Ants

Ants can live almost anywhere. There are about 10,000 species of ants. Within each species there are usually many different types. Ants are social insects that live in colonies. Ant colonies include one or more queen, as well as workers, eggs, larvae, and pupae. The worker ants maintain their developed structures known as nests. Nests protect the ants against their enemies, offer some protection against weather, and are often placed close to water and food sources. Some ant species nest in the ground, often under concrete or slabs. Some species are found in wood, such as fence posts, dead logs, hollow trees, or within buildings. Ants cannot eat wood like termites can because they can’t digest cellulose.

The body structure of an ant is typical of almost all insects: six-legged, with a tough, outside skeleton, called the exoskeleton which encases its three separate body parts. It also has two multi-purpose antennae and unlike most other insects, ants have a waist, making them easier to identify. The ant’s exoskeleton protects it from the weather, injury and water loss. Insects with external skeletons have great strength for their size which allows them to carry objects many times their weight.

Bed Bugs

The common bed bug is visible to the naked eye. Adult bed bugs are brown to reddish-brown, oval-shaped, flattened, and about 1/4 to 5/8 inch long. Their flat shape enables them to hide in cracks and crevices. After a blood meal, the body elongates and becomes swollen. Eggs are not known to be placed on the host’s body but are found on surfaces near where the host sleeps or nests. Bed bugs have a beaklike piercing-sucking mouthpart system. Adults have small, stubby, nonfunctional wing pads. Newly hatched nymphs are nearly colorless, becoming brownish as they mature. Nymphs have the general appearance of adults. Eggs are white and about 1/32 inch long.

Although the preferred host is human, bed bugs will feed on other animals, such as poultry, mice, rats, birds, dogs, and cats if necessary. They normally feed at night, but may feed in the daylight in rooms that are not used at night. The life cycle stages of a bed bug are egg, nymph, and adult. The females lay about 200 eggs, usually at the rate of three or four a day, in cracks and crevices in the floor or bed. Females lay eggs after a blood meal. Eggs will hatch in one or two weeks into nymphs. Newly hatched nymphs begin feeding immediately. At room temperature, and with an available food supply, the nymph period will last 14 to 30 days. Bed bugs shed their skin five times before becoming adults. They will mate soon after becoming mature, so under favorable conditions, the time from egg hatching to egg producing will be four to nine weeks.

Bed bugs are not usually considered to be disease carriers. They do suck blood from their host with piercing mouthparts but the bite is painless. The skin may become irritated or inflamed due to the salivary fluid injected by the bed bugs. A small, hard, swollen, white welt may develop at the site of each bite. Bed bugs do not live under the skin. If you experience biting sensations during the day, it may be an allergic condition.

To prepare for treatment, a customer should: wash and dry all bedding at hot temperatures, remove all pillows and either dry-clean or replace them, inspect mattress for brown or black spots, and vacuum to remove dust, lint, and other matter from the mattress, its cover and the box springs. After vacuuming, remove the vacuum bag, place it in a sealed plastic bag and discard it.

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Black Widow Spiders

Black widow spiders are venomous spiders. They are not usually deadly, especially to adults, because they inject only a small amount of venom. Despite its reputation, it often attempts to escape rather than bite, unless it’s guarding an egg mass or if it is cornered and pressured.

After mating, the female sometimes eats the male, earning the name “widow.” The female black widow is the most easily recognized. She has a shiny black body which gives great contrast to the red hourglass marking on her round abdomen. Adult black widow males are harmless, about half the female’s size, and usually have yellow and red bands with spots on their backs. The legs of the male are much longer in proportion to his body than that of the female.

Black widow spider webs are usually built near the ground, (occasionally within dwellings) normally in trash, rubble piles, under or around houses and out-buildings such as sheds and garages. They can be found under eaves, in storage bins, underneath unused construction materials, inside wooden toy boxes, firewood boxes, outdoor toilets and sheds, meter boxes, and other undisturbed places. Black widow spiders can be found on the underside of ledges, rocks, plants and debris, or wherever else a web can be strung. Cold weather and drought may drive these spiders into buildings.

