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    Water, Your Yard, and Drought…A Troubling Trifecta

    Friday, September 15, 2023 | Mid-Cities Pest Control

    Water. We all know how important it is for sustaining life. A human can only live for around 3 days without water, and it’s been reported that about 10,000 people in the U.S. die each year after being admitted to the hospital for dehydration. But even if you have enough water to survive, without plenty of available water, your comfort and sanitation levels can decline rapidly. If you lived in Texas during the massive winter storm in February of 2021, you (like me) might have first-hand experience of the many difficulties of living without running water.

    But did you know that too much water can also be dangerous? For people, drinking around 6 liters of water in around 3 hours can potentially be lethal! And if it’s possible to over-hydrate yourself, it should come as no surprise that the over-hydration of other things people care for, specifically plants, is not only possible but quite common. This means that you are likely over-watering your yard, maybe even to the point that you are severely damaging it, and you might not even know it.

    By Tevarak Phanduang on Vecteezy

    But why are we talking about the importance of water?

    First, if you’ve seen the news lately, you probably know that Texas is in the midst of a severe to exceptional drought, and that means water is at a premium as it becomes ever scarcer. One of the best ways people can help amid this drought, according to Texas Living Waters, is to reduce nonessential water use. A prime example of how to achieve this is to reduce things like watering your lawn or washing your car during peak demand times. As The Bug Dude is a part of this wonderful Texas community, we want to help spread the word on taking care of the amazing resource of fresh water at a time when it’s most needed (yes, we are talking about the extreme heat we’ve all been enduring).

    Second, at The Bug Dude we want to do everything we can to help you keep your yard healthy and pest-free, and one of the simplest, but most effective ways to achieve this is through proper watering. If you’re a regular reader around here, you have probably noticed that moisture and sources of water are a regular enticement for insects and wildlife, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the problems that can be encountered with excessive watering.

    By Narong Pobout on Vecteezy

    How is Overwatering Your Yard Harmful?

    You might be surprised to learn that over-watering your yard can be harmful in several different ways, from damage to the individual plants to damage to the environment to financial concerns, and so much more.

    Damage to the Plants: The most straightforward way that over-watering is harmful is that it negatively impacts the health of your yard, from grass to landscaping. The first way it does this is by causing the roots of the plants (grass included) to become shallow. If the plants always have water available at the surface level, their roots won’t have to grow deeper in search of water. Not only does this leave the plants less structurally sound and resilient, but it also leaves them more prone to infection and insect damage.

    But shallow roots aren’t the only damage the plants will suffer. When you flood the soil with water, it takes up the empty spaces in the dirt where oxygen resides. Much like us, plants need to intake oxygen to survive, and when you over-water them it’s rather akin to drowning them. Even if they don’t drown, too much water can wash away vital nutrients for the plants, again leaving them weakened and susceptible to damage.

    Weeds, Fungi, Pests, and Aesthetics: An over-watered yard is prone to growing an excess of weeds, especially crabgrass, as this environment is one in which these plants thrive. These weeds can overtake the beautiful grass and landscaping you care so greatly about. Another over-watering issue can be the fostering of fungi, both the kind that form directly on the plants, discoloring and damaging them, as well as mushrooms that pop up in your yard (some of which could be dangerous for pets or kids). Not only are both of these issues aesthetically displeasing, but over-watering can also lead to discolored and dry grass and leaves, which are a sign that your plants aren’t healthy and are also a blemish on the yard you are trying to care for.

    Finally, not only are pests drawn to water and moist areas, they can use the thatch layer that often accompanies over-watering as a place to hide. When there are copious easy places for pests to hide, it makes it much more difficult even for skilled technicians to quickly and effectively eliminate the issue. And even worse, some of the most structure-damaging pests (carpenter ants and termites) like moist areas. So if you see an influx of pests on your property, whether it’s from over-watering or not, give The Bug Dude a call at 817-354-5350 as soon as you notice the issue.

    Environmental: When it comes to using excess water on a yard the first environmental impact is that of wasting water. Since Texas is in the midst of a drought and is only a little over a decade past a long-lasting, extreme drought, it’s pretty clear that essentially throwing away this limited resource is something that can negatively impact a lot of people.

    The other big issue for the environment when you over-water your yard is that any chemicals you may have put on your grass or plants will contaminate the run-off and enter the stormwater system, thereby polluting nearby streams or rivers. Even worse, you could end up pushing those chemicals into the groundwater that supplies your community’s drinking water.

    Financial: The first financial issue is simple, when you over-water you will spend money on water that you don’t use. Since water prices are likely to rise as scarcity increases, this could quickly add up. But the real financial burden comes when droughts arise, as you can see in this article by the Texas Comptroller. Though the initial burden will be borne by the ranchers and farmers, the costs could easily find their way to consumers as items become rarer and more difficult to produce.

    By Anna Chaplygina on Vecteezy

    How Do You Know If You’re Overwatering Your Yard?

    There are a few tell-tale signs of an over-watered yard. If you notice any of these, it’s worth taking the time to check the moisture of your soil before doing any more watering.

    1. You see puddles of water in your yard or you see runoff (rivulets of water) coming from your lawn.
    2. Your lawn is muddy or feels spongey or squishy when you step on it.
    3. Your grass doesn’t quickly bounce back when you walk across it.
    4. You see dry or discolored patches in your grass or on landscaping leaves.
    5. Your yard has a lot of weeds.
    6. Your yard is growing fungi (mushrooms or fungal discoloration on leaves or grass blades).
    7. You notice excessive thatch build-up in your yard.
    8. You notice an influx of bugs in your yard or your home.
    By Artinun Prekmoung on Vecteezy

    How Should You Water Your Yard?

    There are quite a few factors to consider when deciding how often to water your lawn and landscaping, and how much water to use when you do water it. Knowing the kind of grass and plants you have, their health and history, the type of soil you have, if you have mulch around your plants, and much more can go into determining exactly how you will water your specific yard. For some basics on this, check out this guide from the Texas Water Development Board.

    In general, though, the first rule of thumb is that it’s almost always better to under-water than to over-water plants (including grass). If the soil around your plants looks wet, you should skip the watering. However, even if the soil around the plants looks dry on top, that doesn’t mean it’s time to water. Since surface soil dries out the quickest, especially in Texas heat, it can look fully dry even though there’s still plenty of water for the plants a few inches down. A simple way to determine how much water is in the soil below the surface is to invest a few dollars in a soil moisture meter that can read at least 6” below the top of the soil. Once the soil is pretty dry, it’s time to water again. With the robust summers we face in Texas, this could be as often as a few times a week. Generally, however, the suggestion is to water your yard about once a week when it’s warm out and about once every 2 weeks (or possibly less) in the winter.

    When you do water your yard, you want to aim to soak the soil down to about 6” for grass, up to 10” for perennials, and up to 12” for trees and shrubs. Again, a soil moisture meter can help you determine just how much watering this will be. Remember, when you water your lawn, whether it’s with a sprinkler system or with a hose, you want the water coverage to be low to the ground, in large drops (as opposed to a mist), and to have time to be absorbed; this isn’t a process you can rush. The rule of thumb here is it’s better to water deeply and thoroughly than to water frequently.

    Also important to note is to be sure to regularly check the weather before you water your yard as you don’t want to water on days when it’s due to rain (or immediately after, if it was a relatively significant rain).

    One final note on watering during a drought: consider letting your grass go dormant. This would of course mean letting go of having a beautiful, lush, green yard, but if done correctly, your grass can survive the drought and spring back in just a few weeks once regular watering commences. For more on this, check out this article from Purdue University.

    By TsunamiHolmes on Vecteezy

    When Should You Water Your Yard?

    The ideal time to water your yard is in the early morning before 10 am, the earlier the better; this gives the plants time to utilize the water before the sun starts to evaporate it. Though evening watering may seem convenient, it leaves your yard more susceptible to fungal growth with the moisture lingering on the soil all night.

    Though lawn watering might not be the first thing you think of when you hear about The Bug Dude, we deal with a lot of pest, lawn, and ornamental issues that are caused or exacerbated by the over-watering of yards. And though we are always here to help if a pest issue arises (just call us at 800-310-BUGS 2847), over-watered yard or not, we encourage everyone to make a change and really evaluate their water usage, especially in this time of heat and drought. The DFW area is a wonderful community, and if everyone just takes a moment to survey their lawn we could end up helping with the drought while getting to enjoy healthier Texas yards, which just sounds like the perfect ending to an extra hot summer to us.

    Author Bio: Alissa Breach has been gaining knowledge and experience around pest control concerns over the last 13 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.

    The Sound of Summer…Cicadas!

    Monday, August 14, 2023 | Mid-Cities Pest Control

    When you think of a quintessential summer in Texas what comes to mind? The heat? The long, sunny days? Going for a swim? Or maybe, the distinctive sound of summer evenings, that particular whirring, whining, chirping sound that permeates the air? Yep, we’re talking about cicadas. But what do you really know about these pests that are so indicative of summers in Texas? To find out more about the insects that are such an intrinsic part of this season, keep reading.

    What Do Cicadas Look Like?

