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Stink bugs are back; here's how to keep the pests out of your home

The dreaded stink bugs soon will be making an all-out assault to get into our homes.

>> Watch the news report here

The cooler weather and the stink bugs go hand in hand.

The brown marmorated stink bug was first released into the United States in Allentown, Pennsylvania, in 1996, according to Penn State University. The bug apparently traveled from northeast Asia in a shipping container that was delivered either to the port of Philadelphia or Elizabeth, New Jersey, and then trucked to Allentown.

This insect has now spread to 44 states and has very large populations in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Delaware, Ohio, and North and South Carolina, according to stopbmsb.org. It has also spread to California and Oregon allegedly via a car driven by a person traveling from Pennsylvania to California in 2005.

According to researchers at Penn State University, this type stink bug emerges in mid- to late spring. As temperatures cool, they begin to swarm near windows, doors and other cracks of buildings seeking refuge from the coming winter. Once inside, the stink bugs enter a physiologically inactive, diapause state or state of suspended development. They emerge from this hibernation over a broad range of time, which explains why we see active adult stink bugs throughout the winter and early spring. A mass emergence from diapause occurs as daily temperatures and length of daylight increase, especially in mid- to late May.

>> Read more trending news

The ability of these stink bugs to survive is quite remarkable. While there is some mortality among the hibernating bugs in the winter, a significant percentage of them make it through to spring and then mate. Colder temperatures in northern states typically reduce the bugs survival rate, but that appears to be changing.

Increasing temperatures linked to climate change are likely a cause for such an increase in stink bug populations, especially in middle and northern latitudes. While excessive heat may drive stink bugs out of hotter, Southern states, the warm but moderate temperatures at higher latitudinal locations have increased the survival of stink bugs with significantly larger spring and summer populations. 

The good news is, other than being incredibly annoying and having a pungent smell, stink bugs are pretty harmless to humans and animals. They cannot bite or sting nor seem to carry any known diseases. To get rid of them, it is recommended to flush them or vacuum them, then throw out the vacuum bag to avoid the bugs' odor.

But using vacuum bags and water to get rid of these bugs could become costly, so it is best to prevent invasions by making sure you seal up your home now. Replace old screens and make sure doors and windows close tightly. Also caulk any gaps, cracks or holes in your homes exterior, especially on the south and west sides. These bugs can squeeze themselves quite a bit, so they can fit through even small cracks.

Unfortunately, these insects are quite destructive to agriculture. This species feeds on over one hundred different types of plants including several of great economic importance to humans. Fruit trees (especially apple and pear), soybeans and peanuts are significantly damaged by these insects. The bugs have also been found feeding on blackberry, sweet and field corn and have been known to cause damage to tomatoes, lima beans and green peppers.

There is no way to kill them by spraying, at least not once they are on the plant, because they must be hit directly. The bugs can fly off the leaves and they aren’t harmed by eating the chemicals on the leaves or on the fruit. However, researches at Penn State did find that while there are very few controlling natural predators, it appears other local predators such as spiders and some birds may be becoming more immune against the bug’s protective secretions and increasingly aware of the growing stink bug feast around them.

– Eric Elwell is WHIO's chief meteorologist. Contact him at eric.elwell@coxinc.com or follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

'Fixer Upper' couple criticized over new home decor line at Target

On Tuesday, Chip and Joanna Gaines, of HGTV’s “Fixer Upper” announced plans for a new home-decor line to hit Target stores nationwide in November. 

>> Read more trending news

“Just as we’ve never created an exclusive line of product for a retailer before, Target has never done anything like this before either,” Chip Gaines wrote in a blog post. “This stuff is gorgeous. (Joanna and Target’s design team) have all spent so much time thoughtfully creating these beautiful basics. A lot of heart and soul has been poured into every last piece ... and I think people are going to be able to feel that.”

Many excited fans took to social media to express excitement and support for the couple’s new brand, Hearth & Hand.

>> Related: Target lowering prices on thousands of items, including groceries

In his blog post, Chip Gaines explained some of the reasons the couple has enjoyed working with Target:

“Despite our initial insecurities about partnering with a large retailer, Target has exceeded our expectations every step of the way. With our friends, our family and with the people we do business with, we are serious about continually finding common ground ... One of the main reasons we decided to team up with Target is because we have found them to be the gold-standard when it comes to generosity and giving. This really resonates with us. Jo and I believe that to whom much is given, much is required. As our platform has grown, so has our desire to help communities far beyond Waco, Texas. 

