PEST LIBRARY


Bird Control

As the Greater Toronto Area’s leading bird control specialists, City & Country Pest Control provides years of experience, offering the widest range of bird control services and techniques to tackle any bird-related problem.

Unwanted birds can cause a number of serious problems for both residential and commercial property owners and the farming community. Residential issues can include nesting in dryer vents, eaves, and soffits; damaging siding; and leaving droppings on awnings, ledges, balconies, windows, and cars. Left unchecked, bird droppings on sidewalks can also lead to slips and falls. Birds also carry parasites, allergens, bacteria, and other health risks, and can also be quite aggressive during their nesting season.

Birds can also do untold damage to commercial buildings and properties. Bird droppings are very acidic and can eat away at many substances, including tar-based roofing and shingles, causing leaks. An accumulation of bird droppings has even caused the roof of a gas station to collapse.1

Wildlife damage to agricultural crops in Ontario is estimated to cost farmers over $40.0 million annually. Bird droppings and nesting materials can also block machinery and farming equipment, causing it to operate inefficiently, leading to expensive repairs.2

Pigeons

Considered the number one pest by most urban residents, feral pigeons—also called city doves, city pigeons, and street pigeons—have adapted to urban life and can be found in large numbers in every city across the country.

Descended from the rock dove, feral pigeons have a short neck, small head, and short legs that allow them to easily perch on branches and flat surfaces. While the most common colour of pigeon is blue-grey, they can also be black, brown, white, and even multicoloured (piebald).

The perfect pest, pigeons are not afraid of people; are at home in man-made structures, and will eat just about anything. Their preferred food is seeds, but they will also eat popcorn, bread, peanuts, etc. Like their domestic peers, pigeons mate for life, until one dies; the survivor then seeks another mate.3

European Starlings

After two failed attempts, the European starling was successfully introduced into North America in 1890, when 100 were set free in New York City’s Central Park. A romantic notion gone wild, they were released by the Acclimation Society of North America in an effort to establish all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare’s works.4

In 60 short years, the invading European starlings were able to spread their wings all the way to the Pacific; thriving on North American vegetation and usurping native species along the way.5

Today, over 200 million European starlings call North America home. Closer to home, over 255,000 European starlings, or half of Canada’s total wintering starling number, spend winter in the Golden Horseshoe area. Roughly two-thirds of Ontario’s starlings migrate south during the winter months; meaning that Ontario’s European starling breeding population is closing in on one million.

About the same size as a robin, European starlings can vary in colour depending on the season. In the fall and winter, the dull brown and black feathers of Ontario’s European starlings are covered with white spots that are really the tips of new feathers. In the spring, the feathers darken into a spot-less glossy black, with hints of green and purple.

Starlings eat a variety of foods, including fruits and seeds, insects, lawn grubs, and other invertebrates. During the cold winter months, starlings eat food in garbage. Starlings also consume large quantities of livestock rations; in doing so, the birds can contaminate the feed with their droppings.

English Sparrows

Perhaps the world’s most common bird, the English sparrow, often referred to as the house sparrow, was introduced into North America in the mid-1800s in an effort to protect trees from a native caterpillar. Over the years, the sparrow has become one of the most common birds in the GTA.6

About six inches long, these tiny birds have brown wings with white bars, a narrow white stripe over the eye, white and chestnut cheek patches, and a black throat and breast. Prolific breeders, a few house sparrows can quickly turn into a thousand in a few short years. Sparrows regularly raise three–five broods per year; with each one averaging around five or six birds.

Sparrows can be aggressive birds that force out other birds from their territories. Because they are flocking birds, sparrows can gather in the thousands to take over feeding and roosting areas.

Like many non-native birds, sparrows are not picky eaters. They like seeds, insects, buds, dandelions, berries, and fruit, but prefer to eat food provided—directly or indirectly—by humans. As a result, sparrows like areas that have been inhabited by people. They are much more common in an industrial park or on a city lawn than in a forest.

Sources

  1. “Rain + pigeon poop = canopy collapse,” YumaSun December 28, 2008; http://www.yumasun.com/news/canopy-46598-collapse-pigeon.html.
  2. “Ontario Wildlife Crop Damage and Livestock Predation Assessment Manual,” Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources n.p.; http://www.ofah.org/downloads/getfile.php?id=PDF/e-OntarioWildlifeCropDamage.pdf.
  3. “General Information,” Doveline 2010; http://www.doveline.com/html/dove-information.html.
  4. Alison, Robert. “An ode to starlings, our most misunderstood bird,” Toronto Star January. 11, 2009; http://www.thestar.com/news/2009/01/11/an_ode_to_starlings_our_most_misunderstood_bird.html.
  5. “European Starlings,” Stanford University n.p.; http://www.stanford.edu/group/stanfordbirds/text/essays/European_Starlings.html.
  6. “The English Sparrow,” Birds December 1897; 2(6); http://www.birdnature.com/dec1897/sparrow.html.

