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Bugs and Other Things

 

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Kimberly Schofield
Program Specialist-Urban IPM
k-schofield@tamu.edu

Time to Treat for Fire Ants

Since the recent rains, there have been more visible fire ant mounds in area landscapes.  Fire ant mounds are not only unsightly, but these ants are medically important.  They are aggressive and tend to come out of their colony by the thousands when disturbed.  This causes us to have no choice, but to use control methods for these ants! 

Before chemically treating for fire ants, one must first survey the area to determine the number of mounds.  If less than 5 mounds are present in a quarter acre plot, then it is advised to treat the individual mounds. The individual mound treatment is the fastest way to get rid of the fire ant mounds, but it is more labor intensive and more costly to apply when compared to the broadcast baits.  

If more than 5 mounds are present, then treatments should be broadcasted over the entire area.  A fire ant bait or granular insecticide may be used.  Fire ant baits are made up of defatted corn grit covered with insecticide and soybean oil.  Before broadcasting the fire ant bait, foraging activity should be assessed.  In order to test for foraging activity, place a potato chip or hot dog next to the mound.  If fire ants find the chip or hot dog within about twenty minutes, then the bait should be broadcasted.  Fire ants will typically actively forage when the soil surface temperature is between 70 and 90° F.  The delivery process of baits into the colony is so effective, that the amount of insecticide applied in an area is significantly reduced.  Fire ant baits should never be watered into the soil and they should not be used if they smell rancid.  Also, granular insecticides can be broadcasted over the entire area and need to be watered into the soil.  Granular insecticides will usually provide 6 to 12 months of control. 

Both fire ant baits and contact insecticides can be broadcast using a hand-held spreader for small areas or a Herd Seeder can be mounted onto a truck or ATV for larger areas. 

 Before applying any type of pesticide, always be sure to read and follow the pesticide label.  Never use harmful toxins, such as gasoline to control fire ants.  These products are illegal and dangerous.  Also, never leave insecticide baits on streets or walkways after application, in order to avoid unnecessary entrance into the water supply. 

For more information, please visit the fire ant webpage at http://fireant.tamu.edu.

Red imported fire ant worker.  Photo by Bart Drees, Texas A&M University.
Red imported fire ant worker.  Photo by Bart Drees,
Texas A&M University.

Egg, larval stages, pupa and adult fire ant worker.  Photo by Bart Drees, Texas A&M University.
Egg, larval stages, pupa and adult fire ant worker.  Photo by
Bart Drees, Texas A&M University.

Emerging May and June Beetles 

During late April and in May, we begin to see the adult May and June beetles (Phyllophaga spp.) flying around lights or onto window screens usually at night.  The female May beetle will deposit eggs into the turf in April-May; where as the June beetle will deposit eggs in May-June.  The eggs will hatch into grub worms that are creamy white in color with brown heads and are “c-shaped.” The grubs feed on dead organic matter and then move to the roots of plants. Since the grubs feed on roots, they can injure roots of grasses and other plants. This causes infested turf to brown and easy to remove in large clumps. 

Before treating for grub worms, lawns should be inspected to determine the presence of an infestation.  In order to inspect an area, soil sections 3 to 4 inches deep should be taken randomly to total one square foot for every 1000 square feet of infested area.  One square foot of turf can be sampled by removing four, 6 inch square pieces of turf or ten, 4 inch cup cutter core samples.  If more than 5 white grubs are found within this square foot, then treatment should be applied.  The optimal time for inspection and treatment should be 5 to 6 weeks after the most beetles are seen. This will ensure that smaller grub worms (less than ½ inches) will be found in the turf. 

Insecticides should only be applied if a grub worm infestation exists in your lawn, since unnecessary use of insecticides can cause insect resistance and harm to beneficial organisms.

Some Control Options:

Non-chemical control options:

Maintain healthy turf by fertilizing and watering properly. 

Try not to plant preferred trees in the landscape, such as oak or pecan trees, in order to prevent possible defoliation of these trees.

Parasitic nematodes in the genera Steinernema and Heterorhabtitis have been shown to be effective against white grubs. They can be purchased and applied to infested areas.

Chemical Control Options:

Imidacloprid, halofenozide, and clothianidin are some chemical options that are often applied before extensive grub worm damage is seen, since they are effective on smaller grub worms.  Lambda-cyhalothrin and trichlorfon are some examples of chemicals used after grub worms are present as a curative control.  Also there are combinations of chemicals such as imidacloprid and bifenthrin that can be used for a preventative and curative control option. 

