Ghost Ant Pests Nest Within Narrow Spaces Like Cracks And Spaces Between Shelved Books

Tapinoma melanocephalum is an ant species that is capable of thriving within a variety of environmental conditions both indoors and outdoors. Because of their unique adaptability, T. melanocephalum, or the “ghost ant,” has spread to every continent with the exception of Antarctica, making it a “tramp ant” species. Like most tramp ant species, ghost ants easily spread throughout the world by means of all types of international travel, including maritime trade, air-freight, and recreational travel. In fact, their remarkably small size and ability to establish nests within cracks and other microhabitats allows ghost ant colonies to survive long periods within carry on luggage and electronic goods, plant materials, and clothing products that are shipped to all corners of the globe.

Like all tramp ant species, ghost ants have achieved invasive pest status in virtually every region where they have been introduced, and they are one of the most commonly intercepted exotic ant species at coastal ports in the US, Australia, New Zealand, and several other countries. Despite their tropical origins, ghost ants survive temperate northern climates by nesting solely within structures, particularly greenhouses. Amazingly, colonies have been found as far north as Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada where numerous nests had become established within an apartment complex. Although ghost ant colonies were found in Texas for the first time as recently as 1994, they have since become one of the most commonly encountered ant pests within homes throughout much of the state.

In the US, ghost ants have established a permanent habitat in the states of Florida, Hawaii, Texas and Kansas where they dwell exclusively within manmade environments. According to a recent nationwide survey of pest control professionals, ghost ants were the eighth most commonly managed ant pests within homes throughout the country during 2016, which was a surprising find considering that the species inhabits only three states. In central Texas homes, ghost ants can readily establish several well concealed nesting sites within just about any indoor location or object imaginable, such as plant stems and cracks and crevices on floors, walls and within wall voids and ceiling voids.

Workers are 1 to 2 mm in body length, but their commonality, pale color, disagreeable odor and fast and erratic movements make them recognizable to pest control professionals. Workers are often found emerging from between shelved books, electrical sockets, light fixtures, sink drains and kitchen cabinets where they seek out sweet-tasting food sources. Much like Pharaoh ants, ghost ants live with many queens in colonies that readily multiply by splitting, or “budding,” but they follow defined foraging trails that, if followed, will eventually reveal the location of indoor and outdoor nesting sites. Because of their taste for sweets and trail-following behavior, ghost ants can be controlled with baiting strategies.

Do you think that you may have encountered ghost ants within your home before?


Where In Soil Are Subterranean Termites Typically Located, And How Do They Locate Above-Ground Structural Wood Within Homes?

More than 50 termite species have been documented in the United States, and around a dozen of these species are considered structural pests. With the exception of Alaska, termite pests can be found in every US state, and they inflict well over two billion dollars in structural damage annually in the US alone, making them the most economically significant household pests, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s website. Waco and most other urban areas of central Texas are located within a geographic region where termite pest activity is categorized as “moderate to heavy.”

Several termite species can be found in central Texas including the most destructive species in the country. Dampwood termites are rare and insignificant as structural pests in Texas, while drywood termites are relatively common and damaging throughout most of the state. However, the only termites that homeowners in central Texas should be mindful of are subterranean termites, especially eastern subterranean termites, but the highly destructive and invasive Formosan subterranean termite species is slowly becoming more common in the region.

Just as their name suggests, subterranean termites dwell below the ground where workers tunnel through soil in search of food in the form of wood. Experts have traditionally assumed that subterranean termite workers forage randomly in the soil where they occasionally encounter homes by chance. Today, it is understood that subterranean termites search for food in a far more efficient manner, as workers slowly move away from the colony in a radial pattern in order to locate as many food sources as possible.

While workers are able to sense chemical cues emitted from wood, they cannot detect structural wood in homes from long distances because the ground soil acts as a barrier. However, workers often forage along below-ground objects like foundation walls, plumbing, and cables, which can lead them directly to structures. When foundation walls are encountered, workers usually travel upwards through mud tubes that penetrate foundation cracks as narrow as 1/64 of an inch wide in order to access structural wood. Mud tubes are as wide or wider than a typical pencil, and they are light brown to brown in color. Finding mud tubes running vertically along foundation walls is how infestations are usually discovered.

