Texas-sized Mosquito or Crane Fly?

I am writing to let you know to RELAX. It’s ok. This large Texas-sized creature is actually called a Crane Fly.

crane fly matingMay is the time of year when the weather finally warms up and people start enjoying the outdoors again. Until, one night, along comes a giant pre-historic looking mosquito. It lands on the plant next to them and complete chaos follows. Parents call the children, grab the dog, run inside and slam the door shut. Certainly, this creature would suck the life-blood out of everyone in the family. But wait! This is not a mosquito! The good news is that this insect is a harmless crane fly and there is no need for alarm. They do not bite or sting at all.

They are called many things, including mosquito hawks, which actually refer to the dragonfly that feeds on mosquitoes. Unfortunately, the crane fly does not feed on mosquitoes. Nor do they bite. In fact, the adult crane fly does not feed at all. The larvae, referred to as “leatherjackets”, stay primarily underground. The larvae have chewing mouth parts and they prefer to feed on decomposing organic matter such as roots, leaves, wood on the forest floor, and soil in lawns and pastures. On warm, damp nights they will come above the soil surface to feed on plant material. In mid-May they enter the non-feeding pupal phase just below the soil surface and shortly thereafter emerge from the soil as adults.

My friend, Joel, captured the photo above of two crane flies mating. When they emerge as adults, their job is to mate and then deposit their eggs into the soil. Their lifespan is, on average, a couple of days.

All creatures have an important beneficial role to our ecosystem. In addition to serving as decomposers, the crane fly is an important food source for bats, birds, frogs, lizards, spiders, and other insects.

Crane Fly - Food source Even though they are not harmful, crane flies in large numbers can be quite a nuisance. Sometimes when you walk through or mow the grass the crane flies seem to swarm out. They may land on your clothing, hair, or face and cause you to do a dance that would rival anything Miley Cyrus does on stage. Right there in your front yard. (Gasp!)

What can be done to control the crane fly???

There are a few non-chemical things that can be done to help prevent the crane fly from entering your home. For one, Crane flies are attracted to light inside the house. So, at night some may fly in through an open door or window. You will usually find them flapping on a lamp shade or on the wall and that can be frustrating, too. Check all of the screens on the windows and doors of your home and make sure there are no holes or tears. Repair or replace any screens that are damaged. This will also help prevent other insects from entering your home. Also, you can reduce the number of exterior lights that you have on at night or else replace the regular bulb with one of the bug lights that emit a yellow color. The yellow bug bulb is not as attractive to the bugs that fly toward the light. I know the yellow bulbs are not nearly as attractive as the others, but neither is that giant black mark on your wall where you smacked a crane fly with the mail on your counter. 🙂

Because of the short life span of the adult crane fly there is not a product that we can use to effectively manage them in or around your home. And, honestly, their lifespan as an adult is so short, many of them would die naturally before the spray would have a chance to do it’s job.  Sadly, we are limited to educating you on this pest nuisance and to let you know that this will pass very soon. If you have any additional questions or concerns then please contact our office at The Bug Man  in Murfreesboro at 615-217-7284.

Indian Meal Moths: Silently Lurking in the Kitchen

Nothing makes me shudder more than the thought of indian meal moths in my food pantry. We all have our bug fears & rants. Mine happens to be this evil little time gobbler of an insect that invades our food. This particular blog is personal for me, today. If you have not heard or experienced indian meal moths before then you will want to definitely read on.

Where are all of these moths coming from???

This will be the first thing that you say. Indian meal moths seem to come from nowhere. In the beginning it’s one here or there. After a couple of days it’s three or four. The next thing you know… they’re everywhere!  Indian Meal Moth

They struck our family last summer when we were in the middle of a family emergency. We had to travel to and from Tennessee for weeks on end. It’s almost like they sensed that we had no time to find the exact source of the problem. If you can find the source of the problem quickly then you will avoid the pantry crisis. We did not have the time to look at every item in the pantry like we KNEW we should do. We opened a few items like cereal, corn starch, flour, dog food, and nuts. We found several infested foot items and considered the matter finished.

How long do indian meal moths live?

The larvae of indian meal moths can take anywhere from 2 to 14 days to hatch. An adult will live anywhere from 5 to 25 days. Of course, this is all depending on the environmental conditions. In my book, 5 minutes is too long.

