What’s bugging you? Island-owned company takes the sting out of today’s biting issues

Bug Free Services has many tools, including a trained canine, to sniff out the issues

Lance Shearer, Correspondent

There are many pests homeowners and residents on Marco Island have to deal with, from the long-lost acquaintance who calls up and would love to come and spend a week with you, to a hurricane that blows in from the Gulf of Mexico.

Bug Free Services can’t shield you from those nuisances, but they handle just about everything that comes under the general heading of “pest control.”

General manager Will Rogers sprays a chemical to prevent drywood termites in an attic. Bug Free Services offers comprehensive pest control from Marco Island to Pensacola.

Right now, the technicians at the company, owned by Marco Island resident Tom Leithauser, are gearing up for one particular pest that often shows up at this time – drywood termites.

“No, they’re not subterranean termites,” said Leithauser. “Drywood termites are a dirty little secret, but one in five houses will become infested” over the life of the structure. “They don’t need any soil contact,” unlike subterranean termites which make tunnels out of mud to enter structures from the outside. “They can fly into your home, often via the attic, and set up a colony in your attic, in door and window frames, even in your furniture – anything that has wood. The soffit in your house is made to breathe, to vent the attic, and there’s nothing to stop the termites.”

Right now is primetime for drywood termites, with temperatures climbing, and the rainy season on the way.

“As the weather gets warmer, and we get more rain, they start swarming,” said Leithauser. Swarming drywood termites, often mistaken for flying ants, can take up residence and, out of sight, start to make a meal of your dwelling.

Improved chemical treatments have caused subterranean termites to be less prevalent, said Will Rogers, Bug Free’s general manager, but their flying cousins can be just as bad.

“Wood is structural – it’s holding your house together. Trusses, plywood, stud walls – it’s a huge liability,” he said. “Once they get in, they can cause real damage.”

Bug Free Services offers free inspections, and Rogers pointed out that homeowners can be on the lookout for the pellets the termites excrete, often the first sign of an infestation.

General manager Will Rogers and president Tom Leithauser. Bug Free Services offers comprehensive pest control from Marco Island to Pensacola.

“It looks sort of like salt and pepper, just a little larger than coffee grounds,” he said. After termites are found, the company will drill infested wood and inject chemicals, but as a preventive measure, they also have a spray they can apply in attics.

Bug Free Services began on Marco in 1998, and now services customers from Marco Island to Pensacola with headquarters in Naples, with over 2,500 accounts on Marco, said Leithauser. Along with termites, they treat ants, cockroaches, spiders (although these are often beneficial), plus dealing with bees, wasps, yellow jackets, rats and other rodents, opossums, raccoons and bats.

“There’s a lot of stuff that bites out there,” said Rogers. “If it has more than two legs, we’ll take care of it.” He did exclude alligators from the mix, but said they have removed several snakes, which of course have no legs at all. Among the ants they deal with, perhaps the most exotic are the Caribbean “crazy ants,” which sometimes travel up to a mile in a swarm three to four inches thick.

“They’re still rare, but they’re here,” said Rogers, with populations established in Collier and Lee counties.

For another pest, Bug Free has a secret weapon, one on four feet. Allie, a Border collie mix, is a graduate of the Florida Canine Academy, and has been trained to sniff for bedbugs.

Bug Free Services founder and president Tom Leithauser displays a board ravaged by termites, pointing out the pellets the insects excrete. Bug Free Services offers comprehensive pest control from Marco Island to Pensacola.

“We’ve had her since 2010, and have three employees certified to work with her,” said Rogers. Bedbugs are tough to eradicate, and customers including hotels and other commercial establishments don’t want to talk about them, but they can show up anywhere, not just in low-rent housing. Bug Free Services has heat treatment to wipe them out, and has tented up to five-story condominiums to deal with termites.

Bug Free Services

3526 Plover Ave., Naples