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    The Daring Young Ant on the Flying Trapeze

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

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

    What do Acrobat Ants Look Like?

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

    How did they get their Name?

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

    Where are Acrobat Ants Found?

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

    Are Acrobat Ants Dangerous?

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

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

    What are the Signs of an Acrobat Ant Infestation?

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

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

    What do Acrobat Ants Eat?

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

    How do you Prevent Acrobat Ants?

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

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

    How do you Eliminate Acrobat Ants?

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

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

    Further Reading:

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

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

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

    “Acrobat Ants” – eXtension

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

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

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

    Fleas Making You Want to Flee? We Can Help!

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

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

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

    “But wait,” you may be thinking…

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

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

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

    What do Fleas Look Like?

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

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

    Where are Fleas Found?

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

    How do I Know if I Have Fleas?

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

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

    What do Fleas Feed on?

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

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

    How Long do Fleas Live?

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

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

    Are Fleas Dangerous?

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

    How do you Treat for Fleas?

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

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

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

    Can you Prevent Fleas?

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

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

    Further Reading:

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

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

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

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

    “Fleas” – Purdue University Medical Entomology

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

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

    Photo by CataventoProd
    Photo by CDC
    Photo by Brooke Lark

    The True ‘Murder Hornet’ Threat

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

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

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

    What Exactly is an Invasive Species?

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

    What Do Asian Giant Hornets Look Like?

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

    Why Are Asian Giant Hornets Called Murder Hornets?

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

    Are Asian Giant Hornets Dangerous?

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

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

    Where Are Asian Giant Hornets Found?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Further Reading:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Photo Credits:
    Alexis Mora Angulo
    Paul Henri Degrande

    Rats: Not Even Their Own Are Safe!

    Wednesday, May 13, 2020 | Mid-Cities Pest Control

    2020 is the year of the rat in the Chinese Zodiac, and according to tradition, that means it is a bad year to be a fellow rat. For those born in a previous rat year, the year is all but destined for mishaps and unfortunate circumstances; and 2020 seems to be living up to that destiny, not only for the people encompassed by this Zodiac symbol, but for the rats themselves. Though rats are generally adaptable and highly successful at living alongside humans, the major lifestyle and economic shifts that have been adopted worldwide to combat COVID-19 have caused these critters to find themselves suddenly thrust into survival mode.

    For rats that have made their homes near restaurants and other food establishments, they are accustomed to living a life with plenty of access to food and water, but with so many food establishments shut down or operating at a drastically reduced capacity, those rats have seen their food supply curtailed and are being forced to find new means with which to survive. As reported by Dartunorro Clark for NBC News in the article “Starving, angry and cannibalistic: America’s rats are getting desperate amid coronavirus pandemic”, rats that have been displaced by the coronavirus shut downs are turning to drastic measures. Not only are these rats hitting the streets in droves looking for new places to find food, when they do find a promising location, it is often already inhabited, which leads to lethal fights over territory. In cases where food is scarce the rats have been turning to cannibalism, especially in the form of infanticide, as a means of surviving.

    Seeing large numbers of desperate rats on the move would be unnerving at any time, but add that it’s in the midst of a pandemic and it’s impossible for the sight not to bring to mind the most infamous epidemic: The Black Plague. Though it’s been nearly 700 years since that devastating disease struck Europe, killing more than 20 million people, its memory has persisted throughout Western societies, and has been one of the more notable references for the dangers that large numbers of rats can pose to humans. Though COVID-19 is not linked to transmission via rat, the social-distancing measures being put into place to combat that virus is increasing the potential for rats to interact with humans in larger numbers than we have seen for quite some time, and that can cause a whole host of problems.

    What Dangers do Rats Pose?

    A rat infestation is no small problem; these critters are not simply a nuisance, they can prove to be quite harmful. Of course when we think of rats one of the first dangers that comes to mind is disease; not only did the black rat carry fleas infected with the bubonic plague that led to The Black Death, but rats carry more than 40 diseases that are harmful to humans, including murine typhus, the plague, and rabies. The threat of rat-borne disease is significant enough that it is believed that in the last 1,000 years they have taken more human lives than all wars and revolutions combined. But disease is not the only threat that a rat infestation poses; they are also exceptionally dangerous to agricultural products, destroying approximately 20% of these products annually world-wide. They are even dangerous to local flora and fauna, preying on nestlings, competing with other animals for food items, and playing a significant role in preventing certain trees from re-growing. And under certain circumstances, they can even provide a direct danger by attacking people; around 14,000 people annually report having been attacked by rats in the U.S.; of these attacks some will even bestow mortal wounds.

    What are the Warning Signs of a Rat Problem?

    Rats are nocturnal creatures, which means they are the most active at night. So if you are hearing noises in your walls or in your attic at night there is a high likelihood that there are rats inside your home. Remember that even if the noise sounds too loud to be a single rat, the noise of several rats running around in an attic can be surprisingly strong. You should also be on the lookout for rat droppings (which are dark brown, oblong, and tapered at the ends) and nests (which are generally made out of soft materials like cloth, paper, cardboard, cloth, and even hair), particularly in largely undisturbed areas of your home or near food and water sources. Another sign to pay close attention to is chewed wiring (either within your home or even in your vehicle); not only is this a sign of a potential rat problem, it could also prove dangerous to you or your home’s safety and is likely to be quite costly to repair. And of course the most tell-tale sign of a rat problem is actually seeing them inside your home, garage, shed, etc.

    How can you Prevent a Rat Infestation?

