Little Black Ants Everywhere!

Odorous house ant profile

Odorous house ant has a flat, hidden node, so it cannot be seen by side profile compared to other ants.  Photo by Jody Green, Nebraska Extension in Lancaster County.

If you’re like most homeowners, this is the time of year small ants seem to be invading your home. Here in Lancaster County, household ant identification and inquiries are high. Spring has sprung, but the varying soil and air temperatures may not be stable enough to produce the food (carbohydrates, fats, proteins) to support the many ants becoming active in the ecosystem. They may be too close for comfort and here are the reasons they’re entering your space:

  1. They can.
  2. They’re hungry.
  3. They’re thirsty.

Continue reading

Flour Beetles: Pesky Pests of the Pantry

Another common pantry pest of homes are flour beetles. Flour beetles are very common in homes. They can fly in from outdoors or be brought into the home on infested products  from the grocery store.

There are two flour beetles that have similar biology, behaviors, lifecycle and feeding habits, the red and confused flour beetles. The red flour beetle has a three-segmented club, and the confused beetle does not. This difference though slight, provides an important difference when dealing with origin of the infestation because the red flour beetle is a flier and the confused flour beetle is not capable of flight.

red-flour-beetle

Red flour beetle has a three-segmented club. Photo by Jody Green, Nebraska Extension in Lancaster County.

Adult flour beetles are approximately 1/8 inch long and reddish-brown in color. The larvae are creamy to yellow-brown, with light hairs and pointed projections on the last segment. Before pupation, mature larvae are about 1/4 inch long. All life stages can be found in large numbers feeding on broken kernels and other grain products.

Flour beetle larvae

Flour beetle larvae. Photo by Jody Green, Nebraska Extension in Lancaster County.

Signs of red flour beetle infestations in the home include:

1) Adult beetles flying around inside the house. They are attracted to light and may accumulate along the window sills.

2) Larvae and adults can be found together in the same food products that contain flour and grain products.

Red flour beetle adult and larva feeding on dog biscuit (Photo by J. Green)

Red flour beetle adult and larva feeding on dog biscuit. Photo by Jody Green, Nebraska Extension in Lancaster County.

Prevention and sanitation is your best protection against flour beetles. Here are some ways you can prevent infestations in the home, minimize wasted food and save money:

  • Before purchase, check expiration dates for old products that have been on the shelves for a long period of time.
  • Be extra cautious buying plenty of heavily discounted products on clearance.
  • Avoid buying in bulk and storing large quantities of products in the pantry.
  • Store products in air-tight, transparent, insect-proof containers.
  • Use the oldest products first to ensure freshness and proper stock rotation.
  • Store infrequently used dry ingredients in the freezer.
  • Clean up spills and crumbs in food storage areas so not to attract pests.
  • Vacuum cracks and crevices where insects can hide and grains can accumulate.
  • Dispose infested foods in trash and put outdoors.
  • Flour beetles are often found devouring old dog biscuits forgotten on high shelves or trapped under furniture.

Treatment strategies for red and confused flour beetle do not include insecticide use inside the home. A thorough inspection is necessary to locate and eliminate the source of the infestation for a long term solution. Most people overlook prepackaged and prepared foods, unopened packages and non-food items, but a variety of products are vulnerable. There are pheromone traps available, that will trap beetles in a pitfall trap, but these are preferred as a monitoring tool, rather than a control method.

Flour beetles

Flour beetles can be a problem that starts at the manufacturing facility like the flour mill. Photo by Jody Green, Nebraska Extension in Lancaster County.

Flour beetles can occur year round in heated buildings. Keep your eye on your food and don’t share it with pantry pests.

Confessions of an Extension Entomologist: I bake so infrequently, that our flour is stored permanently in air tight containers in the freezer. If I didn’t have this job, I might be a professional pantry specialist. I enjoy organizing other people’s stored food products and finding insect-infested products. Note: Always check the pancake mix.

