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    ‘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.

    They’re Creepy, They’re Crawly, They’re Centipedes

    Wednesday, October 19, 2022 | Mid-Cities Pest Control

    It’s 3am when you’re roused from sleep. You stumble in the darkness toward your bathroom, turning on only a dim nightlight to illuminate your way. As you take a step into the room a flicker of movement catches your eye. You stare into the shadowy corners of the walls and wait, breath coming to you only in shallow bursts. After a moment of stillness, you let out a heavy sigh and continue forward. Trying to shake off the feeling that something is moving in the darkness around you, you take a few more deep breaths and finally give in to the urge to switch on the bathroom light. As soon as the room is bathed in brightness you see the movement once again, scurrying with blinding speed across the wall. Remembering it’s the middle of the night, you manage to resist a scream, but the long skittering legs of the creature make your every hair stand on end. You freeze, caught between the terror of approaching the nightmarish being and the absolute desire to not let it inhabit your home another moment. But in your hesitation the creature has an opportunity, and it slips into a crack by the sink and disappears deep into the recesses of your home, looking for the next dark room it can inhabit.

    A cold shiver runs along your skin as you imagine it crawling out from the baseboard next to your bed, or creeping along the shower tiles till it’s eye-to-eye with you. Your stomach constricts. You head back to your bedroom, eyes darting to every shadow as you walk, anxiously waiting for the creature to rear its hideous head. You try to go back to sleep but every time you begin to close your eyes you think you see it crawling just at the edge of your vision. Grabbing your phone, you furiously search for the creature you just encountered, hoping it wasn’t actually as horrifying as it seemed. Maybe it was just a trick of the light. When you find it, and pictures of centipedes fill your screen, your skin prickles and a shaky breath catches in your throat: they are every bit as creepy as you feared. The only solace you can find is in calling The Bug Dude @ 1-800-310-BUGS (2847) and knowing that with their help you will soon be free from the grip of terror that this crawling menace has just placed you in.               

    What do Centipedes Look Like?

    There are two main types of centipedes in Texas: the house centipede and the Texas giant redheaded centipede. Though you could potentially find either one scurrying across your walls (or even in your bed), the one you are most likely to encounter is the house centipede. The house centipede has a flattened, worm-like body that is approximately 1.5 inches long with a pair of long antennae and 15 pairs of long, slender legs; they can range in color from a dirty yellow to a dark brown. With their long legs, this species is known for its ability to run exceptionally quickly.

    The Texas giant redheaded centipede, on the other hand, is more notable for its size than its speed, though it is still a very fast runner. This Texas-sized pest can grow up to 8 inches long! It has a flattened worm-like body with a pair of antennae and 21 pairs of legs (these legs are thicker and shorter than those of the house centipede). Its coloration is distinct and a clear warning sign (aposematic coloration) to not touch this venomous pest: it has a red head, black body, and yellow legs.

    Where do Centipedes Live?

    Whether indoors or outside, centipedes prefer to live in moist, protected areas. Outdoors you’re likely to find them under stones, leaves, rotting logs, or in loose tree bark. Indoors they will generally stay in damp areas such as bathrooms, closets, crawl spaces, or even in potted plants. They are nocturnal, so will spend the daylight hours in a protected location and venture out at night in order to hunt for food.

    What do Centipedes Eat?

     Centipedes are predators and will feed on a wide variety of other insects and even some small mammals. House centipedes will often feed on cockroach nymphs, spiders, silverfish, crickets, bedbugs, flies, moths, and earwigs. Texas giant redheaded centipedes will feed on even larger prey with common meals consisting of a wide variety of insects, mice, small snakes, small amphibians, and small mammals. Both types will kill their prey by grasping it with their powerful claws (located just behind the head) and injecting venom.

    Are Centipedes Dangerous?

    When it comes to discussing the relative dangers of centipedes, there’s good news and there’s bad news. The good news is that the most dangerous species of centipedes do not live in the United States. The other good news, is that neither of the common Texas centipedes are as dangerous as the black widow spider. The bad news is that centipedes are capable of delivering a nasty bite to humans and injecting us with their venom; this bite has been likened to a bee or wasp sting, with effects lasting several hours. Even worse, the Texas giant redheaded centipede has sharp claws at the tip of each of its many walking legs and it produces a poison at the attachment point of each leg, so as it walks across human skin it will not only cut into it, it will drip its poison into the wounds. This means that encountering a centipede could quickly become a painful endeavor whether they bite you or not.

    Fortunately, their bite is not enough to do serious damage to the majority of healthy adults or to healthy dogs or cats. However, with venomous pests, there is always a chance of a dangerous allergic reaction, so any bites should be closely monitored. Additionally, those who are at high risk (young children, elderly, and those with health conditions) should be closely monitored if they are bitten by a centipede and medical attention should be sought if symptoms become severe or persistent.

    It is also worth noting that if you have particularly small pets in the home (frogs, mice, etc.) they are at high risk of fatality if bitten by a centipede.

    How do you Prevent Centipedes?

    The most important first step to preventing centipedes from invading your home is to maintain a regular pest control service plan with The Bug Dude. By doing this not only will you eliminate any centipedes that may have sneaked into your house, but you will also keep your home from becoming an all-you-can-eat buffet for these predatory pests by reducing or eliminating their insect food sources.

    In addition to maintaining a regular pest control service, here are a few tips to help make your home less inviting to these creepy-crawlies (remember, the first rule of thumb here is to reduce as much moisture in and around your home as possible):

    • Keep compost piles, stones, and firewood piles away from your house
    • Create a gravel barrier between your home’s foundation and any landscaping
    • Regularly turn the mulch in any mulched landscaping to let it dry out
    • Seal any cracks and crevices that could allow pests entry into your home
    • Keep door and window seals in good condition
    • Seal any gaps around plumbing penetrations
    • Keep crawl spaces properly ventilated
    • Keep your yard free from leaf litter and other debris
    • Keep sprinkler systems in proper working order
    • Make sure gutters are clear and downspouts direct water several feet away from the foundation
    • Fix any plumbing leaks immediately
    • If areas of your home are particularly damp, consider utilizing dehumidifiers

    And remember, when looking for potential entry points, these creepy critters can easily climb up walls.

    How do you Eliminate Centipedes?

    When it comes to eliminating a centipede invasion, you need to be on the watch not only for these creepy-crawlies, but for any other pests that may be invading your home. Given the diet of a centipede, any pest infestation in your home would appear to them to be a fantastic buffet and a great invitation to make your house their home. And, since centipedes are nocturnal, you can go a long time without seeing one unless you happen to be a night owl, so you could wind up with a house full of these grotesque critters before you even know it. So at the first sighting of centipedes or an abundance of any other pest, call The Bug Dude at 817-354-5350 and let our expert technicians help you reclaim your peace of mind with a pest-free home.

    As Halloween approaches, keep yourself free from unexpected scares, and call The Bug Dude at the first sign of a pest problem. And remember, centipedes are not just a bunch of hocus pocus!

    Further Reading:

    “Centipede” – Mike Merchant, Texas A&M Extension Entomology

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

    “Centipedes/Millipedes” – Wizzie Brown, Extension Agent-IPM, The Texas A&M University System, Texas A&M Extension Entomology

    “Giant redheaded centipede (July 25, 2013)” – Sydney Glass, Integrated Pest Management Intern – Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

    “House Centipedes” – Steve Jacobs, Sr. Extension Associate, PennState Extension

    “Giant Red-Headed Centipede” – Missouri Department of Conservation

    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 Fall for a Tick Trap

    Wednesday, September 14, 2022 | Mid-Cities Pest Control

    September 22nd marks the official start of fall, and though the weather here in North Texas is only beginning to cool off, it’s enough to make adventuring in the great outdoors seem like a relaxing idea for a weekend. Whether you prefer hiking, biking, or taking a stroll with your dog, spending the day in nature can be a great way to unwind and relieve the weekday stress. That is, it can be gloriously peaceful, until you get home and discover that a tiny hitchhiker has found its way home with you. If you’re lucky, you will find this minuscule invader before it has a chance to infest your home and yard, or worse, infect you and your pets with potentially life-threatening diseases. If you’re not so lucky, a simple attempt to have a peaceful weekend could turn into some of the worst months of your life. So what is this tiny terror that’s waiting to wreak havoc on you? None other than the notorious tick.

    What do Ticks Look Like?

    Ticks come in 2 main families: “hard ticks” and “soft ticks.” Though either type of tick could potentially infest your yard, the four most common types of tick you are likely to encounter are all “hard ticks.” These four varieties are the brown dog tick, the blacklegged or deer tick, the American dog tick, and the lone star tick. Though there are unique characteristics to all 4 types, they do share a few important things in common. They all have a flattened oval body shape and are quite small in size (with unfed adults ranging from 3mm to 5mm in length). After a blood meal, adult females grow significantly and can be up to 15mm in length, or about the size of a large raisin. Since ticks are arachnids, they have 8 legs as nymphs and adults. However, in their larval stage (the stage immediately after they hatch from eggs, but before the nymph stage) they have only 6 legs and are particularly small, about 0.5mm in length (at this stage they are referred to as seed ticks). Tick eggs are spherical and dark brown; they are laid by a single female in clusters of 1,000 to 7,000, depending on species.

    Brown dog ticks are approximately 3.18mm long as adults and are a reddish-brown color with no other markings on their bodies.

