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What Are the Big Black Ants in My Home?

a big black carpenter ant on a piece of wood

Finding big black ants in your home can be shocking and scary. What exactly are they, how did they get in and what are they looking for? Most of all, how can you get rid of them, fast? Unfortunately, most big black ants found in people’s homes are carpenter ants. They’re called carpenter ants because they build their homes in wood by chewing and tunneling through it. Much like termites, if they aren’t discovered and eliminated, carpenter ants can cause a lot of hidden structural damage in a home.

Unlike termites, which also look to some people like big black ants, carpenter ants don’t actually eat wood. Rather, they use their large mandibles—their strong mouthparts that are used for chewing—to build tunnels, called galleries, by crunching up the wood. Instead of swallowing the wood, they spit it out, creating wood shavings that look a lot like loose, shredded sawdust. Along with … Read Full Post »

How Much Compost Do I Need?

a shovel in a compost pile

Using compost is a great way to build a solid foundation if you are trying to establish a new lawn or to revitalize an existing yard or garden. The exact amount of compost you will need for your project depends on how you plan to use it. However, in general, if you are mixing compost into soil, then compost should make up no more than 25% to 30% of your mixture.

A basic formula to figure out how much compost you will need to make or buy is to first find the area of your yard by multiplying the length of your space by its width in feet. Next, use the guidance below to find out how deep the compost should be (in inches). Divide the depth by 12 and then multiply this number by the area of your yard. This will give you an estimate of how many one-cubic-foot bags … Read Full Post »

Black Wasp in Texas: Identification & Control Tips

a black wasp on Texas wildflowers

Texas is home to many different types of creepy-crawlies that sting, bite or otherwise cause trouble for people. This includes thousands—yes, thousands—of different species of wasps. One type of wasp commonly found in Texas is black wasps. True to its name, a black wasp in Texas is a flying insect with a narrow, black body, long black wings and a stinger.

Most black wasps in Texas are cricket hunters, so named because they sting crickets (or sometimes grasshoppers or katydids), drag their paralyzed bodies to their wasp nests and lay eggs on the crickets’ backs. When the wasp eggs hatch into larvae, the wasp larvae have ready meals waiting for them—the crickets.

While their reproductive habits are definitely gross, there is good news about black wasps. If you find one in or near your home, you can breathe at least a little bit easy, because black wasps are not known to be … Read Full Post »

What Can I Do About Cockroaches in My Kitchen?

a kitchen with a cockroach infestation

It’s late evening and you’re feeling hungry. You head to the kitchen for a snack and flip on the light. Then, your heart starts hammering as cockroaches scatter to the nearest hiding spots. Finding cockroaches in the kitchen is annoying, not to mention disgusting and upsetting. After all, this could mean you have a roach infestation you didn’t know about. Roaches often infest kitchens because these rooms have everything cockroaches need to survive. This includes water, food and plenty of places to hide.

If you find cockroaches in your kitchen, it’s time to do something to keep these pests away. How you address the problem depends partly on which type of cockroach you find. Depending on the type, you may or may not have an infestation. Let’s learn more about the types of cockroaches most commonly found in American homes.

Identifying the Cockroach Species in Your Home

Finding one of the bigger types … Read Full Post »

How To Identify Different Types of Wasps in Florida

a cicada killer wasp on a leaf

If you have noticed some six-legged creatures flying around your property, you are probably wondering what kind of insects you are dealing with. Since some insects look alike, it can be difficult for homeowners to figure out what kind of bug is well, bugging them. Wasps are one of the most common flying insects that homeowners encounter, but not all wasps will hurt you. Although some of these creatures are dangerous to humans, some other types might even be beneficial and help get rid of other pests.

Some of the kinds of wasps that you might find on your property include cicada killer wasps, mud dauber wasps, paper wasps and yellowjackets.

Cicada Killer Wasps

As you can see in the image above, the cicada killer wasp is about an inch and a half long, and it’s mostly black with orange wings and some yellow markings on its abdomen. They can look scary because … Read Full Post »

There’s Black Algae in My Pool: What Can I Do?

black algae in a pool

Having a pool at home is an amazing way to enjoy your backyard, entertain guests and cool off. Unfortunately, the environment around swimming pools also provides a breeding ground for the kinds of guests you don’t want, such as algae. Thankfully, there are steps you can take to get rid of algae and keep it from coming back to your pool in the future.