Have you ever found mud tubes on your foundation walls?


While Norway Rats And Roof Rats Have A Comparable Physical Appearance, Their Pest Behaviors Within And Around Homes Differ Significantly

Rodents make up 40 percent of all extant mammalian species that have been documented worldwide, and some of the most well known rodent groups include squirrels, voles, muskrats, prairie dogs, beavers, chipmunks, and of course, rats and mice. Of the more than 1,500 extant rodent species that have been documented worldwide, many are capable of transmitting disease to humans, and some are known pests of structures, cultivated landscapes, and/or agricultural crops. For example, beavers, chipmunks, and prairie dogs are all known for excavating ground soil in ecologically fragile or cultivated landscapes like gardens, lawn-grass, and golf courses. However, with the occasional exception of squirrels, the only rodents that make a habit out of regularly infesting homes and buildings are certain rat and mouse species.

Rodents include all mammalian species that belong to the Rodentia order, and experts believe the first rodents to exist emerged around 54 million years ago. The two rat pest species that frequently infest homes and buildings in central Texas each belong to the Rattus genus in the Muridae family. The Rattus genus is believed to have emerged between three and six million years ago, and the two Rattus species that are abundant pests in much of the world today diverged from one another to become their own species around 500,000 years ago. These two species are commonly known as Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus) and roof rats (Rattus rattus), and the former is the most common and widespread rat species in the US. Although Norway rats outcompete roof rats for resources in urban areas, both of these species frequently infest homes and buildings in central Texas.

To the casual observer, Norway rats and roof rats look alike, as they each have a similar fur color and body size. However, while roof rats have a uniformly dark grey or black fur coat and an unkempt appearance, Norway rats have a similarly colored, but smoother looking fur coat that features a white patch on the underbelly. Also, Norway rats are 8 to 10 inches in length, while roof rats are 7 to 8 inches in length. Due to their commonality in urban areas, Norway rats are well known for nesting with ground burrows on properties and for invading homes from the ground surface by squeezing beneath door gaps, accessing crawl spaces, and in rare cases, traveling into homes through sewer pipes. Roof rats, on the other hand, prefer to forage and nest above ground in trees, on structures and other elevated locations. Because of their foraging and nesting behavior, roof rats usually invade homes through attic vents, gaps around utility openings on walls, and upper story windows. Once they gain access indoors, roof rats tend to establish concealed harborages in attics, while Norway rats usually remain on the ground floor within wall voids, crowded storage areas, and within crawl spaces.


Have you ever found signs of rat activity within your attic?


How To Know If The Swarming Insects In Your Texas Home Are Ants Or Termites

How To Know If The Swarming Insects In Your Texas Home Are Ants Or Termites

We are well into the spring season, and summer is just around the corner, which means that the insect swarms occurring around residential and urban areas of Texas will only continue to increase in frequency. The two most common groups of insect pests in Texas homes during the spring and early summer seasons are ants and termites, and both have been swarming into indoor areas for the past several months in the state. However, swarms emerge at different times in Texas depending on region. The frequent bouts of rainfall have also been making termite and ant swarms more frequent lately, especially in south Texas.

In south Texas, subterranean termite swarms begin to emerge as early as January and February, while the panhandle typically sees swarms emerge during the months of April and May. Subterranean termites swarmers (alates) emerge from existing colonies in order to start new colonies, but most alates die before finding a mate. When subterranean termites swarm indoors, they will most certainly fail to establish a new colony, as these termites must initiate new colonies within soil. In rare cases, indoor subterranean termite swarmers (alates) access soil by exiting through a window. Although indoor termite alates cannot contribute to the spread of termites within a structure, these swarms often indicate that active colonies may already exist in the vicinity.

