Safely Removing Honey Bees: Berkeley Edition

Honey bees aren’t honestly that much of a danger to people — even those intimidating-looking swarms that involve two thousand or more bees moving in a huge group are made up of some of the most docile bees you’ll ever meet. Unless they get tangled up in your hair or you sit on one, you’re almost perfectly safe standing in the middle of a honey bee swarm.

Nope, the “safely” involved in removing honey bees in Berkeley homes or businesses is the safety of the bees, not of the people around them. Sure, if you break a hive or otherwise agitate the colony, you’re going to get stung if you don’t have a beekeeper’s suit on. But by and large, we’re a far greater threat to the bees than they are to us.

In fact, one of the biggest dangers a honey bee hive poses to humans is if someone comes along and kills all of the bees with a poison like insecticide. At that point, the mass of honey and bees starts to rot, which can stink up your whole house, attract new predators of both the bee and non-bee varieties.

So how do you safely remove bees if you don’t intend to kill them? It’s surprisingly difficult, actually, because of how and where bees build their colonies — because it’s almost always inside some dark, hard-to-reach space.

The first step is finding the colony, assuming you don’t already know where it is. A pest control expert can come out with a stethoscope or other equipment and carefully listen for the buzzing of the hive on the other side of the wall. Once it’s been found, a contractor will have to make a hole in the wall, at which point the pest controller can (all dressed appropriately, of course) carefully break the colony into chunks and move it into a special box that will allow any free-flying swarmmates to get in and join their family, but won’t let any bees out.

Give that box a day to sit and collect the flyers, get your wall patched back up, and then you can move on with your newly bee-free life. Way to bee!

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Keeping Out The Rodents This Berkeley Winter

Don’t rely on the mild Berkeley winter to save you from rodent invasions — there are plenty of proactive methods you can use to keep them out of your territory.

Keep Clean and Carry On
The first thing you can do to reduce the risk of rodent rioting is to keep your property ‘rodent unfriendly.’ That means eliminating sources of water, food, and easy hidey-holes that a rodent could escape to in a pinch. The harder a rodent has to work to find what it needs on your property, the less likely it is to move in and start a family.

Eliminating Food
To keep rodents from easily finding food on your property, start with the food that you’re already putting out for other critters. Feed your pets indoors. Make sure your bird feeder isn’t spilling seeds all over the ground. Any winter squashes you may be growing should be surrounded in chicken wire, electrified if you’re serious about it. Next step: ensure that your garbage, compost (if any) and other sources of potentially food-bearing waste are in containers that a rodent cannot access. Keep your property clear of food-related garbage; it doesn’t take much at all to feed a mouse for a few days so every little bit counts.

Eliminating Water
It can be tough to keep water away from the rodents in a Berkeley winter — the regular rain makes even the best-drained yards moist enough to keep a rodent from leaving. Nevertheless, it’s smart to avoid adding to the opportunity. Bring your pets’ water bowls inside, clean your gutters so they don’t sit there dribbling out small amounts of water for days after a big rain, and of course if you do have drainage issues, see what you can do about them.

Eliminating Safe Spaces
This is probably the most work of the three. Eliminating safe spaces for rodents means patching the holes in the outside of your home so they can’t scramble in — not even into the crawlspace. It also means keeping your lawn mowed and any landscaping you have trimmed such that there aren’t branches dragging on the ground for little rodents to hide behind.

Manuel Ramirez, general manager of the City of Berkeley Environmental Health Department, said it simply:  “Rodents are part of the ecosystem…Most people don’t think about that. The easiest way to control them is to eliminate…the contributing factors.”

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Fleas: Oakland’s Pets’ Nastiest Parasite

Fleas, if you can believe it, are a lot like butterflies.

Yeah, that’s not something anyone expects to hear — but it’s true. Sure, they jump instead of flying, and they annoy the heck out of people rather than making them feel all nature-Zenny, but from a biological standpoint, there are marked similarities.

Fleas begin life as eggs, which can be found wherever adult fleas can be found. To the human eye, they look a lot like sand — tiny white orzo-looking things that are often found side by side with flea poop, which is black but similar in size and shape. Eggs are particularly hard to kill before they hatch, but there are certain products that can do the job. Look for a spray labeled “IGR” — Insect Growth Regulator — but remember that under ideal conditions (i.e. Oakland during the not-winter season) flea eggs can hatch within 48 hours. Also, vacuum and wash absolutely every fabric in your home.

The next stage is larvae — basically, caterpillars in this analogy. They eat basically anything organic that can’t get away from them, which isn’t much, but it’s enough. Larvae are tiny and translucent; they’re almost impossible to see with the naked eye. To kill flea larvae, wash your pet thoroughly and then sprinkle your carpet and furniture with a 50/50 mix of baking soda and table salt. Let it sit overnight and vacuum it up in the morning, and you’ll be vacuuming up all of the now-dessicated fleas along with it.

