ABC Blog

5 Ways to Freeze Out Bugs This Winter

Keeping your home pest-free so you can enjoy the cooler weather

Winter in Austin may not be a snowy wonderland, but it’s still cold enough to make the warmth of your home seem inviting to pests. From crawling insects to creeping rodents, here’s how to banish these intruders and take back control of the house.

Clear Yard Clutter

Pests hiding in outdoor messes can easily move indoors if you don’t clean up before winter. Clear the leaves out of gutters and sweep them off the porch. Move mulch away from the house and get rid of anything else that might provide a warm, damp haven for cold-weather pests.

Burn Bridges

While you don’t literally want to burn anything, it’s a good idea to check for overhanging tree branches and other potential gateways for pests to enter your home. Wood piles kept next to the house are another prime example of pest habitats. Relocate the wood … Read Full Post »

Solving the Mystery of Small Dirt Piles

What are worm castings, and how do they help with lawn care?

When digging around in your garden, you’ve probably come across worms making their way through the dirt. The more worms you see, the healthier the soil is likely to be, but why exactly is that?

What Goes In Must Come Out

As worms tunnel from one place to another, they munch on organic matter, process it, and excrete what are called castings. Also known as vermicast, this nutrient-rich “worm manure” can be produced in controlled settings and used as a rich natural fertilizer.

Benefits of Worm Castings

Vermicast offers many benefits for your Austin lawn and garden, including:

• Improved soil aeration
• Higher levels of beneficial micro-organisms
• Higher concentrations of bioavailable nutrients such as nitrogen, calcium and potash
• Better plant growth and yield with fewer diseases
• Stronger root systems
• Recycling waste products
• Natural, chemical-free fertilization
• Attraction of more worms to further improve soil health

In … Read Full Post »

Cool Facts About Bug Hibernation

Good, Bad and Beautiful Snoozers

There’s nothing like a blast of central Texas cold to eliminate summer pests from the scene, but they don’t all disappear when the chill sets in. Some insects sneak into your house, burrow into the lawn or tuck away deep inside trees. Three local bugs have mastered the snug art of hibernating through our coldest Austin winters.

The Good

It’s impossible not to smile when you spot a lady bug. Whether it’s a bright red specimen or a shiny yellow version, the beneficial insect is welcome in gardens throughout the area. The lady bug has a great reputation for keeping aphids and other flower-destroying pests under control, but the real credit goes to its larvae. Yes, the youngsters do all the work. This pretty beetle can become a problem when the temperatures drop. They can migrate into walls, attics and your home’s HVAC system.

The Bad

You won’t run across … Read Full Post »

What’s New in the World of Smart Appliances?

Perpetual connectivity is coming soon to your home

Is your home as tech-savvy as the 4% of American households currently using smart appliances? If you’re still only thinking about connecting the entire house to the Internet, don’t worry; 70% of homeowners are also in the planning stages. Here’s a taste of what you can expect when the wave of the future hits your home.

Smart Refrigerators

Gone are the days when having an ice maker in the refrigerator door was a novelty. Today’s smart refrigerators are able to keep track of the food you store inside and find recipes on the Internet that use those ingredients. Some, like the models from Samsung, can even interact with social media, much to the delight of Internet foodies.

Intuitive Washers

When you just can’t get the stubborn stains out of your clothes, a smart washer can connect to its manufacturer and download instructions for a specific cycle to … Read Full Post »

Is a Water Leak Driving Up Your Monthly Bill?

Tracking down stubborn leaks to save water and money

Hidden leaks around the house or in exterior infrastructure can sap your water supply and jack up your bills. If you suspect a leak, follow these steps to figure out where all that water is going and how to stop it.

Look at the Meter

Your water meter should have a leak detector that moves to indicate unwanted water usage. You can check this or read the meter, wait about an hour without using any water, then read it again. A change could indicate the presence of a leak.

Should you find a problem, shut off the water to your home from the main valve and go have another look at the leak indicator. An exterior leak will cause it to continue to move while no movement suggests a leak inside the house.

