The roots of pest control can be traced all the way back to the ancient Sumerians. They are the first and earliest known civilization. There are written records of the Sumerians using sulfur to kill bugs. The Ancient Romans and Ancient Greeks were also known to use toxic compounds to kill unwanted bugs and insects. It would seem we have been pestered by bugs since the very beginning.
This is a new term coined for American workers during the pandemic of 2020. Never before has our economy been pushed so close to the brink of collapse. In a span of just a few weeks, the strongest economy the world, almost came to a grinding halt. We faced an invisible enemy. A virus called Covid 19. As stores were emptied of their supplies, American workers were split into two groups: essential, and
non-essential. Pest control falls into the essential category. Working through these times has been challenging as well as an important learning experience.
What does it mean to be an essential worker today? It means as workers, we provide an essential duty or function vital to our societies day to day operations. The supply chains of energy, food, shelter, waste and water mustn’t go uninterrupted. As pest control operators, we fight against disease and pestilence. Insects have always been known to bring bad things. Keeping them away is incredibly important to the health of our citizens and the food we eat. The United States Department of Agriculture, who is responsible for inspecting and enforcing all laws pertaining to incoming shipments of agricultural food commodities, budget for 2019 was 140 billion dollars.
If an insect, say from China, was accidentally imported into New York City, it may have no natural predators and could potentially cause a lot of harm.
This was the case when the Asian Longhorn Beetle was accidentally introduced into Canada by wooden shipping containers. Defined as an invasive pest, this white spotted bug quickly spread, killing trees with no known predators to control them. There are many instances of bugs traveling within shipping containers. The bubonic plague, or better known as “the black death’’, was a bacterial infection spread by flea infested rats brought in from ships as stowaways traveling from overseas.
Battling Bugs in Florida
In Florida, there have been many insects that have been translocated due to the movement of mankind. One of the most common pests are ants. There are over 12,000 ant species in the world, many call Florida home. Many can lift 20 times their body weight. Calls for pest control due to ants are very high, especially during the summer months. Most ants feed on sugary saps and nectar from plants. They eat aphids and the liquid honeydew they form. They can be found on fruits like oranges, mangos, and other sweet fruits. Eusocial insects like ants can have incredibly high numbers. If we made a list of the bugs that bug us the most, ants would be definitely in the top five.
The Red Imported Fire Ant – RIFA
The Red Imported Fire Ant was first introduced into Florida sometime in the 1930s. It has since spread to every county in Florida, and can now be found all over the southern United States and in most of the Southern Hemisphere. They have also been found as far north as the Appalachian mountains.
These ants get their name partially from the painful, repeated stings. When a fire ant stings us, it uses its mandibles to bite down on a fold of skin, and bends its abdomen over to sting you. In a fraction of a second, venom is injected into your flesh and pumped into your blood stream. A pheromone is then released alerting the rest of the colony to attack. When their colony is disturbed, hundreds, and even thousands of fire ants will come to the defense of their nest.
You will often see a mound of soil piled up along roadways, curbs and tree stumps. Large mounds of soil can also be found piled up high in the middle of grassy fields. Many pets have accidentally disturbed a nest causing a frenzy of stinging ants and an unexpected trip to the veterinary clinic. Within the mound, it is not unusual to see discarded dead ants meticulously piled around the exterior.
The mound is only the tip of the iceberg. There are many chambers and tunnels extending up to six feet below the surface. There could be up to 60,000 workers in a typical fire ant colony. Queens can live from 5 to 7 years and have up to 1,000 eggs a day. After a heavy rain and during warm evenings, nuptial flight begins. Hundreds of swarming alates emerge and mate. After insemination by a winged male, queens can be recognized by the scars from where her wings broke off. Fire ants can also have multiple queens. This may seem unusual for eusocial bugs like fire ants, but this gives them a greater advantage for survival and is very common among ant species.
Professional pest control technicians are best trained to deal with Fire Ants. Trying to eliminate a Fire Ant colony on your own is dangerous and not recommended. Most people will only treat the visible mound on top, and get attacked right where they are standing. The techs at Dave’s Pest Control are constantly battling fire ant colonies in Daytona Beach and Ormond Beach areas.
Another common ant species found in Florida are Pyramid Ants. They are often seen darting in and out of a cone shaped dome made of sand. They make their nests along cracks in cement and sidewalks. Pyramid Ants are native to Florida and feed on other insects like invasive fire ants. They will bite if disturbed, but not a ferocious attack like Fire Ants. They are a bright red color so they are often mistaken for fire ants prompting calls for pest control service. Sometimes you can find a Pyramid ant mound in close proximity of a fire ant mound.
Carpenter ants are also problematic insects that often get into our homes and businesses. They are most active during dusk and prefer rotting, decayed wood. They do not actually eat wood, but rather nest within the wood itself. They are some of the largest ants in Florida and are identified by their black and red colors. Besides nesting in wood, they also will nest inside insulation within walls and attics.
Carpenter ants are best dealt with by pest control professionals. If not treated correctly, these ants can split into multiple colonies making matters much worse. They often have a central or “main” colony, surrounded by multiple satellite colonies. They will swarm with winged adults to mate and start a new colony. If you see swarming ants, this could be an indication you have a large active colony near by.
Crazy ants were also accidentally introduced into the United States. Originally from South East Asia, They were brought in by shipping containers. They get their name from their erratic behavior and movements. Crazy ants are attracted to electricity. Reports of electrical damage from these ants is not uncommon. They are often found darting in and out from behind electrical outlets. Behind the walls, thousands of ants can be found crawling along electrical lines. There could be up to 20 queens in a crazy ant colony making control difficult.
Pharaoh ants are a major pest indoors. It is not known from where they originally came from, but they are now found all over the world, including all of Florida and here in Volusia county. Pharaoh ants are very small, about an eighth of an inch. They have a habit of bringing bait back to their nest, so the use of baits by pest control technicians are often a main method of extermination. Trying to control Pharaoh ants with general pyrethroids are often futile. Multiple queens can be present, and workers will fragment and form new colonies. They are very light in color and have a darker abdomen.
Argentine ants are similar to Pharaoh ants in that they infest cracks and crevices of our homes, prompting calls for pest control. They also have huge numbers and will break off into separate larger colonies, making control much more difficult. Baits and non repellent insecticides are the preferred method in dealing with these pests. Native to Argentina, these little ants have been distributed all over the world infesting thousands of homes and businesses.
Ghost ants are very small and are often called sugar ants. They are often found in kitchens. They also have multiple queens and are very difficult to control. They get the name “ghost” because they are extremely hard to see. In addition to their small size, they are light in color and can blend in easily on counter tops, especially if they are walking on top of granite or marble.
Thief ants are also very small, and like ghost ants, they will invade kitchens. They get the name because they like to nest near other ants and steal their food. They are attracted to grease and can infest homes and commercial kitchens. A typical thief ant colony can contain up to eight queens and many separate colonies. Because of their small size, they can easily get into small spaces and even get into packaged foods.
Knowing which species of ant you have, and the behavioral characteristics of that ant, is especially important when trying to eradicate ants from any structure as the treatment and method to exterminate is different depending on the ant species.
Professional pest control technicians today are busier than ever, doing our part to help our neighbors keep unwanted pests away from their homes and businesses. The health and safety of our families depend on us to deliver exceptional service in an unprecedented time. Our cohabitation with the insect world mustn’t be a precarious compromise of allowance. It must be one of knowledge and foresight to keep unwanted bugs away from our lives.