The female black widow spider rarely leaves her web. The web she constructs is an irregular, tangled, criss-crossed web of rather coarse silk. This same web may be rebuilt or changed on an ongoing basis depending upon her needs. The female spider spends most of her daylight hours inside her web. She is often found hanging upside down. The female captures her victims with her silk, wrapping it around the prey. After the covering of silk, the prey is killed by an injection of venom. The prey might be eaten immediately or reserved for a later feeding.

Female black widows stay close to their egg mass, defensively biting anything that disturbs her or her egg sac. Egg sacs are oval, brown, papery and about ½ inch long. They hold from 25 to 750 or more eggs, which have an incubation period of 20 days. Newly hatched spiders are predominately white or yellowish-white, gradually acquiring more black and varying amounts of red and white with each molt. The female black widow stores sperm, producing more egg sacs without mating. Some female black widows live more than three years.

If bitten by a black widow spider:
• You may not always feel the bite at first.
• The first sign of a bite is small, local swelling.
• There may be two small red spots in the center of the swelling.
• Clean the site of the bite with soap and water.
• Apply a cool compress over the bite and keep the affected limb elevated to heart level.
• Treatment in a medical facility may be necessary for children under five years old or for adults with severe symptoms.
• After three hours, the site of the bite becomes more painful.
• Common reactions include an overall ache of the body, in particular the legs.
• Other symptoms include alternating salivation and dry-mouth, paralysis of the diaphragm, profuse sweating and swollen eyelids.
• In severe cases, a headache, elevated blood pressure, nausea and perspiration could occur.
• The poison injected by the black widow can cause abdominal pain similar to appendicitis as well as pain to muscles or the soles of the feet.
• In most cases symptoms disappear in two or three days.
• Calcium gluconate is used intravenously to relieve muscle spasms produced by black widow venom.
• The victim of a black widow bite should go to the doctor immediately for treatment

Box Elder Bugs

Box elder bugs are common over much of the United States. Adults are about 1/2 inch long. They are bright red or black with narrow reddish lines on the back.

Box elder bugs feed principally by sucking juices from the box elder tree, but are sometimes found on plants. They do very little damage to the trees they attack, but at certain times of the year they can become a nuisance. Box elder bugs develop by gradual metamorphosis, from egg, to nymph, then to adult.

When box elder bugs build up to large populations and invade a home they are usually pests only by their presence, although their piercing-sucking mouthparts can sometimes puncture skin, causing slight irritation. Adults will enter structures in the fall, seeking winter shelter. They seek shelter in protected places such as houses and other buildings, cracks or crevices in walls, doors, under windows and around foundations, particularly on south and west exposures. Box elder bugs can come out even during the dead of winter when it is cold outside and the sun is shining. They will then emerge in the spring to seek out host trees on which to feed and lay eggs.

Brown Recluse Spiders

This spider prefers undisturbed places, so it typically lives in dark corners and also under furniture, boxes and books. It has a rather shy and nonaggressive behavior, although it will bite humans if it feels threatened. Its web is of a loose and irregular, yet very sticky thread. It is only built as a daytime retreat, and as an egg holder. These spiders can survive six months without food or water, hidden in its lair during daytime, roaming at night.

The most identifiable mark on the brown recluse spider is the violin shaped pattern on top of its abdomen. Differing from most spiders, which have eight eyes, recluse spiders have six eyes arranged in pairs (dyads) with one median pair and two lateral pairs.

About 50% of Brown Recluse Spider bites are ‘dry,’ meaning that no venom is injected and nothing happens to the victim. In fact, often times the victim does not even realize that he has been bit. Typically, when venom is injected, the victim will experience an immediate redness which develops around the bite then begins to disappear within a few hours. Very often, for the first 24 hours, the bite appears to be no worse than that of a mosquito; then it begins to blister in the center. Within 24 to 36 hours the blister breaks open, leaving an open, oozing ulceration.

