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House Maintenance Checklist: Looking for Problems Around Your New Home

BY spectracide|21, June 2013

From adding your own décor to imagining the memories you’ll make in it, buying a new home is exciting! For most of us, having a yard of our own, to do with whatever we want, is a big part of that excitement. But with that new home and yard comes responsibilities we may not have thought of.


We’ve created a house maintenance checklist to help you look for the most common problem areas around your yard and the exterior of your home.


  • Inspect the trees on your property.
    Look for dead tree limbs that may be too close to your house or telephone and electrical lines. Have a professional remove these branches or prune the trees to avoid future damage to your house.
  • Clean up fallen twigs and any wood that is lying around.
    If you wish to start a woodpile to keep wood for mulching or bonfires, be sure it is at least 2 feet from your home and 18 inches off the ground. This will help prevent termites and other wood-boring insects, such as carpenter bees, from moving in.
  • Check for insect infestations.
    Speaking of termites and carpenter bees, look for holes and channels in any wood around your home. See our previous blog post for more info on how to spot this type of damage. Or, if you discover an insect and you’re not sure what it is, our Bug and Weed Identifier App can help you to identify and kill insects.
  •  Inspect outdoor water faucets.
    A quick visual inspection will tell you whether or not you have a drip. If you do, it’s a pretty simple fix that you can do yourself.
  • Check for pipe problems.
    Leaky faucets are a small problem, but leaky pipes can cause major headaches. While you’re inspecting outdoor water faucets for leaks, turn on the water and place your thumb over the opening. If you can stop the flow of water, a pipe inside your home will likely need to be replaced.
  • Look for brown patches and unhealthy grass.
    These can be telltale signs of lawn problems you want to take care of sooner rather than later. Our Solution Center can help you to identify and treat common lawn diseases and fungus.
  • Fill low spots in your yard.
    Low areas in the yard or next to foundation should be filled with compacted soil. Rain can cause yard flooding, which leads to grass problems, insect breeding, and even foundation damage.
  • Clean gutters and drainage areas.
    Debris that is blocking gutters and downspouts will cause improper drainage that can direct water toward your foundation instead of away from your home.
  • Examine roof shingles.
    See if any shingles are missing or damaged. Have those replaced before the problem grows into a leaky roof and water damage.
  • Inspect your home’s siding.
    Look for cracks, damage or any pieces that might be loose. Also, check the caulking and trim around your windows. Again, you’ll want to take care of any problems before they grow into major water damage.
  • Prevent weeds from growing in cracks.
    Check for cracks or movement in concrete driveways and walkways. Once you’ve killed any weeds or grass in them, power-wash and then fill the cracks with silicone caulk to keep weeds and grass from returning.
  • Visually check your air conditioner.
    Make sure the air conditioning unit outside your home is free of weeds, bushes, vines or any other debris that may impede air from freely flowing through it. If everything looks good but the unit isn’t working as well as it should, have a qualified heating and cooling contractor service the unit. 


When it comes to house maintenance, a little bit of time spent inspecting now will go a long way in saving time and money on problems down the road. So print out this checklist to take with you as you inspect the exterior and yard of your new home and you’ll be off to a great start!


How does your home rate against the list? Tell us in the comments!

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5 Quick Lawn Care Tips for a Healthy Lawn

BY spectracide|6, June 2013

Summer’s heating up, meaning good lawn care is more important than ever. Don’t let your yard fall victim to brown spots, dead patches or lawn diseases.

We have 5 quick lawn care tips to ensure your grass gets all the TLC it needs during the warmer months.

1.    Mowing - Keep grass at 3” and never mow off more than ⅓ off the height of the grass blade.


3” is an ideal grass length for retaining moisture and avoiding those dreaded brown spots. Because your grass is growing faster in early summer, you’ll need to cut it more often. A good rule of thumb is to never mow off more than ⅓ of the height of the grass blade in one pass.


And if you haven’t already tuned up your mower for the season, now is a good time.


2.    Fertilizing - When in doubt, don’t fertilize.


So your lawn has a few dead spots. Before you assume the grass needs fertilizer to help it grow, here’s what you should know:


Depending on the type of grass you have, it may not be the right time of year to fertilize. First, determine if you have cool season grass or warm season grass .


For cool season grasses, your optimal time to fertilize is when the grass begins to grow in the spring. As the weather warms up, you’ll use less fertilizer.


For warm season grasses, you’ll want to fertilize in the spring and again in the late summer months.


For both types of lawns, grass clippings can be your best friend. Grass clippings are high in nitrogen, and reduce the need for fertilization. Leave your clippings in the lawn to give your grass a boost.


3.    Watering - Learn how to tell when your lawn is thirsty.


Dry soil and wilted grass are tell-tale signs that your grass needs a good watering. In hotter times, you’ll want to keep an eye on your lawn and look out for limp grass.


