Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Eastern Subterranean Termites by Ralph H. Maestre BCE

Latin Name: Order Isoptera

Four "castes" of a termite colony: workers are approximately 1/4-inch long, light-colored and wingless; soldiers have elongated heads with mandibles; supplementary reproductives are light-colored and wingless or have very short, nonfunctional wings.

Live in colonies underground, from which they build tunnels in search of food; able to reach food above the ground level by building mud tubes; dependent on moisture for survival.

Wood and other cellulose material.

Different rates of growth from egg stage to adult depending on individual species; one queen per colony, which can lay tens of thousands of eggs in its lifetime, but most eggs are laid by supplementary reproductives in an established colony.
Termites cause over $2 billion in damages each year. Subterranean termites cause 95% of all termite damage in North America. Colonies can contain up to 1 million members.

Termite Baiting

The Sentricon® Colony Elimination System is manufactured by Dow AgroSciences LLC (Indianapolis, IN; 1-800-678-2388; The Sentricon® System is sold only through pest management firms that have been authorized and trained by Dow AgroSciences. This termite bait was the first to be commercially introduced into the United States and has been marketed since 1995. It is labeled to be used as the sole measure to achieve termite control, without a supplementary soil treatment.

The active ingredient (toxicant) in the Sentricon® System is a slow-acting chemical, 0.5% hexaflumuron (Recruit® II). During 2003, hexaflumuron is slated to be replaced with noviflumuron (Recruit® III and IV). Both of these chemicals are chitin synthesis inhibitors (CSIs) that disrupt the termites' normal molting process, causing them to die in the process of shedding their skin. CSIs can achieve their effects because worker termites continue to molt periodically throughout their life and they comprise the majority of the colony. Furthermore, workers feed other colony members, which starve as the worker population is depleted.

The Sentricon® System is based on a multi-step process that entails monitoring to identify stations that contain active termites, delivery of the toxic bait, and on-going monitoring to detect new termite infestations. Termites are detected by inserting plastic in-ground monitoring stations into the soil at intervals around the building perimeter and at conducive sites. Each in-ground Sentricon® station consists of a cylindrical green tube (10 inches deep by 2 inches wide) with slits for termite access; it is covered by a flat, round disc (locking cap assembly) that lies flush with the soil surface. Initially, two pieces of untreated wood are placed inside each station to serve as the monitoring device. Several of the stations are pre-baited in auxiliary stations during the initial installation process. Once termites have been found in the wood monitors, a treated bait tube is substituted. Termites are carefully dislodged from the monitoring wood and placed into the bait tube where they begin feeding on the bait as they tunnel through it and then eventually reunite with their colony members in the soil. In the process, they deposit trail pheromones (chemical scents) that promote recruitment of other nest mates to the bait. All stations around the structure are inspected on a continuing basis and bait delivery continues until no more live termites are found. Termite elimination is considered to be achieved if no termites are evident for three consecutive months, excluding inclement winter weather that may cause termites to be absent. Bait tubes subsequently are removed and untreated wood is once again inserted and monitored. On-going monitoring at less frequent intervals is useful to detect termites that have re-infested the area.

Above ground bait stations complement the Sentricon® System. These are tan, rectangular boxes containing two treated paper rolls (Recruit® AG) that are positioned above ground over active termite shelter tubes. The use of aboveground stations in combination with in-ground stations can enhance delivery of the bait toxicant to the colony.
The Sentricon® System has undergone extensive evaluation throughout the United States. A large number of field trials with Sentricon® have demonstrated elimination of subterranean termites.

Carpenter Bees by Ralph H. Maestre BCE

Carpenter bees are so named because they excavate galleries in wood to create nest sites. They do not consume wood. Rather, they feed on pollen and nectar. Carpenter bees are important pollinators of flowers and trees. Carpenter bees typically are just nuisance pests that cause cosmetic. When left unchecked the damage may become structural. Considerable wood damage can result from many generations of carpenter bees enlarging existing galleries in wood.

Large carpenter bees belong to the genus Xylocopa. Two native species, Xylocopa virginica and Xylocopa micans, occur in the eastern United States. There also are a number of native carpenter bees in the western United States. This fact sheet primarily pertains to X. virginica, which has the common name of carpenter bee.

