Category: pest contol

Coming Attractions

It’s that time of the year when stink bugs — particularly the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) — will be seeking shelter in homes in the Greater Cincinnati area. Instead of snow-birding in Florida for the winter, the bugs are attracted their home-away-from-home: your home!

As temperatures drop, the BMSB will be seeking a place to overwinter. After gaining entry, they will remain inside until next spring when the warm temperatures return. While it is always a good idea to properly seal the home regardless of the time of the year, sealing the home before the colder weather sets in will help keep out more pests before the colder weather sets in. This is best done by mechanical exclusion: properly sealing the home, preventing them from entering in the first place.

brown marmorated stink bugThe BMSB can flatten it body and fit through small cracks and crevices around the house or structure. The stink bugs are attracted to the warm areas around the house, where they are most likely to enter in. The colder the weather outside, the warmer — and more attractive — the house is to the BMSB. Areas such as around the chimney and air vents provide warmth. Cracks around windows and doors emit heat as well.

How and where do you seal your home to prevent the BMSB?

Chimney and Fireplace: There are several areas around the chimney that can be conducive to stink bug entry. If the chimney is in disrepair, it could bring on additional problems as well, such as water/moisture issues as well as rodent and bird entry.

Problems can result from a damaged chimney crown, deteriorating mortar joints, and bad flashing. Properly repairing and sealing these areas can help exclude the BMSB as well as other insects and rodents.

If you have a gas-fueled chimney, installing a fine wire mesh on the cap will help exclude the BMSB. This method is not recommended with wood-burning fireplaces, as a fine mesh has the potential of clogging because wood-burning fireplaces do not burn as clean as gas fireplaces/chimneys. Seal any cracks around the chimney with the appropriate material.

Many chimney caps are developed to help keep out rodents, but not insects, since a typical cap will have screening with ⅝ inch openings, for example. This will keep out rodents and birds, but not insects. Therefore, some homeowners consider and install a chimney damper that fits tightly on the top of the chimney. The damper is designed to provide a tight seal that also keeps out cold air.

Use the fireplace to help control the stink bugs. By starting a fire, it will help run out the stink bugs altogether, and the heat may even kill them. This may be even more necessary for wood-burning fireplaces that do not have chimney caps sufficient enough to exclude the BMSB.

Additionally, flue covers can be purchased to help prevent the stink bugs from entering living areas as well. If the stink bugs make their way into the chimney itself, the flue cover may prevent them from further advancing into the home.

Screens: Inspect and repair all screens. Stink bugs can enter through small holes in the screens. Check all window and vent screens. Check the spacing on the screening. Some screens are designed to keep out insects, while others may be designed to keep out rodents. Screening designed to exclude rodents typically have opening large enough to allow insects to pass through.

Be careful not to add screen material to any vent, pipe, etc. that might cause any clogging or obstruction from material that needs to escape from the structure.

Windows and Doors: Check for tiny cracks and crevices around the windows and doors and seal them with caulk or other appropriate material. Sweeps and weather stripping can be used around doors.

Weather Stripping: Check all areas where weather stripping is present and make sure the material is still in effective, working condition. Add or replace the stripping as needed.

cracks in mortar
Stink bugs can flatten themselves and squeeze into small cracks.
Cracks in Mortar and Foundation: Check around the foundation of the house and anywhere mortar is found contacting another material. Look for cracks and other entry points and seal them with quality silicone or other suitable material.

Window Air Conditioners: Because window air conditioners provide entry points for the BMSB, consider removing the window unit when you no longer need it for the season.

Utility Pipes: Cracks around utility pipes are also common entry points for all types of pests. Seal with a caulk or other suitable material.

Exclusion is Great, But May Not Solve the Problem

Mechanical exclusion is a great way to help prevent stink bugs as well as many other pests and rodents from entering the home. Some exclusionary methods will also help keep out water, moisture, inclement weather and other structurally-damaging issues. However, insects may still find their way into your home.

Simply leaving doors and windows open — for a short amount of time, even — may be enough to allow insects into the home. Overlooking entry points when practicing exclusionary methods may leave open an entry point. Insects can also enter the home by hitchhiking on furniture, luggage, groceries, on a person, etc.

