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    The Fungus Among Us

    Tuesday, April 06, 2021 | Mid-Cities Pest Control

    As spring warms its way through North Texas, and ushers in the rainy season, replete with its torrential downpours, the familiar adage “April showers bring May flowers” is bound to come to mind. And though the promise of beautiful blooming gardens may help get you through the cloudy rainy days, that popular adage neglects to mention the hazards such days present to your lawn, shrubs, trees, and any other plants adorning your yard. While it’s true that rain is overall very beneficial (no one wants a drought!), excess water mixed with mild weather and gray skies are a perfect recipe for fungus and mildew to prevail, causing significant, and sometimes permanent, damage to your beloved yard.

    Now when you hear the term fungus your first thought is probably of some sort of mushroom, whether that be a baby bella you get from the store or the kind that pop up in yards this time of year, but the visible mushrooms are only a small part of the wide world of fungi. Likewise, when you hear mildew, you probably envision the black stuff that likes to grow on shower tile grout, but the mildew that threatens your yard is a whole different beast, with different signs and treatments needed. Below we will take a look at some of the common fungi and mildew that can plague your yard, but a good rule of thumb is if you are seeing damage to your lawn, trees, bushes, or plants that you can’t easily explain, it’s better to call an expert from The Bug Dude @ 800-310-BUGS (2847) immediately to identify and treat the issue rather than risk permanent damage or death of the affected part(s) of your yard.

    What are Some Common Fungus and Mildew Diseases?

                    When it comes to making a list of the afflictions that can attack the various plants in a yard in North Texas, there are a daunting number of choices, even if you narrow it down to just fungi and mildew. Below are four primary categories of fungal and mildew afflictions and a few of the common diseases within each category.

    Root Rots

    • Cotton Root Rot (fungus)
      • Caused by one of the most destructive fungal organisms for plants.
      • Attacks more than 2,000 species of plants, particularly ornamental plants (plants that are grown for display rather than function) and fruit/nut/shade trees.
      • Only exists in the southwestern U.S.
      • Symptoms occur when soil temperatures reach 82 degrees.
      • Permanent damage occurs by the 3rd day and death of the plant follows soon after.
      • The fungus grows continually through the affected soil moving from plant to plant and can be transported on the roots of infected plants. It can survive in the soil for many years.
    • Mushroom Root Rot (fungus)
      • Attacks orchard trees, shade trees, and shrubs.
      • Occurs most frequently in wooded areas and recently cleared land, and to trees that have undergone other stressors (i.e. drought, flood, repeated defoliation by insects, etc.).
      • Lawn grass sod growing too close to a tree or shrub can also aid in the susceptibility of the plant to this fungal infection.
      • Generally leads to the death of the plant.
    • Stem and Root Rot (fungus)
      • These fungi cause fibrous root tips to decay.
      • Particularly likely to infect plants that are over-watered, crowded, and injured.
      • Once symptoms are observed, the damage done is usually severe.

    Patches

    • Anthracnose (fungus)
      • Attacks grasses, particularly Common Bermuda, Buffalo Grass, and St. Augustine Grass.
      • Leads to the eventual death of the plant.
    • Brown Patch (fungus)
      • Attacks several types of grass including Hybrid Bermuda, Common Bermuda, and St. Augustine Grass.
      • The appearance of this fungus varies depending on the type of grass (cool vs warm season grasses) as well as environmental conditions.
      • Patches develop in the fall, winter, and spring as grasses enter and emerge from dormancy.
      • Favorable conditions also include cool evening temperatures (below 68 degrees), moderate daytime temperatures (between 75 and 85 degrees), and higher rainfall.
      • Rots the leaf sheaths, making them easy to pull off.
    • Take-all Patch (fungus)
      • Attacks several types of grass, including Hybrid Bermuda, Common Bermuda, and St. Augustine Grass.
      • The fungus is most active in fall and winter, but symptoms are noticed in late spring and early summer when the stressors of high temperatures and dry weather are first experienced.
      • Can destroy large sections of turf grass if not controlled.
      • Roots can become so rotted that the stolons (stems) can be easily pulled from the ground.
      • Regrowth into afflicted areas is slow and often unsuccessful.

    Mildews

    • Downy Mildew
      • Attacks St. Augustine Grass.
      • It will disfigure the grass and stunt growth.
    • Powdery Mildew
      • Attacks Perennial Ryegrass and Poa Series Grass.
      • Spreads quickly in shaded areas.
      • Repeated infestations will kill the plants.

    Spots

    • Gray Leaf Spot (fungus)
      • Attacks St. Augustine Grass.
      • Favorable conditions include excess moisture, warm temperatures, and shaded areas.
      • The disease develops rapidly under favorable conditions.
    • Necrotic Ring Spot (fungus)
      • Attacks Bentgrass, Fescue, and Poa Series Grass.
      • Presents mostly in the the spring, where it will fade as summer approaches, only to reappear when the stressors of heat and drought hit.
      • Roots, along with other sections of the plant, will rot, causing the plants to be easily removed from the turf.

    What do Fungus and Mildew Look Like in a Yard?

    Unlike the noticeable mushrooms that we are all very familiar with, many of the fungi and mildew that attack your yard are best observed through the damage they do rather than their own distinct forms. Below are the visual expressions of the diseases listed in the above section. If you notice any of these symptoms in your yard, call The Bug Dude at 800-310-BUGS (2847) immediately to get an expert to examine the issue before it progresses, as many of the infections can ultimately be fatal to the plant.

    Root Rots

    • Cotton Root Rot
      • Begins as a slight yellowing/bronzing of the leaves and progresses to wilting upper leaves within 48 hours. Within 72 hours, lower leaves will also wilt.
      • Affected plants can easily be pulled from the soil; their roots are brown and decayed with bronze-colored strands of the fungus on the root surface.
    • Mushroom Root Rot
      • Initial symptoms can range from a slow decline to rapid death, with a gradual decline leading to death being most common.
      • Dead areas occur in the bark on the main stem and large roots near the soil surface. The white fungal growth can be seen over the surface of the wood when the dead bark is peeled back.
    • Stem and Root Rot
      • Spots varying in color from gray, brown, black, or red, occur on the stem and roots near the soil level.
      • Common symptoms include wilting and poor vigor.

    Patches

    • Anthracnose
      • Irregularly shaped patches ranging in size from several inches to many feet in diameter.
      • Patch color begins as reddish brown and goes to tan.
      • Occasionally causes the same colored spots on leaves.
      • Tiny black acervuli, which look like spiked spheres, form in dead leaves and stems.
    • Brown Patch
      • Circular or irregular patches of thinned light brown grass; patches can be up to several yards in diameter.
      • A darker border, or smoke ring, may develop along the perimeter of the patch.
      • An active infection will present with yellow leaves at the edges of the patch.
    • Take-all Patch
      • The initial symptom is usually yellow leaves that will eventually die.
      • The turf then becomes thin as the disease spread to the roots and the plants die.

    Mildews

    • Downy Mildew
      • Visible powdery growth on the lower leaf surface.
      • White or yellowish lines running parallel to the leaf veins.
      • Leaves will turn yellow and the tips may turn brown.
    • Powdery Mildew
      • Grayish-white growth on the upper surface of leaves and leaf sheaths.
      • Infected leaves turn yellow and slowly die.

    Spots

    • Gray Leaf Spot
      • Causes severe thinning of the turf.
      • Brown or ash colored spots with purple or brown margins appear on leaves. As the spots grow they become diamond-shaped.
      • Grass may appear burned or scorched in appearance as the spots grow and leaves die.
    • Necrotic Ring Spot
      • Creates circular patches over a foot in diameter.
      • Initial symptoms are purplish, wilted leaves.
      • As plants die they will turn straw colored.
      • Older patches (2 or 3 years old) can start to have new growth in the middle of the affected area.

    How do you Prevent Fungus and Mildew?

                    When it comes to protecting your yard from the damaging effects of fungus and mildew there are a few main tips that will help prevent just about every disease mentioned above.

    • Most importantly: at the first signs of disease call The Bug Dude at 817-354-5350 to have our experts evaluate the affected plants to determine the cause of the affliction and get it treated immediately before the infection can worsen or spread.
    • Water plants and yards in the early morning before the sun is out.
    • Water turf deeply but rarely.
    • Maintain proper fertility of the soil for the plants in your yard.
    • Avoid over-fertilization in the spring and fall.
    • Aerate the soil annually.
    • Maintain a good drainage system for your yard.
    • Avoid applying high rates of nitrogen during the summer.
    • Be especially cognizant of moisture levels and aeration in shaded areas of the lawn.
    • Promptly remove grass clippings from the yard.
    • Place plants in sunny areas as much as possible.
    • Maintain good air circulation throughout your yard.
    • When mowing, don’t cut more than 1/3 of the leaf blade.

