Pest Library

Carpenter Ants

(Camponotus modoc) or (Camponotus vicinus)
Carpenter AntCarpenter ants are a threat to people because they make nests in and around our homes. Carpenter ants do not eat wood like termites do. They make extensive galleries in the wood to live in and raise their young. Carpenter ant colonies may reach the size of 2,000-3,000 ants. Ant activity is typically greatest between dusk and dawn. As a carpenter ant parent colony (where the queen resides) grows, it expands to the limits of the old nest and another suitable area for nesting becomes necessary. This new colony is known as a satellite colony, and is usually made nearby. The parent colony contains the queen, young larvae and workers, while the satellite colony contains the mature larvae, pupae, workers, and winged reproductives. The ants move back and forth from the parent nest to the satellite nest(s) and to feeding areas. Because many homes in this region are being built in forested areas, established colonies of carpenter ants are frequently found in close proximity to these residences. Ants will forage in and around the home for food and/or water, and often choose to establish satellite colonies inside the structure since these items are readily available there.
 

Odorous House Ants

(Tapinoma sessile)



Odorous House AntOdorous house ants are small, dark brown ants approximately 1/8 inch long. They are often referred to as “sugar ants” due to their fondness for sweet foods. 

Odorous house ants foraging in and around the home for food and/or water will often choose to establish colonies inside the structure since these items are readily available there. These ants are often seen in the kitchen and bathroom beginning in early spring. Inside the home they are generally found in wall voids, especially around hot water heaters and hot water pipes. While these ants do not cause structural damage, they can be very annoying due to their presence in our homes.


 
Habitat:

Odorous house ants are found outdoors nesting beneath rocks, under logs and landscape timbers, under mulch, or just about anything lying on the ground can act as a nesting site for these ants.
 


Diet:

Odorous house ants are attracted to sugary substances such as empty soda cans, syrups, and any other type of sweet food debris.
 

Fleas

(Siphonaptera)


FleasFleas are very much like us in one way: they like moderate temperatures. Outside, the cold will kill eggs, larvae and adult fleas only if the temperature drops below 30 degrees and stays there for days. Indoors, of course, we keep them comfy year-round. We have perfect flea-producing conditions inside our homes throughout even the cool fall/ winter months. The fleas that you see on your pet, the adult stage, make up only about 1% of the total population that is in your house. The remaining 99% of the fleas in the environment are in developing stages.

Because cats and dogs have higher body temperatures than humans, the fleas generally prefer the animals. When fleas bite people, the resulting reaction is usually quite itchy and the bite often becomes infected. Adult fleas are not only a nuisance to humans and their pets, but can cause medical problems including flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), tapeworms, secondary skin irritations and, in extreme cases, anemia. Adult fleas may live from two months to one year without feeding, so there is often a desperate need for flea control after a family has returned from a long vacation. Adult fleas develop inside a pupal cocoon and remain in a kind of “limbo” until a blood source is near. Waiting hungry hordes of fleas immediately attack the family returning from vacation.


 
Reproduction:

Fleas can reproduce with amazing speed-in one month 10 females can generate a population of over 267,000 offspring. 


 
Habitat:

Most of the flea eggs, larvae, pupa and adults will be found in your pet’s immediate environment, especially their favorite resting and sleeping areas.
 


Control Method:

Flea control is best achieved with a simultaneous, coordinated effort involving an inspection, home preparation, premise treatment and pet treatment.
 

Rats and Mice

Rats and MiceRats and mice have adapted to live in close association with man, where they damage structures, chew wiring, eat and urinate on human and animal food, and carry many diseases. While these rodents are present around our homes throughout the year, they often become a problem in the fall and winter when they enter homes seeking warmth. Rats and mice have no respect for economic level or status. The two most common rodents encountered in our area are the Norway rat and the house mouse. Both of these rodents are good jumpers, climbers, swimmers and gnawers, which enable them better access to your home. They rely predominantly on smell, taste, touch and hearing as opposed to vision. Rodents memorize specific pathways and use the same routes consistently. They are omnivorous, eating nearly any type of food, including dead and dying members of their own species.
 


