Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ants are  the largest ants in Connecticut. There are several species of carpenter ants that may be found infesting homes and other buildings. Normally workers are black or red and black in color and range in size from 3/8 to 1/2 inch. Winged queen ants may be as large as one inch. However, size is not a reliable characteristic to identify carpenter ants.

Ants are divided into different castes, i.e. workers, queens, and males. Some ants, including carpenter ants, have polymorphic workers, which means that within one species the workers occur in different sizes. The best method to separate carpenter ants from other ants is by the following characteristics: 1) a waist with one node (petiole) and 2) a thorax with an evenly rounded upper surface.

Carpenter ants nest in moist wood including rotting trees, tree roots, tree stumps, and logs or boards lying on or buried in the ground. They can also nest in moist or decayed wood inside buildings. Wood decay may be caused by exposure to leaks, condensation, or poor air circulation. Nests have been found behind bathroom tiles; around tubs, sinks, showers, and dishwashers; under roofing, in attic beams, and under subfloor insulation; and in hollow spaces such as doors, curtain rods, and wall voids. Carpenter ants may also nest in foam insulation.

A parent carpenter ant colony sometimes establishes one or more satellite nests in nearby indoor or outdoor sites. Satellite nests are composed of workers, pupae, and mature larvae. A satellite nest does not require moisture because the workers do not tend eggs (the eggs would dry out without sufficient humidity). For this reason, satellite nests can be found in relatively dry locations, such as insulation, hollow doors, and sound wood. The workers of satellite colonies move readily between their nest and the parent colony. In late summer, winged reproductives (i.e. queens and males) may emerge from pupae transported into satellite colonies. They may appear in structures in late winter and early spring as they swarm from a satellite nest.

Bed Bugs

After being all but invisible for half a century, bed bugs are back with a vengeance in the US. Most Americans have never dealt with a bed bug. Until recently, they were a rarity even among most pest control professionals. Although bed bug infestations were common in the US prior to WWII, improvements in hygiene and the introduction of more effective pesticides (DDT) in the ’40s and ’50s made bed bugs an insignificant pest. They were still common in other regions of the world, however, and in recent years bed bugs have made a dramatic comeback in the US. The biggest contributors for this resurgence are greater rates of immigration, more international travel and the expansion of global trade. Add to this the introduction of new pest control practices that leave bed bugs unharmed as well as the removal of many effective pesticides and you have the makings of an outbreak.

Bed bugs are about 1/8-inch long and reddish-brown with oval, flattened bodies. Four-segmented antennae are attached to the head between the prominent compound eyes. The proboscis is located beneath the head and passes back between the front legs. They feed solely on the blood of animals. They first got a taste for human blood when cave-dwelling humans lived beneath bug-infested bat roosts. Bed bugs do not fly but can move swiftly over walls, floors and ceilings. Females attach their eggs in secluded areas. The eggs are whitish and very hard to see with the naked eye. Under ideal conditions, eggs hatch in about seven days. Newly hatched nymphs shed their skin approximately five times before reaching maturity. A blood meal is required between each successive molt. Bed bugs complete development in about one month, producing three or four generations per year. Bed bugs are very resilient and resourceful, they can survive for months without feeding and in the absence of humans, they will bite other warm-blooded animals, including pets.

Bed bugs are nocturnal. During the daytime, they hide in cracks close to where humans sleep. The prefer tiny crevices in mattresses, boxsprings, bedframes and headboards. In these hiding spots you will find fecal stains, eggs, molted skins, blood spots and in heavy infestations, a musty odor. As the population grows, they will spread to other cracks and crevices throughout the room, adjacent rooms and other apartments. Bed bugs are attracted to humans by body heat and emissions of carbon dioxide. As they bite, they inject an anesthetic which allows them to feed undetected. They typically require a 5- to 10-minute blood meal in order to completely engorge themselves. The saliva that is injected in the puncture results in circular, red, itchy welts. Although more than 25 infectuous agents have been associated with bed bugs, they are not considered vectors of disease since these pathogens are not transmitted.

Bees

Wasps and bees are beneficial insects, although they are generally considered to be pests because of their ability to sting. Wasps, in particular, can become a problem in autumn when they may disrupt many outdoor activities. People often mistakenly call all stinging insects “bees”. While both social wasps and bees live in colonies ruled by queens and maintained by workers, they look and behave differently. It is important to distinguish between these insects because different methods may be necessary to control them if they become a nuisance.