    During the COVID-19 crisis, while businesses are closed or operating at a drastically reduced rate, it will be more difficult than usual to prevent rat infestations. With rats finding themselves desperate for food that would have otherwise been plentiful in dumpsters and garbage cans, they are increasingly likely to go in search of food inside business and homes. Once inside a structure, rats can rapidly multiply in numbers, with an average female rat having seven to ten litters each year and each litter containing an average of six to ten pups. That means in just one year a rat population could go from two to around 1,250 if left unchecked. This is why preventing rats from ever getting into your home is so important, because once you notice the rat infestation, you are likely to have quite a few rats to combat.

    So how do you prevent rats from getting into your home? It’s more difficult than you may think, as a rat only needs a hole about the size of a quarter to get inside a building, they can climb trees and brick walls, can walk across phone lines, can jump three feet vertically and four feet horizontally, and can chew through lead, cinder block, and aluminum sheeting. Still, it is possible to make your home a less inviting target for hungry rats on the move. Here are some helpful tips to keep your home rat-free:

    • All entry points that are visible need to be sealed. Remember, not only can a rat fit through a hole the size of a quarter, it could gnaw on a smaller hole to widen it to be of a suitable size for entry. A quick call to The Bug Dude @ 1-800-310-BUGS will put you at ease.  All of the exclusion work we perform comes with a 1-year warranty.
    • Trim tree branches away from your roof and vines away from your walls. You want to make it as difficult as possible for a rat to have access to parts of your home you may not be able to regularly inspect (like the roof line).
    • Keep trash cans sealed. Always keep lids on trash cans and make sure that they are securely in place.
    • Keep pet food in sealed containers. If you store your pet food in the garage, a metal container would be the best bet. Remember that anything your pet could eat, a rat would happily eat as well.
    • Remove any bird feeders or bird baths from your yard. The goal is to not have anything that could entice a rat onto your property, and nothing is more enticing than readily available food and water.

    How do you Treat a Rat Infestation?

    Given the prolific nature of rats and their potential dangers, it’s important to get a rat problem treated as soon as you see the first signs that you might be facing an infestation. Though it might be tempting to try to treat for rats yourself, eliminating an infestation is more complicated than simply placing a trap and waiting for a rat to get caught in it. Rats are clever creatures, so it’s important to not only choose the best type of product to battle the infestation with, it’s also necessary to know exactly where to place the product(s) to ensure the greatest success in treatment. By calling The Bug Dude at 1-800-310-BUGS and having a trained technician out to your home, you not only get verification that the pest you are combating is rats, you will also get a professional who can determine the most effective and safest (for you, your home, and your pets) method for treatment.

    During this time of global crisis it’s easy to focus solely on the threat that is on everyone’s mind and forget that the threats that we have always had to contend with are still very present, and in the case of rats, are actually increased because of this pandemic. That’s why it’s more important than ever to keep your home and your family safe and call Mid-Cities Pest Control at the first signs of infestation, and not allow rats to add one more worry to your plate.

    Further Reading:

    “Year of the Rat” – Chinese New Year 2020 – Wasai LLC

    “Starving, angry and cannibalistic: America’s rats are getting desperate amid coronavirus pandemic” – Dartunorro Clark – NBC News

    “Black Death” – History.com Editors – A&E Television Networks

    “The Facts about Rats” – U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

    “Facts About Rats” – Alina Bradford – Live Science

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


    A Message Regarding the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

    Wednesday, April 08, 2020 | Mid-Cities Pest Control

    As the pandemic of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to grow and change the everyday lives of countless people, we here at Mid-Cities Pest Control want to assure all of our customers that we are here for you and will continue to provide all of our pest control services without interruption.

    Pest control has always been an important aspect in maintaining the health and safety of your home and workplace, and with the governmental classification as an essential service, we remain committed to doing our part throughout these difficult times.

    In order to better care for our customers, we continue to monitor and implement the latest CDC recommendations to prevent the spread of COVID-19. As always, our staff is dedicated to addressing the health concerns of our customers and working with them on an individual basis to create pest control solutions that keep them safe and healthy.

    During this time of self-isolation and social-distancing, we are taking precautions to keep our staff and customers safe and healthy: from additional sanitation measures to an abundance of caution with any signs or reports of illness, we are dedicated to ‘flattening the curve’ while not allowing pest problems to run rampant.

    If you are one of the many people practicing self-isolation, we want to assure you that we provide treatment options so that you can maintain that isolation and still get the pest control you need:

    • For many pest problems we can offer fully contact-free service. From exterior only treatment, to credit card payments made over the phone, to digital invoicing, we can provide exceptional service to your home without you even having to open your door.
    • If you are having a problem with an indoor pest, we have consumer-friendly products available for purchase for several types of pest. Not only will we deliver these products to you, our technicians will offer professional guidance on how to best use the products to safely and effectively treat the pest problem.
    • Whatever your circumstance may be, we at Mid-Cities Pest Control are always ready to work with you to customize your service experience so that you get the optimum pest control that suits you and your family’s needs.

    Pests aren’t going to stop their normal activities during this national emergency, but there’s no need for you to spend your self-isolation worrying about critters, call us at 1-800-310-BUGS and let us ease at least one of your concerns in this difficult time.

    For more information on COVID-19, check out the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), WHO (World Health Organization), and Texas Department of State Health Services.

    Termites vs. Carpenter Ants

    | Mid-Cities Pest Control

    Spring is a time of renewal, growth, and change, with warmer weather pushing aside the winter chill and frequent rains encouraging plants to grow. It’s the time of year where bluebonnets bloom, young animals explore and scamper across yards, and bugs of all sorts begin to flourish. For many pests, April will just barely start their prolific season; however, for a few notable pests this is the month where conditions are perfect and they thrive above all others. The most notorious of these April-loving pests are termites and carpenter ants.

