To start off I will highlight ants in general. Later paragraphs will dwell on individual species. Ants belong to the order Hymenoptera, the same order as bees and wasps. As with their relatives all ants have some winged forms and some species can sting. There will be one or more queens in a colony and may workers, all of which are infertile females. Males are fertile but all they do is lie around awaiting their one chance to mate, after which they die. After a successful mating a fertile female will attempt to establish her own colony. She will sustain the first brood herself, but soon will be relegated to a life of laying eggs while the workers tend to her. The diet of ants can depend upon the species and the stage of development of the individuals. For instance, larvae may have different needs than the adults, so a homeowner may one day find ants devouring a cake and the next day attacking the butter dish. There are over a dozen different ant species that invade homes in our area, each with it's own habits and preferred nest sites. Proper control begins with proper identification.
Carpenter Ants:One of the most recognizable and dreaded ant in our area is the carpenter ant. There are several species of carpenter ants (camponotus spp.) the most familiar being mostly if not all black. All carpenter ants are large and get their name not from constructing wood but rather from destroying it. They can do as much damage as termites. Carpenter ants cannot eat wood, but in the process of expanding their home they will tunnel through wood extensively. They can also cause considerable damage to gypsum board, insulation and even Styrofoam. They discard the shavings from their tunnels and this waste material, formerly your home, often appears as "sawdust" piles on furniture or floors. To make matters worse, the nest in your home is only a satellite colony. Someplace outside your home is a main colony that the satellite colony is dependent upon. Each main colony may have several satellite colonies, and it is possible to have more than one of these satellite colonies in a home. If that isn't enough to worry about; there are two other types of ants that can cause just as much damage. Heard enough? Then call the Local, Reliable Professionals at Safeguard Pest Control to handle your pest control needs including the destructive carpenter ant.
Harvester Ants: Ants are social insects and as such live in colonies. Most of the time these colonies are hidden and take some searching to find. The harvester ants (Pogonomyrmex spp.) are the exception. These large black to red-black ants build their nests underground in open areas, especially areas with wild grasses and weeds. The openings to the nests are very large and surrounded by a conspicuously cleared area of two or more feet in diameter. So obvious are these nest sites that they can sometimes be spotted next to roads while driving by! Large wide trails of these ants can be seen gathering seeds from the surrounding grasses and weeds, normally in the evening hours. The inedible parts are brought back to the surface and placed at the edge of the cleared area around the nest. As long as the nests are some distance from a home, these ants usually will not create a problem for the homeowner, although they will bite and inflict painful stings if disturbed. Some confusion can result by homeowners mistaking them with carpenter ants, which can be similar in size and color. If you have questions regarding pest identification or would like help controlling pest in or on your home, call the experts at Safeguard Pest Control.
Argentine Ants:Argentine ants (Iridomyrmex humilis) are small South American natives that were inadvertently brought into the United States in the 1890's. They are light to dark brown in color and will nest most anywhere, such as along edges of lawns and under and between shrubs, in cracks of concrete, under rocks and in homes. There may be several hundred egg-laying queens, and nests are often connected with trails that the ants almost continuously travel. Many of the ants in the colonies die during the winter months, but starting in the spring the numbers of worker ants increase until their maximum is reached during the late summer and fall. Below the 2,000 to 2,500 foot elevations Argentine ants are rampant during that time of year! They are most fond of sweet material but can be found dining on meats, fruits, and insects or just gathering around water at the bottom of the sink. Depending upon your outlook, their shear numbers and multiple colonies make them either worthy adversaries or a royal pain in the you-know-what. Complete control is often achieved only through laboriously finding and eliminating each of the offending colonies.
