All posts by Hulett Environmental

FAQ’s About Ants

FAQ’s About Ants


There are more than 700 species of ants in the United States. Some of the most common include argentine, carpenter, odorous house, pavement and red imported fire ants.

All ants are social insects that live in colonies. They can be identified by their three distinct body regions: head, thorax, and abdomen. However, the biology and habits of each ant species is different and understanding these differences is necessary to effectively control an infestation.


It depends on the species, but ants are commonly attracted to the food in a kitchen, especially sweets and protein-containing substances. Ants are most often found on floors, countertops and in food items. Some species prefer to build nests in soil – such as landscaping – or cracks in concrete on your driveway, walkway or in your garage. Carpenter ants build nests in wood. Ants are typically found indoors the spring and summer months as they search for food.


Most species of ants are considered ‘nuisance pests,’ meaning that they don’t pose a significant threat to health or property, but are an annoyance when found indoors. In fact, ants are the number one nuisance pest in the United States.

Some species of ants, however, can pose threats to health and property. Carpenter ants, for example, excavate wood in order to build their nests, which can cause extensive damage to a structure. Fire ants, on the other hand, sting when threatened, resulting in painful welts that can be dangerous to allergic persons. These species should always be handled by a professional.

Regardless of the species all ants can contaminate food sources and small infestations can grow quickly, so any sign of an infestation should be dealt with promptly.


A trained and licensed pest professional is the best person to make a recommendation based on the proper identification of a particular ant species and the threats they could pose to health and property. Also, homeowners may have a preference as to which treatment is used, so it is important that they have a detailed conversation with their pest control company.  The cost of the treatments can vary depending on the size of the infestation and the property being treated.


There are as many ways to control ants as there are species of ants! Different species eat different things – making it almost impossible to inspect a single area and control the ant population.  The best strategy homeowners can employ when attempting to control ants is to clean, clean, clean. Wipe down counters, regularly remove garbage, clean up grease spills, rinse and remove empty soda cans or other recyclables and mop/sweep the floors. Homeowners should also keep food in sealed containers and keep pet food/water dishes clean. Outside the home, eliminate sources of moisture or standing water such as birdbaths or kiddie pools. Finally, seal cracks and holes around the home to close entry points.

What are the steps a homeowner needs to take to pest proof their home?

What are the steps a homeowner needs to take to pest proof their home?

Hulett recommends the following steps to pest proof your home:

  1. Seal up any cracks and holes on the outside of your home including areas where utilities and pipes enter your home. Frequent vacuuming can help to eliminate tiny pests that other pests feed on.
  2. Make sure vents are screened and gaps around windows and doors are sealed.
  3. Keep tree branches and shrubbery well trimmed and away from the house.
  4. Inspect boxes, grocery bags and other packaging thoroughly to curb hitchhiking insects.
  5. Keep basements, attics, and crawl spaces well ventilated and dry.
  6. Store garbage in sealed containers and dispose of it regularly.
  7. Store fire wood at least 20 feet away from the house and five inches off of the ground.
  8. Repair fascia and soffits and rotted roof shingles; some insects are drawn to deteriorating wood.
  9. Replace weather-stripping and repair loose mortar around the basement foundation and windows.
  10. A licensed and qualified pest control professional is your best resource to ensure these steps are completed properly.

Termite Infestation Signs

Here are a few clues that termites may be present in a home:


  1. Mud tubes (used by termites to reach a food source) on the exterior of the home
  2. Soft wood in the home that sounds hollow when tapped
  3. Darkening or blistering of wood structures
  4. Cracked or bubbling paint
  5. Small piles of feces that resembles sawdust near a termite nest
  6. Discarded wings near doors or on windowsills, indicating swarmers have entered the home


If homeowners notice any of these signs, they should contact a pest professional who can best determine the extent of the problem and recommend a proper treatment plan.


For more information on termites, please visit

Tips to limit mosquito exposure

Hulett Environmental Services recommends the following tips to avoid exposure to mosquitoes.

·         Wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts and closed-toe shoes to protect the skin

·         Minimize outside activity between dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active

·         Eliminate areas of standing water around the home, such as flowerpots, birdbaths and baby pools. Mosquitoes only need about ½ inch of water to breed

·         Screen all windows and doors, repairing even the smallest holes that could serve as entry points for pests


For more information on mosquitoes, please visit

Police Rescue Children from Horrendous Home

Police Rescue Children from Horrendous Home

Six children were found living in an Ocoee, Florida home without electricity or running water. According to police, the house was filled with cockroaches and animal feces. “Ocoee police responded to a call after Duke Energy cut off the electricity for thousands of dollars in unpaid utility bills,” police said. They also reported that the family was squatting in the home.

