By Bryan McGee
From the August 2023 Issue
Summer is here, which means so are the bugs—both indoors and outdoors. Understanding the types of pests that linger within commercial buildings and knowing how to recognize infestations are the first steps to eradicate bugs for a pest-free summer.
With more than 1,000 ant species in the U.S., the type of ant at large in an indoor or outdoor space is most important when determining a method for controlling and relinquishing a colony. During the summer season, two of the most common ants are Red Imported Fire Ants and Pharaoh Ants.
Red Imported Fire Ants (Solenopsis invicta) are not only a nuisance, but can inflict multiple, nasty stings that make them responsible for multiple hospitalizations each year, and sometimes death. Found both indoors and outdoors, fire ants are mound-building insects, and the mound may not always be easy to find.
There are several approaches for gaining control over fire ants. If the mound is quickly located, a liquid insecticide mound drench with active ingredients like Bifenthrin, Llambda-Cyhalothrin or Permethrin is a fast and affordable way to get rid of a fire ant mound, with easy application via bucket mixture or compressed air sprayer. Alternatively, granular insecticides can be applied to and around an ant mound, a slower process than employing liquid but effective, nonetheless. And granular baits with Indoxacarb, Hydramethylnon with Methoprene or Metaflumizone work well in large areas, if a mound is not readily visible—and when ants are readily foraging, a behavior that leads them to gather the baited granules and carry them back to the colony to feed, causing the colony to collapse.
Professional pest control operators could consider granular insecticide broadcast treatments for long-term control over large areas, which may require a Pesticide Applicator License. They can also utilize non-repellent ingredients to entice ants to pick up bits of the product while walking through the area, leading to a residual collapse of the colony.
Pharaoh Ants (Monomorium pharaonis) is the species most people will consider to be the “sugar ant,” as they are often attracted to items containing sweet substances. However, pharaoh ants can also go through phases of preferring proteins over sugars, which is important when attempting to relinquish a colony.
The biggest mistake made when attempting control pharaoh ants is spraying them with contact or repellent residual insecticides. Because these ants have multiple queens within a single colony, spraying aerosol contact insecticide leads to “budding,” during which the queen recognizes the loss of multiple worker ants and in order to survive, the colony splits into two or more colonies to begin producing eggs as fast as they can, causing the ant problem to worsen.
Liquid or gel baits control pharaoh ants by using their foraging behavior against them. By enticing ants through active ingredients like Borax, Fipronil, Indoxacarb, Thiamethoxam to appeal to the colony’s sweet or protein taste preferences, any ants in the vicinity will find and feed upon the bait. Furthermore, they will excrete pheromones that tell other ants within the colony that the bait is a viable food source, and create pheromone trails from the bait back to the colony to allow other ants to find it. Liquid and gel baits spread widely and quickly throughout a colony, with reduction in ant numbers occurring within 24 hours and complete control within a few days.
One pest that is especially prominent in the summer is the wasp. There are over 30,000 identified species of wasps, and more than 4,000 species exist within the U.S. Most wasps commonly encountered can be found online, and there are easy-to-use tools to identify wasps and help determine how dangerous they are, including insectidentification.org.
Wasps (Ichneumonoid) are usually separated into two distinct categories: solitary wasps and social wasps. Solitary wasps like mud-daubers, thread-wasted wasps, and digger wasps are rarely dangerous. Social wasps, however, pose a bigger threat. Wasp stings can be very painful and have the potential to cause allergic reactions that can lead to anaphylaxis, in people who may have an allergy to the venom.
Some of the most aggressive species of wasps in the U.S. fall into the category of social wasps, which can have as many as 10,000 individuals in a colony. Yellow jackets—including 16 types—as well as northern paper wasps, European hornets, and bald-faced hornets are just a few of the many species found in the U.S. Every type of social wasp is capable not only of causing physical pain, but also posing life-threatening risk for those allergic to their stings. They can attack quickly and with great vigor, seemingly unprovoked. Social wasps attack most often when they are disturbed, irritated, or threatened in some way, and can sting multiple times, because unlike bees, they do not lose their stinger after they have stung.
These pests can show up in the most unlikely places, and some wasps can build paper nests under eaves, in doorways or beneath picnic tables, while others simply burrow holes in the ground to build their nests. If there is a wasp nest located near a building, it needs to be taken down and destroyed.
Wasps can easily enter a building, so it is critical to remain vigilant in inspection and removal, especially in buildings surrounded by trees. Wasp and hornet sprays are effective tools for controlling infestations and sometimes, a simple soap and water solution may be enough to knock a nest down, which can then be stepped on or hit with a fly swatter. Mosquito nets can also be a good way to exclude wasps from outdoor areas, like a covered dining area, and avoid trouble.
Most people have heard of bed bugs but disregard them as a serious issue. If left to fester, these parasites seek out human (and animal) hosts to bite, to feed from their blood supply.
In recent years, bed bugs have become an increasing problem throughout the world, which can be addressed by understanding what they are and what they look like.
Bed Bugs (Cimex lectularius L.) are part of a small group of bloodsucking insects in the Cimicidae parasite family. Adult bed bugs are brown, with flat, oval-shaped bodies about the size of an apple seed, and have a musty-sweet odor produced through glands on the lower side of their body. Young bed bugs, or “nymphs,” are smaller and go through five growth stages, increasing in size with each stage. In earlier growth stages, they can sometimes be hard to spot, as they are translucent and white-yellow in color, with eggs that are pearl white and the size of a pinhead. An active infestation will likely have all growth stages of bed bugs present.
Owners and facility managers can use these insights to help keep commercial facilities pest-free. Read more…
Bed bugs hide in cracks, crevices, and bedding, and can easily transfer from place to place, especially in buildings with communal accommodations like hotel rooms. To inspect an area, start with the bed sheets. Pull the bed sheets back and look at the tufts and rolled edges of mattresses, checking behind and on the lower side of headboards, nightstands and bedside lamps. Check furniture like chairs and couches, around the seams and under cushions and pillows, on luggage racks and in closets. If bed bugs of any stage are suspected, it is crucial to remove them immediately, since an infested room will most likely lead to a bigger infestation in other rooms and potentially buildings.
Methods for eliminating bed bugs can include vacuuming, heat treatment, mattress encasements, barriers, steam, extreme cold, and various insecticide formulations including liquids, aerosols, and dusts. Non-repellent insecticides, which are invisible to detection by pests and act similarly to baits, have also shown great results. And insecticides containing PBO (Piperonyl-Butoxide) as a synergist have shown marked increases in efficacy, as have IGRs (Insect Growth Regulators), for breaking the life cycle for long-term control. Bed bugs are, as of late, showing a heightened resistance to pyrethroids, so pyrethroid products should be used only in the event that alternatives are not available.
As summer continues, take a moment to look around for unseen insect dangers that may be lurking. A little bit of time spent inspecting indoor and outdoor spaces can go a long way in keeping bugs and pests at bay.
McGee is the Grounds Manager of Pest Control, SSC Services for Education Associate Certified Entomologist (ACE). He has 25+ years in the pest control industry and approximately 17 years as a Pest Control Manager.
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