    It’s during this month that you will see swarmers (winged versions) of both of these pests leaving their nests en masse in order to mate and begin a new colony. To the casual observer, it can be difficult to tell the difference between a termite and a carpenter ant, especially since both are wood-destroying pests, prefer similar habitats, and send swarmers out at the same time of year; however, termites pose considerably more danger to the structure of your home and require more extensive and expeditious treatment than do carpenter ants, which is why being able to tell the difference between the two is so important.

    So how do you correctly identify a termite from a carpenter ant and why is one so much more concerning than the other? The answers can be found in both the visual and behavioral differences between these pests.

    What are the Visual Differences Between Termites and Carpenter Ants?

    When discussing visual differences, it’s important to distinguish whether you are looking at the swarmers, workers, or soldiers of the species, as they all have unique characteristics that will help you tell which species you are looking at.

    Swarmers: These are by far the most common type you will encounter, and are especially prevalent in spring. Swarmers are simply winged termites or ants that are setting out to reproduce and create a new colony. They tend to emerge in large numbers once the existing colony has grown quite large, and they can generally be found heading toward windows in their attempt to get outside to propagate.

    Termite SwarmersCarpenter Ant Swarmers
    Fairly uniform body widthSegmented body with narrow waist
    Straight, short antennaeSegmented, bent antennae
    2 sets of uniform wingsFront wings longer than hind wings
    Wings are much longer than bodyWings similar size as body
    Wings are clear or white and are fragile and easily fall offWings are semi-transparent yellowish-brown
    Body is blackBody is black or red and black
    3/8” long including wings3/4” long

    Workers: You are unlikely to encounter workers of either species unless their nest has been disturbed. They tend to stay fully within their colony and are responsible for providing food and building/maintaining the colony.

    Termite WorkersCarpenter Ant Workers
    1/8” long body3/8” long body
    Translucent cream-coloredBlack or red and black
    Soft-bodiedHard, segmented body

    Soldiers: As their name suggests, these insects are responsible for defending the colony, and as such can occasionally be seen outside the hive.

    Termite SoldiersCarpenter Ant Soldiers
    Large, rectangular, orange/brown head with powerful jaw and pincersSegmented body with bent antennae
    Light-colored bodyBlack or red and black
    A bit bigger than workers1/2” long body

    What are the Behavioral Differences Between Termites and Carpenter Ants?

    Though both termites and carpenter ants are drawn to damp, rotting wood, and do damage to wooden structures, the similarities in their habits largely ends there. These two insects have a different diet, different ways of building nests, and different telltale signs of an infestation.

    Diet: Perhaps the biggest behavioral difference between termites and carpenter ants is their diet. Termites feed upon dead plant material and cellulose, which means that they are literally eating the wood in your home for their meals. Carpenter ants, however, do not eat cellulose, instead they mostly consume protein (i.e. insects) and sugars. This difference illustrates the primary reason why termites are so much more destructive to wooden structures: since it is literally consuming the wood as food, the more termites there are, the more they will eat.

    Nests: So if carpenter ants don’t eat wood, why are they doing so much damage to it? Put simply, they are merely excavating sections of the wood in which to build their nests. Because carpenter ants are only using the wood for their nests, it will take them longer to do severe damage, as they will only excavate tunnels and galleries in the wood when needed for growth. Additionally, their tunnels and galleries are very neat and smooth, unlike those created by termites, which tend to be rough, ragged, and filled with layers of soil and mud. The reason there is soil and mud left by termites is due to their subterranean nesting. Though termites can create satellite nests within your home, they generally have their primary nest underground, and come into your home to feast on the wood there.

    Telltale Signs: Because termites live mostly underground and come into a home to eat, they need a safe way to travel between their nest and their food, which is why they build mud tubes. Mud tubes are the highway termites use to safely traverse exposed areas (generally against the foundation of a home) and are the primary sign that you have a termite infestation. On the other hand, carpenter ants, which live in the wood itself, do not need external methods of travel; what they do need is space, which is why they expel wood shavings and waste out of the nests. This expelled material is called frass and can generally be found at baseboards and windowsills, this is a sure indicator that carpenter ants have infested your home.

    Whether you are seeing the signs of a termite or carpenter ant infestation, it’s important to take immediate action and call The Bug Dude @ 800-310-BUGS to assess the situation and get it properly treated. The technicians at Mid-Cities Pest Control are dedicated to helping you quickly eliminate the infestation and get back to enjoying your home without the stress and worry of insect damage. So give The Bug Dude a call at 1-800-310-BUGS and reclaim your spring.

    Further Reading:

    The Truth about Five Common Termite Myths

    Termite 101

    Spring, and Carpenter Ants, are in the Air

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

    Texas Armadillos: Friend or Foe?

    Thursday, March 05, 2020 | Mid-Cities Pest Control

    March in Texas holds a special place in our hearts, beyond the warming weather, the increasing hours of daylight, and the appearance of fields of bluebonnets, this is also the month where we celebrate the signing of Texas’ Declaration of Independence. On March 2nd, 1836, a convention of sixty men representing Texas’ revolutionary government met in Washington-on-the-Brazos and formally declared its independence from Mexico. This declaration was made in the midst of the infamous battle of the Alamo (going on nearly 170 miles away), which had begun on February 23rd and came to its harrowing conclusion on March 6th. Just six weeks later, a Texan army led by Sam Houston won a landmark victory in the war, and gained official recognition of Texas’ independence. For the next nine years Texas stood as an independent republic before joining the United States in 1845.

    Across the state people will be celebrating Texas Independence Day with all things Texan: from Shiner to barbecue, rodeos to country music, and the particular brand of spunk and conviviality that epitomizes Texans. So in celebration of this great state, we are taking a look at an animal that is so fully Texan it’s in nearly every piece of Texas-themed memorabilia, and is the official (small) mammal of Texas: the nine-banded armadillo. Though this animal is revered by many a Texan as a symbol of the state, that does not keep it from being a problem pest for many a homeowner statewide.

