How to Protect Plumbing on Exterior Walls in the Winter

While true cold spells – the long-lasting polar fronts that settle on the northern parts of the country – are rare in sunny Texas, even a short burst of arctic weather can do some serious damage to your home’s fragile pipe system. When hit with a sudden chill, unprotected pipes can freeze and burst, causing a flood of water to come pouring into your living room. The good news is that a pipe-related flood can be completely avoided with simple preventative care. Here’s what to put on your to-do list to prep your home’s pipes before the next freeze strikes:

1. Insulate all unheated pipes. Besides the system that runs along the exterior, you also want to insulate faucets and exposed pipes inside the home. You can find affordable insulation materials at any home improvement store.

2. Cover the vents around your home’s foundation. While necessary for reducing humidity and maintaining good … Read Full Post »

Do Opossums Carry Parasites or Diseases?

Has your uninvited guest been bitten by more than just the ugly bug?

It’s your turn to take out the trash, and you’re met at the garbage bin by an unwelcome stranger. It’s a cantankerous opossum, and it doesn’t want to be friends.

The Virginia opossum is a common suburban dweller here in Texas. Get a few facts on North America’s only marsupial.

Is it rabies?

Let’s start with that nasty hissing and copious saliva. This critter is unpleasant enough as it is. Does it have rabies as well?

Your chances of encountering a rabid opossum are slim at best. Any mammal can contract rabies, but opossums have an advantage. Their body temperatures are low in comparison with other mammals, making their bodies less hospitable to the rabies virus. Unlike bats, foxes, coyotes or your neighbor’s unvaccinated dog, opossums are fairly low on the list of backyard rabies vectors.

Is that the end of the story?

Opossums … Read Full Post »

Powerful Pests: Can Termites Compromise Your Concrete?

Subterranean termites are a homeowner’s worst nightmare. The hordes of tiny, wriggling insects can effortlessly gobble up your home and your savings account. As horrifying as they seem, they’re just doing what nature designed them to do. In the forest, termites remove debris from the earth’s surface, and help return nutrients to the soil. Unfortunately, when they’re on your property, they can’t tell the difference between a dead stump and an antique piano. The ecosystem’s little janitors know that they’ve found a yummy cellulose material to devour, and they have voracious appetites. You may be worried about your foundation because you’ve heard that termites can even eat their way through concrete. It’s a myth that probably arose from a misunderstanding.

Is Concrete on the Menu?

In reality, termites don’t eat concrete. It offers them no nutritional value—it’s just in their way. Termites hold the same regard for concrete as humans hold for … Read Full Post »

Safely and Effectively Landscaping Around Ugly HVAC Units

They’re bulky, obvious and generally unappealing. They’re considered an unwelcome addition to your landscape, but getting rid of them isn’t an option. No, we’re not talking about your neighbors. We’re referring to your exterior HVAC units. Unfortunately, you can’t just throw a tarp over them, or place anything close enough to impede air circulation. Typically, a unit needs two or three feet of space free around it and at least one open access point for servicing. Although letting weeds or ivy engulf a unit seems tempting, it would cause serious and expensive problems. Using plants to hide a unit can be tricky if the unit blows hot air continuously. Fortunately, there are other ways to prevent the universal outdoor eyesore from ruining your garden’s ambiance.

Strategically Placed Focal Points

Although you may not be able to plant anything directly in front of your unit, a line of hearty, dense shrubs or privacy … Read Full Post »

Powerful Pests: Can Termites Destroy or Penetrate Concrete?

Why the solid parts of your home aren’t necessarily safe from termite infiltration

When termites invade a home, it can seem like they’re getting in everywhere, including through the foundation. This has given rise to the belief that these little pests are able to eat into concrete, a material which is supposed to be secure. Though there’s no truth to this story, your home’s foundation can still be a doorway for termites.

Home Termite Damage

Termites are incapable of digesting concrete and therefore don’t eat it. However, they love wood. If there’s wood on the other side of your concrete foundation, they’ll do whatever they can to get at it. Termites are persistent, so they’ll keep looking for entry points until they find one, make their way inside, and start eating.

How Termites Infiltrate Concrete

It only takes a small crack in an otherwise secure concrete foundation to let termites in. Poured concrete is the … Read Full Post »

Where Do Rasberry Crazy Ants Come From?