    There are two main types of cicada: periodical and annual. Annual cicadas tend to be larger than their periodical counterparts and are around 1.625 inches long and 0.5 inches wide. Periodical cicadas are between 1 and 1.5 inches long. The exact coloring of these pests depends on their species, but they all share the following traits: stout bodies, bulging eyes, semi-transparent wings which are longer than their abdomen, short antennae, and wings which are held tent-like over their bodies. In general, annual cicadas have a combination of brown or green, black, and white markings on their bodies. Periodical cicadas tend to have black bodies, reddish eyes, and noticeable orange veins in their wings.

    Cicada nymphs, the immature young of the species, look similar to adults except they are dark brown and wingless. If you’ve ever encountered the empty husk of a cicada stuck to your deck, house, or trees, it’s the leftovers of the final stage these nymphs go through in reaching their adult form.

    What’s The Difference Between Periodical and Annual Cicadas?

    In order to understand the difference between these two groups of cicadas it helps to know a bit more about their life cycle. For both types of cicadas, it all starts when female cicadas insert clusters of eggs into twigs and small branches of trees via the use of their saw-like ovipositor (egg-laying structure). After about 6 weeks, small nymph cicadas hatch from the eggs and drop from their branch to the ground. Once on the ground, they burrow into the soil and will molt through several stages underground (sometimes several feet deep). When they have reached their final nymph stage, and the weather has sufficiently warmed up, they will dig themselves out of the ground during the night, leaving a 0.5 inch hole in the ground behind them. They will then climb up nearby objects, most often tree trunks or other plants. When they have fully matured, the adult cicada will emerge from the final nymphal stage via a crack along the back of the nymphal skin and will leave the light brown empty cast skin behind (often still sticking to the tree or object it was attached to). The adults will live for about 5 to 6 weeks, during which time their energy will be primarily focused on mating.

    Now here is where the big difference comes in between the two groups of this pest. Periodical cicadas (of which there are only 7 species, 1 of which occurs in Texas) only emerge as adults once every 13 or 17 years, and they do so en masse, with billions (or even trillions) of these insects suddenly being seen in their native regions. This generally happens from late April through June. Annual cicadas, however, have life cycles of 2 to 5 years, and with roughly 159 species in the U.S. and Canada (roughly 39 in Texas), that means that you are likely to see cicadas emerging every year between July and September.

    Where Do Cicadas Live?

    The annual varieties of these large pests can be found throughout the world, but the periodical varieties are unique to the U.S.A. and are most commonly found in the central and eastern regions, though Texas is also home to a species of 13-year periodical cicada. These insects live exclusively outside, though they are known to accidentally find their way inside homes; but once they are indoors, they won’t reproduce or set up a colony. Outdoors, they are generally found on or near trees and other plants.

    What Do Cicadas Eat?

    Nymphal cicadas feed on sap from tree and plant roots. Adults suck juices from tender twigs and branches of woody shrubs and trees.

    Why Are Cicadas So Loud?

    The “song” of a male cicada is used primarily to attract a mate (though it can also sometimes be used as a defense mechanism). Only the males can make the distinctive whirring noise we so strongly associate with these insects. The males will rest on trees and create this sound by vibrating special structures on the side of their abdomen; this sound is then amplified by the large air sac that fills most of their abdomen. In fact, this amplification is so strong that their “song” can get up to 90 decibels, which is about the same as a lawnmower. When combined with the “songs” of the other males trying to attract mates, the noise can be quite irritating and uncomfortably loud. Interestingly, different cicada species have different “songs;” you can hear a selection of the variety here.

    Are Cicadas Dangerous?

    Generally speaking, cicadas aren’t very dangerous. For humans, these insects are irritating and can be rather scary to encounter, but they can’t bite or sting and don’t carry disease. For pets, if they consume these insects, it could cause digestive issues or discomfort (the tough cicada wings could even lodge in your pet’s throat). For property, they can potentially damage the filters for pools and hot tubs; essentially, the insects land in the water, get trapped, die, and then clog the filters, possibly burning them out. They present the most danger to trees, especially young trees, and can cause damage to these trees both when they lay their eggs in the branches and when the nymphs feed on the roots (this is more of an issue for the large populations of periodical cicadas than it is for annual cicadas).

    How Do You Prevent Cicadas?

    There are a few main things you can do to help prevent cicadas from causing problems for you:

    • Keep your trees and shrubs trimmed and pruned.
      • By doing this, you will reduce the places for this pest to hide and make it easier for you to detect their presence and eliminate them.
    • Clean up any dead cicadas you find around your property.
      • Not only will this help you avoid the smell that can happen as they decay, but it will also help prevent further pest issues that can arise as a variety of insects descend on the carcasses for a feast.
    • Before the cicadas emerge from the ground, use foil barrier tape and netting on susceptible trees and plants.
      • These items can help block these pests from climbing up your at-risk trees or landing on at-risk plants.
    • Keep pools and hot tubs covered when not in use.
      • This will reduce the potential for filter damage from these pests.
    • Keep window and door screens in good condition.
      • This lowers the likelihood of cicadas finding their way into your home.
    • Cover any patio furniture located under trees.
      • Adult cicadas spend a lot of their time in trees, and they do their feeding up there too. So when it’s time for them to emit waste, it’s not a big surprise they do it in the tree as well, which means that anything under the tree could end up with cicada urine on it.
    • Do yard work early in the morning or late evening.
      • Cicadas are generally most active during the warmer parts of the day, and the vibrations and noise from yard equipment can attract cicadas to you. By using yard equipment when it’s cooler out, and these insects aren’t as active, you have a greatly reduced risk of being surrounded by these large, loud pests.

    How Do You Eliminate Cicadas?

    If you’re only seeing a few cicadas around your yard and their “song” isn’t ruining your summer evenings, then you probably don’t have to do anything but wait for cicada season to be over. However, if you find yourself inundated with these pests flying around your yard, entering your home, leaving cast skins everywhere, and making it impossible to find any semblance of quiet, then give The Bug Dude a call at 800-310-BUGS (2847) and let our expert technicians put together a treatment plan that will help you retake your yard.

    Whether this summer finds you battling cicadas or any other pest that keeps you from enjoying a peaceful evening at home, at the first sign of a problem call The Bug Dude at 817-354-5350 so we can help lower the decibel on your pest issues.

    Further Reading:

    “Dog-Day Cicada” – Field Guide to Common Texas Insects, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

    “Summer is here….and so are cicadas!” – Wizzie Brown, Extension Program Specialist- IPM with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

    “Trillions of cicadas about to emerge from underground in 15 US states” – Betsy Reed, Editor, Guardian US

    “Cicadas in Texas” – Taiwo Victor, A-Z Animals

    Author Bio: Alissa Breach has been gaining knowledge and experience around pest control concerns over the last 13 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.

    Celebrating July with Fireflies and Fireworks

    Thursday, July 20, 2023 | Mid-Cities Pest Control

    When the calendar turns to July each year what’s the first thing you think of? If you’re like us here at The Bug Dude, you will undoubtedly think of the eminent holiday: the 4th of July, U.S. Independence Day. The thought will likely bring with it the anticipation of BBQs, swimming, local festivals, parades, and of course, fireworks. But did you know that there’s another celebration happening in early July that’s all about beautiful things glowing in the night sky? And though there’s no actual fire (as there is with fireworks), the word is in the title of this dedicatory day. If you haven’t guessed yet, the first weekend in July boasts World Firefly Day. This is a day to celebrate the gorgeous insects that remind us of our childhoods and the magic that can happen all around us. But what do you really know about these little glowing creatures and how can you help make them part of your July celebrations?

    Why Are They Called Fireflies?

    Fireflies, often called lightning bugs, got their name because of their unique ability to send glowing flashes of light from their body. However, both of their names are a bit misleading, as they are neither a fly nor a true bug. They are, in fact, a type of beetle. Indeed, even the “fire” part of their name is quite misleading as the chemical reaction that causes their glow is so extremely efficient that virtually 100% of the energy created is emitted as light. This means that no heat is emitted alongside their glow (unlike fire, or even the common light bulb), and in fact, their glow is referred to as “cold light.” The “lightning” part of their moniker is nicely descriptive, though, as they send distinct intermittent flashes from their abdomen, somewhat like a lightning flash in the sky. So if you want the most accurate name for these creatures, a lightning beetle would be the best way to go, but it’s definitely hard to resist the bucolic charm of the term firefly.

    Now if you thought that the above issues gave the firefly a significant misnomer, consider that there are quite a few firefly species that don’t even glow as adults. In fact, in order to be considered a firefly, the glowing only has to happen at the larval stage, though it can of course happen at other stages (like adult or egg) as well. So it’s entirely possible that you could have encountered an adult firefly that looks just like an average beetle and you would never even know its true identity.

    Night coniferous forest with magical fireflies

    What Do Fireflies Look Like?

    With over 2000 species of firefly in the world, and at least 5 common species in Texas, it’s safe to say that these insects can have a rather varied appearance. In general, the species you are most likely to encounter and recognize as fireflies will be between 5mm and 15mm long. They have a dark-colored oblong body with a red marking near their head, dark wing covers, and the last several segments on the underside of their abdomen will be a greenish-yellow (this is the section that can produce light). Their larvae are very different in appearance from the adult form and are flattened with several shield-like segments. You may have heard the term “glow worm” before; this term generally refers either to a glowing wingless adult female firefly or to the (also wingless) firefly larvae. Interestingly enough, one of the easiest ways to distinguish between firefly species is to watch their light show; different species will glow at different intervals, for different durations, and even in different shapes.