    What do Armadillos Look Like?

    Though there are around 20 species of armadillos, only one is found in the U.S.: the nine-banded armadillo. This critter is about the size of a cat or small dog, weighing around 8-17 lbs. and with a body length of around 16”, a tail virtually as long as its body, and short legs. It has a bony shell, covering all but its belly, that acts like armor, protecting the armadillo from its predators; the “nine-banded” variety are so called due to having approximately 9 bands on their armor (the actual number can range from 7 to 11 bands). Contrary to popular myth, these armadillos cannot roll up into spherical balls when threatened; in fact, only two species can do this and they are both three-banded. In addition, they have powerful claws specifically adapted for digging.

    Where are Armadillos Found?

    With armadillos it’s not only a question of where but when you will find them. The general rule of thumb for these animals is that you will find them wherever food sources are plentiful and the ground is conducive for digging (the softer the ground, the better). It’s there that they are likely to dig burrows for their dens. However, they are not highly territorial, and will readily abandon a den if in danger or when the food source has diminished. This attitude of going where the food is means you can potentially find them in brush, woods, scrub, and grasslands.

     In addition, they are nocturnal creatures and have a diminished ability to control their body temperature due to having very little hair, meaning that they are most active during summer nights and warmer winter afternoons and evenings. You are likely to see an uptick in armadillo sightings starting in March each year as that’s the month they tend to give birth. A female nine-banded armadillo almost always gives birth to four identical quadruplets, which are born fully formed and with their eyes open, but with armor that hasn’t yet hardened.

    What do Armadillos Eat?

    Primarily, these animals eat invertebrates like grubs, beetles, roaches, wasps, fire ants, spiders, and scorpions. However, in a pinch they will turn to small reptiles and amphibians, eggs, fruit, seeds, fungi, and other plants matter. They get to this food by smelling around for bugs hidden just a bit below the surface of the ground (they have an exceptional sense of smell), then digging into the ground in the correct place and using their sticky tongue to grab the desired treat. This method of hunting presents one of the primary reasons you don’t want to see an armadillo in your yard, because they will very quickly create a lot of dug-out areas throughout your yard and landscaping, leading to lots of time, effort, and money to get your yard looking just the way you want it again.

    Are Armadillos Dangerous?

    If this question were to be “are armadillos likely to attack people or pets?” the answer would pretty clearly be “no.” They are not known to bite or else wise be combative (though they can use their claws to fight if absolutely necessary). In fact, if they are surprised, they don’t attempt to fight, they leap straight into the air, startling whatever just snuck up on them, giving the armadillo time to run to a safety. Clearly, even with more teeth than any other known mammal, they are an animal rooted in defense, so is there any reason to call them dangerous? Unfortunately, the answer is “yes.”

    The greatest danger that armadillos pose comes from the fact that they are the only animal other than humans that can contract leprosy, and they are capable of passing that disease to humans (though incidence of this is quite rare).

    However, this is not the only danger they pose. Since they are regularly digging out areas for their dens, if they dig under a deck, foundation, sidewalk, etc. they can potentially make that structure less stable, leading to costly repairs and unsafe conditions.

    In addition, their abandoned dens often become home to other animals, like snakes, opossums, rats, and skunks, all of which can present their own pest control and safety issues.

    How do you Prevent Armadillos from Getting in your Yard?

    Unlike many pests where there are multiple risk factors you can address in order to attempt to prevent an issue from occurring, with armadillos there are only 3 preventative measures you can take. The first is to keep your lawn as bug-free as possible by maintaining regular pest control services and immediately addressing issues such as grub worms when they invade your lawn (see our article about grub worms). The second is to utilize rocks or wood chips in your landscaping to make that area too difficult for the armadillo to dig in. The third, and much more costly method is to install a sturdy fence around your property that also creates a barrier 2 feet underground. Since armadillos are excellent diggers, any preventive barrier will need to cover above and below ground if you want to actually keep these critters out of your yard.

    Though there are some products that claim to deter armadillos and there are plenty of “home remedy” deterrent suggestions, none of them have been proven to be effective.

    How do you Handle an Armadillo Problem?

    As with all wildlife, Mid-Cities Pest Control responds to armadillo problems by performing a live animal trapping. Our expert technicians will evaluate the problem and place a humane trap in the ideal location to catch the animal. It’s important to note that it’s especially helpful to get professional assistance in trapping for armadillos as they are notoriously one of the most difficult animals to entice into a cage. Once caught, the animal is removed from your property and relocated far enough away that they will not be able to find their way back to your lawn. This way the animal gets to continue their docile existence as Texas’ mascot and your lawn gets to quickly return to its pristine state.

    So whether you are dealing with an armadillo settling into residence in your yard or a skunk or opossum making its home in an abandoned armadillo den, you can rest assured that the experts at Mid-Cities Pest Control will have the solution well in hand. With years of successful experience in live animal trappings (we recently performed a skunk trapping where, at one home, we trapped a den of skunks totaling 7 animals!) our technicians are ready to handle any situation.

    This March don’t let armadillos ruin your springtime celebrations, call The Bug Dude at 1-800-310-BUGS at the first sign of a problem and declare your independence from pests.

    Additional Resources:

    “Texas declares independence” – History.com Editors – www.history.com – A&E Television Networks

    “Nine-Banded Armadillo” – Texas Junior Naturalists – Texas Parks & Wildlife

    “Nine-banded Armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus)” – Texas Parks & Wildlife

    “Nine-Banded Armadillo” – National Wildlife Federation

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

    An Aphid Valentine

    Monday, February 10, 2020 | Mid-Cities Pest Control

    “Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.”

