Friday, July 31, 2015

Poor Little Guy

       Had an interesting job yesterday. A regular customer had a little shed outside that he kept his garbage pails in. Something was digging underneath to get inside. I looked at it the other day and couldn't tell right away whether something was digging in to get the garbage, or was living under the shed. Called the customer (who was in California on vacation) and told him we could put exclusion fencing around the shed, to prevent further problems, and leave one spot open, so we could put a trap there and catch the culprit. The hole appeared too small to be from a raccoon or woodchuck, but there was no skunk odor around either. This was really puzzling.
       Got there this morning and saw that the hole was still there, and was still about the same size. Opened the shed and began to look around. All the garbage had been picked up, and all the pails were empty. Looked in one, and then grabbed the side of the second one. Peeked inside. There in the bottom was an adult skunk, sitting in the bottom. Surprised me a little, but once I composed myself, I carried the pail to the edge of his lawn and released the skunk. Neither it nor I were any worse for the wear, but I have no idea how long it was in there, but it wasn't there the other day when I checked. Apparently, it fell in looking for food and couldn't get out.
        Finished up by putting in the fencing. No need to set a trap. The culprit got caught in the garbage pail. Another successful job completed.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

OMG, Is it going to sting me?

        "Bees"! Just the word can strike fear in some people's hearts, but did you know that the majority of "bees" are not dangerous at all! Now that we are in the peak of "bee" season, I thought I would write something to help people understand. I will put some videos and pictures at the end of this post for anyone to watch.
       There are basically two categories of "bees". Members of the wasp family and true bees. And within each of these groups there are "Social bees" and "solitary bees". True bees, in CT are made up up of honey bees, bumblebees, carpenter bees, and ground bees. Social bees are ones that build hives which contain dozens (bumblebees) to tens of thousands (honey bees). Both of these will sting, if provoked, but are usually not very aggressive. Solitary bees are carpenter bees and ground bees. While there may be many solitary bees around in a certain area, each one is an individual, and they do not make up a "hive". The reason there are so many there is because the habitat is good for them. Solitary bees, while capable of stinging rarely ever do. The reason is that because if they sting, they are likely to die, and therefore cannot pass on their genes or DNA to the next generation. Social bees can be somewhat more aggressive because if they sting and then die, the hive lives on and it's genes are passed on. They give their life to protect the hive. While ground bees may look terrifying, you can actually walk right into them and you won't be stung!
       The same groupings can be done with wasps. Solitary wasps like the Mud dauber (These build little mud tubes and feed mostly on spiders) and the many species (all uncommon) of "digger" wasps (you'll find these between the pieces of flagstone on your patio) are totally harmless and will not sting and are very beneficial. Paper wasps build those little gray paper nests that are not enclosed and in which the comb can be seen. These are semi aggressive. If they are close to a door, or an area where there is a lot of human activity, they can present a problem, but up at the roof line where they typically are, they are no problem. Yellow jackets (don't confuse these with Mediterranean wasps- a lot of people do) and Bald Face Hornets are truly dangerous insects. Stumble into one of their nests, and they will attack in multiple numbers and each one can sting repeatedly. Many people find these (yellow jackets in the ground) with their lawn mower or weed wacker, so be careful out there. So basically there are really only three "bees" that will possibly sting you. Paper wasps, yellow jackets, and Bald faced hornets. So if there are others around just ignore them and they won't bother you.
Common paper wasp


Honey bee

Yellow jacket
Bald faced hornet
Mediterranean Paper wasp
Carpenter bee

Mud Dauber wasp

Carpenter bee infestation
Active honey bee hive(These are usually found in the structure of buildings or hollow trees)
Aerial yellow jacket nest (Bald faced hornets build similar nests)
 Yellow jacket nest in the ground
Bumblebee nest in the ground
Ground bees
Bald faced hornet nest

Their season is over, but here's some info for next year

         Carpenter bees resemble huge bumble bees, and are excellent pollinators. They are active mostly during the month of May in this part of the country. Unlike most bees, they can hover in one spot like a helicopter. They emerge from winter dormancy in late April. The males and females fly around doing their mating flights. If there are a lot of them present, it can be a terrifying sight to the uninformed.  However, the males do not possess a stinger and while the females do, they almost never sting. They are about as harmless as a bee with a stinger can be. Once they mate the males die and the females go about drilling their holes. The holes are typically 1/2” in diameter. They prefer to tunnel into unpainted wood, but will tunnel into painted or stained wood. They will drill into fence posts, any untreated beams in houses, decks, etc.. They also get behind the trim boards along the roof line of a house and drill holes from the back side of these boards.  They drill into the wood about half way and then turn at right angles and drill a tunnel 6-8” long.  Their activity is usually first noticed by piles of sawdust on a roof under the drilling activity or on the ground or by their fan shaped droppings stains beneath the drilled holes. Once the female lays an egg, she provides it with “bee bread” (a mixture of pollen and nectar). She then seals the egg in a chamber with wood pulp and proceeds to do the same with the next egg, until she has deposited about 6-8 eggs in the tunnel. This can cause quite a problem at times, because woodpeckers can start pecking holes from the outside, looking for the larvae in the tunnels to feed on. After she finishes her egg laying, usually in very early June she dies. This is why the activity is seen mostly in May. The young emerge later in the summer and spend the rest of the season feeding on nectar in flowers. There is only one reproductive cycle per year. The young sometimes return to the tunnels they were born in to spend the winter. Unless there is a serious infestation over several years, the damage is usually just cosmetic. They never tunnel all the way through and get into the house or attic.
       The best way to solve the problem, is to replace the boards they are drilling into with a composite decking material. One Brand name is "Azek". They will not drill into that. Another method is to physically exclude them from the areas they drill in by stuffing fencing, steel wool, or some similar material up behind the trim board thereby limiting their ability to get behind the boards.
         In the photo, the dropping stains can be seen on the clapboard siding. The holes in the trim board are those made by woodpeckers, looking for the nice juicy larva in the tunnels in the trim board.
Typical Carpenter bee damage

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Been gone too long!

      Well, it's been awhile since I posted anything ! Life just seems to get in the way. It was always, "Oh, I'll do that tomorrow", but as the old saying goes, "Tomorrow never comes". So here I am again, and I hope to be more diligent in posting tips, and stories, both instructive and funny.
       Big doings at North Forty Pest Control. We have now set up a sort of branch office in Bantam, CT, where my stepson, Matt, lives. We work together, and he is now fully licensed, so if you live in the Northwest CT area, and have any pest problems, feel free to give him a call at 860-387-1314, and if you're from the Waterbury area give me a call at 203-263-4551.
       So, anyway, it's been a busy season so far, and Yellow jackets and Bald faced hornets are getting started. They seem to be about 2-3 weeks early this year, and with the cold spring we had it is even more confusing. I saw a lot of queens flying around looking for places to start nests back in May. Looks like it's going to be another bad (great for us) season, just like last year! So keep your eyes peeled and watch out with those lawn mowers and weed whackers. That is usually people's favorite way of finding yellow jacket nests in the ground, and usually with some pain involved.