Figure 1. Carpenter bee. (Courtesy of Kansas State University.)


Carpenter bees are large and robust. X. virginica is three-fourths to one-inch long, black, with a metallic sheen. The thorax is covered with bright yellow, orange, or white hairs, and the upper side of the abdomen is black, glossy, and bare (Figure 1). The female has a black head, and the male has white markings on the head. Carpenter bees have a dense brush of hairs on the hind legs.

Carpenter bees somewhat resemble bumble bees, except bumble bees have dense yellow hairs on the abdomen and large pollen baskets on the hind legs. Various species of bumble bees and carpenter bees are similar in size. Bumble bees typically nest in the ground whereas carpenter bees nest in wood.

Life History
Carpenter bees are solitary insects that do not form colonies. Male and female carpenter bees overwinter as adults within their old nest gallery. Adults emerge in the spring (April and early May) and mate. There is one generation per year.

The males are not long lived, and the female carpenter bee prepares the nest. Gallery construction is a time- and energy-consuming process, and the female will preferentially refurbish an old nest rather than excavate a new one. When constructing a new nest, the female uses her strong jaws (mandibles) to excavate a clean-cut, round nest entrance hole on the lateral surface of wood in an exposed or unexposed location. This hole is slightly less than 1/2-inch wide, approximately the diameter of her body. She bores into the wood perpendicular to the grain for one to two inches then makes a right angle turn and excavates along the wood grain for four to six inches to create a gallery (tunnel). She excavates the gallery at the rate of about one inch in six days.

The female bee creates a series of provisioned brood cells in the excavated gallery. The larval provision consists of a mixture of pollen and regurgitated nectar formed into a ball. The female forms a food ball at the far end of an excavated gallery, lays an egg on top of the mass, and then walls off the brood cell with a plug of chewed wood pulp. A female often creates six to 10 partitioned brood cells in a linear row in one gallery, and she dies soon thereafter. Larvae feed on the pollen/nectar food mass, which is sufficient food for them to develop to the adult stage.

The life cycle (egg, larva, pupa, adult) is completed in approximately seven weeks, although developmental time may vary depending on the temperature. The new adults typically remain in their gallery for several weeks then chew through the cell partitions and venture outside in late August. They collect and store pollen in the existing galleries, but also spend much of their time just huddled together inside a gallery. These new adults hibernate in galleries because they require shelter during the winter. They then emerge the following spring.

Carpenter bees nest in a wide range of softwoods and hardwoods, particularly if the wood is weathered. Eastern species of carpenter bees prefer softwoods such as cedar, redwood, cypress, pine, and fir. The bees can more easily tunnel through woods that are soft and that have a straight grain. Western species of carpenter bees often nest in oak, eucalyptus, and redwood.

Carpenter bees attack structural timbers and other wood products, including fence posts, utility poles, firewood, arbors, and lawn furniture. In buildings, carpenter bees nest in bare wood near roof eaves and gables, fascia boards, porch ceilings, decks, railings, siding, shingles, shutters, and other weathered wood. These bees avoid wood that is well painted or covered with bark.

The carpenter bee entrance hole in wood may not necessarily be in an exposed area. For example, the inner lip of fascia boards is a common site of attack. Nail holes, exposed saw cuts, and unpainted wood are attractive sites for the bees to start their excavations.

Figure 2. Carpenter bee entrance hole in fascia.
Figure 3. Carpenter bee staining on siding below the fascia.

Figure 4. Carpenter bee gallery exposed in wood.

Economic Importance
Despite their beneficial aspect of being important pollinators of many trees and flowers, carpenter bees also may be nuisance pests around structures. Carpenter bees are noisy, which may be bothersome. These large bees create alarm when they dive-bomb or fly erratically around humans. In actuality, these are male bees, which are territorial but harmless because they lack a stinger. Only females have a stinger. Female carpenter bees are docile and are reported to sting only if handled.

