire season camping out there and come spring you may find that you’re dealing with a full-blown infestation.

Common Overwintering Pests in Tennessee

The most frequent fall pests we receive calls for here in Bristol include rodents, termites, stink bugs, Asian lady beetles, and wasps.

Rodents

Vermin can get into your attic by climbing up onto the roof. Squirrels are the most well-known culprits, but roof rats and mice are just as notorious for invading homes and making nests in the attic. How can you tell if you have rodents living in your home? The most common sign of a rodent infestation is scratching or gnawing sounds from above or from inside the walls. If you hear these sounds, it’s time to call an expert rodent exterminator.

Termites

It’s no wonder that termites are considered the most destructive pest in the United States. The cost of termite damage in the is estimated to be up to $30 billion annually. While termites are present all year, fall and winter can worsen an already-existing situation. Subterranean termites burrow deeper into the ground to survive cold weather, allowing the infestation to cultivate undetected until the following spring. Before you realize, entire colonies are ready to do significant damage to the wood structures of your home. How can you tell if you have termites? You may notice blisters on painted wood surfaces, pinhole-sized holes, and hollow-sounding wood.

Stink Bugs

As the name suggests, stink bugs release an unpleasant odor when they feel threatened or are squished. Not what you want in your home or office! Brown marmorated stink bugs are the most common type, ranging in size from about 1/4″ to 3/8″, so they’re very small and difficult to detect until you have a lot of them. The brown marmorated stink bug is an invasive species that’s taking over more and more territory across the country. They breed quickly, so if you start noticing them don’t wait, give us a call right away.

Asian Lady Beetles

Asian lady beetles are a type of beetle that look very similar to ladybugs, but they tend to be a bit larger, and not all have spots. They typically can be found in groups communicating with each other using pheromones – so if one lady beetle finds its way into a nice warm crack in your home, it will likely leave a signal to attract many more. Asian lady beetles do not pose any direct threat to your home’s structure and don’t bite or sting, but they can trigger allergic reactions for individuals with sensitivities and breathing problems. Additionally, they can cause unsightly stains around the house with their waste.

Wasps

Generally, wasps die off before each winter and the colonies do not overwinter like the rest of the creatures on this list. But to ensure the colony’s survival the following year, fertilized queens will find a warm hiding spot to overwinter, often in stumps or hollow logs outdoors, or in protected structures like crawlspaces and attics. Make sure to have your house checked for wasp queens during the winter to avoid having dangerous nests on your property the following year when it gets hot again.

Our Expert Exterminators Can Help

Think you might have pests in your walls?  As Bristol’s leader in fast, effective, and long-lasting pest control services, Leo’s Pest Control is here to keep your home pest-free all year long. Give us a call today for a free, no-obligation quote.

Protecting Your Firewood from Home Invading Pests

Subterranean termites in Bristol TN - Leo's Pest ControlOne thing that comes to mind when we think of the wintertime is a warm, crackling fire burning in the fireplace. Although this seems comforting and cozy, if you’re not careful, being too lazy with your firewood storage can lead to pest problems that ruin your holiday season. Fortunately for you, we know the best ways to keep pests out of your woodpiles and out of your home as a result. For the best pointers on winter pest control in Bristol TN, read on—we’ve asked our technicians at Leo’s Pest Control for their advice!

What Kinds of Pests Do Woodpiles Attract?

There are plenty of bugs that you might find around your woodpile that should be no cause for alarm. Earwigs, moths, boxelder bugs, some species of spiders, and other pests will simply be an annoyance in your home, not a direct threat to your family or your property. On the flip side, there are a few pests that you’ll want to keep an eye out for, those being:

  • Termites
  • Powderpost beetles
  • Carpenter ants
  • Carpenter bees and wasps

Of course, bees and wasps in your home come with the fear of being stung, but there are long-lasting issues that arise with the presence of the aforementioned wood-boring insects. Termites, powderpost beetles, and carpenter ants all tear through the wooden structures of our home in the interest of nutrition or nesting. Termites are the worst of the bunch—subterranean termites alone cause over an estimated $5 billion in property damage in the United States every year!