If you find stink bugs in the home, there are a few simple things you can do to cut down on the population. As simple, but often overlooked method is simply removing them by hand. Using a tissue to physically remove them is an option. Simply remove them with a tissue and flush them down the toilet. Be careful not to crush them, however. After all, there’s a reason why they’re called stink bugs!

Vacuuming stink bugs will help reduce the population as well. Use the vacuum cleaner extensions to reach the bugs in hard-to-reach places. Discard the contents of the vacuum cleaner.

Traps can be used as well. A common stink bug trap involves an LED light to attract them and trap them. Some homeowners carefully place the trap away from the house to lure them away from the structure.

Hire a Professional

Exclusion methods and physical removal may be enough to control and/or prevent the BMSB. Such methods may be enough for some homeowners as the infestation may be kept to a minimal and tolerable amount. For others, a more aggressive approach may be needed.

In this case, a professional pest management company may be needed. The professional has the experience needed to control the BMSB, as well as access to superior materials needed to help control the stink bug.

A qualified pest management professional will employ integrated pest management practices catered to the needs of the structure, and will educate the homeowner on proper exclusion and removal methods as well. The professional will most likely provide an exterior treatment when the stink bugs are present. Dusting the attic and other methods inside may be necessary as well.
An Integrated Approach

Should the BMSB problem require an aggressive approach, an integrated approach may be necessary. The homeowner may need to practice the exclusion methods outlined in this article, or hire a handyman to properly seal the structure. An integrated approach may involve the hiring of a pest management professional in addition to the exclusion methods.

However, if the homeowner takes the time to practice the mechanical exclusion methods before the BMSBs invade, it may go a long way to preventing the stink bugs from overwintering.



Related: BMSB: Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

The Brown Recluse Spider : Questions and Answers

The brown recluse spider is one of the most feared spiders in the United States, next to the black widow spider. However, there are more brown recluse spider deaths in the United States each year than those caused from black widows. Here are a few questions and answers concerning the potentially deadly spider:

Brown Recluse Spider
Brown Recluse Spider photo by Oakley Originals, Creative Commons License. (Original cropped).

What does a brown recluse spider look like?

The adult Brown Recluse Spider is most known for its distinctive dark violin shaped marking in which the neck of the violin is pointing toward the abdomen. This spider is 7 to 13 mm in length with eight legs in two rows of four. These legs have no spines but fine hairs and are usually a lighter shade than the rest of the body. Brown Recluse spiders come in a range of tan to dark brown colors. Although most spiders have eight eyes, the Brown Recluse has six eyes, separated into three groups of two. Spiderlings resemble the adults in structure but have lighter coloration. Both male and female Brown Recluses look similar.

Where are they found in the United States?

Brown Recluses are found in the central and southern states of the U.S. in the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas. There are isolated incidents in which they have been found in some other states as well, but are found most often in the aforementioned states. Other recluse species live in other areas of the United States, such as the Southwest.

Where can the brown recluse be found in and around the home?

For the most part, the spider avoids human activity, living in dark places. They can be found living in closets, guest rooms, basements, and attics. Outdoors, the recluse hides in barns, sheds, wood piles, and under objects laying on the ground. At times, they can be seen crawling on walls, floors, and other exposed surfaces.

What do the egg sacks look like?

The silk-like egg sacks are 14 mm high and 17 mm wide. Inside the sacks are 40-50 tiny yellow eggs. They are most often found in dark sheltered places, usually away from human activity. The female lays her eggs in the months of May, June, or July.

What are its mating habits?

The spiders mate during the summer months after the male has impressed the female enough to be allowed to mate with her. The female Brown Recluse requires the male to impress her before he is allowed to mate with her. He does this by performing a dance. If this does not work, he brings her a choice food. If she accepts the food, then he is allowed to mate with her. If she does not accept, the broken hearted male must find another female to impress.

What is the life cycle of the brown recluse?

After the eggs hatch, the spiderlings undergo at least one shedding of skin (also called a molt) within the egg sack. Within the next 7 to 12 months, the spiderlings will undergo six to seven more molts before they reach the adult stage. This spider can survive several months without food or water, and the female Brown Recluse can lay five egg sacks in her lifetime. The average Brown Recluse lives about one to two years, but there are some which are able to live up to five years.