Carpenter bees create a nuisance by excavating round entry holes in wood (Figure 2) and depositing yellowish to brownish streaks of excrement and pollen on surfaces below entry holes (Figure 3). They also produce coarse sawdust from their borings. The carpenter bee gallery system is confined within the wood (Figure 4) and hence is not visible.

Carpenter bee damage to wood initially is minor, and carpenter bees seldom cause consequential structural damage. However, their repeated colonization of the same wood can eventually cause considerable wood damage. Carpenter bees preferentially refurbish and enlarge an existing tunnel instead of boring a new one, and a gallery can extend for 10 feet if used by many carpenter bees over the years.

Carpenter bees sometimes construct new tunnels near old ones, with infestations persisting for several years. This complex system of tunnels can result in extensive damage to wood. Wood replacement is necessary when the strength of structural members, posts, poles, and other wood products is reduced due to carpenter bee damage.

Carpenter bees also may be indirectly responsible for unsightly wood damage when woodpeckers riddle the wood with holes searching for the developing carpenter bees to feed upon.

Integrated Pest Management
When dealing with carpenter bees, it is preferable to locate tunnel entrances during the daytime, but treat after dark on a cool evening when carpenter bees are less active. Wear protective clothing to avoid any stings during treatment.

Keep all exposed wood surfaces well painted with a -polyurethane or oil-base paint to deter attack by carpenter bees. Periodically inspect painted surfaces, because the coatings will begin to deteriorate due to weathering, leaving exposed wood that the bees then can easily attack. Wood stains will not prevent damage. Consider using aluminum, asbestos, asphalt, vinyl siding, and similar non-wood materials that are not damaged by carpenter bees. Seal existing gallery entrance holes to discourage carpenter bees that are looking for potential nesting sites.

Mechanical Measures
A non-insecticidal management approach is to deny carpenter bees access to their galleries by sealing each entrance hole. Thoroughly plug the hole with caulking compound, wood putty, or a wooden dowel affixed with wood glue. If possible, also fill the entire gallery system with a sealant. Carpenter bee galleries are a critical resource, since the bees spend much of their time inside a gallery, and they require its protective conditions to survive the winter. Bees that are trapped inside a caulked gallery typically will not chew out due to behavioral constraints. This barrier approach has promise for reducing future carpenter bee infestations.

In new nests, the single female often can be swatted and killed, or she can be captured and crushed or otherwise destroyed. Larvae and pupae can be killed by inserting a sturdy wire into the entrance hole and probing into the gallery as deeply as possible.

A chemical treatment using an appropriately labeled insecticide can protect wood for short periods, especially in the spring and summer when carpenter bee nesting activity is apparent. Dust formulations typically provide residual effects and are effective due to the nature of carpenter bee gallery construction. Precisely inject the dust directly into each nest entrance hole and as deep into the tunnel as possible and also apply it to the adjacent wood surface. Wait for a few days before plugging entrance holes since adult bees should be allowed to pass freely to distribute the insecticide within the galleries. Newly emerged bees also will contact the dust when attempting to leave their gallery. The most popular dusts used are Tempo D (cyfluthrin), Drione and Tri-Die (pyrethrins), and Apicide (carbaryl).

For use as a preventive, an insecticide should be applied to wood in early spring before carpenter bees begin excavating nests. The insecticide kills the bees that contact it on the wood’s surface. However, a preventive approach has limitations because of the difficulty in applying a chemical to all exposed wood on the house where bees could nest. Furthermore, such insecticides usually degrade in a matter of weeks or months so repeated applications are needed to maintain a lethal dose of the insecticide. Some pest management companies report good results against carpenter bees by spraying wood with a microencapsulated pyrethroid, Demand CS insecticide (registered for use only by licensed professional applicators), which contains the active ingredient lambda-cyhalothrin. A number of other pyrethroids (bifenthrin, cyfluthrin, deltamethrin, permethrin, etc.) also are labeled for use against carpenter bees.
Insecticides that act as stomach poisons, such as borates, typically are ineffective against carpenter bees, which do not ingest the wood that they excavate.

