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Protecting Your Summer Picnic From Pests

picnic ants


June is quickly approaching and for some the official start of summer. While you are enjoying a ballgame, parade or backyard barbeque, the Clark Man reminds you that unwanted, bacteria-carrying pests are more than eager to crash your party.

Protecting food from the harmful bacteria that pests can spread and following good food safety practices before, during and after a meal can protect your family and guests.

Pests such as flies, cockroaches, ants, rodents and birds can spread harmful bacteria like salmonella, listeria or E. coli if they come in contact with your food after having feasted on other less appetizing items such as garbage, feces or animal carcasses.

These pests, especially stinging insects and ants, are attracted to food high in sugar content - spilled soda, cake frosting, barbeque sauces and marinades. Rodents and cockroaches have less discriminating taste pallets and will feast on crumbs, oils, grease, garbage and waste.

Good sanitation practices are essential to preventing pests from becoming a problem in and around your home. The Clark Man recommends picking up leftover bottles and wrappers, cleaning up crumbs and spills, and frequently emptying garbage or recycle bins to make your summer picnic or cookout less attractive to these hungry pests.

Another step to preventing pests from contaminating food is to keep food tightly covered in plastic containers or covered with foil or plastic wrap before and after cooking.

While pests do contribute to food-borne illnesses, there are steps homeowners can take to reduce the risk before packing the picnic basket for your next trip to the beach or cookout. Remember, you can't see, smell, or taste harmful bacteria that may cause illness, so keep the following tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in mind all summer long:

  • Clean — Wash hands and surfaces often. Wash for 20 seconds with soap and running water. Be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails. Wash utensils, countertops and cutting boards with hot, soapy water or other appropriate cleansers; rinsing with just water won’t cut it.


  • Separate — Do not cross-contaminate foods – keep raw meats, fish and eggs separate from other foods. Use separate utensils, cutting boards and storage containers.

  • Cook — Cook food to the proper temperatures and use a meat thermometer. The CDC recommends 145 degrees for whole meats, 160 degrees for ground meat and 165 degrees for poultry.

  • Chill — Refrigerate leftovers promptly – within an hour in the summer heat - or discard them. Thaw and marinate foods in the refrigerator – never on the counter or kitchen sink.

Remember, if you are experiencing a pest problem in your home, call 800/WE-NEED-YOU or drop me an e-mail at


Until next time, I’m the Clark Man and thanks for helping me keep unwanted pests out of your home.


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Lots of bugs to swallow



The warm days of spring fill the air with -- I should write something lovely and enjoyable here, but I will be realistic -- bugs.

Let's face it, unlike the colder seasons, spring and summer are a time for insects. They crawl or hatch from moist soil, ponds, streams, behind bark and the underside of twigs to flit, flutter and fly through the delightful vernal air.

To some, flying insects are a necessary evil, but to others, they are breakfast, lunch, dinner and an anytime snack. Those others are insectivorous birds, and there are many.

Indeed, most of the birds that migrate into our region in the spring come here for the insects. Warblers, swifts, flycatchers, vireos, kinglets, gnatcatchers, thrushes, waxwings and swallows are all voracious insect feeders. Some of our year-round species change their diets in the spring. Titmice, chickadees and others give up seeds and turn to bugs.

Part of the delight of bird watching is observing the various ways in which birds feed on insects.

Warblers work the outer branches of trees when they are in flower. There the birds capture tiny insects as the bugs clamber over the blooms in search of their own meal. Flycatchers perch at the ends of limbs watching for larger flying insects passing by. When they spot a juicy fly, beetle or some other insect, they launch into the air and capture the bug on the wing. Chickadees, titmice, nuthatches and others look for insects crawling on the trunks of trees or hiding in bark crevices. They wander vertical surfaces to probe and poke recesses, pulling out soft caterpillars and beetle larva.

The most graceful of the avian insectivores are swallows and swifts.

