Friday, March 28, 2008

Honey bee swarms and hives- what's the difference?

When I get bee calls, which usually increase in the spring and fall, people want to know one (or possibly two) of three things.
1. Are the bees "killer" bees?
2. Why is there a big clump of bees on my tree/ shrub/ fence/ insert object here.
3. How do I get rid of bees that are in the wall void of my home?

To answer the first question, I don't know. Not really what most people want to hear from me, but I really don't know EVERYTHING. There's a lot of bugs and stuff to know about them and I still learn new things about them all the time...that's a part of what makes my job so great! But why I can't tell if the bees are "killer", or more appropriately Africanized, is because Africanized bees look pretty much the same as the regular European honey bees that everyone knows and loves. To figure out if bees are Africanized, the bees should be sent to the bee lab in College Station to be tested. You can find proper instructions and forms here:

Onto the second question. Bees swarm. This is when a newly produced queen and about half the workers leave the old hive to embark on a journey to find a new hive location (kind of like kicking your kids out of the house after they graduate from high school). Often the bees will rest in a big clump on various objects while scout bees search the area for a suitable nesting site. Swarming bees should be treated with caution, and left alone if possible. Swarms often move on in a few hours to a few days. If you are really concerned about someone getting stung, you can contact a local beekeeper to see if they collect swarms.

Number three is a relatively simple answer but, again, usually not one that people want to hear- contact a pest control company to exterminate the bees. Yes, I know, bees are beneficial and help pollinate plants and create wonderful products such as wax and honey, but it really comes down to the decision of you living in the house or having the bees live in the house. Since I pay the mortgage for my house, I'll pick me living in my house over bees. Once bees have been exterminated, the wall void should be opened and comb and honey removed. This may be a a DUH-moment, but you should NOT eat the honey since it's been treated with insecticide. If you don't remove the comb and honey you can get secondary pest invaders (cockroaches, rodents, etc.). Once all the honey and comb is removed, seal up the wall inside and out so bees cannot reinfest.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Red Imported Fire Ants...are they active?

I've been receiving numerous calls lately about fire ants. Yes, the mounds have been popping up, especially after the rain we had recently. People have been using fire ant bait, but are frustrated that the fire ants are not dying. So what could be the problem? First of all, check your fire ant bait. Since bait is a food item, albeit for the ants and not us, it can go rancid. Smell the bait to see if it has gone bad. Fresh bait should either have no smell or a light, slightly nutty corn-like smell. If the bait is rancid you will most certainly smells....bad. If the bait is rancid, you should buy new bait and dispose properly of the old, rancid bait. Secondly, before you broadcast bait, you need to make sure that the fire ants are actively foraging for food. Many times, they may be active excavating their mound, but the won't be picking up food. To check if fire ants are foraging, place a small amount of bait, a piece of hotdog (the cheaper the brand, the better) or a potato chip near a mound. Leave the food item for 15-30 minutes, then come back to see if the ants are picking up the food and taking it back to the mound. If they are, you're good to go forward with your baiting. Lastly, be patient when using baits. Depending on which bait you use, it can take several days to several weeks to see results.

Friday, March 14, 2008


Well, this is something new for me. I've been considering starting a blog, but have been a bit wishy-washy about doing so. I finally decided to take the leap and come up to date with what's going on in the world. I guess I didn't understand the purpose of blogging, but considering that I essentially do the same thing using an email list I've been compiling the past several years, I figured this might work out to my (and your) benefit. This way, I don't have to keep track of everyone's email when they change it and you benefit by having the option to unsubscribe whenever you want, or hopefully, tell your friends to subscribe as well.

This blog will enable me to communicate about IPM, mainly structural and landscape, and provide tips on how to best manage pests. Occasionally, I might throw in some odd things or random facts about bugs, just because they are truly amazing creatures. It's so great to have a job that I can mess around with bugs and get paid to do it! And mom, you thought I'd never get a job being an entomologist!

So, I hope that you'll subscribe and join my excitement for the very buggy world around us!