    Blacklegged or Deer ticks are dark brown to black in color with black legs and are about 3mm long as adults. They are sexually dimorphic, meaning males and females look different, with females having a red/orange color behind the scutum (the back “shield” of the tick). The reason this tick has 2 names is it was initially believed to be 2 separate species; however, it is now recognized as a single species and is officially referred to as the blacklegged tick, though some people may still be more familiar with the name deer tick.

    American dog ticks are reddish-brown in color as adults with gray/silver markings on their scutum (back “shield”) and are between 3.6mm long (males) and 5mm long (females).

    Lone star ticks are a brown or tan color with silvery-white markings; adult females have a single spot on their backs, while males have scattered spots or streaks along the edges of their bodies. They are around 4mm long.

    Where do Ticks Live?

    Ticks can be found throughout the world and in a wide range of climates. They will almost always be found either outdoors in their preferred habitat or attached to their current host (where they are feeding). The only exception is the brown dog tick, which can complete its entire life cycle either indoors or outdoors. Indoors, you can find this tick in cracks and crevices around baseboards, door frames, and window frames. Outdoors, ticks of all kinds can be found in areas of heavy vegetation, tall grasses, wooded areas, fields, around shrubs, in underbrush, along creeks, in landscaped areas, under decks (if animals have access to this area), in yard clutter and debris, and in other areas where animals frequently visit (dog houses, kennels, etc.). On dog hosts, you can generally find them on the head, ears, back, between the toes, and in the area under the joint where the legs connect to the body. On human hosts, they will generally be in moist, warm areas of the body, like armpits, groin, and under hair.

    Though ticks thrive in warm, humid environments, they are extremely resilient and larvae have been shown to be able to survive for months in temperatures around 90°F, in sub-zero winter temperatures while covered in snow, and even submerged in water. In addition, the gradually warming climate has benefited ticks, allowing them to develop faster, feed for a greater part of the year, and even expand their territory. That being said, they are most active from spring through fall, though the blacklegged tick will remain active throughout the winter as long as the ground and air temperatures are above freezing.

    What do Ticks Eat?

    All 4 types of ticks that are common to North Texas are three-host ticks, which means that between each life stage they will feed on a different host animal for a blood meal (the only exception is the brown dog tick, as they could potentially feed on the same dog in different life stages if they are living in your home with your dog). A tick life cycle begins as an egg, where they will develop for anywhere from a couple days to months before hatching into a larvae. The larvae will then search out a blood meal from an animal by questing. Unlike fleas, ticks cannot jump onto their host; instead, they quest, which is the term to describe their behavior of climbing onto vegetation (i.e. a grass blade), holding onto it with their 3rd pair of legs, and waving their other legs in the air. When a host brushes past the vegetation, the tick simply grabs onto the host and climbs on board. And how do they know where to find hosts? They can detect heat, moisture, breath, body odor, and vibrations, and use that information to find a suitable place to quest.

    Generally, the first host for a larval tick will be a small animal, like a mouse. The larvae will feed for a few days to a few weeks, then, once engorged with blood, they will drop off the host and find a secluded place to develop over the next few weeks to months. They then emerge as nymphs and quest for a larger blood meal (often a raccoon or opossum), feed for a few days to a few weeks, drop off the host and develop in a secluded location. Finally, they will emerge as adults, feed on an even larger blood meal (dogs, deer, horses, etc.) for a few days to a few weeks, mate while attached to the host, then drop off, and the female will find a secluded location to lay her eggs before she dies. The entire life cycle can take anywhere from 2 months to 3 years, depending on the weather and the availability of hosts. In each stage of their life cycle, a tick can live a long time without a blood meal (anywhere from 5 months to 2 years). And even worse, there can be multiple generations of ticks each year.

    Unfortunately, ticks at all 3 stages of their life cycle can, and do, feed on humans, and the smaller the tick, the less likely you are to discover it. Fortunately, humans aren’t the preferred host for any of these ticks. Brown dog ticks prefer dogs as their hosts, blacklegged ticks and lone star ticks prefer white-tailed deer, and American dog ticks prefer dogs (but will readily attack other large mammals, including humans).

    Are Ticks Dangerous?

    When a tick uses you or your pet as a host, you have a lot more to worry about than simply the “ew” factor of a bug being firmly attached to you. Ticks are the primary spreader of vector borne disease in the U.S., which means that a bite from one of these pests could easily send you or your pet to the hospital. Even worse, tick-borne disease is on the rise, with the CDC reporting a 19% increase in just a decade. Each type of tick can be a vector for several different diseases, for details on these diseases, see the Texas Health & Human Services article on Tick-borne Diseases as well as the CDC articles on Tickborne Diseases of the United States and Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness. Below is a brief list of the potential diseases the four common Texas ticks can transmit to humans or pets.

    Brown dog tick: Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF), Ehrlichiosis, Babesiosis

    Blacklegged tick: Lyme disease, Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, Anaplasmosis, relapsing fever, Powassan virus disease

    American dog tick: Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Tularemia, Canine Tick Paralysis

    Lone star tick: Alpha-gal syndrome (red meat allergy), Ehrlichiosis, Tularemia, Heartland virus disease, Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness (STARI), Bourbon virus disease

    To illustrate the severity of just a few of these diseases: Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever has about a 25% human mortality rate if untreated and a 5% mortality rate if treated; Canine Tick Paralysis occurs when a tick attaches to the back of the neck or base of the skull (most commonly of a dog or child) and releases a salivary gland protein that slowly paralyses the host, and if not removed after several days of feeding, can cause respiratory failure and death (fatality rate is about 10% for humans, most of whom are children); Alpha-gal syndrome has no known cure; Lyme disease can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system with long-term consequences. While the risks to adult humans can be severe, the risks to children, pets, and those with compromised immune systems can prove fatal.

    How do you Prevent Ticks?

    Preventing ticks can be broken down into 3 main categories: personal, exterior, and interior. In order to keep you and your family safe, it’s important to practice all 3 types of prevention.

    Personal

    • Regularly groom and inspect pets that go outdoors for possible ticks
    • Inspect people and pets immediately after being in potential tick infection zones (outdoor tick habitats, kennels, dog groomers, dog parks, and other areas highly frequented by dogs or wildlife)
    • Maintain appropriate tick treatments for pets as recommended by your vet
    • Wear appropriate clothing when in potential tick habitats (long-sleeve shirts, pants tucked into socks at the cuffs, light colored clothing, etc.)
    • If walking in potential tick habitats frequently check your clothes for ticks
    • Utilize tick repellents

    Exterior

    • Maintain a pest control service with The Bug Dude to keep rodents (a common tick host) away from your home
    • Call The Bug Dude @ 800-310-BUGS (2847) if you suspect an issue with wildlife in or around your home as they are often carriers of ticks
    • Remove potential rodent & wildlife harborage and feeding areas around your home (check out our articles on rodent & wildlife control, such as rats, rodents, squirrels, and raccoons)
    • Seal any cracks and crevices around the perimeter of your home, especially near landscaping, shrubs and grassy areas
    • Keep grass and weeds cut short
    • Remove brush piles & leaf litter
    • Keep shrubs trimmed
    • Keep stacked wood away from your home and areas frequented by people or pets
    • If your home backs up to a tall grass or wooded area, place a 3 feet wide strip of wood chips or gravel between that area and your yard to act as a barrier
    • Keep decks, patios, playground equipment, benches, etc. away from yard edges and trees
    • Utilize fences to discourage unwanted animals from entering your yard (i.e. deer and stray dogs)
    • Keep your yard tidy and free of debris
    • Remove bird feeders or place them only at the edge of your yard
    • Keep gutters clean

    Interior

    • Regularly wash dog beds/blankets in hot water and dry in high heat to kill any potential ticks
    • Seal cracks & crevices around baseboards, windows, and doors

    How do you Eliminate Ticks?

    Tick infestations are notoriously difficult and time-consuming to treat, with bigger infestations being exponentially more complicated to eliminate. Combine that with the potential risks to you and your family if a tick decides to feed on any of you, and you can see that it’s vital to get any infestation promptly treated. If you suspect you have a tick infestation on your hands, whether in your yard or in your home, call The Bug Dude at 817-354-5350 immediately to have our expert technicians inspect, evaluate, and treat the danger zones before the problem escalates.

    So this fall, as you venture out for a relaxing wilderness walk, or spend a long day at the dog park, remember to keep a watchful eye out for ticks to keep your peaceful weekend from becoming a prolonged nightmare.

    Further Reading:

    “common name: brown dog tick / scientific name: Rhipicephalus sanguineus Latreille (Arachnida: Acari: Ixodidae)” –  Yuexun Tian, Cynthia C. Lord, and Phillip E. Kaufman, University of Florida

    “common name: blacklegged tick or deer tick / scientific name: Ixodes scapularis Say (Arachnida: Acari: Ixodidae)” – Michael R. Patnaude, University of Florida, and Thomas N. Mather, University of Rhode Island

    “common name: American dog tick / scientific name: Dermacentor variabilis (Say) (Arachnida: Ixodida: Ixodidae)” – Wai-Han Chan and Phillip E. Kaufman, University of Florida

    “Lone Star Tick” – Field Guide to Common Texas Insects – Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

    “A Closer Look at Ticks That Spread Disease” – Brittany Campbell, Ph.D., BCE – Control Solutions Inc.

    “Ticks on the Move” – Chelle Hartzer – PCT

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

    Keep Your Cool Against Blow Flies

    Friday, August 12, 2022 | Mid-Cities Pest Control

    Summers in Texas are always hot, but this summer has been hotter than hot. With the recent extreme heat wave only barely behind us, and no end to recurring 100+ degree days in sight, it’s easy to focus all your attention on keeping cool inside your home and forget that sometimes your safe haven can become something else’s haven as well.