    Where Do Fireflies Live?

    Fireflies can be found on every continent except Antarctica. They prefer temperate and tropical regions, however, so will be most abundant in those areas. Different species of fireflies are drawn to different habitats within these ideal regions. In Texas, you can find species that prefer muddy creeks, open areas near woods, suburban lawns, or even along roadsides.

    Firefly female larva species nyctophila reichii common lightning bugs or glow-worm in high definition with extreme focus and DOF (depth of field) isolated on white background

    What Do Fireflies Eat?

    Firefly larvae are carnivorous and generally consume small insects, worms, slugs, and snails. The majority of a firefly’s life is spent in this life stage. After 1 to 2 years as a larva, it will pupate and in just a few weeks will be an adult. An adult firefly lives only about 3 or 4 weeks and can have widely varied diets depending on the species. Some species mimic the light flashes of other firefly species in order to lure these insects in as prey, some feed on pollen and nectar, and some may eat nothing at all as adults.

    Firefly Flashing at Night – Lightning Bug

    What Makes Fireflies Glow?

    The distinct form of bioluminescence that fireflies exhibit is caused by the interaction of 2 substances in their body: luciferin and luciferase. Interestingly enough, luciferase (which was originally only obtainable from fireflies themselves) is a useful chemical for scientific research and it can help detect diseased cells in humans as well as help test for food spoilage.  While many fireflies manufacture their own luciferin, some get it as larvae by consuming milkweed roots, and there is at least one species of firefly that cannot make this chemical itself. In order for this last type of firefly to obtain the chemical, the females of this species will mimic the flash patterns of a different, luciferin-producing, species, luring in males of that species who are looking for a mate. The female will then attack the male of the other species and consume it alive until she has enough luciferin to pass on to her young.

    The glowing flashes that fireflies emit are used as a form of communication. While this communication is generally done to attract a mate, it can also be used to help them defend their territory or even to warn away predators. While a firefly might seem like a harmless insect, the luciferin that makes them glow is in fact toxic and will make them a bitter and potentially dangerous snack for any predator.

    A man’s hand is about to switch off the bulb light. Brick wall as background.

    How Do You Encourage Fireflies In Your Yard?

    Fireflies are an idyllic symbol of summer, but you may have noticed that they are getting less and less common lately. Though the exact causes of population decline in these delightful insects aren’t known for certain, there are 2 undeniable contributing factors: loss of habitat due to human development, and light pollution. While those may seem insurmountable obstacles, there are some steps you can take to make your yard more hospitable to local firefly populations. And if you can convince your neighbors to take part, you will have an even better chance of seeing these beauties flying around your yard at night.

    • Have an established garden with moist soil; this will give the females a safe place to lay their eggs
    • Larvae will live in soil and leaf litter, so don’t just rake up leaves and throw them away, as you will potentially be throwing away future fireflies. If possible, create a compost area in a shady part of your yard for these leaves to reside in, and keep the area well-watered
    • Keep your soil healthy and nutrient-rich to attract fireflies and their prey
    • Keep a portion of your yard in a more natural state (logs, leaf litter, native grasses, etc.)
    • Don’t over-mow your yard
    • Reduce or eliminate light pollution in your yard, especially during the times when fireflies are most active (from May to October when the temperature is between 70° and 90°, starting just after sunset and lasting till around 10 pm). This means turning off any outdoor lights and covering your windows if you have interior lights on.
    • If possible, create a small pond in your yard. Fireflies thrive in wet environments. Remember, though, that in order to be effective, it needs to be a non-treated environment (so a chlorinated swimming pool is not a viable option).

    This July consider adding firefly watching to the list of nighttime magical light displays you can enjoy during the summer holiday. And remember, though fireflies are an insect most of us would heartily welcome into our yard, if there are other pests threatening your peaceful summer nights (or days), give The Bug Dude a call at 800-310-BUGS (2847) and let our expert technicians help get you quickly back to enjoying the long summer nights and enchanting glowing spectacles.

    Further Reading:

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

    “Fireflies in Texas: Types and When You Can Expect See Them” – Kristin Hitchcock, A-Z Animals

    “A Firefly Expert Illuminates the Insect’s Upcoming Season” – Asher Elbein, Texas Highways

    “14 Fun Facts About Fireflies” – Sarah Zielinski, Smithsonian Magazine

    Firefly Research & Conservation

    “10 Facts About Fireflies You May Not Have Known” – Holly Taylor, Tennessee State Parks

    Author Bio: Alissa Breach has been gaining knowledge and experience around pest control concerns over the last 13 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.

    The Hammerhead That Could Be Lurking in Your Backyard

    Wednesday, June 14, 2023 | Mid-Cities Pest Control

    If I were to say to you, “hammerhead,” what would be the first thing you think of? Most likely you thought of the distinctive hammerhead shark. But what if I were to tell you it’s not the only “hammerhead” animal around? And even stranger, this other “hammerhead” could be in your yard right now. So what is it, and is it as intimidating as the nearly 20 feet long great hammerhead shark? Well, the good news is that it is significantly smaller and toothless, but the bad news is that it’s toxic and a potentially dangerous predator; it’s the hammerhead flatworm.

    What do Hammerhead Flatworms Look Like?

    Much as their name suggests, these creatures have a head shaped like the notorious hammerhead shark, except it’s a bit more rounded than the sea-dwelling hammerhead. Hammerhead flatworms (Bipalium kewense) are terrestrial flatworms that can grow up to 15 inches long, though they are generally more like 8 to 12 inches in length. They have a snake-like, narrow body, which is generally a honey color with between 1 and 5 dark stripes running along their back and a dark partial collar.

    Where do Hammerhead Flatworms Live?

    Hammerhead flatworms are natively from Southeast Asia but have been an invasive species in the U.S. since at least 1901. These pests are notorious hitchhikers and are believed to have originally found their way to our shores with horticultural plants and have since thrived in greenhouses and in other hot, humid locations. Currently, they can be found outdoors in 9 states, and yes, one of those is definitely Texas. And they are still a well-known hitchhiker, so be sure to check for them in supplies of landscaping, mulch, and nursery plants.

    These pests will be found almost exclusively outdoors. Most days they can be found in areas of high shade and moisture. Some common examples are under rocks, under fallen leaves, under logs, under shrubs, and even under leaking or dripping garden spigots. On some occasions, like after a heavy Texas rainstorm, they can be found in the same sorts of places you might see earthworms after a deluge: on sidewalks, driveways, and on top of the soil in your yard. Since they are sensitive to light, they are active primarily during the night.

    What Exactly is an Invasive Species?

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines an invasive species as: “an alien species whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.” In short, they are non-native species (whether plant or animal) that have been so successful here that they are dangerous to our ecosystem, agricultural businesses, or to human health. For more on some common Texas invasive species, see our articles on crazy ants, murder hornets, stink bugs, and ghost ants.

    What do Hammerhead Flatworms Eat?

    If the appearance of these pests hasn’t creeped you out, just wait till you find out how the carnivorous hammerhead flatworms eat. When they find their prey, they wrap around it, surrounding it in a sticky mucus, and then use special enzymes that digest the prey before they ever consume it. Once the enzymes have done their work, and their prey is essentially just goo, the hammerhead flatworm sucks in its meal using its mouth which is located in the middle of its body on its belly. To add to the horrific image, remember that this is all happening during the dark nighttime.

    So which creatures are unfortunate enough to end up as hammerhead flatworm food? They are most notorious for their predation of earthworms, but they are also known to regularly prey upon other small invertebrate organisms like slugs, and snails; on occasion, they will also consume insects like pill bugs and springtails.

    Are Hammerhead Flatworms Dangerous?

    The short answer here is “yes,” hammerhead flatworms are harmful in several different ways. Of biggest concern is their ecological impact due to their predation of earthworms. As you probably already know, earthworms are vital for the health of our soil, and the health of our soil depicts the well-being of our crops, forests, gardens, yards, and even our compost piles. So if the hammerhead flatworm thrives in an area, it can end up posing a real threat to all plants in the vicinity.

    In addition, they secrete chemicals through their skin as both a defense mechanism and to aid in digestion, these chemicals can cause skin irritation on people if they hold the hammerhead flatworm and on pets if they consume it. In fact, these pests produce tetrodotoxin; if this sounds familiar, it is the infamous substance that makes puffer fish deadly. Fortunately, they produce it in such small amounts that a single hammerhead flatworm doesn’t pose a real threat to people or pets from this toxin. Though if your pet does consume one, it’s likely to be sick for a day. Finally, as a flatworm, these pests can have parasitic nematodes within them, which could potentially cause health issues for you or your pets if you come in contact with them.

    How do you Prevent Hammerhead Flatworms?

    Unfortunately, there is no real way to prevent these pests from invading your yard and garden. In terms of preventing these pests from thriving in Texas, the best thing to do is to contact the Texas Invasive Species Institute at invasives@shsu.edu with a picture and your coordinates to aid in their study of the issue.

    How do you Eliminate Hammerhead Flatworms?

