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Ant Spotlight: White-Footed Ants

Ant Spotlight: White-Footed Ants

Another pesky ant that persists in annoying South Florida homeowners, the white-footed ant, an “old-world” species is often confused with other ants, such as Argentine and crazy ants.  The white-footed ant, a nuisance pest in South Florida, fortunately does not sting, bite, or possess powerful mandibles that would cause structural damage. So, what’s the problem?

Well, the problem seems to be that white-footed ant populations can number 3 million members and that is a lot of ants foraging around in your kitchen, surprising you in your bathroom and just basically irritating homeowners by foraging up exterior walls and into your home in search of sweet things to eat.

White-footed ants can present bigger problems for agriculture

This farmer’s nightmare is a medium-small, black-brownish colored ant with yellowish-white feet, white-footed ants have a single segmented waist and measure 2.5mm in length. These small ants can be fierce defenders of their food sources, preferring sweet plant nectars and honeydew produced by many sap-sucking insects, such as mealy-bugs, scale and aphids, these white-footed ants protect these sap-sucking insects, causing big problems for commercial greenhouses by negatively affecting the imported exotic orchid and fruit markets.

White-footed ants were first collected in 1986 at a nursery in Homestead, Florida.  By 2002   white-footed ants had spread to Brevard, Broward, Collier, Miami-Dade, Hendry, Lee, Monroe, Orange, Palm Beach, Polk, St. Lucie, Sarasota, Seminole, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties in Florida. 2004 saw suspected infestations in Indian River and Charlotte counties. These prolific white-footed ants have managed to spread to urban and suburban areas in south and central Florida as well.  Like many non-native insect species, white-footed ants were probably transported to the US in residential landscaping plants and materials accidentally.

White-footed ants can be difficult to control for several reasons

The fact that white-footed ants can reproduce quickly and in large numbers make these ants difficult to control. Close to half the colony of white-footed ants consists of fertile, reproductive females that are inseminated by wingless males. These reproductive females, or intercastes, eventually leave the nest with other nest mates to form new colonies, a process known as “budding” or causing new problems in the neighborhood.

These fertile, winged reproductive ants, known as alates swarm between July and August in South Florida. During their nuptial flights, pairs of alates mate and form new colonies. These nests form part of the intricate networks of nests that can make up an extended white-footed ant colony, which is often spread out over a large area.

White-footed foraging workers do not ingest food and then share it with other colony members, like other ants. Also, sterile workers lay unfertilized eggs, called trophic eggs, that are fed to non-foraging adults and developing offspring. The eating habits of the white-footed ants make them difficult to control for professionals and a hopeless endeavor for the do-it-yourselfer.  They do not share their food with other ants, so only half of the colony is affected by using baits.

Nesting habits also make white-footed ants a persistent problem for South Florida homeowners

Many locations in, and around your property, can be inviting to white-footed ants. In the wild, white-footed ants prefer to nest at ground level or above in shrubs and bushes containing sap-sucking insects, in old trees, under loose bark, in rotten tree trunks and limbs, in the palm petiole bases, under piles of leaves, in compost piles, under rocks, following fence lines and in outdoor furniture, in addition to abandoned termite galleries. While these ants tend to prefer outdoor nests to indoor nests, getting too close for comfort, white-footed ants can be found nesting under doormats, in wall voids, in attics, under roof shingles and in cardboard boxes. Any damp spaces in and around your home can be fair game for white-footed ant nesting places.

This ant’s need to colonize a big slice of real estate adds to homeowners’ frustration. White-footed ants like to spread out around your property. Ants in the same colony can live in a primary nest with many satellite nests, some indoors and some outdoors. Nesting sites house the eggs, the developing young, the pupae and the adult ants. With numerous nests making up a colony, delineating the limits of a single colony is sometimes impossible, as all nests in an area seem to be interconnected.

Homeowners often detect white-footed ants when they forage in distinctive trails

With millions of members in a white-footed ant colony, food is a priority.  Preferring sweet foods, white-footed ants can be found foraging on bushes and ornamental plants that contain nectars and are frequented by aphids, mealybugs, scale and other sap-sucking insects. Foragers lay down a trail of pheromones that lead to food sources. As nest mates move back and forth from food sources to their nests, they can be spotted trailing in lines, along external walls that leads to a small crack or crevice in your home’s foundation or walls. Often, trailing inside walls, following electrical cables, white-footed ants find their way into rooms where liquids and solid food sources can result in heavy trailing activity, especially in kitchens and bathrooms.

Contact a licensed and certified professional pest control company

If you suspect you are dealing with white-footed ants, the most reliable way to control these insects with huge colonies and networks of satellite nests is to contact a pest control professional. Do-it-yourself baits and other materials may work to cut down a percentage of a white-footed ant population for a while, but unless nests are pinpointed for treatment with industry-tested and proven methods and materials, by certified and licensed professionals, chances are white-footed ants will continue to pester you and your loved ones.