    Though we usually think of rats and mice invading homes during the late fall and winter, when summer heat becomes excessive, it’s not uncommon to see these pests entering homes in search of water and shelter. And once inside your home they can cause all sorts of issues while they are alive (see our blogs here and here), and even after they are dead. Even a single animal carcass can bring with it not only an odor of decay bad enough to pervade throughout your entire home, but the potential for a massive blow fly infestation. If you think the occasional fly buzzing around you during an outdoor summer picnic is annoying, imagine trying to grab a bite to eat in the solace of your air conditioned house only to be surrounded by thousands of flies threatening to infect your food with any number of dangerous pathogens. Or perhaps even more stomach-churning, imagine going to grab a sandwich only to see a pile a maggots in your kitchen cabinet or along the baseboard. It’s enough to send you flying out of your home, with the risk of heat stroke the last thing on your mind.

    Fortunately, The Bug Dude is here to help you keep cool through any pest-related crisis.

    What do Blow Flies Look Like?

    The term “blow fly” refers to several species of fly, each of which has a slightly different appearance, preferred habitat, and particular food preference. Fortunately, the differences are small enough that you don’t need to break out a microscope to determine the exact species in order to know that you have a blow fly problem.

    In general, these flies substantially resemble house flies in appearance except that they are slightly larger and have a metallic sheen in a blue, green, copper, or black color. They are generally between .2” and .6” in length, have large compound eyes, short antennae, and 1 pair of wings. The larvae of these flies (also known as maggots) are between .3” and .9” in length, are white or cream-colored, and are eyeless and legless. As the larvae go through their life stages and mature, they create an outer skin (known as puparia) where they will go through their final stage before emerging as adult flies. These puparia are dark brown and can resemble rat droppings or roach egg cases. So if you see anything that you think might be a rat dropping, call The Bug Dude @ 1-800-310-BUGS (2847) immediately to get a professional evaluation instead of attempting DIY pest control and risking treating for a pest you don’t even have, and letting the pest you actually do have propagate.

    Where do Blow Flies Live?

    Adult blow flies will generally be found around sources of food or places where they can lay their eggs. Their ideal gathering places are: animal carcasses (the fresher, the better), animal feces, garbage, poorly maintained compost piles, other decaying vegetation or meat, and even plants and flowers.

    The adult flies will lay their eggs on fresh animal carcasses, often being the first organisms to come into contact with a recently departed animal; the decaying meat of the animal is essential for the fly larvae to survive. Generally, the life cycle from egg to adult will take between 16 and 35 days to complete depending on how favorable the conditions are, with temperature being a primary factor (depending on the species in question though, either hot or cool temperatures could be ideal, making no season and no location safe from these pests). This means that if you happen to have a rat or mouse die inside your attic or in one of your walls (which is especially common if you have done some DIY rodent baiting), you could be harboring maggots in just a matter of hours (a single blow fly can lay up to 2,000 eggs in its life, and eggs will hatch into larvae in just 12 hours), and in about 2 weeks you could find yourself inundated with a house full of flies. While the flies can move freely throughout your house, the larvae will stay relatively close to their initial food source throughout their development but could still be spotted along nearby baseboards or in other secluded, dry areas as they mature and leave the food source to form puparia and finish developing.

    What do Blow Flies Eat?

    Adult blow flies can feed on a variety of materials but generally consume flower nectar, plant sap, and a variety of sugary materials (including those found in your kitchen or in your trash).

    Larval blow flies, however, consume primarily dead animals or animal excrement. This means that any infestation of rodents or wildlife in or around your home could quickly lead to you finding yourself contending with piles of maggots or swarms of flies, whether from the animal’s droppings or from a deceased animal itself. So if you notice wildlife or rodents making your house their home, call The Bug Dude ASAP to keep the problem from escalating the way our summer heat has been.

    Are Blow Flies Dangerous?

    Though neither the adult nor larval stages of blow flies can bite you or your pets, they can still be a significant risk to you and your loved ones’ health. How? They are a vector for a variety of diseases such as typhoid fever, dysentery, cholera, anthrax, leprosy, tuberculosis, and many more. Because these flies spend a lot of their time in highly unsanitary conditions, they can easily pick up harmful bacteria and transmit those bacteria to whatever they land on (such as the sandwich you are about to eat, or the cat food sitting in the bowl in your kitchen), which in turn can be transmitted to you or your pets. Even worse news for those of us in the highly populated DFW area is that the flies found in urban areas tend to carry more pathogens than those in rural areas. So it’s vital that as soon as you notice anything you think might be maggots or see more than just the occasional house fly buzzing around your home, call in the experts at The Bug Dude @ 1-800-310-BUGS (2847) to keep you and your loved ones safe.

    How do you Prevent Blow Flies?

    When it comes to preventing blow flies from taking over your house or yard, the most important thing to consider is maintaining good sanitation habits. Here are a few tips to make your home and yard less hospitable to these flies:

    • Maintain a pest control service with The Bug Dude to keep rodents from living in your home and eventually becoming a host to blow flies.
    • If you see or smell a dead animal in or around your home, call The Bug Dude at 817-354-5350 immediately to get assistance in locating the dead animal (if necessary) and getting it properly disposed of.
    • Regularly clean garbage cans.
    • Ensure all garbage cans have tight-fitting lids.
    • Use plastic bags within garbage cans to reduce odor and keep the cans cleaner.
    • Keep outdoor garbage cans as far away from the home as possible.
    • Make sure that window and door screens are equipped and in good shape; don’t keep windows or doors open that aren’t properly outfitted with adequate screens.
    • Make sure that window and door seals are in good condition and are properly fitted.
    • Clean up pet excrement quickly and regularly.
    • Regularly pick up lawn debris.
    • If composting, make sure to follow proper procedures.
    • Promptly clean up any food spills or debris indoors and outdoors.

    How do you Eliminate Blow Flies?

    While a fly swatter will help with the occasional fly that finds its way into your home, if you notice more than one in a rare while or start seeing maggots anywhere on your property, it’s time to act quickly. At the first sign of flies taking over your house or yard, call The Bug Dude at 817-354-5350 to get one of our expert technicians out to eliminate the problem. Not only can our technicians find and address the source of the flies, they can eliminate them before they become a health hazard within your own home.

    Though summer makes us think of outdoor activities, and the pests associated with being in the great outdoors, it’s important to remember that we aren’t the only things seeking comfort from the heat within a nice air-conditioned home. So at the first buzz of a fly trying to land on your dinner, call The Bug Dude and let our techs help you keep your cool in any heated (pest) situation.

    Further Reading:

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

    “Flies carry even more disease than we thought” – Bonnie Burton – CNET

    “Blow Flies” – Theresa A. Dellinger and Eric Day, Department of Entomology, Virginia Tech

    “Is This a Typical Texas Heat Wave or the Coldest Summer of the Rest of Our Lives?” – Forrest Wilder – TexasMonthly

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

    Celebrate Independence Day with Freedom from Snakes

    Tuesday, July 19, 2022 | Mid-Cities Pest Control

    When you think of the 4th of July, what comes to mind? The Stars and Strips? Fireworks? The national anthem? How about snakes? Though we might not readily think of these slithery creatures as associated with the American Revolution and Independence Day, they have a long history of showing up in distinctly American ways. Starting in 1754, snake imagery was used in the first political cartoon published in an American newspaper: this is the famous “Join or Die” cartoon by Benjamin Franklin depicting the American colonies as sections of a snake. Not long after, in 1775, the Gadsden flag was adopted by the flagship of the Continental Navy: this flag features a rattlesnake with 13 rattles to represent the 13 colonies. Even in modern pop culture, snakes can play a role in establishing a character as uniquely American: think of the cowboy, Sheriff Woody, saying, “there’s a snake in my boot” in Toy Story. But even being associated with early American symbolism or a beloved animated movie hasn’t stopped the fear of snakes (ophidiophobia) from being one of the most common phobias afflicting Americans.

    So what’s so scary about snakes? To start with, the United States has around 30 species of venomous snakes, with all but 4 states (Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, and Rhode Island) being home to at least 1 species; this means that the majority of Americans at least have a chance of encountering a venomous snake. Of those potential encounters, around 8,000 people will be bitten by a venomous snake in the United Stated annually and roughly 5 of them will die (this statistic would be much higher if emergency medical care wasn’t quickly sought). The most common venomous snakebites come from the pit viper family, which includes rattlesnakes, cottonmouths (water moccasins), and copperheads. Though they aren’t the mostlethal snake on the list, copperheads are one of the most common venomous snakes you will encounter in the DFW area, and as such, one of the greater dangers you and your family (including your fur babies) could face this summer.

    What do Copperheads Look Like?

    There are three types of copperheads found in Texas: the Eastern copperhead (in eastern Texas), the Broadbanded copperhead (in central and western Texas), and the Trans-Pecos copperhead (in the southern part of the Trans-Pecos). Though there are subtle differences between the three subspecies, ultimately they share the same basic characteristics to help you identify them. They are between 20 and 30 inches in length, with a light tan body covered in rough scales and crossbands of a chestnut or reddish-brown color. The dark crossbands of the Southern copperhead are notable as they are distinct hourglass shapes, with the middle part of the hourglass resting along the spine of the snake. Broadbanded copperheads, as their name implies, have a thick, dark band that does not narrow into an hourglass shape. All 3 subspecies have yellow eyes and share the characteristic pit viper trait of a heat-sensing opening (“pit”) on each side of their head between their eye and nostril.