    At the moment, the elimination of hammerhead flatworms has to be done on an individual scale, meaning that each flatworm has to be found and killed separately. There is currently research into pest control methods that would allow for the elimination of these flatworms without risk to earthworm populations, so if you see a hammerhead flatworm in your yard, give The Bug Dude a call at 817-354-5350 to see what we can do to help you.

    If you do encounter a hammerhead flatworm the most important thing is that you do not try to chop it up with a garden shovel or any other instrument. These pests reproduce by fragmentation, which means that a portion of the worm naturally pinches off and within about 10 days that portion will become an entirely new worm. So if you chop the worm in half, you aren’t killing it, you’re just making 2 hammerhead flatworms to have to contend with.

    So what do you do if you find one of these pests in your yard? First, using gloves, a stick, or a paper towel, pick up the worm and place it in a Ziploc bag. If you are not willing or able to do this, do your best to enclose the worm in some sort of container so that it cannot simply wriggle away, and call The Bug Dude at 800-310-BUGS (2847). If you have enclosed the worm in a Ziploc bag, contact The Bug Dude and the Texas Invasive Species Institute, and once that is done, you can kill the worm by pouring either salt or vinegar in the bag with the worm, sealing it up, and throwing it away. Be sure to thoroughly wash your hands after your encounter with this worm.

    If you’re like most people, you probably hadn’t heard of the hammerhead flatworm before today, much less knew what it looked like. But if you’re living in the DFW metroplex, then you know that you can always call The Bug Dude at 817-354-5350 about any strange pest you find lurking around your home or yard and our expert staff will do everything we can to help identify and eliminate your pest woes. So whether it’s a hammerhead flatworm or a fire ant, at the first sign of a pest problem, give The Bug Dude a call.

    Further Reading:

    “Hammerhead Flatworm/Hammerhead Slug” – Texas Invasive Species Institute

    Invasive Hammerhead Flatworms: Invasive hammerhead flatworms found in Lamar County” – Jennifer Whitlock, Field Editor, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

    “Hammerhead Worms Are Toxic and Invasive, But Are They Dangerous?” – Jesslyn Shields, HowStuffWorks

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

    “Invasive, toxic worms are back in Texas due to recent rains, summerlike warmth” – Andrew Wulfeck, FOX Weather

    “Invasive hammerhead flatworms spotted in Texas” – Kelsey Thompson, KXAN

    “Meet Your New Nightmare, the Hammerhead Worm” – Rose Cahalan, TexasMonthly

    Author Bio: Alissa Breach has been gaining knowledge and experience around pest control concerns over the last 13 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.

    Don’t Let Odorous House Ants Stink Up Your Mother’s Day

    Tuesday, May 09, 2023 | Mid-Cities Pest Control

    Mother’s Day is fast approaching and while there are so many wonderful ways to celebrate the amazing mothers in our lives, there’s a good chance that your celebrations will involve either delicious food or enjoying the great outdoors, or both. Whether you’re planning a picnic, a BBQ, or a nice meal out followed by margaritas by the pool, the last thing you want is for an uninvited guest to crash your mom’s special day. And it’s even worse if that guest has 6 legs and brings thousands of its friends. Yes, we are talking about ants. But not just any ant, we’re talking about an ant that is comfortable around humans, excited to feast on all the sweet treats you can provide, and just an all-around stinker: odorous house ants.

    What do Odorous House Ants Look Like?

    Odorous house ants are a small ant, only 1/8” long. The worker ants, which comprise the majority of the ant colony, are monomorphic, meaning they are all the same size. They range very little in color, from brown to black, and have a smooth, hairless body. Though there are other characteristics that can help a professional differentiate this type of ant from other small ants, without the benefit of entomological knowledge or a microscope, these characteristics are extremely difficult to detect.

    Why are they Called Odorous House Ants?

    Perhaps the most notable part of this ant’s name is the very beginning: odorous. They obtained this moniker because when they are crushed they give off a specific rotten coconut-like scent. However, the accuracy of their name doesn’t stop there. The fact that they are called house ants is not accidental. Though they can be found in many different places, they are most often found foraging for food in and around homes.

    Where do Odorous House Ants Live?

    Before we look at exactly where odorous house ants live, it’s necessary to discuss some characteristics of how this ant operates. In fact, these particular ants share certain significant attributes with several other ant species, and these commonalities have led to the creation of a specific term for this group of ants, they are all “tramp ants.” Importantly, “tramp ants” all share certain habits that make them highly successful and very difficult to control. Some of these traits include: having multiple egg-producing queens per colony, having multiple subcolonies located on separate sites, the ability to distinguish between related and non-related ants and act without hostility toward related ant colonies, the ability to create supercolonies (friendly subcolonies of ants connected by ant trails where they can exchange food, workers, and larvae/pupae), the ability to reproduce by budding (a process where a group of workers and a fertile queen or queens leave to create a new colony) – though it’s also worth mentioning that odorous house ants can also reproduce via mating flights, the ability to live closely with humans, and the ability to thrive in a diverse range of nesting locations. In addition, their colonies can range from quite small (15 or so workers) to giant (hundreds of thousands of workers), with most being in the tens of thousands. Even worse, they are very adept at quickly relocating a colony when it’s disturbed or threatened. All of this means that though you might see these ants in one place at one time, they can quickly move or spread. So if you see any sign of these ants, even if it’s only in one location, it’s worth having The Bug Dude out to help you make sure you don’t have a more extensive infestation than you think you do.

    That all said, where exactly will you find these ants?

    Outside: they make shallow nests in the soil under a wide array of items. Some of the most common areas are under rocks, mulch, wood piles, decorations, paving stones, and patios. If the ants are disturbed in these areas they will quickly move and may move into places like tree cavities, bird nests, gardens, or even around the base of trees.

    Inside: they are looking for undisturbed warm areas that are high in moisture. Some common rooms to find them in are bathrooms and kitchens. Generally, they will be found under bath tubs, under toilets, under sinks, in wall voids, in attics, under carpets, and around window and door frames.

    What do Odorous House Ants Eat?

    The diet of an odorous house ant consists primarily of sweets and protein. Outdoors, they will feed mostly on honeydew (a sugary fluid excreted by aphids, scales, and a few other insects) and dead insects. Indoors, they may search out other food sources such as sugar, fruit juices, syrup, pastries, meats, and even insects. When these ants go out looking for food, they do so using foraging trails, which are often hidden from our view and can, in fact, even be underground. Generally, these foraging trails are around the edges of a structure and can span over 150 feet.

    Image: Apex Beats

    Are Odorous House Ants Dangerous?

    Fortunately, unlike fire ants or carpenter ants, odorous house ants aren’t a particularly dangerous or destructive type of ant. These pests are primarily a concern for 3 reasons. First, they can get into human and pet food and thus contaminate these products, leading to food and monetary waste. Second, if not correctly managed, they can create supercolonies and lead to a long-term formidable pest issue. Third, when disturbed, these ants can bite.

    How do you Prevent Odorous House Ants?

    Perhaps the most important part of prevention in the case of odorous house ants actually relates to how you handle the ants if you do come across them in or around your home. With these ants it’s particularly important that you call The Bug Dude at 800-310-BUGS (2847) and have an expert technician out to identify the ants and put together a treatment plan, rather than attempting to treat for the ants yourself. Because of the unique attributes of this kind of ant (as we discussed earlier), if you disturb their colonies or foraging trails without using the correct kind of treatment plan, you can simply cause the ants to move a little, meaning you will still have an ant infestation, but now you have to find it all over again, and in the meantime they will be growing in number. So in this case, you are preventing an ongoing or intensifying infestation by having The Bug Dude treat the existing issue.

    But what if you haven’t encountered any ants yet? Here are a few tips to help keep odorous house ants away from your home:

    • Maintain a regular pest control service with The Bug Dude to not only combat any ant issues that arise, but to keep out other insects, which could become food for the odorous house ants
    • Fix any leaks in and around your home
    • Reduce areas of excess moisture inside your home
    • Keep your yard free from debris and minimize yard decor that directly touches the soil
    • Trim shrubs and trees away from your home
    • Seal exterior cracks and holes, especially around the foundation, windows, and doors
    • If you notice aphids or scales on your yard plants, get them treated
    • Keep landscape mulch away from the foundation of your home
    • Keep food (including pet food) well covered and appropriately stored
    • Don’t leave pet food out past when pets are eating
    • Immediately clean up food spills and debris

    How do you Eliminate Odorous House Ants?

    At the first sign of an odorous house ant infestation, call The Bug Dude at 817-354-5350 to have an expert technician evaluate the problem. Our technicians will assess the issue and put together a strategy to get you back to having an ant-free home in no time. And remember, while it might be tempting to try to take care of the ants yourself, when it comes to DIY ant pest control, if you use the wrong product, or even the right product but in the wrong places, you can quickly take a small problem and make it a giant headache.

    This Mother’s Day, don’t let ants turn the day from resplendent to repulsive. At the first sign of these pests, call The Bug Dude and let us help you make sure that your mom is surrounded only by the beautiful scents of flowers, candles, or perfume, and not by the stench of odorous house ants.

