Expert: How to fend off household pests

Published 9:41 pm Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Extreme heat is not the only cause for concern during the summer months in Central Alabama. There are other threats found indoors — in the form of various kinds of household pests.

Nelson Wynn, regional extension agent with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, said the most aggravating summer household pests seem to be millipedes, fleas, ticks and ants. Wynn said the region’s location and warm climate make it difficult to avoid these culprits.

“Nobody’s going to really be exempt,” he said.

Wynn offered several tips for how to rid your home or business of the most common pests.


Millipedes are arthropods with long, segmented bodies and many legs. Not to be confused with centipedes, which have one pair of legs per body segment, millipedes have two pairs of legs per segment.

“Millipedes don’t bite but centipedes do,” Wynn noted.

There are about 1,000 different kinds of millipedes, but the one you will most likely find in your home is the common garden millipede.

Newer homes between three to five years old seem to be the most susceptible to millipede “invasions.” Treatment can involve the use of chemicals such as Baygon, Ficam or Sevin, but there are other forms of treatment that do not require chemicals. The following tips were provided by the extension:

Dethatch the lawn because millipedes thrive in the dense thatch layer of plant material just above the soil surface.

Closely mow and edge the lawn so the lawn can dry more quickly and reduce the millipede habitat.

Remove debris that can provide a hiding place for millipedes. Pull mulch away from the house because it retains moisture, creating a good hiding place for the millipedes.

Water grass in the early morning so that it can dry during the day. If millipedes enter your house, vacuum them up and discard them outside. Some species can stain carpeting or fabric, especially if crushed.

Fleas and ticks

Getting rid of fleas is an “all-or-nothing” process. All steps must be taken in a day’s time, and there are four basic steps: 1) treat pets; 2) vacuum the home (steam cleaning is even better); 3) treat the inside with insecticide; and 4) treat the outside with Malathion or Sevin dust.

“It’s more of a complete program,” Wynn said. “You really have to do everything all in one day or it’s going to fail.”

The reason this is so critical is because fleas multiply quickly. The developing time for eggs is between one and a half days to six days; the total life cycle of a flea is six to 27 weeks.

Homeowners may even have to repeat the process after about three weeks for complete success, Wynn said.

Aside from chemical treatment, one of the most effective treatments for ticks is to regularly bathe your pet. Spraying outside is not recommended unless you have seen ticks in your home.

“We don’t want you to spray if there’s no need to spray,” Wynn said.


Anyone can spray a trail of ants. But in order to get rid of the problem, you need to do two things: 1) get rid of the scent left behind by the trail, and 2) get to the source, or the bed.

Wynn recommends wiping up after a trail of ants with soap and water.

“They are putting out a hormone that other ants follow,” he explained.

If the bed cannot be located, bait can be placed within the home and the ants will carry it back to the bed to the queen. Baits should not be placed near where you have sprayed, however, or ants will not come near it.

“There are a lot of good baits out there,” Wynn said.

For more information about these and other pests, call the extension at (205) 669-6763 or visit