    What Should you do if you see Signs of Fungus or Mildew?

    At the first signs of damage to your lawn, trees, shrubs, or other yard plants, call The Bug Dude at 817-354-5350 to get one of our certified technicians out to diagnose and treat the issue. Not only do several different types of fungal and mildew infections present with a similar appearance, but many pest infestations can cause damage that can be difficult to distinguish from other types of plant deterioration (see our article on common yard pests here), and having an expert’s treatment can save you time and money, and ultimately can mean the difference between saving the life of your plants and watching them die. So this spring as the rains and clouds approach, be mindful of the conducive conditions in your yard and don’t let fungi and mildew ruin the beauty of your outdoor oasis.

    Further Reading:

    “Problems Affecting Multiple Crops” – Texas Plant Disease Handbook – Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

    “Lawn & Turf” – Texas Plant Disease Handbook – Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

    “Shrubs” – Texas Plant Disease Handbook – Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

    “Trees” – Texas Plant Disease Handbook – Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

    “Powdery Mildew on Ornamentals” – W. D. Gubler, Plant Pathology, UC Davis; S. T. Koike, UC Cooperative Extension, Monterey Co. – UC Statewide IPM Program, University of California, Davis.

    Author Bio: Alissa Breach has been gaining knowledge and experience around pest control concerns over the last 12 years while working for Mid-Cities Pest Control. She has a creative writing BA from UW-Madison and is always pursuing new and interesting writing projects.

    How to get Pharaoh Ants to Pass Over your Home

    Monday, March 08, 2021 | Mid-Cities Pest Control

    March has arrived, bringing with it a welcome change from the cold winter weather, and the hope that is endemic to spring. This hope is perhaps best exemplified in the celebrations of Passover, that will begin at the end of this month, and of Easter, which will occur in early April. As holidays, they remind us of the miracles of life and freedom and present some of the most well-known stories in our history. In fact, they are so ingrained in our culture, that the story of Passover is believed to have inspired the naming of the Pharaoh ant, an ant species native to Africa. According to PestWeb, in 1758 the scientist Carl Linnaeus gave the name Pharaoh ant to this species after studying a specimen from Egypt; it is believed that Linnaeus may have considered it as one of the ten plagues of Egypt. Given the pervasiveness of this ant species, its ability to spread disease, and it’s remarkable ability to survive and thrive, it’s little wonder that they could have been seen as a plague. Even today, these small ants can quickly become a significant cause for concern, and are notorious for being exceptionally difficult to eliminate.

    What do Pharaoh Ants Look Like?

    Pharaoh ants (often referred to generically as a sugar ant or piss ant) are among some of the smallest ants you are likely to encounter, being only 1.5 to 2 mm long (this is about the size of the tip of a new crayon). They range in color from yellow or light brown to red and often have a darker abdomen. And though they do have a stinger, they rarely exsert it, and do not sting humans. Due to their small size and variation in coloring, they can often be confused with several other types of small ants, which is one reason why it’s so important to seek professional advice when faced with an ant issue, as different ants require different treatment plans. If you see an ant you think could be a Pharaoh ant call TheBugDude at 800-310-BUGS (2847) to give you a definitive ID and create a treatment plan tailored to this pest and your home.

    Where do Pharaoh Ants Live?

    Though this ant is native to Africa and thrives best in warm southern regions, it has spread worldwide and can be found on every continent except Antarctica. It is primarily an indoor pest, preferring to nest in heated buildings and take advantage of the water and food sources associated with them; however, in tropical regions and southern latitudes they can be found nesting outdoors.

    Pharaoh ants create nests that can range in size from a few dozen to several hundred thousand individuals. They are known for their habit of budding (splitting) their colonies into numerous daughter colonies, which maintain a peaceable relation to the mother colony while increasing the size and range of the infestation. These daughter colonies can grow quickly as the workers only need 38 days to develop from egg to adult, and males and queens only need 42 days. A single queen can produce 400 or more eggs and can live between 4 and 12 months; however, for large Pharaoh ant colonies there can be several hundred reproductive females.

    Within a structure, these ants nest primarily in inaccessible, warm, humid areas that are near food and water sources. Though wall voids are a particularly favorite nesting place, they can also be found in furniture, under floors, between sheets of paper, in layers of fabrics, in appliances, etc. Because these ants live in hidden areas of a structure and do not release winged swarmers during mating season, the only way you are likely to know you have a Pharaoh ant infestation is when you see one of them out foraging for food.

    What do Pharaoh Ants Eat?

    Pharaoh ants aren’t terribly particular about their food sources and will eat most anything containing sweets, oils, or proteins. This can range from peanut butter to pastries, to other insects. Because of this generalized diet, they can be found near just about any food source, and are commonly found in commercial food establishments including ones you might not think of, such as hotels and hospitals.

    Are Pharaoh Ants Dangerous?

    Though Pharaoh ants themselves aren’t dangerous to people (they don’t bite or sting) or home (they aren’t a wood-destroying pest), they are known to spread more than a dozen diseases. Among the diseases they are known to spread are Salmonella, Staphylococcus, and Streptococcus. This makes them both a monetary problem (as any food or sterile areas they get into are now contaminated and need to be thrown out or sterilized) and a safety problem. Of particular concern are infestations in hospitals as these ants have been known to seek moisture from the mouths of sleeping patients and even from in-use IV bottles. Given their ability to transmit disease, this is of special concern for anyone who is at high risk of infection, such as burn victims and infants.

    How do you Prevent Pharaoh Ants?

                    When it comes to small ants, and Pharaoh ants in particular, it is virtually impossible to fully prevent them from being able to enter your home. As such, the best approach is to limit any easy access points and to make your home a less ideal location for them to set up a colony. Here are a few tips on how you can accomplish those goals:

    • Most importantly: Do not self-treat for these ants, at the first signs of infestation call The Bug Dude at 817-354-5350 to have our experts put down the correct products to eliminate these pests. Using an incorrect product can cause the colony to bud or split, making the process of eliminating the infestation much more complicated and time-consuming.
    • Seal any entry points around your home or establishment (this includes cracks and small openings).
    • Keep all food areas clean and free from crumbs.
    • Store food in airtight containers.
    • Trim back any overhanging tree limbs.
    • Trim back bushes and shrubs so they do not touch the structure.
    • Eliminate any areas of standing water in and around the home.
    • Maintain a regular pest control service plan with The Bug Dude to keep your home pest free.

    How do you Eliminate Pharaoh Ants?

    The first step you should take if you are confronted with an infestation you think may be Pharaoh ants is to call The Bug Dude at 817-354-5350. Pharaoh ants are not a pest to be trifled with, as their habit of budding/splitting their colonies and their knack for getting into hard to access areas make them a notoriously difficult pest to control. If the proper treatment is not performed, it can cause the colony to bud and increase the severity and duration of the infestation. This is why our technicians have been trained on the most effective products to use for a Pharaoh ant infestation as well as the correct areas in which to place the products to eliminate the colony/colonies as quickly as possible so they don’t plague your springtime celebrations.

    Further Reading:

    “common name: Pharaoh ant” – J.C. Nickerson and D.L. Harris, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Plant Industry; and T.R. Fasulo, University of Florida – University of Florida

    “Pharaoh Ants” – PestWorld.org

    “Pharaoh Ant” – Texas Invasive Species Institute

    “Creature Feature: Pharaoh Ants” – PestWeb – Veseris

    Author Bio: Alissa Breach has been gaining knowledge and experience around pest control concerns over the last 11 years while working for Mid-Cities Pest Control. She has a creative writing BA from UW-Madison and is always pursuing new and interesting writing projects.

    Photos by Andre A. Xavier, Asiya Kiev, Martha Dominguez de Gouveia, and Jim Reardan

    Groundhog Day is fast approaching as we move into February. It’s a day when we celebrate a historic tradition centered around an adorable critter emerging from its underground burrow to help forecast the remainder of winter. Though we all enjoy watching the infamous Punxsutawney Phil take a look for his shadow every February 2nd, there are other pests making their home underground that, if seen emerging, can forebode more troubles that 6 additional weeks of winter. One of these pests is the rover ant, an ant species that is still relatively new to to the U.S., but has nonetheless made its presence felt.

    What do Rover Ants Look Like?

    Rover ants are a particularly small ant species, with workers only about 1/16” in size; that’s about half the length of a sesame seed. Notably, the workers are monomorphic, meaning they are uniform in size, though they can vary greatly in color from a pale yellow to dark brown or black. They also have simpler antennae than many other ants, containing only 9 segments and no club. Their thorax is uneven with the front portion having a humped appearance, a bit like a camel.

