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Category: Pest of the Month

Pest of the Month: White Footed Ants

GNPS POM White Footed AntOften mistaken by homeowners as one of species of ‘Crazy Ants,’ no one’s quite sure how the White Footed Ant arrived in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Louisiana, as well as the East Indies, but they were first identified at a tree nursery near Miami in 1986.

The Technomyrmex albipes quickly spread across Florida like they had across Japan and Indonesia 125 years earlier. They measure 2-3 millimeters long and are shades of dark brown and black. They are best separated from other ants by their pale yellow to white feet, hence the name.

Are they a problem?

White footed ants don’t bite or sting and in fact have only one defense against extinction: reproduction. It may sound funny, but it’s no joke – unlike most ant species, almost half of the white footed ant colony are reproductive females. That’s between 4,000 and a million and a half potentially pregnant ants at any time.

White footed ants also spread more readily than other ant species. Between July and August, a small percentage of winged males and females do a mating flight, copulating in mid-air, then landing and starting a new colony. The colonies also spread by budding, where a group of non-flying nestmates will set out on a road trip to found a new colony.

Why are they so annoying?

White footed ants are not known to cause any structural damage, and as mentioned earlier, they don’t bite or sting. They’re just very annoying to homeowners as they seek out sweet foods and once they’ve established themselves in an area, are difficult to get rid of.

When not dining in your sugar bowl, White footed ants tend to go foraging along branches and trunks of trees and shrubs that have nectars and/or sap-sucking insects that produce honeydew. Once a food source is located, pheromone trails are laid down, which is why you often see lines of the ants moving back and forth between food sources. And yes, into your home.

Unlike most ant species, the foragers don’t carry food back to the colony, regurgitate it or share it with others. Despite being non-fertile, these foraging ants lay what are called ‘trophic eggs,’ which the young and the fertile feed on. This method of food production also protects the colony from toxic ant baits, as only the ants eating the bait perish. Even if they survive to lay trophic eggs, the poison isn’t handed down. Oh, and White footed ants are very good at detecting and re-routing around chemical insecticides.

Where do they live?

Technomyrmex albipes – also sometimes classified as Technomyrmex difficilis – nests in trees and bushes, tree holes, under palm fronds, in loose mulch, under debris, in rain gutters, wall voids, and attics. Also, they tend to nest outside more often than inside.

So how do I get rid of them?

Sadly, it seems that white footed ants are here to stay. Once they find their way into your home, it is almost impossible to eradicate them from it, even with professional help. One thing you can do is trim trees and bushes and arrange decorative mulch so that none of them are in direct contact with your home. You can also seal any cracks or crevices that could lead into your home, like around windows, doors and where electrical, phone or cable lines enter your home or attic.

The best defense we can recommend is our Go Green Plus 3 protection. Our trained technicians inspect the interior and exterior of your property, making sure proper precautions are taken, then they treat the perimeter foundation, entry points, eaves, plant beds and trees with reduced–risk, safe, green products. And we’ll repeat the process 3 more times during the year – and return any time there’s a new problem, without any added charges.

To be doubly sure, you might also consider our Thermal Acoustical Pest (TAP) control. While its primary purpose is to refresh your attic after a rodent infestation, it also protects your attic against most other insects, including White footed ants (TAP contains boric acid, a safe chemical that is effective against them). TAP nearly pays for itself in sound-proofing and is more energy efficient insulation than the pink stuff that funny looking cat sells. And it’s fire-retardant.

If you’re having an issue with white footed ants or any other insects, give us a call today. We’ll inspect the property and give you the best options available from our array of family-friendly, 100% organic pest solutions. We’ve been taking care of our customers from Sarasota to Punta Gorda for nearly 30 years and we’d be happy to bring you into our family of satisfied clients!

Don’t Play With the Bats!

Don't Play with BatsIt’s the time of year when we start thinking of Halloween and all that entails: trick or treating, witches, black cats, and of course, vampires that turn into bats. Actually, funny story – did you know that in Bram Stoker’s novel, the most famous (or is that infamous?) vampire, Dracula, is never seen turning into a bat? It’s hinted at, but he actually is more likely to turn into a wolf! How’s that for a monster mash?

We know in real life that bats aren’t evil bloodsuckers; they’re cute little nocturnal mammals. But that doesn’t mean they’re all loveable and fun to play with, either!

Bat Scratch Fever

…which some high school kids in Utah found out the hard way. More than 40 kids at two high schools in the Salt Lake City area had to be treated for rabies after a student was scratched by a bat.

Both schools are on the bats migratory path, about 20 miles apart. And while only one person at one school was positively scratched by a bat, the second school discovered a massive bat colony in the attic after getting reports that students were carrying the bats around.

Because rabies is not easily identified in bats by sight, every student who came into contact with the bats was forced to undergo 2-weeks of 5-shots, because once the symptoms appear in humans, it’s almost always fatal.