How do they migrate indoors?

Brown Recluses make their way inside by crawling through holes on the building’s exterior, gaps under doors, through vents, utility penetrations, beneath the edge of siding, and other cracks and crevices around the structure.

What do they eat?

These spiders feed on insects and other arthropods after hunting them, dead or alive, at night.

When will a brown recluse spiders bite?

The Brown Recluse is not an aggressive spider and therefore hardly ever bites. Most bites occur when the recluse is responding to body pressure, such as when it is inadvertently trapped against bare skin. Most times, people are bitten when rolling over in bed, moving stored items, or putting on a piece of clothing in which the spider was hiding.

What is a common reaction to a Brown Recluse bite?

Usually painless at first, the intensity of pain increases later. Reactions to bite may vary from mild to severe depending on the venom and the sensitivity of the victim.

What does a Brown Recluse Spider bite look like?

Six to twelve hours after the Brown Recluse has bitten a small white blister will form. It will be inflamed and hard to the touch. The tissues of the blister eventually turn into purple and then later black. The black skin flakes away in a few weeks.

How long does it take for the bite to heal?

It takes about six to eight weeks for the bite to heal.

How dangerous is the bite?

The venom released into the human body after a bite can cause serious wounds and infections. The bite usually leaves a deep scar and causes fevers, chills, dizziness, and rash or vomiting. Severe reactions to the venom are more common in children, the elderly, and patients in poor health. Although the bite is dangerous, it is rarely ever fatal.

What should be done when a person is bitten by a Brown Recluse?

After being bitten by a Brown Recluse, one must apply ice, elevate the affected area, and seek medical attention as soon as possible.

How can one avoid being bitten?

Precautions can be taken to lessen the chance of being bitten by a Brown Recluse. Beds should be moved away from walls, other furnishings, and drapes. Skirts and bedspreads should be removed to break contact with the floor. Shoes and clothing should be left off the floor or shaken out well before wearing.

Spiders, Man!

Spiders have been haunting mankind for thousands of year. Rock paintings dating back millennia in Australia reveal this. Arachne of the Greek myth telling about their origins is where we derive the class name. Additionally, reword: numerous surveys reveal that spiders and snakes are the two creatures most feared by humans.

Present day is no different. Three of the most successful movie franchises popular over the last decade have had large spiders featured in them – Shelob from Lord of the Rings, Aragog from the Harry Potter series, and we will throw in the Spiderman movies, as well.

Brown Recluse Spider
Brown Recluse Spider photo by Oakley Originals, Creative Commons License. (Original cropped).

Identification

Many children learn early on about how to identify a spider from an insect:

  • Insects have six legs and spiders have eight.
  • Insects have three main body parts (head, thorax, abdomen), while spiders have two main segments (cephalothorax and abdomen).
  • How dangerous are spiders in the United States?

  • Only two dangerous spiders exist in the United States, and in many states, neither of these spiders can be found: the black widow, and the brown recluse. They are the most feared spiders in the United States.
  • Fewer than 5,000 people die from spider bites each year.
  • It is more likely that someone will die from a brown recluse bite than from a black widow bite.
  • The Proliferation of Spiders:

    • One acre can support up to a million spiders.
    • In more “natural” habitats, there is likely to be a spider within four feet of you.

    Spiders Around the World:

    • Spiders can be found on every continent except Antarctica.
    • Over 43,000 species of spiders have been documented in the world, as of 2008.
    • At least 4,000 spider species in the United States.

    Spider Mobility:

    • Spiders “fly” by creating enough silk to balloon themselves, sending them airborne. While some spiders have even been seen 10,000 feet in the air, they do not usually stay airborne for long.
    • When a spider is moving, there are always four legs on the surface and four off of it.