Swarming ants may be a nuisance, but most winged species do not emerge from colonies that are destructive to homes or buildings, and therefore, swarming ants can usually be dismissed as harmless. Carpenter ants can infest wood, but the damage they cause to structural wood is not nearly as extensive as termite damage. This is because carpenter ants, unlike termites, do not feed on wood; instead, carpenter ants merely bore nesting galleries into structural wood sources. That being said, carpenter ant swarms can be just as dramatic as subterranean termite swarms. Since subterranean termite and carpenter ant swarms occur within homes and buildings at the same time of year in Texas, it is important for residents to properly differentiate between winged termite alates and winged carpenter ants.

Winged subterranean termite alates possess two sets of equal sized wings, while winged ant swarmers possess hind wings that are larger in size than the anterior set. A narrow midsection is a feature common to all winged ants that clearly differentiate them from subterranean termite alates. While 14 carpenter ant species have been documented in Texas, the C. rasilis species is the most common carpenter ant swarmer that emerges within homes in the state. Swarmers of this species can be recognized by their quarter inch long and reddish-black bodies.

Do you believe that you can discern between a carpenter ant swarm and a subterranean termite swarm?


The Little Known, But Common Cockroach Pest That Is Commonly Mistaken For The American Cockroach

Periplaneta brunnea, or the “brown cockroach,” as it is more commonly known, is a common household pest in most areas of Texas despite not being particularly well known to the public. The lack of public familiarity with the brown cockroach is likely due to its close resemblance to the very well known American cockroach. There are very few physical features that differentiate brown cockroaches from American cockroaches, as they are both brown in color and are relatively large in size. Both brown and American cockroaches are between 1 ¼ and 2 inches in length, are brown in color, and each species possesses a yellowish band directly behind the head. However, brown cockroaches are slightly darker and wider than American cockroaches, and only the latter possesses wings that extend beyond the abdomen. While it is difficult to tell brown and American cockroaches apart, they each exhibit different pest behaviors within homes. Surprisingly, brown cockroaches are even more abundant in certain areas of Texas than American cockroaches.

The brown cockroach is native to the tropics, and due to their intolerance to the cold, their non-native habitat in the US is largely restricted to the southern states, especially Texas. In the rare instances in which brown cockroaches were found in northern regions of the US, their habitat had been limited solely to indoor environments. Female brown cockroaches mate quickly once they reach adulthood, and within two to three weeks following copulation, females deposit their egg case within a protected indoor area. Cockroach egg sacs are known as “oothecae” (plural), and the oothecae deposited by female brown cockroaches contain an average of 24 eggs. Females can deposit as many as 30 oothecae during their lifetime, and brown cockroaches reproduce more rapidly than American cockroaches. Brown cockroach oothecae are around ½ inch in length, and they are initially brown, but they blacken with age. It is difficult to locate an ootheca within homes, as female cockroaches take measures to hide oothecae after depositing them. Female brown cockroaches use a salivary substance to paste their oothecae to vertical surfaces before hiding them in nearby debris to prevent other roaches from finding and eating the eggs. It takes around 340 days for brown cockroach eggs to develop into adults, which is shorter than the American cockroach life cycle. Brown cockroaches are well controlled with baits.

Have you ever encountered 2 inch cockroaches within your home?


Which Scorpion Species Common Enter Central Texas Homes, And How Can Residents Prevent Infestations

Centruroides vittatus, or the”striped bark scorpion,” as the species is more commonly known, is the most frequently spotted scorpion species in the United States. This scorpion species is abundant all throughout Texas where it frequently enters homes by climbing exterior walls. Of the more than 1,500 scorpion species documented worldwide, only 20 to 25 species are considered dangerous to humans, and the striped bark scorpion is not one of them. However, striped bark scorpions can pose a tremendous nuisance when they move indoors, which they often do, as they are accustomed to living alongside humans. In addition to the striped bark scorpion, the Texas cave scorpion can also be found throughout much of the state including the central portion, but this species is unlikely to appear indoors.