Pine Tree Ants: If I were to write about an ant that can do substantial damage to wood, insulation and wall board most of you would think "carpenter ants". Although carpenter ants can do these things, I find more of this damage being done by a smaller jet-black ant that has come to be known as the pine tree ant (Liometopum luctuousom). This species seems to be confined to the ponderosa pine region of California, a tree that it often will nest in. Very little has been written about the pine tree ant and most pest control professionals are unaware of it. This is a medium-sized ant with a very disagreeable odor, and it is common to see heavy trails of these leading from a pine tree to a structure. They will rarely be found gathering food in the home, but the trail to the home indicates a nest that needs immediate attention. Wood framing can be utterly destroyed. Insulation, especially rigid foam-type found in many open-beam ceilings, can become riddled with the "tunnels" that the ants create for their home. They can excavate wall board until about the only thing left is the texture and paint on your wall. They will nest in attics, walls and floors. To combat pine tree ants and other pests, contact your knowledgeable, local professionals at Safeguard Pest Control.
Odorous House Ants: The odorous house ants (Tapinoma sessile) get their name from the pungent odor that they give off when crushed. These natives are one of the first types of ants to invade homes in the spring. Odorous house ants are small, dark brown to black and can be found at all elevations in our area. The nests can be anywhere, from under rocks and planters to the inside of walls and insulated floors. There may be several thousand individuals within each nest, including one or more queens. Some have reported these ants to damage wood, insulation and the like as carpenter ants do. Normally these ants will seek out anything sweet, but at times will eat other foods as well. Individual ant "scouts" will wander about looking for food and will often find it in our kitchens and baths. These scouts will then leave a scent trail back to the colony, triggering hundreds of their sisters to invade our homes. Soon our pantries, counter tops and medicine cabinets are crawling with ants. Just spraying these areas not only creates a potential health risk but is also futile as the ants will soon find other pathways and food stuffs. To control these ants while protecting the health of your family call the local professionals at Safeguard Pest Control.
Bees & Wasps
Carpenter Bees: Carpenter Bees (Xylocopa spp.) are large metallic black or dark bluish bees. In shape they resemble the smaller bumble bees but are nearly hairless and have little to no yellow markings. They are noisy fliers and often will dive-bomb unsuspecting passers-by, though they will rarely sting. The females create tunnels in wood that are so perfect in outward appearance that one would swear they were created with a drill. Many of the tunnels will bend once in the wood, and when a female finishes her tunnel she will create a series of chambers within, each containing an egg and a provision of pollen. This done, the bee leaves and the young are left to themselves. In about three months they will mature and emerge from the tunnels. Carpenter bees normally will bore only in unpainted softwoods, with a preference for redwood and cedar. It is common to find many tunnels in a single piece of wood, each with a small pile of "sawdust" below. Over time much damage can be done.
Yellow Jackets: One of the most feared wasps is the yellow jacket (Vespula spp.). These yellow and black wasps feed on insects, dead animals and most any other meat, hence the other name of meat bee. Family barbecues and picnics often are ruined by their arrival. The stingers of all wasps have no barbs (unlike honeybees) and therefore can be used repeatedly. The stings are painful, and for those who have allergic reactions or are unfortunate enough to be stung by many of them at once, the result could be life threatening . A few species build their nests out in the open, which can reach the size of a basketball. However, most yellow jackets build their paper nests in voids such as in the ground, walls, or ceilings. As the nests grow the yellow jackets will excavate any surrounding material to make room, so if the nest is behind wallboard they may chew their way through and end up inside your home. Since a single nest can contain several thousand individuals this can leave that part of your home unusable until the offending intruders are destroyed. If you see yellow jackets entering voids in the exterior of your home you can be assured that there is a nest that needs immediate attention.
Umbrella Wasps: The umbrella wasps (Polistes spp.) sometimes called paper wasps, are common. In our area most of these are black and yellow, and an obvious narrowing between the abdomen and thorax quickly distinguishes them from yellow jackets. The gray nests are often built under eaves, decks and in attics, sheds and garages and are made of a paper-like substance of chewed up wood or other plant matter. These nests are suspended from a surface by a narrow pedicel and when mature contain numerous cells. The dominant female lays one egg in each cell, within which the young grow until adulthood. Simply walking near a nest may be enough to encourage several of the wasps to attack. Since each wasp can sting repeatedly, these attacks can be very painful. For those who are allergic to wasp venom, these pests can prove deadly.