The indian meal moths continued to flutter about my kitchen for days on end. The problem was becoming worse by the day. Until finally, I said enough is enough. I’m tearing apart the pantry!!   Well, I found the nasty culprit. It was a lovely tin of popcorn from Christmas (thanks Mom!) that had gotten pushed to the corner over time and forgotten about. When I opened up that tin it was like something from that scene in the movie The Green Mile where John Coffey “takes back” the bugs. There were literally hundreds of them and they swarmed out of that tin in a black cloud all around my head. To say that I invented a new dance in the kitchen of my Murfreesboro, TN home that day would be an understatement.

Indian meal moth elimination
The kitchen was a mess!

Actually, finding the source was great news! I knew that I could finally get down to solving the problem. I removed every food item AND sealed container and inspected it. Every corner and crevice. Any containers with larvae, pupae, or moth was discarded in a trash bag. Everything else was wiped down thoroughly with a soapy sponge. Every time I saw a moth I would quickly suck it up in the vacuum.

There were all stages of indian meal moths everywhere I looked: In the food, crevices of bags, crevices of boxes, the screw-on lids of herbs, cracks of wall shelving, corners of pantry, inside lip of the chip clips.   Everywhere! I even found larvae & pupae in “sealed” storage containers holding herbs and seasonings that I had blended together myself. Some things are just not as sealed as you think they are. I was very disappointed to have to throw away those blends. Herbs and seasonings can be so expensive!

Indian meal moth pupae in chip clip lip
Look closely for the cocooned pupae on inside lip of the handle of this chip clip!

The process was very time consuming, but in the end the problem was resolved. Did I mention that no pesticides were used? The solution for indian meal moths can never be accomplished with pesticides. Sometimes, the job of a professional is not in what they do but in what they know. In the work of an exterminator this is called Integrated Pest Management or IPM. Basically, it is a combination of common sense and scientific principles we use to solve a pest problem whereby we reduce the risk to the environment and people. In the case of indian meal moths, we cannot treat the food or their containers so we rely on IPM to remedy the problem.

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The Ants are Marching in Murfreesboro

It seems that almost everyone who calls us this week says that the ants are marching in a big way through Murfreesboro and the rest of middle Tennessee. Even for the professional like The Bug Man, ants can be the most challenging pest to control. But, with thorough training and know-how even the trickiest ant problems can be resolved with a little patience.  Ants marching in Murfreesboro

What Causes the Ant Invasions??

Ants are very weather sensitive insects. During periods of heavy rain or, the opposite, abnormally hot and dry weather the ant colonies will move to the indoors. Why? Because their homes have either become flooded or else they lack food and/or water. They are very much like us, those pesky ants. When we understand why they react to certain situations then we can usually solve the problem pretty quickly.  Lately, we have had a lot of rain and the temperatures have been getting nice and warm. So, the ants have been quite active!

Late spring and early summer is the time of year when you can expect to see swarming ants in the Murfreesboro and middle Tennessee area. If you see a swarm inside your home then chances are that the colony is somewhere in or under the home. You will want to get that taken care of quickly before the problem gets worse. However, they should not be a problem if you only see them outside. If they are a nuisance around porch lights then consider turning them off or else use a yellow outdoor light. Ants will find the yellow light less attractive.

So Many Ants, So Little Time…

Carpenter, Odorous, Pharaoh, Imported fire, Pavement, Yellow, Acrobat & Little black ones, too. Yes, these are all various species of ants found in Tennessee. Why is that important to know?  Identification, my friend. One of my favorite entomologists, Dr. Austin Frishman, would ask the following questions: 1. What is it? 2. Why is it here? 3. How can I solve the problem for my client NOW? and 4. What are the long-term solutions?  When we know the answers to these questions then we can solve the ant crisis. So, save some of these little creatures for your pest control technician!! Specimens are very helpful in solving the big ant puzzle.

Ants in a Potted Plant in Murfreesboro, TN

 

What can you do to help with the ant problem?

Lots! Ant colonies exist in and around homes because there is ample food and water nearby to support the ant colony. Make the ants unwelcome and they will find another place to hang their hat. Where do you start in your quest to eliminate the food and water? Try some of the following tips:

  • Fix leaky faucets, remove standing water, etc.
  • Replace any wet or rotten wood
  • Clean window sills of dead insects which can serve as food for the ants
  • Remove the food source if ants are trailing to food. Use a mild detergent to wipe ant trails and remove the trail pheromone. (Do not interfere with any ants trailing to bait that your technician has used to draw the ants out of the home.)
  • Locate entry points around the home such as around windows and doors and seal those areas to prevent ants and other insects from entering.
  • Check potted plants and firewood for ants before bringing them indoors
  • Keep vines, branches and limbs from coming in contact with your house. The ants use the branches as a mini-highway.
  • Pull mulch away from the foundation for your home about 12-18 inches.
  • Do NOT use any over-the-counter sprays! They can often aggravate your ant problem and be counter-productive. It’s best to leave actual treatment to The Bug Man!

