Pesky Pests

Pesky Pests

*During the early 2000’s, Linda Adams, a former resident of TGO, wrote a series of articles for the TGO Nature Center titled “a Page From Nature”.  This article was a part of that series and was published in December 2000.  Enjoy!

They fly. They crawl. They bite and sting. Florida is home to billions of bugs. Several species have an attitude problem.

Fire Antsimported fire ants are a problem throughout Florida. The black fire ant was brought into Alabama from South America around 1918. The much more aggressive red fire ant made the voyage from South America in the 1930s.

Fire ants actively defend their colony. When disturbed, workers release an alarm pheromone that stimulates other workers to boil from the mound to attack the threat. Fire ants kill large numbers of insects to feed their larvae back in the mound.

The average fire ant colony contains one queen and from 100,000 to 200,000 workers. The mound of the fire ant is a thermoregulatory structure. The tunnels under the mound may extend down four feet below the surface. Extending from the mound is a vast array of tunnels just below the surface, along a radius of 30 feet. These are the tunnels that foraging workers use to spread over the colony’s territory searching for food.

The best control measure is to broadcast treat yards every four to six months with a slow action poison bait such as Amdro Fire Ant Bait or Affirm Fire Ant Bait or a bait containing the insect growth regulator fenoxycarb such as Logic Fire Ant Bait to prevent fire ant populations from building.

Love-BugsThe “Love-Bug” is a fly or more often two flies. And when you see two traveling together, well, they’re probably making love. Other common names used for these flies, long the bane of Florida drivers, include honeymoon flies, double-headed bugs, two-headed bugs, and those !#%&@ bugs. They belong to a family of flies collectively called the march flies.

Love bugs are a recent natural Florida invader having migrated from Mexico and Gulf Coast Texas. They hit the Panhandle in 1949, Lake City by 1957, Gainesville in 1966 and so continued spreading across the state.

These amorous flies do not sting, bite or eat our vegetable and ornamental plants. The adults are black with a bright red spot on their thorax between their wings. They feed on nectar from flowers. The adults are short lived. Their whole purpose is to mate and reproduce. Males emerge first and wait for the females to emerge from the leaf litter. They mate and remain attached for several hours or days, often flying in copula.

The female lays more than 300 eggs in decaying leaves. The legless larvae are gray and_worm-like. They  feed on decaying vegetation and are helpful in returning nutrients to the soil. The adult Love-Bugs fly during the day. They are protected from birds by an offensive taste.

Love-Bugs are considered a pest because they occur in huge numbers in May and September. They can become so numerous that they clog car radiators and obscure the windshields of moving cars. The natural acids in their bodies can damage a car’s paint or finish.

What can you do? Try to drive at night, when the flies are sleeping in the vegetation. Use a bug screen to keep the flies from clogging your car’s radiator. Wash the squashed “love-bugs” off as soon as possible.

Mosquito — most mosquitoes are nocturnal or crepuscular — that is, active at night, dawn or dusk. Some salt marsh mosquitoes will bite if attracted from their resting sites in vegetation by human activity.

People have been concerned in the last few years in Florida by outbreaks of Eastern Equine Encephalitis and St. Louis Encephalitis. Luckily, a system of sentinel chicken stations run by the mosquito control districts can predict and warn when outbreaks are likely to occur. When mosquito problems occur, the usual response is to have the area fogged. This is a temporary solution at best, effective only if a large area, like an entire neighborhood is treated immediately.

You can help control local mosquito production by eliminating as many sources of standing water as possible. Remove or turn over artificial containers and fill treeholes Cut back shrubbery and vegetation to eliminate resting sites.

Before modern mosquito control and the use of air conditioning, many coastal areas of Florida were uninhabitable. Bite counts is the technique used to measure mosquito nuisance levels. Counts in the Everglades have been estimated at hundreds of bites per minute. So, when you are bitten 10 or 15 times during an evening walk, remember that it could be much worse.

(Information Source: Florida Survival Handbook). Column prepared by Linda Adams.


TGO Nature Center – “Living in Harmony with Nature

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