    Spiders also:

    • Fall into two different categories: web spinners and hunter/wandering spiders. The two categories can then be divided into sub-categories.
    • Are predators and most feed on insects. Other larger spider species are known to eat mice, fish, small birds, and even bats!
    • Help control other insects in and around the home by capturing and consuming them. A large number of spiders around the home may be an indication of insect problems/infestation.
    • Spin webs that are “tougher than steel” — For its weight, spider web silk is actually stronger and tougher than steel.
    • Are mostly solitary animals, but there are some that form communities, building large communal cobwebs. Colonies can number in the thousands of individuals and they will work together to incapacitate prey trapped in their webs and share the harvest with each other.
    • Feared by many humans. Arachnophobia, the fear of spiders, is one of the most common fears in the world. It affects approximately 10% of men and 50% of women.
    • Have blood that is pale blue in color.
    • Can only take in liquid food. The venom allows them to change their prey into a liquid substance.
    • Differ from Granddaddy-longlegs, which is another type of arachnid, along with spiders, ticks, mites, and scorpions, and belong to a group called “harvestmen.”
    • Have at least two tiny claws at the ends of their legs. Web-spinning spiders have three tiny claws and hang on to the web with its middle claw.

    Even though there are many scenarios in which spiders should be controlled, proper knowledge and prevention of these eight-legged creatures can help mankind not only live with, but also appreciate spiders as well.

    Yellow Jackets: The Picnic Pest

    Yellow jackets are predatory and persistent wasps, responsible for nearly 50 percent of stings. They often sting when they feel threatened, or when they sense that their nest is in danger. They are social wasps, living in colonies, unlike solitary wasps such as mud daubers and cicada killers. These social insects contain queens, workers (females only), and males (also known as “drones”). In the summertime, yellow jackets become more of a problem on hot, dry days, when they are most active and numerous in number. They can be especially dangerous to those who are allergic to their stings.

    Yellow Jacket
    Yellow Jacket

    Among the different types of yellow jackets are the Eastern Yellow Jacket, the Western Yellow Jacket, and the German Wasp. While there are many different species of yellowjackets in the United States, most have bright yellow (sometimes white) and black stripes on their abdomens and are not as hairy like bees. They are usually ½ inch (12 mm) long, while the queens are slightly longer, about 18 mm long.

    Early in the year, a fertilized queen emerges from a site where she has overwintered and looks for a suitable place to build a nest. She builds a nest and lays a batch of eggs, and then seeks insects, providing food for the young after they hatch. As the year goes on, more and more yellow jackets hatch, as the nest reaches its peak population in autumn.

    Yellow jackets build nests made of wood fibers. They build nests in the ground, in stumps, and sometimes inside walls and attics, where they can be a threat to humans.

    Control of Yellow Jackets

    Controlling yellow jackets is easier earlier in the year because only mated queens survive the winter. Therefore, there are much fewer yellow jackets in the spring. If a nest can be located earlier in the year, control is easier.

    When controlling a nest, should a homeowner wish to eliminate the nest, he or she can purchase a quick knock-down insecticide specifically labeled for yellow jackets. As always, follow all label instructions, as required by law. While it has been advised to kill yellow jackets in the late evening or early morning hours, note that yellow jackets are not necessarily dormant in the dark hours of the night and are easily stirred. If the nest is above ground, insecticides that shoot several feet into the air can be used.

      • Pest Control Professionals can eliminate yellow jackets in a single application safely and effectively. When nests are found in walls or near the foundation of the home, a pest control operator should be employed to handle the problem. Note that restricted use pesticides can be applied only by licensed pest control operators.
      • Should yellow jackets be encountered when picnicking, removing garbage and refuse in the area will help prevent them from becoming a problem. Covering food and beverage containers may help discourage them as well.
      • Traps can be used to draw yellow jackets away from people, but the trap’s effect is limited, as the traps catch only a limited number.

    Other facts about yellow jackets:

    • Can sting multiple times.
    • Only the female has a stinger.
    • The Eastern Yellow Jacket can have up to 5,000 members in its colony.
    • Can be beneficial in that they will kill other insects, including bees, ants, crickets, grasshoppers, and crop pests.
    • They are also beneficial in that they pollinate plants.
    • Also feed on nectar, sugar, carbohydrates and fruit.
    • Will scavenge for meat and sweet items, making them a true “picnic pest.”