How much water does your lawn need? Enough to soak the ground and soil to a depth of 4-6 inches. Be careful not to overwater your grass or soak it too fast. Give the ground time to absorb the water and add more as needed.


4.    Treating - Stop weeds while they’re young.


Nothing wrecks the hard work you’ve put into your yard like weeds. With so many products available, it can be confusing to know which you need and when to use them.


If you need help quickly identifying weeds, try our Bug & Weed Identifier App.



In general, weeds are at their youngest in the late spring and early summer. This would be the ideal time to apply weed killer to your lawn. Spot-treat any weeds that pop up from time to time, but if your lawn is overrun with them, it may save you time and money to apply a larger treatment over the entire yard.


Pick a dry day with low winds whenever you’re applying weed killer to your lawn for maximum effectiveness. Rain can wash the product away and wind can carry it to other parts of your lawn, harming desirable plants and shrubs. Be sure to read all directions before applying any products to your lawn.


5.    Aerating - Aerate your lawn during its most active growth period.

If your grass is looking patchy, bare, or you’ve noticed a lot of puddles after the rain -- it might be time to aerate your lawn. If you’re unsure, a good rule of thumb is to aerate once per year.


Moisten your lawn and set your aerator to pull out 3-inch cores. You’ll want to keep 3 to 4 inches of space between the holes you make. This process gets oxygen to the roots of your grass and helps get water into the soil so your lawn stays well-nourished and healthy.


Make the smart choice by using these 5 easy lawn care tips to keep your grass beautiful during the summer months. What are some other lawn care tips and tricks that you use?

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How to Kill and Prevent Termites, Carpenter Bees and Carpenter Ants

BY spectracide|16, May 2013

Is there something eating you? Or worse yet – eating your home? If there’s anything more unsettling than having an infestation of wood-destroying insects in your home, it’s that uncertain suspicion that the pests might be there. Termites, carpenter ants and carpenter bees can quickly ruin wooden siding and the framework of a house, turning timber into sawdust.


The following tells you what to look for if you suspect you have a wood-boring insect problem, how to get rid of carpenter bees, carpenter ants and termites, and how to prevent them from returning.


How to Identify Wood-Boring Insects

If you’re lucky, you’ll see the wood-destroying insects and be able to take care of them before they have a chance to do any damage to the wood in your home. Unfortunately, the case more often than not is that you’ll find the damage done first and only see the insects after the fact.


These photos show the most common evidence of infestations.


Termites | Termite Damage



Termites are the best known of wood-boring insects, and they vary greatly in appearance. They can be black, white or yellowish-brown and may or may not have wings. They range from 1/4 inch long to just under 1/2 inch.



Unfortunately, most termites work from the inside out, so by the time you see damaged wood on the surface, a lot more damage has been done on the inside. Other than looking for wood made brittle by the familiar channels the termites create, you should also watch for mud tubes that some termites build to move through. These tubes are made of mud, wood, saliva and other components.


Carpenter Ant | Carpenter Ant Damage


Carpenter ants are often mistaken for termites. They do look a lot like each other and, like termites, carpenter ants may or may not have wings. Carpenter ants can be as small as 1/5 inch, but they also range in size up to 1 inch long. Perhaps one of the easier ways to tell the difference between termites and carpenter ants is by the number of body segments. Carpenter ants have 3 distinct body segments, while termites only have 2.



Carpenter ants don’t actually eat wood. They tunnel through wood in an effort to build nests. The sawdust-like byproduct of these tunnels and the entry holes into the wood (pictured above) are the most obvious signs of a carpenter ant problem.

Carpenter Bee | Carpenter Bee Damage


Carpenter bees are hard to miss. They’re large, black and yellow bees. They look a lot like bumblebees, except that a bumblebee’s abdomen is yellow and fuzzy while the carpenter bee’s abdomen is black and shiny.



Much like the carpenter ant, carpenter bees burrow into wood not for food, but to build a nest. And like the carpenter ant, the easiest-to-spot signs of a carpenter bee problem are the entry holes and the piles of sawdust below the holes.



How to Get Rid of Wood-Boring Insects



Whether you’ve determined you do have termites or simply suspect you might, it’s best to get a professional inspection. Not only will they know what kills termites, they will be able to find where the termites are coming from and offer a solution, whether it is mechanical alteration of the area to block termites, soil treatment and/or foundation treatment. As a do-it-yourself supplement to professional treatment, you can use detection and killing stakes and an insecticide spray to detect and kill termites.


Carpenter Ants and Carpenter Bees

If you believe you have an infestation, there are a number of carpenter ant and carpenter bee solutions to fit your needs. With both carpenter ants and carpenter bees, you’ll need to treat the nest area repeatedly with carpenter ant or carpenter bee killer until you are sure no live insects remain inside the wood.