A successful rodent control program requires the following:

  • A thorough inspection and proper ID of rodent species.
  • Harborage reduction and rodent-proofing structures.
  • Baiting and trapping.
  • Monitoring and maintenance baiting.

 

German Cockroaches

(Blattela germanica)


CockroachesGerman cockroaches are the most common cockroach species found in houses, apartments, condominiums, hotels, restaurants, and just about any other kind of business in the United States that has a cockroach infestation. German roaches are associated with a variety of human illnesses as previously mentioned. German cockroaches are so successful and therefore difficult to control for a variety of reasons.


 
German roaches have a larger number of eggs per egg capsule than other roaches. The female carries the eggs inside the capsule as they develop into nymphs. Thus the nymphs that are born alive have a much better chance of survival. German roaches exhibit the shortest time from egg to sexual maturity. These factors combine to give the German cockroach a huge reproductive potential. German cockroach nymphs are very small, allowing them to conceal themselves in the tiniest of cracks and crevices where they are protected. A typical home or industrial kitchen has literally thousands of protected cracks and crevices where nymph roaches can hide. A typical female lives about one year. She can produce 4-8 egg capsules (ootheca) in that time frame. Each capsule carries 30-50 eggs. From egg to sexual maturity averages about 3-4 months.
 
If you start looking at those numbers, it is not hard to imagine how a German cockroach infestation can explode in a matter of a few months. 


German cockroaches are also extremely adaptable as far as what they can eat and the environmental conditions in which they can survive. All of these facts combine to give the German cockroach an almost unparalleled advantage in establishing successful populations and in resisting control measures.
 


Control of German cockroach infestations requires co-operation from the business/home owner and the pest control professional. Once co-operation is established, and both parties agree to their responsibilities and a well thought out treatment plan is developed, cockroaches can be controlled and eliminated. If co-operation does not exist, treatments will not be successful. One time treatments for German cockroaches are typically not effective.
 

Bed Bugs

BedbugThe common bedbug is the bedbug best adapted to human environments and the one that causes most problems for humans. Once a common health problem that was almost eliminated as such, bedbugs in the last decade have had a successful resurgence. They are increasingly becoming a problem in homes, apartments, condos, hotels, hospitals, college dormitories and cruise ships.
 


Adult bedbugs are wingless, reddish brown, flattened, oval, 4-5 mm long and are fast runners. They change color to a deep red-brown after a bloodmeal. Usually flattened from top to bottom, bedbugs will swell like a balloon when engorged with blood. Young bedbugs called “nymphs” look like adults only smaller. There are 5 stages the nymphs pass through to adulthood. Each juvenile stage requires a bloodmeal to mature to the next level. Entire development from nymph to adult requires 6-8 weeks. Adults can live an average of up to 1 year. Eggs are very difficult to see as they are cream colored and only 1mm in length. Bedbugs have piercing sucking mouth parts. They pierce the skin, injecting an anti-coagulant then withdraw blood until full. Adult bedbugs will feed every 5 to 10 days.
 


Bedbugs are often mistakenly associated with filth. They are attracted to exhaled carbon dioxide and body heat. They feed on blood, not dirt or waste. The sanitation of an environment does not affect bedbugs.
 
Bedbugs have not been known to transmit any disease to humans; however, continued feeding on the same host can cause an allergic reaction to the bedbug saliva. The reaction is much like the reaction to a mosquito bite.

Bedbugs can infest a structure as stowaways on luggage, clothing, used furniture, bed frames, mattresses, etc. They can adhere to clothing and move from one location to another. Once inside a structure bedbugs can travel from room to adjacent room (dormitory) or remain close to the food source. They are typically in the bedroom in the bed frame, box spring, mattress, in the carpet, in the dressers, closets, behind baseboards, in picture frames, etc. In short, bedbugs can be found anywhere in the infested structure.
 