This ulceration ‘scabs’ over within three weeks from the initial bite, leaving a permanent scar. If the bite is delivered in fatty tissue, the lesion may be very deep and extensive, not healing for over two or three years. In extreme cases where the bite is not taken care of early, skin graft, amputation, and the possibility of bone marrow failure may occur.
Centipedes

Centipedes usually live outside, but the house centipede can be found inside as well. Centipedes are usually brownish, flattened, and elongated insects having many body segments. They have one pair of legs attached to most of these body segments. Centipedes differ from millipedes in that millipedes have two pairs of legs on most segments and bodies which are not flattened. Centipedes are between one and six inches in length and the house centipede is between one and two inches long.

Centipedes usually live outdoors in damp areas such as under leaves, stones, boards, tree bark, or in mulch around outdoor plantings. If they are around the foundation of the house, they may wander inside. Larger centipedes can bite that may cause light swelling. Most centipedes are active at night. In the summer, they will lay 35 eggs or more in or on the soil. Newly hatched centipedes have four pairs of legs. During subsequent molts, the centipede progressively increases the number of legs until becoming an adult. Adults of many species live a year and some as long as five to six years.

Clothes Moths

The most prevalent fabric destroying insects in the United States include two clothes moths: webbing clothes moths and the case making clothes moths.
After damage to fabric is discovered, it may take some detective work to determine the culprit. The insect pest is usually no longer present when the damage is found. To properly determine the pest, an investigator should make notes of the following clues:
• Look for live or dead insects. Live insects may be hard to find because these pests avoid the light, hiding in the folds of the fabric or in the cracks and crevices of closets.
• Look for cast skins, insect fragments and products. Cast skins of larvae are often found with damaged fabric or fur. Clothes moths will often leave silken webbing, cases or pupae in the damaged fabrics.
• Type of fabric. Carpet beetles and clothes moths can digest keratin, a component of animal hair, which includes wool, fur and feathers. Fabric made of wool blends or silk may also be damaged.

Cockroaches

Roaches are very adaptable insects, surviving where other insects would be extinct. Because of their adaptable natures they are one of the more difficult pests to control. Roaches are a health hazard, carrying bacteria on their bodies that are transmitted to humans. The main diseases transmitted are different forms of gastroenteritis including food poisoning, dysentery, and diarrhea. There are several species of cockroaches located all over the United States.
Crickets

Like cockroaches, crickets have a gradual metamorphosis. The young, or nymphs, look like adults, except their wings are not developed fully. The two most common types of crickets found are the house cricket and the field cricket.

House crickets live outdoors, but will come inside in great numbers. Adults are 3/4-1 inch long and light yellowish-brown with three dark bands on the head. They will eat almost anything and will chew on damaged silk and woolens. House crickets are nocturnal, staying hidden during the day. They have a distinctive chirping sound. House crickets can be found in warm places like kitchens, basements, in cracks and crevices and behind baseboards.

Field crickets are widely distributed over the United States. This cricket is slightly longer than the house cricket and is dark brown to grey or black. Field crickets prefer to live outside, feeding on plants, but will come inside if food sources dry up or there or unfavorable extremes in temperatures. Field crickets are often attracted to lighted areas at night, thus, problems with crickets can be lessened by turning off lights during periods when crickets are numerous, or at least manipulating lights so the crickets are less bothersome.

Earwigs

Earwigs are easily recognizable by their pincers (forceps harmless to humans) at the ends of their abdomen. They are dark reddish-brown, with light brown legs, and are about 5/8 inch long. In a season, females reproduce up to 20-60 eggs laid in burrows (called chambers), about two to three inches beneath the soil. Most species have one generation a year, over-wintering in the soil. Both adults and the young require moisture to live.