Wasps1

While there are many varieties of wasps across the GTA and Ontario, the two that pose the greatest threat to homeowners and businesses are yellow jackets and hornets. Their painful stings can be a serious health threat to humans and animals, especially if a person is allergic to wasp venom.

Wasps are excellent papermakers and build their nests in a variety of places, often choosing sunny spots. Each spring, the queen gathers wood fibre and chews it into a papery pulp, out of which she starts to build the nest for brooding purposes. All wasps have the ability to chew, but only the female possesses a stinger.

Yellow jackets, the most commonly encountered wasp in Ontario, are easily identifiable by their yellow-striped abdomen, lack of body hair, and thinner, elongated bodies. Yellow jackets make enclosed nests and can be found in the ground; beneath logs; in trees, eaves, and attics; under siding; and in gaps in brick or in building walls.

The queen lays all the eggs; though most eggs develop into sterile workers. A queen will lay an average of 100 eggs per day, which hatch and develop throughout the summer. Yellow jacket nests generally last for only one season before dying off in late autumn, usually after the second hard frost.  That said, newly hatched queens survive the winter hiding under loose bark or in crevices, and lay eggs in the spring to start a new colony.

Similar to yellow jackets, hornets are smooth-looking, with black bodies and yellow marks on their head and abdomen.  Equally as aggressive as yellow jackets, hornets will protect their territory. Unlike bees, wasps can sting people multiple times.

Hornets are social insects. They live in colonies that may contain between 100-400 members at their peak. Hornets are famous for their large, grey-coloured, enclosed paper nests, often tucked under eaves of decking that is more than three feet off the ground. The nests are also very distinct looking, shaped like footballs or inverted teardrops.

Wasps become a real problem in late summer, when their nests are bigger and they need to supply large amounts of food for the colony. They will also aggressively defend their nests. Adult yellow jackets are very fond of pop and other sugary foods; this is why they invade garbage cans, decks, patios, and picnics.

For more information about how City & Country Pest Control can assist you with wasp infestations, contact us at 905-455-1102 or cityandcountrypestcontrol@bellnet.ca.

Cluster Flies

Few pests are as annoying as the cluster fly. While people are accustomed to swatting flies in the warm summer months, cluster flies don’t make an appearance until the autumn. They then search for sunny, warm spots to hibernate over the cold winter months.

Cluster flies get their name because they enter a home or building in the fall and gather together in clusters, usually in the attic or upper regions of buildings, before and during hibernation.

Cluster flies look like common houseflies, but are larger and much slower. They are dark grey in appearance, with checkered black and silvery-black abdomens. Their wings overlap over the abdomen when at rest. The annoyance of cluster flies usually begins mid-August and may continue until April of the next year.

They are attracted to light, becoming active in early spring or on warm, sunny days in the winter, banging into lights and windows in a confused attempt to go back outside. They often drop to the floor on their backs and spin noisily about until exhausted. Aside from being a buzzing nuisance, a large number of dead cluster flies can provide a steady diet for mice and other pests.

Unlike other flies, cluster flies do not breed, lay eggs, or feed indoors. Adult cluster flies leave their protected overwintering sites in the spring and lay eggs in the soil, where the hatching larvae become parasites in earthworms; they then pupate and emerge as adults, ready to be a nuisance.

The cluster fly gestation period can last three to five weeks. They can also produce more than four generations of cluster flies per season.

During the onset of autumn, adult cluster flies look for protected sites where they can spend the winter, including:

  • and attics
  • Under the bark of dead and dying trees
  • Crevices and voids in sheds, garages, barns, and houses
  • Between walls and other man-made structures.

In the spring they awaken, ready to start the cycle anew.

For information about how City & Country Pest Control can deal with cluster flies for you, contact us at 905-455-1102 or cityandcountrypestcontrol@bellnet.ca.

Sources

  1. “Yellowjacket Wasps – Late Summer Pest,” University of Tennessee;
    https://utextension.tennessee.edu/robertson/utextension.tennessee.edu.robertson.anr/Documents/Yellowjacket%20Wasps.pdf, last accessed April 5, 2013.
  2. “Cluster Flies,” Pennsylvania State University, 2013; http://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/cluster-flies, last accessed April 8, 2013.
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