Larvae, after they’ve eaten a bit, spin cocoons (pupa) and, like a caterpillar, metamorphose — becoming full-grown fleas. Flea pupa are all but impossible to kill, being largely immune to chemicals, dehydration, cold, and other environmental factors. The best you can hope to do is vacuum them up and/or comb them off of your pet using a flea comb.

Once they hatch, however, the adult flea is ready to be hated on! The best at-home solution for adult fleas is called food-grade diatomaceous earth — perfectly safe for humans and pets, but sprinkling a bit over your floors, your pets bedding, and even your pets fur will kill any adult fleas it comes into contact with.

And there you have it — if you do all of these and you still find yourself dealing with those annoying fleas, Oakland‘s top pest control company — Burge Pest Control — is just a phone call away. Good luck!

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Winter As Pest Control? San Francisco Don’t Play That

If you live in Chicago or Fargo or some other near- or sub-zero-winter city, you can often rely on the power of the winter to completely shut down the local pests. (More accurately, the pests that aren’t already hiding inside your home, feeding off your heat!) But when you live in San Francisco, Old Man Winter is more like Young Lady Rainfall, and many pests couldn’t care less when she swings by to add some much-needed hydration to their lives.

How Pests Deal with Winter
Insects have a few survival strategies for the cold: they can burrow down below the freeze, or find sanctuary in a human-warmed structure, or they can just hibernate (which in bug lingo is called “diapause”). Rodents, on the other hand, are warm-blooded and require insulation — but they’re pretty good at making it as the seasons turn. They’ll end up either hanging out (again) in some human-warmed area, or just as often they’ll make a burrow, fill it with insulative material collected during the fall, and venture out just often enough to get a bit of food and come back.

How Pests Deal with San Francisco’s ‘Winter’
…They basically just keep doing the same thing they’ve been doing all year round. Rodents might instinctively put together a hoard of insulating material like paper and cloth scraps, but they often never end up using them. Pest control in San Francisco doesn’t ever get to take a season off — we just put our rain jackets on and keep right on controlling those pests.

If we get a really bad winter — remember 2009? — the cold still generally doesn’t come on super-quickly, which means the pests around San Francisco have plenty of time to make their way indoors. All it means is that it’s even more important to keep a careful eye out for signs that you need a pest inspection. And that it might be a little harder for us to drive over there. We are SoCalian after all — ‘snow on the road’ ranks somewhere well below ‘people with Norwegian accents’ on the list of things we’re familiar with.

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Top 5 Signs You Need Termite Control: Walnut Creek Edition

Termite infestations can, without anyone being the wiser, compromise the integrity of your home and cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage before they’re discovered. It’s vital to get a termite inspection from a licensed professional at least every other year — or every year if you know that there’s another house that has had a termite infection in the last few years. On the other  hand, if you see any of these telltale signs of termites on your property, call a company that provides termite control for Walnut Creek homes immediately!

  • Discarded Swarmer Wings: A termite swarm means one thing: a local colony has recently divided, and a new queen is leading half of her citizens to their new home. Woe betide you if that’s your house! You can’t often expect to see the swarm itself in action; they don’t hang out for hours at a time — but you can often find piles of discarded wings near windowsills or doorframe. Swarmers lose their wings once the queen has determined where the next colony will be, so these wings are a surefire sign that you need help now.
  • Mud Tubes: Subterranean termites, far and away the most destructive, don’t travel out in the open if they can avoid it. If they encounter an obstacle they can’t burrow through, they build tubes of mud to travel along. If you see a series of mostly-vertical lines of dirt or mud that lead along solid surfaces like concrete or cinder blocks, call a pest control company ASAP.
  • Soft, Hollow, and/or Damaged Wood: Termites generally eat wood from the inside out, so the earliest signs you’ll find are hollow-sounding timbers. If the wood is showing soft spots, you’re too late — and if it’s showing dark or blistering spots, it’s probably going to give way given any sort of jostle.
  • Frass: “Termite sawdust” is called frass, and it can be found in small piles in- or outside the home. Not all small sawdust-like piles are termite-specific, but it’s a strong indicator that you should, at the minimum, request an inspection.
  • Cracked or Bubbling Paint: Like frass, not all cracked and bubbling paint is caused by termites — water damage is an even more common culprit — but particularly if you have paint that is showing cracks and bubbles only over the wood parts of your home (not the drywall or concrete), it’s a good time to call the inspector.
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Do You Need Every Other Month Pest Control in San Francisco?