Western Pennsylvania is the summer home to six breeding species of swallows. These include the tree, northern rough-winged, barn, cliff, and bank swallows and the purple martin.

Swallows are supreme fliers. Their long, pointed wings, forked tail and relatively short body give them an aerodynamic advantage for catching insects on the wing. They are often found in loose flocks swooping and diving over streams, rivers, ponds and lakes picking off insects emerging from the water.

I vividly remember spending spring evenings with the late Joe Grom, naturalist at North Park in Pittsburgh, sitting on a picnic bench at the edge of North Park Lake watching large migrating flocks of swallows. From that vantage point, we were often able to see all six Western Pennsylvania swallows in a single evening.

Of the six, the purple martin is the largest native swallow. They are famous for their communal roosts. For many years, there was a huge purple martin house in Somerset. The nest box was fashioned after the iconic Somerset County Courthouse near which it stood. Unfortunately, tropical storm Agnes in 1972, dumped torrential rain on the Laurel Highlands for a week. Rain is a problem for flying insects, and very few were in the air for seven days.

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Pigeon Spikes…Pest Birds get the Point


On a one-on-one basis, pigeons are some of our finest feathered friends. During World War II, they helped carry critically vital messages across enemy lines. But en masse, they make a mess. So much so that feeding them was banned in many cities. They left their deposits on our finest statues and building facades. Tennis players at Wimbledon were often distracted by pigeons swooping down on Centre Court. In some cases marksmen were hired to shoot down the dive-bombing pests. But environmentalists came to their rescue. Finally, man was forced to come up with humane alternatives to deter the beloved pigeon. One of the most effective is the pigeon spike.

This low-tech method of pigeon control became the modus operandi for all those who could no longer deal with these pests and their unwanted deposits. The truth is, the pigeon spike couldn't have come a day too soon for home and boat owners, property and city managers, architects, churches, sports fans and ballpark owners, the list goes on and on.

Who can blame them? Your typical pigeon dumps approximately 25 pounds of poop annually. The high concentration of uric acid found in pigeon poop can discolor paint, stain wood, erode metal, even turn concrete and expensive stonework to crumbling dust. Pigeon poop is expensive to remove, especially from hard-to-reach areas. Crews with boom lifts and steam hoses can take days to remove the stains from large building facades. The pigeon spike helps control the damage this feathered pest is costing America-estimated at over $1.1 billion a year.

Click here to read the entire article

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Barcelona Pleads for help with pest control

By: thinkSpain , Monday, August 10, 2009

The city of Barcelona has admitted that it needs the people's help in the face of ever-increasing plagues of pigeons, rats and tiger mosquitos affecting the area.

The city's Public Health Agency has requested help from the citizens after admitting that the measures taken so far 'have not had the desired effect'.

Barcelona has one of the densest populations of pigeons in Europe, with almost 6,000 birds per km2 compared with an average of only 500 per km2.

Victor Peracho, in charge of zoonosis (the transmission of disease from animals to humans, or vice versa) for the Public Health Agency, blames 'the people who feed the pigeons' for the massive increase in numbers, saying that despite the tens of thousands captured each year, there can be 'no short-term solution' while people continue to feed the remaining birds.

Since feeding pigeons is not against the law, the town council has initiated a pilot project this summer, distributing leaflets in certain areas of the city advising people of the downside of encouraging pigeons by feeding them, citing the deterioration of buildings and the risk of contracting diseases like salmonellosis from the birds.

The number of tiger mosquitos has also increased rapidly, especially in the rural areas of the city, but fumigation is not an option as it only lasts a few hours.  Penacho is hoping the tiger mosquito problem will diminish naturally as people start to develop immunity to its venom after only one sting.

Rats, however, are a problem across the whole city, especially in tunnels and where sewers have been left open for building works. Up until now, the rat population been kept underground, rather than reduced, but the huge construction sites around the new AVE and line 9 of the metro have led to a massive increase in the number of rats coming out into the open.

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