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Chikungunya Fever and Mosquito Reduction

Chicken who?? Chikungunya.

Prevent Chikungunya and other mosquito illnessesThe Chikungunya virus has been limited to Africa and Asia for a very long time. In fact, it was first recorded in a human in Tanzania in 1953. So, this is not a new virus. But, it’s quickly becoming a hot topic in the media since it was discovered in the caribbean in December 2013. The concern is that this could soon spread to the United States in the coming year from travelers.

According to the Centers For Disease Control (CDC), the Chikunguyna virus can cause high fever, severe pain, nausea, vomiting, and headache. The disease is spread by being bitten by a mosquito that has previously bitten an infected person. It is not transmitted person to person.

The Bug Man is in the business of controlling pests and we are not medical professionals. But, because pests can spread disease and cause a variety of illnesses we are often caught in the middle of addressing the medical concerns caused by the pests. If you have any of the symptoms listed above we will always tell you to discuss them with your physician. What we CAN help with is education on what you can do to reduce your risk of being bitten by mosquitoes, in general.

The mosquitoes that carry the chikungunya virus (as well as other viruses) are the Yellow-Fever Mosquito (aedes aegypti) and the Asian Tiger Mosquito (aedes albopictus).

As of this writing, no infected mosquitoes have been found in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, or anywhere in the United States. So far the CDC is reporting that all of the documented cases of chikunguyna in the US have been in people who have recently traveled outside of the United States to a country with the infected mosquitoes.

Recommendations to reduce the mosquito population in Murfreesboro, middle Tennessee, and beyond:

To reduce your risk of being bitten by mosquitoes we have a long list of recommendations that we give to every customer on our Mosquito Management Program. Almost every item in our list involves getting rid of anything that holds standing water and/or making sure to empty and scrub items that hold water, frequently. Also, contact your City and/or County and make sure that they are treating water retention areas with a larvicide on a regular basis.

  • Dispose of old tires, tin cans, buckets, drums, bottles, plastic sheeting, or any water-holding containers.
  • Clean debris from rain gutters to allow proper drainage.
  • Fill in or drain low places (puddles, ruts, etc) in your yard.
  • Keep drains, ditches, and culverts clean of weeds and trash so water can flow properly.
  • Cover trash containers to keep out rain water
  • Check around outdoor faucets and air conditioner units and repair leaks or other causes for water puddles.
  • Empty plastic wading pools at least once per week and store indoors when not in use.
  • Make sure your backyard pool is cared for while away from the home.
  • Fill in tree holes and stumps that hold water with sand or cement.
  • Change the water in bird baths, plant pots, and drip trays at least once per week.
  • Keep the grass cut short and shrubbery well trimmed around the house where adult mosquitoes may rest.
  • Irrigate lawns and gardens carefully to prevent water from standing.
  • Eliminate seepage from cisterns, cesspools, and septic tanks.
  • Stock ornamental pools with top feeding predacious minnows.
  • Check window and door screens on the home. Be sure they are in good condition to seal out mosquitoes.
  • Wear light-colored clothing, plus long sleeve shirts and long pants for extra protection.
  • Use repellants on skin and clothing while outdoors.

    Mosquito Reduction to prevent chikungunya
    Mosquito Reduction Program by Robert at The Bug Man

In addition to these steps, The Bug Man also offers a Mosquito Reduction Program. You can read more about that service on our past blog titled Mosquitoes… The Bug Man to the rescue or feel free to give us a call at  615-217-7284.

 

Knocking Out Boxelder Bugs

Winter is knocking on our door, and with the swing of climate shift comes a wave of boxelder bugs. In the last several days, we’ve received numerous calls from our customers about these bothersome bugs.

Whether congregating outside the house en masse or making a little boxelder village inside, these red and black bugs are unwelcome.

 

Boxelder bugs are often found near boxelder trees. As you can imagine–if you have a boxelder tree in your yard–you may find yourself with an infestation of boxelder bugs around this time of year.