    – Aristotle

    Valentine’s Day has a long and varied history, with its true origins unknown. Not only are there at least 3 different saints named Valentine/Valentinus upon which the holiday could have been based, but it’s also believed that the celebration date being in mid-February was chosen specifically in an effort to “Christianize” the pagan holiday “Lupercalia”. Lupercalia was a fertility festival largely in honor of the Roman god of agriculture, Faunus. It only seems appropriate then that we turn our attention to a tiny insect this month that is known for its prolific reproduction and its impact on agricultural and horticultural plants, the aphid. This tiny insect also brings with it a particularly unique life cycle which not only includes reproduction via coupling, but also solitary reproduction, which means that whether you find yourself in a couple or single this Valentine’s Day, the aphid fits the bill.

    How Many Kinds of Aphids Are There?

    Not only are there over 4,000 species of aphids worldwide, but of those 4,000, more than 250 species feed on horticultural and agricultural crops. With that kind of diversity, it’s no surprise that there are a number of different species of aphids in Texas, the most common of which tend to attack landscape plants. A few of the most common species are: the Cotton or Melon Aphid, the Green Peach Aphid, the Crape Myrtle Aphid, and the Oleander Aphid. As you may have noticed, many aphid species are named after their preferred host plant, but they all do share the same nickname: “plant lice”.

    What do Aphids Look Like?

    With so many aphid species worldwide, it’s little wonder that their physical characteristics can vary quite a bit from species to species. They can be pear-shaped, oval, globular, or narrow-bodied and can range in color from black/gray to red, orange, yellow, green, brown, or blue-green and can sometimes have markings or appear wax-covered. However, there are a few characteristics that are true for all aphids: they are small, ranging from 1/16” to 1/8” long, have soft-bodies, antennae, and a stylus mouth part used to pierce and suck sap from plants. Most aphids also have a couple tubes in the rear of the abdomen (called cornicles) that secrete a type of honeydew called cornicle wax. In addition, some aphids will have wings and some will not (more on this in the section “How Does an Aphid Infestation Happen?”).

    How Does an Aphid Infestation Happen?

    In order to understand how an aphid infestation can take hold of your landscaping and garden, you only need to look at the complex, and uncommon life cycle of this insect that allows this pest to be quite prolific (they reproduce faster than any other insect). Not only do many aphids follow a relatively standard life cycle wherein they reproduce sexually and deposit their fertilized eggs, which will then go through a basic metamorphosis (overwintering as eggs, growing into nymphs, and emerging as either winged or wingless adults), but they can also reproduce via parthenogenesis (reproduction without mating) and will give birth to live female young; these young are clones of their mother. This variable method of reproduction allows for generations of new aphids to be born quickly and thus grow exponentially. Generally, aphids reach sexual maturity in about 4 to 10 days and are then capable of reproducing for about the following 3 weeks (the average lifespan of an adult is about 1 month); this means that there will be overlapping generations of these insects reproducing via parthenogenesis. Not only are the fast-growing numbers a concern for your plants, but they can also increase the rate at which these pests develop resistance to insecticides.

    These insects are still even more adaptable, sometimes giving birth to winged aphids, which can make an infestation even more difficult to control. The winged version of this pest tends to occur for one of two main reasons: the need to travel or as part of the reproductive cycle for some species. When a plant becomes too crowded with aphids, the next generation to be born will be winged so that they can move to a new host plant where there will be plenty of food and space for the increasing numbers. Though that is the most common reason to see winged aphids, they are also part of some aphid species’ standard reproductive cycle. In this case, the pests live on one plant and reproduce on a separate plant, so they need to have wings in order to move from one plant to the other. Because of this movement, you can sometimes find yourself tricked into thinking the infestation has gone away because it’s no longer on the plant you had been focused on, but in reality the insects have simply moved and will come back in even greater numbers before you know it.

    Are Aphids Dangerous?

    Though aphids are not harmful to humans as they do not bite or sting us, they can be quite devastating to the plants they reside and feed upon. Their potential for plant damage is three-fold: damage done while feeding, causal damage, and viral damage.

    Damage Done While Feeding: when aphids remove the sap from the plant tissue (phloem) to feed upon, it not only inherently weakens the plant, but some species also leave behind toxic salivary secretions in the plant. These two factors will lead to stunted plant growth, deformed and discolored leaves/fruit, potential for leaf loss, and can cause galls to form on the plant.

    Causal Damage: it’s common for aphid species to secrete a sugary substance called honeydew (or more specifically, cornicle wax) on the leaves and other plant parts of thelir host plant. This cornicle wax is a prime host for the “sooty mold” fungus, which colonizes on the surfaces covered by the honeydew, blocking out the sunlight to that section of the plant, ultimately preventing it from taking in the sunlight and leading to plant damage.

    Viral Damage: aphids are a major vector when it comes to spreading diseases among plants. Not only can they transmit dozens of viruses from a diseased plant into a healthy plant in only a matter of seconds, they can also host viruses that go through a latency period within the host insect itself. The transmitted viruses are acquired instantly on the aphids mouth parts when it feeds on an infected plant, and are easily spread to new plants when the aphid feeds on them for its next meal. Even worse, many of the diseases these pests can spread are incurable, making viral damage the most worrisome effect of an aphid infestation.

    How can you Prevent Aphids?