    Further Reading:

    “Odorous House Ants (Tapinoma sessile)” – Ryan Davis, Arthropod Diagnostician, and Austin Taylor, Entomology Assistant – Utah State University Extension and Utah Plant Pest Diagnostic Laboratory

    “Odorous House Ant” – Bradleigh S. Vinson – Texas A&M Extension Entomology

    “Meet the Odorous House Ant” – PCT

    “Odorous House Ants” – PJ Liesch, Diagnostic Lab and Devon Pierret, UW-Madison Entomology – Wisconsin Horticulture, Division of Extension, University of Wisconsin-Madison

    Author Bio: Alissa Breach has been gaining knowledge and experience around pest control concerns over the last 13 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.

    Top 10 Signs of a Termite Infestation

    Tuesday, April 11, 2023 | Mid-Cities Pest Control

    It’s spring again in North Texas, and that means it’s termite season. As the temperatures settle into the 70s, and the humidity rises, the time is right for termites to appear. And not just appear, these destructive pests can emerge in the thousands, taking unsuspecting homeowners by surprise. Finding a termite infestation in your home is always unpleasant, but discovering it only after it’s been there for years is downright gut-wrenching, not to mention potentially devastating on your finances. Did you know termites cause roughly 5 billion dollars in damage annually?! As with so many things, early detection can mean the difference between a relatively simple fix and a massive undertaking. So how do you discover a termite infestation before it’s too late? Keep reading to find out!

    #10 Nearby Homes Being Treated for Termites:

    This one hits number 10 on the list for a reason; it’s hardly a guarantee that your house has a termite issue. However, since these pests don’t generally travel very far, if your neighbor’s house has active termites looking to expand their territory, it’s definitely possible they will find your home to be the best new buffet in town. So if you know that your neighbor is contending with a current infestation, it’s worth putting in some time and effort to look for any of the other 9 signs on this list, and then call The Bug Dude if you come across any of them.

    #9 Outdoor Issues:

    Termites don’t just live inside homes; they love to infest unhealthy or dead trees, wood piles, gazebos, and just about any untreated wood you could have in your yard. Not only can they exacerbate an issue in an already unhealthy tree, potentially killing it, the damaged/dead tree can pose a safety hazard to your family and house if it subsequently falls. In addition, having termites in your yard means they could already be on the way to your home as they look to expand their colony.

    #8 Bulging Walls:

    If your interior walls appear to be bulging, this is generally a sign of either a significant termite infestation or of moisture build-up. If you notice uneven or bubbling paint on your walls, the issue is more likely moisture, but that doesn’t mean you’re out of the wood; this excess moisture is not only structurally an issue in its own right, it makes your home more susceptible to wood-destroying pests like termites and carpenter ants.

    #7 Sounds in your Walls:

    Though a termite infestation might generally be viewed as a silent threat to your home and your wallet, they actually can sometimes be heard making distinct noises. So what does a termite sound like? No, you won’t hear them chewing away, but you could hear a quiet clicking or rustling noise inside the wood of your home. These noises are actually the sounds of soldier termites banging their heads on tunnel walls as a warning to other termites that there is a threat nearby.

    In addition, if you notice that a previously solid piece of wood suddenly sounds hollow if you tap on it, that is a definite sign that a wood-destroying insect could be causing some serious damage.

    #6 Termite Workers:

    Worker termites are the ones directly responsible for the damage caused to your home. They are approximately 1/8” long, are a translucent cream color, and can be (mistakenly) called “white ants” due to a general similarity in appearance to the common ant. You are unlikely to just happen upon a worker termite wandering around your home. However, if you are doing any sort of home renovation and see “white ants” inside your walls, call The Bug Dude immediately at 800-310-BUGS (2847) to have a technician evaluate the level of infestation and put together the best treatment plan for your needs.

    In addition, if you’re doing any work in your yard or garage and uncover “white ants,” know that these are termites and you need to call The Bug Dude to evaluate the issue.           

    #5 Wood Damage:

    Often wood damage caused by termites will be discovered during home renovations. You pull off a baseboard, tear down some drywall, and suddenly you discover that the wood beams of your home have a sort of honeycomb damage pattern. If, however, you notice this type of damage on exposed wood, it likely means that the infestation is particularly bad, as termites tend to destroy wood from the inside out. Though the honeycomb-like damage is a sure sign of termite activity, if you notice any unexplained wood damage to your home, it’s worth calling on The Bug Dude to check for wood-destroying pests before they cause expensive damage to your house.

    Also, keep an eye out for tiny holes in hardwood, called kick-out holes. These holes are made by drywood termites as a sort of excrement chute where they kick the frass (see #4 below) out from inside their tunnels.

    #4 Frass:

    Frass is a term for drywood termite poop, though it can also be used as a term for the piles of wood shavings and excrement expelled by carpenter ants while they excavate a wood source for their nests. Either way, frass is essentially a pile of what looks like sawdust or pepper, and these piles are generally found around baseboards and windowsills. Though this is an extremely noticeable sign of an infestation, in North Texas it will more often be a sign of a carpenter ant problem rather than a termite problem, as we tend to have more subterranean termites than drywood termites. Nonetheless, if you see piles of frass in your house, contact The Bug Dude immediately at 817-354-5350 to take care of the wood-destroying pest that’s invading your home.

    #3 Mud Tubes:

    Mud tubes are created by subterranean termites as a sort of protected highway to travel between their living spaces in the soil and their food sources (wood) in your home. These tunnels are primarily constructed of mud and are quite firm. They can range in color and size and will blend easily with the soil, concrete and brick that they are usually built on. Generally, these tubes will be built along a home’s foundation, basement walls, piers, expansion joints, near plumbing fixtures, by windowsills, and under porches. Though these tubes are difficult to spot, if you notice one, they are a sure sign that termites are either currently making your house part of their diet, or they are seriously considering doing so in the immediate future.

    #2 Discarded Wings:

    Most commonly found on windowsills in the spring, if you see a pile of 1” or smaller, oblong, clear or white wings, that is a very good sign you have a termite infestation. These are the wings of termite swarmers (see #1 in this list), and the fact that you see the wings but the not the termites means that they have likely finished their flight needs and are working on taking residence in your home.

    #1 Swarmers:

    Termite swarmers are the most easily noticed sign of an infestation. Unfortunately, they are also a sign of a well-established termite colony. Swarmers are winged termites whose mission is to reproduce and create a new colony. Each spring, when the temperature and humidity are right, they will leave their current colony in large numbers and take flight to find a new home. They are approximately 3/8” long, and have a black body with long clear or white wings. Generally, you will notice them inside your house along your windowsills (as they are attracted to light), or outside. Sometimes, however, you can find yourself in the midst of the swarm itself, in which case you will definitely notice the thousands of winged pests flying around the room. If you notice termite swarmers in or around your house, immediately call The Bug Dude at 817-354-5350 to have an expert technician evaluate the infestation and create a treatment plan. Finding swarmers in your home means you have a termite infestation and damage already in your home; the sooner you get it treated, the less you will have to spend on costly repairs.

    Now that you know the top 10 warning signs of a termite infestation, what do you do if you think you’ve encountered one (or more) of these signs? Simple. Call The Bug Dude at 800-310-BUGS (2847) and have one of our expert technicians out to evaluate the situation. Whether the issue turns out to be termites, carpenter ants, or one of the many other pests that can cause you household nightmares, we can help eliminate the infestation before it causes a even bigger dent in your wallet.

    Further Reading:

    “Termite 101” – Alissa Breach – The Bug Dude Blog

    “The Truth about Five Common Termite Myths” – Alissa Breach – The Bug Dude Blog

    “Termites vs. Carpenter Ants” – Alissa Breach – The Bug Dude Blog

    Author Bio: Alissa Breach has been gaining knowledge and experience around pest control concerns over the last 13 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.

    A Centipede? A Worm with Legs? Meet the Millipede

    Thursday, March 16, 2023 | Mid-Cities Pest Control

    Spring is back in North Texas, and you know what that means? So are the bugs. Yes, with our weather we have pests year-round, but spring is when they start to really come out in force. Perhaps one of the most notorious spring pests is the carpenter ant, an ant known for its destructive ability, and responsible for many expensive household repairs. And if you want to know more about this menace, check out the links for carpenter ants included in this article. For while carpenter ants are a definite threat to your house, there is another pest known for amassing in homes in springtime, causing plenty of emotional distress: the millipede.

    While millipedes won’t win any awards for most dangerous or damaging pest, if you ask around, you’ll find they tend to rank highly on people’s list for the most creepy. But what do you really know about these pests, other than that you’d rather not see them crawling around inside your home? Read on to find out more about the pest that may just be poised to give you a spring scare.

    What do Millipedes Look Like?

    When you first set out to describe a millipede, you may find yourself referencing a similar, and often confused, pest, the centipede. Though both of these pests are arthropods, rather than true insects, they are distinctly different bugs. To start with, as their name suggests, the millipede has a particularly large number of legs. While their name implies that these pests could have 1,000 legs, the reality is more commonly in the range of 60 to 180 legs per pest (that’s still a lot of legs!). Unlike the centipede, millipedes have 2 pairs of very short legs per body segment, which give a wave-like appearance when in motion, and cause this pest to move slowly. Another difference between these 2 pests is that millipedes have a long, rounded body and actually look more like a dark earthworm with legs than the more flattened centipede. In general, millipedes are dark brown, with a hard exoskeleton. They are usually around 1 to 1.5 inches long, though some species can get over 5 inches in length.

