Archive for November, 2009

Ant: The Carpenter Ant

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Carpenter ants are one of many species of ants. Even though carpenter ants look similar to many of the other species they have their own physical characteristics that differentiate them from other ants. Also,of carpenter ants are often confused with termites. The best way to differentiate carpenter ants from another kind of ant is the carpenter ant only has one segment between it’s thorax and abdomen; also, the thorax is evenly rounded. Some carpenter ants are winged and this physical aspect confuses them with termites. The carpenter ants wings are different sizes, with the front wings being larger in size than the back wings. While the termites wings are the same size. Another physical characteristic that confuses people as to if it’s a carpenter ant or a termite is their antennae. The carpenter ant’s antennae are elbowed, where they look like they bend in the middle. The termite’s antennae are straight. These two simple physical traits of wings and antennae can confuse people, but knowing the difference will help homeowners correctly identify their pest problem.

ant carpenter ants

Carpenter ants have distinctive physical traits like the antennae being elbowed, and only one segment between the thorax and the abdomen. Both of these traits are visible in this picture.

The black- to red-toned carpenter ant is a hard worker, depending on it’s role within the colony that is. Ranging from three eights of an inch to a half of an inch, and sometimes larger, the carpenter ant does a lot with it’s little body. Whether the ant is a worker, a swarmer, a Queen, or a male, their size is contributed to their title. There are two varieties of workers, the larger worker is called a major and the smaller worker is called a minor. A swarmer is a winged reproductive carpenter ant. Queens are all usually about the same size, and there may be more than one Queen per colony. Males are used just for reproducing.

ant carpenter ants

These carpenter ants are swarmers. All swarmers have wings.

While males are used mainly for reproducing, Queens do just the same. Queens stay in the colony and lay eggs. In the late summer the eggs the Queen lays are males and more Queens, these eggs will hatch in early spring. Then these carpenter ants will reproduce once they are adults. Other eggs that the Queen lays throughout the year are females that become worker ants. The eggs take about three weeks to hatch into larvae. Once they are larvae they take about another three weeks to develop into pupa. From the pupa stage to adult it will be about another three weeks. The timing of all these stages may vary depending on the climate the carpenter ants are in at the time. During the carpenter ants development once it becomes a pupa worker ants come and take all the pupa to a satellite colony where the workers will take care of them. With Queens having so many babies the colony grows and grows over time. With in two to four years there can be hundreds of workers within a colony, and just a few years more there can be thousands of workers within a colony.

A kind of ironic fact abut carpenter ants is that they don’t eat wood. This is ironic because the colony that carpenter ants build is most often in some form of wood. They like to live in moist wood, rotting trees, tree stumps, logs, firewood, near tubs, near sinks, near showers, near dishwashers, under roofing, in attic beams, hallow spaces like doors, curtain rods, wall voids, and foam insulation. With a favorite living space being wood and the fact that carpenter ants make tunnels or galleries within the wood to form their colonies many people assume they eat wood.

ant carpenter ants

Here is a small nest found outside a house. The nest is in the wood of the patio.

Another common thing that confuses people as to if they have ants or termites in their house is that they both live in wood, and eat it. While the carpenter ant may live within wood and obviously has to destroy the wood to make its home it does not actually eat the wood, but many people think carpenter ants do eat the wood like termites do. Piles of what looks like sawdust, called frass, are left near the colony. Carpenter ants move it away from the colony once they have built their home so that people can’t find their nest right away. This confuses people even more because they assume the wood has been eaten by the carpenter ants and do not know where the piles of frass have come from.

Since the carpenter ants do not eat wood they find many other sources of food to eat. Carpenter ants go out to look for food usually around sunset and may stay out scavenging until midnight. Carpenter ants will even go as far as 100 yards away from their colony in order to find food. Proteins and sugars like meat, tuna in water, syrup, honeydew, honey, sugar, jelly, and other sweets are all favorites of the carpenter ants to eat. People can often find carpenter ants in their homes looking for food. This confuses people and makes them think they have an ant problem, when really there are just a few ants inside looking for food. Although there may be an infestation of carpenter ants the best thing to do to determine if there is a problem or not is to find the colony.

ant carpenter ants

Here are two carpenter ants feeding on a grape.

Pictures courtesy of

Yellow Jacket: First Aid For a Yellow Jacket Sting

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Like bee stings, the yellow jacket is the most harmful to a person if they are allergic to the yellow jacket’s venom. Overall the first aid for a bee sting or a yellow jacket sting is very similar. If you see a yellow jacket near you and fear being stung do not try to swat at it nor get up right away to take cover. Any kind of fast unexpected movement could actually make the yellow jacket sting you. The best things to do are slowly put your hands over your face and wait or get up slowly and go indoors or somewhere secure. Of course not being stung is the best scenario anyone could ask for, but there is a chance it could happen. The one differentiating factor of bees and yellow jackets is actually the most terrifying thing about their stings. Yellow jackets can sting a person over and over again because their stinger has no barbs, and they travel in groups. So there is a high risk of being stung, and then possibly getting stung multiple times. If you are unable to protect yourself and get stung there are a few basic steps to follow to help with the pain.

