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Many people in Atlanta and in the southeast lay claim to the fact that Memorial Day is the official start of summer, even though summer actually begins in the Northern Hemisphere on June 20, 2012. If you’ve had the opportunity to hang out at any of our locations over the past few months, you know that there has been a lot of the talk around the water cooler Big Green Egg, centered around the weather.

Our outdoor power equipment business has been booming since early February. Our commercial landscape customers didn’t have a whole lot of time to relax between last season and this season. Homeowners have had to pull their equipment out of storage earlier than normal to get their yard under control. Full days of sun followed by good rain water days translated into early plant growth. While grasses may have been trying to wake up from dormant states, flower and garden plants were ready to reveal themselves early this spring.

If you’ve been good in the past about being on a lawn fertilizer and pest control schedule, chances are you had to adjust your timing this year to combat the broadleaf weeds that started appearing in late February.

While we were continuing our efforts to discuss the need for consumers to develop a healthy fuel hygiene early this season, it worked out nicely that they were having to tune up and gear up for another season in the yard anyway. Those who may have missed the warning to correctly winterize their lawn equipment perhaps lucked out, because metro Atlanta just  about skipped the winter weather altogether.

Weather is beautiful. Plants and grasses are growing great.

BUT there is always a price to pay for these things.

We started to see these brown bugs swarm our state and neighboring states early this spring. News reports began to appear that these bugs were actually called the globular stinkbug or kudzu bug. These bugs were appearing in our lawn, on our plants, in our cars, on our siding, sometimes getting in our house, attending our soccer and tee-ball games, and generally being a huge nuisance. You probably did the same thing that most did and swatted at the bug to get rid of it, only to be accosted by the smell and sometimes stain of the bug.

And then there are mosquitoes. They were unwelcome earlier this season than in past years and seem to be attacking in larger numbers. For those of us who seem to be more attractive than others to mosquitoes, we have found that we need to carry around our bottle of deet with us more often and use more frequently than we have in the past.

How about snakes? How many of you have a neighbor or a friend on facebook or instagram who has posted a picture of their latest kill for friends to identify. I know that I have 4 different friends in the past month or so who have had an encounter with a copperhead. We have to alert our kids to the presence of these and other snakes, and we need to make sure that they know not to step in areas where they can’t see the ground (flower beds or ivy). We definitely should not go sticking our hands in places we can not see.

And now we are hearing stories about ticks. Trees and grasses are the places ticks like to hang out to await their next meal. Ticks commonly carry diseases such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. While reported cases of these diseases are not too alarming at the moment, public health officials are worried that we will see a spike in the diseases because of the increase in the tick population. This is just another pest that we need to be mindful of and make sure that we’re checking our kids and pets for ticks.

In other years, a regular winter would have killed off some of the pests that we’re discussing. Since metro Atlanta had such a mild winter, you may want to take some steps to minimize the nuisance pests. What’s one to do?

First of all, an overall strategy is needed to make a serious dent in the pest population. Your lawn and landscape should be cleanly maintained so that you are able to more efficiently address the individual problem areas where pests like to live. Long weeds and grasses, overgrown bushes and trees, and unkempt lawn or mulch areas will be inviting to these pests and serve as an aircraft carrier for their homeland terrorism against your family. Trim back any trees that may be leaning or growing close to your house. Seal up any cracks in your foundations or walls, as these are entry points to your home. Make sure your gutters are clean and that the water is draining away from your house. Any standing water will be inviting to these insects. This is also as good a time as any to remove poison plants and invasive plants that are littering your yard. You wonder why we have kudzu bugs? How’s that blanket of kudzu look now?

Once the plant life of your landscape is under control, you can begin to introduce chemical warfare against the pests. For insects there are several products that basically do the same thing. There are granular applications that you can spread out on your lawn that will do a good job of knocking back the numbers of flying pests and crawling critters. Bonide has a flea, ant, and tick killer that is probably the lowest common denominator that most of our customers are implementing into their pest control strategy. Other companies, like Ortho, Spectracide, Bayer, and others, have similar products that will normally be effective for a 4-6 week period of time. Frankly, we like Bonide Products because of their dedication to locally owned businesses, like ours. They do a lot for small businesses by providing a superior product at a competitive price backed up by great training and educational materials for our salespeople.

Sprays are available for areas where bushes, ornamentals and underbrush are present. These can be applied with backpack or pump sprayers, and they are also available as ready to use, right out of the bottle. Even foggers are an option for areas which will allow for  even spreading of the chemical. These sprays will often work for a few weeks at a time before additional applications are needed. The key is reduction in numbers so that consistent future applications will further reduce and/or maintain the population.

We’ve also been able to educate many customers about the benefits of a natural attack against the pests. Creating an environment that is welcoming to birds and bats will also create an alliance with these animals that will assist you in the long run with pest control. Bird feeders and bird baths are not only a good way to be more environmentally friendly, but they will help develop an air war against the pests that over time will result in fewer mosquitoes and other bugs. All three of our stores have a good selection of bird food and feeders that attract birds native to the area.  Installing a bat house will give an extra added punch to your attack. As you peacefully sleep in the coolness of your air conditioned home this summer, the bats will be pitching in and doing their part.

You’re not going to be able to eliminate all the pests. They serve a purpose in creation, too, but you can follow some of these strategies so that you are better able to enjoy the outdoors this summer. I think it was the wise fry cook and diner owner on the TV show Alice, Mel (who probably would have been a proud member of Independent We Stand), who said that “The Best Defense is a good Offense.” Don’t allow the pests to terrorize your summer. Catch them off guard and attack now.

It is Time to Declare War on the Pests in Your Yard