Compiled From Susan C. JonesAssociate Professor, Entomology; Extension Specialist, Household and Structural Pests: Ohio State Pest Fact Sheets

Friday, March 26, 2010

Clover Mites by Ralph H. Maestre, BCE

Clover mites sometimes invade homes in enormous numbers, in early spring and late autumn, overrunning floors, walls, drapes, window sills and furniture, even occasionally getting into beds and clothing. They may become troublesome in hospitals, nursing homes, apartments, food processing facilities, etc. If crushed, they leave a reddish stain quite noticeable on linens, curtains, walls and woodwork. They are a nuisance by their presence but do not bite humans or animals, transmit disease nor feed on household furnishings or pantry supplies. Skin irritation may be caused in sensitive persons. They live outdoors, feeding on various plants.

Clover mites are about 1/30 inch long (smaller than a pinhead), oval-shaped arachnids, reddish-brown to olive to pale orange or sometimes green-brown after feeding. They are eight-legged with the front pair of legs very long, protruding forward at the head. These front legs are sometimes mistaken as antennae or feelers. There are featherlike plates on the body and fan-shaped like hairs along the back edge of the body when viewed under a magnifying glass. Young are smaller and bright red. Also, eggs are bright red. Crawling mites are sluggish, slow-moving and normally invade the home where the sun is warmest at south, southwest and east side of the house.

Life Cycle and Habits
Clover mites develop from unfertilized eggs (no males needed). Females lay about 70 eggs each, singly or in masses, in cracks and faults in concrete foundations, in mortar crevices, between the building walls, under loose bark of trees, and other protected places. Eggs lay dormant during the hot summer, hatching in early autumn when temperatures fall below 85 degrees F, followed by two nymphal or resting stages and the adult. Each stage lasts two to six days, and the life cycle is completed outdoors in one month with two or more generations per year. Mites may live one to seven months depending on climatic conditions. Most mites over winter as eggs, but all life stages can be present. Over wintering eggs hatch in early spring. Mites can be found infesting homes from November through June and again in the autumn months. They are sensitive to temperature changes (most active between 50 to 75 degrees F) and tend to move upward as the sun warms the surface above them. They may invade the home during the summer if host plants are dried up or cut off. Hosts include grasses (heavy feeding gives a silvered appearance), clover, dandelion, shepherd's purse, strawberry and iris, to name a few. Most heavy outbreaks occur in early spring in well-fertilized lawns growing close to the house foundation on the sunny side of the house; although in the fall, thousands of clover mites may congregate on vegetation around homes and on foundation walls, crawling into protected places as cold weather arrives. They hide under shingles, under siding, behind window and door casings or even indoors, becoming active again in the spring.

Control Measures

Remove all grass and weeds (lush vegetation) from around the house foundation perimeter, leaving a bare strip 18 to 24 inches wide, especially on the south, southwest and east sides of the building. Mites will not cross-bare, loose soil as readily as grassy surfaces touching the foundation. This bare strip can be planted with flowers such as geranium, zinnia, wallflowers, marigold, salvia, rose, chrysanthemum and petunia, or shrubs such as juniper, spruce, arborvitae, yew or barberry, which are unattractive to these mites deterring buildup and migration. An application of pea gravel in the strip will also discourage mite invasion. Some apply bark mulch, stone or black plastic. Be sure to seal cracks and gaps or other points of entry with caulking compound, putty and weather stripping around foundations, windows and doors. Use tight fitting screens on windows and doors.

It is best to use a perimeter spray barrier around the outside of the house during the mite invasion period. Outdoors, spray the foundation, exterior walls up to the bottom of the first floor windows, and always follow label directions. Treatment from the foundation out into the grass should be performed when permitted. Spray the foundation and walls and the vegetation until it is thoroughly wet. Materials labeled for this use include pyrethrins (Exciter, Microcare, Pyrethrum, Pyrenone). Granules may be used if labeled. Some additional products may be used indoors and out are PT 221L, PI, Steri-fab, and Tri-Die. We must read the labels carefully for treatment procedures. A product like Transport GHP may be use outdoors only. Spot applications can be made to cracks and crevices at baseboards, around windows and doors and between windows and screens with labeled materials. Before using any insecticides, be sure to read the label and follow directions and safety precautions.

