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The Housing Hour’s way of sharing the knowledge of what we have learned through our guest interviews!

Keep your Backyard BBQ Pest-Free

Missy Henriksen –
Vice President of Public Affairs
NPMA, Executive Director, Professional Pest Management Alliance
Tuesday, June 5, 2012

10 Steps to Reduce Pests at Outdoor Festivities this Summer

June marks the start of summer and for many that means increased time spent outdoors with family and friends. From hiking, biking and swimming to more leisurely afternoons spent lounging in the backyard, homeowners across the country get outside to enjoy the warm weather on weekends, holidays and vacations throughout the summer months. If your summer is filled with outdoor activities, you’re joined by 85 percent of consumers who profess their love for picnics and barbecues during the summer.  Something many forget, however, is that in addition to preparing to host neighbors and friends, you’ll need to also expect to face unexpected guests in the form of summer pests like ants, flies and stinging insects.

Many of these pests are more prevalent during the summer, and therefore more likely to show up during outside gatherings and parties.  Ants, yellowjackets and flies are attracted to typical barbecue fare, and mosquitoes are especially active at dusk, when most people head outside to fire up the grill. Not only can each of those pests become a nuisance for homeowners, but they also pose significant health risks to you and your guests. Ants can contaminate food and house flies have been known to carry more than 100 different kinds of disease-carrying germs. Mosquitoes can leave behind much more than just an itchy red bite, and are known to carry diseases like West Nile virus, malaria and dengue fever.

Stinging insects send more than a half million people to the emergency room each year, and are especially active during the second half of summer when the colonies forage for food that will sustain their queens during winter. Yellowjackets, in particular, pose a significant health threat as they may sting repeatedly and can cause allergic reactions.

To keep your guests happy and your backyard pest-free during summertime barbecues, consider the following tips:

  • Mosquitoes are most active at dusk and dawn, so if you are planning a barbeque before sunset, plan on having plenty of insect repellant containing an EPA-registered active ingredient like DEET or Picaridin available for you and your guests. Adorn your deck or patio with citronella candles that can help minimize the presence of mosquitoes in the area, and wear long sleeves or pants to avoid bites.
  • Yellowjackets and other stinging insects are attracted to fragrances from shampoo, perfume and candles — not to mention food and drink. Avoid using scented items beforehand and provide clear plastic cups for your guests as aluminum cans and plastic bottles are good hiding spots for stinging insects.
  • Prior to the party, check screen doors and repair any holes. And with guests coming in and out of your house, make sure the doors close behind them.
  • Keep all food and beverages in sealed coolers and containers.
  • Keep garbage containers sealed and away from guests.
  • Clean trash, spills and crumbs immediately from tables and other surfaces.
  • Bring utensils and dishware indoors shortly after the meal.
  • Rinse all beverage bottles and cans, and dispose of them in tightly closed garbage containers.
  • Plan to serve food and beverages indoors, and reserve outdoor space for eating and entertaining.
  • Remove or drain sources of standing water in your yard that could be a breeding ground for mosquitoes, including birdbaths, wading pools or garden ponds.

Keep your family and friends healthy and safe this summer by following these tips for preventing pests from infiltrating your backyard barbecues. For more information, or to find a find a pest control professional in your area, visit

Stinging Insects 101

Missy Henriksen

Vice President of Public Affairs
NPMA, Executive Director, Professional Pest Management Alliance

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

How to identify the pest, the nest and the threat

Stinging insects such as yellowjackets, hornets, wasps and bees are common summertime pests and their stings can be more than just a painful nuisance. The National Pest Management Association reports that stinging insects send more than half a million people to the emergency room every year. Those with allergies to stings are most at risk, although anyone can be affected if a large number of stinging insects swarm and sting at once.

One way to protect yourself and your family from stinging insects this summer is to ensure your property is free from hives and nests. On a routine basis, walk around the exterior of your home, paying special attention to overhangs, eaves, the underside of porches and decks for nests. Also inspect shrubs, trees, sheds and other structures. If you do find a nest on your property, do not attempt to remove it on your own. The colony can become defensive and attack en masse. Instead, contact a licensed pest control professional who will be able to relocate or remove the hive in a safe manner.