    When it comes to aphids, putting in a little advance work to discourage them from making your plants their home can go a long way to keeping a significant infestation at bay. Here are a few tips on how to prevent or minimize an aphid attack:

    • Remove weeds that could be used by the insect for a reproduction site.
    • Use insect nets to cover crops.
    • Avoid excessive use of nitrogenous fertilizer.
    • Remove any plant residue/waste.
    • Grow banker/barrier plants around the important plants you wish to save from damage; these banker plants are plants that are not susceptible to the viruses aphids carry so when the insect feeds on them, the virus is safely deposited into a plant it won’t effect. You can also intermingle plants in your garden that naturally repel aphids (i.e. garlic, chives, leeks, marigolds, and catnip).

    How do you Eliminate Aphids?

    If you have found yourself facing an aphid infestation on your plants, it’s time to give Mid-Cities Pest Control a call at 1-800-310-BUGS to get a technician out to combat the issue. Since they can reproduce quickly, time is of the essence, which means that at the first signs of an aphid issue, you need to call so that Mid-Cities Pest Control can send out an experienced technician to evaluate the infestation and determine the best course of treatment. Since aphids cause damage to the plant, which is ultimately the vehicle through which the pesticide will reach the insect, it takes a knowledgeable hand to know how to make treatment effective, and even more so, to know which products to use to successfully eliminate the target insect.

    Though aphids are a wonderfully unique pest, they are also very dangerous to landscape plants and crops, and need to be carefully monitored and eliminated when evidence arises that they have settled on your property. So show your plants some love this Valentine’s Day and call The Bug Dude at the first sign of an aphid infestation.

    Additional Resources:

    “Aphids – in detail” – Canna

    “Aphids in Texas Landscapes” – Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

    “History of Valentine’s Day” – History.com Editors

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

    Out with the Weevils, in with the New Year

    Thursday, January 09, 2020 | Mid-Cities Pest Control

    Around the world people ring in the New Year with traditions meant to celebrate a fresh start and let go of the prior year. In Colombia and Ecuador they release the negativity of the prior year during “los años viejos” where they burn previously made effigies (in the form of large puppets or scarecrows) of those who have died in the past year or of people they dislike. Until recently, people in Johannesburg, South Africa, would throw old furniture out of windows to symbolize the removal of old problems and the gaining of a fresh start. The people of Denmark utilize old dishes in their celebrations, breaking these dishes against a friend’s front door or front step in order to bring them good fortune in the dawning year (in Denmark, broken glass is a sign of good luck). Closer to home, we often include in our celebrations a set of New Year’s Resolutions, meant to help us embrace the idea of “out with the old [bad habits], and in with the new.”

    In that spirit of letting go of the old, we turn to a place often neglected when it comes to that sentiment: the pantry. Though it may not seem like a priority with the dazzle of the New Year and the new decade still fresh, with so many people making resolutions around both food and money, it’s a place you won’t want to forget about lest you find your food infested with weevils and yourself having to let go of more than just old food.

    How Many Kinds of Weevils Are There?

    Weevils are actually a type of beetle and in comparison to other beetle groups, are known to have an exceptionally high number of different species in its family. In Texas alone, it is believed that there are over 1200 different types of weevils. Though they all share certain commonalities, and many can become pests agriculturally (like the boll weevil) or to ornamental plants (like the black vine weevil), when you are dealing with them in your home the predominant varieties you will encounter are the rice weevil, granary weevil, cowpea weevil, and maize weevil.

    What do Weevils Look Like?

    With so many different types of weevil in existence, there isn’t one description that could cover them all. However, there are certain traits shared by most weevils, especially those listed above as the common varieties you would find in your home (with the exception of the cowpea weevil, which lacks the notable snout). Perhaps the most distinctive characteristic of the adult weevil is its head shape, which is elongated at one end to form a snout with the mouth at the end of that snout. They are generally dark brown or black with slender or oval-shaped bodies, and are quite small, ranging from 1/10th to 2/5ths of an inch in length. Some weevils are capable of flying (such as the rice weevil), while others (like the granary weevil) are not. In the larval stage, they are tiny, white/cream-colored, wrinkled, humpbacked and legless, with a small, tan-colored head.

    How Do You Get Weevils?

    Though there are plenty of weevil species that can be found outdoors and can make their way indoors through cracks and crevices, the most common way that these pests find their way into your home is inside packaged and bulk food items. The eggs arrive in your home already inside a seed or grain kernel. The adult female weevil will chew a hole into a seed or grain kernel using her long snout and will then deposit an egg inside and seal up the opening afterward, keeping the egg well-hidden. Once the egg hatches, the larva will feed on the meat inside the seed/kernel until it is fully grown, when it will eat its way out of the grain/seed.

    But you won’t have just one weevil emerging, and it won’t stay as just one generation for long. Not only does mating often occur within 24 hours of the adult weevil emerging from the seed/grain, but 1 adult female can lay 300-400 eggs, which can complete a generation in just 1 month in favorable (warm, damp) conditions; this means that an infestation can happen quite suddenly. And these pests are persistent, living as adults for around 7 or 8 months, which means you could be living with them for quite some time unless you take proper measures.

    Are Weevils Dangerous?

    Fortunately, weevils are not a dangerous household pest. They don’t bite or sting, and they are not toxic if consumed. They are, however, a significant agricultural pest, doing damage to a wide variety of crops and stored grain. And on an individual level, they can be responsible for a great deal of food waste, as well as the unmistakable horror upon finding these pests crawling all throughout your food; a horror that can linger for years afterward every time you think about buying that same product again.

    How can you Prevent Weevils?

    There are several important steps to take to prevent weevils from infesting your food and your home. Following these preventative measures year-round will significantly decrease the likelihood that you will find these pests taking over your pantry.

