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Be careful when it comes to picking pest control

    Q: How do I pick a pest control company based on nothing more than the ads in the Yellow Pages?— A.W., Rio Rancho
    A: If you aren't familiar with the companies in your area, then you want to get several bids. Stay away from companies that advertise that they will kill all insects. What are they using that is capable of that, and why would they want to kill them all? Also, anyone who says they use safe insecticides is scary. There is no such thing as a safe insecticide. That statement is an oxymoron.
    Get several bids and compare prices, guarantees and methods used. If someone wants to come inside your house every month and spray pesticides along a baseboard, that is something you want to avoid. Pesticides should only be applied as a last resort and then only where the pests are hiding. I know most of the companies in the Albuquerque area, and if you contact me I will be happy to give you the names of companies I consider to be environmentally friendly.
    Q: I just discovered an ant nest in one of my indoor potted plants. This is the third time this has happened. I really don't feel like having to throw out another beloved plant, but how can I kill the nest without killing the plant?— S.W., San Francisco
    A: The simplest solution would be to take the plant outside and repot it. If you do, keep a spray bottle with soap and water to spray the ants that come running out of the original potting soil. Make sure the new soil is ant free and place the plant in an area where ants can't get into it.
    Q: I'm getting married in May. My fiance and I adore dragonflies and our entire wedding decorations are based on dragonflies. I know that many people release butterflies or doves at their weddings, and we'd like to release dragonflies or damselflies. Do you know who to contact to obtain dragonflies, or is this a bad idea?— S.S., Philadelphia
    A: I like the idea, but it won't work. There are no commercial dealers in dragonflies or damselflies for good reason. They do not do well in captivity. I am not sure what else you can do except what you are doing with the decorations. You may want to go with the doves, as they are a symbol of love and peace.
    Q: I am wondering about the identification of what my family has always called "feather bugs," due to their appearance. They can get up to 3 inches or so long, are usually found in slightly damp places, such as bathrooms (often in the bathtub, from which they can't escape,) and may try to avoid lighted spaces. They are dark-gray mottled in color, and upon closer inspection you can see two yellowish center stripes running down the head and along the length of the body. They have tiny black eyes, and two long feelers coming forward from the head. After the head, the whole body appears to be segmented, with long legs so closely spaced together as to resemble the parts of a feather. The segments are so small I'm not even sure how many legs each has. They break into pieces very easily if you try to capture them. I have seen them in northern New Mexico, and in northern California, among other places.
    They are apparently harmless and are fun to watch run around, but hard to catch and set outdoors because of their speed and fragility.— L.B., Redwood City, Calif.
    A: What you are referring to are house centipedes, Scutigera coleoptrata. These are common arthropods in many areas across the country and they are frequently found in homes. Although they can bite like their larger desert relatives, the chances of getting bitten are slim since they always run away. You would have to grab one and squeeze it in order to get bit.
    House centipedes are voracious feeders on insects and spiders, including roaches, crickets, and other pests. There is no need to control these interesting "feather bugs" as they do more good than harm. Remember, centipedes are our friends.
    Q: This winter we have had several episodes about a week in duration and several weeks apart, where we have large house flies in the house. We have house plants. Do you think they are laying eggs in the potting soil and completing the maturation process in the potting soil. If this is the case, what is the solution? Or, if not, what is their source?— L.E., Dallas
    A: You probably have blow flies. Blow flies become evident when something, such as a mouse, bird or squirrel, dies in the attic or walls. There isn't anything you can do except open the wall and try to find and remove the carcass. When it is consumed, the flies will disappear. You should probably check around the outside of your house to try to find out how an animal can get in and seal the area.