APPEARENCE

Wasps have a slender body with a narrow waist, slender, cylindrical legs, and appear smoothed-skinned and shiny. Yellowjackets, baldfaced hornets, and paper wasps are the most common types of wasps encountered by people. Bees are robust-bodied and very hairy compared with wasps. Their hind legs are flattened for collecting and transporting pollen. Bees are important pollinators. Honey bees are responsible for more than 80% of the pollination required by most fruits, legumes, and vegetable seed plants as well as many ornamentals that are grown in our landscapes. Bumblebees are important pollinators of native prairie plants.

FOOD PREFERENCES

Wasps are predators, feeding insects and other arthropods to their young, which develop in the nest. They are beneficial because they prey on many insects, including caterpillars, flies, crickets, and other pests. During late summer and fall, as queens stop laying eggs and their nests decline, wasps change their food gathering priorities and are more interested in collecting sweets and other carbohydrates. Some wasps may become aggressive scavengers around human food and may be common around outdoor activities where food or drinks are served. Bees feed only on nectar (carbohydrates) and pollen (protein) from flowers. Honey bees sometimes visit trash cans and soft-drink containers to feed on sugary foods.

WASP AND BEE STINGS

Wasps and bees sting to defend themselves or their colony. Stinging involves the injection of a protein venom that causes pain and other reactions. Wasps and bumblebees can sting more than once because they are able to pull out their stinger without injury to themselves. If you are stung by a wasp or bumblebee, the stinger is not left in your skin. Honey bees have barbs on their stinger which remain hooked in the skin. The stinger, which is connected to the digestive system of the bee, is torn out of the abdomen as the bee attempts to fly away. As a result, the bee soon dies. If you are stung by a honey bee, scratch out the stinger (with its attached venom gland) with your fingernail as soon as possible. Do not try to pull out the stinger between two fingers. Doing so only forces more venom into your skin, causing greater irritation. Most people have only local reactions to wasp and bee stings, although a few may experience more serious allergic reactions. Local, nonallergic reactions range from burning, itching, redness, and tenderness to massive swelling and itching that may last up to a week. These local reactions can be treated with ice, vinegar, honey, meat tenderizer, or commercial topical ointment to relieve the itching. An allergic reaction may include hives or rash, swelling away from the sting site, headache, minor respiratory symptoms, and stomach upset. These allergic reactions are not life-threatening and can be readily treated with an antihistamine. Very rarely, a person may suffer a life-threatening, systemic allergic reaction to a bee or wasp sting, which can cause anaphylactic shock (fainting, difficulty breathing, swelling, and blockage in the throat) within minutes of being stung. These systemic symptoms are cause for immediate medical attention. People with known systemic allergic reactions to bee or wasp stings should consult with their physician to obtain an Epi-PenTM or Ana-Guard Sting KitTM to carry with them at all times. The venoms of bees and wasps are different, so having a severe reaction to a wasp sting does not mean a person will have the same reaction to a bee sting.

Roaches

Cockroaches are probably the most persistent household pests in New England. They can contaminate food making it unfit to eat. They eat food, glue, leather, bookbindings, and even television and microwave wiring. Although cockroaches are active at night they can be seen during the day if disturbed or numerous. Cockroaches are 1/2 inch to 1-1/2 inches long, have flattened, oval bodies, long antennae and a head hidden by a shield-like covering. How do cockroaches enter our buildings? There is always a potential to move cockroaches from one building to another. Cockroaches or their eggs could be in a bag or box, on clothing, in furniture or merchandise that is purchased and carried into buildings. In some instances cockroaches crawl in from the outside or from a break in the sanitary sewer.

CONTROL

These sanitation practices and building modifications can minimize infestations:

  • Keep food in closed containers, including pet foods. Pick up pet dishes after pets have eaten.
  • Fix leaky pipes, faucets and roofs since most cockroaches need water.
  • Seal cracks around kitchen cabinets and countertops. These very small cracks provide a home for cockroaches.
  • Food containers that are recycled need to be rinsed of all food waste.
  • Do not allow boxes or newspapers to clutter rooms; leave space between packages.

Spiders

Spiders are a common and familiar group of arthropods. They are similar to insects in that they both have exoskeletons (their skeletons are on the outside of their bodies) and jointed legs.

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SPIDERS AND INSECTS

Any arthropods that share the same characteristics as spiders are known asarachnids. Other arachnids, or spider relatives, include ticks, daddy-longlegs, scorpions, and mites. Another difference between spiders and insects is that all spiders can produce silk throughout their lifetime. However, just a few insects can produce silk, and then at only certain times during their life. Spiders use silk to build webs and other types of snares, egg cases, draglines, and refuges. Silk is also produced by spiderlings (young spiders) during a process called ballooningin which the spiderlings shoot silk into the air and are carried away by the wind.

