How to identify, treat & prevent insect infestation.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Ants: General, Argentine, Carpenter, Odorous, Pavement, Pharaoh & Thief
Ants, Fire: 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
Spiders, Venomous: Funnel-webs, Recluses &Widows
Spider Bites (non-venomous & venomous)
Stings & Bites (ants, bees & wasps)
Termites: Dampwood, Drywood & Subterranean
Wasps & Hornets
Pesticides 101: Industrial, Residential & Residential Pest-Control Companies
Boric acid: best practices for ant control
Diatomaceous earth: best practices for insect control
Preventative Measures & Insect Trapping
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 2 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 2 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 2-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 2 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 1 month to 1 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 3 main groups: dampwood, drywood and subterranean. Depending on species and caste, termites measure 5-25mm / 0.2-1in. Workers and soldiers live up to 2 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 3 or 4 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 7 compounds: boric acid (hydrogen borate) and 6 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.