However, boxelder bugs also feed on maple trees, and the apples, prunes, and pears that fall off of trees.

If you look closely, you’ll notice that adult boxelder beetles gather on the south sides of trees, rocks, and other buildings to sun themselves. Fall may be in season, but the boxelders are still longing for some soaking sun time.

The boxelder bugs will fly up to two miles to find a place to hide out for the winter. Which, unfortunately for many homeowners, is inside the walls. After settling in, they often make an appearance in bathtubs, sinks, and floors near their cold weather chill spot. This social event for the boxelder bugs often occurs on the south and west side of the house when it’s sunny outside.

It kind of seems like the boxelder bugs are little weather forecasters, notifying onlookers that the sun is shining. Unless you’d like to receive your weather report from black and red bugs in your bathroom, perhaps you should call The Bug Man at 615.217.7284. 🙂

Demystifying Red Velvet Ants: The Buzz on the Fuzz

Some call them red velvet ants. Some call them cow killers. Most don’t call them what they really are: wasps.

Have you seen a fuzzy red bug that looks like an ant walking around lately? Check out our blog for the buzz on the fuzz! There’s a great buzz in Middle Tennessee over a pretty little bug called by a variety of names.

Red velvet ants

If you’ve seen a fuzzy red thing walking around on the sidewalk or in your yard lately, it’s probably a female red velvet ant. When left alone, they aren’t looking to threaten humans. However, when picked up and toyed with, a threat may emerge.

When most people see something fuzzy, they think, “Aww, cute! I want to touch it.” However, when it comes to velvet ants, it is not recommended that you pick them up, because they may sting you. And, if something can be called a cow killer, it’s sting hurts…a lot!

Velvet ants are wasps that cannot actually fly. They feed on the cocoons of ground-nesting bees. Essentially, the mama velvet ant bores a hole in the cocoon of bees nesting underground and lays her eggs inside the cocoon. Then, when the velvet ant eggs hatch, they prey on the eggs in the cocoon.

Interesting, huh? Wasps killing bees in a dynamic, underground battle.

In an even more interesting twist, velvet ants often prey on cicada killers. A cicada killer is a large wasp that preys on cicadas. Female cicada killers capture cicadas, sting them, and then place them in holes they’ve borrowed into the ground. As their young hatch, they feed on the burrowed cicada.

That shifts our food chain paradigm to wasps killing bees and/or other wasps who kill cicadas.

Is your head swirling yet? Or is that just the buzz of all of these insects swarming around in your yard preying on each other? 🙂

If you’ve got a question, please post a comment. As always, you can find us on Facebook at Facebook.com/TheBugManTN.

Tips for Reducing Mosquitoes

Here are a few tips to help ward off the mosquitoes in your area.

To aid in the effort to keep your home bite-free, check for mosquito motels around your property. It doesn’t take long to scope out your property to look for potential mosquito hangouts.

If it’s not one thing, it’s another!

That short, yet succinct statement is true right now in Middle Tennessee. Especially in the area of cicadas vs.mosquitoes.

Since they only come around every 13 years, it seems like cicadas would be the biggest news in the bug world. However, due to a lot of rain and hot weather in April, those pesky pests called mosquitoes are making a quite a big bite in the pest popularity contest. Literally!

To fight the bite, The Bug Man offers a mosquito management program during the summer months that is intended to help reduce the breeding and resting areas of mosquitoes around your property. Call (615.217.7284) or email (service@thebugman.us) our office for more information.

To aid in the effort to keep your home bite-free, check for mosquito motels around your property. It doesn’t take long to scope out your property to look for potential mosquito hangouts. Here are a few tips to help ward off the mosquitoes in your area.

  • Dispose of old tires, tin cans, buckets, drums, bottles, plastic sheeting, or any water-holding containers.
  • Clean debris from rain gutters to allow proper drainage.
  • Fill in or drain low places (puddles, ruts) in yard.
  • Keep drains, ditches, and culverts clean of weeds and trash so water can flow properly.
  • Cover trash containers to keep out rain water.
  • Check around outdoor faucets and air conditioner units and repair leaks or puddles.
  • Empty plastic wading pools at least once per week and store indoors when not in use.
  • Make sure your backyard pool is cared for while away from the home.
  • Fill in tree holes and stumps that hold water with sand or cement
  • Change the water in bird baths, plant pots, and drip trays at least once per week.
  • Keep the grass cut short and shrubbery well trimmed around the house where adult mosquitoes may rest.
  • Irrigate lawns and gardens carefully to prevent water from standing.
  • Eliminate seepage from cisterns, cesspools, and septic tanks.
  • Stock ornamental pools with top feeding predacious minnows.
  • Check window and door screens on the home.  Be sure they are in good condition to seal out mosquitoes.
  • Wear light colored clothing, plus long sleeve shirts and long pants for extra protection.
  • Use repellants on skin and clothing while outdoors.