    Pavement Ants

    There are many types of ants which infest houses in the United States. Pavement ants (tetramorium caespitum) is one of the most common ant types which is commonly found in houses. Basically, it is an early 19th century native to Europe.

    In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, these pests were carried to the United States in the merchant vessels. In order to provide weight to the ships, soil was loaded onto the ships which were carried from Europe to the United States. In order to carry the ship across the Atlantic, soil was removed and goods were loaded once in the port. The pavement ant is found from New England to the Midwest and in the Southern areas through the Mid-Atlantic States to Tennessee. It lives in the soil. Additionally, it is found in California and Washington.

    Identification:

    The pavement ant is approximately 2.5-4mm in length. Their color shades range from dark brown to black. They may either have parallel furrows or lines on their head and thoracic region. Pedicel is the region which connects the thorax and the abdominal region. Their pedicel is divided into two segments. They also have a stinger in the last abdominal segment. Their dorsal thoracic region has two spines on its posterior end that project upwards to the rear.

    The reproductive ants (queens) are twice the size of the worker ants. The swarmers or reproductive ants are winged. Moreover, their head and thoracic region is also furrowed. On the body of males, spines are absent but they are evident on the female body.

    Biology:

    Pavement Ant Mounds
    Pavement Ant Mounds
    There is very little information available on the biology of the pavement ants. All we know about this ant is from observing their behavior above the ground. Winged ants are usually reproductive ants. They are usually found to swarm in the spring but they usually emerge any time of the year in heated structures. It is unusual to find them swarming in winter.

    As soon as they emerge, these ants mate. Queen ants soon burrow into the soil where she lays eggs for the next progeny. After a period of two or three months, worker ants develop. Their colonies are mostly found in the building slabs and in the sidewalks. They are also found in large rocks. Ants enter buildings through cracks in the walls of the foundation and the interior slabs. We can see small soil particles and sand piles on the crack areas and concrete slabs or on the top of the foundation walls. There, ants deposit debris from their excavated nests. These cracks can also be found in the side walls during the warmer months.

    Host and feed of pavement ants: These ants feed on a variety of foods such as sweets, nectar, fruit, sugar, and syrups. They store some food such as dead insects, grease, small seeds, etc. in their nests for future use. In short, they can consume each and every morsel of food which falls to the ground.

    Behavior:

    Pavement ants have stingers. Still, they do not bite until they are disturbed. The venom of pavement ants is not poisonous, yet it may cause an allergic reaction in some.

    Other Pavement Ant Facts:

    • Pavement ants do not cause any structural damage.
    • The larvae of butterfly Mymecophilous lycaenid sometimes lives in the nest of pavement ants to seek protection and secrete carbohydrates in return as a food for pavement ants.

    Cockroach: “I’m Not Dead!”

    “I’m not dead. . . I don’t want to go in the cart.”

    cockroach-15093_640That’s what the old man exclaimed when someone brought him to the “death cart,” where a man repeatedly yelled out, “Bring out your dead! Bring out your dead!” in the 1975 classic film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. A conversation continues between the three as to whether the man should or should not go on the cart.

    Cockroaches don’t die easily. Many attempts are made to rid roaches from homes and businesses, but they do not go away easily, which is why millions have turned to pest management professionals to eliminate them from structures. Instead, they mock you with their presence in your home or facility, proclaiming, “I’m not dead yet!”

    Why don’t they die easily? Several reasons:

    A cockroach can live without its head for several days

    It’s not a myth — it’s a reality. Some entomologists say that roaches can live for up to a month without its head. Others have said that it can live nine days without its noggin. Despite the length — whether it is a week or up to a month — the statistic is, nonetheless, disturbing.

    The reason for this is because cockroaches do not need their heads to breathe. Instead, they breathe through spiracles in each of their body segments. Their blood pressure is different from other creatures, such as mammals. Therefore, they do not bleed uncontrollably.

    Thus, if you want them to die a month from now, round them all up and rip off their heads. If you want them to die sooner, call a pest management professional. Additionally, catching all the roaches will prove to be a daunting task.