Most people can readily recognize a scorpion when they see one, but the striped bark scorpion is quite small at only 2 ½ inches in length, and their bodies are usually yellow to tan in color with two vertical stripes running down their back. Most people that sustain one or more striped bark scorpion stings experience local pain and swelling for 10 to 20 minutes, but those who are allergic to their venom can suffer a potentially fatal case of anaphylaxis. It should be known that the venom produced by other insects, such as red imported fire ants, may cross-react with striped bark scorpion venom. Striped bark scorpions can be found in mountains, grasslands, pine forests, deciduous forests, dunes and they are the most commonly managed scorpion pests in central Texas homes, as Texas cave scorpions prefer outdoor habitats. These scorpions are often found below debris, wood piles and bundles of plant matter, but unlike most scorpions, they do not burrow; instead, they are skilled climbers, and they frequently congregate in  attics by entering vents. Scorpions can remain in attics for long periods of time without being noticed by homeowners, but it is not uncommon for striped bark scorpion to migrate into lower-level living areas from hot upstairs attics during the summer.

Scorpions cannot be controlled with insecticides alone, and making structural modifications is often necessary to keep them outdoors. All cracks and other potential entry points on the exterior walls of homes should be sealed, crawl space and attic vents should be outfitted with a mesh-screen barrier, door sweeps should be installed, all plant matter, excess vegetation and clutter should be removed from yards, especially from around homes, grass should be well groomed, and apply caulk around utility openings and roof eaves. Licensed pest control operators should be contacted when chemical control becomes necessary.

Have you ever found scorpions in your home?



A New Disease-Carrying Mosquito Species Has Been Discovered In Waco

When the Zika epidemic hit tropical and subtropical regions in the Americas back in 2015, the disease was unknown to virtually all people living in the US. Between 2015 and 2017, 325 people in Texas had reportedly contracted Zika, but most of these cases were acquired overseas or through sexual transmission. Two people in Texas contracted Zika locally in the state in 2017, and while no additional cases have been reported in the US since then, experts state that it is only a matter of time before another Zika epidemic occurs in the country. Mosquito-borne diseases are unpredictable, but one thing is for sure, when another outbreak of the Zika virus, or any mosquito-borne disease occurs, Texas residents will be particularly vulnerable.

Since 2004, the number of mosquito-borne disease cases in Texas more than tripled, with the most common diseases being the West Nile virus, the Zika virus, and encephalitic diseases. However, researchers regularly find several mosquito specimens infected with dengue, malaria and chikungunya in the state. There is a high number of disease-carrying mosquito species in Central Texas where the West Nile virus is the most frequently contracted mosquito-borne disease. In Travis County, more than 170 West Nile cases have been reported since 2007. For more than a decade, Waco’s mosquito surveillance program has aimed to protect residents from contacting mosquito-borne diseases by forecasting the seasonal abundance of mosquitoes.

According to Baylor biologist Dr. Cheolho Sim, there are two mosquito seasons in Waco, the first of which occurs during the spring right before summer (May and June), and the second occurs right after summer (September and October). Researchers recently discovered a mosquito species of the Psorophora genus breeding in Waco for the first time in history. This species is known to transmit eastern equine encephalitis to humans, and it is unique for not requiring water for the purpose of breeding; instead, this new mosquito species can breed in soil. This new species is likely to facilitate the spread of disease in Waco, but it is not considered as dangerous as Culex and Aedes species. Experts consider Waco to be among the 50 most mosquito-heavy cities in the US, and residents are strongly advised to wear insect repellent containing DEET or Picaridin before spending time outdoors.

Do you take precautions to avoid mosquito bites?

Coronavirus: Message to Our Customers

During this uncertain time, our customers’ health and well being is our highest priority. As we continue monitoring developments related to Coronavirus (COVID-19), rest assured, we are committed to doing everything we can to ensure our customers and employees are safe.

We are taking the following precautions regarding our services:

  • Suspending all interior services/treatments unless absolutely necessary
  • Ensuring our team wears proper gloves and masks if entering your home

As a note, we are running on normal business hours at this time. Should you have concerns regarding our services, we’re here to support you and offer flexibility to reschedule at your convenience. We encourage you to contact us at 254-855-6647 if you have questions or do wish to reschedule.

As the seriousness of this virus increases, all of our employees have been instructed to follow the CDC’s best practices, including frequent handwashing, limiting proximity to sick individuals, and being aware of symptoms. While this has not been an issue for iPest Solutions yet, we will also implement 14-day quarantines for any employees who show symptoms or are diagnosed with COVID-19. We encourage you to do the same, so please review the most up-to-date information here.