    The winged rover ant reproductives are close to double the size of the workers and are similar in size to a termite swarmer (winged reproductive). Even worse, both pests tend to choose similar locations to build their colonies. As such, it’s particularly important to know the difference between ants and termites, so you don’t have to live in unnecessary stress every time you see one of these winged pests. Check out a few of our articles on this topic: “Termites vs. Carpenter Ants” and “Termite 101”. And at the first sight of these winged pests, call The Bug Dude at 800-310-BUGS to give you a definitive ID and treat before the problem, whichever pest it is, gets worse.

    Where do Rover Ants Live?

    You can find rover ants both indoors and outdoors, and they are particularly fond of living in urban areas, largely because these ants greatly favor moisture and access to sweet treats. Outdoors, you can look for colonies to be dwelling in moist soil, mulch, leaf litter, and trash piles; they have even been known to form colonies under the slab of a home. Indoors, you will generally find them in bathrooms and kitchens, though they will have built their nests inside water-damaged wood, cinder blocks, potted plants, electrical outlets, light sockets, and wall voids.

    A single rover ant colony will be fairly small, with somewhere between a few hundred and a few thousand members; however, you can often find more than one colony infesting a home or yard if there are enough conducive conditions. This is one of the reasons that rover ants are notorious as one of the more difficult ants to control as you need to find and eliminate multiple colonies in order to get rid of the problem. Fortunately, the technicians at TheBugDude.com have plenty of experience in dealing with rover ants and have learned the most successful methods to quickly and effectively rid your home of these pests.

    Within the United States, rover ants are predominantly found in the Gulf states, though their reach into the rest of the contiguous states is constantly expanding. These tiny ants have a distinct advantage in their spread in that they can successfully live in close proximity to other ants, including fire ants, tawny crazy ants, and Argentine ants. They even have a protection against fire ant venom: they can blanket themselves in a protective layer of formic acid.

    What do Rover Ants Eat?

    Though rover ants are primarily omnivorous, they tend to prefer sugary food options. This preference is one of the reasons that they are likely to enter homes in search of tasty treats, such as fruits left out on kitchen counters. Outdoors, they will often create their colony around plants and trees where aphids and scales are feeding on the roots, getting their sustenance from the honeydew created by these pests. When sugary food options are scarce, however, they will happily scavenge for a variety of foods including other insects.

    Are Rover Ants Dangerous?

    Fortunately, these ants are primarily harmless, though they can quickly become a horrible nuisance if they get inside your home or workplace. Rover ants do not sting or bite, so they will not cause direct harm to people or pets; they also are not a wood-destroying pest like carpenter ants, so they aren’t going to create structural damage. However, because they tend to have multiple colonies, and thus are difficult to control, once they establish a foothold inside a building, they can be a continual headache for quite some time, especially if professional help isn’t quickly sought. Outdoors they can also present a significant nuisance, as they are drawn to sources of water and will thus often invade pools, leading to extra time needed for cleaning before getting to enjoy a swim on a hot summer day.

    Though not extreme, these ants can present a health risk if they get into sterile or healthcare facilities as they do have the potential to transmit certain type of bacteria, including E. coli.

    How do you Prevent Rover Ants?

                    The prevention of rover ants needs to be two-fold if it’s to be successful: eliminate sources of moisture and eliminate sources of food. Here are a few steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of being invaded by these pests:

    • Do not self-treat for these ants, at the first signs of infestation call The Bug Dude at 800-310-BUGS (2847) to have our experts put down the correct products to eliminate these pests. Products that are available for home use are not only likely to be fully ineffective, but they can also interfere with the effectiveness of a professional treatment.
    • Replace any water-damaged wood in and around your home
    • Dispose of yard debris (such as leaf litter and grass clippings)
    • Fix any known water leaks and thoroughly dry any affected areas
    • Keep an eye out for aphid or scale infestations on plants and get them treated immediately
    • Trim trees and shrubs away from the roof and walls of your home
    • Keep gutters cleaned out
    • Keep kitchens clean and free from accessible sweets (i.e. keep fruit in the fridge, don’t leave sweets out uncovered, etc.)
    • Maintain a regular pest control service plan with The Bug Dude to keep your home pest free.

    How do you Eliminate Rover Ants?

     Rover ants are notorious for being difficult to control long-term. If you are having an issue that you suspect could be these tiny ants, call The Bug Dude at 817-354-5350. Our experienced technicians will be able to identify the exact type of ant that has invaded your home and, even for these tough little rover ants, they will know the most effective means to eliminate the problem so you can get back to your normal life, whether that will include six more weeks of winter or not.

    Further Reading:

    “[Pest Profile] Rover Ant” – PCT Magazine

    “Rover Ant, Brachymyrmex sp.” – Chris Keefer – Urban and Structural Entomology Program at Texas A&M University

    “How to Get Rid of Rover Ants” – ants.com

    “The Dark Rover Ant and Other Rover Ants” – Michael Merchant – Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

    Author Bio: Alissa Breach has been gaining knowledge and experience around pest control concerns over the last 11 years while working for Mid-Cities Pest Control. She has a creative writing BA from UW-Madison and is always pursuing new and interesting writing projects.

    Preventing Unwanted Christmastime House Guests

    Friday, December 11, 2020 | Mid-Cities Pest Control

    It’s Christmastime again, a time when halls are decked, the scent of pine fills the air, and the chorus of Christmas carols can be heard all around. It’s a time when families cozy up with freshly baked treats and their favorite Christmas movie as they celebrate this wondrous season. With all the joy and magic filling the air, a scuffling on the rooftop would naturally bring to mind the image of reindeer alighting, their hooves clicking on the shingles, bringing with them good old Santa Claus to come down through the chimney with lots of toys.

    Unfortunately, the noises being heard are rarely those of magical reindeer, and are generally signs of either a rodent or wildlife invasion. You see, animals don’t know what’s expected of them during this season, and even on the night before Christmas, mice can, in fact, be stirring. So what can be done to keep unwanted guests from staying over for the winter? In addition to the standard pest control methods, which you can read more about in the articles below, a vital part of keeping out uninvited guests is to eliminate their access to your home. This can be accomplished in part through home maintenance and repairs you can perform yourself, and in part through professional exclusion work.

    What is Exclusion Work?

    Exclusion work refers to a variety of physical barriers that The Bug Dude can employ in order to keep pests out of your home. These barriers can be items that are installed (like door sweeps), items that are replaced (like vent covers), or they can even be repairs to holes on the exterior of the home itself. Whatever their form, these barriers must be carefully chosen and installed by The Bug Dude in order for them to be both safe and effective.

    Our experienced technicians can not only discover the likely sources where rodents or wildlife are finding ways into your home, they also know which materials are effective in preventing these animals from gaining re-entry. On top of that, they can determine which entry points can be safely sealed and which are necessary in order to maintain the integrity of the home (after all, it’s not a good idea to 100% seal up a home).

    When you call The Bug Dude out to evaluate your home for an issue with rodents or wildlife, they will also check for any potential entry points that these animals are utilizing. If any entry points are found, exclusion work can be performed once the primary issue has been reduced or resolved. It’s important to get the timing right when performing this repair work, as you don’t want to trap animals inside, but you also don’t want to get rid of one issue only to leave an open door for another animal to find its way in.

    What Can I do to Help Prevent Pest Issues?

    Though exclusion work is often necessary once a rodent or wildlife issue has been established in your home, there are steps you can take to make your home less enticing for these animals and prevent having extended holiday house guests.

    The first step is to go through your home and yard and look for any of the issues listed below. Remember, you are trying to keep your home from providing food, water, and shelter to unwanted critters. It may take a little time, but your investment now can keep you from spending sleepless nights listening to scratching and scurrying above your head, and can save you money and stress in the long run.