Irrigating the soil with ¼ to ½ inches of water prior to treatment can improve the effectiveness of the insecticides, since the grubs will move closer to the soil surface.

Grub worm from Phyllophaga spp.  Photo by: Texas A&M Cooperative Extension.
Grub worm from Phyllophaga spp.  Photo by:
Texas A&M Cooperative Extension.

Multiplying Mosquitoes

Due to the recent rains and warmer temperatures, we have another flying insect joining us outside, the mosquito.  Mosquitoes are a diverse group of flies, and there are over 85 species in Texas.

Mosquitoes develop through a complete lifecycle with an egg, larva, pupa and adult stage.  Mosquito eggs may be laid individually or in clusters on the surface of water or in dry locations that will flood periodically.  The eggs hatch into larvae that eat microscopic plants, animals and other organic material in the water. The larvae will then develop into pupae, which do not feed.  Then the adult stage will emerge from the water and take flight. 

Adult male and female mosquitoes will feed on nectar, honeydew and fruit juices. The female mosquito will also consume blood in order to develop her eggs. This causes the female mosquito to be considered one of the biggest medical threats to humans, since they are capable of transmitting many diseases, such as West Nile Virus, Malaria, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, and Yellow Fever. 

Some Options For Controlling Mosquito Populations Outdoors:

1) The number one way to reduce mosquito populations in your yard is source reduction!!!   Mosquitoes need as little as a bottle cap full of water in order to complete their lifecycle.  If standing water is eliminated in your backyard, then the overall mosquito population in your area will be reduced. 

A)  Areas containing water should be changed once a week or emptied, such as wading pools, buckets, bird baths, pet dishes, ponds, boat covers, and irrigation systems. 

B)  Holes or depressions in trees should be filled with sand or mortar.

C)  Leaky pipes should be repaired.

D) If standing water can not be drained, then mosquito dunks containing Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti) can be used.      

2) Mow tall grass and reduce the amount of foliage to reduce the resting sites for adult mosquitoes.

3) Insecticides can be applied to trees and shrubs, such as those containing pyrethrins, to kill adult mosquitoes.

Some options to prevent mosquito bites:

1) Avoid wearing dark colors, since mosquitoes rely on visual cues to locate hosts.

2) Avoid exercising or yard work in the heat of the day, since mosquitoes are attracted to carbon dioxide and perspiration. 

3) Avoid wearing fruity or floral fragrances in perfumes, hair products, or sunscreens, since these scents are more attractive to mosquitoes.

4) Wear long, loose-fitting clothing to avoid mosquito bites.

55) Chemicals can be applied to the skin and clothes to prevent bites.  There are many mosquito repellents on the market such as those containing DEET, picaridin, oil of eucalyptus, and soybean oil-based repellents. 

Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus (Skuse) (Diptera: Culicidae). Photo by Dr. Bart Drees, Professor and Extension Entomologist.
Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus (Skuse)
(Diptera: Culicidae). Photo by Dr. Bart Drees,
Professor and Extension Entomologist.

Are Honeybees Swarming in Your Backyard?

Swarms of bees occur most commonly during the early spring when new queens decide to form a new nest site. These bee swarms are less likely to be aggressive so we usually do not have to worry about stinging.  However, the problem with swarms is the lack of acceptance in urban neighborhoods.  These swarms cause uproars in urban areas if the nest settles in a backyard tree or on a porch.  Also if they find a way to invade your house and take up residence in walls or attics, it could lead to a pretty expensive treatment tab.  If swarms invade the home, the nest will have to be removed (preferably by a professional), usually at a hefty cost. If nests are not removed, the wax, honey and dead bees may produce odors that can attract other pests such as mice, ants or cockroaches.

Some people prefer to leave their wild bee swarms alone.  However if you wish to take action, the safest course in urban areas is to hire a beekeeper to remove the swarm or hire a professional to eliminate it before they discover a way into your home.

For more information, please check out Dr. Mike Merchant’s City Bugs website at: http://citybugs.tamu.edu/IntheNews_Details.asp?ID_Key=441

Mention of commercial products is for educational purposes only and does not represent endorsement by Texas AgriLife Extension or The Texas A&M University System. Insecticide label registrations are subject to change, and changes may have occurred since this publication was printed. The pesticide user is always responsible for applying products in accordance with label directions. Always read and carefully follow the instructions on the container label.


 
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