Clover mites can be a huge problem in New York City and Long Island this spring. Its best to contact a professional exterminating company in your area to resolve any issues.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Carpenter Ants by Ralph H. Maestre, BCE

Carpenter ants are a nuisance by their presence when found in parts of the home such as the kitchen, bathroom, living room and other quarters. When 20 or more large winged and/or wingless ants are found indoors, in the daytime near one location, it is possible that the colony is well established in the home and the nest may have been extended into sound wood, sometimes causing structural damage. They do not eat wood, but often remove quantities of it to expand their nest size. However, if only one to two large wingless ants are erratically crawling, they may simply be foraging for food with the nest located outside. Outdoors, they are frequently seen running over plants and tree trunks or living in moist, partly rotten wood stumps. Nevertheless, carpenter ant inquiries rank first over all other household/structural pests in many states.


Carpenter ants are among the largest ants found in homes and live in colonies containing three castes consisting of winged and wingless queens, winged males and different sized workers. Winged males are much smaller than winged queens. Wingless queens measure 5/8 inch, winged queens 3/4 inch to the tips of their folded brownish wings, small minor workers 1/4 inch and large major workers 1/2 inch. Workers have some brown on them while queens are black. Workers have large heads and a small thorax while adult swarmers have a smaller head and large thorax. Carpenter ants have a smoothly rounded arched (convex) shape to the top of the thorax when viewed from the side and a pedicel between the thorax and abdomen consisting of only one segment or node. They have constricted waists, elbowed antennas and the reproductive's forewings are larger than the hindwings, transparent or brownish and not easily removed. Adults are usually black with some species red, brown or yellow occurring on parts of the body and legs. Eggs are about 1/8-inch long, cream colored and oval. Larvae are legless and grub-like, later pupating in tough silken, tan-colored cocoons erroneously referred to as "ant eggs."

Carpenter ant queen her first brood of eggs and larvae

Life Cycle and Habits
Winged male and female carpenter ants (swarmers) emerge from mature colonies usually from March to July in New York City and Long Island. After mating, males die and newly fertilized females (mated for life), establish a new colony in a small cavity in wood, under bark, etc. and each lays 15 to 20 eggs in 15 days. The egg stage takes about 24 days, larval stage 21 days and pupal stage 21 days or about 66 days from egg to adult at 70 to 90 degrees F. Cool weather may lengthen this period up to 10 months. The colony does not produce swarmers until about three years later. A mature colony, after three to six years, has 2,000 to 4,000 individuals.

In later generations, workers of various sizes are produced (polymorphism) into major and minor workers, which are all sterile females. Males formed are winged swarmers. Larger "major" workers guard the nest, battle intruders, explore and forage for food while smaller "minor" workers expand the nest and care for the young. Workers, when disturbed, carry off the larvae and pupa, which must be fed and tended or they die. In a mature colony, there is usually one queen with 200 to 400 winged individuals produced as swarmers. Workers have strong jaws and readily bite (sharp pinch) when contacted.

Nests are usually established in soft, moist (not wet), decayed wood or occasionally in an existing wood cavity or void area in a structure that is perfectly dry. Workers cut galleries in the wood, expanding the nest size for the enlarging colony. Galleries are irregular, usually excavated with the wood grain (sometimes across the grain) into softer portions of the wood. The walls of the nest are smooth and clean (sandpapered appearance) with shredded sawdust-like wood fragments, like chewed up toothpicks (frass), carried from the nest and deposited outside. Carpenter ants do not eat wood but excavate wood galleries to rear their young ants and carry aphids to plants, placing them on leaves for the production of honey dew. The food diet is of great variety (omnivorous) of both plant and animal origin such as plant juices, fresh fruits, insects (living or dead), meats, syrup, honey, jelly, sugar, grease, fat, honey dew (aphid excrement), etc. They feed readily on termites and usually never co-exist with them in a home. Workers are known to forage for food as far as 100 yards from their nest.

Control Measures
The most important and often most difficult part of carpenter ant control is locating the nest or nests. Once the nest location is found, control is very easy and simple. Sometimes more than one colony is present in the structure or on its grounds, so a thorough inspection is very important. Steps to a successful inspection include an interview with family members, indoor inspections, outdoor inspections and sound detection.