    Peter Paplanus from St. Louis, Missouri, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

    Where do Copperheads Live?

    Generally speaking, copperheads live in areas where they can find three things: a protected hiding place, water, and food. In the wild this will most often mean pastures or woodlands, but they can be just as happy with a secluded space in your yard, shed, or even your house. Since they are cold-blooded, you can expect to find them in different locations throughout the seasons and even throughout the day. In cooler temperatures, they can be found sunning on warm surfaces like rocks and pavement. However, during the heat of summer they prefer shade and will be well hidden under bushes, brush piles, sheets of plywood, or any number of items you could have around your home that creates a secluded, shady place. As Mitchell Willetts with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported recently here, they can even be found lurking in a toolbox in your garage! During winter, they will hibernate in dens that are generally in rock piles or caves, inside logs or stumps, in stone walls, or even in brush or leaf piles. If you happen to find a snake den and see snake eggs in it, you can rest assured it’s not a copperhead den, since copperheads birth their young encased in an amniotic sac, and do not lay eggs.

    What do Copperheads Eat?

    All snakes are carnivores, and copperheads are no exception. Adults of this species prefer vertebrate animals, such as rats, mice, frogs, birds, and even squirrels. However, when they are younger and smaller, they generally feast on invertebrates such as grasshoppers, beetles, millipedes, cicadas, and spiders. And yes, they do swallow their food whole.

    Are Copperheads Dangerous?

    The short answer is, “yes”. Texas has over 105 different species and subspecies of snake and of that number, only 15 are potentially dangerous to humans; and copperheads are definitely part of that 15. Not only do these snakes have sharp fangs capable of causing significant puncture wounds (and the risk of infection, including tetanus), they are venomous, delivering hemolytic venom to its victim, which will break down red blood cells in the body; when this hemolysis is severe it can result in shock, arrhythmias, and even heart failure, with additional potential complications of kidney or liver disease. Though they are not known to be aggressive, they will bite when provoked or threatened, leading them to be responsible for the most bites from a venomous snake in the U.S. If quickly and properly treated at a hospital, the victim of a copperhead bite is unlikely to develop severe symptoms or die; however, those at high risk, like children, immunocompromised individuals, and the elderly, are much more likely to face a difficult and costly recovery or potentially not recover at all. If you or a loved one receive a venomous snakebite, refer to the CDC guidelines for snake bites and seek emergency medical care as soon as possible.

    And while a copperhead bite for a human is a scary thing, even more dangerous is when the bite is inflicted upon one of your pets. These bites can cause paralysis, tissue damage, and even death; if you suspect your pet may have been bitten by a snake, getting them to an emergency vet ASAP is their best chance at survival. Symptoms of a snake bite include: localized pain, bruising, swelling, and 1 or 2 small wounds that are trickling blood. Be especially mindful of these symptoms around dogs’ heads and cats’ front paws, as these are the areas most commonly bitten.

    What do you do if you Encounter a Copperhead?

    The most important thing to do if you cross paths with a copperhead is to leave it alone. Do not attempt to capture or kill it as that drastically increases your likelihood of being bitten. If you have noticed it near or around your home, call The Bug Dude at 800-310-BUGS (2847) to get the help of an expert technician in eliminating your snake problem.

    How do you Prevent Copperheads?

    Ultimately, preventing copperheads from taking up residence in your home and yard comes down to eliminating sources of shelter and food. Fortunately, eliminating areas where snakes are likely to shelter also reduces areas where they are likely to find food. Here are some top tips on preventing these venomous snakes from calling your house their home:

    • Maintain a regular pest control service plan with Mid-Cities Pest Control to keep insects and rodents (preferred meals for copperheads) away from your home.
    • Keep your yard free of brush piles, leaf litter, and clutter.
    • Keep your grass nicely trimmed; long grass makes nice hunting grounds for snakes.
    • Trim away low branches on bushes and shrubs.
    • Keep wood piles away from your home.
    • Keep your shed and garage tidy and be cautious before reaching into or under any items that could create shelter for a snake.
    • Seal any holes or cracks on the exterior perimeter of your home, garage, and shed.
    • Make sure that doors and low windows close fully and are properly sealed.
    • Check out our blog for monthly tips on preventing insects and wildlife from infesting your home and yard to help reduce a copperhead’s food source.

    Additionally, take these steps to prevent contact with copperheads, whether at home or out and about:

    • Keep an eye on where you’re walking or reaching.
    • Use a stick or something with a long handle to move boards or logs before reaching under them.
    • Wear tall, thick boots and leather garden gloves if doing yard work in areas likely to harbor snakes (such as bushes or leaf piles).
    • Don’t reach into an area if you can’t see what might be in there.

    How do you Eliminate Copperheads?

    If you see a snake in or around your home that you’re concerned could be dangerous, immediately call The Bug Dude at 800-310-BUGS (2847) and enlist the help of our expert technicians. When possible, take a picture of the snake you saw to help the technician identify the snake, but do so only from a safe distance. Do not interact with the snake yourself! Not only is your risk of being bitten drastically increased if you attempt to capture or kill it, but Texas has specific regulations regarding the treatment of different snake species (with many being protected by state law) and unless you know those regulations, and which snake species you are encountering, you could find yourself on the wrong side of the law.

    So while you’re outside celebrating the 4th of July this summer, if you happen across a snake in your yard, take a moment (while you slowly get out of its way) to think on the many roles it has played in American lore, and then call The Bug Dude.

    Further Reading:

    “Watch Your Step! Snake Season in Full Swing” – NBC DFW

    “Sneaky serpents: Texas Department of Agriculture reminds Texans to keep sharp eye out for snakes” – Paul Livengood – KVUE ABC

    “‘Never been so scared’: Venomous copperhead snake bites 5-year-old boy at Texas home” – Priscilla Aguirre – MySA.com

    “Snakes and Their Control” – Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

    “Identifying Venomous and Nonvenomous Snakes in Texas” – Dr. Maureen Frank, Assistant Professor and Extension Wildlife Specialist – Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

    “Venomous Snake Safety” – Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

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

    This Flag Day Celebrate Your Freedom…From Dirt Daubers

    Friday, June 10, 2022 | Mid-Cities Pest Control

    When I was in elementary school, I got to be part of a group of kids who were responsible for putting up and taking down the American flag each day. It was exciting, the pomp and circumstance of raising the flag up the pole, of learning the proper way to fold and store the Star-Spangled Banner, the feeling of great importance to work together to keep any part from the sacrilege of touching the ground. It’s a memory that comes to mind especially on the holidays where raising the Stars and Stripes feels particularly ceremonial, like Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veteran’s Day, and of course, Flag Day.

    June 14th is Flag Day, a holiday commemorating the original adoption of the official flag of the United States in 1777 (think Betsy Ross). While not an official national holiday, and not as showy as Independence Day, it’s a nice time to pull out Old Glory and let it fly free in the summer breeze. If you’re like most homeowners, you don’t fly a flag year-round; between needing to follow proper procedure (did you know the flag needs to always be lit, meaning you should only fly it during daylight hours or if you have a dedicated spotlight on it for nighttime) and making sure to tend to your flag when inclement weather approaches, it can feel more like a chore than a celebration of the U.S.A. But, if you’re like many Americans, you probably own a flag that you keep stored, ready to fly for the right occasions. With Flag Day around the corner, you’ll be heading into your garage or shed to get to your storage for outdoor items, and as always, any time you enter a storage space, it’s a great time to take a look around for signs of pest activity. This is especially true as summer gets into full swing and pests that may have overwintered in and around your home are becoming more active and beginning to reproduce.

    As you enter your garage or shed, take a look at the corners, especially up by the ceiling, for signs of spiderwebs or wasp nests. Keep an eye out for spiders skittering out of the way as you open the door, or drawer, or box to get to your flag. Watch out for wasps buzzing angrily around your head as you pass through the main doorway. And especially take heed if you notice any interestingly shaped mud accumulations higher up on walls or ceilings, or in other protected areas, as those are a sure sign of a dirt dauber infestation. While dirt daubers might not be the scariest wasp you could encounter, if letting the flag touch the ground is sacrilege, then letting dirt daubers take over your home is certainly a desecration. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to stay that way for long, as The Bug Dude is here to help get your home back to a place of veneration.

    What do Dirt Daubers Look Like?

    Dirt Daubers (also known as mud daubers)is a generic term for several different species of wasp. Though each species has its own unique look, ranging from pure black to black and yellow, to an iridescent blue-black, the one distinguishing feature that pervades all species is a long, narrow waist section (the part that connects the thorax and abdomen). In general, these wasps are between 1/2” and 1” in length and often have dark reddish-brown wings. To the untrained eye, the wasps themselves could be mistaken for any number of types of wasp, but they do have a characteristic that makes it easy to identify if you have a dirt dauber issue: their nests.

    What does a Dirt Dauber Nest Look Like?