Mud Daubers:Mud daubers (Sceliphron spp.) are fairly large yellow and black wasps. The adults are characterized by very long an slender petioles that connect the thorax and the abdomen. They build mud nests that may be attached to most any surface including inside garages and sheds and under the eaves. The nests consist of a series of individual cells. Then insect larvae or more commonly spiders are paralyzed and several are placed in each cell along with a single egg. Once each cell has been thus provisioned and the end of each cell is sealed, the entire nest is covered with a layer of mud that usually obliterates the outlines of the individual cells. The female now leaves and has nothing more to do with raising her young. Each egg hatches and the resulting larvae feed on the spiders until they mature, at which time each larvae pupates (much as a caterpillar does), and eventually turns into an adult wasp which burrows it's way out of the nest. They are not aggressive, do not defend their nests, are highly unlikely to sting unless handled and are considered beneficial to those who dislike the spiders they kill. If control is desired, all that can be done is to knock down the nests.
Honeybees:Many of the insects around us are beneficial and only on occasion would be considered pests. The honeybees (Apis mellifera) are a good example. Although some people have life threatening reactions to the sting of the workers, for most people the sting is merely painful and this pain is far outweighed by the benefits of honeybees. Brought to North America by early immigrants, these close relatives of ants produce honey and beeswax and are responsible for the fertilization of many of our crops. A colony can contain 20,000 to 80,000 individuals, including one egg-laying queen, a relatively small number of fertile males or drones, and many infertile females or workers. A queen will sometimes move a part of her colony to another location. This is called swarming and it is not uncommon to see a swarm the size of a basketball gathered on a tree branch. If you see one of these you can call a beekeeper to collect it or you can simply wait and the swarm will eventually move on. If the swarm moves into a wall void it may have to be destroyed.
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Everyone seems to be afraid of something, and at the top of the list for a lot of people are spiders. Most feed on insects and other arachnids and are generally considered to be extremely beneficial. Although people will often complain of being bit by spiders, more often than not the culprit is something else such as a tick, biting fly or kissing bug. The venom of most spiders in our area (except for the black widow) is very low in toxicity so unless a person has an allergic reaction to a spider bite, the result is no more than a red mark and perhaps a little pain. There are thousands of different types of spiders around our homes, all of which help to keep the population of other "critters" in check. In the yard spiders should be welcome inhabitants, however most people take offense when spiders make our homes their homes. Their webs make our otherwise clean homes look untidy. They can outright scare some people when they scurry across the carpet. There isn't a home around that doesn't have spiders, but those homes which we service have much fewer spiders than they otherwise would. To help control spiders and other pests in your home without disrupting the balance of nature in the yard call Safeguard Pest Control.
Black Widow Spiders: Black widows ( Latrodectus spp.) are found throughout all elevations of our foothill areas. They get their name from the shiny black color of the adult females (only the adult females are solid black) and the habit of the females to occasionally eat the males soon after mating. The adult female has a red hourglass-shaped mark on the underside of her abdomen. The webs are haphazard looking and the web material is unusually strong. I know of only one other spider in our area whose silk is similar. The webs are normally built in quiet, dark and undisturbed areas such as under decks, furniture, in garages, outbuildings, under homes and under roof overhangs. The spider herself is often in a corner of the web and out of sight. A dead giveaway that a web is that of a black widow is the presence of at least one almost white, nearly spherical and somewhat large egg case. The bite of the female, not the male, spider is normally painful and can be associated muscle tightness, shortness of breath and rarely death. The pain sets in shortly after being bit and usually subsides in a few days without treatment.