Earwigs are primarily nocturnal, feeding at night. They are scavengers, eating primarily dead insects and decomposing plant materials. Some earwig species are attracted to lights. During the day, earwigs will seek shelter under organic matter such as mulch, pine straw, leaf litter, and other debris. They prefer dark and damp areas like under sidewalks and stones. Earwigs can eat plants and do damage to field crops. They are found in homes and can get in through entry points like doors and windows, and by going up the foundation. Their populations build up around foundations. Earwigs produce large populations rather quickly and are often a major problem in new subdivisions. Earwigs live in habitats also harboring centipedes, sow bugs (pill bugs), and millipedes. Removing earwig habitats is very important to control all insects.

Fleas

Fleas are small (1/16 to 1/8 inches long), agile and usually dark in color. Fleas are wingless insects whose mouthparts are adapted for piercing skin and sucking blood. Their legs are long and the hind pair is well adapted for jumping. In fact, the flea is one of the best jumpers of all known animals. Fleas can jump around 200 times their own body length! They can jump vertically up to seven inches and horizontally up to thirteen inches.

A flea’s body is hard, polished and covered with many hairs and short spines directed backward. The flea’s tough body is able to withstand great pressure, even hard squeezing between the fingers is normally insufficient to kill a flea. Adult fleas must feed on blood before they can become capable of reproduction. Eggs are laid in batches of up to 20 and take around two days to two weeks to hatch.

Some people and animals suffer allergic reactions to flea saliva resulting in rashes. Flea bites generally result in the formation of a slightly-raised, swollen itching spot with a single puncture point at the center. The bites often appear in clusters or lines of two bites, and can remain itchy and inflamed for up to several weeks afterwards. Fleas can also lead to hair loss as a result of frequent scratching and biting by the animal, and can cause anemia in extreme cases.

Hobo Spiders

The hobo spider, also known as the aggressive house spider, is brown and measures roughly 12-18mm in length. Its legs show no distinct rings and have short hairs. A hobo spider’s abdomen has several chevron shaped markings. This spider is especially active from July to September, when males search for females.
The hobo spider is capable of causing severe bites to humans. On average, venom is injected from a bite only 50% of the time. In fact, often times the victim doesn’t even realize they have been bitten. Typically, when venom is injected, the victim will experience an immediate redness which develops around the bite then begins to disappear within a few hours. Very often, for the first 24 hours, the bite appears to be no worse than that of a mosquito. However, it then begins to blister in the center and within 24 to 36 hours the blister breaks, leaving an open, oozing ulceration. This ulceration will scab over within three weeks from the initial bite, leaving a permanent scar. If the bite is delivered in fatty tissue, the lesion may be very deep and extensive, not healing for over two or three years.

Systematic reactions to hobo spider poisoning include severe headaches, nausea, vomiting, soreness and flu-like symptoms. In extreme cases where the bite was not taken care of early, skin graft, amputation, and the possibility of bone marrow failure may occur. Most bites occur when the hobo gets into bedding or clothing and is trapped next to the skin. This spider is commonly found in crawl spaces and around out-buildings.

The hobo spider creates a non-sticky trip web that doesn’t permanently stick insects to the web. Instead, once the prey trips on the web the hobo spider attacks it before it can get away. These spiders have to attack to eat otherwise they die of starvation. The webs they make are funnel shaped and are often attached to an object in the yard, by the foundation, between planters, or anything that remains stationary near ground level. Hobo spiders also make webs under the siding of homes and in plants or shrubbery.

Indian Meal Moths

Indian meal moths are probably the most common pantry pest found in kitchens and pantries. Adults can have a wingspan of about 3/4 inch when at rest. The wings are folded together and held tightly together by the body. The wing is a blend of two colors, the front half being pale, grey or tan and the bottom half of the wings being a rust or bronze color.

These moths are nocturnal, flying at night and resting during the day in dark places. If they are disturbed during flight they will zigzag. They lay their eggs in food stuffs like grains, grain products, dried food, dried fruit, powder milk, seeds, candy, chocolates, and dry pet foods. The larvae do the damage by feeding on the different food items and forming an extensive web-type substance over the food they infest. Abundant webbing in infested materials is characteristic of infestations by the Indian meal moth. Its larvae are often found far from infested foods because they usually crawl away from their foods to construct silken cocoons in which to pupate.