According to the arrest affidavit, when police received the warrant to search the home, they found toilets filled with feces, trash inside and outside the house and dog feces throughout the house.

“There was old and current dog feces on the floors and beds of which appeared to be where the children slept,” police said. “In two children’s bedrooms the beds were old and dirty with mold and rust stains on them. I observed insects on top of the beds (roaches) and rotting food on the floors and the beds.”

Police also reported a broken window in a bedroom that they believed was used to throw food waste into the backyard. Police found a loaded handgun in the master bedroom. The refrigerator, which could not close securely, was infested with both living and dead roaches. “The backyard of the home was filled with garbage bags. These bags had rotten food, roaches and I observed a rodent inside a fast food bag,” the police report claimed. The family was also stealing water from a neighbor.

DaQuan N. Smith, 35, (the children’s father) and their grandmother, Delthy A. Graham, 50, were charged with child neglect. Their mother Eboni S. Tucker-Smith, 32, was arrested on an outstanding perjury warrant.


The Department of Children and Family turned the children over to a family member.

An Ant Spy?

In today’s day and age, blending in with the crowd is not only a talent but a necessity. It comes in handy, especially in a country as diverse as America. The way we talk, the clothes we wear, our hair styles and attitude all help us blend with our surrounding and gain acceptance into schools, associations, social clubs and careers. Believe it or not, there is new species of ant that also knows a lot about blending in.

Cephalotes specularis, also known as the mirror turtle ant, is a new species of ant that has the rare ability to infiltrate enemy lines. This is the first incident on record for ants. The mirror turtle ant was discovered by Scott Powell, assistant professor of biology at George Washington University. While researching turtle ants in Brazil’s savannah region, Powell discovered a species of ant able to infiltrate the turf of another type of ant. It wasn’t attacked for being a spy or for leeching off the colony, which is exactly what it was doing.

Powell spent the next two years trying to find out how this could be possible. After some time he concluded that this new species was able to behave like the one it was trying to fool. By imitating its body movements and keeping far enough away as not o allow its scent to be detected it was able to fool the other ant. So the clever mirror turtle ant was able to feast for free from the opposing ant’s food supply and even forage on its food trails.

According to Powell, “During rush hour, the mirror turtle ants, also colored black, dive out of their nest and rapidly merge into the high-speed traffic. Once inside the host’s foraging network, the mirror turtle ants disguise themselves among the enemy workers by mirroring their unique body movements. The impostors go largely unnoticed as they quickly weave through traffic lanes and dodge the host ants. This mimicking behavior allows the parasitic ants to successfully locate and exploit the host’s food resources.”

The mirror turtle ants are so masterful at this infiltration, that they are actually better at following chemical trails left by the host ant than those of their own workers. Powell’s study also revealed that mirror turtle ants were “embedded within a whopping 89 percent of host territories.”



Supermosquitoes? Really?

Supermosquitoes? Really?

While dengue fever or virus is not often fatal, its symptoms include fever, severe muscle and joint pain, and a skin rash similar to measles. This mosquito-borne disease not common in the continental U.S., but, according to a study published in July, ‘Brazil has reported 7 million cases of dengue fever between 2000 and 2013.’

As response to the growing concerns in South America, scientists released tens of thousands of infected supermosquitoes into neighborhoods. The supermosquitoes carry the wolbachia bacteria, a new, natural weapon in the battle with dengue fever. Wolbachia bacteria is found in 60 percent of all insects, but it cannot be transmitted to humans. Australian researchers discovered that the bacteria can serve as a dengue vaccine in mosquitoes so they cannot pass it on to humans.

Hopefully, the bacteria will be passed through generations of mosquitoes and eventually halt the spread dengue fever by mosquitoes.

According to the CDC, ‘more than one-third of the world’s population living in areas at risk for infection, dengue virus is a leading cause of illness and death in the tropics and subtropics. As many as 400 million people are infected yearly. Dengue is caused by any one of four related viruses transmitted by mosquitoes.’

CDC also reports that, ‘dengue has emerged as a worldwide problem only since the 1950s. Although dengue rarely occurs in the continental United States, it is endemic in Puerto Rico and in many popular tourist destinations in Latin America, Southeast Asia and the Pacific islands.

Ren Kimura and Susumu Hotta isolated the dengue virus for the first time in 1943. The scientists were analyzing blood samples of patients taken during the 1943 dengue epidemic in Nagasaki, Japan. A year later, Albert B. Sabin and Walter Schlesinger independently isolated the dengue virus. Both pairs of scientists had isolated the virus now referred to as dengue virus 1 (DEN-1). Is DEN-1 the only type of dengue virus?



