The springtail is one of the most common insects in the environment, although inconspicuous and are often overlooked. When suitable habitat occurs, they can develop tremendously large numbers and are one of the most abundant insects. You may find millions of springtails naturally in about 2.5 acres of land. Springtails can be a nuisance when they occur in and around homes and other buildings.
The springtail is very small, commonly between 1/16th- and 1/8th-inch long. They have moderate-length antennae and are usually slender, elongate insects, although there is a group of springtails that is round and stout. Most springtails are dark-colored, brown, grey or black although some species are white, and some are even iridescent and brightly colored.
Springtails are wingless and do not fly but they can jump, using a specialized forked appendage called a furcula, located underneath the abdomen. When not in use, the furcula is tucked under the body, set like a mouse trap. When it is released, it extends down rapidly propelling the springtail forward, jumping up to several inches.
The springtail is associated with damp conditions and organic debris and are found outdoors in soil, leaf litter, lichen, under bark, decaying plant matter, rotting wood, and other areas of high moisture. They are found in many different habitats, feeding on fungi, pollen, algae, or decaying organic matter. Springtails are also commonly found in the soil of houseplants. However when conditions are suitable, you can also find springtails indoors, especially in bathrooms, basements, and kitchens.
There are several reasons why springtails may be found indoors. They are commonly found in areas of high moisture; e.g., around plumbing leaks, areas of condensation and damp basements.
If excessively moist conditions occur near a structure, that can encourage large numbers of springtails which may move indoors. High numbers can be associated with mulch. It is also possible when it is excessively dry outdoors that springtails may move indoors to find moisture. They can also be found in the soil of overwatered houseplants.
If you are finding just a small number of the critters, just ignore them or physically remove them by hand or with a vacuum. However, if you are seeing persistent number of them, they are associated with a moisture problem. The best management is to dry out these areas with a fan or dehumidifier, because the springtail does not tolerate dry conditions. Also remove any wet wood, especially if it is moldy. Make any structural changes to correct the moisture problem.
If springtails are moving indoors from the outside, check around the house for moisture problems. This could include rainspouts that do not carry water far enough away from the foundation, landscapes that slope towards buildings, excessive irrigation, or non-functioning drainage systems around the building. It could even be a moisture problem with the roof. Correct existing moisture conditions to decrease the number of springtails. When necessary, remove or reduce the amount mulch that is around the foundation of your home. If you have a problem with them in houseplants, let the soil dry out and water less frequently but more deeply.
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Silverfish and firebrats are sometimes known as “bristletails.” The silverfish lives and develops in damp, cool places (prefer 75%–95% relative humidity), while firebrats prefer places above 90° F. Adult silverfish and firebrats are 1⁄2-inch in length. They are wingless insects with two long, slender antennae, and a flat carrot-shaped body, covered with scales, that tapers down to three long “bristles” at the end. Both silverfish and firebrats move fast in a wiggling motion, resembling the swimming action of a fish.
Houses provide a perfect habitat for silverfish. Preferring moderate temperatures from 70°–80°F, and a relative humidity between 75%–95%, they collect near sinks and other plumbing fixtures in bathrooms, kitchens and basements. Silverfish are most often discovered in sinks and bathtubs, though they can be present throughout the house. Silverfish are frequently introduced with newly installed dry wall, feeding on the paper backing and occasionally large populations form within new buildings where the walls are still damp from plaster and fresh lumber.
Firebrats normally live outdoors under rocks, leaves and inside bird nests where heat and moisture are generated by the natural composting process. However, they are also known to reside in homes. Like silverfish, firebrats enjoy a humid environment, however they prefer much higher temperatures of 90°F and above. Consequently, they are discovered less, because they collect around furnaces in basements, water heaters in attics, inside fireplaces and within the insulation surrounding hot water pipes.
Silverfish and firebrats are mostly nocturnal, foraging at night. They prefer vegetable matter with a high carbohydrate and protein content. Indoors however, they will feed on almost anything, including dried meat, other insects, starch, paper, glue, sugar, molds, cereals and fabric containing cotton, linen, rayon and silk. They seldom damage fibers of animal origin such as wool or hair. These insects are hardy and can live without food for up to one year.
Silverfish and firebrats are considered pests because they consume and stain foods, fabric, books and wallpaper. Damage is manifested as yellowish stains and notched edges, although this is not usually observed. Molted scales and excrement are also left behind.
- Fabric, stacked paper products and cardboard boxes should not be stored for long periods.
- Spilled food must be cleared away.