    The exact shape of a dirt dauber nest varies with the species, but they all have one thing in common: they are made of dirt (hence the wasp’s name). The basic construction is generally the same across the wasp species. It begins with the female dirt dauber, after mating, picking out a nesting site and beginning to gather balls of mud to construct her nest. Once the first cell of the nest has been constructed, she will begin a hunt for spiders. Upon catching a spider, she will paralyze it, place a single egg on it, and set that at the back of the cell. She will then continue to fill the cell with paralyzed spiders until it’s full (this can be up to 25 spiders). When the cell is full (about an hour after construction began), the female wasp will cap it and begin constructing the next cell. Each dirt dauber nest is home to a single female adult wasp, and several wasp eggs, which will hatch within the nest, consume all of the paralyzed spiders in its cell, and pupate into an adult wasp. As an adult, it will emerge from the nest, leaving a round exit hole in its former cell. If you notice a mud nest around your home but don’t see the distinguishing round holes in it, that means the nest is currently active!

    The most common nest shapes come from the black and yellow dirt dauber (Sceliphron caementarium) and the pipe organ dirt dauber (Trypoxylon politum). The black and yellow species creates stacks of cells to form nests which are rounded and approximately the size of a fist. The pipe organ species creates vertical, parallel rows of cells next to each other to form a nest, with the end result resembling a pipe organ (again, hence the name). Interestingly, the third most common species of dirt dauber, the blue mud wasp (Chalybion californicum) doesn’t have its own unique nest shape due to the fact that it doesn’t actually build its nests from scratch. Instead, this wasp reuses the old nests of other dirt dauber species, carrying water to the nest instead of mud in order to soften and remodel the existing nest.

    Where do Dirt Daubers Live?

    Dirt dauber nests can be found predominantly in secluded, protected areas where there are good sources of mud and spiders. In nature, this means they are generally found around cave entrances and under rock overhangs. Around town they can be found in barns, rafters, protected sides of buildings, and under bridges. At your home, they are most likely to be found in garages, under eaves, on porch ceilings, in sheds, in attics, and under undisturbed wood and rocks. Since dirt daubers are solitary wasps (for more on this, see “Are Wasps Ruining your Fall Fun? Give us a Buzz…”), there will be only 1 adult per nest, but with each nest hosting several young wasps waiting to emerge, you could easily find an entire conglomeration of nests in any of the areas listed above.

    What do Dirt Daubers Eat?

    As noted earlier, young dirt daubers consume spiders that were left in their cells by their mothers, but did you know that different wasp species prefer different spiders? For example, the black and yellow dirt dauber prefers crab spiders and other small, colorful spiders. And the blue mud wasp prefers black widow spiders. Adult wasps consume primarily liquids: plant nectar, honeydew (aphid secretions), and the body fluids from spiders they capture. Since spiders are such an integral part of their survival, it’s important to remember that any place you notice a lot of spider activity could be an invitation for dirt daubers to move in. So at the first signs of a spider infestation, contact The Bug Dude at 800-310-BUGS (2847 to get a technician out to your home to solve one infestation before it compounds into two (or more!). And if you’re not sure what you’re looking for when it comes to spiders, check out the article “Don’t let Spiders Ensnare Your New Year”.

    Are Dirt Daubers Dangerous?

    If left undisturbed, dirt daubers are not a particularly dangerous wasp species. Unlike yellow jackets, these wasps are not known for their aggression. However, they are definitely capable of stinging, and when threatened or provoked they will defend themselves. Though they don’t defend their nests the way yellow jackets do, it’s always a good idea to call The Bug Dude if you are facing a wasp infestation. Not only will that keep you safe in case a dirt dauber does decide to sting, it will keep you safe from more aggressive insects that may have moved into an old dirt dauber nest, or even worse, from aggressive wasp species that you may have misidentified as dirt daubers. This is especially important if you are allergic to wasp stings!

    How do you Prevent Dirt Daubers?

    As with most pests, prevention essentially boils down to 2 things: remove food sources and remove housing options. For dirt daubers removing food sources should start with a call to The Bug Dude to get on a regular service plan and keep spiders from getting a foothold in your home. The other main thing you can do to help eliminate food sources, as well as assist with eliminating housing options, is to seal up any harborage areas in and around your home, such as cracks and holes. An additional measure to take to remove housing options for these wasps is to drain your yard of excess water to keep from creating mud, which the wasps will use to build nests.

    How do you Eliminate Dirt Daubers?

    When faced with a pest problem, the safest, most effective, and most time and cost efficient route to take is always to call The Bug Dude at 800-310-BUGS (2847) at the first sign of trouble. Whether you are seeing spiders, spiderwebs, dirt dauber nests, or wasps, calling in The Bug Dude as soon as you notice the problem can get you to back to enjoying your summer in no time.

    This Flag Day, as you reverently fly the Stars and Stripes, make it a dual freedom celebration: freedom as a nation and freedom from pests.

    Further Reading:

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

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

    “Mud Daubers” – Missouri Department of Conservation
    “Open Pipe Mud Daubers” – PestWorld.org – National Pest Management Association

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

    The Hidden Costs of DIY Pest Control (Part Two)

    Wednesday, May 11, 2022 | Mid-Cities Pest Control

    As May gets into full swing, you might notice that Mother’s Day feels like it’s coming earlier than expected (as this year it falls on the 8th). In your last minute scramble for a heartfelt gift you might consider giving flowers or chocolates, but maybe those feel a bit cliche and you want something more useful for the woman who took care of you your whole life. Maybe you think that you could do some chores around the house for her, help weed her garden, clean up the garage, do some DIY pest control to keep her safe from bugs. If you missed last month’s article on the financial costs of DIY pest control, check it out here before making your final Mother’s Day gift selection. But maybe you’ll say, “My mom’s worth any cost,” which is a beautiful sentiment, but doesn’t negate the fact that you’ll be spending far more and getting far less. Even worse, you could end up turning Mother’s Day from a beautiful time to celebrate mom into a stressful and dangerous endeavor. In this continuation of the discussion of the hidden costs of DIY pest control we will look at the ecological and personal costs you will face if you decide to pursue a do-it-yourself route. By the end of the article you will see that whether it’s for yourself, your mom, or anyone you know and care about, DIY pest control comes with far too great a cost, and in every case it’s best to just call The Bug Dude at 800-310-BUGS (2847) and let a professional slowly, safely, and cost-effectively take care of any pest issues you might be facing. Also, if you like the idea of providing pest control for your Mother’s Day gift, Mid-Cities Pest Control offers several pest control service plans to fit your needs.

    Ecological Costs:

    Pesticides are not something to be trifled with. Unlike DIY jewelry or home decor making, which bear little risk to the environment of your home and yard and virtually no risk to the ecosystem, DIY pest control has the potential to be quite hazardous. While you can learn the basics of a DIY craft project in an afternoon spent online, there’s a good reason that pest control technicians are required to complete extensive training before they are allowed to handle pesticides solo. As an apprentice, they will complete classroom training in topics ranging from safety, environmental protection, pest recognition, application techniques, non-chemical pest control options and more. This classroom training is accompanied by on-the-job training where they will learn from the practical experience of professional technicians and certified applicators and eventually, they will have to pass a Texas Structural Pest Control exam before they are licensed to practice pest control solo. In addition, they are required to maintain continuing education annually so they can keep up with all the latest information available to the industry, thus ensuring the highest standard of safety and efficacy for pest control treatments. No matter how much googling you do, there is no substitute for this training program when it comes to personal and ecological safety or effectiveness of treatment.

                    But what are some of the specific environmental dangers of spraying pesticides? The main elements of danger can be broken down into 3 sections: quantity, storage, and location. Let’s tackle quantity first. For some things in life the Mae West quote of “if a little is great, and a lot is better, then way too much is just about right” rings true (the loving kindness and support of a mother, for instance); however, for pest control, the aphorism “a little bit goes a long way” is much more appropriate. Though your first instinct upon seeing a swarm of insects in your home or a giant fire ant mound in your yard may be to drown the pests in insecticide, that is never the most effective solution, and it certainly isn’t the safest. Much like the issues faced in the healthcare industry with the overuse of antibiotics, overuse of pesticides proves not only ineffective but detrimental to the health and safety of everyone, not to mention its ability to create superbugs (pesticide resistant insects). Beyond this, the more pesticide used, the more likely it is to get into the water supply, which is dangerous for everyone. A pest control professional not only knows how much of a product to use, they also don’t have to worry about making too much of a product for a single treatment, as they will be doing several treatments to different locations in a day and will be able to safely use up the product they mixed. If you are mixing products to treat just your home you will end up either needing to err on the side of caution and incrementally make small amounts until you complete the job (and yes, this will be just as time-consuming and frustrating as it sounds), or you will end up with excess product that you will need to safely dispose of or store until the next appropriate time to use it (and yes, you will need to resist the urge to just dump the excess in your lawn).

                    This brings us to our next topic: storage. Storing pesticides takes not only space, but careful planning. When you store pesticides, there are quite a few requirements to take into consideration:

    1. The product needs to be kept in a dry, cool, well-ventilated area
    2. The product needs to be kept in a locked space away from pets, children, wildlife, and accidental human contact
    3. The product needs to be kept in its original container (according to the EPA, “Children and others have been poisoned by accidentally consuming pesticides stored in food or beverage containers.”)
    4. The area around the product should be stocked with appropriate cleaning supplies (such as clay absorbents)
    5. The storage area must be free of water and food (human and animal)
    6. Any equipment used for pesticide mixing or application must be similarly stored. Once an item is used for pesticides, it cannot be used for anything else.

    As is probably apparent, this is likely to cost you both time and money to properly set up, but it is vital to keeping you and your family safe, as well as keeping the products you’ve invested money in viable for use. In addition to storing your products, you will also need to safely dispose of both the unused product as well as the containers where the products were stored or used. This process could be relatively simple if you can find a hazardous waste collection facility that allows you to drop it off, or it could involve a great deal of research for proper procedures. For more on this topic, see the article “Managing and Disposing of Pesticide Wastes” from Aggie Horticulture.