Some stinging insects pose more serious threats than others. To determine the risk to your family, you will need to identify the species. A trained pest professional will be able to properly identify a pest species and its threats, but you can also use this guide to help determine the species:

Bumble bee

Bumble Bees

  • Pest: Bumble bees are between ¼ – 1 inch in size, have black and yellow markings, and an overall fuzzy appearance.
  • Nest: Bumble bees build their nests out of pollen clumps, usually in the ground or a dense grass clump, and often in an abandoned mouse nest.
  • Threat: Bumble bees are considered a beneficial insect because they pollinate flowers. However, they can sting. If a nest is located in a near a structure, then control is necessary.
Carpenter Bee

Carpenter Bees

  • Pest: Carpenter bees are between 1/2 – 1 inch in size. They resemble bumble bees, but the top of their abdomen is largely bare and shiny.
  • Nest: Carpenter bees do not live in nests or colonies. They bore into wood, where they make galleries for rearing their young. Carpenter bees tend to prefer decaying or weathered wood to new or painted wood.
  • Threat: Carpenter bees are a serious property threat, and can cause structural damage over time if they are not eliminated. Male carpenter bees can be territorial and may hover in front of one’s face aggressively, but they have no stinger and these actions are merely for show. Female carpenter bees do have a potent sting, which is rarely used.
Honey bee

Honey Bees

  • Pest:  Honey bees are between 1/2–5/8 inch in size and orangish brown or black in color.
  • Nest: Honey bees are social insects and live as colonies in hives, with mature colonies of 20,000 – 80,000 individuals.
  • Threat: Honey bees are not aggressive and do not search for something to attack. Instead, they are defensive and will attack only whatever seems to threaten the colony.
Bald-faced Hornets

Baldfaced Hornets

  • Pest: Baldfaced hornets are largely black in color, with a mostly white face.
  • Nest: Baldfaced hornets build aeriel nests out of paper carton. The nests are usually in exposed locations, often on trees, utility poles, overhangs or other structures. The nests can be quite large, growing to 14 inches in diameter and 24 inches in length.
  • Threat: Baldfaced hornets are considered beneficial insects because they control many pest insect species. However, if their nest is located near a structure, control is warranted.
European Hornet

European Hornets

  • Pest: European hornets are large in size, between ¾ and more than 1 inch. They are brown with yellow abdominal stripes and a pale face.
  • Nest: European hornets build paper carton nests that are usually covered in a brown paper envelope as protection. Typically, the nests can be found in hollow trees, barns, out buildings, hollow walls of houses and attics.
  • Threat: European hornets are considered beneficial insects because they control many pest insect species. However, if their nest is located near a structure, control is warranted.
Open Pipe Mud Daubers

Mud Daubers

  • Pest:  Mud daubers are long and slender, usually black in color, and may have pale markings or a metallic luster.
  • Nest: Mud daubers are solitary wasps and do not live in colonies. Females construct nests of mud. Many short mud tubes, usually about 1 inch long, are constructed side by side. They frequently build nests under eaves, porch ceilings, in garages and sheds, barns, protected building walls and attics.
  • Threat: European hornets are considered beneficial insects because they control spiders. However, if their nest is located near human activity, control is warranted.
Velvet Ants ("Cow Killers")

Velvet Ants

  • Pest:  Despite their name, velvet ants are not ants at all, but are actually wasps. Female velvet ants are very hairy and black in color, sometimes with areas of bright red, orange, yellow or white. Males are less hairy and duller in color, but have wings, unlike females.
  • Nest: Velvet ants often live in the nests of wasps and ground-nesting bees. In other cases, they build nests in bare or sandy soil.
  • Threat: Velvet ants are sometimes called “cow killers” because of their very potent sting. However, only female velvet ants have stingers.
Paper wasp queen

Paper Wasp

  • Pest:  Paper wasps are brownish with yellow or reddish markings.
  • Nest: Paper wasps get their name from the paperlike material of which they construct their nest. Paper wasp nests are often umbrella-like in shape and are never enclosed in an envelope. Nests are often found hanging from twigs and branches of trees and shrubs, as well as porch ceilings, door frames, eaves, deck floor joints, railings, etc.
  • Threat: If a nest is touched, there is a high probability you will get stung, although paper wasps are typically not aggressive. Paper wasps are considered beneficial insects because they control many pest insect species. However, if their nest is located near a structure, control is warranted.