Brown Recluse Spider:The brown recluse spider is sometimes called the violin of fiddle-back spider. There has been much speculation and misinformation regarding this spider and I will try to educate and thus dispel some of the fears felt by many in the general public. Actually this is just one of many "brown" spiders in the genus Loxosceles, all of which can inject venom which will destroy living cells and sometimes result in a rather severe wound that takes several weeks to heal. This slow healing process can result in even more damage being caused by infections. The brown recluse is a rather small, brownish spider with few if any obvious "hairs". It has a violin shaped marking on its back directly behind the head. However, many other spiders have markings that may look like violins so this should never be used to identify a spider as a brown recluse. Fortunately all brown spiders have a distinctive pattern of eyes unlike any other "similar"-looking spiders in our area. And although a spider can always be introduced from another place there is no known breeding population of any of the brown spiders in Northern California. As I previously stated, it is the eyes that must be looked at when identifying these spiders. All of them have six eyes in three pairs arranged in a semi-circle. According to noted arachnologist Larry Allen of the San Joaquin County Department of Agriculture there are no other spiders in our area that can be confused with the brown recluse or other brown spiders when using the eyes for identification. He also let me know that he has found several isolated brown spiders in various areas of Central California, all of which were brought in from out of the area. Although it is always possible for a brown recluse or other brown spider to be brought in from someplace else, he has never identified one from the foothills. Calls to several of the neighboring county agricultural offices confirm that they also have not had any brought in. We have had many "brown recluse" spiders brought to our office, and all of them turned out to be something else. Again, there are no known breeding populations in Northern California, but if you think you have a brown recluse please have someone at our office or local county agricultural office take a look at it. As I mentioned above, the bite from a brown spider can, but not always, result in a rather severe wound caused by the decay of tissue in the area of the bite. However, the mere presence of such a wound is not enough to declare that the culprit is a brown spider. Without having the spider in hand it is impossible to identify a wound as being caused by a spider, let a long a particular species such as the brown recluse. Other spiders, such as the hobo spider, can cause similar lesions as well as bites from kissing bugs, ticks and fleas. Some diseases can also cause skin lesions. The point is that in areas such as ours where the brown recluse is not known to occur we should always consider other potential causal agents for skin lesions, while at the same time keeping an eye out for any brown recluse spider which may have been brought in from out of the area. There is much more information on the brown recluse and other brown spiders, but space constraints prohibit me from including them here. If you have further questions, please call our office and I will try to fully answer them.
Cellar Spiders: One of the most common calls we receive is one that goes something like "Is there anything you can do to get rid of these daddy-longlegs? Everyday I'm knocking down spider webs!" Since the true daddy-longlegs are not actually spiders and thus cannot spin webs, the real culprit normally is the long-bodied cellar spider (Pholcus phalangioides). These prolific web makers have small bodies, very long slender legs and fairly toxic venom, although they cannot pierce our skin and are therefore harmless to humans and our pets. When the spiders are disturbed they often will shake or bounce within the web. Most of their time is spent in the webs waiting for unwitting prey, and in the yard this activity helps to keep insect numbers in check. However, once the spiders take up residence in and on our homes they simply become pests. If the webs are not continually knocked down, a home can soon be a blue ribbon winner in a Halloween haunted-house contest! Treating a home on a regular basis, along with removing the webs, will help to keep their numbers in check and make your home a more inviting place for yourself and guests.
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Few house invading creatures are more despised than mice and rats. Mice and rats are very well adapted to living with humans. Noises in the attic or walls may provide the first clue that something is amiss, but it is normally the finding of droppings that confirms their presence. Both mice and rats make nests to live in and to raise their young, and the materials for the nests may come from clothes, furniture, books, paper or cardboard. Their four front teeth grow continually, and these need to be kept ground down by gnawing on whatever is available. Wood and wiring are fair game for this. They can feed on any foodstuffs we have in our pantries and their droppings and urine can contaminate what food they leave behind. Between nest building, gnawing, feeding and contamination, mice and rats can cause thousands of dollars worth of damage to a single home and possibly even destroy it if a fire results from gnawing on the electrical wires. They also can spread disease including the often fatal hantavirus. The key to rodent control is to exclude them out of our homes, which means fixing openings as small as 1/4" in diameter.