How to Keep Pests Out of Your Firewood Piles

To avoid a pest infestation spurred by woodpile haphazardness, you have to be extra careful about the way that you store and transport your logs. Here are Leo’s Pest Control’s three greatest tips to stop infestations of firewood-dwelling pests:

  1. Keep your firewood high up and covered: Termites and carpenter ants live underground, so woodpiles at ground level become easy sources of food and shelter. Keeping your woodpile protected and stored high will reduce your chances of bringing in pests.
  2. Keep a distance: Your woodpile should not be resting up against the outer walls of your home. In fact, the further away, the better.
  3. Burn older wood first and fast: When you take wood inside to start a fire, choose older logs and burn them right away. Older logs have a greater chance of being infested, but if you burn them quickly, there’s no need to worry about pests spreading out of them.

Winter Pest Control in Bristol TN

If you want to be sure that you’re taking the right steps to keep pests out of your home this winter, reach out to your local pest control company about your concerns. At Leo’s Pest Control, we pride ourselves on offering holistic pest control programs for every season, performing inspections, conducting treatments, and keeping up with prevention plans tailored to each of our customers’ homes. Don’t wait until it’s too late to stop pests this winter—reach out today for a free quote!

5 Signs You May Have a Termite Infestation

Damaged wood is a top sign of termites in Bristol TN - Leo's Pest ControlTermites are one of the most dangerous pest problems, mainly due to the fact that they can cause a lot of damage on your property. Unfortunately, termites are difficult to detect until they’ve caused damage. To avoid a full-blown infestation, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the top signs you may have a termite problem. By discovering termites in the early stages, you can get help from a professional termite exterminator such as those with Leo’s Pest Control. Our team of termite experts is here to provide you with all you need to know about the signs of termites here in Bristol.

Most Common Signs of Termite Problems

Termites are pests that are rarely seen by homeowners. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t leave behind evidence of their activity. Here’s what to look for:

  1. Termite swarms
    • Every year, reproductive termites (also known as alates and swarmers) will leave their colony to mate and form new ones.
    • Swarmer termites are frequently mistaken for other flying insects, especially carpenter ants.
    • Seeing winged termites in the spring or summer months is a common sign of termites spreading.
  2. Piles of wings from swarmers
    • After they swarm, the reproductive termites no longer need their wings and will shed them.
    • Termite wings are all the same size and translucent in color.
    • After being shed, they can often appear in a pile together.
  3. Termite frass
    • As they tunnel through dry wood as well as when they swarm, drywood termites create kick-out holes in the wood.
    • This is when their droppings, also known as frass, can be found.
    • Termite frass most closely resembles sawdust or coffee grounds, and can appear in groups.
  4. Mud tubes
    • Subterranean termites nest underground but use mud tubes to travel.
    • These pencil-sized tubes protect the termites from outdoor elements.
    • Seeing mud tubes along the outside of your property is likely the number one sign of termites.
  5. Damage from termites
    • Seeing damage caused by termites is indicative of a serious infestation.
    • Damage most frequently appears in wood around the home. Common damage includes unexplained cracks on walls, beams, and rafters.
    • Termites can cause sagging wood in your floors, as well as hollow-sounding wood.
    • Sometimes wood damage can lead to weakened baseboards and floorboards.

Signs It’s Time to Call a Termite Control Company

If you think you’ve spotted any of the aforementioned signs of termites in or near your property, it’s best to call in your local termite exterminators. A thorough inspection from a trained technician can locate any termite problems in or around your home. To learn more about signs you may have a termite infestation, contact the experts at Leo’s today!

How to Identify Termite Holes in Wood

Termite holes in Bristol TN - Leo's Pest ControlIf you’ve ever discovered tiny round holes in wood and wondered what could’ve caused them, you may have encountered termite exit holes! When certain termite species swarm in the spring and summer, they leave their nests and, in doing so, tunnel through wood. The kick-out holes they leave behind are soon thereafter plugged by remaining termites, which is a characteristic that helps set apart termite holes from those left by other wood-destroying insects. While it’s hard to know for sure what type of insect left behind exit holes in wood without the help of an exterminator, there are a few ways you can learn how to identify termite holes.