Half-male, Half-fem Butterfly Causes Stir

Half-male, Half-fem Butterfly Causes Stir.

Imagine a person who is both male and female and not just on the inside. Literally imagine, half of this person is visibly male and the other half is female. It happens.

A rare half-male, half-female butterfly has been discovered. A condition called bilateral gynandromorphy means the butterfly is split down the middle: half male, half female. The wing on the left is typical of a male Lexias pardalis butterfly. The wing on the right is typical of a female. In addition, the butterfly’s body is also half male and half female.

The butterfly, which is no longer alive, was a resident of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University. Museum staff noticed the interesting features as soon as it emerged from its cocoon and spread its wings.

According to researchers, “Gynandromorphism is most frequently noticed in bird and butterfly species where the two sexes have very different coloration. It can result from non-disjunction of sex chromosomes, an error that sometimes occurs during the division of chromosomes at a very early stage of development.”

This condition is different from hermaphroditism, where the outward characteristics of only one gender would be present. The condition is quite rare. It is also difficult to spot in species where both sexes look alike.

Several theories exist that explain how this rare oddity occurs in animals such as birds. One theory is that bilateral gynandromorphs are chimeras, two separate embryos that fuse together in early development. They are essentially the opposite of identical twins where one embryo separates into two. Another hypothesis is that gynandromorphism in birds happens when the sex chromosomes are unable to separate in the first cell division after fertilization. Still others suggest that the error occurs in the formation of the egg itself. The egg accidentally ends up carrying two chromosomes, one of each sex, rather than the single chromosome it should possess.

Flies and Flight

Flies and Flight

The next time a fly or mosquito goes buzzing by your head and you risk throwing out your back again or swatting great grandma’s ancient antique vase off the counter and smashing it into a thousand and one pieces, consider this. Most flies’ wings flap over 200Hz or 200 cycles per second. A fruit fly beats its wings faster than neurons can fire. In addition to speed their ability to change directions, stop on a dime, hoover and land upside down is not only mind boggling but fun to watch.

Recently published research investigates how flies pull their speed and high flying antics. For some time researchers have known that all flies have a “gearbox” but had no idea where it was. Finally, the location of phantom gearbox has been found. This discovery is important not just from a biological sense but also because engineers often turn to insects for technical inspiration for biomimetic (synthetic methods that mimic biochemical processes) robots, drones, and other machines.

The question researchers needed to answer was how do wings and halteres (drumstick-like organs that function as gyroscopes to help flies orient themselves in flight) maintain precise coordination at such rapid frequencies?  The researchers put forth two hypotheses. One possible explanation was that the wings and halters, although driven by independent sets of muscles, were mechanically coupled. A second explanation was that sensory feedback influences wing motor neurons.

To pinpoint where the mechanical coupling or “gear box” was controlled, researchers sliced through various parts of flies’ thoraxes, and filmed how it affected flight. When the researchers cut the sub-epimeral ridge (a bump on the lower side of a fly thorax), the fly’s transmission fell apart.

Learning the Language of Pests

Insects rely heavily on chemical signals probably more than on any other form of communication. These signals, called semiochemicals or infochemicals, serve as a “language” that mediates interactions between organisms. Insects may be highly sensitive to low concentrations of these chemicals.

At the University of California, Riverside, entomologists and chemists have developed a technique for replicating complex chemical mixtures of the chemical signals insects use to communicate. This development could result in new “green” methods for controlling pest like ants by disrupting the organization of their colonies.

Most insects use chemical signals for communicating with species and sex. Social insects such as ants living in colonies also differentiate castes (workers, queens, and drones) based on chemical cues. Insects employ their sense of taste or smell in order to detect the presence of semiochemicals. Specialized receptors may be located anywhere on the body, but are commonly found on the feet, antennae, palps, and ovipositor. “Insects that live in large colonies, such as ants and bees, these chemicals have additional functions,” said co-author Jocelyn G. Millar. “The queen in these colonies, for example, uses the chemicals to prevent her workers from laying eggs of their own and ensuring that she remains the only reproducing female in the colony.”

The researchers devised a technique that allowed them to isolate 36 pure hydrocarbon molecules from the complex chemical blends of 20 randomly-chosen insect species. After the compounds could be conclusively identified, the effects of the individual chemicals could be tested. Their technique is described in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

If these chemicals could be isolated, they could utilized to enhance pest control efforts and may one day replace insecticides. However, isolating these chemicals and determining their absolute configurations and functions has been challenging because the chemicals occur in complex mixtures which are hard to separate.