“Right now, Joanna is busy designing some pretty incredible updates for the community dining room at Target House, which serves hundreds of families whose kids are being treated at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. Target House is a free home away from home for St. Jude patients and their families during the hardest of life’s circumstances, providing a safe place for these families to be together. In November, we’ll get to reveal the updated dining room to the families of St. Jude, and then share a meal together to kick off the holiday season. We are humbled to be even a small part of their stories and thankful that this collaboration gives us the opportunity to be involved in such meaningful projects, like this one with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.”

Chip, Joanna Gaines team up with Target to release home-decor line

Chip and Joanna Gaines of HGTV’s “Fixer Upper” are expanding their brand.

>> Read more trending news  

The Waco, Texas, husband and wife -- whose recent projects include the wildly successful Magnolia Market, a book from Chip Gaines called “Capital Gaines” and a new annual event in Waco called “Silobration,” to happen next month -- announced a new line with Target on Tuesday called Hearth & Hand.

RELATED: TJX opens HomeGoods spinoff store: Homesense

The collaboration will feature unique on-brand items for house and home, mostly under $30, and will be available in stores Nov. 5.

RELATED: “Fixer Upper” couple Chip and Joanna Gaines step up to help the people of Houston

“At the core of the Magnolia brand is the desire to make homes beautiful, but with a focus on family and practicality. We want to create spaces that families want to gather in,” Joanna Gaines said in a statement. “We’ve always dreamed of working with a retailer to create a collection that could reach more people at a more affordable price point. Coming together with Target not only allows us to design beautiful pieces for people all over the country, it also allows us to help communities in a bigger way than we could have ever imagined.”

If your neighbor's tree falls in your yard, who pays for cleanup?

If a tree falls in your yard, what you do next could save you money, a limb and maybe even your life.

>> Read more trending news 

According to Trees Atlanta, the metro area has the nation's highest "urban tree canopy," defined as the layer of leaves, branches and stems of trees that cover the ground when viewed from above.

During the stormy summer months, fallen trees are fixtures in metro Atlanta's landscape. The steps you take after a tree falls can mean the difference between headache and heartache.

The first thing to do is call your homeowners insurance agent, said Bob Delbridge, owner of 404-Cut-Tree, one of the largest tree service companies in the Atlanta area.

"Occasionally we will deal directly with the insurance company. But that's more likely if there is a storm that covers a large area, like a whole neighborhood." Delbridge said. "Typically, the homeowner deals with their own insurance company."

Where the tree falls determines who pays for what. "Almost everyone is surprised when we tell them, the way the law works is, wherever the tree landed, that person is responsible for dealing with it regardless of where the tree came from."

That's right, even if the tree is rooted in your neighbor's yard, if it crashes onto your property, it's your problem.

Once the insurance agent gives the green light, the homeowner is responsible for hiring contractors. Homeowners can save money cutting up the tree themselves and then hiring someone to simply remove logs and branches. However, unless skilled with a chainsaw, owners should leave tree removal to professionals, Delbridge said.

"Typically, if the homeowners are out there with chainsaws, we'll talk to them about some basic safety information. This might save somebody's leg," he said. "There are just very easy steps to take that could really minimize injuries."

He recommends people wear protective chapssafety glasses and other gear.

"It's a federal law that commercial tree cutters wear chaps whenever they handle chainsaws on the ground. All the established companies do this," Delbridge said. "The most common injury caused by the chainsaw is an injury to the leg."

These chaps are available at retailers like Lowe's and online. "They are made of material that will stop the chainsaw blade even when it's turning at full speed without even bruising your skin." he said. "Protective glasses will help you avoid eye injuries from flying splinters."

Cutting up a fallen tree is not a DIY project for amateurs. "They might avoid paying the tree cutter some money, but they'll probably end up paying the emergency room," Delbridge said. "It's very dangerous to cut trees, and storm situations are the most dangerous. It really depends on the skill of the owner."

Even those skilled with power tools need to take precautions before tackling a fallen tree. "Whenever trees are down, the first thing to do is look for power lines." Delbridge said. "Believe it or not, trees conduct electricity, and every year there are so many people that are electrocuted by touching a branch that is also touching a live power line."

Delbridge cautioned homeowners to be wary of branches that may be bent beneath a fallen tree. "They can really have a powerful spring effect. Another common injury happens when someone cuts a branch and the tree jumps because they've reduced the weight, and the tree falls on someone. They could lose a leg or their life."

Lataunya Tilstra, an insurance agent with New York Life, said depending on the extent of damage, a homeowner might need several contractors to finish the job. One of her neighbors recently had a tree fall on her house.