                    Finally, we get to location. Besides the risk of contaminating the water supply if products are used in too great a quantity or in an incorrect location, what else do you risk harming with incorrect product usage? Sadly, this is a rather long list but it can be boiled down to: beneficial insects (like butterflies, lady bugs, or honey bees), birds, animals (from the cute bunny that visits your yard to your own pets), plants, and even yourself. Generally speaking, if you handle them appropriately, pesticides won’t present any significant risk to you or your pets; however, the list of safe pesticides can change (think of the use of DDT before its effects were known) and it’s not always easy to find out if the product your dad may have stored in his garage is still safe to use. Not only that, but if you are treating for pests outdoors, it’s difficult to know the best locations and the best products to use to keep dangerous pests away from you but keep beneficial ones around to propagate your garden and act as an additional source of all-natural pest control toward unwanted pests (lady bugs are a natural predator of aphids, for example).

    Personal Costs:

                    Perhaps the greatest and most irreversible costs come in the form of the personal costs of choosing DIY pest control. These costs span from time spent, to emotional well-being, to safety and should not be discounted when you are considering whether or not to hire a professional for your pest control needs.

                    In my family, my great-grandpa-in-law is known for having said “you can always make more money, but time only flows in 1 direction, and you can never get more of it.” This ideology is often used by his descendants when presented with a life choice, such as: get the car repaired at a shop and be able to go to the grandkid’s soccer game or attempt to do it yourself and miss out on the big game (and more). In this vein, it’s worth considering the amount of time you will actually be spending if you go the DIY pest control route, because it’s almost certainly more than you would think:

    1. Time spent researching the pest you’re having a problem with
    2. Time spent researching the best products for that pest
    3. Time spent researching the best price and place to buy the products you need
    4. Time spent tracking and waiting for the products to arrive (with supply chain issues abounding, this could be quite a prolonged headache)
    5. Time spent researching how to apply the products you purchased
      1. This will include time spent reading and interpreting the label and MSDS sheets, which is not a simple proposition. For a brief overview of what you will find on a pesticide label, see this article from Penn State Extension.
    6. Time spent researching proper pre- and post- procedures for treatment
      1. For example, there are multiple steps you will need to take prior to a flea treatment in order for it to be effective. Also, there are several steps after a flea treatment that need to be followed for both safety and efficacy.
    7. Time spent researching, purchasing and putting on proper safety gear
    8. Time spent preparing the products
    9. Time spent preparing your home for safe and effective treatment
    10. Time spent applying the products
    11. Time spent properly storing and disposing of the products
    12. Time spent properly removing, cleaning, and storing safety gear
      1. Any clothing that comes in contact with pesticides needs to be laundered separately and line-dried. If the contact was significant, the item should be properly disposed of.
    13. Time spent maintaining the equipment used for pest control treatment

    With all of this time spent away from loved ones, pets, and hobbies, you might as well pick up a 2nd job and at least potentially have extra cash to spend on a memorable family vacation instead of spending both time and money on a DIY attempt.

                    Not only is losing the time with loved ones a problem in its own right, it can also be added to the list of emotional well-being costs you will face. Perhaps the biggest cost to your well-being will come from the stress related to doing your own pest control: reading the labels can be frustrating to interpret, performing an incorrect treatment can prolong or worsen the pest problem you are trying to combat, and improperly applied products can cause damage to your home, belongings, and lawn/garden. All of these things can quickly compound the initial stress you were under when you encountered a pest issue in the first place.

                    But perhaps the biggest stress of all comes from the safety concerns you will face when dealing with pesticides. To begin, there’s the stress of making sure you are purchasing, applying, and storing a product that won’t be dangerous to your loved ones. If a pesticide product is improperly used or stored, it could result in accidental contact by a child or pet. In these cases the contact could easily become toxic and warrant a trip to the emergency room. As the University of Missouri Extension puts it: “Do not allow children or others in your home to become a statistic of the American Association of Poison Control Centers”. However, even if the product isn’t discovered by an unfortunate child or pet, you, as the one applying the product, face a potential risk of coming into excess contact with the product you’re handling. Even worse, if there is concerning contact with the pesticides, you will be alone in figuring out who to call, finding the exact product that was encountered and how much of it was encountered, finding the MSDS sheets, and all of this while trying to tend to the person or pet in distress. At the end of the day, not only is the ER trip of a loved one an absolute nightmare to face, even if everything turns out fine medically, it’s still a greater financial burden than years of professional pest control treatments.

                    Life today is difficult, between the rising cost of living, the global pandemic, the breakdown in supply chains, the war in Ukraine, and a litany of other issues that seem to pop up daily, and while pest control may seem like a drop in that ocean, as you face the myriad costs of DIY pest control, it could quickly feel like the greatest problem you are currently facing. So cut off that avenue of wasted time, money, and stress, and call The Bug Dude at 817-354-5350 for all your pest control needs. Not only will you get to save money, reduce ecological costs, and keep your loved ones safe, you will get expert knowledge, excellent care, and a warranty with your service, which means you’re not only buying immediate help, but a prolonged peace of mind. And if the need for a DIY project for you or your mother creeps up, take a look at some of our previous articles for pest prevention measures you can take that are safe and often inexpensive.

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

    The Hidden Costs of DIY Pest Control (Part One)

    Monday, April 11, 2022 | Mid-Cities Pest Control

    It’s April, which means it’s officially tax season. Whether you’re planning out what to do with your refund, or how to come up with the cash to pay your taxes, your finances are certain to be playing a major part in your daily thoughts. As you go over the figures for the year, one inescapable fact is bound to surface: life is expensive. And it’s getting more so with alarming speed. According to US Inflation Calculator, the current inflation rate is at a whopping 7.9%, the highest since 1982, and a full 6.2% higher than just 1 year ago. Take a look at the CPI (Consumer Price Index) and you’ll see a similar story: in the last 40 years the cost of consumer goods and services have gone up over 183%. Of that rise, nearly 104% has been in the last 20 years, and nearly 25% has been in the past 2 years! With costs on the rise, it’s no wonder that DIY projects have gained ever-increasing popularity as a way to try to save money. But as many a YouTube video can attest, sometimes DIY or life hack solutions can be much worse for your mental, physical, and financial health than just buying the item or service you need. Pest control is certainly one of these services, where what might seem financially beneficial at a glance is actually quite costly once you delve into it.

    The costs of attempting DIY pest control can be broken down into 3 sections: financial, ecological,and personal. Within each section we will look at the many issues you will face if you decide to try to handle pest issues yourself. As you will see, each of these sections alone would be enough to illustrate why calling The Bug Dude at 1-800-310-BUGS (2847) at the first sign of trouble is always the better way to go. So as you’re evaluating your financial situation for the year, keep the following in mind when deciding where you can and cannot cut corners.

    Financial Costs:

                    Generally speaking, if you’re looking at doing your own pest control, it’s not because you are particularly excited at the prospect, but because you believe it will save you money. You might see a bottle of Bifenthrin for under $20 and think that you can just buy it and save yourself from having to purchase a professional pest control treatment for 3 or 4 times as much. However, that one product isn’t even close to all that you’d need to purchase to do just a single spray around your home for spiders.

    To begin with, you’re going to need something to mix the product in and then spray it. Though you could get a small pump sprayer for around $10, it won’t hold much product, which means to complete just one spray of your home you’d need to fill it at least 3 times, each time having to be extremely slow and cautious not to have the pesticide spray all over you when you open the pressurized container (truthfully, with an inexpensive sprayer this is virtually impossible to avoid), and each time having to carefully mix up a new batch. One step up from the pump sprayer, you have a backpack sprayer, coming in at around $85. While this is much better for basic jobs, to get to the eaves of your home, your yard, or get a truly thorough perimeter treatment, you’ll need to get a power spray rig, coming in at close to $2,500. Remember, though, that the rig is for the exterior only, so you’ll still need the backpack or pump sprayer to take care of the interior of your home.

    Now that you’ve got a single product and a way to spray it, you’ll need some PPE in order to keep yourself safe while using the pesticides. A one-time use kit consisting of mask, goggles, gloves, booties, and coverall will cost you about $27. This kit is only applicable to liquids, granules and gels; using dusts is a whole other ordeal and needs specialized respirator masks ($75) and dusters ($31 handheld or around $420 for electric). Already you’re looking at a minimum of $132 for one single-product basic treatment of your home (not including attics, crawl spaces, eaves, or yard). While this simple treatment will help with a few pests (such as spiders and pill bugs), what about if you’re having issues with roaches or ants? Or what if you want organic pest control options?

                    Suddenly, the price rises even further with each new product, and yes, these products won’t provide more than a few treatments per purchase. Glue boards: $15; pesticide dust: $25; roach bait: $30; ant bait: $39; organic general pesticide: $41. Keep in mind a single roach treatment is likely to use several types of bait, spray, and potentially dust. To make things worse, using the wrong products for the pest you’re trying to treat or even using the correct products in the wrong areas not only will be ineffective, but they can easily make the issue much worse and harder to treat. This may sound counter-intuitive as you would think adding pesticide would always help, but in fact many pest species can react to the wrong pesticide by increasing their numbers drastically and/or moving locations; when they move you may initially think the issue has been handled, but in reality they have simply moved to a less visible location and increased their numbers to a full blown infestation. Treating for this infestation will cost significantly more and take much more time and effort than having the original issue handled by a professional.