Hulett’s Healthy Home Guarantee

Hulett Environmental Services, locally owned and operated for over 35 years by Tim Hulett, utilizes the highest quality, most efficient, environmentally responsible methods and materials to eliminate white-footed ants from your property. Strategically placing liquid and gel materials where they will kill the reproductive queens causes the colony to collapse. Locating many satellite nests, using our integrated pest management system, Hulett gets to the multiple sources of your white-footed ant concerns.

Things you can do to deter white-footed ants and other pests

As a preventative measure, Hulett’s Healthy Home Guarantee offers a variety of annual pest protection plans that create a pest-proof barrier around your home and property. We are confident that you will be so satisfied with our services, we guarantee them. Homeowners can also take some common-sense measures to prevent white-footed ants and other household pests from finding your home attractive. These measures include:

  • Trimming all tree branches and shrubbery away from your home
  • Eliminating all debris and clutter in and around your home
  • Keeping grass cut short and eliminating areas of tall vegetation
  • Regularly cleaning your home, wiping down countertops, tables and other food and dining surfaces
  • Sweeping or vacuuming after every food event
  • Storing dried goods in metal, glass or hard plastic air-tight containers
  • Storing opened bread, pastries and other sweet items in air-tight containers or in the fridge.
  • Repairing all leaky faucets and drains
  • Eliminating water prone areas in your yard
  • Sanitizing outdoor trash receptacles and keeping all trash contained in air-tight containers
  • Sealing all cracks and crevices in your foundation and around entryways

South Florida is a haven for many household pests. Let Hulett safeguard your home and loved ones from white-footed ants and all other pesky would-be intruders. Contact us to schedule a free pest inspection today!  Hulett nips your white-footed ant issue in the bud! Just call Hulett at (866) 611-BUGS!

Rats, a Rat!

Rats, a Rat!

As winter approaches, days get shorter, temps begin to finally fall, and rats start to look for places to settle in for the season. Even in South Florida, where temps stay relatively warm, cool spells can send rodents scurrying for warm and cozy places to escape predators, where they can find food, water and focus on enlarging their families. They don’t take up much space or eat that much food but if your home becomes a winter retreat for rats, you could be in for a rough season.

Rats create fire hazards, cause structural damage and carry diseases

Rats not only cause damage to structures and create fire hazards, they can carry at least ten diseases including bubonic plague, murine typhus, jaundice, rabies and ratbite fever as well as cause food-related illnesses. Resilient and intelligent, rat brains closely resemble human brains and by studying lab rats, researchers can better understand how the human brain works. But that’s a different story for a different day. For now, let’s focus on how to identify rats in your home and eliminate them from your property.

Two of the most persistent rats in South Florida are the roof rat and the Norway rat:

  • Roof rats: These rodents are also known as fruit rats, citrus rats and black rats
    • Ranging in color from black to gray with tan to white undersides, roof rats have large ears and eyes and measure up to 16 inches, including their tails, which are longer than their bodies.
    • Roof rats like to live above the ground, usually in trees and in your attic.
    • Maturing in 3-5 months, roof rats produce 6-8 young per litter, up to 6 times per year
    • Roof rat droppings average ½ inch long and are spindle-shaped
  • Norway rats: Rodents are known by their more popular names such as sewer rats, wharf rats, brown rats and river rats
    • Reddish-brown, with scattered black hairs, gray to white undersides and blunt noses, Norway rats are larger than roof rats, measuring 18-20 inches, including their tails.
    • Norway rats live near water and burrow under homes as well as in your basement (should you have one in Florida) and crawlspaces.
    • Reaching maturity in 3-5 months, the more prolific Norway rats can produce 8-12 young per litter up to 7 times per year.
    • Norway rat droppings average ¾ inch long and are capsule–shaped.

Rats need to gnaw and will chew through almost any substance

With teeth harder than platinum and incredible jaw strength, rats can chew through wood, metal, stucco, electrical wiring and even concrete (CBS). Rats, also excellent swimmers have been known to chew through sewer caps, entering homes through toilets. To survive they must constantly chew to manage their rapidly growing teeth, rodents make up the list of prime suspects in house fires of unknown origins. Norway rats can cause foundation damage by burrowing under concrete slabs and under home foundations. Rats possess superior balance, running easily on pipes, ledges and utility wires. Roof rats will climb anything they can hold onto, including pipes, wires and rough walls.

Rats can spread diseases and other pathogens in a variety of ways

Rodents are vectors for Bubonic Plague, Hantavirus and a number of serious diseases.  Rats carry fleas and ticks that feed on their blood, infecting them with pathogens that pose risks to human and pet health. Hantavirus, a respiratory condition, can be contracted from inhalation of airborne particles in dried rat feces, urine and saliva. Rats can transfer bacteria to food sources causing salmonella and E-coli.

