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January 19th, 2017

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The Pest Years of Our Lives

Lenore Skenazy

By Lenore Skenazy

Published Sept. 14, 2016

 The Pest Years of Our Lives

To everything there is a season, especially if you're a household pest: A time for mice, a time for ants. A time to eat wood, a time to suck blood. And a time for all those roaches under ovens.

No one knows this better than the experienced exterminator.

"There's a different insect or problem every month," says Sam Ramos, proprietor of Above and Beyond Pest Management in New York City.

I had a long, meandering conversation about this with Ramos, because six months ago, when I could no longer convince myself it was my imagination that little brown things were running for cover every time I turned on the kitchen light, I sat down at my computer and did what any full-blooded American does at such a time.

I Googled while literally shaking. Only one of the exterminators I found — Ramos — sounded positively jubilant about my problem. "Roaches? Piece of cake!" He said they're easy to get rid of, and guaranteed his work for six months.

Since it is six months later and I can still turn on the kitchen light without screaming, I wondered if he'd spill the beans (and then carefully clean them up) about his view of the world.

That's when I learned about the Seasons of the Pest.

Right now, says Ramos, we are in the midst of stinging season, which began in July. But because this summer has been so outrageously hot and humid, he has also been getting out-of-season calls about roaches. Not just ordinary roaches. "In 22 years I've only seen them fly once. That was maybe 15 year ago. And now they're flying again." Great.

This summer may also be remembered, at least by Ramos, for its millipede and centipede explosion. These leggy pests tend to be more of an issue in homes made of brick, he said, because bricks are porous, "and with humidity, they actually sweat." Out come their inhabitants. For folks who live in brick houses, Ramos recommends a dehumidifier. "It's a small investment and it'll save your home. Water is the enemy."

Once fall arrives, the stinging insects drop off and in many places, the ants do, too, unless you have a heat-radiant floor. For an easy mnemonic think: Radi-ANT heat.

In October and November, rodents come in from the cold. Waterbugs show up, too, because that's when the heat goes on. "Once the pipes get hot they can't nest in the walls, so they tend to come out around the radiators," says Ramos.

And then everything that needs to stay toasty inside does, for the rest of the winter. (Unless Ramos gets there.)


Come April, he says, "When one day it's 40 and then one day it's 70 and everybody puts their shorts on and heads to the park? That's termite day," says Ramos. They swarm. This can be outside the house or, OMG, inside.

In May, the carpenter bees bore into the underside of decks, mating as they go. And pretty soon it's summer with the stinging things again.

The good news is that our two biggest enemies — roaches and bedbugs — are no longer the intractable problems they were. A new poison embedded in delicious (to roaches) gel is doubly effective: It kills the roaches and then kills (put down your fork) the roaches that eat them.

And after 15 or 20 years of trying to kill bedbugs, exterminators have finally come up with a poison that does the job without accidentally sending the bloodsuckers scattering. Since bedbugs are generally happy right there in the bed, targeted killing means that's where they die, and people don't have to throw out all their belongings anymore, because the bugs never scrambled away.

Seasons come, seasons go, but a good exterminator passeth all understanding.

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