    In your Home

    • Reduce potential nesting sites:
      • Organize and declutter closets and attic spaces
    • Reduce potential food sources:
      • Keep pantry items in airtight containers
      • Keep non-pantry items in the fridge
      • Don’t leave food out (including pet food)
      • Keep trash in securely closed bins and take the trash out regularly
    • Reduce potential water sources:
      • Fix any plumbing or roof leaks
      • Don’t leave pet water bowls out
    • Inspect for potential entry points:
      • Check that any gaps around doors are less than 1/4” high (mice are able to get in through a 1/4” or larger gap)
      • Check that all window & door screens and weather stripping are intact

    Around your Home

    • Reduce potential nesting sites:
      • Keep yard debris (i.e. leaves, branches, grass trimmings, etc.) away from the home
      • Trim bushes to keep them away from your home and up off the ground if possible
      • Keep firewood at least 20’ from your home and off the ground
    • Reduce potential food sources:
      • Don’t leave pet food bowls out
    • Reduce potential water sources:
      • Keep gutters cleared and in good working condition
      • Don’t leave pet water bowls out
    • Inspect for potential entry points:
      • Check for any cracks in the foundation over 1/4” in width
      • Check for any signs of chew marks on siding or eaves
      • Check around all voids where pipes and wires enter the home and make sure there are no gaps over 1/4” in size
      • Make sure attic vents are property screened
      • Make sure chimneys are properly capped
      • Check for any broken vents, loose siding, loose shingles, or visible holes
      • Remove vines from you walls (rodents can use these to gain easier access to your home)
      • Trim any overhanging tree limbs (they should be at least 8 to 10 feet from the roof)

    In your Garage

    • Reduce potential nesting sites:
      • Organize and declutter any stored items
      • Inspect any cars that are rarely used for signs of rodent activity, especially under the hood
    • Reduce potential food sources:
      • Keep trash in securely closed bins and take it out regularly
      • Keep pet food or bird seed in airtight containers made of glass or metal

    In your Yard

    • Reduce potential nesting sites:
      • Regularly clear all yard debris (i.e. leaves, branches, grass clippings, etc.)
      • Keep your grass trimmed
      • Keep any storage buildings organized and decluttered and make sure to inspect them regularly
      • Regularly inspect hot tubs for signs of rodent activity (the warm, protected area under a hot tub makes an ideal nesting site)
      • If you have a double fence, check for signs that rodents may be nesting in the gap between the fences
    • Reduce potential food sources:
      • Remove bird feeders
    • Reduce potential water sources:
      • Remove bird baths
    • Inspect for potential entry points:
      • Place sheet metal bands around tree trunks to discourage squirrels from climbing them and finding their way to your roof

    This December, give yourself the gift of peace of mind and treat your home to some extra attention in order to pest-proof your house and yard. And if you hear noises up on the rooftop, give The Bug Dude a call at 800-310-BUGS (2847) and let our technicians make sure that on Christmas day, the only noises you hear are those of comfort and joy.

    Further Reading:

    “Rats: Not Even Their Own Are Safe!” – Alissa Breach – The Bug Dude Blog
    “The Twelve Days of Squirrels” – Alissa Breach – The Bug Dude Blog
    “Things that go Bump in the Night” – Alissa Breach – The Bug Dude Blog
    “Make Pest Control Part of Your New Year’s Resolutions” – Alissa Breach – The Bug Dude Blog
    “Are Unexpected Guests Crashing Your Thanksgiving?” – Alissa Breach – The Bug Dude Blog

    Author Bio: Alissa Breach has been gaining knowledge and experience around pest control concerns over the last 11 years while working for Mid-Cities Pest Control. She has a creative writing BA from UW-Madison and is always pursuing new and interesting writing projects.

    Photos Credits
    Photo by Joshua Hibbert

    Are Wasps Ruining your Fall Fun? Give us a Buzz…

    Monday, November 09, 2020 | Mid-Cities Pest Control

    Fall is here and while many are celebrating the influx of cooler temperatures, that same seasonal change can lead to an influx of pests into your home. Though this time of year is notorious for its increase in rodent and wildlife activity inside homes, there is another pest that is likely to be inviting itself to be your house guest this holiday season: wasps.

    Though we often associate wasps with the threat they pose to our outdoor summer fun, these pests create an entirely additional problem in the fall. For most wasps, the fall is their time for procreation. This is the time when male and queen wasps are produced and mate, leading to greater wasp activity. As the season gets colder, the fertilized queens will seek shelter, often in and around houses, to hibernate till the spring, when they will emerge and create their nests, often in the same locations as the previous year. This means that the fall is the time when wasps are essentially staking out their future nesting sites, and any that decide to call your house their winter home are likely to be the worst kind of house guests: the kind that never leave.

    What Kind of Wasps are in Texas?

    Though there are quite a few types of wasps that call Texas home, there are five kinds that are exceptionally common throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. These five are: paper wasps, yellowjackets, hornets, cicada killers, and mud daubers. All five of these varieties have distinctive appearances and habits, but can be generally broken down into two categories: social wasps and solitary wasps.

    Social wasps are the most common group of vespid wasps, living in nests that are built and defended by the colony. They use their stinger primarily as a defensive tool to protect both their nest and the colony in general. This category encompasses paper wasps, yellowjackets, and hornets.

    Solitary wasps are generally found in much smaller numbers than social wasps as they do not create community nests. This lack of a community nest also accounts for the solitary wasps’ significantly decreased likelihood to sting a person. Their stinger isn’t needed to defend a colony, since they don’t have one, and as such is primarily used to subdue prey. The cicada killer and the mud dauber are the most common types of wasp in this category.

    Though both types of wasps can sting, social wasps pose a far greater threat than solitary wasps.

    What do Wasps Look Like?

    Wasps come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, and tend to be brighter and have less hairy bodies than bees.

    Paper wasps are between 3/4” and 1” long, are reddish-orange to dark brown, and have yellow body markings.

    Yellowjackets are between 1/2” and 3/4” long and have alternating yellow and black stripes/markings across their body.

    Baldfaced Hornets are approximately 3/4” long, and black and white in color, and has a primarily white head. These are also the only true hornet in Texas, with the term often being incorrectly applied to any type of wasp.

    Cicada killers are very large wasps and are around 1.5” long, have a red rust-colored head, thorax, and wings, and have yellow and black stripes on the abdomen.

    Mud daubers are between 3/4” and 1” long and are either dull black with bright yellow markings or an iridescent blue-black. They also have longer and slenderer waists than most wasps.

    What do Wasp Nests Look Like?

    Wasp nests can vary almost as much as the wasps themselves, from tiny to large, and from in the ground to in the air.

    Paper wasps create uniquely shaped nests out of chewed wood fibers. Their nests hang from a single filament and consist of a single tier of hexagonal-shaped cells with the comb pointing downward; the shape of the nest is a bit like an upside down umbrella. These nests are generally found in protected areas like under the eaves of a house, in attics, sheds, shrubs, or trees. Each nest can contain around 30 adult wasps.

    Yellowjackets create their nests from a paper-like material that is made of wood fiber. These nests are complete enclosed except for the entrance hole, and can vary in size from a few inches to over 6 feet! Unsurprisingly, one of these nests could house up to 20,000 wasps. These nests can also be found in both subterranean and aerial locations: from gardens and flower beds to trees, eaves, and even inside wall voids.

    Baldfaced Hornets make round or pear-shaped nests that are gray to brown in color and have a entrance near the bottom. These nests, which can grow up to 3 feet long are generally found high above ground in trees, though are sometimes seen on eaves as well. One nest can house up to 400 wasps.

    Cicada killers make their nests in lawns where they dig galleries to lay their eggs and feed their young. The creation of these nests has been known to damage lawns and gardens. The nests generally house only 1 adult wasp and their offspring.

    Mud daubers make small tube-like nests out of mud, as their name suggests. These nests are generally found under eaves or in attics. The nests generally house only 1 adult wasp and their offspring.

    What do Wasps Eat?

    Though there is variation in exact diet depending on the type of wasp, most consume insects and spiders. Some wasps, like yellowjackets, also gather and feed on nectar and honeydew. It is for this reason that wasps can be particularly attracted to sweets and be a troublesome pests for outdoor recreation.

    Are Wasps Dangerous?

    Not only are wasp stings painful, they have the potential to be fatal. Generally, a wasp sting results in intense pain and creates redness and swelling in the area around the sting. For most people these symptoms will last for a bit and then subside, but for others they can grow into a systemic allergic reaction that can lead to severe swelling and pain lasting for days, and in some cases can lead to an anaphylactic reaction. The most dangerous stings are the ones to the head, eyes, and neck, and any time there are multiple stings in short succession.

    How do you Prevent Wasps?

    Though it’s impossible to prevent wasps from getting onto your property, there are steps you can take to make it a less hospitable place for them to call home.

    1. Maintain regular pest control (give The Bug Dude a call at 1-800-310-BUGS (2847) to see what service plan would be best for you) to keep insect populations near your home low; this will limit the food sources available to the wasps and will also increase the likelihood of a technician discovering a wasp nest before it gets out of hand.
    2. Remove food sources from around your home. A few examples are ripe fruits and hummingbird feeders.
    3. Seal any noticeable cracks and crevices around porches and eaves that wasps could use to get into your home.
    4. Tightly seal all garbage cans.
    5. Immediately pick up any food trash and clean up any food/drink spills that may happen during outdoor recreation.

    How do you Eliminate Wasps?