    1. Inspect bagged and boxed foods before purchasing and do not purchase any items that have torn or damaged packaging.
    2. Pay attention to expiration dates on bagged and boxed foods and do not purchase items past their expiration/best by dates.
    3. Store dry goods (rice, pasta, flour, beans, nuts, etc.) in glass, metal, or thick plastic containers with tightly-fitting lids. If this is not possible, store these goods in the refrigerator or freezer.
    4. Clean out reusable dry good containers before refilling; do not add new items to the existing (old) ones.
    5. Keep the pantry clean and free of food debris and loose food.
    6. Keep food storage areas dry.
    7. Store non-food dry goods (pet food, birdseed, etc.) in tightly sealed containers away from the pantry, ideally in a shed or garage.

    How do you Eliminate Weevils?

    Eliminating weevils is essentially a 3 step process.

    Step 1: Remove the infested food

    • If you see weevils in your stored foods, immediately discard the infested food item.
      • Do save a small sample of the insects you are seeing in a well-sealed container so that when you have one of Mid-Cities Pest Control’s technicians evaluate your home for treatment they can correctly identify the pest for optimal treatment.
    • Inspect all remaining food items in the vicinity for possible infestation and discard any additional affected items. Ideally, you will want to inspect all food items in the home, but it is especially important to check all items in the same pantry/cupboard/etc.
      • Pay special attention to all grains, flours, seeds, rice, nuts, beans, cereals, corn, etc.

           Step 2: Clean

    • Remove all food items from the area where the infested food was found (pantry, cupboard, etc.) and vacuum all of the shelves, floor, and wall joints. Use the brush/crevice attachment on the vacuum to get to all areas, especially the edges of shelves, corners, and all other cracks and crevices.
      • Note: a vacuum is by far the best tool for this job as you need to ensure that all insects/eggs are removed from the food storage area. Cleaning agents, bleach, etc. will not aid in the removal of the insects.
    • Always empty the vacuum or discard the vacuum bag outdoors.
    • Give the kitchen a thorough cleaning.

    Step 3: Call a Professional

    • The danger in a weevil infestation comes from the fact that the eggs are so tiny and well-hidden that you will end up with hundreds of insects destroying your food before you even know you have a problem. Even after following steps 1 and 2, there is a good chance that these resilient pests may still be lying in wait to devour even more of your food. That’s why it’s always a good idea to call in a professional. The technicians at Mid-Cities Pest Control will identify the pest from the sample you saved to confirm it is indeed weevils and then determine the most effective, as well as the safest, method to treat for these pests so that they do not continue to cause damage to your food stores.
      • Never attempt to self-treat for weevils. Since products will need to be put in areas where food is kept, it is important for your safety to have a professional do the treating.

    Don’t let weevils dampen your New Year; at the first signs of pests, call Mid-Cities Pest Control at 1-800-310-BUGS and let us help you say “out with the infestation, in with a fresh start.”

    Additional Resources:

    “Weevils of Texas – Superfamily Curculionoidea” – compiled by Mike Quinn – Texas Entomology.

    “Rice Weevil and Maize Weevil” – Janet Hurley, Bradleigh S. Vinson – Entomology Extension, Texas A&M Forest Service

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

    Christmas with the Jerusalem Cricket

    Friday, December 13, 2019 | Mid-Cities Pest Control

    When we think of Christmas time our first thoughts go to the child born in a manger, loved ones, snow, Santa, and the carols we most love to sing. As we immerse ourselves in the magic of the season, we are sure to find animals of all shapes and sizes become part of the yearly yuletide; from reindeer to sheep, and mice to turtledoves, we welcome our furry and feathered friends (or at least their most charming likenesses) into our celebrations. Not too surprisingly though, the insects and arachnids that just a few months prior were central to many a Halloween decoration, are largely left out when it comes to the glory and joy of Christmas. Maybe it’s just too difficult to feel the cozy warmth of Christmas when looking at a spider or see the magic and joy when watching a roach skitter across the floor, even if that roach were wearing a tiny Santa hat and beard, or maybe it’s simply that we haven’t chosen the correct insects to include in our Christmas celebrations.

    There is one insect that has had its place in Christmastime lore, one of the few insects that has had several notable positive representations in pop culture: the cricket. In 1845 Charles Dickens published a very popular novella: The Cricket on the Hearth: A Fairy Tale of Home, the third of his five Christmas books, in which a cricket acts as a sort of guardian angel to a family. Though Mr. Dickens was certainly writing about a fairly common cricket in that story, there is yet another cricket that seems destined to be connected to Christmas: the Jerusalem cricket. Not only does the name instantly bring up thoughts of the Biblical city and its own history, but it also brings to mind the city that’s less than 6 miles away and is infamous especially at Christmas, Bethlehem. But before you start singing “O little town of Bethlehem,” consider the second reason the Jerusalem cricket seems destined for Christmas: instead of making a chirping noise like standard crickets, the Jerusalem cricket makes a sort of drumming noise (perhaps a “Pa rum pum pum pum”…at least at Christmas) with its body.

    Though this insect seems like the best candidate if one were looking to add to the Christmas animal repertoire, it faces the same challenges so many insects face: most people do not want to be around it. Not only is it a strange-looking insect, but it’s large, and the sight of it actually in your home would probably give you Halloween flashbacks instead of making you sing Christmas carols. So let’s learn a little more about this almost-Christmassy insect so you can learn how to avoid an unwanted Christmas surprise.

    Why are they Called Jerusalem Crickets?

    The name Jerusalem Cricket is actually a bit of a misnomer as they are neither from, nor found in, Israel. It’s unknown exactly how they received their name, but the most common theory is that it originated from a misinterpretation of the Navajo name for these insects (“Skull Insect”) by Spanish priests who interpreted the name as being related to “Skull Hill,” the place where Christ died.