    Cockroaches can survive a nuclear attack

    Atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki gave evidence to this belief, as cockroaches were among the very survivors. Mythbusters tested this theory as well. A month after they “bombed” the roaches, half of them were still alive.

    So in case you were considering it, do not try using nuclear bombs or missiles to rid your home of the insects. This may raise some concerns with Homeland Security. On a related matter, enriching uranium to kill cockroaches can be expensive.

    Cockroaches multiply quickly

    This is not to suggest that cockroaches are good at arithmetic, because there haven’t been any credible studies showing how good or bad they are at mathematics. Rather, they reproduce quickly.

    German cockroaches, for example, are professional rapid reproducers. The female can drop four to eight egg capsules in her lifetime. Each egg capsule contains thirty to forty eggs, hatching out in less than a month, usually. And you thought rabbits multiply quickly.
    Because of their rapid reproduction, roaches quickly infest a structure, making it difficult to keep up with their growing population. Their strength is in their numbers.

    Cockroaches eat anything organic

    While you may have many criticisms concerning cockroaches, you can’t say that they’re picky eaters; they’re not. Also, by “organic,” we don’t mean that they avoid GMOs for health reasons. Rather, these omnivores eat anything that is carbon-based.

    They eat anything organic, which includes (but is not limited to) grease, sweets, meats, starches, sewage, decaying wood, goetta, pizza (with or without anchovies), and chicken parmigiana with a side of asparagus.

    They have even been known to eat paper, clothing, and hair. They eat other cockroaches as well as their own droppings. Therefore, with these appetites, roaches usually don’t have to scavage far to find food; it is readily available and plentiful.

    While removal of these items is best, sealing food containers and proper sanitation are great ways to help control cockroaches. Starving them to death will not be an easy task. Also, don’t use their appetite as an excuse not to clean your kitchen.

    Cockroaches are thigmotropic

    Thigmotropic means that the roaches like to feel a solid surface on the sides of their bodies, preferably on all sides. They like to be touched. But this doesn’t mean that you should let your children pick them up and pet these nasty disease carriers.

    Because they prefer such environments, they hide in tight spaces, in cracks and crevices in walls and other out of the way areas — areas in which they are hard to find in order to kill them.

    So if you want to play hide and seek, don’t play the game with a cockroach, as you will lose the game if you are a seeker.

    Cockroaches are fast

    “I feel fine. . . I think I’ll go for a walk.” (Yes, another Monty Python reference). Or, maybe, “I think I’ll go for a run.”

    While we don’t know how well they would do in a long distance marathon, we do know that roaches are great sprinters. They have been known to sprint at 80 centimeters per second. That’s considerably fast for a half inch long roach.

    Chasing them down and smashing them with a shoe may be satisfying when you succeed at squashing them, but your level of success in doing so may not be too satisfying.

    Other Interesting Roach Facts:

    • A cockroach can hold its breath for 40 minutes. If you want to drown one, you’ll have to keep it under water for a long time.
    • The world’s largest cockroach is about six inches long, with a wingspan measuring about 12 inches.
    • Roaches can live for a month without food, but only a week without water.
    • The female cockroach has to mate only once in order to reproduce. She carries the male’s sperm inside her for the rest of her life.
    • Genetically, the termite is a cockroach’s cousin.

    Pill Bugs and Sow Bugs

    Pillbugs and sowbugs, aka “roly-poly”s, “woodlice,” or “potato bugs” are crustaceans, related to shrimp, lobsters, and crayfish. However, they’re rarely in the same place, except at the occasional family reunion.

    Like their cousins, they prefer moist environments, but are found mostly in gardens, mulch, and other moist environments. These scavengers look for decaying matter to use as a food source to feed on and use as a breeding site.

    The Difference Between Pillbugs and Sowbugs

    Pillbugs and sowbugs are not the same, and are often confused. Pillbugs can roll up themselves in a ball with their legs tucked inside when disturbed, whereas the sowbug does not have this ability. Pillbugs also roll up to keep their gills moist and prevent drying out.

    Pill Bug
    Pill Bug

    Another difference: Pillbugs have oval backs, where as sowbugs have round backs. Pillbugs are smaller than sowbugs, about 9/16 inch long with a grayish body and 14 legs when they reach maturity. Sowbugs also have seven pair of legs, but are grayish-brown, measuring about an inch long.