  • Venom will be released into the sting while it happens. If allergic there may be a strong reaction.
  • Reaction will appear within 20 minutes to two hours.
  • No matter if you’re allergic or not the sting will be painful and will swell up and turn red.
  • Allergic symptoms that one would experience are a rash, difficulty breathing, difficulties swallowing, cough, tightness of chest, and or slurred speech.
  • If any of these symptoms become present it is best to go to a doctor immediately.
  • If you are stung and are not allergic or symptoms have not become apparent, apply a poultice made up of some form of meat tenderizer to the wound to help with the inflammation.
  • Take an antihistamine to reduce the reaction from the sting.
  • If these steps do not help go to a doctor as soon as you can to help aid the sting.

Yellow Jacket Wasps: The Yellow Jackets Life Cycle

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

Yellow jacket wasps have a busy life to lead, and unfortunately life doesn’t last long for them. On average, the yellow jacket will live for about a year. The yellow jacket wasp’s life has a lot of order to it, and they seem to work so hard all year. In a way, yellow jackets are similar to people as they work through out the day to make the Queen (boss lady) happy and then at night retire to their home and rest up for the next day. Even before yellow jackets become full adults they start to follow the order of life within the colony. Starting in the spring time the order of the colony begins like this:

  • Queens come out from hibernating and select a new spot to make a nest.
  • Sometimes worker yellow jacket may have survived the winter if they found a warm place to stay, but it is very rare.
  • The Queen will lay her eggs. Eggs are also referred to as brood cells and she lays 30-50.
  • Once the eggs hatch the Queen will feed the larvae for up to three weeks.
  • Larvae pupate into small infertile females, workers.
  • Up to the first ten workers that appear will become rearers and feeders for the brood.
  • As the workers grow they will eventually become pestiferous in August-September.
  • In the summer the first adult workers to emerge will be given the tasks of expanding the nest, getting food, taking care of the queen and any larvae, and defending the colony.
  • Part of taking care of the larvae includes feeding them. Adults will find meat for the larvae then chew and condition the meat and feed it to the larvae. In return the larvae secrete a sugar substance that the adults love to eat. This give and take exchange is known as trophallaxis.
  • While the queen is inside the nest she lays more eggs. When these eggs hatch they become males and queens.
  • Once the new males and queens emerge they will mate, shortly after mating the males will die.
  • The queen will then start to look for a place to hibernate. She likes to find a protective place such as in stumps or logs, with in stacks of firewood, under bark, and or attics of homes to hibernate.
  • During the fall parent colony workers begin to dwindle away and die. The foundress queen will also dwindle away, as the new queen will be hibernating at this time.
  • Since the nest has been abandoned at this point it will decompose and disintegrate, this also occurs due to the weather.
  • Then when spring rolls around the cycle will just repeat itself.
  • Also a new nest is always built, the yellow jackets will never go back into an old nest, yet they might build a new one very close to the old one.
yellow jacket wasps life cycle

Here are some eggs and larvae that are still in a nest that has been destroyed. The brighter white parts are the larvae, and the yellow-clear parts are eggs.

yellow jacket wasp life cycle

In this picture the yellow-clear sacs on the far right are the eggs. To the left are some yellow jackets that have developed and hatched.

Pictures courtesy of

Yellow Jacket: One Variety of Wasps

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

The yellow jacket is a type of wasp that many people mistake for the honey bee. Yellow jackets are small ranging from half an inch to three-fourths of an inch long. The body of the yellow jacket has a defined waist and long legs, and the body is covered in bands of yellow and black. The similar coloring and small shape of the yellow jacket and honey bees is what most often confuses people.

yellow jacket wasp

Fruits that have fallen to the ground are a great food source for yellow jackets. Make sure to pick up fruit once it falls from your trees.

Unlike bees these wasps eat more than pollen. Yellow jackets do enjoy sweet things, but more so when they are in the adult stage of their lives. As larvae, yellow jackets are known for eating meat. In most cases they eat the meat of other insects like flies, crickets, caterpillars, and other plant eating insects. The adult yellow jacket will actually catch the insects for the larvae and chew and condition the meat before the larvae eat it. This is actually a good thing about yellow jackets. Due to the fact that larvae eat meat, and adults will hunt plant-eating insects; the yellow jackets are actually helping control another pest control problem.

Even though yellow jackets are helping kill bad bugs they still can be bad pests themselves. Adult yellow jackets don’t eat meat like the larvae, they actually like sweet things like nectar, fruit, and other sweet human food. The yellow jackets also eat a secretion that the larvae produce. It may sound funny and weird, but as the larvae feeds on meat they produce a sweet sugar substance that secretes through their skin; this is a special treat that adult yellow jackets relish. Another type of sweet substance the adult yellow jackets enjoy eating is human food, which they normally find during picnics, barbecues, or any outside dinning. Favorite choices of the yellow jackets are soda, ciders, fruit juices, ice cream, candy, burgers, hot dogs, and even fish. When ever dining outside it is best to keep everything covered as much as possible, even the not-so-sweet items. Yellow jackets will go for anything including the meat because they can feed it to the larvae.

yellow jacket nest

Here is a yellow jacket nest that has been made on a tree. Having a yellow jacket nest out in your yard on a tree is better than close to your home.

yellow jacket nest

This yellow jacket nest was built on the side on a home. This is what homeowners do not want to happen, the further away the nest the better.