If a bedbug infestation is suspected a thorough inspection by FireFly EPS professional is essential. We will identify the invader and make recommendations for treatment. Treatment of bedbugs is extreme in nature and completely thorough. In many circumstances more than one treatment is required for elimination.
 

Spiders

SpidersSpiders are the Great White Shark of the pest kingdom. The unwarranted fear they instill can be attributed to Hollywood type myths and the notoriety of a few harmful species like the Brown Recluse or the Black Widow. In fact, most spiders are extremely beneficial, preying on other insects and often reducing pest populations in our buildings, yards, and gardens. Most spider venom is not harmful to humans. Many cannot pierce human skin with their small weakened fangs; those that do usually result in only a slight itching or irritation of the bite. Spiders do not eat solid foods, but inject a digestive fluid into their prey that dissolves the tissue that the spider can then digest. This is important when comparing the bites of certain spiders.


 
Spiders are not insects. They are distinguished by having 8 legs instead of 6. Spiders are opportunistic predators. They spin webs to capture prey, lie in wait for prey to come within easy striking distance, while others will actively search for prey.
 


While there are many common species of spiders in the Pacific Northwest, only a few are of concern. These are the Black Widow, Brown Recluse, Hobo or Aggressive House spider and the Giant House spider. Black widows are found east of the Cascades, not west of the mountains and Brown Recluse spiders are located in the central Midwest region of the country. Although Black widows and Brown recluse are not found here in western Oregon they could be transported here. If that happened they would not flourish and survive for any length of time.
 

Subterranean Termites

(Family Rhinotermitidae)
TermiteSubterranean termites live in underground colonies or in moist secluded areas above ground that can contain up to 2 million members. They build distinctive “mud tubes” to gain access to food sources and to protect themselves from open air. Termite colonies are organized into castes depending on tasks — workers, soldiers and reproductives. The characteristics of a subterranean termite are dependent on the termite’s role in the colony. Cream-colored Worker subterranean termites are 1/8 to 3/8’s of an inch in length. Soldier subterranean termites are of a similar body length, but are distinguished by their powerful mandibles. Solider termites have cream-colored bodies and brown heads. Reproductive subterranean termites are approximately one inch long.


 
Habits:

Subterranean termites live underground and build tunnels, referred to as mud tubes, to reach food sources. Like other termite species, they feed on products containing cellulose. Subterranean termites swarm in the spring and fall; groups of reproductive termites go off to start new colonies.
 


Habitat:

Subterranean termites need contact with the soil to survive and live underground. They can build tunnels through cracks in concrete. 

 
Threats:

Subterranean termites are by far the most destructive species. They can collapse a building entirely, meaning possible financial ruin for a homeowner. The hard, saw-toothed jaws of termites work like shears and are able to bite off extremely small fragments of wood, one piece at a time.
 
Prevention:

Avoid water accumulation near your home’s foundation. Divert water away with properly functioning downspouts, gutters and splash blocks. Reduce humidity in crawl spaces with proper ventilation. Never bury wood scraps or waste lumber in the yard. Most importantly, eliminate wood contact with the soil. Maintain a six-inch gap between the soil and wood portions of the building.
 

Yellowjackets and Wasps

Identification and Lifecycle

Yellow Jackets and WaspsIn western states there are two distinct types of social wasps: yellowjackets and paper wasps. Yellowjackets are by far the most troublesome group. Paper wasps are much less defensive and rarely sting humans. They tend to shy away from human activity except when their nests are located near doors, windows, or other high traffic areas.