    Even calling them a cricket is a bit of a misnomer, as they are technically not a true cricket. Yes, they are still in the same Order as crickets and grasshoppers, but that’s a very broad category and there are several key differences between the Jerusalem cricket and common crickets that help to illustrate the naming confusion: unlike common crickets they are not built for jumping, instead they are built for burrowing into the soil; and though they are known for their unique mating song, it’s not the familiar chirping noise, instead the Jerusalem cricket creates their distinctive drumming sound by bumping the ground with their body.

    In the end, these odd little bugs seem to defy all naming logic, adding even more intrigue to these unique creatures.

    What do Jerusalem Crickets Look Like?

    These strange-looking insects are quite large, around 2”-2.5” long, and have quite a distinctive appearance. Their bald, shiny, amber-colored head is one of the most distinguishing features, being that it is disproportionately large for its body and almost “humanoid” in shape, with two dark, beady eyes set just below its slender antennae. They also have very large mandibles (mouth-parts), which are highly effective for chewing roots, tubers, vegetables, and meat (including other insects), as well as aiding in soil excavation as they dig through the dirt in their subterranean world. Their shiny abdomen is ringed tan against dark brown or black. Finally, its legs, especially its front legs, are stout and spiny and adapted for digging in soil, not for jumping.

    Where are Jerusalem Crickets Found?

    Geographically, Jerusalem crickets are found in the western United States and parts of Mexico.

    Outdoors, Jerusalem crickets generally spend most of their lives in underground burrows, only coming to the surface at night to feed on plant matter and insects; however, they can also occasionally be found making their homes in warm, damp places, generally in a protected area like a wood or rock pile. After mating, the female will burrow 6”-10” underground, usually in a protected area like was just mentioned, and will created a nest there that will house their eggs.

    Jerusalem Crickets are rarely found Indoors, other than in a terrarium as a pet. Due to their preferred habitat and nesting site, they generally won’t be looking to make your home into their home, and most likely just wandered in while looking for food.

    Are Jerusalem Crickets Dangerous?

    Though they are an intimidating insect to suddenly find yourself faced with, they are not aggressive and are likely to simply try to escape if they encounter a threat rather than attempt to attack or defend. However, their strong, and sizeable, mandibles are known to deliver quite a painful bite should the Jerusalem cricket be cornered into a situation where it cannot flee and is forced to fight. Fortunately, they are not venomous or poisonous, so though the bite will hurt for a little, it won’t do any lasting damage.

    These bizarre insects aren’t even particularly dangerous to crops, though this is definitely where they have their greatest potential for threat and damage. Since their diet consists of a good deal of plant matter, and they live underground, there are many crops, especially things like potatoes (another nickname for the Jerusalem cricket is Potato bug after all), that they have the potential to negatively affect. However, they can only do significant damage in large numbers, and though they can live for 2-3 years, it also takes about 1-2 years for them to mature to adulthood, and they are known to have a low rate of reproduction, making it rare to find an infestation of these insects to the point of causing severe crop damage.

    How can you Prevent Jerusalem Crickets?

    There are two main things to consider when attempting to prevent Jerusalem crickets from becoming an issue in your home: 1) how could they get into your home and 2) are there any ideal burrowing/nesting conditions in your yard that you could reduce or eliminate?

    When considering how they could get into your home, be sure to look for any large gaps that may be present, especially at door sweeps or window seals, and make sure that any windows or doors that may be left open have a fully sealed screen over them. Since these aren’t a small pest like an ant, they will need a much more sizeable opening to enter your home, one that would be visible to the naked eye.

    When considering what could be done to make your yard less hospitable to the Jerusalem cricket, remember that they like warm, damp places, and often go for protected locations under rock or wood piles. Clearing any such piles and keeping your yard free of leaf/plant debris will go a long way toward making your yard a less ideal home for these giants. Additionally, keep a close eye on any fruit or vegetable gardens as these are a potential food source for these insects and could serve to draw them into your yard when they’re searching for a midnight snack.

    Finally, when it comes to eliminating potential food sources for the Jerusalem cricket, it’s always a good idea to keep your home as insect-free as possible. By getting on a pest control service plan with Mid-Cities Pest Control and having a certified technician maintain a pest barrier around your house you are far less likely to ever have to face a startling encounter with the Jerusalem cricket inside your home.

    How do you eliminate Jerusalem Crickets?

    If you find yourself facing a problem with Jerusalem crickets; whether it’s a lone insect that got inside and reminded you it’s time to get on a pest control service plan, or whether you’re facing an infestation, the best course of action is to call Mid-Cities Pest Control at 1-800-310-BUGS and have a certified pest control technician come out to evaluate your home and yard; they can provide you with service options to get the issue under control and maintain a pest barrier to keep your home from becoming a buffet for the Jerusalem cricket.

                This Christmas as you prepare to gather family and friends together to celebrate the joy and the wonder of the holiday, don’t worry about having to utter a “Bah, humbug” at any pests finding their way into your home, give Mid-Cities Pest Control a call and let our technicians help to make this a very Merry Christmas for all.

    Additional Resources:

    “Jerusalem Cricket” – Pestnet.

    “Wild Thing: Stranger Things” – Ben Hutchins – Texas Parks & Wildlife.

    “Potato Bug: AKA Jerusalem Cricket And Child Of The Earth” – Daniel Nelson – Science Trends.

    “Genus Stenopelmatus – Jerusalem Cricket” – Cotinis, Chuck Entz, & David Ferguson – BugGuide.

    “The Jerusalem Cricket” – Dr. Wayne S. Johnson & Jeff Knight – University of Nevada, Reno Cooperative Extension.

    Author Bio: Alissa Breach has been gaining knowledge and experience around pest control concerns over the last 10 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.

    Christmas vector created by pikisuperstar

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