Thursday, August 27, 2009

Field Crickets Abound

As we walk outside in the evening or early morning, the male cricket’s mating song might be heard. This high-pitched sound is produced by the male cricket rubbing his front wings together to attract a female. Crickets are normally an outdoor insect, usually found under rocks, logs or any crack or crevice. However, they can sometimes enter our homes through such areas as doors and windows. In addition, their song can become an irritant, since they live next to structures.
Crickets feed on all organic matter, including decaying plant material and fungi. Since crickets breakdown plant materials, they are considered beneficial by renewing soil minerals. They are also a food source for many animals such as spiders, ground beetles, birds, lizards and small rodents.

Some Control Options:
Non-Chemical Suggestions:
1) Caulk or seal cracks and gaps that are found in the foundation, around doors, windows, and garage doors.

2) Trim weeds and tall grass growing near the foundation.

3) Remove firewood, brush, rotting wood, boxes, bricks, stones and other objects from around the structure, in order to reduce the number of harborage areas.

4) For crickets found inside the home, vacuum or sweep up and then discard them.

Chemical Control Suggestions:

If a severe infestation exists, there are granular products that can be used for control, such as those containing hydramethylnon. There are also chemicals that can be sprayed outdoors to provide a barrier around homes, such as those containing pyrethrins or bifenthrin. There are also products that can be applied in indoor and outdoor cracks and crevices, such as those containing boric acid.

A field cricket, Gryllus sp. (Orthoptera: Gryllidae). Photo by Dr. Bart Drees, Texas A&M University.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Be Aware of Yellowjackets

Yellowjacket workers are ½ inches in length, with black with yellow markings on the head, thorax and abdomen. The yellowjackets use their chewing mouthparts to construct carton nests out of chewed vegetable fiber. Nests are usually underground, but occasionally they can be found in wall voids and indoors. Their nests are usually spherical and consist of a number of round combs that are attached to each other and then surrounded by a layered outer covering.
The colony begins with a single queen that has survived the winter. The queen is very large and more orangish in color. In the spring, the queen's ovaries develop and she finds a nesting site. She constructs a nest of 20 to 45 cells and produces eggs that hatch into larvae. The queen feeds the larvae for about 30 days or until the larvae pupate and develop into adults. Later in the summer, workers construct larger reproductive cells in which male and female wasps are produced.
Yellowjackets are considered beneficial since they feed developing larvae arthropod prey. However when their nests are disturbed, defending worker wasps can sting multiple times. Also, foraging worker wasps may be a nuisance at picnics and other outdoor events.

Some Control Options:
One strategy is to hang traps in sunny locations in areas of nesting sites. Liquid insecticides can also be used to kill yellowjackets. Also insecticidal dusts can be used and are sometimes preferred since the workers attempting to use the nest opening will track dust and contaminate brood and other colony members.
All must be used with extreme caution, since wasps will attack when sensing an insecticide applied to their nests. Wear protective clothing that covers the whole body, including gloves and a veil over the face. Hiring a pest management professional is sometimes needed to reduce risks to you and your family.

Southern yellowjackets, Vespula squamosa (Drury) (Hymenoptera: Vespidae), at nest entrance. Photo by G. McIlveen, Jr.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Destructive Carpenter Bees

Carpenter bees are 3/4 to 1 inch in length and resemble bumble bees, except that their abdomen is hairless and shiny black rather than being covered by patches of yellow-orange hair that is found on bumble bees. Adult carpenter bees become active in April or May and the female carpenter bees can sting, but usually only if agitated. Although males are incapable of stinging, they are territorial and will “attack" people passing by their nesting sites.
After mating, the females construct new nesting tunnels or use pre-existing tunnels for their nest site. Carpenter bees can bore holes about ½ inches wide into wood overhangs, decks, fence posts and trees. Unfinished wood or wood that is well weathered, poorly painted or stained is preferred for nest construction. Their nesting tunnels tend to extend straight for an inch or two and then turn 90 degrees as it begins to follow the wood grain. Their tunnels are clean cut and may extend 6 to 8 inches. Carpenter bees do not consume wood, but use wood merely to construct nests. Damage by carpenter bees is largely cosmetic, unless nesting sites are used repeatedly over years.

Some Control Options
Some Non-Chemical Control Options:Carpenter bees prefer to nest in unfinished or weathered wood, so painting or staining all exposed wood surface will deter carpenter bees from tunneling. Another option for preventing carpenter bee tunneling is to use non-wood trim and siding products, such as fiber cement or composite siding.

Some Chemical Control Options:
Observing bee activity will help in identifying nesting entrance holes. Look for perfectly round holes, about the size of a dime. Treating the entrance holes with an insecticidal spray or dust can reduce future nesting activity. Such products that contain carbaryl, cyfluthrin, permethrin, or resmethrin can be used. Leave the treated hole open for 12 to 24 hours before plugging it. The insecticide treatment is important, since it kills both the adult bees and offspring as they attempt to emerge later. Treatment is best performed at night when the bees are less active, or while wearing protective clothing.

A carpenter bee, Xylocopa sp. (Hymenoptera: Xylocopidae), nest opening. Photo by G. McIlveen, Jr.