                    This brings us to the problem of wasted products. Not only do all of these products have an expiration date (and yes, the expiration is a real one, not one you can fudge), but they all have a limited amount of time that they will be effective for. This time-frame is based on the half-life of the product, which means how long the product has potency. In addition, certain products work best for specific pests and particular locations (as discussed above) and assuming the products you use do not make the issue worse, without training and experience to know which products to use where and for what, you are certain to have to attempt a range of products in the pursuit of eventually eliminating your pest problem, and anything that didn’t work is just wasted money. To add salt to the wound, if you’ve decided to buy the items in person to expedite the process (though not all of these will even be available at local stores), don’t forget to add the rising cost of gas to your total. At over $3.85 per gallon (up almost $2.30 per gallon in just 2 years per the U.S. Energy Information Administration), this can make a dent in your wallet if you have to make several trips to several stores.

    All of the above is considering you buy reputable products. Many products that you can easily find at your local hardware stores are not quality products and are not going to do the job. You could end up doing all the work, and spending time and money (though they are generally inexpensive, you will need to buy multiple to treat your whole home, and that will quickly add up since they are around $10 each) for no benefit at all or even a negative (see above). Often these products come in their own spray container and make unrealistic grandiose claims on the bottle that they sadly can not live up to. This is not to mention that many insects cannot be gotten rid of without professional-level chemicals that can only be purchased and used by a licensed pest control technician. And there is good reason for this restriction (read part 2 to learn more about the dangers of using pesticides without the correct training).

                    Even worse than the expected costs of doing your own pest control, which we just discussed, are the unexpected costs. Without proper knowledge of which products can be used where, in what quantities, and how they are to be prepared, the likelihood of causing damage to your flooring, paint, yard, and other parts of your home is much higher than you would think. Not to mention the potential long-term pest damage that could be happening as you attempt to deal with an issue on your own. With the median Texas home currently costing $318,750 (more than double the median home cost just a decade ago per the Texas Real Estate Research Center at Texas A&M), you’d be taking a high-stakes gamble that nothing goes wrong in your DIY attempt.

    So what does this all add up to? In order to do your own pest control you’re looking at a price point of somewhere between $140 and $3,500 (assuming your gamble paid off and you didn’t do any damage to your home). Yes, some of this cost is in re-usable items like the backpack sprayer, and some of the products will be good for more than 1 treatment, but it doesn’t factor in any wasted products due to ineffectiveness or expiration, and it certainly doesn’t factor in damages. Not to mention the financial gamble you’re taking that your DIY project will put you on the lower end of the range and not the higher end. It’s no fun thinking you’re going to spend around $150 only to end up needing to spend 23 times as much.

    But maybe you’re not convinced and you like the idea of taking the financial risk of DIY instead of simply calling The Bug Dude at 1-800-310-BUGS (2847) and letting our expert technicians take the guess work out of the treatment and pricing. In that case, check out next month’s article where we will discuss the ecological and personal costs that attempting DIY pest control creates. And yes, some of those costs will add to your financial burden as well.

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

    It Takes a Carpenter to Know a Carpenter…Ant

    Tuesday, March 08, 2022 | Mid-Cities Pest Control

    If someone were to say “carpenter,” what would be your first thought? With spring cleaning and home repairs on the minds of many, there’s a good chance you would be thinking of a handyman. If you’re really into music, maybe your mind would go to the 70’s band The Carpenters (and aptly have the song “Rainy Days and Mondays” stuck in your head as spring showers find their way across north Texas). Or with Easter on its way, maybe you would reflect on a certain religious carpenter. But while all of these carpenters bring with them a sense of creation, there’s another carpenter, one notorious for destruction, about to get your attention: the carpenter ant.

    This particular ant is well-known as a wood-destroying pest, and anyone who has had to contend with it can tell you that battling a carpenter ant infestation is a sure-fire way to ruin your productive spring plans. These pests can cause both aesthetic and structural damage to your home, while simultaneously making a mess of your floors and windows and making your skin crawl as hundreds of flying ants suddenly emerge from hiding within your house. Fortunately, the experts at The Bug Dude are here to help with all the troubles carpenter ants can create, and get you back to singing a happier song of spring.

    Fast Facts About Carpenter Ants:

    • Appearance: They are between 3/8” and 3/4” long, red or black and red in color, and have a segmented body with bent antennae. During mating season, some will have semi-transparent yellowish-brown wings that are around the same size as their body.
    • Nesting Behavior: These ants create two types of nests: parent nests and satellite nests. Parent nests are generally larger and will always be found in moist areas. Satellite nests are created near the parent nest and contain worker ants, pupae, and mature larvae. The worker ants in satellite nests will move regularly between the parent and satellite nests. Since satellite nests do not contain ant eggs, these nests can occur in dry locations such as wall voids, hollow doors, and undamaged wood.
    • Indoor Habitat: When these ants make their nests indoors, they can be found in moist or decayed wood. A few common locations are: in bathrooms (behind tiles and around showers and sinks), in kitchens (around sinks and dishwashers), under roofing, under subfloor insulation, in wall voids, in hollow doors, in foam insulation, window and door frames, plumbing voids, and any wood supports in contact with soil.
    • Outdoor Habitat: Commonly, outdoor nests will be found in hollow trees, decaying trees or logs, tree roots, boards or firewood left on the ground, fence posts, window areas, moisture-damaged wood siding, and any areas where wood or soil touch the foundation of a home or other outdoor structure.
    • Diet: They consume mostly proteins and sugars. Some common food sources are meat, pet food, honey, living and dead insects, fresh fruits, and sugary sweets. They do NOT consume wood.
    • Signs of an Infestation: There are two telltale signs of a carpenter ant infestation: swarmers and frass. Swarmers are large, winged carpenter ants, which will often be found around windows and doors during the spring and early summer as they attempt to reproduce and create a new colony. Frass is the term for the sawdust-like substance that the ants push out of their nests as they excavate; it is generally seen around baseboards and windowsills and can sometimes be mistaken for a pile of dirt.
    • Danger: The biggest danger these ants provide is to the wood in, on, and around your home. Carpenter ants do not sting, but they can bite, and will do so in defense if their nest is disturbed. As carpenter ants have powerful jaws, if you are bitten, you’re bound to feel it, and it could even break the skin. Generally, a bite will result in redness, mild swelling, and a burning sensation that can last up to a few days.
    • Damage: Though the most notorious wood-destroying insect has to be termites, carpenter ants are more than capable of causing structural and aesthetic damage to your home, and are well-known as a highly destructive pest in their own right.

    How do you Prevent Carpenter Ants?

                    The most important thing to keep in mind with prevention is to reduce moisture around your home. Here are a few tips to help prevent a Carpenter ant infestation:

    • Maintain regular pest control with The Bug Dude!
    • Fix any plumbing leaks, roof leaks, and drainage issues
    • Replace any water or insect damaged wood
    • Make sure attics and crawl spaces are well ventilated
    • Keep firewood away from the house
    • Remove logs and stumps close to the home
    • Keep trees and shrubs trimmed away from the house (don’t forget to remove any branches that hang over the roof) and electrical lines

    How do you Eliminate Carpenter Ants?

                    The first trick to eliminating a carpenter ant infestation is inspection. Before any treatment can begin, the home and yard need to be inspected by a pest control technician for signs of the ants and their nests so that the ants can be identified, and their source(s) located. Keep track of any ants, ant swarmers, and frass piles you have seen and exactly where you have seen them and inform your technician when they arrive; whenever possible, leave dead ants and frass piles undisturbed for your technician to evaluate. Carpenter ants are known to be a difficult pest to eliminate, in part because they make their nests in hidden locations, and in part because they require specialized products to effectively treat for them. They are not a pest you could or should try to treat yourself. In fact, using the wrong treatment can make it even more difficult to eliminate the infestation due to detrimental product interaction, and will lead to a longer and more difficult battle for you and your technician. Instead, at the first sign of a carpenter ant problem, call The Bug Dude at 817-354-5350 or 1-800-310-BUGS (2847) and set up an appointment to get an expert technician out to your home before the infestation, and damage, escalates.

    What About Carpenter Ant Damage?

                    Eliminating the carpenter ants themselves is the obvious first step when dealing with an infestation, but what happens once the ants are gone? Unlike ghost ants, pharaoh ants, or even fire ants, the effects of carpenter ants can plague you for years to come. When you look out your window at a beautiful sunset, the glaring damage to your windowsill may be all you see. When you grab a glass of sweet tea and sit in your yard admiring your garden, the ever-growing spot of rotting wood on your siding may sour the view. Every time you shower, you may anxiously keep your eyes fixed on the tunneled-out baseboard and pray you don’t see an ant crawl through. And it almost goes without saying, the countless sleepless nights spent worrying over all of the unseen damage. Whether the issue is aesthetic, preventative, or functional, the damage done by carpenter ants is no laughing matter and the sooner it’s dealt with, the quicker you can put the whole ordeal behind you.

                    Though it may seem that ignoring the damaged areas is fine for a while since you have had the infestation treated, you are actually just leaving a “welcome” sign on your home for wood-destroying pests and several other pests that like to make old carpenter ant tunnels into their home (like the acrobat ant). Once an area is damaged it is more susceptible to future attacks, plain and simple. So what do you need to do? As soon as the active infestation has been eliminated, it’s time to go to work on fixing the known damaged and conducive areas. Fortunately, when you have a Bug Dude technician at your home, you have someone with the experience to locate the problem areas, the knowledge of how to repair them, and a company who will stand behind their work.