Cicadas in Tennessee 2011

We’re using Llama Font to deliver bad news about the 2011 Cicadas in Tennessee…

Here at The Bug Man, we’re big fans of humor. It’s great to laugh! Because, honestly, some things are quite funny. If laughter is the best medicine, then we’ve got an entire medicine cabinet full of it!

While browsing Twitter today, we stumbled upon a funny little web page called Llama Font. It genuinely cracked us up to think about Tina the llama from the movie Napoleon Dynamite bending to make llama letters.

The creators of Llama Font suggested that their llama letters should be used to deliver bad news…

Bad News About the 2011 Cicadas in Tennessee

Though the news you just read is tragic, don’t be dismayed. Rather, take relief in knowing this good news…

Good News About The Bug Man

If you found this page on Google and really want legit info about cicadas, please read our previous blog post The 13-Year Cicada Set to Invade Middle Tennessee.

Have any questions about cicadas (or any other pest)? Please post a comment. Maybe we’ll answer your questions in Llama Font!

Just kidding. We won’t answer in Llama Font. 🙂

The 13-Year Cicadas Set to Invade Middle Tennessee

The cicadas are coming! You may have heard rumors that the dreaded 13-year cicadas are emerging this year in Tennessee. It’s true. They are coming between April and June.

The cicadas are coming!

You may have heard rumors that the dreaded 13-year cicadas are emerging this year in Tennessee. It’s true. They are coming between April and June. It is predicted that they will appear when the ground temperature reaches 64 degrees Fahrenheit. Several have been spotted in the area already. In no time, there will be thousands of them!

What exactly are the 13-year cicadas? And why are they coming out this year? Don’t they come out every year? What makes this year special? What’s the difference between a 13-year and a 17-year cicada? What’s the difference between a cicada and a locust?

CicadasCicadas are known for their beady little eyes. Contrary to popular myth, they are not blind. They can see just fine. However, fine eyesight does not prevent them from flying onto humans occasionally.

There are several different types of cicadas. You’re probably familiar with the annual cicadas that come out every summer, typically called dog-day cicadas. The rarer 13- and 17-year cicadas are growing underground all the time, feeding on nutrients in trees, but only come out after they’ve fully grown (after 13 or 17 years). The difference between a 13-year and a 17-year cicada is that one species simply takes four years longer to mature than the other.

When the 13-year cicadas appear and make a loud racket, it’s called an emergence. After maturing and growing into adulthood underground for 13 years–they are ready to emerge above ground and begin mating. The loud sound that you hear comes from the males. It’s their mating call. The females hear the mating call, find the males, mate and then lay their eggs in tree branches. Check out this informational page from The Tennessean for more details.

The reason the cicada emergence is so loud is because millions of cicada babies grew into adulthood underground together for 13 years. Then those millions appear above ground singing together in a shrieking chorus, ready to mate and create millions more babies. It’s an ongoing cycle.

The 13-year cicadas sing loudest during the hottest parts of day. They do sing at night, but not as frequently or as loudly. If you hear singing at night, it’s most likely a cricket, katydid or frog.

At The Bug Man, we don’t treat for cicadas because treating them with pesticides has proved ineffective. Other than producing a loud and annoying noise, cicadas are not harmful to humans. They don’t attack or sting. They don’t destroy the wood in houses. Cicadas in a Tree

However, if you have young trees growing in your yard, it’s recommended that you cover them with bird netting or cheese cloth, or to delay pruning until the cicadas have left because female cicadas cut and pierce the branches of young trees, making the trees weak.

Also, if you were planning on any outdoor painting project this summer, perhaps you should reschedule to another time because flying cicadas might ruin your paint job.

Although cicadas are often called locusts, they are not synonymous. Locusts are short-horned grasshoppers. Cicadas are an entirely different, plant-sucking creature.

The 13-year cicadas are a mysterious thing. Many people don’t understand this phenomenon and will respond in fear. If this blog was helpful and informative to you, please forward it along to your friends and family. Hopefully knowing more about cicadas will help you endure their courtship choruses.