- Reduce water availability by repairing leaky plumbing and installing adequate extraction fans to laundry and bathroom areas.
- Lowering the home’s relative humidity can be accomplished with dehumidifiers. Lighting a dark area is helpful as it forces the insects out of their shelter to new sites where they can be managed more easily.
- Outdoors, mulch should not be placed right up next to the house.
- Eradicating these insects can be difficult as they often reside between wall partitions, in insulation materials and in other protected places.
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The clover mite tribe can become pests indoors after heavy rain, excessive heat or a change in the season, which stimulate massive numbers to enter buildings. The mites appear as tiny moving dark spots to the naked eye, crawling around walls, windows and doors. Crushing the mites to kill them leaves a reddish spot. Fortunately, the mites do not reproduce indoors and will die within a few days from dehydration.
The clover mite can be especially abundant in heavily fertilized lawns, but have many hosts plants including many different lawn grasses, ornamental flowers, clover, dandelion, shepherd’s purse, strawberry, daffodil, salvia, alyssum, and primrose, to name only a few.
Prevention is the most effective way to control populations of clover mites. To prevent them, the best way is to remove all lush vegetation from the house in an 18-to-24-inch band around the foundation perimeter and sides of buildings. This plant-free zone will discourage mites from movement into building and also provides an easily treatable area. Treating and sealing cracks and holes on buildings in which mites may have crawled can also be very helpful in reducing the problem.
Large populations can also be reduced by providing supplemental watering to areas where the clover mite develops, such as dry areas at the base of sun-exposed walls and around evergreens. Also, planting flowerbeds with plants that are not attractive to clover mites might be helpful, such as geranium, chrysanthemum, zinnia, marigold, salvia, rose, petunia or shrubs such as barberry, juniper and yew.
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THE PAPER WASP gatherS fibers from dead wood and plant stems, which it mixes with saliva, and used to construct water-resistant nests made of gray or brown papery material. Some types of paper wasps are also sometimes called umbrella wasps, due to the distinctive design of their nests.
The nests of the true paper wasp are characterized by having open combs with cells for brood rearing, and a “petiole,” or constricted stalk, which anchors the nest. The paper wasp secretes a chemical that repels marauding ants, which is spread around the base of the nest anchor to prevent the loss of eggs or brood. Nests can be found in sheltered areas, such as the eaves of a house, the branches of a tree, on the end of an open pipe, or on an old clothesline.
Unlike yellow jackets and hornets, which can be very aggressive, the paper wasp will generally only attack if it or its nest is threatened. Since their territoriality can lead to attacks on people, and because their stings are quite painful and can produce a potentially fatal anaphylactic reaction in some individuals, nests in human-inhabited areas may present an unacceptable hazard.
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As its name suggests, the odorous house ant, when crushed, emits a smell of rotting coconuts. This little critter tends to build nests both inside and outside. Common places to find the odorous house ant nest is in wall crevices, near heaters, under carpets, and beneath floors.
This small ant that goes by the common names odorous house ant, sugar ant, stink ant, and coconut ant. Their colonies are polydomous (consist of multiple nests) and polygynous (contain multiple reproducing queens). Like many social insects, it employs complex foraging strategies, allocates food depending on environmental conditions, and engages in competition with other insect species.
These odorous house ant can be found in a huge diversity of habitats, including within homes. They forage mainly for honeydew, which is produced by aphids and scale insects that are guarded and tended by the ants, as well as floral nectar and other sugary foods. They are common household pests.
Quick control is crucial, because the larger the population becomes the longer it will take to control the infestation. You should be on the lookout for these ants in late winter and early spring (particularly after rain), because is when they most commonly appear. Taking these steps should help:
- Standing water should be eliminated: odorous house ants are attracted to moisture.
- Plants should be trimmed back so they cannot be used to get inside.
- Cracks, holes and joints should be sealed with polyurethane foam or caulk, especially those that are near the ground.
- Firewood, rocks and other materials should not be stored next to a home because it encourages nest building.
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Houseflies, to say the least, are not the neatest of insects. They visit such places as dumps, sewers, and garbage heaps. They feed on fecal matter, discharges from wounds and sores, sputum, and all sorts of moist decaying matter such as spoiled fish, eggs and meat. Nasty. They are a pest control challenge.
Houseflies are strongly suspected of transmitting at least 65 diseases to humans, including typhoid fever, dysentery, cholera, poliomyelitis, yaws, anthrax, tularemia, leprosy and tuberculosis. Flies regurgitate and excrete wherever they come to rest and thereby mechanically transmit disease organisms.