    When they die, or if they are disturbed (i.e. touched), they will curl up into a “C” shape or a tight coil and remain motionless.

    Where do Millipedes Live?

    These pests are found just about everywhere, with over 7,000 species worldwide, and 1,400 species in just the United States and Canada. In fact, these critters are found in every single U.S. state, even Alaska and Hawaii. They thrive in moist habitats, such as under rocks, logs, mulch, or decaying leaf litter; as such, they live pretty much exclusively outdoors. Now you may be saying, but I’ve seen them (maybe even a lot of them) indoors; how can that be if they only live outside?

    The short answer is that when their preferred habitat is no longer suitable, they will move to find a new one; in some cases that will lead them into your home. When the ground becomes too water-logged (like during a rainy Texas spring) or too dry, they will be forced to search for a new place to live, sometimes in large numbers. Fortunately, most houses do not have the necessary moisture levels and food sources for millipedes to thrive, so they won’t be making your house their home. Sadly, the same cannot be said of your yard.

    What do Millipedes Eat?

    These nocturnal pests are scavengers rather than hunters and feed primarily on decomposing organic matter, such as decaying plants or dead insects. However, they have also been known to feed on the leaves, stems, and roots of seedling plants, causing potentially significant damage, depending on the severity of the millipede infestation.

    Are Millipedes Dangerous?

    For the most part, millipedes are not dangerous. They do not bite or sting, and they are not a wood-destroying pest (like carpenter ants). However, when they are disturbed (for example, if you pick one up), they can produce a foul-smelling defensive fluid. This fluid can cause irritation to your eyes, blister your skin, and can even cause allergic reactions in some people. While you would generally have to touch a millipede to interact with this defensive fluid, some species can spray it several inches, meaning that just being in the immediate proximity of a millipede can potentially be highly uncomfortable.

    How do you Prevent Millipedes?

    If you’re like most people, the idea of dozens, or even hundreds, of creepy, crawly millipedes invading your home is enough to make your skin crawl. Fortunately, there are some standard preventative measures you can take to keep your house free from these pests.

    • Maintain a regular pest control service with The Bug Dude to keep a pest barrier around your home and keep the millipedes where they belong…outside
    • Keep mulch at least 6 to 12 inches away from your house’s foundation
    • Use gravel or other inorganic mulch if possible as it will drain better
    • Remove items from around your foundation that will promote moisture in the soil. Examples are: leaves, grass clippings, firewood, wood boards, flower pots, and large stones. Removing these items from your yard as well will also help limit the number of millipedes on your property. Fewer millipedes in your yard means fewer that could get inside your house.
    • Keep gutters and downspouts clean and debris-free
    • Repair any sprinkler head or water spigot leaks around your home
    • If any areas in or under your home are excessively humid or retaining moisture, get these areas properly repaired. You may need to consider new means of ventilation, dehumidifiers, sump pumps, etc. Be especially sure to check crawl spaces, basements, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and kitchens for high humidity.
    • Do not over-water your lawn, and make sure to allow the soil to dry between waterings
    • Keep grass well-mowed and free of yard debris
    • Seal any exterior cracks in your foundation, walls, and around around doors and windows
    • Inside your home, seal cracks and crevices in your walls and behind baseboards
    • Install door sweeps (as needed) on exterior doors

    How do you Eliminate Millipedes?

    In the case of millipedes, total elimination isn’t actually the goal. Millipedes are ecologically beneficial, provided they are in reasonable numbers and stay out of your home and in the yard where they belong. So if you see a couple in your yard as you’re gardening or playing with your kids or dogs, just leave them alone and know that they, like earthworms, and doing a service for the soil. However, if you find your yard inundated with these pests or start to see them getting inside your house, give The Bug Dude a call at 800-310-BUGS (2847) and get one of our expert technicians out to your home to evaluate the issue and put together the best treatment plan for your needs.

    This spring, whether you see a pest you think is a carpenter ant, a bug that just gives you the creeps, or anything in between, remember that no matter what the pest problem is,  The Bug Dude is here to help.

    Further Reading:
    “Meet the Millipede” – PCT
    “Millipedes” – National Wildlife Federation
    “Multiplying millipedes” – mike.merchant – Insects in the City – Texas A&M AgriLife Extension
    “Centipede, Millipede” – Field Guide to Common Texas Insects – Texas A&M AgriLife Extension
    “Texas Millipedes Taking Residence Indoors” – Jason Jones, Messenger Reporter
    “Sowbugs, millipedes and centipedes” – Jeffrey Hahn & Mark Ascerno, former Extension entomologists – University of Minnesota Extension

    Author Bio: Alissa Breach has been gaining knowledge and experience around pest control concerns over the last 13 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.

    Kiss Stink Bugs Goodbye This Valentine’s Day

    Friday, February 17, 2023 | Mid-Cities Pest Control

    It’s February, a time of icy cold storms, and heart-warming Valentine’s Day celebrations. Whether you’ll be celebrating with friends, significant others, or family, this holiday of love is filled with beloved traditions that bring a smile to our faces. And while you could probably list a dozen wonderful Valentine’s Day traditions, what do you know about the origins of this lovely day? For example, did you know that Saint Valentine wasn’t just one person? There are 2 early Christian martyrs named Saint Valentine for whom the day is named, each with his own lore of good deeds and Valentine’s Day inspiration. And though February 14th has been “St. Valentine’s Day” since the end of the 5th century, it wasn’t until the Middle Ages (roughly 900 years later) that the day first became associated with love and romance. Now, when it comes to sending a valentine to a loved one, though the very first one was sent in 1415, it didn’t become a tradition until the 1600s, and it wasn’t until the 1840s that mass-produced Valentine’s Day cards were made available. What about gifts? Well, it was also in the 1600s that giving flowers became a popular custom as a romantic gesture. And that oh-so-familiar heart-shaped box of chocolates? It was first introduced in 1861. Not surprisingly, with that kind of history behind them, the 3 most commonly purchased Valentine’s Day gifts are candy/sweets, greeting cards, and flowers. And while those may top your list as well, there are a whole slew of types of gifts you can give your loved ones, from jewelry to event tickets, to perfume/cologne, and so much more.

    But was does Valentine’s Day have to do with pest control? Apart from the nickname “love bug,” bugs don’t generally feature into the holiday spirit. And while you are unlikely to gift your loved one a bug-related gift, there is one pest whose presence in your home may just make you opt for an extra bottle of perfume or cologne as your Valentine’s Day gift this year: the stink bug. This pest is aptly named, as it is known for the foul odor it emits; and unlike the alluring power of a pleasant aroma, this little bug’s scent is sure to put a halt to any romance planned for Valentine’s Day.

    Susan Ellis, Bugwood.org

    What do Stink Bugs Look Like?

                    There are a lot of kinds of stink bugs out there. In the world there are over 5,000 different types of these critters, and over 200 species in the U.S. and Canada, so it’s no surprise that there is a lot of variation in the appearance of these pests. Their coloration can range from gray to brown to green or even orange-red. But while their color and markings can vary greatly, there are a few common traits they all share. They are six-legged, have 2 antennae, have 2 wings that are folded on their backs when not in use, and they are approximately 2 cm long. Perhaps the biggest similarity, however, is that they all have a shield-shaped body, which has given rise to their alternate name: shield bug.

                    So which stink bug are you most likely to face in your North Texas home? While there are several varieties you could encounter, the one causing the most concern at the moment is the brown marmorated stink bug. This pest is an invasive species, which means there are no natural predators for it in the U.S., allowing its populations to surge to immeasurable numbers. This particular pest is about 17 mm long as an adult, and has varying shades of brown on both its upper and lower body surfaces. Their antennae have alternating dark and light markings, and adults have dark and light markings on their abdominal segments from the protruding margins of their wings while they are at rest.

                    These pests have the life cycle of a true bug: egg to nymph to adult. Their eggs are elliptical (approximately 1.6 mm long) and are light yellow to yellow-red in color. When laid, they are attached to the underside of leaves in masses of around 20 to 30 eggs. Nymphs will go through 5 instars (development stages), progressing in size from 2.4 mm to 12 mm long.

    As they develop, their abdomen will progress from a yellowish red to off-white with reddish spots. They have deep red eyes, they don’t yet have wings, and their legs, head, and thorax are black (with black and white markings present on the back legs). Each year, there will be approximately 2 generations of stink bugs born, with eggs hatching within only 5 days of being laid.

    Where do Stink Bugs Live?

                     Stink bugs live throughout the world, with the brown marmorated stink bug being native to China. This particular pest has become an invasive species in South Korea, Japan, Switzerland, Italy, France, Greece, Hungary, Canada, and the United States (having been verifiably found in at least 46 states since it was first discovered on our shores in 1998).

                    During the warm months, these pests will live outdoors on or near their sources of food. However, in fall, when the temperatures begin to drop, they will search for warm, protected sites to overwinter, and this is when your home can look extremely appealing to them. You are most likely to see active stink bugs in your home during late fall and early spring; in the fall they will be entering your home before they go into diapause (a hibernation-like state) for the winter; in the early spring you will notice activity again as they leave your house and venture out into your yard and garden to feed and reproduce.