Don’t Be Afraid

The good news is, while there is always a chance of stumbling over a rabid bat, most bats generally keep to themselves, and, as you might imagine, mostly come out at night. In fact, in Utah, just as here in Florida, it’s illegal to disturb the bats because they are a protected species (as in, just this side of endangered). And except for the rare case of rabies, none of the 13 species found in Florida are interested in biting you.

In fact, their status is one of the reasons we’ve made bats our pest of the month for October. Luckily, October is in the ‘off-season’ for bat mating. That means we can do what we call exclusion. We safely relocate the bats from your home or business to happier locales.

If it were earlier in the year, we are not as able to assist. April 15 to August 15 is bat maternity season, and because of their protected status, even the highly-trained professionals on our Good News Pest Solutions team can’t touch them. So we recommend checking before it’s too late – in between searching for your annual receipts, for example – or giving us a call in September.

But Seriously…

If you do find one or more bats in your attic or office space in Bradenton or Port Charlotte, just call us. Don’t try to touch it or move it on your own. Even if they aren’t going to bite you, they’re not going to be thrilled at being poked at, and again, it is against the law. We’ll find the bat a safer place to live and you can focus on deciding which one of those fun size candy bars you’re going to give out!

Pest of the Month: Cockroaches

Pest of the Month CockroachesSeptember is known for a lot of things – the start of the school year, the end of the harvest, even in 1752 for losing 11 days (when England and her colonies joined the rest of the world in switching from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar)!

And September now holds the distinction for having the cockroach as its Pest of the Month!

They’re Ancient

While cockroaches themselves only live about a year, cockroaches as a species are one of the oldest ones on the planet. Whether you believe in the theory of evolution or God’s divine creation, cockroaches have been here since the beginning. There are, depending on who you talk to, between 3500 and 4500 species of these adaptable suckers, although luckily only about 30 of them live near humans.

They’re the Ultimate Survivor

Thanks to some confusion in the wake of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the general public now believes that cockroaches will be the final survivors of a nuclear holocaust.  That’s not entirely true.  The fact is, they would not survive a nuclear explosion, but they can take a LOT more radiation than we can – up to 10x as much.

On top of that, cockroaches have many other remarkable survival skills – they can survive without food for a month, can hold their breath for 40 minutes, and can survive for a week without their heads.

Cockroaches will eat ANYthing. Even their own mates. Cockroaches prefer meats, starches, and sweets, including beer, but they will eat just about anything to survive, including other insects and other cockroaches.  There are even fossil records that appear to prove cockroaches ate dinosaur poop back in the day.

They Come in All Sizes

A day old baby cockroach is about the size of a speck of dust – but can already run almost as fast as their elders. 3 miles an hour may not sound like much, but that’d be the equivalent of a human sprinting 200 miles an hour. Babies grow to adult size in a little over a month, but by then can have spread more than their share of allergens and diseases.

Average adult cockroaches range in size from ½ to 2-inches long. Here in Florida, we’re familiar with some of the larger versions of the classic German cockroach. But the largest cockroach is a species in South America, the Megaloblatta longipennis. It grows to 6 inches – with a wingspan of over a foot! That’s a little bigger than our Palmetto Bugs.

They’re Sometimes Cultivated for Medicine

Yes, believe it or not, in China, they farm and harvest cockroaches. According to university scientists there, American cockroaches can be cooked and consumed or ground into a powder that is utilized in burn creams and cosmetic facial masks.

Robotics scientists are also studying cockroaches’ exoskeletons and wings and their legs for prosthetic advancements. Of course, we’ve told you about several of these advancements and even the Robo-Roach.

We should also clarify at this point that the common names for many cockroach species are the result of nationalism – or rather anti-nationalism. Here in the states we have German cockroaches and in China and Africa they have American cockroaches. The names are sometimes thought to correspond with their point of origin, but more likely are examples of naming a bug they didn’t care for after the society they despised, or even the indigent population they’ve displaced.

How do I Get Rid of Them?

Although cockroaches, like all God’s creatures, do serve some purpose – they help cultivate the soil and do assist with certain aspects of natural recycling – none of us want them in our homes or businesses.  So, since September is the beginning of the last third of the year, this is the perfect time to start our Go Green Plus 3 treatment. We’re known from Bradenton to Punta Gorda for our all-natural, safe, 100% organic pest control methods that keep the crawling bugs out of your house. Call us and one of our highly trained staff can get you started. You might also want to ask about Term Assure 365, which adds our exclusive termite prevention, for just a little more.

And if you want to buy a Robo-Roach, well, just google it.

August Pest of the Month: Bed Bugs

Pest of the Month August Bed BugsAs we head into the final month of summer, we thought we’d highlight a pest most often thought of as one you encounter on a vacation – but can just as easily show up in your home. Cimex lectularius– better known as the ever-nasty bed bug.

It may seem like bed bugs have been in the news a lot lately, and you’re not wrong – especially since they had all but disappeared until just a few years ago.