    Wasps do not like to be disturbed, and are at their most dangerous when their home is being threatened. This is why it’s always best to call The Bug Dude at 1-800-310-BUGS (2847) to handle any wasp issues, as our technicians have the experience and the equipment to treat the issue while keeping themselves and your family safe. This fall, don’t let wasps ruin your holiday time by making themselves at home in your house. If you see evidence of wasps on or near your house, give Mid-Cities Pest Control, Inc. a.k.a. TheBugDude.com @ 1-800-310-2847 a call and let us help keep this season about an abundance of thanks, not an abundance of pests.

    Further Reading:

    “Paper Wasps, Yellowjackets and Solitary Wasps” – Glen C. Moore and Mike E. Merchant – AgriLIFE EXTENSION – Texas A&M System

    “Mud Daubers” – Texas Apiary Inspection Service (TAIS) – Texas A&M AgriLIFE Research

    “Cicada Killer Wasps” – Lee Townsend, Extension Entomologist – University of Kentucky College of AgricultureAuthor Bio: Alissa Breach has been gaining knowledge and experience around pest control concerns over the last 11 years while working for Mid-Cities Pest Control. She has a creative writing BA from UW-Madison and is always pursuing new and interesting writing projects

    Photo Credits:
    @kammiesavidge
    @countess_anne
    @thonyguillen
    @osoconfuzed

    Witches, and Goblins, and Spiders, Oh My!

    Friday, October 16, 2020 | Mid-Cities Pest Control

    It’s October, fall is officially underway, the heat of summer has faded, and thoughts have turned toward the upcoming holidays. Kicking off the festivities is Halloween, a time to embrace all things creepy, crawly, and anything outright scary. It’s the one time of the year when spiders (at least the plastic kind) are welcomed into our homes and the opinion on spiderwebs is “the more the merrier” (just as long as they’re synthetic). And though just about any spider is creepy enough to use for decorations, the most iconic is assuredly the black widow spider. Possessing venom, a distinctively sinister appearance, and a chilling moniker, it’s no wonder this arachnid is among the most common Halloween decorations.

    But just how dangerous are these spiders and what can you do if you find yourself faced with something other than a plastic black widow?

    What do Black Widow Spiders Look Like?

    Black widow spiders are sexually dimorphic, meaning that the males and females have different appearances. The females have the iconic black widow look, with a round abdomen, a shiny black body, and the famous red hourglass marking on the underside of the abdomen. They are about 1.5 inches long in total, with their body accounting for a little less than a half inch of that length. Males, on the other hand, are smaller, with a body length of just over 1/4 inch, and they lack the distinctive red marking, instead having white lines along their sides.

    Are Black Widow Spiders Dangerous?

    With venom reportedly 15 times stronger than that of a rattlesnake, it’s safe to say that black widow spiders are a dangerous pest. Their venom is highly virulent and affects the nervous system. The good news is that they are only able to inject a minute quantity of venom with each bite, making their fatality rate relatively low. Still, a black widow bite is no laughing matter with symptoms including severe pain, stiff muscles, nausea/vomiting, difficulty breathing, severe abdominal cramping, weakness, and tremors. For those in high-risk groups (i.e. young children, the elderly, and those who are already ill), a black widow bite should be taken very seriously and medical assistance should be immediately sought.

    Where are Black Widow Spiders Found?

    The most common places to find these spiders are dry, dark, relatively undisturbed areas either outdoors or indoors. Outside, you are likely to find them under stones, logs, or decks, in wood piles, in tree stumps, or in holes in dirt embankments. Unlike some pests, however, the black widow spider is just as happy, if not more so, to make its home indoors. Look for them in barns, sheds, garages, basements, and crawl spaces, especially in sections that offer more harborage areas. As with most predatory pests, the black widow spider will be looking for areas that offer plenty of accessible food sources, so any places of your home that have conducive conditions for pests like ants, beetles, roaches, and scorpions will be prime real estate.

    What are the Signs of a Black Widow Infestation?

    Other than seeing the spiders themselves, keep an eye out for webs in the areas black widows like to call home. Their webs are irregular, close to the ground, usually less than 1 foot in diameter, and can often have a retreat (a small, less than 1/4 inch, circular silken tent where the spider lives). In addition, keep an eye out for egg sacs suspended on the webs. These sacs are light-colored (white, tan, or gray), pear or circle shaped, have a papery texture, are between 1/4 to 1/2 inch in diameter, and can contain over 400 eggs. That’s a lot of potential baby black widows.

    How did they get their Name?

    These spiders get their ominous name from the belief that the females often consume male black widows after mating. However, though this behavior has been observed many times in captivity (where the males had no way to escape), it is much less common in real-world scenarios.

    How do you Prevent Black Widow Spiders?

    There are two important steps to take to keep your home and yard from becoming a haven for black widows. First, you need to declutter all areas that would be an attractive site for these spiders to spin their webs. This means keeping your yard free from debris, cleaning out any woodpiles, and regularly cleaning any sheds or storage spaces in your yard. Inside your home it’s pretty much the same story: declutter. Keep all storage areas and less-frequented spaces (like garages, attics, crawl spaces, etc.) tidy and remove any excess stuff that a black widow could hide in or under.

    The second step is to maintain regular pest control, call The Bug Dude at 817-354-5350. By keeping the insect population in your home and yard to a minimum, you will limit the spider’s food supply and make your home a much less inviting space. Remember, a black widow finds fire ants a tasty treat, so by getting rid of them in your yard and home not only do you not have to deal with the hazards of those ants, you also help minimize the likelihood a black widow spider will take up residence in your home.

    How do you Eliminate Black Widow Spiders?

    If you see evidence of black widow spiders in your home or yard, call The Bug Dude at 817-354-5350 immediately. Though they make an excellent Halloween decoration, a real black widow is certainly no treat to find lurking in your home. Our experienced technicians will eliminate the spider threat and let you get back to enjoying the non-venomous scares of the season.

    Further Reading:

    “Southern Black Widow Spider” – Field Guide to Common Texas Insects – Texas A&M AgriLife Extension
    “Black Widow Spiders” – PestWorld.org
    “Black Widow Spider Bite” – WebMD
    “This Bites: Venomous Spiders in Texas” – Texas Department of State Health Services

    Author Bio: Alissa Breach has been gaining knowledge and experience around pest control concerns over the last 11 years while working for Mid-Cities Pest Control. She has a creative writing BA from UW-Madison and is always pursuing new and interesting writing projects.

    Images By
    NeONBRAND
    Jared Subia
    Adam Winger
    Bas van den Eijkhof

    The Cricket Swarm is Upon Us

    Thursday, September 10, 2020 | Mid-Cities Pest Control

    When someone says “cricket” what’s the first thing that comes to mind? If you’re a sports aficionado, you may think of the most recent match results or of the iconic cricket bat. If you’re a Disney fan, you probably imagine a little Jiminy Cricket singing and dancing, complete with top hat, umbrella, and gold badge. If you’re a techie, your first thought may be the U.S. wireless company that’s been around for over 20 years. However, if you’re a Texan, there’s a good chance the first thing you’ll think of is a time when you were surrounded by hundreds of crickets.

    Though the little black crickets can be seen throughout the year in Texas, the late summer and early fall often bring a drastic influx of cricket activity. These hopping insects can be seen bombarding homes and businesses in numbers reminiscent of a biblical plague. So why does this happen and what can be done about it?

    What do Crickets Look Like?

    There are more than 900 species of crickets, but when we talk about crickets in Texas, we are almost always referring to field crickets. These insects are dark brown to black, range from a 1/2 inch to over 1 inch long, have oblong bodies with wings that lie flat along their back, rounded heads, long antennae, and powerful hind legs. But perhaps the most notable feature of crickets isn’t how they look, but how they sound. Known for their distinctive chirp, these insects are an ever-present sound of summer evenings outdoors. Fun fact: only adult male field crickets can chirp, and do so both to mark territory and to attract females; the familiar sound is created when they rub their wings together.

    Whats the Difference Between Crickets and Grasshoppers?

    Crickets, grasshoppers, and locusts are all relatives and are part of the order Orthoptera. Sharing a similar body shape and ability to produce sound by rubbing together parts of their body, they do differ in color, behavior, and diet. Crickets are nocturnal and are omnivores, happily eating both plant and animal matter, and even eating scavenged and decaying plants or animals. Grasshoppers, on the other hand, are active during the day and are herbivores. Locusts, on an individual level, are pretty similar to grasshoppers, but when they congregate in large numbers they cause exceptionally damaging, and notorious, plagues. If you thought the cricket swarms were bad, they are nothing compared to a swarm of locusts.

    Where are Crickets Found?

    Predominantly found outdoors, crickets prefer to live in areas that are cool, dark, and damp. This generally means they can be found around plumbing, under rocks, and in dense foliage or leaf litter. However, they do sometimes make their way indoors, usually in the pursuit of food or shelter. Fortunately, once indoors, crickets won’t set up a colony or reproduce inside your home. If you do see a large number of crickets inside, it’s a sure sign that there are gaps or other entryways that are making it easy for these pests to invade your home.