    Photo by Amy Irish-Brown

    What do Stink Bugs Eat?

    Though most types of stink bugs eat plants, some will consume other insects. The brown marmorated stink bug feeds on a wide variety of plants, both agricultural and ornamental. Some of their most common food choices include: fruits (i.e. apples, peaches, apricots, figs, and citrus fruits), crops (i.e. beans, corn, tomatoes, okra, peppers, and soybeans), tree of heaven, black walnut, cherry trees, maple, ash, a variety of flowers, and much more. When they feed, they are often known to consume all parts of a plant, which includes flowers, leaves, stems, buds, and seeds. But even if they don’t consume a plant entirely, they can do significant damage. For example, when these pests feed on fruits or vegetables, they cause significant damage to the food items, affecting the taste, texture, and appearance of the item, and rendering it unmarketable as a fresh product.

    Are Stink Bugs Dangerous?

    To humans and pets, stink bugs are relatively harmless. They cannot sting or bite, but they will emit a very unpleasant odor when threatened or crushed. This odor, which gives them their name “stink bug” is their primary defense against predators in nature. After all, who would want to eat something that smells absolutely awful?! Though not severely dangerous to people, this smell can cause allergic reactions (primarily rhinitis and/or conjunctivitis) for some who are sensitive to it, and can cause dermatitis if the bug is smashed against someone’s skin.

    In addition, they are not a threat to the structure of your house; however, if you decide to try to vacuum up these critters when they invade your home, you can end up with a very stinky vacuum for quite some time.

    They are, however, quite dangerous to your beloved garden, landscaping, and to crops as a whole. In addition to damaging fruits and vegetables to the point that they are not fit for human consumption, they can damage the plant itself, leaving it deformed, weakened and open to attack by disease. With the brown marmorated stink bug being an invasive species, its numbers can quickly get out of hand and cause vast amounts of damage.

    How do you Eliminate Stink Bugs?

    If stink bugs have already taken over your home, or if you think you’ve seen some flying around your house and yard, call The Bug Dude at 800-310-BUGS and have our expert technicians out to evaluate the situation and put together a treatment plan designed to fit your needs. Though it might be tempting to try DIY methods for these pests, you can quickly find yourself in a very smelly situation, or worse, you can find all your hard work on your lawn or garden destroyed in the blink of an eye.

    So as you plan your Valentine’s Day celebration, don’t forget that though pest control may not be the fancy gift you’ll be giving your loved one this year, making sure that no smelly pests are around to ruin your special day may be just exactly the right gift you can give yourself.

    Further Reading:

    “Brown Marmorated Stink Bug” – United States Environmental Protection Agency

    “Brown Marmorated Stink Bug” – Dalton Ludwick, Texas A&M Extension Entomology

    “Brown Marmorated Stink Bug” – Michael J. Skvarla, Assistant Research Professor of Arthropod Identification, PennState Extension

    “Why Do Stink Bugs Stink?” – PCT

    “Keeping Stink Bugs Out” – PCT

    Author Bio: Alissa Breach has been gaining knowledge and experience around pest control concerns over the last 13 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.

    Protecting your Home Investment with the Help of The Bug Dude

    Saturday, January 14, 2023 | Mid-Cities Pest Control

    It’s January, and while that would normally mean chatting with friends and family about New Year’s resolutions, this year the topic of conversation is more likely to find its way to the economy and the inflation we are all contending with. And while the inflation most getting under your skin might be the excessive cost of eggs, or the hike in your utility bill, perhaps the thing you are most concerned about right now is the housing market, and with good reason. If you’re a homeowner looking to refinance or sell your home, or if you’re a prospective home buyer, you likely already know that the current market is not in good shape. The median asking price for a home has been on a significant increase over the past decade, and has skyrocketed over the past few years. Even worse, mortgage rates have been on the rise and are now the highest they’ve been in 20 years! This makes buying a home more expensive than ever.

    If you haven’t been following the housing market lately, here’s a brief synopsis of where it’s at. In the past 2 years, the median sales price a house in the U.S. has gone up 35%; in terms of the actual house price, it’s gone from $337,500 to $454,900. That’s an increase of $117,400! To give some perspective, that dollar amount of increase, $117,400, is several thousand dollars more than the median cost of a home in 1988, just 34 years ago. For additional perspective, the real median household income in the U.S. in 1988 was $60,115 (this number is adjusted to 2021 dollars) and today is only 18% higher than that, at $70,784, while the cost of a house, in that same time frame, is up a whopping 74% (when adjusted to 2021 dollars)! Adding to the housing woes is the mortgage rate; this too has been on the rise over the past 2 years, up 140% from a rate of 2.67% in December of 2020, to 6.42% in December of 2022. All of this means that your monthly loan payment (assuming an initial 20% down payment) for a home purchased just 2 years ago would have been $1,091 (not including taxes/fees), but for a house purchased today, it would be $2,281; that’s an 109% increase!

    Now if you’re thinking, surely this is a housing bubble and is due to pop any minute, there are compounding factors to consider. The rise in house prices coupled with the rise in mortgage rates means that fewer people are looking to sell their home. In fact, the total number of houses for sale as of August 2022 was only about 1.1 million, a record low, down from 3.4 million in July 2007. Perhaps even more shocking, there is fewer than half the number of homes listed for sale in 2022 than there were in 1982, but the U.S. population has grown by 43%, or 100.2 million people; this means that there are potentially a lot more people looking for homes than there are houses to purchase. Unfortunately, that demand in the market means that housing prices are unlikely to go down very much, at least not for the foreseeable future; that is unless a recession hits, then all bets are off about what’s to come. Yet, because of the extreme cost of buying a house at the moment, there may soon be more houses on the market than people who can actually afford to buy them, even with there not being that many houses on the market at all. Additionally, if you are looking at the 2008 housing bubble as an example of what’s to come, the state of affairs today is quite a bit different then it was at that time, since regulations and policy changes were put into place after that crisis to help prevent it happening again; this means that we are unlikely to see the housing marking take a sharp turn the way it did 15 years ago.

    Ok, so the housing market is troubling, but what does that have to do with pest control? Simple: with the housing market in its current condition, it makes your house more valuable than ever for you, which means that keeping it in good shape and pest-free is more important than ever. Now, the first step in keeping your home safe from pest damage is to maintain a regular pest control plan with The Bug Dude. But what if you already have a rodent issue? Or what if wildlife is making your house into their home? That’s where exclusion work comes in. What is exclusion work? Essentially, it’s a specialized type of home repair designed to seal up areas where wildlife and rodents are getting into your home. And since you are likely to want your home to last you a long time (especially in today’s market), keeping destructive animals out and getting repairs done in a timely manner are vital.

    What is Exclusion Work?

    Exclusion work is a type of home repair that is designed to keep rodents and wildlife out of your home. This can be achieved with a number of methods, from repairing a known entry point in such a way that the animal can’t utilize it again, to installing items that will prevent entry in common problem areas (for example, door sweeps). Each exclusion work job is unique and is designed by the technicians at The Bug Dude to address the specific needs at your home.

    What Causes the Need for Exclusion Work?

    Exclusion work is needed because an animal (rat, squirrel, etc.) has made or found a way to gain regular access to your home. Often, the animal has chewed a hole into a part of your house and is using that as a way to get into and out of your home; the repair work in this case will be to the animal-created hole. However, animals are smart, and can just as easily utilize an existing method of entry into your home. In these instances, exclusion work may be needed to seal up gaps that have appeared in areas around your home as the house has settled and aged, or it could simply be needed because an existing structure has broken or worn out (think vent covers). Regardless of how an animal entry has appeared on your house, you are likely to only know you need the repair work after you notice you have a rodent or wildlife problem inside your house.

    Why Get Exclusion Work Done?

    Your house is a huge investment, quite possibly the single biggest monetary investment you will ever make. And even more than that, your house is a home for you and your loved ones. So protecting it, and your family, from the ravages of a rodent or wildlife infestation (by means of physically keeping the pests out of your home) will not only protect your investment, it will protect your peace of mind. In addition, once you have a rodent or wildlife issue, even if you’ve resolved it through other services The Bug Dude offers, if you don’t remove the entry point that the animal used to invade your home, it’s extremely likely that you will face a repeat infestation, possibly even worse than the one you just eliminated.

    Why Use The Bug Dude for Exclusion Work?

    The short answer to this question is that using The Bug Dude for your exclusion work makes your life simple. But how do we do that? First, when you call The Bug Dude at 817-354-5350 because of a rodent or wildlife issue, the technician that comes out to your house can evaluate the entire situation, making sure to address both the current infestation, as well as how to prevent future issues through exclusion work. Second, our exclusion work comes with a 1 year warranty to the area of repair, so if you have a particularly persistent pest trying to break into the same part of your home over and over, you’re covered! Third, by making The Bug Dude your one-stop-shop for all your pest control and exclusion work needs, you don’t have to worry about coordinating treatment and repair schedules, warranties, or treatment plans between multiple companies; instead, you can sit back and know that your house is in good hands.

    What Happens if You Don’t Get Exclusion Work Done?

