Welcome. Thank you for your interest in my book.
This preview varies from what ebook retailers offer, which is simply the first x number of pages. Unfortunately, that likely doesn’t go much beyond the ants chapter. Below is a snippet of chapters to help you better gauge the usefulness of the book to you.
With so much incorrect information online, I sought corroboration of all facts in this book from multiple sources; if enough experts were saying the same thing, I accepted what was said as truth. The flip side of that is also true of the sites I dismissed. They all were relying on the disinformation that was largely coming from various pest-control companies that naturally want to scare you into calling them, and some went even further. What they all have in common is they want you to buy something.
I sat with the 1200+ page tome, Encyclopedia of Insects, on my desk for eight weeks as I checked and rechecked insect sizes, and other facts. I relied most on expert studies, papers, fact sheets; I got used to clicking past pages and pages of disinformation before finding reliable sites.
How to identify, treat & prevent insect infestation
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Ants: General, Argentine, Carpenter, Odorous, Pavement, Pharaoh & Thief
Fire ants: European, RIFA & Bull
Bees: General, Social & Solitary
Beetles: Carpet, Varied & Black
Beetles (& weevils): Pantry
Centipedes, Millipedes, Pill & Sow bugs
Moths: General, Clothes & Pantry
Silverfish & Firebrats
Wasps & Hornets
Boric acid: best practices for ant control
Diatomaceous earth: best practices for insect control
Preventative Measures & Insect Trapping
Neonicotinoids & Garden Centre Plants
Pesticides 101: Industrial & Residential
Residential Pest-Control Companies
Spider Bites (non-venomous & venomous)
Stings & Bites (ants, bees & wasps)
Every pest-control company’s website wants us to believe that even the common house spider requires a systematic plan to eradicate them from our homes before life as we know it ends. This, of course, is nonsense. As my understanding and knowledge grew during the writing of this book, I learnt that with few exceptions insect infestations can be handily dealt with by us without a lot of money spent or toxic chemicals.
It doesn’t take much for an infestation to start. All living beings need the same necessities: water, food and shelter. And keeping insects outside where they belong requires us to determine whether we are providing or depriving these essentials to them.
Keeping them out of our homes is an important job not to be overlooked and the chapter on preventative measures lists the common areas that require attention to reduce your chances of an infestation.
It’s important to understand that no matter what we do, nature will do what nature does. We’ll never have bug-free gardens nor should that be a goal. Insects help us, plants, birds and other insects. And we all need to get along… outside.
While there may be more insects that enter homes, this book is limited to those commonly found in our gardens that somehow enter our homes or those that have adapted to living with us, notably bed bugs and cockroaches.
Globally, we have hundreds to thousands of species for just about all the insects referenced here. However, most are going to look fairly close to the chosen photos with perhaps slight variations depending on where in the world you live. Insect families and genera have been included to aid identification in your part of the world. Polar Regions are excluded from worldwide statistics.
To reduce repetitiveness the ants, bees, moths, venomous spiders and wasps & hornets chapters begin with general information the multiple species share and should be read.
Collecting correct information was a challenge. If you wish to do further research skip past websites that have a financial incentive for having you stop by as the information is often biased towards what they’re selling. The bibliography lists many publications by those who make their living studying insects. Government websites along with university community extension papers are unbiased resources. And, of course, your local book store or library will have trusted resources.
Care has been taken to provide informative and practical guidance in treating infestations. Nevertheless, this book should not be considered authoritative or comprehensive.
FIRE ANTS & BULL ANTS
Thankfully, there are few fire ants relative to the vast numbers of ants as a whole. And fire ants in their native lands are kept in check and usually not a problem.
European, native, tropical and the infamous Red Imported Fire Ant (RIFA) are a few names for the subfamily Myrmicinae. Some belong to the genus Solenopsis and others to Myrmica. Count these ants as members of imported insects / plants / aquatic life that’ve taken full advantage of having moved up the pecking order in new countries.
In North America, RIFA has journeyed into Mexico, most of the southern United States and has begun its migration into Canada. It’s also making its way via the transport of goods around the world to Australia, China, Hong Kong, New Zealand and the list grows.
The European fire ant (EFA) aka common fire ant in its homeland is found throughout most of North America and Asia and also emigrating globally.
Both are adapting relatively swiftly to different climates. Both are devastating the native equilibrium. Intolerance by both towards other ants has resulted in native populations plunging. Their fierce nature is also killing not only the food sources for small ground-nesting animals and birds but those same animals, which are food sources for larger wildlife. Consummate gate crashers.
The sting of a European fire ant is closer to that of a wasp, whereas RIFA take stinging to another level. Refer to Stings & Bites for more information.