 
Nests of both yellowjacket and paper wasps typically are begun in spring by a single queen who overwinters and becomes active when the weather warms. She emerges in late winter/early spring to feed and start a new nest. From spring to midsummer nests are in the growth phase, and the larvae require large amounts of protein. Workers forage mainly for protein at this time (usually in the form of other insects) and for some sugars. By late summer, however, the colonies grow more slowly or cease growth and require large amounts of sugar to maintain the queen and workers. So foraging wasps are particularly interested in sweet things at this time.
 


Normally, yellowjacket and paper wasp colonies only live one season. In very mild winters or in coastal California south of San Francisco, however, some yellowjacket colonies survive for several years and become quite large.


 
Yellowjackets:
The term yellowjacket refers to a number of different species of wasps in the genera Vespula and Dolichovespula (family Vespidae). Included in this group of ground-nesting species are the western yellowjacket, Vespula pensylvanica, which is the most commonly encountered species and is sometimes called the “meat bee,” and seven other species of Vespula. Vespula vulgaris is common in rotted tree stumps at higher elevations and V. germanica (the German yellowjacket) is becoming more common in many urban areas of California, where it frequently nests in houses. These wasps tend to be medium sized and black with jagged bands of bright yellow (or white in the case of the aerial-nesting Dolichovespula [=Vespula] maculata) on the abdomen, and have a very short, narrow waist (the area where the thorax attaches to the abdomen).


 
Nests are commonly built in rodent burrows, but other protected cavities, like voids in walls and ceilings of houses, sometimes are selected as nesting sites. Colonies, which are begun each spring by a single reproductive female, can reach populations of between 1,500 and 15,000 individuals, depending on the species. The wasps build a nest of paper made from fibers scraped from wood mixed with saliva. It is built as multiple tiers of vertical cells, similar to nests of paper wasps, but enclosed by a paper envelope around the outside that usually contains a single entrance hole. If the rodent hole is not spacious enough, yellowjackets will increase the size by moistening the soil and digging. Similar behavior inside a house sometimes leads to a wet patch that develops into a hole in a wall or ceiling.


 
Immature yellowjackets are white, grublike larvae that become white pupae. The pupae develop adult coloring just before they emerge as adult wasps. Immatures are not normally seen unless the nest is torn open or a sudden loss of adult caretakers leads to an exodus of starving larvae.


 
Aerial-nesting yellowjackets, Dolichovespula arenaria and D. maculata, build paper nests that are attached to the eaves of a building or are hanging from the limb of a tree. The entrance is normally a hole at the bottom of the nest. These aerial nesters do not become scavengers at the end of the season, but they are extremely defensive when their nests are disturbed. Defending D. arenaria sometimes bite and/or sting, simultaneously. Wasp stingers have no barbs and can be used repeatedly, especially when the wasp gets inside clothing. As with any stinging incident, it is best to leave the area of the nest site as quickly as possible if wasps start stinging.


 
Paper Wasps:

Paper wasps such as Polistes fuscatus aurifer, P. apachus, and P. dominulus are large (1-inch long), slender wasps with long legs and a distinct, slender waist. Background colors vary, but most western species tend to be golden brown, or darker, with large patches of yellow or red. Preferring to live in or near orchards or vineyards, they hang their paper nests in protected areas, such as under eaves, in attics, or under tree branches or vines. Each nest hangs like an open umbrella from a pedicel (stalk) and has open cells that can be seen from beneath the nest. White, legless, grublike larvae sometimes can be seen from below. Paper wasp nests rarely exceed the size of an outstretched hand and populations vary between 15 to 200 individuals. Most species are relatively unaggressive, but they can be a problem when they nest over doorways or in other areas of human activity, such as fruit trees.


 
Mud Daubers:

Mud daubers are black and yellow, thread-waisted, solitary wasps that build a hard mud nest, usually on ceilings and walls, attended by a single female wasp. They belong to the family Sphecidae and are not social wasps but may be confused with them. They do not defend their nests and rarely sting. During winter, you can safely remove the nests without spraying.