It can take from 25-135 days for a moth’s egg development cycle to occur. One moth can lay 100-400 eggs over a 1-18 day period. The best methods for eradicating the Indian meal moth are pheromone traps and a residual insecticidal spray.

Mice

The adult house mouse is small and slender and about one to two inches long, excluding its tail. The tail is as long as the head and body combined. It has large ears, a pointed nose and small eyes. The fur color varies, but it is usually a light grey or brown, but could be darker shades. You can tell them apart from native mice by their almost furless ears and scaly tails. They are good climbers, swimmers, and jumpers. They can run as fast as 8 miles per hour. Even so, they seldom travel farther than 50 feet from their homes.

Mice will eat almost anything (including soap & glue), but prefer cereal grains, seeds, or sweet material. They require very little water, obtaining most of their water needs from their food. If there are good living conditions (food, water, and shelter), they can multiply rapidly. They sexually mature in two months, producing about eight litters in a one year life time. Each litter has four to seven pups. House mice in a city environment may spend their entire life in buildings. In rural and suburban settings, mice may not only live inside, but be found outside near foundations, in shrubbery, weeds, crawl spaces, basements, or in garages. They survive well on weeds, seeds, or insects, but when their food supply is shortened by the colder months they move inside nesting closer to a food supply. They make their nest from soft material like paper, insulation, or furniture stuffing. These nests can be found in many places including walls, ceiling voids, storage boxes, drawers, under major appliances, or within the upholstery of furniture. Outside nests are found in debris or in ground burrows.

Mice are considered nibblers, eating at many times and at different places. Mice will snack every one to two hours throughout the day. However, they do have two main meal times, one just before dawn and the other at dusk. They can eat about 10% to 15% of their body weight every day, the adults weighing about 5/8-1 oz. Mice droppings are about 1/8-1/4 inch long and rod shaped. They gnaw small, clean holes about 1-1/2 inches in diameter. Many times in kitchens you will find gnawing damage on the corner of boxes and paper which is shredded for their nest.

Millipedes

A millipede’s diet consists of damp and decaying wood and plant materials. Millipedes are found outdoors where there is moisture and decaying organic matter, such as trash, grass clippings, mulch, rotting firewood, leaf litter, etc. They may invade the house during extremely wet seasons or extreme drought. Millipedes usually die within a few days of entering a structure unless there is a source of high moisture and a food supply. Millipedes are most active at night. Millipedes are oval, 1-1/2 inches long, segmented with many legs, coiling up when resting or dead. Every millipede has two pairs of legs attached to each apparent body segment. Most millipedes are brown or black, but some species are orange or red.
Rats

Adult rats can weigh anywhere from 5-16 ounces and measure 6-10 inches long. They have large ears and a pointed nose. A rat’s fur can be either smooth or shaggy depending on the type of rat. Their droppings are 1/4 to 1/2 inch in length, capsule shaped, with blunt ends. Rats will leave a hind foot track of about 3/4-1 inch where a mouse’s track measure’s 3/8 of an inch or less. They will also drag their tails, leaving a mark between their feet tracks. Tracking powder can be dusted to help determine their runways as they cross suspected areas.

Rats gnawing holes have rough edges and are about two inches or more in diameter. They prefer to gnaw on wood, but can damage electrical wiring. Rat burrows can be found beneath rubbish and shrubbery or along foundations. Rat runways are smooth and well packed. Indoors, these runways are free of dust and dirt. Rats prefer foods with a high protein or carbohydrate content, but will eat almost any type of food. They need much more water to survive than mice do and can obtain water from toilets, sinks, rain puddles, or condensation from utility pipes.