EUROPEAN FIRE ANTS
The European fire ant (EFA), genus Myrmica, is reddish-brown and about 4mm / 0.2in. Hatched egg to egg production takes about two years, which is also the approximate lifespan for workers and queens.
They don’t usually enter homes; nevertheless, an infestation in your backyard could restrict its full enjoyment due to its aggressive nature and stinging ability.
Bed bugs are nocturnal, flat, rusty-brown, oval, wingless 5-9mm / 0.2-0.4in of the Cimicidae family and genus Cimex. They have become a huge problem over the last number of years, showing up everywhere throughout most countries.
It’s believed bed bugs are related although genetically distinct to bat bugs that evolved way back when we shared caves with bats. They belong to the Hemiptera order where other sucking insects (aphids, for example) are.
Bed bugs feed only on blood and prefer humans to other animals. Because they do not carry disease they are not considered a health hazard. But it’s the physical, mental and emotional stress caused by these bugs that takes a considerable toll on our souls.
Females lay approximately 200-500 eggs during her lifespan, which greatly depends on environmental factors. Eggs are the size of dust specs that hatch within two weeks.
These critters hitch a ride on us anywhere: offices, stores, public transit or hotels (check these tips for travelling). They’re most often found in mattresses, walls and furniture. If you’ve discovered them, also check behind skirting boards / baseboards, electrical outlet plates and picture frames. Better still, check everywhere.
A bed bug infestation has nothing to do with cleanliness, but keeping your home clean and clutter-free will help maintain a bed bug free home.
Carpet beetles aka two-spotted, skin, leather, Khapra and more in the family Dermestidae come in variants of black, brown, red, white and orange (some say yellow).
The varied adult carpet beetle aka museum beetle (genus Anthrenus) is 2-4mm / 0.08-0.2in and often a mottled black / white / orange oval critter.
Native to Europe but found worldwide in homes and museums.
Its lifespan greatly depends on the environmental conditions in which it finds itself.
Females lay 40-90 eggs wherever she finds a food source for her larvae. Egg to adult can take anywhere from 10 months to more than two years; an adult, however, will live just 2-6 weeks.
In the Blattodea order but within different families we find the approximately 4500 cockroach species spread across about 500 genera. Fewer than 1 percent are considered pests to humans. But, if you’ve got them, that’s little comfort.
Even though continents have their own native species, the ones below have cosmopolitan distribution.
The largest of the household species is the reddish-brown, 38mm / 1.5in American cockroach. The Australian species look similar (both Periplaneta genus) to the American though a bit smaller at 31-37mm / 1.2-1.5in. The Oriental (Blattela genus) species are 17-30mm / 0.7-1.2in and dark-brown to black.
Although all enjoy a wide geographic range, the most widely distributed is the tan-brown to near black, 10-16mm / 0.4-0.6in German cockroach (Blattela genus). Named so because it was thought to come from Europe, modern thinkers believe it originated somewhere more tropical. Germans call them Russian cockroaches.
Often misidentified as cockroaches, palmetto bugs (Eurycotis genus) are reddish 30–40mm / 1.2-1.6in outdoor insects that cannot survive cold climates and are therefore restricted to tropical and subtropical climates. Clear away decaying wood and leaves – their food source – to control large numbers. Check your home’s perimeter for points of entry.
Water bugs aka toe biters and electric light bugs also mistakenly referred to as cockroaches are found worldwide but most species are found in Asia and the North & South Americas. They belong to the Hemiptera order and the Belostomatidae family with numerous genera and subfamilies. They average 50mm / 2in and spend much of their lives in water searching for aquatic invertebrates and small fish. They will bite humans in defense.
Indianmeal moth (genus Plodia) females lay 60–400 eggs on a food source, which hatch within 2-14 days. Adults average 8mm / 0.3in. The larvae eat your dry goods, chiefly ground grains, dried fruit, nuts, chocolate and bird seed.
Mediterranean flour moth (genus Ephestia) females lay between 100-600 eggs in a food source. Adults range 6-12mm / 0.2-0.5in. Larvae mature in about 40 days then search for a quiet place to pupate, which takes 8-12 days.
Both species belong to the Pyralidae family. Both have life cycles that range from one month to one year, depending on environmental conditions; adults live 7-10 days. They equally cause considerable damage to food sources around the world.
We have moths that eat our clothes. And moths that eat our dried foods. And just when it seems we’ve got a handle on the situation, we come up against a moth that swings back, forth and sideways with aplomb: the brown house moth.