"She had to call the tree service first. Then she needed a roofer, and she'll need a builder to rebuild the part of her house that was damaged. So she has several moving parts."

Speaking of insurance claims, most policies cover only damage if the tree falls on a part of the home. "Sometimes the fallen tree can cover your whole yard, and they're not going to help you with a dime of it unless it's actually on a patio, the fence, house or garage," said Corey Cargle, owner of Steve's Tree and Landscape Service in Atlanta.

"I had one homeowner's insurance company turn one of my customers down for a tree that was hit by lightning. It was uprooting, splitting, leaning all over her house and was ready to fall. But they would not approve of any preventive work to remove the tree before it damaged the home," Cargle said. "They basically told (the homeowner) to take care of it or it would be negligent because she knew the tree was about to fall. In hindsight, the homeowner should have waited and let the tree fall on the house I guess, and saved themselves thousands. Insurance companies can be rough."

Cargle recommends you take plenty of pictures. "If it leaves your property and hits someone's home, car or anything else, it's off you. It becomes their tree. A lot of people call us and say, ‘Hey, this tree fell from my neighbors house into our yard, and I want you to give us an estimate and we'll give it to them,’ but it doesn't work like that."

TJX opens HomeGoods spinoff store: Homesense

The newest cheap home decor chain is on its way to the United States.

The parent company of T.J. Maxx and HomeGoods is launching a new home store concept called Homesense. Parent company TJX announced in March that it would open a new discount chain selling home decor items, but didn’t release any other information.

>> Read more trending news

The company told People magazine that Homesense stores in the U.S. will be similar to the locations already open in Europe and Canada. The stores will offer furniture, art, sodas, chairs, pool tables, lighting and other home decor items.

Homesense also carries items like cleaning essentials, home improvement items, hardware items and storage supplies. The first store will open Aug. 17 in Framingham, Massachusetts, and more locations are set to open this year in New Jersey.

“Just as our customers enjoy shopping both TJ Maxx and Marshalls, we are confident that loyal customers and new shoppers alike will be excited about shopping both Homesense and HomeGoods,” HomeGoods and Homesense president John Ricciuti said in a statement. “We are excited to bring consumers an expanded selection of quality merchandise at incredible prices, along with a new shopping experience in which they can discover and curate the home of their dreams.”

According to reports, there are three major differences between HomeGoods and Homesense: the “general store” offerings including hardware, home improvement and cleaning materials, the store’s layout and availability of more furniture and big design items. 

Read more here.

Woman could face jail time over garden

A Georgia woman could face jail time and a large fine over her garden.

>> Read more trending news

Atlanta city code enforcement officers told Lexa King that her flower garden is overgrown.

King told WSB-TV’s Rikki Klaus that she’s been growing her garden for about 30 years. She beams when she talks about the azaleas in her yard.

"And since I pay the taxes and since I pay the mortgage and since I pay the insurance, I figure I'm the one that gets to say," King said.

Code enforcement officers see the situation, and her garden, differently.

"They said it was messy, said it was overgrown,” King said. "I said, ‘Well, this is a matter of your interpretation.’”

>> Related: Man plants 2,000 tulips for 45th wedding anniversary

In December, King said, an anonymous complaint led to an arrest citation. It details "overgrowth" in her yard and said she's violating a city code that prohibits "excessive growth."

"We asked him for a definition of excessive, which he could not provide," King said.

Klaus asked King whether she plans to cut the shrubs back.

"Not unless I'm absolutely forced to," King said.

King said she's fighting a bigger battle to protect the quirkiness of Atlanta’s Candler Park neighborhood.

"This is not about me. It's not about those azaleas. This is about our neighborhood and the way of life that we have here," King said.

Neighbors said they've been writing to City Council members on King's behalf.

"We're hoping for dismissal of these charges before Lexa King appears in front of the Municipal Court of Atlanta to be sentenced for her crime of azaleas," neighbor Scott Jacobs said.

Klaus researched the penalties of a court citation. King could face up to 60 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Her hearing will take place in August.

Klaus contacted code enforcement for reaction to this story. She’s still waiting to get a response. 

Cicadas pop out of the ground early in some parts of U.S.

The big green bugs that make a deafening sound are back.

Cicadas have popped out of the ground early this year and are starting to show up in Ohio and other parts of the Midwest, as well as the South and East Coast.

First you see their skin. Then you hear their call. 

>> Swarms of cicadas expected soon in Southeast

It's the unmistakable sound, and evidence the cicadas are back. 