Young rats reach sexual maturity in two to three months. Females will average four to seven litters a year, with eight to twelve pups per litter. Adults live for about a year. They live in colonies. Rats will seek food outside, but many times will come inside at night to forage for food and return to their burrows. As the rat family grows, more burrows are built, resulting in a network of underground tunnels. Inside, rats commonly nest on the lower levels, but if the population is too large, they may be found in the attic and ceiling areas. Their nests are built from soft material like paper or grass chewed into small pieces. Rats will climb if necessary to enter a building. They can also be good swimmers. Rats are suspicious of changes in the environment or new foods, for this reason it may take a couple of days for traps or baits to take. Rats are nocturnal, with their peak activity at dusk or before dawn. They can be seen during the day when their population is large or they are disturbed or hungry.

Silverfish

Silverfish are wingless, having a fish-like appearance with a flat body, which is tapered at both ends and covered by overlapping scales. They prefer damp, moderate temperature places such as basements, kitchens, sinks, bathtubs, behind baseboards or wallpaper, window or door frames, and wall voids. This insect is about 1/2 inch long, named for the tiny silver scales on its body.

Silverfish require a large supply of starchy foods or molds. They are considered a nuisance pest that can feed on wallpaper pastes, natural textiles, books and papers. They also feed on mold or fungi that can grow on various surfaces. Silverfish are fast-moving and can travel throughout buildings. Silverfish are active at night or in dark places found throughout the structure. You may see silverfish trapped in sinks and bathtubs because they enter seeking moisture and are unable to climb a slick vertical surface to escape.

Silverfish go through a three stage life cycle called gradual metamorphosis. Many insects have a four stage life cycle called complete metamorphosis. Silverfish lay eggs throughout the year, and take 19-43 days to hatch. The life cycle from silverfish egg to adult is three to four months.

Spiders

There are more than 30,000 kinds of spiders. Some are smaller than the head of a pin but some are larger than a person’s hand. Spiders are not insects, they are classified as arachnids. Spiders have eight legs but ants, bees, beetles and other insects have only six legs. Arachnids include daddy long legs, scorpions, mites and ticks. Spiders are most commonly brown, grey or black. A spider has no bones but its tough skin serves as a protective outer skeleton.

A spider’s body consists of the cephalothorax and the abdomen. Each of these sections has parts attached to it called appendages. A spider’s eyes are on top and near the front of its head. Different species have different numbers of eyes and the size and position also varies. Most species have eight eyes, arranged in two rows of four each. Hunting spiders have good eyesight at short distances and their eyesight allows them to form images of their prey and mates. Web-building spiders have poor eyesight and their eyes are used for detecting changes in light.

Below the spider’s eyes is its mouth opening. Spiders eat only liquids because they do not have chewing mouth parts. Around the mouth are various appendages which form a short ‘straw’ through which the spider sucks the body fluid of its victim. The spider can only eat some of the solid tissue of its prey by predigesting it. The spider sprays digestive juices on the tissue and the powerful juices dissolve the tissue.

A spider has four pairs of legs, which are attached to its cephalothorax and each leg has seven segments. In most kinds of spiders, the tip of the last segment has two or three claws. Surrounding the claws is a pad of hairs called the scopula. The scopula sticks to smooth surfaces and helps the spider walk on ceilings and walls. Spider’s legs are impervious to pesticides, thus making them difficult to control.

Each species of spider lives a different life. Many kinds of spiders live for only a year. Large wolf spiders live several years and some female tarantulas have lived for up to 20 years in captivity. Spiders become adults at different times of the year. Some mature in the fall and then mate and die during the winter. Others live through the winter, mate in the spring, and then die.

As soon as a male spider matures, it seeks a mate. The female spider may mistake the male for prey and eat him, but most male spiders perform courtship activities that identify themselves and attract the females. After mating, the female will lay her eggs several weeks or even months later. The number of eggs that a spider lays at one time varies with the size of the spider. An average sized female lays about 100 eggs but some of the largest spiders lay more than 2,000 eggs. The female wolf spider attaches the egg sac to her spinnerets, and drags it behind her and then carries the spider lings on her back after they have hatched. The most common types of spiders in this area are black widow spiders, wolf spiders, jumping spiders, garden spiders, crab spiders, funnel-web spiders and hobo spiders.