Do Subterranean Termites Create Exit Holes?

No, only drywood termites leave behind termite holes. Although subterranean termites swarm just like other termites in the spring and summer, they leave their nests in a very different manner. True to their name, subterranean termites build nests underground and travel through mud tubes. These mud tubes also serve the purpose of being their exit from the nest. Seeing holes on a wooden structure, then, is typically indicative of drywood termite activity. This is because drywood termites typically infest wood above ground that is drier. In order to vacate the nest, they must bore through the wood.

Wood Holes from Wood-Destroying Insects

There are many types of wood-destroying insects that are capable of creating tiny, round holes in wood. Needless to say, this makes it difficult to know whether you’re dealing with termites of some other insect. The most common wood-destroying insects include carpenter bees, carpenter ants, powderpost beetles, and bark beetles, among others. All of these insects have unique behaviors and different wood preferences, making it difficult to know which wood-boring insect you’re dealing with. For this reason, it’s best to contact your local pest control experts for help identifying any suspected exit holes.

What Does a Termite Kick-Out Hole Look Like?

There are several unique characteristics of exit holes that help differentiate them from holes left by other insects. These include:

  • Termite kick-out holes are round and no bigger than ⅛ of an inch.
  • After the swarmer termites leave the nest, the termite nymphs within the nest will use a paste made out of frass to plug the holes.
  • It is rare to see uncovered termite holes, as the nymphs work quickly after the swarmers depart.
  • The kicked-out wood looks like tiny mustard seeds and can appear in a pile.

Identifying Termite Holes in Tennessee

It can be distressing to discover tiny, round holes in any wood structure within or outside your property. In order to identify or rule out termite activity, it’s crucial to enlist the help of a professional pest control expert. Contact the termite exterminators at Leo’s Pest Control today to learn how we can help!

Afraid of Rodents and Bugs? 2021 May Not Be Your Year

LEOS PEST CONTROLEntomologists from Leo’s parent company, Rentokil Provide their Pest Predictions for 2021

READING, Penn. (Jan. 4, 2021) — As if 2020 didn’t present enough challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 could be a banner year for pests around the country.

To help residents prepare for 2021, entomologists from Rentokil used field knowledge and data to provide their predictions for pests in the upcoming year.

1. Rodents, Rodents Everywhere:

With shutdowns across the country, it’s no surprise that rodents are on the rise nationwide. Empty buildings, the scarcity of food and warmer winters have combined to create a rodent apocalypse.

“We’re seeing more rats in urban, suburban and rural settings because of the shutdowns,” said Marc Potzler, Board Certified Entomologist. “Food sources are cut off, and rats are having to travel to scavenge for food. We’ve seen rats out in public during the day, which is highly unusual.”

Warmer winters have also allowed for mice populations to boom in residential areas as it allows for a longer breeding season and there is a lower population loss due to hard freezes.

“Right now is the perfect time to rodent-proof your home,” said Potzler. “Make sure to repair any gaps on the exterior of your home, such as around garage doors, windows or pipes.”

2. Mosquitoes on the Move:

Mosquitoes populations have been increasing over the last few years. Aedes species, which are disease-carrying mosquitoes, are also moving to new areas. These mosquitoes can carry West Nile Virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) and Zika virus, among other diseases.

“There is an increase of mosquitoes across the country, but notably on the West Coast, and they are adapting each year,” said Eric Sebring, Associate Certified Entomologist. “We have seen evidence of behavior adaptation, where mosquitoes lay their eggs strategically to hatch throughout the season.”

Protect yourself and your family from mosquitoes by removing any standing water on your property. Mosquitoes can breed in as little as one teaspoon of water. Also, wear EPA-approved insect repellent while spending time outside.

3. Bed Bugs:

The chatter about bed bugs was quiet in 2020, but that’s not because they have gone away.