We’ll be honest: there’s not that many circumstances that warrant a schedule of every-other-month pest control. In San Francisco, those circumstances are slightly more common than in many other places, if only because the weather is ripe for pests year-round. What are those circumstances, you ask? Glad you did: the answer is ‘it depends on the pest you’re facing.’

The Basics

First thing you should understand is that no matter which pest control company you call, the chemicals they use to keep bugs away from your house only ever last about sixty days. (There are legal reasons why, so if some other company quotes you another reason why, they’re either wrong or they’re doing something against the law.)

Now, every sixty days is of course exactly every other month, so with any given seasonal or bi-annual visit from the pest control guys, you’re going to have a period of no protection. That’s normal, and in fact it’s relatively safe — pests aren’t constantly trying to build homes inside your home. Most of them will give it a shot, fail, and find somewhere else to settle down. So a quarterly pest control visit is, for most people, quite effective.


There are some pests that are so dangerous that if you see literally any sign of them in your vicinity, you should immediately take the most conservative possible response — an every-sixty-days visit from your pest control company, for at least six months (preferably 12.) This will create a pest-proof barrier that will give almost any kind of bug or rodent ample time to move along and bother someone else. These pests include:

  • Silverfish, which will gleefully eat half of your wardrobe and half of your library over the course of a couple of weeks if allowed,
  • Termites, which of course can actually ruin your house completely left unchecked,
  • Bees, if someone in your family is allergic,
  • Black Widow Spiders, the only dangerous spider in the San Francisco area,
  • Cockroaches, which can spread disease and are all but impossible to get rid of, and
  • Fleas and Ticks, if you have pets.

If your concerns are about other pests, you’ll almost always been fine with a quarterly visit — but when the threat is real, don’t mess around with anything less but a solid wall of pest control: the every-other-month pest control routine.

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When to Choose Quarterly Pest Control: Concord Edition

Quarterly pest control, for Concord homeowners, at least, is always a wise plan — but not one that everyone can afford all year, every year. We get that; we’re not here today to try to push you to buy a quarterly pest control plan. What we are here to do is point out when a quarterly pest control plan is important, so you can decide for yourself when it will be more affordable than the alternative.  Consider a quarterly pest control plan when:

You Have a Source of Pests You Can’t Get Rid Of
Sadly, because pest control often involves a variety of toxic chemicals and other measures that are regulated by municipal and state governments, the following scenario is all too common. Say you’re out on your back porch and you notice that there are a rather surprising amount of yellow jackets out today. You trace their flights, and find that there’s a big ol’ hive sitting up in a tree on public property across the street. You can’t do anything about that except report it to the city, and they might take months to get there. Having a regular visit from a pest control expert can minimize the annoyance and, importantly, make sure that the colony doesn’t calve and start an offshoot even closer to your house.

You’re Sick and You Don’t Know Why
When your entire family has been mysteriously ill — even if it’s just regular headaches or something similar — for an extended period of time, it may surprise you to learn that the cause might be a pest. Even if you never see them, cockroaches, rodents, fleas, ants, and flies can bring viruses and bacteria with them that can make day-to-day living a pain. A quarterly visit from a pest control company can keep that threat in check and keep your family healthier.

A Neighbor Has Pest Damage
If you hear from a neighbor that they’ve had problems with termites in their beams, or with rodents chewing on their electric wiring, or any similar problems, it’s time to go on the defensive immediately. Get a pest control expert out there to create a barrier that will keep the pests away from your home, and keep him coming out there for at least a year after your neighbor’s problem has been fixed — anything else is just asking for your house to suffer the same fate.

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Home Rodent-Proofing for Walnut Creek

When you live in Walnut Creek, you’ve invested too much in your home to let it get profaned by the likes of rats or mice. Of course, your first (and correct) inclination is probably to call professionals like the ones who work at Burge Pest Control — we’ll come out and take care of your rodent problem once and for all. But if you’re the hardcore DIY type who loves to tackle problems by hand, we’re here to support you! Here’s our best advice for rodent-proofing a Walnut Creek home.