    Are Crickets Dangerous?

    Though they are far from making anyone’s top ten list of dangerous insects (they don’t even sting or bite), crickets aren’t simply a nuisance pest either. A single cricket can’t do much damage, but in large numbers, like the swarms seen pretty much every August/September in Texas, they can pose a risk to people, plants, and possessions. When they go in search of food, they will often be found eating plants (like those in a home garden) or even some fabrics, including clothes and rugs, causing definite damage to whatever they are feeding on. But the damage to fabrics isn’t only from being eaten; even if they don’t nibble on your fabrics, they can still cause damage through stains created by their feces or feeding activities. Still, stains aren’t the biggest concern when it comes to cricket droppings; when these insects show up in large numbers, both their excrement and their corpses can prove to be a sanitation issue. Compounding the issue is the fact that any time you have that many insects in one place you are always at a higher risk of attracting predators (like raccoons) to your home or business, which can cause a a whole host of other problems.

    Why do Crickets Swarm in Texas?

     The annual late summer/early fall cricket swarm in Texas arrives as large numbers of nymphs reach their adult stage simultaneously. Field crickets lay their eggs in the fall; these eggs remain in the soil they were laid in until the following spring when they hatch. Approximately 3 months later (around August/September) they reach adulthood, and at that point are capable of flight and go off in search of mates, this is when we see the notorious swarms. So why are crickets so much more prolific some years and not as bad others? Though the exact reason why this happens isn’t fully known, there is a strong correlation between a dry spring & summer, and an abundant cricket season.

    How do you Prevent Crickets?

    The number one thing you can do to prevent crickets from congregating around your home or business is to reduce the use of outdoor lighting. Crickets are attracted to brightly lit areas and will swarm to them during the night when they are most active. If possible, turn off or drastically reduce the hours that outdoor lights are used after dark. In cases where that would prove to be a safety hazard or otherwise is just not possible, consider switching to yellow incandescent lights or low-pressure sodium vapor lamps as they are significantly less attractive to crickets.

    In addition, removing harborage areas from your property and sealing up any obvious insect entry points will go a long way toward preventing a major cricket infestation. A few common areas to address are:

    • Firewood: make sure this is kept off the ground and away from the home
    • Leaf litter/yard debris: remove this regularly
    • Door thresholds: make sure that the seals and sweeps are in place and in good condition

    How do you Eliminate Crickets?

    If a cricket swarm has established itself on your property it can feel like you’re living in a Hitchcock film. The quickest and most effective way to eliminate these pests and take back control of your home is to call The Bug Dude at 817-354-5350 and let our experienced technicians treat the swarm.

    Further Reading:

    “Cricket control in the fall” – Michael Merchant – Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

    “Field Cricket” – Field Guide to Common Texas Insects – Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

    “Grasshoppers, crickets, katydids and locusts: Order Orthoptera” – David Britton – Australian Museum

    Author Bio: Alissa Breach has been gaining knowledge and experience around pest control concerns over the last 11 years while working for Mid-Cities Pest Control. She has a creative writing BA from UW-Madison and is always pursuing new and interesting writing projects.

    Image Credits:
    Cricket Photo by IMRE Daniel

    The Daring Young Ant on the Flying Trapeze

    Wednesday, August 05, 2020 | Mid-Cities Pest Control

    You look up at a figure delicately balanced on a thin wire suspended high above the ground. The figure gracefully, confidently crosses the wire, seemingly unconcerned that there is no safety net to catch them should they fall. Below the daredevil is another spectacle, as acrobats perform tricks, walking around as easily on their hands as they would their feet. Not too far away a small parade can be seen with marchers weaving a precise path through their surroundings. Though you aren’t seated under the Big Top, you can’t help but imagine a ringmaster popping out to introduce a fabulous flying trapeze act, or expect to see a few rogue clowns causing mischief. For a moment you let yourself be transported to the extravaganza that was The Greatest Show on Earth, with all it’s thrills and laughs. But all too quickly reality breaks the illusion and you remember that the performers you’ve been watching aren’t skilled artists, they’re actually insects, specifically Acrobat Ants, and they’re in your yard and heading to your home.

    What do Acrobat Ants Look Like?

    Acrobat Ants range in size from about 1/8” to 1/4” in length depending on which species of this ant you are encountering (there are 25 species in the U.S. and over 400 species worldwide). Their coloration can vary from light brown, to nearly black, to multicolored red and black. They have a heart-shaped abdomen (noticeable when viewing the ants from above), 2 nodes in their pedicel (the space that connects the thorax to the rear, or gaster, of the ant), 12-segmented antennae, and 2 short spines on their thorax.

    How did they get their Name?

    This type of ant was given a name that conjures up images of tumblers and circus performers doing incredible tricks for good reason. When the ants are excited or disturbed, they will run around with their abdomens held up high above their heads, making it look like they are performing an exceptionally adept acrobatic handstand.

    Where are Acrobat Ants Found?

    Geographically, Acrobat Ants can be found natively across the United States. They prefer to nest in moist, decaying wood, and are especially fond of living in old carpenter ant or termite galleries, though they will also frequently use chambers made by other wood-boring insects. Generally, these sources of decaying and damaged wood are found outdoors in the form of tree stumps, rotten logs, and fallen trees and limbs. However, they are just as happy to live indoors if the conditions are suitable. When they do make their nest inside a home, they do so in house voids, in walls (especially around doors, window frames, and skylights), in insulation, and of course in any old carpenter ant or termite galleries that may be present. The presence of Acrobat Ants in your home is a sure sign that you have some moist, damaged wood that needs to be addressed.

    Are Acrobat Ants Dangerous?

    These little performance artists are overall relatively harmless to people and pets, however, when threatened, they have three potential modes of defense: they can bite, sting, or let off an unpleasant odor. Though all of these would be undesirable to encounter, even the sting is not terribly painful and the effect only lasts for a short while. Perhaps the greatest danger to people is from the shock and fear created by the annual mating swarms of these ants where large numbers of the ants will suddenly emerge and resemble something akin to a Hitchcock film.

    The biggest threat that Acrobat Ants present is to your home, and it’s not from what you might think. Though they live in damaged wood, they aren’t a wood-destroying pest like carpenter ants and termites, their danger comes from their ability to strip the insulation off wires (like electrical wires) in your home, causing short circuits and costly repairs.

    What are the Signs of an Acrobat Ant Infestation?

    Though it may seem counter-intuitive given that they aren’t a wood-destroying pest, one of the most obvious signs of an Acrobat Ant infestation, other than the ants themselves, is small piles of wood shavings, dirt, or foam insulation. The ants create these piles not by excavating the wood, like carpenter ants, but rather by cleaning up any debris that the previous residents of the galleries had left behind. This debris is also why the ants are so commonly thought to be either carpenter ants or termites until a professional pest control technician comes out to make an identification.

    When looking for the ants themselves, keep an eye out for ant trails at any places where wires or pipes enter the walls, as well as along the foundation of your home.

    What do Acrobat Ants Eat?

    To an Acrobat Ant, the greatest delicacy is the honeydew excreted by insects like aphids or mealybugs. However, they will also feed on other insects (live or dead), or a variety of sources of proteins or sugars (such as syrups, cereal, meats, or oils) that can be found inside your home.

    How do you Prevent Acrobat Ants?

    The most important thing you can do to help prevent an Acrobat Ant infestation inside your home is to keep a vigilant eye out for any sources of water-damaged or moist wood and immediately get these areas repaired and the source of the damage eliminated. Other than that, the best things to do are to limit the ants’ access to your home. A few major tips to limit ant access are:

    • Prune trees and shrubs so they don’t touch or overhang the home
    • Keep firewood away from your home and off the ground
    • Keep your yard free of dead trees and rotting logs
    • Keep gutters clear and ensure that downspouts are properly functioning
    • Seal cracks in the foundation and attic
    • Seal gaps around windows, doors, and openings around pipes and utility lines
    • Keep food (including pet food or birdseed) in tightly sealed containers
    • Make sure that sprinklers are not directly spraying the foundation

    How do you Eliminate Acrobat Ants?

    As with most ants, it’s vital to use the correct products to not only kill the ants you’re seeing, but to eliminate the entire colony, and to make sure that the products you are using have been designed specifically for the type of ant you are dealing with. For this reason, when you see the signs of an Acrobat Ant infestation it’s best to call The Bug Dude at 817-354-5350 and let our experienced technicians identify and treat these pests before they make a circus of your home.

    Though the circus is a visual marvel, and brings to mind nostalgic images of classic Americana, the only acrobats you want to encounter are those trained performers you see dazzling under the Big Top. If you discover Acrobat Ants are trying to make a clown out of you, call The Bug Dude and let our professionals tame them before the problem explodes.