“As people begin to travel again, we will start to hear about bed bug infestations,” said Sebring. “Bed bugs can be dormant for several months at a time, so they can emerge when a food source, humans, become available.”

Bed bugs are considered hitchhikers, traveling from place to place on people, luggage, clothing and other personal belongings. Homeowners and businesses such as hotels, colleges, hospitals, senior living facilities, retail stores, and libraries have experienced problems with bed bugs.

If traveling, inspect the bed by pulling back the sheets to examine the mattress. Check your luggage before packing and unpacking, and look for signs of living or dead bugs the size of an apple seed or black fecal smears.

4. More Time Outdoors = More Pests.

From hiking to gardening to dining al fresco, there is no doubt that the pandemic has forced people to spend more time outdoors.

In 2021, we will see the outdoor pest pressures continue:

Ticks: Ticks are responsible for transmitting several diseases, including Lyme disease, to humans and animals. These small insects are found in grassy areas and in the woods, so it is important to inspect yourself and your pets after spending time outdoors. Cover as much skin as possible while outdoors, wear long pants, long sleeves, closed-toed shoes, and tuck pant legs into socks. Light-colored clothing will also help any ticks you pick up stand out.

Ants: “As soon as the weather starts to warm up, we will see an increase in ant populations,” said Tom Dobrinska, Board Certified Entomologist. “Most of the ants we are dealing with are odorous house ants. When spending time outside, make sure to clean up any food, water or sugary substances and ensure that your home is free of any holes or cracks for them to enter.”

Stinging Insects: Stinging insects, such as wasps and yellow jackets, emerge at the first sign of warm weather, and as warm weather seasons are getting longer, stinging insects have more time to create issues. Make sure you check for nests early in the spring as they are smaller and get early nest treatment. Make sure to keep windows and doors shut, and secure outside bins so stinging insects are not attracted to the contents.

5. Termites Aren’t Going Anywhere

Termites are a pesky problem, and unfortunately, are not going anywhere. Termites can cause extensive damage to structures, especially homes. As people are moving out of cities during the pandemic to more suburban areas, education about termite protection is key.

“We received more calls for termites this past year than we have in many years,” said Potzler. “It’s important to raise awareness for homeowners now to have proactive protection to keep from costly repairs in the future.”

6. Pests in the News:

There are a few pests that will continue to steal the limelight in 2021.

The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug is an invasive pest that has been making its way across the country since it was first introduced from Asia in 2001. Besides its pungent odor, this stink bug has become a nuisance for homeowners as it gathers in large numbers on the sides of houses and buildings and enters through small cracks in the home. “The brown marmorated stink bug is here to stay,” said Dobrinska. “We will continue to see this species emerge in late spring in large numbers.”

The Spotted Lanternfly will continue to wreak havoc across the Northeast and beyond. The invasive pest, first found in Pennsylvania in 2014, is spreading across the Northeast, with New York reporting its first sighting this year. The pest can significantly damage trees and plants.

“The Spotted Lanternfly is becoming a big problem in the Northeast, and it will continue to spread,” said Potzler. “It can be devastating for agriculture and is a nuisance for homeowners.”

The egg masses look like a smear of mud on trees and outside of homes. It’s important to scrape the egg mass off, put it in a bag with rubbing alcohol and throw it away, and then call the state department of agriculture.

The infamous “Murder Hornet,” also known as the Asian giant hornet, grabbed many headlines, causing homeowners to panic trying to decipher the difference between stinging insects in their yards and this aggressive species. The Asian giant hornet is the largest hornet species in the world, growing up to 3 inches in length. Currently, the Asian giant hornet has only been found in the Pacific Northwest.

“We know that there was one colony found and eliminated in Washington State,” said Sebring. “Unfortunately, if there is one, there will be more.”

While your chances of being stung by an Asian giant hornet are fairly low, the sting can be dangerous as the venom volume is higher, causing more pain. The hives are primarily built underground or in hollows in trees. If you suspect it is an Asian giant hornet or any stinging pests, call your pest management provider to assess the situation as soon as you spot activity.