  • Pest: Yellowjackets have a yellow and black color pattern and are between 3/8 – 5/8 inches.
  • Nest: Yellowjackets live in nests constructed of paper carton, which can grow to be basketball-sized. One nest will contain a number of rounded paper combs, attached one below another and covered with a many-layered envelope. Depending on the species, the nest may be near the ground, such as on plant roots, logs or timber, or aerial and attached to shrubs, bushes, houses, garages or sheds.
  • Threat: Yellowjackets are slow to sting, unless their nests is threatened.Yellowjackets are considered beneficial insects because they control many pest insect species. However, if their nest is located near a structure, control is warranted.

Remember, it is not advised to attempt to remove a stinging insect nest on your own, and doing so can be extremely dangerous. Instead, work with a licensed pest professional to access your property and the nest to determine the best way to eliminate the threat to your family.

Exactly what is meant by Energy Efficiency?

Sometimes when talking about important subjects, like energy, we often forget to define foundational concepts, like energy efficiency.  On our radio show, The Housing Hour, we have had several guests who have helped us understand exactly what is meant by energy efficiency. Most of us define the term to simply mean saving money. While this is true to a large extent, it doesn’t necessarily define the phrase in a meaningful way. For example, we can save money on our heating bill by simply turning down the temperature in winter and turning it up again in summer. Yes, you will save money but what about your comfort? Energy Efficiency is about cost saving without sacrificing comfort. The Housing Hour has great news; we have a lot of hard working scientists from ORNL, DOE and TVA, just to mention a few, whose entire job is centered on finding home energy efficiencies through more efficient technologies and processes. So how can you learn more these great scientific breakthroughs that can save you money and keep you comfortable? Start by calling your local utility board and ask about In-Home Energy Evaluation. They will put you in touch with a TVA certified evaluator, who will recommend improvements that could be eligible for tax credits and rebates. One objection to retrofitting your home with these  great  energy efficiencies is cost but don’t let that stop you. As  Dr. Roderick  Jackson from ORNL points out on one of our recent shows, ‘…if you can’t afford all the improvements now, make a one year or two year plan and take small steps until it’s all complete.’ So here is your first step, call your local power company today and find out what you need to do to take advantage of this wonderful science.

For additional information and show archives visit

Energy Efficiency: sealing your home

According to ORNL research, the average home exchanges internal total air volume, 7 to 10 per day. That means the outside air replace inside air (and vice versa)  7 to 10 times daily.  You would expect this exchange rate living in a tent but not necessarily your home.  Energy efficiency starts with stopping this costly air exchange. Scientific research calls this sealing. Sealing can easily be done by the weekend ‘do-it yourself-ers’. Whatever the season, big cost savings starts with locating the most common leaky areas such as: behind knee walls, attic hatches, wiring holes, plumbing holes,  duct-work, floor joist, window and doors just to mention a few.  There are great new products that make sealing much easier. The expanding insulation foam is one of the simplest products to use.  One tip, foil duct tape is not a good long term fix for sealing, it fails quickly. They make a great Duct sealant that will keep joints sealed for a much longer time.  Your home improvement centers will have great information and product selections to help you with this project.  Another tip, purchase a carbon monoxide detector when you’re there, sealing a home can seal in this dangerous gas. Lastly, visit our website where you can download a great guide to the ‘do-it –yourself-ers’ on home sealing and also listen to recent interviews on this topic.

For additional information and show archives visit

The PDF :

Energy Efficiency: insulating your home

Scientific studies tell us that 50% to 70% of the energy used in a home is used by your heating and cooling system.  Improper insulation and leaky homes are the major reasons for such high percentages.  Simple and inexpensive whole house sealing methods are the first step in energy efficiencies.  The second step is proper insulation.  An important concept to remember is heat, by nature, will always move to cooler areas. So that means in winter, heat wants to escape into the attic of your home and in summer it leeches down from the attic into the main living area.  Proper insulation will dramatically reduce this heat exchange and produce significant cost savings.  How much and what type of insulation should be determined by the professionals. Start by calling your local utility board and ask about In-Home Energy Evaluation. They will put you in touch with a TVA certified evaluator, who will recommend improvements that could be eligible for possible tax credits and rebates. TVA also has a list recommended contractors that help takes the guess work out of who you need for the specific job.

For additional information and show archives visit

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