- General exclusion; e.g., sealing cracks, fitting door sweeps, window screens, etc.
- A moist compost bin will be a breeding site for houseflies. Create dry compost by scattering it around the bin so that it will dry rapidly. Flies will not lay eggs on dry manure.
- If dogs or horses are part of the family, clean up fecal material in timely fashion and dispose of properly. Planting flowers and bushes may attract predators and parasites that can help manage flies.
- Employ correct sanitation methods within the home to eliminate possible breeding sites.
- Outside garbage cans and dumpsters should have tight-fitting lids and be emptied and cleaned regularly. All garbage receptacles should be located as far from building entrances as possible.
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Carpenter bees are very active from early spring through summer around houses and other wooden structures. These insects bore one-half inch wide holes that appear to be perfectly round on exterior wooden surfaces of house siding, eaves, window trim, fascia boards, shingles, decks and outdoor furniture. For a successful carpenter bee pest-control strategy, several tactics must be employed.
CARPENTER BEE BOMBERS
Homeowners are often frightened by these pesky black bees that fly erratically around their homes. The male carpenter bee is very territorial and protects its nesting sites by hovering and attacking intruders. Although the male is aggressive, it does not have a stinger, making it harmless. The female does have a stinger, but rarely stings.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Fine sawdust caused by the adult bees excavating activities during the spring of the year will normally be found lying on the ground beneath the gallery entrances. Repeated boring activities may result in unsightly stains caused by falling bee waste around the entrance hole. Homeowners often notice a buzzing or burrowing sound coming from within the wood this time of year. The excavating bee will bore directly into the wood with her mouth parts for about an inch, then turn sharply and bore at a 90-degree angle usually along the grain of the wood. Normally, the gallery will extend about four to six inches, but with repeated use galleries have measured ten feet long. Nest sites by a single bee results in slight damage, but repeated colonization over several years may result in considerable destruction.
HELPFUL SUGGESTIONS FOR CONTROL
Unpainted, exposed wood is especially attractive to carpenter bees. A helpful deterrent to carpenter bee activities is a painted (oil-base or polyurethane) surface. Wood stains provide little repelling action. Nail holes or exposed saw cuts should be filled in with wood putty or dowels and painted. If practical, remove severely damaged wood and replace with chemical pressure-treated wood to deter nest construction. To further discourage carpenter bees looking for potential nesting sites, a homeowner should secure all doors, windows, and other building openings during the spring. Non-wood surfaces such as vinyl siding are not damaged by carpenter bees.
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Some cockroach species are known to transmit disease-causing organisms, and are most often implicated in the transmission of Salmonella, often the causal agent of food poisoning. German cockroaches also cause respiratory problems to individuals sensitive to the allergens they produce.
Most cockroaches are tropical or sub-tropical in origin and generally live outdoors. However, some species have adapted well to living indoors with humans. Though it is true that they prosper in clutter, filth and grime, occasionally cockroaches infest even the most sanitary and well-organized homes and buildings.
There are at least 20 different species of cockroaches in Arizona, probably about 10 are native and rarely encountered in the urban environment. Those established in urban areas include: the American, Brown- banded, Field, German, Oriental, Surinam and Turkestan.
Cockroaches are often carried into homes in infested foodstuff, particularly dried pet foods and in seasoned firewood. They also enter around loose-fitting doors and windows, where electrical lines or water and steam pipes pass through walls. If a home or building is unoccupied and sinks are not used, allowing the P-trap to dry up will allow cockroaches access but they will not come through the sewer lines otherwise. Cockroaches will feed on any unprotected kitchen goods contaminating food with excrement and salivary secretions. Some will also eat materials such as leather, wallpaper paste and bookbinding.
1) Proper sanitation, both indoors and outdoors, effectively limits cockroach food sources. Do not leave unwashed dishes, kitchen utensils and uncovered food out overnight. Clean up all spilled liquids. Areas beneath and behind cabinets, furniture, sinks, stoves and refrigerators should be cleaned often, as should cupboards, pantry shelves and storage bins where particles of food frequently accumulate. Kitchen waste and excess refuse should be kept in cockroach-proof containers, and disposed of as frequently as possible. Dry pet food should be stored in tight containers away from the kitchen and other foods. If pets are fed indoors, leftover foods should not be allowed to remain in the feeding dish overnight. Garbage cans should be cleaned regularly, inside and out.
2) Eliminate all possible hiding areas such as paper, lumber, firewood and yard trash.