Red flour beetles in pancake mix

Flour beetles of all life stages and cast skins (exoskeletons) in pancake mix. Photo by Jody Green, Nebraska Extension in Lancaster County.

For more information on pests found in and around the home, visit http://lancaster.unl.edu/pest.

Stay calm and respect the critters,

Jody

 

 

Taking the Best Pest Photo with your Phone

I get a lot of requests to identify specimens from photos. Emailing a photo of a pest sample rather than finding a container, catching it and bringing it into our office can save considerable time for our clients in the community. If you are able to send me a good photo accompanied by some details of the situation, it can save me considerable time too.

A good photo is one preferably in focus, one which includes some identifying characters of the pest. This can be as simple as the overall shape or as detailed as the presence or absence of wings, hairs, pits, segments or clubs on a specific body part. With spider identification, it is helpful to count the number of eyes and note the eye arrangement on the cephalothorax in order to positively identify the family.

Continue reading

Overwintering Pests – Cluster Flies, Lady Beetles, Boxelder Bugs,Western Conifer Seed Bugs

Boxelder bugs aggregating on the windows.

Boxelder bugs aggregating on the south side of the house and trying to get inside around the windows. Photo by Jody Green, Nebraska Extension in Lancaster County.

Some pests are considered seasonal or occasional pests and their grand entrance into your house in the fall may go unnoticed, but they are not accidental. Overwintering pests require a protective place to spend the adult stage of their life without freezing to death. They normally require a winter habitat between 40-50°F for hibernation. In the fall, large populations congregate on the warm, sunny side of the structure, usually the southwestern facing exterior wall and begin moving upward to find a gaps that leads inside.

Continue reading

Shade Trees help reduce energy costs

Keeping Your Home Cool(er)

Cooling your home in summer - thermostat

This is my thermostat and I keep it set pretty high on hot days. I close the drapes and with a few fans, stay pretty comfortable.

On these hot, humid days, it can be tough to keep cool. I don’t know about you, but I want my home to be comfortable without increasing my utility bills.

If you are a homeowner or own a business, it may be time to think about replacing windows, adding insulation or replacing aging appliances.

If you live in an apartment, check out Energy Actions for Renters to Save Dollars and Increase Comfort from Nebraska Extension.

Farmers and ranchers also understand the importance of reducing energy costs. Livestock need to be kept cool, machinery operational, grain drying and decisions need to be made about irrigation.

“Did you know that only 17% shade over your house during the day translates to a savings of 10 dollars a month on your power bill? Additionally, increasing that same shade to 50% will decrease your power bill by an additional $20 per month.”
source: Tree Planting to Lower Power Bills – eXtension.org

The following resources will help you make energy-related decisions: Continue reading

Fireworks Clean-up. Photo by A. Rhodes, LLCH

Start with a Boom, End with a Broom

“Fireworks in particular, are made from several potentially harmful substances, including gunpowder and various metallic compounds. These substances can pollute air, water and soil.”

Guest Contributor: Adam Rhoads, Lincoln–Lancaster County Health Department Environmental Health Educator

The 4th of July — a time for parades, backyard barbecues and, of course, fireworks. With the focus on fun, an important part of the celebration often gets forgotten. Every year following Independence Day, Lincoln and other Lancaster County communities are littered with fireworks debris. This summer Keep Lincoln & Lancaster County Beautiful (KLLCB) encourages residents to be responsible community members with one simple request: Start with a boom, end with a broom.

Continue reading

Chemical Hazards in Your Home

Guest Contributor: Adam Rhoads, Lincoln–Lancaster County Health Department Environmental Health Educator

Safe Pesticide Use and Disposal
Now is a great time of year to clean out unwanted and potentially hazardous chemicals from your home. Everyday household products, from bathroom cleaners to oil-based paint, can be dangerous to your health and the environment. But did you know some products pose a greater risk than others?

Pesticides: Pesticides are chemicals that discourage or kill pests such as insects and rodents. While effective, they can be toxic to humans. Consider the alternatives: Continue reading