A bug that makes people nostalgic for fire ants

Back in 2002, the Rasberry crazy ant was identified by an exterminator named Tom Rasberry. The voracious insect regularly attacks animals, infests pantries and damages air conditioners. They’ve spread to many parts of Texas and the southern United States in recent years.

Origin

There’s still some uncertainty about the history of the Rasberry crazy ant. Nonetheless, the most common theory is that humans accidentally transported it from South America to Texas. This invasive species was a common pest in Colombia before it reached the United States, according to Texas A&M University. It continues to infest new parts of the state and the Gulf Coast region.

Transit

Rasberry crazy ants don’t always need to travel on foot. Cargo trains, boats, airplanes and trucks can inadvertently spread them. This may occur when vehicles carry agricultural products or trash. To prevent further infestations, be sure to examine potted plants … Read Full Post »

Do Plumbers Need a License in Texas?

The Importance of Working with a Plumbing Professional

It can be tempting to turn to a local unlicensed handyman if you need plumbing work done in your Bryan/College Station home, but this’ll leave you without the protection that is associated with utilizing a licensed professional. In fact, the state of Texas requires individuals who perform plumbing services to have a license that verifies they’ve received the proper training. Anyone who holds a plumbing license in Texas has passed a board-certified examination, and this means that they should be properly equipped to handle any of your plumbing needs.

Are Plumbing Licenses Permanent?

Just like your driver’s license, it’s necessary for plumbers to periodically renew their license and registration. In order to obtain these renewals, licensed plumbers must attend continuing education courses. This helps ensure that they stay up-to-date on the latest techniques, and it also helps prevent the erosion of previously obtained knowledge. After … Read Full Post »

10 Shocking, Weird Bug Facts to Keep You Awake at Night

Bugs give humans the creeps for reasons we don’t fully comprehend. It makes sense that we wouldn’t care much for insects that are capable of spreading disease, inflicting painful stings or eating our homes from the ground up. However, there is something about a crunchy cockroach or a slimy worm that we just can’t stomach, and it doesn’t seem to be related to what they can do to us. We’re much bigger, and we can crush them with hardly any effort. Instead, we run and scream and invent new dance moves. The list below definitely justifies our heebie jeebies.

1. Ants and the Slave Trade

Slavery isn’t just a human atrocity. Amazon ants steal the larvae of other ants and make them slaves. They’re not doing it to demonstrate superiority; they actually depend on their slaves for survival because they are incapable of doing anything other than fighting.

2. Don’t Mess with Aussie … Read Full Post »

Are Ants Stealing Your Pet’s Dinner?

Texas is home to a variety of pesky ant species that thrive in our year-round warm climate. Ask the professionals how to protect your home from ongoing invasions and chances are they’ll tell you to watch where your crumbs fall. While a lot of other variables – moisture levels, landscaping, and location – come into play when ants look for new spots to settle, food waste is a major source of infestations. Keeping food off the ground is generally great advice, but what if you share your home with a hungry pet? When a food bowl is a permanent fixture on your kitchen floor, following the tips below can make all the difference.

Get to Know Your Enemy

They may look similar, but different ant species behave in very different ways. For example, carpenter ants are nocturnal, while look-alike acrobat ants are active during the day. The more you know about the … Read Full Post »

Do You Know the Wormy Truth About Rats?

Everyone knows rats don’t make great tenants because they carry loads of bacteria, but how about parasitic worms? Rat lungworm—or Angiostrongylus cantonensis, if you want to get official—is a parasitic worm that targets rats through their food sources. If that sounds scary already, wait until you hear this: In rare cases, humans can catch rat lungworm through contact with infected foods.

Since we’re talking about rats, you’re probably wondering what eating infected foods has to do with rodent infestations, and that’s a very good question. Here’s how the exchange works:

1. Rats that are infected with an adult form of the rat lungworm parasite pass the parasite’s larvae through feces.

2. Slugs and snails munch on the droppings, picking up the infection hiding inside.

3. Rats then eat the infected slugs and snails, bringing the cycle back to step one.

The interesting thing about this infection is that it works its way up to humans … Read Full Post »