Springtails

Springtails are very small (rarely more than 1/5 inch long), pale brown to cream colored insects that seem to hop and disappear when disturbed. The springtail is named for a spring-like mechanism on the underside of its abdomen. When at rest, the organ is folded forward and held in place under tension by a clasping structure. When the mechanism is released, the insect is able to jump a distance many times its own length.

These insects are commonly found in moist or damp places, usually in contact with soil. Homeowners encounter them in damp basements, in sinks and bathtubs, or on the surface of the soil of household plants. The moist, organic soil of house plants provides them the proper environment to live and increase in numbers. Plants that are over-watered during the fall and winter can support a large population of springtails in the potting soil.

Populations are often high, up to 100,000 per cubic meter of surface soil, or many millions per acre. Some can reproduce at temperatures as low as 40 degrees. In fact, springtails have been known to live in snow. These pests can be controlled by letting potting soil dry out or by pouring a liquid pesticide down the sink or bathtub drains.

Ticks

Ticks are arachnids. Adults have eight legs, whereas young ticks have six legs. Ticks are blood-feeding parasites that are often found in tall grass and shrubs where they will wait to attach to a passing host. Physical contact is the only method of transportation for ticks. They do not jump or fly, although they may drop from their perch and fall onto a host. Ticks are more active outdoors in warm weather, but can attack a host at any time. Ticks are especially abundant near water, where warm-blooded animals come to drink.

Besides the threat of diseases introduced to humans by mosquitoes, the tick and its array of problems is a close second. Ticks generally are not born with disease agents but rather acquire them during various feedings. Lyme disease is the most commonly known disease spread by ticks. Early symptoms of Lyme disease may include fever, headache, fatigue, depression and a characteristic circular skin rash. In most cases, the infection and its symptoms are eliminated by antibiotics, especially if the illness is treated early. Left untreated, later symptoms may involve the joints, heart and central nervous system.

Voles

There are about six different species of voles that live in North America. The most prevalent in landscaped gardens is the pine vole. The pine vole is about three inches long, weighs one ounce, and has chestnut hair, a short 1/2 inch long tail and tiny ears. You are more likely to see signs of voles than the voles themselves. Pine voles spend most of their lives under the ground in burrow systems feeding on plant roots.

Look for their presence by locating their circular burrow entrances not more than 1″ – 1.5″ in size and by lifting mulch to reveal long narrow trenches or runways that are serpentine, and that wind around obstructions. Voles can burrow into the root systems of landscaping shrubs and trees, causing young specimens to experience dieback or to begin to lean. These rodent pests will also gnaw on a tree trunk and at the base of a shrub. In addition, voles damage flower bulbs and potatoes in the garden. Mainly, however, voles eat the stems and blades of grass. And the runways they leave behind in the process make for an unsightly lawn.

Unlike many other small mammals, voles do not hibernate. Instead, they are active throughout the year. And depending upon where you live, voles can have four or five litters each year with an average of three babies per litter. Female pine voles have a gestation period of about 24 days. Due to this prolific ability to reproduce, vole populations grow quickly.

Moles

Moles are not rodents they belong to the mammal group known as insectivores. The mole is pound for pound one of the strongest mammals on earth. Their life expectancy is approximately 3 years due to its extremely high metabolic rate. The moles inability to store fat or food requires the mole to remain active year round. Moles eat only “live” food. They eat earthworms, insect larvae and any ground dwelling insects. Moles eat about 33% to 100% of their body weight each day. As the extremes of winter or summer arrive, the food sources burrow deeper into the ground. The mole simply follows the food. It is during these times that the homeowner sometimes gets a reprieve from the mole’s destructive surface activity.

Moles produce two types of runways in your yard. One runway runs just beneath the surface. These are feeding tunnels and appear as raised ridges running across your lawn. The second type of runway runs deeper and enables the moles to unite the feeding tunnels in a network. It is the soil excavated from the deep tunnels that homeowners find on their lawns, piled up in mounds that resemble little volcanoes. These mounds are a dead giveaway that your problem is not voles, but moles. Voles leave no mounds at all.