What To Look For; How to Fix It

  • Pipes: If there are holes in your outside wall for water pipes, gas lines, or electrical conduit, fill the holes with stucco or plaster patch, and then nail a patch of mesh over the top.
  • Vents: A vent that comes through your outside wall and has no screen, a damaged screen, or a bent screen can give the rodents plenty of room to squeeze through and get inside. Ensure every vent has a screen, and that they’re all intact and properly affixed.
  • On the Roof: There are all kinds of protrusions that come out of the roof of your house. For toilet vents and other plumbing, a piece of hardware cloth strapped in place with a hose clamp or industrial zip-tie should do the job; for chimneys, a metal grate with a spark arrester is your option of choice. Most other forms of opening in the roof should be handled with a screen on the inside. Any missing shingles should be replaced, and if there are any noticeable holes under the eaves, jam them up with steel wool to create an impenetrable barrier.
  • Doors: Ensure that all of your door thresholds are tight-fitting, installing weatherstripping if need be. For a garage door, consider getting a length of used garden hose, slitting it down the length, opening it, and closing it around the bottom edge of your garage door.
  • Inside Walls: Anywhere that there’s a hole in the walls, whether it’s a small gap next to where the water pipe comes in under the bathroom sink or that place where you got so mad you punched through the drywall, fix it up! Use drywall patching (and, if necessary, a piece of mesh to hold it up) for the bigger holes, caulking around the pipes, and if there’s something that won’t take either, steel wool works wonders.

Obviously, it’s best to have a professional from Burge or a similar company do the job — but if you want to put those Walnut Creek property values in your own hands, there’s a good rundown of what you need to do. Good luck!

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Avoiding the Yellow Jackets in Walnut Creek

European yellow jackets in Walnut Creek first showed up about 30 years ago, an invasive species that has since established a firm foothold here. While they’re not particularly aggressive, they will defend their nests quite violently, and they will sting if they feel threatened. Unlike bees, they don’t hesitate to sting because they don’t die after stinging — their stinger isn’t barbed, and it doesn’t rip out when they stick you. This also means that they’ll happily sting you several times in rapid succession, which is pretty much the opposite of fun.

Obviously, people who are allergic to yellow jacket stings need to be extremely nervous about these critters — but even regular people who get stung a dozen times can become seriously ill and find themselves developing a phobia that will last them the rest of their lives.

Certain things make a yellow jacket colony more dangerous. The most common is a lack of food, which happens consistently during the late fall and wintertime but can also happen due to random other weather events in the area. Next most-common is a ‘population wave’ — essentially, the colony stumbles upon a great food source, a bunch of new pupas are pumped out, and then they all emerge at the same time and overcrowding forces the hive to go aggro. Unfortunately, there’s no way to know what that might happen.

Yellow jackets tend to nest either well above the ground, in trees, tall shrubs, attics, eaves, and chimneys — or underground, in burrows left behind by other animals or within the crawlspaces of houses. Needless to say, disturbing a yellow jacket’s nest is another way to easily get the entire hive to go nuts and attack anything moving in the vicinity, so NEVER ATTEMPT TO TAKE A YELLOW JACKET NEST ON BY YOURSELF.

That’s what experts like the ones here at Burge Pest Control are for — we know exactly how to handle a yellow jacket colony without risking an aggressive swarm threatening your family (or us!) If you think you have a yellow jacket colony in or around your home, try leaving out the last half-inch of a can of a soft drink. They’ll come, check it out, and then several dozen more will start ferrying sugar back and forth to the hive, and you should be able to carefully follow them (without getting in their way) until you find it. Then, call us, and we’ll get rid of them for you.

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Commercial Pest Control: Concord Needs It!

Keeping your business free of bugs, rodents, and other pests should be somewhere below “pay my employees,” but somewhere above “make a profit” on your list of priorities. Yes, that’s a big claim, but that’s because making a profit can wait when you’re looking at a situation where just standing in your place of business can make your customers and/or employees sick…or just grossed out. Particularly in a place like Concord, where mild winters mean that pests are active year-round, commercial pest control is an absolute must.

If they don’t set aside a bit of the maintenance budget to call out some commercial pest control, a Concord business is risking:

  • Damage to your building, including having the structural integrity of your place of business compromised to the point that it becomes unsafe,
  • Contamination of any organic material in your demesnes, including the food in the break room (at the mildest) or your entire edible product line (at worst.)
  • Disruptions to your workflow and efficiency caused by employees bothered by pests.
  • Extremely powerful negative word-of-mouth advertising or online reviews pointing out to everyone that you’re not taking adequate care of your place of business.

Burge Best Control is your answer: our commercial pest control program is designed from the foundation to the rooftop with one goal: to keep your facility free of all of the problems pests bring when they come inside. Our professionals are intimately familiar with all of the pests that plague Concord, from mice to termites to silverfish, and we can make sure that your business doesn’t suffer under their influence for long.

Far more importantly, Burge has long-term plans for preventative quarterly visits, and will also immediately put you on an every-other-month schedule if you have one of the particularly tenacious infestations like bedbugs or the aforementioned silverfish. If you need a pest control team that will stick with you until all of your pest-related problems are definitively over — but will remain on call for you in case something new crops up — call us today. We’ll be there!

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