    Further Reading:

    “Acrobat Ant, Crematogaster sp.” – Urban and Structural Entomology Program at Texas A&M University

    “Acrobat Ants – Crematogaster spp.” – PestWorld.org

    “How to Get Rid of Acrobat Ants” – Ants.com

    “Acrobat Ants” – eXtension

    “8 Legendary Circus Performers” – Evan Andrews – History.com – A&E Television Networks, LLC

    Author Bio: Alissa Breach has been gaining knowledge and experience around pest control concerns over the last 11 years while working for Mid-Cities Pest Control. She has a creative writing BA from UW-Madison and is always pursuing new and interesting writing projects.

    PHOTO CREDITS:
    Images by Free-Photos, Guillaume de Germain, Cade Renfroe, Clem Onojeghuo, Alexander Schimmeck, nightowl

    Fleas Making You Want to Flee? We Can Help!

    Monday, July 13, 2020 | Mid-Cities Pest Control

    It’s been about four months since COVID-19 changed the way of life for countless people, and though this has brought about untold hardships, there is at least one ray of light to be found: pet adoptions and fostering have soared. With people spending so much more time at home and in some level of isolation, they have found themselves in the unique position of not only wanting a furry friend, but having the time to devote to taking care of the adorable balls of fur that brighten our days. As more homes find themselves occupied by adorable cats and dogs and the love they give, they may also soon find something else occupying their space: fleas.

    Though COVID-19 has led to the drastic increase in pets finding homes, it has also left veterinary access considerably limited, which means that one of the best ways to keep a flea issue from exploding into a full-blown infestation has been drastically hampered. This is why it’s especially important to educate yourself on fleas, so you can get control of any potential issues, and keep you and your pets safe, healthy, and happy.

    “But wait,” you may be thinking…

    I Dont Have Pets, so Why do I Have Fleas?

    There are three main reasons you may have fleas in your home even if you don’t own or foster any pets.

    1. One of the most common reasons is due to rats, mice, and wildlife that can get into your yard or your home and bring their fleas with them.
    2. Flea pupae can lay dormant for up to a year if left undisturbed. This means that if a home or yard had a previous flea infestation that was never fully taken care of, and then the area wasn’t used for months (I.e. if it’s between rentals or being sold), when you begin to use that space again, the fleas will emerge and search out food.
    3. Though much less common, it is possible for fleas to take residence in your home if you had a friends pet in your house/yard for a fair bit of time; the flea eggs will inherently drop off the affected animal and end up in your home.

    What do Fleas Look Like?

    There are about 2,500 species of fleas world-wide, with around 325 of those found in the continental U.S.; most of these fleas are found on mammals, but there are some that are more specific to birds. The most common species you are likely to interact with is the cat flea; this is the predominant type of flea that will infest pets (yes, both dogs and cats) and livestock, and therefore the most likely to end up biting humans.

    Adult fleas are about 1/8 inch long, have a thin oval-shape body, large hind legs (used for jumping), are reddish-brown in color, and are wingless. Flea larvae look a bit like tiny whitish worms but are so small you are unlikely to recognize them without the aid of a microscope. Even more difficult to distinguish are flea pupae, which generally cannot be spotted with the naked eye because they are encased in a sticky cocoon that gets covered by small bits of debris in their environment, acting essentially as camouflage.

    Where are Fleas Found?

    Since adult fleas require a blood meal from an animal, you are most likely to find them in areas regularly frequented by animals, whether indoors or outdoors. Indoors, they are most likely to be found in pet bedding, in carpets, in upholstered furniture, and even in your blankets (if you allow your pets on your bed). Outdoors, they are most commonly found in crawlspaces under your home, in shaded areas (especially those frequented by pets), and in cracks and crevices of walkways and porches. However, it is important to note that flea larvae are sensitive to both humidity and temperatures; if the humidity drops below 45% or the temperature of the area they are in exceeds 95° F, they cannot survive.

    How do I Know if I Have Fleas?

    There are a few tell-tale signs of a flea infestation:

    1. Your pet is scratching/biting at itself. Not only do fleas cause pain and irritation when they bite, but their salivary glands secrete an irritating substance that generally causes the site to itch. This irritation and subsequent scratching can even lead to patches of fur-loss. In addition, if you look at their skin where the scratching is happening, you will see small raised red dots (flea bites).
    2. You see them. The first place you are likely to notice them is on your pet, particularly while grooming or petting them, and especially if your pet has light-colored fur. If you start to see them in your carpet or jumping around (they can jump around 12” upward and horizontally), there is a good chance the infestation has gotten out of control. A good rule of thumb is that for every adult flea you see, there are probably 100 (or more!) flea larvae/pupae around.
      1. There is a simple test you can do to see if you are having flea activity in your home or yard: put on tall white socks and slowly walk around, keeping an eye on the socks. With the stark contract between the white sock and the dark flea, you are much more likely to notice them. If the idea of seeing the fleas on you is unappealing, you can also place a couple sheets of white printer paper in areas regularly frequented by your pets and watch them to see if any fleas hop onto them.
    3. You see “flea dirt”. “Flea dirt” is essentially the excrement of adult fleas and consists of bits of dried blood. It looks a bit like black pepper and can generally be found on your pet’s skin, bedding, and carpet.

    What do Fleas Feed on?

    Adult fleas consume blood meals from warm-blooded animals, consuming up to 15 blood meals per day. They prefer to feed on furry animals and are generally most successful when feeding from those with long hair. This is because once they jump onto a host they will both consume their meals and reside on the host for as long as they can. When furry animals aren’t an option though, they will feed on humans, particularly attacking the ankle and calf areas.

    Flea larvae feed on particles of organic matter, namely “flea dirt” and pet feces.

    How Long do Fleas Live?

    A standard flea life cycle can be as short as 21 days or as long as a year. But why is there such a significant discrepancy in the length of it’s lifespan? The answer is that environmental conditions play a significant part in determining how long a flea can survive, with more hospitable conditions (i.e. readily available food sources, a temperate climate, and high humidity) helping a flea to move through their stages faster, but with more adverse conditions causing the flea to remain dormant in its pupal stage until such times as the conditions improve, up to 1 full year.

    This means that if conditions are poor, you could end up harboring pupal fleas for months before suddenly having an emergence. Conversely, if conditions are favorable, you could see a flea infestation get out of control fairly quickly, as females begin laying their eggs within just 48 hours of their first feed, and they can lay around 25-40 eggs per day, or about 2,000 eggs in their lifetime.

    Are Fleas Dangerous?

    The most common danger from cat fleas is to your pets and ranges from: tapeworm, anemia (especially in small animals), and skin infections (from an allergic reaction to the fleas, as well as an increased potential secondary infection of any skin that was damaged due to scratching). However, these fleas can also pose a health risk to humans, which issues ranging from cat scratch disease, to flea-borne spotted fever, to tapeworms (especially in your children). Still, cat fleas are not the most dangerous species of flea for humans, with species like the Oriental rat flea being a primary vector for the plague.

    How do you Treat for Fleas?

    Because of the potential for a long dormancy period, it’s important that you get fleas professionally treated, because licensed technicians have access to a product called an Insect Growth Regulator (IGR) that can help you overcome this hurdle. What that product does is prevent the fleas from reproducing once they reach adulthood, so all of the egg, larvae, and pupal fleas hanging out in your home will be the very last of the fleas you will have from this infestation. Simply using an instant-kill product alone won’t eliminate the infestation.

    It’s also important to get fleas treated at the first signs of trouble, before their numbers get fully out of control. So as soon as you notice fleas in your home or yard, call The Bug Dude at 817-354-5350 and let our technicians help you get rid of these pests before they take over.

    When you call The Bug Dude to set your treatment appointment, our staff will walk you through the prep work that will need to be done prior to the treatment. In brief, that prep is: vacuuming all carpeted areas and upholstered furniture (and throwing away the vacuum bag in an outdoor trash can), cleaning all pet bedding in hot water, mowing the yard, and clearing all areas where treatment will be performed (i.e. floors and the yard). You and your pets will also need to the leave the home and yard until the products have dried fully (around 3 hours). Finally, your pets need to be treated for fleas; if they are already being treated then you’re in good shape for this, otherwise we recommend taking them to be treated at the same time your home/yard is being treated.

    Can you Prevent Fleas?

    Unfortunately there is no way to fully prevent fleas from invading your home. The most important things you can do is keep your pets on a regular flea preventative program, keep all areas frequented by your pets nice and clean, and keep your eyes out for any of the signs of an infestation.