Prior to World War II, bed bugs were a huge problem across the United States. Advancements in personal hygiene and extensive use of DDT led to the cimex species being isolated in remote areas of Africa and Asia.

That all changed about a decade ago. There’s still no clear reason why, although scientists now believe that the bugs have built up a resistance to many insecticides. Add that to a unique genetic anomaly – while inbreeding leads to most species’ deterioration, bed bugs, like the royal family, tend to thrive on it.

Bed bugs only feed for 2-5 minutes, then move on. A lot of people don’t even realize they’ve been bitten, since even the most severe reactions to a bite resemble hives, and many people have little or no reaction.

Unlike fleas, ticks and other biting insects, bed bugs don’t hitch hike on mammals, but rather on clothes, which is why they are so prevalent in urban areas.

While they’re small, bed bugs are easy to identify because they move in great numbers. Individual bugs are less than ¼” long, oval shaped, reddish-brown and flat. After eating, they are a bit fatter and redder.

One of the easiest ways to detect a bed bug infestation is the residue they leave behind. After feeding, bed bugs leave small brown or dark red fecal spots on fabric (they kind of look like coffee grinds, yuck!) and you may even find small cast off shells as they molt to their next stage.

While bed bugs need to eat before each molting stage, they can remain dormant without eating for several months, especially while travelling on clothing or luggage.

And while bed bugs are found most often in hotels and shelters, they can also end up in your home or apartment, especially in today’s more sharable society. Whether it’s taking an Uber, chilling in an Airbnb, or picking up a curb alert couch, there’s more chance than ever that bed bugs can end up hitching a ride to your home.

One woman in New Jersey was found dead in a home so infested with bed bugs, that, although they didn’t kill her, everyone who went into her house had to wear hazmat suits and be disinfected afterwards.

Not to fear, though. Bed Bug infestations are not difficult to treat, but they do take time. The first step is to limit the contamination – clear away clutter, thoroughly wash sheets, stuffed animals and any potentially infested clothing. Vacuum thoroughly, empty and seal the bag, and discard it into a trash receptacle outside your home.

Another great option – our Go Green Plus 3 program. Integrated pest control that is not only highly effective against many pests, but is 100% safe & organic – an eco-superior solution to those nasty chemicals some of the other guys use. We cover most of the Gulf Coast of Florida, from Ruskin to Punta Gorda. Give us a call to find out more!

July 2017 Pest of the Month: Drywood Termites

June Pest of the Month 2017As we’ve been known to say many times in the past, there are two kinds of homes in Florida – those with termites and those that will have them.

We talked about subterranean termites a little while back, so today we’ll focus on their distant cousins, drywood termites.

Drywood termites are generally found in the eastern and southern states, but they have been known to spread to other regions after infesting a piece of furniture, especially antiques. I guess they just like the old world taste.

There are a few varieties of drywood termites, but the one most prevalent throughout Florida is the tropical rough-headed drywood termite – Cryptotermes brevis.

How Can I Tell the Difference?

Drywood termites are generally larger than subterranean termites, but nest in much smaller colonies. Since all worker termites, swarming or otherwise, look pretty much the same, we rely on the different soldiers and winged termites for visual identification, even though they are a much smaller part of the colony.

Drywood termite soldiers have a head with a large cavity in front – that looks almost like a bowl from behind – a very lumpy, misshapen bowl.

Unlike subterranean termites, drywood termites don’t require contact with the soil, or a water source beyond what they draw from the wood they devour, hence their name.

In fact, drywood termites rarely even leave the material once they start snacking.

And as bad a subterranean termites are, drywood termites can be more insidious, because they’re less noticeable and can infest multiple places at one time, making it even more important that you call a professional when you discover an infestation of any size.

How Can I Tell if I Have a Problem?

  • If you see termites, especially flying termites or discarded wings lying around, that’s a bad sign. By the way, flying ants have two pairs of differently-sized wings, while termite wings are pairs of the same size.
  • If you discover a part of your house or furniture that sounds hollow when tapped on, that’s a bad sign. If your vacuum cleaner manages to punch a hole in your baseboards, you definitely have an issue.
  • Then there’s frass. Frass is the term for the, um, termite leftovers. As we mentioned earlier, when drywood termites eat wood and cellulose, they draw every ounce of water and nutrition out of the food. What can’t be digested is expelled from their bodies. Drywood termites are the neat freaks of the termite world, so unlike the subterranean termites who leave their droppings in the tunnels they dig, Cryptotermes brevis pushes the remains out of their tunnels. If you see a fine dark or light dust on windowsills and doorjambs, that’s frass – and you’ve got a problem.

How Can I Get Your Help?

Because all termites are different and respond to different treatments, you really need to call in an expert. We have experience with all the Florida termites (there’s 3 more we haven’t mentioned yet), and we’ve been helping our customers from Port Charlotte to Bradenton with termite inspections and 100% organic, safe treatments since 1989. Give us a call to find out more!

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