    Your house is a long-term investment, especially in today’s housing market, and while that can offer many advantages, it can sometimes also feel like a money pit. On those occasions when it feels like your house is costing you more than want it to, it’s only natural to weigh each expense carefully for it’s return on investment. While it may be tempting to think that exclusion work is one of the optional expenses, ignoring these types of repairs can cost you more in the long run. A few of the biggest issues you will contend with if you don’t get exclusion work done in a timely manner are:

    • Rodents and wildlife can easily return to your home. This means you will have spent time and money getting the pests out of your house, only to leave the door open for them to return, causing you to have to spend your time and money again on the same issue.
    • Property damage. Each rodent and wildlife infestation brings with it the possibility of property damage. From family photos, to stored clothing and bedding, to the wiring in your house, and so much more, these animals can do costly damage, so keeping them out of your house also keeps money in your wallet and peace of mind in your life.
    • Heating and A/C Expense. Not only can rodents and wildlife potentially damage your heating and A/C system directly, the holes they create will add to your monthly bill as all that cooled or heated air escapes from your house. This can quickly add up as the cost of heating your home is on the rise (see the Time article here). It will hurt your wallet even more, though, if there is damage to your actual heating and A/C systems, as their repair and replacement costs are on the rise as well, due to that industry facing labor shortages, less availability for raw materials, and increased transportation costs.

    Your house is more than just a building you live in, it’s your home. And while saying it’s a part of your family may be a bit of a stretch (unless you live in the Disney/Pixar universe), it is something that your family relies upon for safety and comfort. In this time of uncertainty in the housing market, and maybe even the economy as a whole, your house is more important than ever. That’s why at the first sign of a pest problem you should call on The Bug Dude at 817-354-5350, and let our technicians help you keep your home ship-shape, pest free, and ready to last you for as long as you need it to. Because while you can’t know what’s going to happen next in the housing market, you can know that you can rely on The Bug Dude to have your back on all your pest problems and exclusion work needs.

    Further Reading:

    “The Housing Market Is Worse Than You Think” – Stefanos Chen, The New York Times

    “Median Sales Price of Houses Sold for the United States” – FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

    “Real Median Household Income in the United States” – FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

    “30-Year Fixed Rate Mortgage Average in the United States” – FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

    “The Twelve Days of Squirrels” – Alissa Breach, The Bug Dude Blog

    “Rats: Not Even Their Own Are Safe!” – Alissa Breach, The Bug Dude Blog

    “Are Unexpected Guests Crashing Your Thanksgiving?” – Alissa Breach, The Bug Dude Blog

    “Things that go Bump in the Night” – Alissa Breach, The Bug Dude Blog

    “Preventing Unwanted Christmastime House Guests” – Alissa Breach, The Bug Dude Blog

    Author Bio: Alissa Breach has been gaining knowledge and experience around pest control concerns over the last 13 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.

    ‘Tis The Season…For Dormant Oil

    Sunday, November 20, 2022 | Mid-Cities Pest Control

    If someone were to mention “oil” to you, what would be your first thought? With Thanksgiving just around the corner, maybe you would think of the olive oil you need for roasting potatoes. Or maybe you would think of the drive across state to visit family for the holidays and the thousands of oil wells that dot the landscape along the way. Speaking of holiday driving, maybe your first thought is of the oil change you need to get done on your car before undertaking the annual holiday trip. Then again, with holiday stresses beginning to build, maybe your first thoughts are of needing to break out the essential oil diffuser and some lavender oil to help you relax. Regardless of the type of oil that first comes to mind, there’s one type that could be absolutely essential to the health of your outdoor plants (especially trees, shrubs, and bushes), but is all-too-often forgotten about during this busy time of year: dormant oil.

    What is Dormant Oil?

    Dormant oil is a type of horticultural oil that is designed to be used on woody plants during their dormant season (late fall through early spring), as a non-chemical treatment for a variety of pests that overwinter on these plants. So what exactly are woody plants? As their name suggests, they are trees, bushes, and shrubs. And what is a horticultural oil? They are generally highly refined petroleum oils, though can sometimes be plant-derived as well, and are specially refined for use on plants. They differ significantly from other common household oils and one cannot be substituted for the other. In addition, horticultural oils commonly have an emulsifier added so that they can be combined with water for safe and thorough application to the affected areas of plants via the use of a power sprayer.

    How Does Dormant Oil Work?

    When dormant oil is applied to a woody plant it acts primarily as a physical means of pest control. Its exact effects can differ based on the pest it interacts with, but overall it will affect a pest in one of three main ways: suffocation, disruption of cell membranes, and repellent. For most pests, the oil will coat the spiracles (air holes) that they use to breathe and the pest will die from asphyxiation. However, for some pests the oil will act as a sort of poison by interacting with the pest’s fatty acids and interfering with their metabolism. In addition to killing pests, the oil can act as a deterrent for some species and will keep them from feeding on the plant or laying eggs on the plant. Regardless of which effect the pest is susceptible to, dormant oil is a highly effective way to eliminate a pest problem before an issue becomes an infestation, and before harmful pests can damage a plant’s spring growth.

    Which Pests is Dormant Oil Effective Against?

    As a rule of thumb, dormant oil is effective against most pests that overwinter as eggs on woody plants. These are primarily: caterpillars (including webworms and army worms), mites, scale insects, aphids, lace bugs, leaf beetle larvae, and plant bugs. In addition, dormant oil can sometimes be used for control of some fungi, specifically powdery mildew, rust, and sooty mold.

    Is Dormant Oil Dangerous?

    When you have dormant oil applied by a Bug Dude technician, it is an extremely safe method of pest control. Not only is it safe for people and pets, it’s safe for wildlife and crops. In addition, though it is a broad-spectrum method of control (meaning that it is not targeted to a specific pest, and instead will affect a wide range of pests), it is generally less harmful to beneficial insects than chemical pest control methods. The only danger that this treatment poses is if it’s performed incorrectly (for example, as a DIY attempt); at that point it could do significant damage to the plant you are trying to help. There are several factors that a Bug Dude technician will take into consideration when determining if a plant is eligible for a dormant oil treatment. Those factors are: if the pest in question is susceptible to the oil, if the plant is in good enough health to be treated, if the plant is of a variety that is highly sensitive to the treatment, if the weather is appropriate for a treatment, and where exactly the oil needs to be sprayed to be effective. If inaccurately applied, dormant oil can discolor or weaken an infested plant, which is why it’s always important to call the experts at The Bug Dude @ 800-310-BUGS (2847) for any pest control needs.

    How do I Know if I Need a Dormant Oil Treatment?

    If you’re wondering if your trees, shrubs, and bushes are in need of a dormant oil treatment, the first thing to do is think about how they fared over the past year. Did you see signs of webworm webbing in the branches? Were the leaves being heavily eaten by pests? Did you see an abundance of aphids, mites, or scale insects on the plants? Did you have an issue with army worms in your yard? Did you get your plants treated by The Bug Dude for any of the pests listed in the “Which Pests is Dormant Oil Effective Against?” section? Are you currently seeing pests on the plants? Overall, were the plants healthy and thriving or did they seem to be struggling? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then call The Bug Dude at 817-354-5350 and have an expert technician out to evaluate the plant in question and let you know if it’s a good candidate for a dormant oil treatment.

    When Should I Get a Dormant Oil Treatment?

    As stated earlier, dormant oil is designed to be used during the dormant stage of woody plants, this means sometime between late fall and early spring. As a general guide, it’s after the leaves have fallen and before the tree begins to bud. However, the timing is even more specific than that, because the treatment needs to be done on a day when the temperature is not too warm and not too cold: ideally in the 50 to 70 degree range; it absolutely cannot be done when the temperature is below freezing. Beyond the temperature, the ideal day for a treatment is one with no rain, low humidity, and no wind. When treatment is applied in the ideal conditions, it allows the oil to give complete coverage and ensure utmost efficacy, while also reducing the risk of any plant damage.

    In general, the ideal weather conditions for a dormant oil spray occur mostly in November and March, though with Texas weather being unpredictable at best (remember the record-setting winter storm of 2021), there’s no time like the present to schedule a dormant oil treatment.

    With Thanksgiving fast approaching and Christmas on its heels, it’s easy to get wrapped up in all the joys (and stresses) of the holiday season and forget that your yard needs more attention than simply a good raking and some decorations. So, this Thanksgiving, if you want your trees to be as thankful for you as you are for them, call The Bug Dude at 817-354-5350 and discuss getting a dormant oil treatment done by one of our experts to help keep your plants pest-free and healthy in the coming year.

    Further Reading:

    “Dormant Oil Sprays” – keith.hansen, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, East Texas Gardening

    “Pesticide Profile: Horticultural Oil” – Miri Talabac, Horticulturist & Coordinator, HGIC, University of Maryland Extension

    “Insect Control: Horticultural Oils – 5.569” – W.S. Cranshaw, Colorado State University Extension entomologist and professor, bioagricultural sciences and pest management; and B. Baxendale, Teikyo Loretto Heights University professor, botany, Denver, Colorado State University Extension

    “Horticultural Oils – What a Gardener Needs to Know” – Martha Barajas, University of Nevada, Reno, Extension: College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources

    Author Bio: Alissa Breach has been gaining knowledge and experience around pest control concerns over the last 13 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.

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