Termites are considered close relatives to cockroaches; so close that some refer to them as wood-eating cockroaches. Both insects are found in the order of Blattodea. (Family names are listed with main termite descriptions, but there’re too many genera to list.)
Statistical data on how many species worldwide is inconsistent but more consistent in the 2800 range.
Termites fall into three main groups: dampwood, drywood and subterranean. Depending on species and caste, termites measure 5-25mm / 0.2-1in. Workers and soldiers live up to two years.
A queen’s size varies by how big her colony is, from 25-100mm / 1-4in. Termites are the only multi-generational (eusocial) insects to have kings. A colony consists of a queen, king and three or four caste members: reproductives (alates), possible alates, soldiers and workers.
Termites are way more complicated than laid out below, but in essence:
Queens and kings enjoy a private chamber and can live decades under favourable conditions. To produce workers, the queen must mate with the king, and that’s the extent of his royal duties; she alone determines the sexes of alates.
Alates, heirs in royal speak, step up should something happen to either king or queen and like many heirs are otherwise idle until they fly off to start their own monarchy. Soldiers defend the colony and might help with foraging duties, but probably won’t.
The possibles or stand-in alates (pseudergates) and workers comprise the majority of colony members and do everything: colony building; foraging; feeding king, queen, alates, soldiers, nymphs; and attend the eggs. Some soldiers and workers can be male or female. Most are blind.
One exception and one clarification to the above is that dampwood termites skip the nursery phase and put nymphs directly to work, thus eliminating a formal worker caste; and drywood pseudergates slave away as workers wishing for a fairy godmother to bestow them wings so they too can fly far, far away to a more regal life.
Termite eggs typically hatch within a few weeks; the larvae then undergo several growth cycles (instars) before reaching adulthood a few months later. Eggs are visible to the naked eye but because colonies are hidden within woodwork or underground it’s unlikely you’d ever see them.
BORIC ACID: BEST PRACTICE FOR ANT CONTROL
Boric acid works best as poisonous bait for ants, cockroaches and termites.
Baiting termites is best left to the professionals because a) nests are hidden meaning there’s no way to know how big the infestation is and b) you don’t want to waste time hoping the problem’s under control. If termites suspect a food source they merely block off access to it and search elsewhere. Bait activity ceases, you think the problem’s solved and they simply carry on with you none the wiser. Considering the consequences this insect is best left to the pros.
Since cockroaches aren’t particularly fussy about what they eat, baiting them should be fairly straightforward; use whichever recipe is easiest for you to put together, though do use the 0.5 percent boric acid ratio.
When dry, boric acid can be used as a desiccant like diatomaceous earth (DE); that is, it too will scratch insects’ exoskeletons. Nevertheless, it’s easily detected by insects and accordingly avoided. And if young children and/or pets are in the home DE is the safer choice.
Boric acid is a compound of Boron, commercially used in a dizzying array of industrial and household products. It occurs naturally in arid countries, most notably Argentina, Iran, Turkey, and the California and Nevada states. Most of it is now formed through the evaporation and reevaporation of lake beds.
The mineral boron is mined and refined into seven compounds: boric acid (hydrogen borate) and six salts, one being sodium tetraborate decahydrate: the compound in borax laundry boosters.
After researching this topic for more days than ever imagined requiring and finally finding verifiable data, thanks to the nudge from Andrew Goldsworthy of New Zealand to find the “good science”, that state boric acid and sodium tetraborate decahydrate are similar. Therefore, if boric acid is inaccessible, go with 20 Mule Team Borax as this brand contains the highest percentage of borax compared to all other comparable products.
Infestations take time to resolve and the greater the job the longer the job. While workers slowly kill the larvae and queen with bait, pupae don’t eat and will start another generation. And because pupae are at staggered levels of development, it’s important to continue baiting long enough to kill them all.
More poison does not equal better or faster. Virtually all “helpful” websites that offer infestation assistance give the impression the job will be done in a week. All sites visited provided incorrect bait ratios.
Their websites are filled with warnings of dire consequences if you don’t rid your home and garden of every last insect. No doubt about it, there are some insects that require chemical control. And there are some infestations that have ballooned beyond an average outbreak that will seem unmanageable. However, the more we use chemicals to combat common infestations, the less effective they become. It’s like us and antibiotics: when we don’t respect the dosage we contribute to that bacteria’s immunity.
Some companies advertise themselves as green or friendly. But no industry regulations exist on what defines green pesticides. There are safer practices to apply pesticides and less chemical use but no safe pesticides. Pesticides are not trivial. They are dangerous to everyone’s health despite what some contractors may say. It’s their livelihood and they want to protect it. Nonetheless, remember this:
It’s your house, your money, your health. Protect them all.