    Biology

    Pillbugs and sowbugs can reproduce both sexually (by mating of males and females) and through parthenogenesis (where only the female is involved). After mating, the female produces about two dozen eggs which hatch out in two to nine weeks. The mothers keep their young ones in their pouches where they live for about three to nine days. Each female lays two to three broods each year. The young ones undergo 4 to 5 molts until they reach sexual maturity, maturing in about a year, living for about two years total.

    Pest status

    Sowbugs and pillbugs are merely nuisance pests. They do not bite or sting, nor have they been found to cause structural damage. Because they need a high amount of moisture to survive, homeowners are best advised to utilize physical control by keeping moisture at a minimum.

    Prevention involves sanitation. Cleaning up all rotten or fallen leaves from around the house, yard, and garden removes some of the harborage and breeding sites for pillbugs and sowbugs. Remove standing water.

    Prevention also involves exclusion methods. This is best accomplished by caulking/sealing cracks and crevices in and around the house to help prevent pillbug and sowbug entry. Physical control methods involve hand picking, vacuuming, and sweeping up the bugs.

    Pest management professionals can also provide chemical control for management of pillbugs and sowbugs. Homeowners should exercise caution applying chemicals, following the pesticide label instructions. Though chemicals can be applied both indoor and outdoor to control sowbugs and pillbugs, only labeled for indoor use should be applied inside the house.

    Interesting facts about Pillbugs/sowbugs:

    • Pillbugs are crustaceans, not insects. They are related to shrimp and crayfish.
    • Mother pillbugs carry their eggs in a pouch.
    • Pillbugs are filthy pests; it can drink with its anus and eats its own excrement.
    • Like many crustaceans, pillbugs have hemocyanin in their blood, not hemoglobin. Hemocyanin is bluer.
    • Sowbugs are the 2nd most diverse group of crustaceans.
    • Juvenile pillbugs have a unique molting process where their back molts first. A few days after the back exoskeleton sheds away, the front slides off.
    • Pillbugs don’t urinate. They have a high tolerance for ammonia gas.

    Lady Bugs

    Lady Asian Beetles

    “So, being a ladybug automatically makes me a girl; is that it?” — Denis Leary as Francis in A Bug’s Life.

    Ladybugs are good luck.  Don’t kill them, or it will bring you bad luck.  Whether it’s an old wives’ tale, or whether it is superstition, many disagree.  A contrarian view, especially for those who have hundreds of ladybugs overwintering in their homes: kill them all.

    ladybugBut they’re beneficial, right? Entomologists, farmers and many others make this claim.  They certainly are beneficial in that they help control insects on crops, feeding on sap-sucking aphids, which are known to destroy plants.  In addition to feasting on aphids, they find whiteflies, scale insects, and many other plant pests to be delicacies.

    They’re also pretty, sporting colors of orange, red, black, and sometimes a touch of blue.  Pretty, and predatorial. They also help pollinated plants.  To reiterate, for those of you who like the letter P, ladybugs are: pretty, predatorial pollinators of plants but can also be perpetual pests.  

    Unwelcome Winter Tenants

    Also known as lady asian beetles, these bugs are not “beneficial” when they enter homes.  When temperature drops and fields have been harvested, lady asian beetles seek shelter, flying to warm structures to board up for the winter.  They don’t do much in the home, except annoy people with their presence.  They can bite hard enough to pierce the skin, but the bites are rare.  

    Native to Asia, Lady Asian beetles (Harmonia axyridis) were first imported to America in 1916 to control certain plant pests. It was first released in a few locations, but now it is found almost everywhere.

    Morphology:

    Lady beetles are a little bit larger than the native ladybugs in America. Generally, the beetle has 19 black spots on its elytra (outer hard wings). Some beetles might have less than 19 spots and a few might have no spots at all. The most distinct identifying characteristic of the beetle is that it has a “M” shaped marking behind its head, black in color. Larvae are also black with two orange stripes on the body.

