It's that time of year -- you walk outside only to run into a swarm of flying insects. Not flies, not gnats, but ... ants? Ants have wings?
Yep, this time of year, and into summer for some species, male drone and female queen ants have wings and are flying voraciously in pursuit of a mate. They won't last long however, as they have a very short lifespan -- few of these winged ants will make it beyond a week or two, and an extremely low percentage actually make it all the way to mate -- most are eaten by birds or other predators who love this annual snack. And it's even worse for the males, because once they finally find a female with which to mate, they die.
For the females, it's their one chance to mate then breed to start a new colony and become its queen. In some species, they will share the rule, but whether a colonies lone or multiple queen, once she breeds, she will be waited on hand and foot, and fed by the ant workers.
Not all ant species fly to mate however. Some simply mate within the nest then walk with their brood to a new location to start a new colony.
So next time you walk - or run - into a swarm of flying ants, you'll know ... the rest of the story.
Photo by Luís Flávio Loureiro dos Santos
The presence of stink bugs has increased dramatically since the Asian brown marmorated stink bug was first brought into the U.S. in the 1990s on imported goods.
And now, according to the Washington Examiner, not only have these stinky bugs established a presence in 39 states, but also, a new species, the Italian stink bug, has been discovered by U.S. U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents.
The article cites USDA Research Entomologist Tracy Leskey, as stating that the numbers of adult stink bugs overwintering increased 60% in 2012 - and many of those are now starting to emerge to lay their eggs and begin the cycle anew.
But stink bugs aren't the only foul-smelling insects to increase their presence in the spring. While stink bugs emit an odor similar to that of smelly feet when disturbed or crushed, the odor emitted by the odorous house ant is more like that of rotten coconuts.
Either way, both stink bugs and odorous house ants are common across much of the U.S. and can become a smelly annoyance to get rid of if they get into your home!
Have you seen -- or heard -- the 17-year cicadas in your neighborhood?
Let us know
This spring, the 17-year cicada is expected to cover areas from Connecticut to Georgia, and a number of organizations are working to track and trace their emergence.
Two of these, to which you can provide input to help with the projects are:
- National Public Radio. NPR's Radiolab developed a citizen-science project, for which it is inviting the public to plant a homemade temperature sensor in the ground and report your findings. Because the cicadas emerge when temperatures exceed 64 degrees F, the project is also using temperature tracking from the National Climate Data Center's U.S. Climate Reference Network. Learn more about this project and what you can do at WNYC.org.
- College of Mount St. Joseph. Researchers are working to develop an accurate map of the extent of the 2013 cicada emergence. If you have witnessed an emergence, you can report it at MSJ.edu. The form requests information on where and when the cicadas were seen (providing precise GPS location if possible), and a selection of photos to depict the type seen, and notation of the number seen. Any additional comments, unusual sightings, weather conditions, etc., can also be added in a comment box. The researchers will use the information to better understand the biology of periodical cicada broods.
April showers not only bring May flowers, they often cause ants and other insects to seek shelter indoors. While the stinging fire ant of the southern U.S. also tends to seek shelter from the rains, it has another defense against water that is not only unique, but also quite impressive.
A video from the BBC shows how a fire ant species builds an ant raft to save its queen after a flood hits its colony in the Amazon jungle.
When working outdoors, particularly in the spring and summer in the southern U.S., it is important to scout the area for ants and wildlife before starting to work. Otherwise you may inadvertently be sprayed by a skunk or step on or near a fire ant mound and end up with the colony climbing your leg and taking a bite all at the same time - before you even know they are there.
Although urban myth says that the fire ants communicate with each other causing this simultaneous biting, Texas A&M experts explain that it is a reaction to vibration or movement that causes the ants to sting when the object on which they are climbing moves. "For example, when fire ants swarm up a person's leg, the person jerks or moves. Usually, whatever causes one ant to bite and sting triggers the other ants to sting to the same response."
But no matter the reason these tiny fire ants sting and bite, it can be quite a painful experience and even deadly to those who are allergic or when too many bites occur at once.
In many areas, skunks are just beginning to emerge, yet cities across the U.S. are already reporting positive incidents of rabid skunks. In the news in March were three skunks that tested positive for rabies in Denver, two confirmed cases on the Dallas area, and four in Fulton County, Ark.
Health officials in Arkansas issued an alert after the skunks were being sighted during the day and were attacking, or otherwise interacting, pet dogs.
According to the article in Area Wide News, this early increase in rabies cases is continuing a trend from 2012, during which 111 rabies cases were confirmed in skunks in Arkansas.
To guard against rabies from all wildlife, including skunks, the article recommended that residents:
- Be sure your dogs and cats are up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations.
- Do not feed, touch or adopt wild animals.
- Keep family pets indoors at night.
- Encourage children to immediately tell an adult if any animal bites them.
- Teach children to avoid wildlife, strays and all other animals they do not know
Passed on March 5, the bill states, in part, "A person who places, deposits, distributes, stores or scatters food, garbage or any other attractant so as to knowingly constitute a lure, attraction or enticement for potentially habituated wildlife may be issued a written notification by an officer requiring the person to remove the food, garbage or other attractant within two days of notification. ... A person who receives a written notification under subsection (2) of this section shall remove the food, garbage or other attractant as directed."
Although the bill, itself, is not new, what is new is that raccoons have been added to the list of named potentially habituated wildlife. The raccoons, which are known to be aggressive, cause damage and carry disease, are now in interesting company, with the originally list naming only bear, cougar, coyote and wolf.
As of this writing, the bill has been referred to the Oregon Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Earlier this month, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) of England issued new guidance for owners of pet rodents following two cases of hantavirus contracted by people who kept rodents as pets. One case was a man from who kept pet rats and got a kidney infection; the other was a rat breeder's spouse who was admitted to hospital with viral illness resulting in renal impairment.
When the two people were tested, their blood showed high levels of antibodies to the hantavirus. Testing of their pet rats also showed presence of the virus which was the same type as that of the two pet owners.
Although both of these people recovered, the cases show how hantavirus and other such rodent-borne diseases can be easily passed to people. In fact, there are also many diseases that can be indirectly passed to humans, if they are bitten by insects such as mosquitoes, fleas, or ticks that were infected from disease-carrying rodents.
While you may not be ready to give up your pet mouse, staying away from and getting rid of pest mice and rats that invade your home is critical to the health and welfare of your family.
As I write this the sun is shining brightly through the window, and, even though it's still only 37 degrees, I can't help but think spring and everything that brings along with it.
Unfortunately, as your Pest Control Guide, all that that brings is not all positive. And once I start thinking down those lines, I can already feel the itch of a mosquito bite, hear the buzz of a bumbling bee, and want to swat at the flight of a filthy fly.But instead, I did some research to find out what is new in control or these pests, and found that there is a great deal of research being conducted, with one of the most interesting being that of collaboration between the USDA's Agricultural Research Service and the military!
Did you know ...
- In 2003, 80 out of 225 U.S. marines deployed on a mission to Liberia came down with malaria.
- Mosquitoes, sand flies, ticks, mites, and other biting arthropods transmit pathogens that cause some of the most devastating diseases, with malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis as particular problems for the military.
- An alliance has existed between USDA and the Department of Defense since 1932, when an entomological research laboratory was established in Orlando, Florida, to combat mosquitoes, filth flies, and disease-transmitting arthropods like fleas and mites.
- The Deployed War-Fighter Protection (DWFP) research program was implemented in 2004 to prevent or defend against insect attacks on troops.
All of these have lead to discoveries new ways to repel mosquitoes, flies, and other insect pests that can be applied not only to the military but in your own backyard!
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