"I think they're really gross," said Ashley Gilbert of Kettering, Ohio.

"They're a little scary, kind of prehistoric looking so they're a little startling," said Melissa Todd of Riverside, Ohio. 

The fragile brown casings could be from Brood X – some of these 17-year cicadas reportedly are arriving four years early – or the annual dog-days-of summer cicadas that have arrived several weeks ahead of time. 

>> Read more trending news

According to the Gardener's Network, Brood X cicadas span the following states: Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, New York, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, Virginia and West Virginia.

Whichever kind they are, cicadas don't bite and don't cause much harm to trees. Their loud sounds and startling movements is all most will have to deal with.

– The Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this report.

Mystery tenant from 'haunted' Zillow listing revealed

Earlier this month, an odd Zillow listing for a house in Cayce, a small town south of Columbia, South Carolina, started circulating – and immediately sparked some spooky speculation about who might be living upstairs.

>> Watch the news report here

“Upstairs apartment cannot be shown under any circumstances,” the listing read. “Buyer assumes responsibility for the month-to-month tenancy in the upstairs apartment. Occupant has never paid, and no security deposit is being held, but there is a lease in place. (Yes, it does not make sense, please don’t bother asking.)”

Other mildly disturbing details included a door to the upstairs apartment stained with blood-red paint, an odd sculpture in the backyard and a gaping hole in the ceiling.

The internet went wild with speculation that perhaps a serial killer – or the devil himself – was the mystery tenant. 

The State debunked any notions about evil occupying the home May 13. 

The newspaper revealed that the mystery tenants are artist Randall McKissick, 70, and his three cats.

According to The State, the Columbia native was a world-renowned artist and illustrator in the 1980s and 1990s. His work was shown internationally – in Paris, Johannesburg, New York, Atlanta and Chicago among other places. 

One of his pieces still hangs in the Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta.

About 10 years ago, McKissick fell on hard times. The man whose friends call him a creative genius went through a divorce and eviction and suffered crippling anxiety. Those troubles, coupled with the rise of computer illustration, made McKissick quit painting. 

“I lost the spark. I don’t know how to get it back," McKissick told The State.

A childhood friend allowed him to rent a room in his upstairs home free of charge. But the owner, Michael Schumpert Sr., had a car wreck in December, and his family now needs to sell the house. Schumpert's son, Michael, wrote the listing.

>> Read more trending news

“We don’t really have much choice but to sell the house; my parents need to sell it,” the younger Schumpert told the newspaper. “But it’s been in the family for so long, we don’t really want to. And we want Randy to be able to stay there.”

The house is now off the market, but McKissick's two daughters are still looking for a new place for him to stay. Amber Albert told the paper her father's perfect home would have room for his cats and some studio space, so he might get his spark back and start painting again.

“I just want to paint again,” he said. “I just want to find that spark.”

Read more here.

FIRST LOOK: Tesla's solar roofs are here

Tesla is officially taking orders for its solar glass roof, which is said to be cheaper than a regular roof with an "infinity warranty."

>> Read more trending news

Elon Musk tweeted on Wednesday that the solar roof can be ordered in "almost any country." The roofs will be deployed this year in the U.S. and overseas in 2018. 

The roofs will come in textured, smooth, Tuscan and slate. 

The roofs are made with tempered glass and are more than three times stronger than standard roofing tiles, according to Tesla's website.

Learn more here.

Dry conditions could mean more venomous snake sightings, experts say

The ongoing drought could bring danger slithering right into Floridians' yards.

The dry conditions mean the most venomous snakes in Central Florida are on the move.

>> Watch the news report here

Herpetologist Bob Cross said low water levels in many lakes and swamps means snake sightings are more likely to happen in neighborhoods.

“It’s very frightening to think that they’re that they’re that close to a house,” said Longwood resident Candy Bauer. "I don't feel the same about my backyard."

>> Snakes dumped in Walmart parking lot

She found a cottonmouth in her backyard this week and called Cross to relocate the animal.

“Usually when people saw that, it’s a harmless water snake," Cross said. "But in this case, the lady was right."

>> Read more trending news

He said the dry weather is forcing the cottonmouths and other snakes to seek water elsewhere.

"He’s going to be traveling like the gators,” Cross said.

>> 'Firefighters saved my life,' rattlesnake victim says

He said a bite from a cottonmouth would cause severe pain and swelling.

"We'd be calling 911 and a helicopter for you," Cross said.

The snake found in Bauer’s yard will be sent to a facility in DeLand which will use it to produce anti-venom.

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