Do not seal off the holes until you know all carpenter ants or carpenter bees, including any larvae, have died. If you seal off the hole while a live carpenter ant or carpenter bee is still inside, it will bore a new hole to escape, thereby creating more damage. Wait a couple of months until you are certain no carpenter ants or carpenter bees are present, and then seal off the nesting holes with putty.



How to Protect Your Home from Wood-Boring Insects

As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Keeping termites, carpenter ants and carpenter bees from ever taking root in your home is best. Not only will it will save your home from damage, but it will also save the time and money you would need to spend on repairs and later eradication of the insects.


Watch for Symptoms

●    Keep an eye out for the insects pictured above. They could be on your house, in your yard or even coming over from a neighbor’s house. If you see one of these wood-boring pests, kill it before it makes itself at home in your home. If you see an insect and you’re not sure what it is, snap a picture of it and send it to us using our Bug & Weed Identifier App. We’ll identify the insect for you.

●     Also watch for the telltale signs – the mud tubes, the boreholes, the wood shavings.

Don’t Invite Pests

●     If wood looks like it has boreholes or channels in it, don’t bring it into your home, your garage or even your car.

●     If you have a woodpile, keep it as far away from the house as possible.

Pretreat to Prevent

●     Use something like the Spectracide Terminate® Termite Detection & Killing Stakes to detect and kill subterranean termites around the perimeter of your home.

●     Create a barrier against carpenter ants using a granule insect killer.


There are a lot of variables when it comes to protecting your home against wood-destroying insects, but knowledge and awareness is the foundation of any good defense. Knowing this information, you’re off to a good start.


Do you need tips for fighting any other specific pests? Or is there more you’d like to know about the ones we covered here? Leave us a comment below.


Spectracide Terminate® Termite Detection & Killing Stakes are not recommended as sole protection against termites, and for active infestations, get a professional inspection.


Spring Lawn Care Tips and Guide

BY spectracide|2, May 2013

April showers bring May flowers, but they also bring a whole host of lawn care issues. This guide gives lawn care tips that will help you quickly get your lawn off to a good start – from lawnmower maintenance to controlling lawn diseases.



Follow these quick steps for an efficient lawnmower and healthier lawn. A healthy lawn is your best defense against weeds.

  • Change the oil and oil filter and install a new spark plug to keep your mower running efficiently.
  • Sharpen its blade to ensure it’s actually cutting the grass, not tearing it.
  • Set the blade height at 2 to 3 inches. Taller grass is healthier grass because it holds in moisture and helps keep weeds from taking root.
  • Mow your grass when it’s dry. Wet grass can cause lawn diseases to spread.



Watering your grass regularly, as needed, and the correct way will prevent many problems with fungus, disease and dead spots that weeds can take advantage of.

  • Water weekly, not daily. Short but frequent watering promotes shallow root growth. To encourage deep, healthy root growth, water about 1 inch per week every week during spring. (More frequent watering may be needed in the heat of summer.)
  • Water in the morning, preferably before sunrise, to prevent evaporation and give the water time to soak in and nourish the grass.
  • Use a sprinkler for greater but less intense coverage.
  • Measure how much water your lawn is getting. Use a rain gauge or pie tins as a rough measuring tool.



If you have a grass like Zoysia, Bermuda or St. Augustine – those varieties of grass that are more common in the southern United States and are most actively growing right now – now is the time to fertilize your lawn. If you live in zones further north and have Perennial Ryegrass, Kentucky Bluegrass or Tall Fescue, wait until early fall to fertilize. 

  • Don’t just randomly fertilize your lawn. Over fertilizing is as detrimental as not fertilizing.
  • Consider using a mulching mower to recycle your grass clippings right back into the lawn.




Weed Control
Just like the grasses that are thriving in the warm, southern regions of the US, weeds are beginning to thrive too. Now is the time to prevent them from taking over your lawn this summer.

  • Choose a selective herbicide to make sure you’re killing weeds and not your grass.
  • Liquid herbicides can usually be used right after mowing your lawn.
  • Granules work on weeds’ leaves, so waiting two to five days after mowing your lawn to apply granule weed killers will help ensure the weeds have grown enough surface area for the granules to land on.
  •  If you’re applying a granule weed killer, like those for Crabgrass and Broadleaf weeds, water your lawn before application if the instructions say to do so.
  • Ready-to-use sprays, concentrates and granules all work differently. And not all selective herbicides are safe to use on all grass types. Be sure to read and follow all directions.


Insect Control

Many insects like a lush, green lawn as much as you do. The difference is they like to destroy it, attacking it from above and below.