    What The Bug Dude Can Do For You

    It’s bad enough having your home overrun with ants, but knowing that these ants have been gnawing away at the wood inside your home is enough to keep you up at night. One of the first thoughts most people have when faced with a wood-destroying insect is: how bad is the damage to my house? Fortunately, The Bug Dude is here to help alleviate the stress associated with a carpenter ant infestation.

    When it comes to repairing the damage done from carpenter ants excavating parts of your home for their nests, or repairing conducive areas where wood is rotting from the past year’s rains, you don’t need to look any farther than The Bug Dude to find a solution. With technicians able to assist in anything from purely functional fixes, to preventative, to aesthetic, The Bug Dude offers a one-stop-shop approach to dealing with these pests. There’s no need to worry about finding a carpenter, repair man, or contractor to help you deal with the repair needs you discussed with your pest control technician. There’s no need to try to remember the exact areas your technician pointed out or try to explain what the issues are to yet another person you have to hire to get your home back in order. Instead, you can rest easy knowing that you have a technician and a company taking care of your home that is an expert in not only treating for pests, but fixing the issues they create.

    But what are some of the things The Bug Dude can do to help with carpenter ant damage or prevention? Sometimes the fix is something simple, like installing door sweeps to help mitigate ants getting in. Sometimes the project is more extensive, like repairing or replacing water-damaged wood on the exterior of your home to help prevent that area becoming a target for carpenter ants or even termites. Other times, the damaged area could look alright on the exterior, but be tunneled out on the inside, requiring an expert inspection to locate and a skilled hand to repair. Whatever the situation is, The Bug Dude is here to help, with excellent service, decades of experience, affordable prices, and warranties for both treatments and repairs. So what are you waiting for? Give The Bug Dude a call today at 817-354-5350 to set up an appointment with one of our specialists so you can rest assured that your carpenter ant battle hasn’t “Only Just Begun.”

    Further Reading:

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

    “Spring, and Carpenter Ants, are in the Air” – Alissa Breach, The Bug Dude Blog

    “Carpenter Ants” – Wizzie Brown and Roger E. Gold, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

    “Carpenter Ants” – Jeffrey Hahn and Stephen Kells, University of Minnesota Extension

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

    Keep Valentine’s Day Full of Love, not Crazy (Ants)

    Wednesday, February 09, 2022 | Mid-Cities Pest Control

    February has arrived, bringing with it a warm burst of love to help get us through the remaining winter. Yes, Valentine’s Day is nearly here. Stores are full of heart-shaped goodies, every love song plays softly in the air, and it seems like the world has been wrapped in shades of pink and red. But while you may be feeling Crazy in Love as you plan a romantic evening with your sweetie, there may be something lurking in your home getting ready to play a Wicked Game and make you feel just plain old Crazy: the tawny crazy ant.

    What do Tawny Crazy Ants Look Like?

                     These small ants are monomorphic, meaning virtually all adults have the same appearance. They are 1/8 inch long, reddish brown in color, covered with many long hairs, and they have particularly long antennae and legs. Occasionally, winged reproductive males and females will be produced, but these ants are not known for flying, unlike carpenter ants that can often be seen swarming during their reproductive season. Tawny crazy ant queens are often a bit larger and darker than the rest of the ants in the colony, and each colony has numerous queens, which will produce millions of “naked” (without cocoon) larvae within a colony. 

    Why Are They Called Tawny Crazy Ants?

                    Tawny crazy ants, also known as Rasberry crazy ants received their name for several reasons. “Tawny” comes simply from the color of the ants and is a helpful way to distinguish this ant from other types of crazy ants. The alternate name of “Rasberry” comes from the name of the man who first discovered this ant near Houston in 2002 (Tom Rasberry). Perhaps more importantly, however, is why they were called “crazy ants” as this gives an important clue to identifying these pests before you have to pull out a magnifying glass or microscope…their behavior. These ants were called “crazy” due to their quick, irregular movements. Where other ants follow a distinct foraging trail and seem to march orderly along that trail, the crazy ants forage erratically; that randomness combined with their gangly limbs gives these ants a particularly unwieldy appearance.

    Where do Tawny Crazy Ants Live?

                    Unfortunately, these ants are extremely pervasive and are excellent survivors. Believed to originate in tropical South America (i.e. Columbia and Brazil), these pests prefer tropical and subtropical areas and as such have successfully invaded Texas, starting with the Gulf Coast and spreading outward.

                    Not only are tawny crazy ants successful in multiple countries, but they thrive both indoors and outdoors. Indoors, you can expect to see them near food sources if they are foraging, or nesting in warm, secluded areas (i.e. wall voids, in electronics, under carpeting, in potted plants, etc.). Generally, they will nest a good distance from their foraging area, and most often they will nest outdoors. You can find them in places like trash bins, crevices in plants and trees, in mulch, under yard items (i.e. rocks, stumps, wood piles, etc.), in rotten wood, under leaf litter, and in soil. Importantly, unlike fire ants, tawny crazy ants do not create noticeable nest mounds, which can make their nests much more difficult to locate.

                    These highly prolific ants grow their colonies by “budding,” which means that they establish new colonies at the periphery of their existing one, rather than creating a new one some distance away. As such, this can lead to gigantic, sprawling nesting areas of tawny crazy ants. On average, they will spread around 65 feet per month in neighborhoods, and nearly 100 feet per month in industrial areas. This means that left unchecked you could rapidly be facing an infestation of millions of ants.

    What do Tawny Crazy Ants Eat?

                    As omnivores, these ants can thrive on a widely varied diet. From consuming insects (alive and dead), to fruits, seeds, honeydew (aphid excrement), and many human foods, there are very few places these pests can’t find a good meal. Two of the most common meals for tawny crazy ants are sweet parts of plants( including over-ripe fruit), and honeydew, which they obtain by “tending” other insects, such as aphids, scale, and mealy bugs.

    Are Tawny Crazy Ants Dangerous?

                    Though tawny crazy ants can bite and can excrete formic acid from their acidopore on the end of their abdomen, they aren’t known to pose any significant danger to humans, other than a brief, sharp pain if you’re bitten. However, they are far from being simply a nuisance pest. Presenting a danger to livestock, homes and equipment, plants, and the ecosystem, these little ants are a pest to be reckoned with.

                    As an extremely successful invasive species, the tawny crazy ant is even capable of fighting and winning against the more commonly known invasive ant: the imported red fire ant. But the bigger concern isn’t one invasive supplanting another, it’s the threat they pose to native insect and wildlife populations. In areas where tawny crazy ants have created huge, dense populations, they have been known to displace native ants and arthropods, leading to a decline in bird populations, and potentially even greater ramifications down the road.

                    In agriculture, they present a two-fold threat. First, they have been known to directly harm livestock: asphyxiating smaller animals (like chickens) and attacking eyes, noses, and hooves of larger animals (like cattle). Secondly, they can lead to indirect crop damage by both encouraging higher populations of plant pests (like aphids) and by translocating pathogenic organisms.

                    For homes and business, they present a significant danger to electrical equipment. They are known to heavily infest these areas, causing short circuits and equipment failure of anything from A/C units to TVs to the outlets themselves.

    How do you Prevent Tawny Crazy Ants?

    When it comes to prevention, the single most helpful thing you can do is maintain a regular pest control treatment plan with The Bug Dude. Not only can our expert technicians eliminate the tawny crazy ants and their insect food sources, they can keep their trained eye on conducive areas in and around your home to help spot a problem before it becomes an infestation.

    The other main steps you can take to help prevent an infestation from these pests are:

    • Remove all yard waste and leaf litter
    • As much as possible, remove all items that sit directly on the ground
    • Reduce the usage of sprinkler and irrigation systems and ensure the yard has good drainage
    • Keep mulch at least 1 foot away from your foundation and ensure it is less than 2 inches thick
    • Seal visible cracks and crevices on the exterior of your home
    • Maintain good sanitation practices in and around your home
    • Thoroughly inspect potted plants for possible pests before transporting them
    • If you or your belongings have been in an infested area, ensure that you perform a thorough inspection for ants before entering a non-infested area

    Since the ants are less active during the winter months, it’s an excellent time to take preventative measures before the invasion arrives in the summer.

    How do you Eliminate Tawny Crazy Ants?

                    At the first sign of an ant problem, call The Bug Dude at 800-310-BUGS (2847). When it comes to tawny crazy ants, eliminating the issue without professional help is virtually impossible. These pests are notorious for rapidly rebounding from partial treatments, which means that without expert help identifying and treating all the sources of the issue, you could find yourself in a never-ending battle with these ants. Additionally, tawny crazy ants are particularly tricky to treat for and need a specific combination of professional-grade products to effectively attract and eliminate them.

                    So don’t risk this Valentine’s Day being ruined by ants, call The Bug Dude ASAP so you can have peace At Last and get back to the Wonderful World of your Endless Love.

    Further Reading:

    “Crazy Ants” – Brackenridge Field Laboratory, College of Natural Sciences, The University of Texas at Austin

    “Tawny Crazy Ant, Rasberry Crazy Ant” – Texas Invasive Species Institute

    “Tawny (Rasberry) Crazy Ant, Nylanderia fulva” – Urban and Structural Entomology Program at Texas A&M University

    “Invasive Ants” – Texas Parks & Wildlife

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

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