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The western bloodsucking conenose (Triatoma protracta) is considered a "bug" which in entomology is a term that applies to insects in the order Hemiptera. The conenose is in a group commonly referred to as kissing bugs. The western bloodsucking conenose feeds on animal blood and in the wild can be found in the burrows of wood rats. They are active at night, attracted to light and although they are poor flyers, they will sometimes make their way into homes. Often they will bite their victims in bed and normally the victims will not feel the bite. A minority of people are allergic to the conenose bite and after some time can develop severe itching, a general swelling of the body, heart palpitations and other symptoms. Dizziness and nausea can also occur and can last two days. Non-chemical controls include the elimination of potential rat nests, such as debris, cluttered outdoor storage and junked vehicles and appliances, reducing outdoor lights, and closing blinds and shades to limit the amount of light that shines to the outside of the home.
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The house centipede (Scutigera coleoptrata) is a native of Mexico and has found it's way into all the contiguous United States. It also is one of the few centipedes that can breed indoors. The body of these fragile centipedes is an inch or so in length but the long legs and antennae make them look larger. They are light in color, generally gray or grayish-yellow with three dark stripes along their backs. They run so swiftly that often you may only catch a glimpse of one out of the corner of your eye. As with all centipedes they are carnivorous, feeding on spiders or insects. To some extent this makes them beneficial, however their poisonous fangs have the potential of causing swelling and pain similar to that of a bee sting. Homes that have wet areas such as damp basements, poorly vented bathrooms or a lot of landscaping next to foundations are most likely to have problems with house centipedes. Eliminating wet areas can help to reduce their numbers.
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Both millipedes (class Diplopoda) and centipedes (class Chilopoda) have many legs and live primarily in soil or under logs, rocks or other debris. However, this is about as far as the similarities go. Millipedes are generally somewhat round in cross-section, are normally slow moving and often will coil up when disturbed. Centipedes are more flattened in cross-section, can be very swift and will rarely coil. Millipedes are vegetarian, feeding primarily on decaying plant matter. Centipedes feed on insects, earthworms and other creatures. For defense some millipedes emit a foul brownish fluid, while the centipedes have poison fangs and are capable of causing a painful bite to humans. Although seldom serious, theses wounds should at least be disinfected and perhaps a consultation with a physician would be in order. Many centipedes also have menacing looking "pinchers" at their back ends, although they are used simply for grasping prey. The head-end of centipedes is the "business end" and should be avoided.
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The European earwigs (Forficula auricularia) are common household pests. Because of their prominent hind forceps they have sometimes been called pincher bugs. The "pinchers" are used for grasping prey and for defense, but rarely are they able to draw blood. they have small wing pads that protect elaborately folded wings. Although they can fly short distances, they normally will crawl from point to point and rarely fly. Their primary foods are live and dead plant matter and other insects. Although earwig populations can be great the damage done to plants is usually minimal. Some studies found that earwigs prefer to feed on moss and lichens more than other plants. They spend the nights foraging for food and the days hiding under plants, rocks and planters, in cracks in fences, under siding and other areas. When the population of earwigs increase outside, they often become a serious indoor pest. Earwigs can get into drawers, bedding and will be found crawling most anywhere. This pest is principally a problem below the 1,500 foot elevation, although they can be a nuisance at much higher elevations, especially in homes near meadows or golf courses.
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Cockroach! Just the name conjures up images of filth in the minds of most people. However, as repulsive as most "roaches" are, the image isn't exactly appropriate. There are four types of roaches that people are most likely to encounter in our area. The native field roach breeds outdoors and never becomes a serious indoor pest. The oriental roach also lives outdoors but it can sometimes become an indoor pest as well. The German and brown banded roaches can not live outdoors in our area, so they must be introduced into the home to become established. They can enter a home by means of take-out food containers, cardboard boxes, luggage, garage sale items or by people moving from one home to another. Once inside, these fast, soft-bodied, mainly nocturnal insects can quickly become very serious pests. It only takes a few crumbs and other debris under drawers or other areas to meet the food needs of roaches, therefore even clean and tidy homes can become infested. Since all roaches have different habits it is necessary to first identify the type of roach that is causing a problem before adequate control measures can be taken.
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