    Fleas are more than just a nuisance pest, and can greatly impact the quality of life for your pets and for you. With everything going on in the world right now, don’t let fleas make your home one more place of stress, just give The Bug Dude a call at 817-354-5350 and let our expert technicians help give you some peace of mind.

    Further Reading:

    “‘The call has been answered’: Animal shelters across the U.S. are emptying amid coronavirus pandemic” – Cameron Oakes – NBC News

    “How to Spot the Signs of Fleas” – WebMD Veterinary Reference – Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM

    “Controlling Fleas” – Mike Merchant & James Robinson – Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

    “Flea Control and Prevention” – Michael F. Potter, Extension Entomologist – University of Kentucky College of Agriculture

    “Fleas” – Purdue University Medical Entomology

    “Fleas” – DPDx-Laboratory Identification of Parasites of Public Health Concern – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

    Author Bio: Alissa Breach has been gaining knowledge and experience around pest control concerns over the last 11 years while working for Mid-Cities Pest Control. She has a creative writing BA from UW-Madison and is always pursuing new and interesting writing projects.

    Photo by CataventoProd
    Photo by CDC
    Photo by Brooke Lark

    The True ‘Murder Hornet’ Threat

    Monday, June 08, 2020 | Mid-Cities Pest Control

    A new insect, with a terrifying moniker, has been dominating news stories across the U.S. the last few months: the aptly named ‘Murder Hornet.’ This giant hornet, actually named the Asian Giant Hornet, has been spotted for the first time in the wild on our shores and it has sparked concern that a new invasive species may be making a foothold on our continent. Though the possibility of a new invasive species is always problematic, the ‘Murder Hornets’ are of greater than average concern because they prey upon honeybees, which are already under attack from another notorious invasive species: the Africanized Honeybee. As most people know, honeybees are of great importance not only for the honey they produce, but for the pollination they provide to countless plants, which is why having two separate species preying on them in our country is a devastating thought.

    Though Asian Giant Hornets have not yet been reported in Texas (in fact, as of now, they have only been documented in Washington state and in parts of Canada), the efforts currently underway on the west coast will likely determine if or when we could expect to see these monstrous pests make their way to us. With their future on our continent currently being contested, it’s helpful to know as much as you can about these pests, not only to help in the fight to keep them from gaining a foothold here, but also to understand what makes a hornet so incredibly news-worthy.

    What Exactly is an Invasive Species?

    The governmental definition of an invasive species is: “an alien species whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.” In short, what this refers to are non-native species (whether plant or animal) that have been so successful on our shores that they are dangerous to our ecosystem, agricultural businesses, or to human health. In Texas a few notorious examples are: feral hogs, red fire ants, and Africanized Honeybees.

    What Do Asian Giant Hornets Look Like?

    Asian Giant Hornet queens are some of the largest wasps in the world, growing to over 2 inches long with a wingspan of 3 inches. Though this would be a terrifying sight, the queens are only ever found outside of the nest in spring before the workers emerge, or when they are hibernating. The Asian Giant Hornet workers are still incredibly large, at 1.5 inches long; this is about three times the size of an average yellow jacket worker. Like yellow jackets, their coloring is a combination of yellow and black, with a yellow head, black thorax, and a striped yellow and black abdomen. They also possess a stinger that is long enough to pierce standard beekeeping protective gear.

    Why Are Asian Giant Hornets Called Murder Hornets?

     The term ‘Murder Hornet is not one you are likely to hear used by entomologists (and not just because they would be using their technical name: Vespa mandarinia), rather it is a term for Asian Giant Hornets that has largely been applied colloquially due to the dangers that these huge wasps can pose. Not only are these wasps adept group hunters, they can also dose their victim with a large amount of venom, making the moniker seem particularly apt, which probably accounts for the widespread adoption of the nickname.

    Are Asian Giant Hornets Dangerous?

    The short answer is yes; these wasps have a tri-fold danger, which is why their presence has seen so much media coverage despite their currently localized incursion onto U.S. soil.

    • Dangerous to Humans: Not only is the sting from an Asian Giant Hornet exceptionally painful, as noted by multiple people who were stung by the insect and have experience with the stings of other wasp species, but their venom can sometimes prove to be fatal. Though not exceptionally common, the venom from these massive pests can send a person into anaphylactic shock or organ failure; this is especially true when someone is stung multiple times during a wasp attack. On average, 50 people per year die from these hornets annually in Japan, and hundreds more are injured (some with physical effects that can last for months). Though these aren’t the most aggressive wasps, they are pack hunters and will definitely defend themselves if their nest is disturbed.
    • Dangerous to Honeybees: Honeybees are a major source of food for these wasps, which feed on protein, not on pollen (like honeybees). Though the spring and summer months generally only see Asian Giant Hornets attacking other insects (like honeybees and beetles) on a one-on-one basis for meals, come the fall this will all change. As fall approaches, the demand for food for the hornet colony increases as the next generation of queens must be fed in order for them to be ready to take flight the following spring. This leads to the hornets switching tactics to that of group-foraging raids. It’s during these attacks that the hornets work together to take out an entire colony of honeybees (or even other species of hornets or yellow jackets) by decapitating the adults and carrying back the still-maturing bees as food. What makes these raids so horrifically impressive is that they are exceptionally swift, with around 15 to 30 Asian Giant Hornets able to kill between 30,000 and 50,000 bees in just a few hours.
    • Dangerous Ecologically and Economically: As an invasive species, these wasps could pose a real threat to native species, which are part of a delicate ecological balance, which when shifted can have unexpected consequences. They also pose a significant danger to bees, which are a vital part of our agriculture, from pollination to the honey they produce. For example, billions of honeybees are used each year to help pollinate over 90 different agricultural crops, contributing an estimated $15 billion annually to the U.S. economy (and this is without taking into account the honey that they are most recognizable for).

    Where Are Asian Giant Hornets Found?

    These hornets are native to temperate and tropical eastern Asia, which includes China, India and Sri Lanka, though they are most commonly found in rural parts of Japan. Within the last year, a few nests and lone wasps have been found near Vancouver, Canada and also near Blaine, Washington; these discoveries, and the fact that the wasps (which were tested) did not come from the same colony, are what have given rise to the recent discussion about the potential for these wasps to become invasive in North America.

    In the places where the hornets are found, they generally make their nests in the ground, usually in abandoned burrows, though sometimes they can also be found in dead, hollow tree trunks or roots, but are generally no more than six feet above the ground.

    What is Being Done About Asian Giant Hornets in the U.S.?

    Right now the most important thing is for officials in Canada and Washington to try to find any active Asian Giant Hornet nests and eradicate them. If they can find and eliminate these hornets in the next few years, they will have prevented the threat posed by these winged giants. However, given the difficulty in locating the underground nests, this is no small undertaking. Efforts are being made to create and place wasp traps that are large enough to catch these giants, while also exploring other means of locating their nests (such as thermal imaging or trackers attached to the wasps themselves). 

    What Should You Do if You See an Asian Giant Hornet?

    First off, if you see one of these hornets, do not attempt to kill it as that may provoke the insect and could put you in a dangerous situation. If you think you see one, do try to get a picture and reach out to an expert for identification and to report the sighting. One great option is to send the picture to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension via this online form.

    Though Asian Giant Hornets have not made their way to Texas (and hopefully never will!), that doesn’t make our local wasps any less of an issue (or any less dangerous; remember that people can die from allergic reactions to wasp & hornet stings of many species) in residential or commercial settings. If you are having an issue with wasps swarming your property or getting inside your home or office, just give The Bug Dude a call at 817-354-5350 and let our expert technicians help keep you safe.

    Further Reading:

    “The Top Ten Invasive Species in Texas” – Yana Skorobogatov – StateImpact

    “Invasive Species Definition Clarification and Guidance” – National Invasive Species Information Center – U.S. Department of Agriculture

    “The “murder hornet” is as bad as it sounds” – Alexandra Ossola – Quartz

    “‘Murder Hornets’ in the U.S.: The Rush to Stop the Asian Giant Hornet” – Mike Baker – The New York Times

    “Asian Giant Hornets” – Michael J. Skvarla – PennState Extension

    “Get To Know The Asian Giant Hornet” – Olga Kuchment – Texas A&M AgriLife Communications

    “The Cost of Invasive Species” – U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

    “More ‘murder hornets’ are turning up. Here’s what you need to know” – Susan Milius – ScienceNews

    “Just How Dangerous Is the ‘Murder Hornet’?” – Paige Embry – Scientific American

    Author Bio: Alissa Breach has been gaining knowledge and experience around pest control concerns over the last 11 years while working for Mid-Cities Pest Control. She has a creative writing BA from UW-Madison and is always pursuing new and interesting writing projects.

    Photo Credits:
    Alexis Mora Angulo
    rostichep
    Paul Henri Degrande

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