Check the Usual Suspects

Faucets and toilets are the most obvious sources of indoor … Read Full Post »

The Battle Against Termites…and Their Farts

Termites are best known for their big appetites, but munching on your floorboards isn’t the only thing they do well. From familiar household dwellers to exotic colonies living in giant tropical mounds, different termites all around the world share the same embarrassing secret. Thanks to their insatiable taste for cellulose, the building block of plant life, termites can’t stop passing gas—a habit that may be polluting our planet.

The Link Between Termite Gas and Global Warming

We can’t smell termite gas, so what’s the big deal? At the heart of the issue is methane, the toxic compound termites release as part of their normal digestive functions. Odorless and colorless, methane belongs to a group of dangerous greenhouses gases that trap heat in the atmosphere, accelerating climate change and eventually causing irreversible environmental damage. On their own, termites don’t emit enough methane to cause a whole lot of harm, but as a global … Read Full Post »

Should You Turn Up Your Water Heater During Winter?

Settling on the best temperature to keep your water warm and your home safe

Have you ever hopped in the shower on a winter day only to be greeted by a jet of freezing cold water? Many factors make it difficult for your water heater to maintain a consistent temperature during cold weather. Turning up the thermostat is just one potential solution to this problem.

Why Water Temperature Drops

Colder weather means colder temperatures in the air and underground. This chills the water entering your water heater, causing the unit to have to work harder to reach the right temperature. As it’s running, more cold water comes in and cools everything back down. Older heaters may have an especially difficult time keeping up with this cycle.

Small Change, Big Warm-up

While many water heaters come pre-set at 140 degrees, most recommendations say to set the thermostat at 120 to save energy and avoid the potential … Read Full Post »

Which Pests are Most Active in the Winter?

Dealing with Rodents and Bugs During the Cold Season

Although Austin never gets as cold during the winter as areas in the upper half of the U.S., there’s a winter cool down that can make many bugs and other pests seem to disappear. However, homeowners need to be aware of the fact that there are still a large quantity of pests that will be looking to gain access to the indoors throughout the fall and winter months. Fortunately, you can easily deal with this problem by utilizing the services of a professional pest control company.

What Type of Pests Are Most Common During Austin Winters?

Rodents of all types will be on the lookout for a safe, warm haven where they can pass the winter months without being exposed to the elements. Unfortunately, this haven is generally your home, and the amount of damage that can be caused within your walls and to … Read Full Post »

How to Keep Your Lawn Beautiful This Winter

Winterize your outdoor space to ensure a healthy lawn in the spring

Autumn has a way of becoming winter in the blink of an eye. Before your lawn gets overtaken by frost or disappears under an unexpected layer of snow, it needs special attention. Try these tips to get your grass ready for the cold.

Get Rid of the Leaves

The carpet of accumulated leaves covering your grass deprives it of light, which can result in an unhealthy, brown lawn come spring. Though it can be a tedious job, breaking out the rake and cleaning up allows the grass to breathe. Using the mower to turn debris into mulch is another option, but this won’t break up thatch the way raking can.

Feed Your Grass Right

Frost is the determining factor as to whether you should fertilize your lawn before winter. If you have warm-season grass and anticipate that it will freeze over during winter, … Read Full Post »

Cooler Weather Won’t Deter Termites

Why wintertime doesn’t mean you’re safe from infestations

Winter may bring cooler temperatures to the Austin area, but that’s not enough to stop termite activity. Even in the chilliest months of the year, your home may be vulnerable to damage from these pests.

Termites in Winter?

Climates where winter is on the warmer side are more likely to see termite activity throughout the year. Termites don’t hibernate, so if it gets too cold outside, they’re likely to seek shelter indoors. Subterranean termites simply burrow deeper under the ground. Drywood termites live inside anything made of wood including support beams, walls and furniture. If you already have either type of termite in or around your home, the extent of the infestation won’t diminish come winter. That means you have to be on the lookout for signs that suggest you’re cohabitating with wood-eating pests.

Wintertime Termite Damage

The only common sign of termites you probably won’t see … Read Full Post »