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Quick tips
Angie’s List, a membership-based rating service, said qualified professional pest control companies are trained to spot pest issues and tailor treatment. They will also minimize your family and pets’ exposure to harmful chemicals. Tips for hiring an exterminator
•Many states require exterminators to be licensed. Check with your state pesticide agency to determine your area’s requirements. Ask to see the license before making a hiring decision.
•Hire companies whose employees are bonded to be sure you will be reimbursed in case of damage.
•Ask for a detailed plan to identify the types of pests that are to be controlled, the extent of the infestation, the best removal method and steps to lower the risk of future infestations.
•Hire a company with a strong track record.
Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette
Nick Miracle applies chemical for ants around the baseboard of the kitchen.

Warm spring breeds bugs

Pests menace homes earlier this season

Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette
Nick Miracle uses the chemical Demand CS around foundations outside of homes.

Too buggy too early, indeed.

The mild winter raised red flags for farmers long before the first day of spring – plenty of pests thrived and were tampering with their crops.

Turns out plenty of homeowners have also been coping with creepy things.

Angie’s List, which allows members to offer consumer reviews, said searches for pest control companies on its online site were up 48 percent in March compared with the same month a year ago. Angie Hicks, founder of the rating service, grew up in Fort Wayne.

“We’ve talked to highly rated pest control companies who tell us their phones are ringing off the hook – that’s a full two months before the bugs usually arrive,” Hicks said in an April 13 news release.

The early unwanted guests include ants, bees and wasps, spiders, clover mites, gnats, lady beetles and stink bugs. Next up, experts predict fleas, bees and winged termites, commonly known as swarmers, Angie’s List said.

Gary Patton, owner of Swat Team Pest Control in Columbia City, said last week his March call volume more than doubled compared with March 2011.

“I was actually on vacation in Florida in March and my co-worker called and said you need to come back; we can’t keep up,” said Patton, who escapes the Midwest to enjoy the Florida Keys during the slower winter months.

This year, Patton said he cut his stay there by about a week.

Nick Miracle said calls to his home-based Fort Wayne business – Miratek Pest Solutions – jumped about 20 percent last month.

“I mean it’s been such a big difference from last year,” Miracle said. “It’s been great for our business.”

Ants in particular have been active, but Miracle gets calls for other pests including cockroaches.

Miracle’s plan of attack varies depending on the pest and the extent of the problem. Many of his customers have already tried do-it-yourself eradication before they pick up the phone looking for his expertise and arsenal.

Miracle and John Long, owner of Bug Free Pest Control in Decatur, said people may be better off calling professionals.

“People think they can save a lot going with do-it-yourself, and ultimately they can create more problems,” Long said. “If you’re going to do something yourself, read the directions first before you make any applications.”

Professionals work like “a bug detective,” Long said, and are trained to look for long-term solutions.

Do-it-yourselfers might be successful in breaking up a colony of pests, but sometimes the survivors simply repopulate elsewhere.

“They say most people wait for the groundhog to see its shadow. This year, we were waiting for the ant to see its shadow,” said Long, who calls ants the “No. 1 pest in the country.”

April’s temperatures have been closer to normal than in March, when the Fort Wayne area saw more than a week with record-high temperatures that reached into the upper 80s.

At least a few nights this month, temperatures have dropped into the 30s and 40s. But that’s far from the type of long winter freeze that can help snuff out pests.

Joe Mishak, area supervisor for Aardvark Pest Control, said his April sales through mid month were still running 25 percent ahead of the same month a year ago.

He anticipates the revenue boost will be sustained this year.

Ants may be the big adversary now, along with spiders, but Mishak also suspects the mosquito population to swell in the coming months.

“It’s not going to stop, it’s going to continue,” he said. “The difference is that (the pest invasion) started much earlier.”