What's Bugging you?

By Dr. D. D. Faye, Entomologist

With the cold season almost now displaced by the warmth of spring and summer, nature comes back to full bloom. Birds starting singing and calling for mates, plants are blooming under the industrious foraging bees. Bugs of all size, color and shapes come from their hiding places to celebrate a new cycle. Pests that invaded the homes in search for warmth, food, water and shelter start to migrate back outdoors. As one can see, insect activity is continuous even though one thinks of lethargy when they are out of sight. I am strongly predicting a heavy bug season due to the short and mild winter that we have enjoyed in this part of the state. Termite activity is already in gear; fire ant mounds are popping up everywhere like spontaneous generation. While rodent activities are slowing down, carpenter ant season activities are being reported more and more frequently. Since the best offense is a good defense, do not wait until you start noticing damage or severe infestation to take action. Early detection and preventive measures are the best approach in minimizing pest incidence and costly pest control costs. The following suggestions could be very useful in managing pest problems. -Spring cleaning program Bugs like to hide and undisturbed in secluded, areas: attic, crawl space, basement, garage and shed. Initiate and maintain good and periodical cleaning practice. -Bug proofing- Most pests around the house are occasional invaders, getting access indoors through cracks and crevices. While termite can pass through crack as wide as the edge of a notebook page, a house mouse will manage through a dime size diameter hole, and a roof rat through a quarter wide hole. Caulk, patch, seal and close any port of entry. Pay special attention around the garage, attic under the sink, and eaves. Use screen on windows and doors. Decide if the pet(s) should be indoor or outdoor dwellers to avoid permanent flea infestation. -Be frugal on trash- Trash management is crucial. Do not wait until the trashcan is full to empty it, especially when wet trash and foodstuff are involved. Roaches, rats and mice are on patrol while you sleep. One single smear of grease on the stove can feed 50 roaches for a month. Furthermore, German Roaches (indoor dwellers) will feed on any thing from toothpaste to soap, to pet food and other dead roaches. Keep lid tight to discourage fly visitation. - Be a good scout- Learn the basic features of bug identification. Is it a fire ant or a carpenter ant? a pharaoh or a crazy ant?, a carpenter bee or a honey bee?, a termite or an ant? The latter is the most confusing issue. Termites are not white ants. They are creamy in color (queen, workers and soldiers), and black and winged (reproductive) when they are ready to get out of the nest and fly away to new area (swarming). Once at destination, male and female shed their wings for good, pair up in search for suitable port of entry in the house to start a colony. Ants, when winged have two pairs of wings with the first pair smaller than the second one. They have a pair of elbowed and "broken" antennae. The waist is constricted and some have stinger. Termites when winged have two pairs of equal size wings with more veins than ants. Their antennae are bead-like and straight up. They have broad waist and do not have stinger. Workers and soldiers are creamy in color. Workers are sterile and blind female, yet, the destroyers of wood structures. Soldiers have hard and strong and harden mandibles. In some species the queen can be more than 4 in long and live up to 25-30 years (Ask to see mine from Africa). -Ask questions- Demand to effectively manage your bug problem with different approaches without hindering control effectiveness. Ask for safety measures and first aid practices for pesticide use. Get informed on pesticide labels. Remember that there is no dumb question but one not asked. Your local county extension service could be very resourceful. CSPM publishes PestSmart, a free quarterly. Topics included:

*Termite biology and management, *Choosing a pest control company *How safe is safe?, *Journey inside a fire ant mound, *Roaches and asthma incidence, *Rat race and mouse play, *Integrated Pest Management -IPM- and Reduced Impact Services -RIS-, *The Doctor's corner. Ask!!

Dr. Faye is an Entomologist, Owner and Operator of: CommonSense Pest Management in Austin. He can be reached @ 476 5577 or bugcspm@worldnet.att.net

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