All Creatures Great and Small

Pest Information

I am going to post information on controlling pests every day on here and I will cover most household pests and they will be in alphabetical order.  In some cases, like today, I will only cover one pest because of the amount of information.  On other days I will cover several pests.

What is a pest?  A pest is an organism so designated by the pesticide industry to promote the use of their chemicals.  In reality, most so-called “pests” are nothing more than nuisances we occasionally encounter in our homes or business.  Cockroaches are described by the pesticide industry as being filthy disease-laden bugs that will make you sick.  Except in a few cases in ghetto type environments, that is not the case at all.  Call your local hospital and ask them how many people they have due to cockroach related diseases.  None.  Ants are a nuisance in most cases but some species like fire ants can be dangerous and should be considered a pest.  Some other species, such as Argentine ants, that have enormous colonies and can overrun a house should also be considered pests.  Most species can be controlled with simple baiting solutions. There are other real pests such as certain species of mosquitoes, fleas and ticks that can carry diseases.  Termites can do serious damage to your home and some insects will destroy clothing or get into food.  These can be considered pests.  But most of the so-called “pests” we spray with dangerous pesticides are no more than nuisances.  Here is information on ant control

There are several things you can do to prevent ants from entering your home. The first step is exclusion.  Go around the outside of your home and inspect it very carefully from an ant’s point of view. Ants can sense cool air and aromatic odors emanating from your home and will try to gain access. Check around the house at ground level and look for cracks in the foundation, voids around pipes, areas under stucco, peepholes in bricks and similar areas that ants can use to gain entrance. All these areas need to be sealed, caulked, screened, or otherwise altered to prevent ants from using them to get into your home. Check around your windows and doors to make sure they close tightly.  If the doors aren’t tight, you may have to install door sweeps on them.  Check your bushes, shrubs and trees to make sure you don’t have any branches touching the roof.  Don’t stack firewood, bricks or anything else next to your house or ants and other insects may find a good place to nest.   If you have bushes or shrubs next to your house, periodically inspect them for aphids, scales and similar bugs as ants are attracted to the honeydew they produce.  The ants will get on the plants and eventually find their way into your home.  Don’t put flagstone or flat boards on the ground too close to your home or some species of ants will nest under them.  On the other hand, mound-making ants will generally stay outside.  They rarely leave their complicated and efficient home in the mound to enter homes.  If you don’t want the ants making mounds in your yard, you can flood the nests with club soda or with white vinegar or food-grade DE. If you use the DE, mix 4 tablespoons per gallon of water. You can also use 1 gallon of orange juice diluted with 2 gallons of water and a dash of soap. If you prefer, you can also spread dry instant grits on the mound. The ants will eat it and not be able to digest it and die.

You can repel ants with a wide variety of products, including cinnamon, baking soda, Comet Cleanser, cedar oil, medicated baby powder, talcum powder, chalk, coffee grounds, borax, garlic, broken egg shells, bone meal, black or red pepper, peppermint, paprika, chili powder and mint leaves.

If the ants have a preferred food in your home, such as apple sauce, peanut butter, canned cat food, Karo Syrup, jelly or similar products, you can mix in small amounts of boric acid or borax.  Mix about 20% of either of these products in the food.  Make sure you keep these baits away from children and pets.  If the ants are dying near the baits, you are making it too strong and need to make a fresh batch with less boric acid or borax.

Here is a recipe for effective, homemade ant baits/traps that use borax. It attracts ants looking for either moisture or food. You will need: 3 c. water, 1 c. sugar, 1 tsp. borax or 2 tsp. food-grade diatomaceous earth (DE), 6 small screw-top jars with lids, such as jelly jars covered with masking tape, which will enable the ants to climb up the side. Mix the sugar, water and borax (or food-grade DE) in a bowl. Loosely half-fill the jars with cotton balls or pieces of sponge or wadded paper towels. Pour up to ½ cup of the sugary mixture over the cotton balls, saturating them. Make several small holes in the lid. Screw the lids on the jars tightly.  Terro Bait is a very good commercial bait that works for most ants.

If you smoke, always wear plastic gloves when making ant baits or they will sense the tobacco smoke on the baits and not go to it.  Ants do not like cigarette or cigar smoke.  A good commercial bait is Terro Bait.  It is inexpensive and very effective for many ants.  It is made from boric acid and is much better than the baits the pest industry uses.

Fire ants (Myrmicinae – Solenopsis invicta)

The imported fire ants can be very dangerous.  They have several different size workers (polymorphic) and reddish-brown to black in color.  They have severe stings that can cause blisters and allergic responses to the venom as well as anaphylactic shock.  Over 30,000 people a year in this country seek medical attention from the sting of these ants.

Fire ants have successfully invaded many southern states. They have been found in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Arizona, New Mexico, Mississippi, California, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma. Their mounds can be 2 feet in diameter and a foot and a half high.  A single colony can contain close to a quarter million ants.

Fire ants will eat both plant and animal products including rodents and some reptiles.  They will feed on a wide variety of plants, including strawberries, potatoes and corn.  Queens in the colony will need proteins, so when you mix baits for these ants you have to make sure they are protein-based.  These ants are attracted to magnetic fields and will get in transformers, air conditioners and other electrical equipment.  One good thing about fire ants is that they like to feed on ticks.  If you have fire ants in your yard, you won’t have ticks.  They will also feed on fleas, cockroaches and several species of flies.

When you control these ants, make sure you dust any electrical equipment outside with food-grade diatomaceous earth. This will keep the ants out of these area.  For a bait, you can mix boric acid or aspartame with sugar, jelly, honey or pet food.  You can flood their nests with one gallon of orange juice mixed with two gallons of water and a cup of dish soap. 

Tomorrow information on aphids.  If you have any pest questions you can contact me at askthebugman2013@gmail.com.

About askthebugman

I have been in the pest management industry for over 40 years. In that time I have used almost every pesticide available to control so-called “pests”. With this experience, I have learned over the years that the pesticides we use are far more dangerous than the pests we are trying to control. As a result, it has become a passion for me to improve the quality of life for humans and the planet, by assisting people to not only become more educated and aware of their environment – but also by learning to manage their home and business with a sustainable and healthier approach to tending to unwanted infestations of bugs. Please enjoy my blog posts, check out my publications, utilize my services, or simply stay in touch if you have a bug question…

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