Finally, our hearts go out to all those affected by Coronavirus. Please check back for regular updates from us as we navigate this evolving situation, and thank you for being a part of our iPest Solutions family.


How Termites Use Clay To Prevent Infested Structures From Collapsing

While it is obvious to most people that termites consume wood, many people are not aware of the fact that termites consume wood in order to retain cellulose, which is the main constituent of plant cell walls. Termites are lucky in that cellulose is one of the most abundant organic compounds on the planet, so the insects do not have to travel far to attain their essential nutrients. Most termite species, including all species native to the United States, find their cellulose within sources of wood, such as dead rotting logs, wood debris, dead trees and most notably, structural lumber. In some cases, termite colonies will feast on sources of wood that bear significant loads of weight, such as at the base of a tree or structural lumber. In other cases, termites infest light pieces of wood that bear very little weight, such as mulch, twigs, logs and tree stumps.

As termites dig tunnels within wood and consume the excavated particles, infested wood can become completely hollow or partially hollow. As you can imagine, this is problematic for termites that feed on load-bearing wood since hollowing out the wood located at the base of a structure will, obviously, weaken the structure, making the eventual collapse of an infested tree or house inevitable. While nobody wants their house to collapse or partially collapse due to a termite infestation within the base of their home’s timber frame, termites also want to avoid this outcome, as such a collapse would crush an entire colony to death. Researchers now believe that termites may be able to perceive the difference between load-bearing and unloaded wood sources in order to avoid the dangers of colonizing sources of wood that could collapse over them.

Both entomologists and pest control professionals have long been aware of the fact that termites use clay sourced from soil to coat the tunnels that they build within wood. However, the reason for this interesting use of clay is only now becoming clear to researchers. According to a study published a few years ago, termites only apply clay to tunnels built within load-bearing wood sources so as to prevent collapse by providing structural support once the clay hardens. By coating hollowed tunnels with clay, termites compensate for the initial structural weakness that results from excavating wood at the base of a load-bearing structure. In other words, termites work to maintain the structural integrity of the load-bearing wood sources that they infest. Apparently, in addition to consuming structural sources of wood, termites also work to keep them standing.

Have you ever seen a plaster cast of a termite nest located within wood at an entomology museum or anywhere else?



The Tiny Insect Pests That Invade Homes In The Millions Every Year In Central Texas

During the months of September, October and November, homes located near hackberry trees are often invaded by tiny grey to black bugs. Pachypsylla celtidismamma, or the Hackberry Gall Psyllid, as it is more commonly known, is an insect species that dwells in hackberry trees. When leaves begin to fall, millions of these insects make a mad dash into nearby homes where they pose a tremendous nuisance to residents. Every year in central Texas, these insects cover the exterior walls of homes, vehicles and everything in sight in an effort to secure warm shelter for the winter season. These minute insects often get stuck in people’s hair and ears, which prompts many residential calls to the Texas A & M extension office.

Most residential calls received by entomologists and pest control professionals at the extension office are from residents who are concerned that these insects may cause physical harm. Luckily, hackberry gall psyllids do not bite, sting or damage property, but they do cause a tremendous nuisance in residential areas. These insect pests are attracted to lights, and due to their small size at 1/10 of an inch in length, hackberry gall psyllids are small enough to enter homes through the tiniest of openings including window screens. Many people who have issues with these pests believe that they are gnats, flies or fleas, but they look more like cicadas when viewed with a magnification lense.

Hackberry gall psyllids are able to overwinter in natural conditions beneath the bark of trees, but unlike most insects that overwinter outdoors, these insects also squeeze into small cracks and crevices on the exterior walls of homes and vehicles. These cracks and crevices often lead indoors where the insects disturb residents, but luckily, they die within a short time after gaining access indoors. Since these invasions are an annual nuisance in residential areas of central Texas and elsewhere, many homeowners want their hackberry trees sprayed with insecticide to prevent infestations. Pest control professionals often spray hackberry trees during the spring before a large number of hackberry gall psyllids have a chance to develop.

Have you ever experienced an invasion of hackberry gall psyllids?