Often children and adults of the residence know where ants are seen, where large numbers are most prevalent, movement patterns, moisture in the structure, moisture problems of the past, if swarmers were seen, location of sawdust-like material in piles, populations outdoors, etc.

Indoors Inspection
Nests can be found in either moist or dry wood. A moisture meter can find wet spots to pinpoint possible nest locations. Inspect behind bathroom tiles, around tubs, showers, sinks, dishwashers, washing machines, refrigerator drip pans, etc. Check wood affected by moisture from contact with the soil such as steps, porch supports, siding, seepage from plugged drain gutters, chimney flashing, wooden shingle roofs, hollow porch posts, columns, leaking window and door frames, window boxes, crawl spaces, pipes, poor pitch of porch roofs, flat deck porch roofs, under porches, attics, etc. Look for damaged timbers, swarmers in spider webs, wood piles indoors, piles of wood debris ejected from the colony (pencil sharpener shaving-like), "windows" or small opening to a nest, etc.

Notice NO Mud in the galleries

Inspection Outdoors
Look for ants traveling from a tree or stump to the structure. They may travel over tree branches or vines touching the roof, electrical and telephone wires, fences next to the house, piles of firewood, logs, or railroad ties nearby or hollow living trees with entrance knot holes, etc. Workers are most active at night (midnight), traveling from their nest to a food source following trails but no particular trail leading directly to the nest. They do establish chemical (pheromone) trails.

Sound Detection
An active colony may produce a distinct, dry rustling sound (sometimes loud), similar to the crinkling of cellophane. It may be heard in a wall when standing in a room. A listening device, such as a stethoscope, may be useful when conditions are quiet and outside noises are at a minimum.

Homeowners should trim all trees and bushes so branches do not touch or come in contact with the house. Correct moisture problems such as leaking roofs, leaking chimney flashing, or plumbing, poorly ventilated attics or crawl spaces and blocked gutters. Replace rotted or water-damaged wood and eliminate wood to soil contact. Remove dead stumps within 50 feet of the house, if practical, and repair trees with damage at broken limbs, and holes in the trunk. Seal cracks and crevices in the foundation, especially where utility pipes and wiring occur from outside is paramount. Be sure to store firewood off the ground away from the house and bring in only enough firewood (first examining it) to be used quickly.

If the nest is located in a wall void, it is best to dust directly with Tri-Die, Drione, or Boric acid. Drilling 1/4 or 3/8 inch holes into the wall, sills or joists, where the nest is located, will best help the insecticide penetrate. Treat three to six feet on either side of where ants are entering to hopefully contact the nest. Some drill a series of holes at 12-inch intervals in infested timbers to intercept cavities and galleries of the nest. Holes can later be sealed by putting in dowels as plugs, small corks or covering with an appropriate sealant and touched up with paint, leaving no visible damage from the repairs. Spraying or dusting the baseboards or cracks and crevices around the infested area with residual insecticides, without locating and treating the nest, usually does not give complete control. Kill might be slow with only crack and crevice treatment since workers need to carry enough insecticide on their feet back into the nest. Ants in the nest can live more than six months without feeding. However, aerosol spray treatments in the nest can be effective if much insulation is present. Approaches and areas adjacent to the nest must be thoroughly treated with residual insecticides such as Phantom or other approved product. Outside the structure, all breaks where ants can enter the home must be treated, and a perimeter spray applied against the foundation wall at least two feet up and three feet out. Be sure to treat under the lower edge of sidings, around window and doorframes and the chimney flashing.

There are many insecticides labeled for ant control. Before using an insecticide, always read the label, follow directions and safety precautions. For professional assistance, contact Magic Exterminating to eliminate your carpenter ant problems.

Most apply a perimeter spray treatment around the house foundation. Avoid simply spraying each month whenever ants are seen. Infestations will continue unless nests are eliminated. Locating the nest is not always easy, but is essential for control.

Keys words: Carpenter Ant ID, Colony Size, Polymorphism, Frass, Omnivorous, Foraging Distance, Nest Sites, Proper Inspections, Pest Proofing