One of the most frustrating invaders in swimming pools is black algae. This type of algae is also known as blue-green algae. Despite its name, black algae is actually a type of bacteria that looks like black or dark blue-green mold. Not only can black algae make your pool look dirty and uninviting, but it can also be dangerous for anyone who gets in your pool. Swimming in or accidentally drinking pool water that’s infected with black algae can lead to serious health issues like liver damage.

The … Read Full Post »

What’s the Best Fall Fertilizer for Grass?

a well kept lawn

Fall is a great time to take care of your grass and prepare it for the cold winter months ahead. So, when spring rolls around, it can thrive once again. Fertilizing your lawn is an important part of fall lawn maintenance. The best fall fertilizer for your grass will contain extra potassium to help your lawn survive the cold.

Is fertilizing your lawn in the early fall really so important? In a word, yes. Applying the right fertilizer to your grass at the right time will help it strengthen and rebuild any roots that were affected by drought or heat over the summer. Fertilizing will also help kill off weeds and feed your grass the nutrients it needs leading up to winter. Furthermore, applying only as much fertilizer as your grass needs and at the right time of year will reduce the risk of fertilizer runoff that could pollute your local … Read Full Post »

What Do Mosquito Larvae Eat?

mosquito larvae eating bacteria in standing water

If you have a mosquito problem in your home or yard, one of the best ways to control these pests is to target their larvae. While adult mosquitoes are the ones that bug most people with their itchy and painful bites, it is sometimes easier to get rid of these pests if you catch them earlier in their lives.

Female mosquitoes can lay eggs as often as every three days. They typically lay these eggs on top of any area of stagnant water that is protected from the wind. This might include areas like tree holes, abandoned tires, kiddie pools and water sitting in an ornamental pond. Mosquitoes can even lay eggs in as little water as the rain that can gather in an overturned bottlecap.

In the right conditions, the larvae typically hatch from the eggs about 24 to 48 hours after a mosquito lays them. However, if environmental conditions are … Read Full Post »

My Thermostat Is Not Working: What’s Going On?

a thermostat not reaching the set temperature

Imagine that your air conditioning unit stops working just after your family has arrived for a visit in the middle of summer. Or, that your heater breaks down right at the coldest point of winter. Few things are more frustrating than you and your family having to deal with these extreme temperatures. Plus, it is stressful not knowing what might be the problem or how to fix it.

If you are noticing heating or cooling issues, this might mean that your thermostat is not working. One sign that might point to an issue with your thermostat is if your air conditioning unit is not reaching the set temperature. Similarly, if the unit keeps shutting off early or it is running all the time, then your thermostat might be the problem. Another common sign is if the display on the thermostat is blank.

Sometimes, homeowners can fix these kinds of problems by doing … Read Full Post »

What Is Compost and How Do I Use It?

A shovel of compost used to fertilize a garden.

You have probably heard of compost, but you might not know exactly what it is or what its benefits are. You are not alone. Many homeowners know very little about compost and the ways this material can be useful around their yard. 

Basically, compost is organic material that has decomposed. It is typically made from plant-based kitchen scraps and waste from your lawn. People sometimes also include materials like shredded newspaper, fireplace ashes from natural wood, sawdust or cardboard in their compost pile. Some of the most common items that people use to make compost include:

  • coffee grounds,
  • tea bags,
  • fruit peels,
  • vegetable skins,
  • eggshells,
  • leafy tops from carrots,
  • nut shells,
  • uneaten vegetables,
  • grass clippings,
  • twigs,
  • houseplants,
  • untreated wood chips,
  • hay,
  • trimmings from bushes and
  • dead leaves.

Many people question the difference between topsoil and compost. Mature compost looks like crumbly, dark soil and it smells earthy. When you compost, it should only benefit you and your yard—not create further problems. Compost should not be made from … Read Full Post »