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Breaking News: Pest Infestations Don't Wane with Wall Street

by Matt Goering

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    According to Leona Davidson of Acme Pest & Termite Control in Arlington, TX, pest control is often a cyclical problem. "[Infestations] don't always happen year round," she says. "Sometimes they're bad, sometimes they're not." This year, however, is already shaping up to be a doozy. In addition to the usual suspects, which include fleas, ants, termites, and spiders, Acme Pest & Termite Control has had their hands full with mice, rats, and possums, as well. "It's been a weird year," admits Davidson. Regardless of why homeowners seek out pest control, however, one thing is clear: there's never a shortage of pests to go around.

    The Numbers Don't Lie
    If you have any doubts that household pests don't pay attention to larger trends in the home improvement industry, all you've got to do is look at the numbers. According to data compiled by the online contractor referral service HomeAdvisor.com, pest control is one of the few areas in the home improvement business where demand continues to grow despite a troubled economy. Here are some numbers that are worth mentioning.

    • The number of service requests fielded by HomeAdvisor.com for pest control services regarding birds and bats soared by 80% in 2006-2007, and by another 62% in 2007-2008.

    • The rise in requests for bug and insect services was even more dramatic. During the three year span between 2005 and 2008, HomeAdvisor.com recorded a 1,937% increase in requests for help in addressing insect-related pest problems!

    • In the past year alone, HomeAdvisor.com recorded a 26% increase in the number of households where termite infestations were a major issue.

    • Requests for rodent related pest control rose by over 900% in the three year span between 2005 and 2008.

    Pests are No Laughing Matter
    For some homeowners these stats are enough to garner a closer look at what's behind the skyrocketing numbers. For others, they're cause enough to break out a fresh can of Raid and shake out the blankets every night before bed. That said, Leona Davidson says it doesn't matter where you sit on the spectrum—a bona-fide pest infestation is not something you should take for granted. Besides noting that infestations are troubling when it comes to hygiene and comfort, Davidson also points out that "small children can be bit and get sick," a problem that can be especially dangerous with fleas, mosquitoes, and spiders. According to pest control giant Orkin, the list doesn't end there. Drawn from Orkin's own Guide to Dangerous Pests, here's a lineup of the most dangerous pests found in North American homes, and why you need to take action if you find them in your residence:

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    • Deer Mice—Deer mice spread hanta-virus, an auto immune disease that kills 1/3 of those that contract it.
    • Mosquitoes—Mosquitoes are known carriers of malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever, lymphatic filiariasis, and West Nile disease.
    • Ticks—Bites from ticks can result in Rocky Mountain spotted fever, lyme disease, Colorado tick fever, babesiosis, relapsing fever, and tularemia.
    • Black Widows—While the bite of a black widow is rarely fatal, it can cause high blood pressure, nausea, sweating, and is extremely painful.
    • Brown Recluse Spiders—Brown recluse bites are characterized as extremely painful, and can cause insomnia, fever, and festering wounds that are slow to heal.
    • Hobo Spiders—Bites from the hobo spider can result in rotting flesh, as well as headaches that can last a week or more.
    • Scorpions—Scorpion stings can be extremely painful, are known to trigger allergic reactions, and in some species can be fatal to small children and the elderly.
    • Fleas—Flea bites are known to spread bubonic plague and typhus, while fleas themselves can spread parasitic tapeworms when accidentally ingested.

    The truth of the matter is that pest infestations aren't just inconvenient, they can be downright dangerous. Furthermore, pests in your home aren't jumping ship just because the Dow is down a few points. Unlike major remodeling projects like bathrooms and kitchens that can be put on the back burner until the economic outlook improves, if you've got a serious pest problem, you owe it to yourself and others under your roof to do what's necessary to make your home safe again.

    Matt Goering, formerly a carpenter and house painter, is a freelance writer for the home improvement industry who has published over 600 articles.
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