Spiders are predators, feeding mainly on insects. Spiders are considered beneficial because of the large number of insects they prey on, including a number of pest species. All spiders have venom and are therefore venomous. However, most spiders are harmless to people. They are very shy and usually remain hidden in undisturbed areas. Many are active only at night. They are not aggressive and they will try to escape when confronted. Few spiders bite, even when coaxed. Fortunately, the bites of most spiders are less painful than an average bee sting.

COMMON SPIDERS IN AND AROUND HOMES

Spiders can be divided into one of two groups depending on how they capture their prey: hunting (sometimes known as wandering) spiders and web-building spiders. All spiders produce silk, but hunting spiders do not construct webs to capture food. Instead, they rely on their quickness and relatively good eyesight to capture prey. Web-building spiders construct webs in rather quiet, undisturbed places to capture their food. They live in or near their web and wait for food to come to them. They generally have poor eyesight and rely on sensing vibrations in their web to detect prey.

CONTROL OF SPIDERS IN AND AROUND HOMES

Spiders are common in homes during warm weather, although they can be found indoors any time during the year. Their numbers usually peak during late summer and fall, when they are sometimes found indoors searching for winter hibernation sites. Spider control is usually challenging. It is difficult to eradicate all spiders from a home. It is also unnecessary. Properties located in areas favorable to spiders, such as by rivers, lakes, or fields, are more likely to have large numbers of spiders. Tolerate spiders whenever possible. Because of their beneficial nature, they are very important to the environment. When tolerance is not possible, use an integrated approach using nonchemical methods supplemented with chemical means to reduce spider numbers.

Rodents

The common house mouse weighs less than one ounce and is from 1 to 1 1/2 inches in length. The body is grayish-brown above and lighter, never white, below. Generally, it is a permanent resident in homes and other buildings. Wild mice enter dwellings in late summer or fall, spend the winter, and leave in the spring. All mice are excellent climbers and can be found at all levels of the house from the basement to the attic. Mice can be controlled.

House mice are mainly nocturnal, although at some locations considerable daytime activity may be seen. Seeing mice during daylight hours does not necessarily mean that a high population is present, although this is usually true for rats.

Mice have poor eyesight, relying on their hearing and their excellent senses of smell, taste, and touch. They are considered color-blind; therefore, for safety reasons, baits can be dyed distinctive colors without causing avoidance by mice, as long as the dye does not have an objectionable taste or odor.

Mice constantly explore and learn about their environment, memorizing the locations of pathways, obstacles, food and water, shelter, and other elements in their domain. They quickly detect new objects in their environment but, unlike rats, do not fear them. Thus, they will almost immediately enter bait stations and sample new foods (baits). The degree to which mice consume a particular food depends on the flavor of the food in addition to its physiological effect. Mice may reject baits simply because they do not taste as good as other available foods.

DAMAGE IDENTIFICATION

When house mice live in or around structures, they almost always cause some degree of economic damage. In homes and commercial buildings, they may feed on various stored food items or pet foods. In addition, they usually contaminate foodstuffs with their urine, droppings, and hair. A single mouse eats only about 3 grams of food per day but destroys considerably more food than it consumes because of its habit of nibbling on many foods and discarding partially eaten items.

House mice cause structural damage to buildings by their gnawing and nest-building activities. In livestock confinement facilities and similar structures, they may quickly cause extensive damage to insulation inside walls and attics. Such damage also occurs in homes, apartments, offices, and commercial buildings but usually at a slower rate because mouse populations in such structures are smaller. House mice often make homes in large electrical appliances, and here they may chew up wiring as well as insulation, resulting in short circuits which create fire hazards or other malfunctions that are expensive to repair. Mice may also damage stored items in attics, basements, garages, or museums. Damaged family heirlooms, paintings, books, documents, and other such items may be impossible to replace.

Among the diseases mice or their parasites may transmit to humans are salmonellosis (food poisoning), rickettsialpox, and lymphocytic choriomeningitis. Mice may also carry leptospirosis, ratbite fever, tapeworms, and organisms that can cause ringworm (a ungal skin disease) in humans. They have also been found to act as reservoirs or transmitters of diseases of veterinary importance, the hantavirus, swine dysentery, a serious bacterial disease of swine often called “bloody scours.”

Ticks

Ticks are considered as small arachnids that require blood to get their nutrition. They’re recorded to have existed for about 90 million years, with over 800 species of tick found across the globe. The good news is only two of the families within the species, Ixodidae (hard ticks) and Argasidae (soft ticks), are known to transmit diseases or illnesses to humans. And just like the name suggests, Ixodidae ticks have a hard back plate whereas Argasidae ticks have a soft back plate.

Ticks are normally found in grassy or woodsy areas and are so small that they can latch onto your skin without you even knowing it. If you find that your home is infested with ticks, we have the right tools and strategies available to help.

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