    Biology:

    Like other Ladybugs in America, Lady Asian Beetles also feed on soft-bodied insect pests of various plants in gardens and lawns. There are four distinct life stages of Ladybugs: egg, larvae, pupae, and adult. These adult beetles appear in early spring. Females start laying eggs on the leaves of host plants which hatch in about 3-5 days. As the larvae emerge, they start crawling on the leaves and search for aphids and other soft-bodied insects to which to feed. Each larva undergoes four moltings and then is pupated in an immobile stage. After about 4-7 days, the pupae emerge into an adult. Depending upon food and temperature, the life cycle is completed in almost 2-3 weeks.

    Pest status:

    Lady Asian bugs do not do damage structures as do other pests such as termites, ants, wasps, and other insects do. They neither chew clothes or other material, nor do the larvae crawl in various places to cause annoyance. They mostly stay in the cracks and crevices of walls but become a nuisance if they enter the living area of homes.

    Prevention and control:

    The very first and best approach to prevent these beetles from coming into your dwelling is to keep them out by keeping windows closed and all the cracks sealed. Sweeping and vacuuming is another effective method to remove these bugs from your home. Light attacks Lady Asian bugs. Thus, you may use light traps to kill the bugs which enter your living areas. As the beetle is not a “pest” in homes, it is not recommended to use pesticides in homes for its eradication.

    Interesting facts:

      lady asian beetle

    • Lady Asian Beetles are also known as The halloween lady beetle because they invade homes in the Fall, sometimes in late October, searching for warm structures in which to overwinter. Why aren’t more kids dressing up as ladybugs on Halloween?
    • The name of the family of ladybug is “Coccinellidae”, which means “little red sphere.”
    • Because ladybugs are predators of many pests, they are considered the “farmer’s friend.”
    • It is a common myth that the spots on the back of ladybugs are the age of the insect.
    • Not all ladybugs have spots on them.
    • The variety of colors of ladybugs is actually a warning to other insects that they do not taste good.
    • The spots on ladybugs fade as they get older.
    • Ladybugs clean themselves after they take a meal.
    • Not all ladybugs are female.

    Notable Ants: Mycocepurus Smithii

    Part two of our notable ants from around the world highlights the Mycocepurus Smithii ant.

    The Mycocepurus Smithii ants are native to South America and are reputed to exist in colonies made up of only females. They reproduce asexually. The ants cultivate gardens of fungus within their colonies on foraged green matter dragged to the nests. They can also grow this fungus on dead insects that they bring to the colony. As of current research, these ants have no known effects on humans, be it positive or negative. They live in grasslands and rainforests.

    More about Mycocepurus Smithii:

    • Only the queens reproduce.
    • Build nests made of leaves and caterpillar droppings.
    • Queens will leave the nest, carrying fungus on her wings to start new colonies.

    Notable Ants: Pharaoh Ants

    More than 12,000 known species of ants exist in our world.  Because of their diversity, many interesting ants have become popular throughout globe.  Some are scary, some are harmful, some are just plain interesting to observe.  Some stand out because of their conquering ways, feeding habits, economic impact, and geographical distribution. This is part one in our series on a few notable ants in our world:

    The Pharaoh Ant

    pharaoh ant
    Pharaoh Ant – courtesy Pest and Diseases Image Library, Bugwood.org
    No, the Pharaoh ant (monomorium pharaonis) was not the insect that invaded Egypt just before Moses led the children out of Israel, but it was mistakenly named the Pharaoh ant because scholars once thought that it was. While it does not deserve any credit for helping free God’s Children from slavery in Egypt, the ant is native to Africa and has made its mark all over the world.  

    Its colonies vary in size — up to several hundred thousand individuals. It is an indoor pest and has remarkable resistance to many pesticides, so controlling its population can be difficult. They like fatty, sweet, or oily foods, so they are a very serious danger since they carry disease-causing microbes that contaminate animal and human food.

    Regarding Pharaoh Ants:

    • Colonies multiple queens, making it easy for them to form multiple colonies.
    • The males die within five weeks of mating.
    • Often referred to as “sugar ants,” they also eat other insects.
    • The ants have been known to be carriers of salmonella and other diseases. They can spread infection, especially in medical facilities.
    • Can lift three times their body weight.