The worst part of trying to enjoy food outdoors is that yellow jacket wasps make their nests in so many different places you never know how close they’ll be to your food. Nests can be found anywhere from hollow trees, trees, shrubs, animal or rodent burrows, rock walls, under landscape timbers or heavy mulch, protected areas, under porches, eaves of homes, flooring, hollow walls, and attics. Yellow jacket wasps use pieces of wood and saliva to make their nests. Yellow jackets take the paper looking material they’ve made and use it to build the nest that forms multiple tiers of vertical cells, and there is a small hole in the bottom of the nest so yellow jacket wasps can fly in and out of the nest. The nest of the yellow jackets is a huge part of their lives. The life cycle of the yellow jackets is simple and repeats every year and one component of their lives is the nest. Read more on the details on the yellow jacket life cycle, to see just how important the nest is to the yellow jackets. If you do find a yellow jacket nest anywhere on your property or in your house call your local pest control to come out to your house.

Although there are do-it-yourself remedies, the safest choice is to call an exterminator. If you try to do any at home pest control there is always the risk of provoking the yellow jackets to attack. Sometimes people will try to capture the nests at night while the yellow jackets are sleeping. This is still risky because you could wake up the yellow jackets. They are like people and are out working in the day and stay in at night. Another at home thing people do to try to get rid of the yellow jacket wasps is called a water trap. This is safer for people to do as there is no physical contact with the yellow jackets until they are trapped and most likely dead. The water trap consists of hanging a piece of fish or liver above a container of water, and the water has to have some type of soap mixed in like laundry detergent. The food they try taking will be too heavy for them to carry and they will fall into the surrounding water below and drown. To ensure the yellow jackets are dead some people will then freeze the water.

yellow jacket

Knowing what yellow jacket wasps look like is helpful in order to avoid them. Here is a yellow jacket up close.

If you are outdoors and come across yellow jackets or their nest just avoid them all together. Doing this is really the best way to prevent any problems from happening with yellow jacket wasps. Like some other pests, yellow jackets will leave people alone as long as people do not bother or provoke them. Fast movements and loud noises can bother yellow jackets and provoke them to attack. This can be very bad as yellow jackets travel/hunt in colonies so there is high chance that there is going to be more than one yellow jacket after you. Even doing yard work with electrical devices can provoke yellow jackets, so if you know there is a nest outside wear protective gear or call your local pest control. Of course there are times where people do not mean to provoke yellow jackets, but do on accident. This usually happens when people see a yellow jacket wasp near them and try to swat at it, the fast movement of an arm will scare the yellow jacket and provoke it into attack mode. Even though people are scared the safest thing to do to avoid being stung is to slowly put your hands over your face and wait. Once the yellow jacket is gone you’re safe, and you most likely have escaped with out a sting. In the case that you do get stung see our first aid tips for yellow jacket stings.

Picture courtesy of

Cockroach: Preventing the Oriental Cockroach from Getting Inside Your Home

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

Preventing oriental cockroaches can be very easy. It is mostly about maintaining a clean house and yard. Also of course, making sure there are no entry points from the outside into your home. Overall the oriental cockroach’s habitat needs to be modified. Here are the basic steps to help prevent oriental cockroaches from getting into your home.

  • Keep your home clean and dry.
  • Vacuum often, make sure to get the corners and in dark places like closets.
  • Fix any plumbing leaks you may have and keep moist spaces ventilated.
  • If there are any gaps near plumbing pipes, cables, or anything of that manner fill the gaps with steel wool or caulk.
  • Check around the foundation of the home and fill any openings, holes, or cracks that are visible. Pay special attention to the ground level. Also sometimes it is best to look at dusk when oriental cockroaches will start to come out to look for food.
  • Decaying leaves and organic matter should be removed from windows and doors.
  • Keep garbage cans outdoors, but away from moist areas.
  • Do not leave trash bags that are filled lying around, put them in a proper trash can because oriental cockroaches will eat through the plastic.
  • Drain traps should be capped.
  • Install door sweeps, thresholds, and weatherproofing seals on doors, including garage doors.
  • Add screens to your attic vents, crawl spaces, floor drains, and any other exposed areas.
  • On your windows make sure to have screens and weatherproof them as well.
  • Outside of your home keep all trash cans, firewood, and lumber away from the house, at least three feet. You just don’t want it set up right next to the house.
  • If you have any mulch in your front or backyard keep it at or below two inches thick.
  • Mow any weedy vegetation near the structure of the home or any other structures on your property.
  • Keep basements and crawl spaces ventilated, and free of clutter.
  • Maintain keeping gutters clean, another source of moisture for oriental cockroaches to feed on.
  • Keep branches and bushes from touching your house.
  • Place sticky traps around, indoors and outdoors. Pesticides don’t always work because the oriental cockroaches may have already eaten, and can go for some time with out food. So trying to get them to eat poison is pointless.