  • Watch for brown spots. You may think brown spots are caused by a lack of water, but they could just as likely be a sign of insect damage.
  • Watch for chinch bugs. They feed on your grass and are most active on warm, sunny days in mid-afternoon.
  • Grubs are a problem now because they damage the root structure of your grass. But they’ll become a bigger problem later in the season when they become beetles, so it’s best to kill them as soon as they’re discovered.
  • Most insects can be taken care of by a broad-spectrum insecticide that kills by contact. Killing by contact means it’s simple to kill insects above ground, and you’ll need to apply just enough to soak in to kill insects below the ground.
  • Killing nuisance bugs keeps your grass healthy, thereby helping keep weeds at bay.



Disease Control

Lawn and plant fungus and diseases are caused by bacteria- and fungi-carrying insects and by overwatering your lawn. Follow these tips to identify, cure and prevent common lawn diseases.


     Visually check for symptoms such as discoloring or browning in patches or circles, dead areas on grass blades, and fungus that looks like spider webs or cotton.

     Use a fungicide that cures a wide variety of lawn and plant diseases.

     Target the problem areas then treat the rest of your lawn to prevent future breakouts.

     Prevent future lawn diseases by properly watering your lawn – water deeply, infrequently, and early in the morning.

 Are there any other items that should be included in a spring lawn care schedule? Do you have an annual property maintenance checklist you follow?

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How to Identify and Kill Weeds in Your Yard

BY spectracide|18, April 2013

We’ve all been there – working in the yard and we come across an odd patch of grass…or maybe those are weeds? We’re not sure. It’s green like grass, and the leaves look like blades of grass, but the stems are growing oddly and it doesn’t match anything we’ve grown from seed.


Some types of weeds are easy to identify while others do a good job of trying to fool us. So before we tell you how to kill weeds, we’ll help you identify them. Let’s start with the basics.


What is a weed?

A weed is simply an undesired, nuisance plant. They generally grow and reproduce aggressively and invasively. Specific types of weeds vary by region. For example, crabgrass is more prevalent in the south than it is further north or in the drier regions out west. The right (or wrong, really) situations can allow weeds to flourish, including recent rain and areas of exposed soil without adequate groundcover like grass or mulch.


The definition of weeds is somewhat subjective. Even grass could be referred to as a weed, if it’s growing in an undesired area. However, since you usually want to either a) kill both weeds and grass or b) kill just weeds while leaving grass unharmed, we consider grass to be separate from weeds, and we formulate herbicides for these specific purposes.


Is there an easy way to identify weeds?

Yes. It’s easiest to spot weeds once you know what you’re looking for. Some common lawn weeds are shown here, but this list is far from exhaustive. There are apps and guides online to help with the visual identification of weeds, such as our free Bug & Weed Identifier App and our pest guidebook.



What’s the best way to kill weeds?

It depends both on the specific type of weed and where the weed is growing. Weed killing herbicides generally fall into two categories: selective and non-selective. You’ll want to select one based in large part on where the weed is growing – such as in your lawn versus in the cracks of your driveway.


Non-Selective Herbicides

If you’re looking to kill weeds not in grass, or to kill grass itself, then it’s safe to use a non-selective herbicide like Spectracide® Weed & Grass Killer. Non-selective herbicides are ideal for driveways, walkways or anywhere you want to kill all vegetation. They do not discriminate between weeds and grass.


Selective Herbicides

If you need to kill weeds in grass on the other hand, you’ll want to carefully choose the selective herbicide that best suits your needs, such as the Spectracide® Weed Stop® line of products. Selective herbicides kill certain plants while leaving others unharmed. For example, if your lawn is overrun by the crabgrass we briefly mentioned earlier, you’ll want to use a selective herbicide that specifically targets crabgrass. Likewise, if you have a St. Augustine or Centipede lawn, you’ll need a product specifically formulated for those.


Since mixing up selective herbicides with non-selective herbicides can mean big trouble, we color code our products to call attention to which is which. Our selective herbicides that kill weeds without harming grass have a blue, green or purple label, and non-selective herbicides that kill grass along with weeds have an orange or silver label.


Are there any weeds you have a particularly tough time killing? Or are there questions we didn’t cover here? Leave us a comment.

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Introducing the Spectracide® Smart Blog

BY spectracide|10, April 2013

Welcome to the Spectracide® Smart blog – a place for us to share advice and keep you up to date with tips and timely information on pest control, yard maintenance and home improvement. We hope you find it to be a great addition to our Facebook page, newsletter and Choose Spectracide website.


We’ll post a couple times a month on a wide range of topics. In fact, we’ve already started thinking about our next blog post – how to identify and kill weeds in your yard. And after that, we’re looking at covering tips for new homeowners, how to get rid of fire ants, how to fix dead patches in your lawn, and a few quick and easy DIY projects you can finish in a weekend.


Ultimately, we want to provide you with the information you need to make smart choices when it comes to controlling nuisance bugs and weeds, and maintaining your home and lawn. What would you like to see us cover? Tell us below.