swoop, glide and zing around like little angels bringing a bit of
heaven to your back yard. What's more, they eat your bugs -
gazillions of them.
But then they throw mud on your house, have wild parties with
their friends and quickly overstay their welcome.
They're swallows, and they're returning from South America and
other snowbird haunts for another season of propagation. Keeping
them from taking up residence on your porch or garage can be a real
problem, because swallows are not easily dissuaded. Like boys after
a pretty girl, they just keep coming back.
Swallows may be lovely to behold in flight, but there are good
reasons for keeping them off your property. They make a mess with
their mud nests. They leave behind pests including swallow bugs -
bedbug cousins that can hang around for years without a meal until
you or your dog happen by.
The problem is that if you let them set up housekeeping, once the
nest is built and the swallows have eggs, there's nothing you can do
about it. They're protected by law. You need a permit to get rid of
them after that.
So strike first, strike hard, no mercy. Wait, wrong movie.
So keep these little beauties out of your home before they turn
into beasts. After all, the world is full of palatial nesting sites
where the little sacks of poop that baby swallows deposit won't
menace human, canine, feline or avian health.
But how do you thwart their pernicious persistence?
Swallows are attracted to old nests. Even a flick of mud long
before enhanced by swallow spit will draw them back to the same
place. If there's mud, wash it off with some good cleaner like 30
Seconds or Simple Green.
Next, choose your weapon. There are no chemical toxicants legal
for swallow swishing, so forget that right now. It's way too easy,
You've got to earn this one.
A quick list of what doesn't work: hawk, owl or snake models;
taped alarms of wounded, screeching baby swallows; noisemakers;
strobe lights; roost repellents. So says the University of
California's Integrated Pest Management Program.
Netting works. Hang some fishnet or bird netting under the eaves.
Tack the netting to wooden dowels to make it easier to stretch, then
hang the dowels on hooks. This makes for an artistic array. Using
lathe or cast-off wood works just as well but is ugly.
What? You don't want your house to look like the Pike Place Fish
Why not, it's quaint. OK, it's your house.
Try hanging a curtain of netting from the eaves 3 or 4 inches out
from the wall. This will look splendidly artistic to everyone except
the swallows. Soffit venting is good for this. That's the semi-rigid
plastic or metal mesh screening carpenters stick under eaves for
You only need to leave it hanging for a few weeks, until the
swallows realize you've pulled he welcome mat. Still too unsightly?
Try bird spikes, those needlelike metal or plastic projections
that stick out at all angles to keep pigeons, starlings and sea
gulls at bay.
Right, now your home looks like a prison.
Here's another idea: Attach glass, sheet metal or another very
smooth-surfaced material to eaves, window ledges, corners and any
other place swallows are eyeing. They even make curved fiberglass
molds that make the right angle where wall meets eave into a less
Euclidean space-time warp.
No to all these ideas. I see. Get some paint that dries to a
slick surface and swab it on the spots where swallows hang out. They
like the rough life and will go somewhere less civilized.
To get ideas from the human spider Web, try www.birdbarrier.com,
www.wildlife-control.com, www.bird-x.com, www.catclaw.com,
Jim Kjeldsen is a former Herald assistant news editor who now
owns and operates La Conner Hardware in La Conner.