Moles and voles cause different types of damage. Moles make raised burrows in your lawn, ground cover, and shrub areas and their tunneling activity raises the soil into ridges. They are searching for worms and they feed on plant roots, flower bulbs, and the growing tissue of shrub and tree roots. Moles can tunnel up to 15 to 18 feet an hour and as much as 150-200 feet a day. Moles live on a cycle of 3 hours of rest for every 5 hours of work. They work around the clock on this cycle. Moles have only one litter a year. They give birth to two to five young in late spring.

Gophers

Pocket gophers are the most common type of gopher. These rodents can be anywhere from 5 to 14 inches long. Pocket gophers have fur-lined pouches outside of the mouth, one on each side of the face. These pockets, which are capable of being turned inside out, are used for carrying food. Their fur ranges black to light brown and white.

Gophers are solitary animals except when breeding or rearing young. Gophers are active year round, but are the most visibly active in the spring and fall when the soil is of the ideal moisture content for digging. They are extremely well adapted and built for an underground existence. Gopher underground burrows can be very deep, up to several feet, and several hundred feet in length. As gophers dig burrows, pushing the soil to the surface, they leave a mound, usually in a fan shaped. As stated earlier, moles leave a conical shape mound and voles leave no mound at all.

Pocket gophers feed on plants in three ways. They may go to the surface, venturing only a body length or so from their tunnel opening to feed on above-ground vegetation. They may feed on roots they encounter when digging. They frequently pull vegetation into their tunnel from below. Pocket gophers eat forbs, grasses, shrubs, even small trees. They are strict herbivores and any animal material in their diet appears to be accidental.

The pocket gopher digs with its claws and teeth and kicks soil, rocks and other items away from the digging area with its hind feet. Then the gopher turns over and uses its forefeet and chest to push the soil out of its burrow. Burrow systems consist of a main burrow, generally 4 to 18 inches below ground and parallel to the surface, with a variable number of lateral burrows off the main. A single burrow system can contain up to 200 yards of tunnels. Litter sizes range from 1 to 10, but average 3 to 4.

Hornets

Hornets construct large grayish-brown carton like nests, many times hanging from a tree or bush. Treating for hornets as well as all other wasps should be done at night. Simply removing the wasp nest will not resolve the problem, because surviving wasps will reconstruct a new one. The best strategy is to treat the wasp nest at night when all the workers and queen are present.

Hornet nests have a single opening, usually toward the bottom. It is essential that the paper envelope of the nest not be broken open during treatment or the irritated wasps will scatter in all directions, causing even greater problems. Hornets are far more difficult and dangerous to control than other social wasps. Hornet nests may contain thousands of wasps which are extremely aggressive when disturbed.

Mud Daubers

Mud daubers are not social wasps. They build a variety of mud nests, including organ-pipe nests and globular nests. These wasps paralyze spiders to provision mud cells built to enclose eggs, larvae and pupae. The mud cells form long clay tubes or large lumps. Mud daubers are slender and shiny black or brown, orange or yellow, with black

Paper Wasps

This social wasp constructs nests of a paper-like material which is a mixture of finely chewed wood fragments and salivary secretions. Paper wasps typically build their umbrella-shaped nests under eaves and ledges. These wasps are not as aggressive as hornets or yellow jackets.

Yellow Jackets

These wasps can be black and yellow or black and white in color. Yellow jackets are 5/8 to 1 inch long and have a thin waist. They are one of the most aggressive wasps in defending their nests. Like all wasps, yellow jackets prey on a variety of insects and other arthropods. Yellow jackets will also forage on foods people eat, especially sweets and meats. The yellow jacket colony will remain active for only one summer, after which the queens will fly away to start another colony.

Yellow jackets usually nest in the ground, but will also nest in railroad ties, wall voids, and other above ground locations. In the spring, most yellow jackets will feed on insects. In the fall, wasp colonies are at their largest size, and foraging workers may be a serious nuisance as they search for food. For most people a sting is painful but temporary. However, an allergic individual may have a serious reaction requiring medical treatment.