3) Seal any cracks of 1/8-inch or larger in the foundation and exterior walls. Check the seal around air conditioning units, windows, doors, pipes or other openings into the home. Repair cracks and holes in floors, walls and ceilings. Seal openings around plumbing fixtures, furnace flues, electrical outlets, windowsills and walls, and along baseboards and ceiling moldings. Thresholds on doors should be as tight as possible and cracks in porches and stoops should be sealed.
4) Leaky water faucets and pipes should be repaired since most species are attracted to water sources.
5) Avoid installing lights directly above doorways, or replace light bulbs with yellow colored bulbs that are less attractive to bugs.
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Encounters between people and spiders are usually accidental and bites are a response by the spider when its web or nest (or the spider itself) is disturbed. Most spiders produce venom therefore, they could be considered “poisonous.” The venom is stored in glands that empty into the spider’s fangs or chelicerae. For the most part, spider bites are insignificant. However, just as bee and wasp stings may trigger allergic reactions in some people, the same can be true for spider bites. Young children, the elderly and hypersensitive individuals are more likely to react more strongly to a spider bite.
Web-building spiders are most likely to show up in areas where insects are abundant; e.g., woodpiles, around porch lights, windows or water sources (such as water spigots). On occasion, you will find spiders on objects or in areas that have been left undisturbed which may include sandboxes or even children’s toys.Check these items periodically for signs of spiders.
Finding a large number of spiders indoors usually means that there is an ample supply of insects and other “spider food” in the area. Any real attempts to get rid of spiders should focus on eliminating the insects upon which spiders prey:
- Sanitation requires the reduction or elimination of conditions that attract insects; e.g., high moisture and ready access to food of some sort.
- Exclusion: Find the entry points used by both insects and spiders and seal or close these areas.
- Knocking down and removing webbing, or mechanically removing/killing the spiders.
- Vacuum the areas along baseboards, in corners and under and behind furniture.
- Clean bookshelves periodically.
If you’re concerned that more spiders will show up or hatch from an unseen egg sac (they probably will), then—if you know what you’re doing and you have the best product(s)—you could carefully apply an insecticide along baseboards, in corners, and inside storage closets.
Crawlspaces are often attractive environments for spiders. Simply setting off foggers (“bug bombs”) is not likely to be effective and can be hazardous particularly if you contaminate your air-conditioning system. Crawlspace treatments are best left to pest-control professionals.
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Southern Fire Ants come in both black and red versions and color variations in between. The easiest way to recognize them is that there are two distinct sizes of ants in the colonies: Majors & minors. The majors are two to three times the size of the minors.
They are very common in urban habitats in the Sonoran Desert and are often found in lawns where they forage for a wide variety of foods. They can occasionally invade homes searching for starchy, sweet or protein. The can also be found in orchards and in the desert proper. The workers perform different jobs such as tending the queen and “brood,” maintaining the nest, and gathering food. Some of the workers serve as “soldiers” which protect the colony.
Fire ants are small but highly aggressive. They inject a necrotizing, alkaloid venom when they sting. The stings result in painful, itchy, and persistent pustules, and sometimes in severe allergic reactions. Five million people are stung each year in the southeastern United States. About 25,000 of these people require medical consultation. When a fire ant mound is disturbed, workers boil to the surface, run up any legs, arms, etc., in the vicinity, grab the victim’s skin in their mandibles and sting synchronously in response to the slightest movement. The attacks are coordinated and dozens or even hundreds of workers sting in unison.
Fire ants live in colonies that may have 100,000 to 500,000 ants. The queen of the colony can lay from 1500 to 5000 eggs per day, never leaves the nest and can live for many years. Worker ants take care of the queen and her eggs, build the nest, defend the colony, and find food. Preferred food of fire ants consists of protein-rich sources such as insects and seeds. Winged male and female ants fly from the colony in the spring and summer to mate in the air. The males die and the females become queens that start new colonies.
While fire ants are typically an outdoor problem, disturbances during/after severe weather may bring them indoors in search of food or even “dry land” and, unfortunately, into closer contact with people. Worker ants forage for nearby food sources by traveling through underground tunnels that extend out from the mound and then onto the soil surface.
Here are some suggestions to follow if you find fire ants in your area:
— Watch where you step when clearing debris in yards,
— When eating outside, keep all food and drinks covered while they are not being eaten.
— Dispose of food in garbage bags and trashcans.
— Keep trashcans covered and, preferably, away from your house.
— Indoors, do not leave food exposed on tables, counter tops, or floors (in the case of dry pet foods).
— Keep shrubs and other vegetation pruned away from buildings so that ants can’t use them as a “bridge” to avoid treated areas.
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