Rodents coming into direct contact with humans and your pets spread diseases and viruses by:

  • People and animals handling or touching dead rats
  • Live rodents biting people and/or animals
  • Humans inhaling dried rodent excrement, while cleaning rodent affected areas- Never clean-up without a mask.
  • Humans ingesting food contaminated by rats

Nocturnal pests, rats tend to sleep and stay put during the day, moving about at night in search of food and water

Unless you actually see a rat in your house, chances are you might not even know there’s a population growing in your attic, basement or inside your walls. Since rats multiply at an alarming rate, Hulett suggests homeowners learn to recognize tell-tale signs of a rat issue early on, in order to prevent an infestation.

  • Scratching and scurrying noises in your walls and attic can indicate rodent activity, as rats make for your kitchen at night
  • Chewed food bags and rat droppings in your kitchen indicate rat activity
  • Chirping and squeaking noises in your walls and attic are indicators of rats nearby
  • Rats like to use regular pathways, so packed down areas near walls and greasy marks on walls indicate rodent activity.

Your first line of attack when dealing with a suspected rat situation: Contact a professional

Rats are intelligent and leery of anything new in their environments, relying on trained and licensed pest control professionals can save you time and money investing in traps and baits that either don’t work and/or in retrieving rat carcasses from hard to reach places, due to improper placement of traps and baits you are exposed to disease and unpleasant smells.

At Hulett, our integrated pest management system (IPM) uses the most current rodent capture equipment, in addition to non-toxic, environmentally responsible baits, placed in strategic locations to reduce rat populations. We then remove carcasses, until rats are eliminated. Monitoring for additional rodent activity, Hulett affixes locked, tamper-proof feeding stations to patio stones around your home’s perimeter that use an anticoagulant material to finalize your rat elimination process.

Exclusion seals the deal

  • Rats can squeeze through holes no larger than a nickel. Sealing or caulking all small cracks, crevices and holes in your home’s foundation and around   windows, doors and other entryways makes a huge difference in rats gaining     access to your home and loved ones.
  • Fitting all pipes, drains, vents and other potential entryways with screens can further deter rats from entering your home.

Make your home uninviting to rats

  • Maintain an uncluttered clean home, with attention to food storage and wiped down food surfaces.
  • Eliminate clutter inside and outside your home.
  • Remove debris and leftover construction materials from your property.
  • Repair or remove moisture-prone areas in and around your home.
  • Keep tree limbs and branches trimmed away from your home and your lawn cut short.

Hulett offers a variety of options in our Healthy Home programs that create a pest-proof barrier around your home, so you won’t have worry about rats, mice, and other household pests any time of the year. Customer satisfaction is our priority; we guarantee it. Contact Hulett for a free pest inspection today! Just call Hulett at (866) 611-BUGS!

Name this Native Floridian: Common Bugs of Florida and What You Need to Know About Them

Common Bugs of Florida

On a top ten list of reasons people love Florida, her vast variety and copious amounts of insects never makes the cut. However, in addition to her stellar tropical weather, her pristine beaches, world renowned tourist attractions and exotic plant life, the Sunshine State is also home to a wealth of household pests. Hulett Environmental Services wants homeowners to be informed about the most common bugs in Florida and how to prevent them from invading your home. As some of these bugs are invasive species, they are here on a mission and are more aggressive than native species. As many proactive Floridians can tell you, pest prevention is much more desirable than pest control.

Hulett’s Healthy Home Guarantee

That’s why Hulett’s Healthy Home Program focuses on creating a boundary that deters pests from entering your home, removing conditions that attract bugs to your home and maintaining a hostile environment for bugs that may be brought in on pets or clothing or in boxes, firewood and shopping bags. Our innovative Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program uses environmentally-friendly methods and materials, customized for your home, instead of the traditional smelly sprays used by most pest control companies. Homeowners can also help prevent bugs from entering their homes through some common-sense DIY (Do-it-Yourself) pest control practices.

The list of the most common bugs in Florida goes something like this:

Ants

In South Florida, since there are several common types of ants, they tend to be a problem year-round. Here’s a closer look at some specific types:

  • Red Imported Fire ants

Known for their powerful, burning stings, red imported fire ants, an invasive species from South America, appear reddish-brown and measure 1/8” to 1/4” long. Usually preferring to stay away from humans, fire ants build rather obvious mounds in open spaces, such as your backyard. Humans and pets encounter trouble when they inadvertently step on or mow over a fire ant nest. Disturbed fire ants will aggressively swarm intruders and sting repeatedly.

Fire ants are notoriously difficult to get rid of. With no natural predators and commercial products that do little to reduce fire ant numbers, the best way to deal with fire ants is to avoid them and call an experienced pest control company, like Hulett.

  • Florida Carpenter Ants

Florida’s largest ant, some measuring 3/4” long have ash brown to rusty-orange thoraxes and heads and black abdomens. Florida carpenter ants are covered with long, abundant golden hairs all over their bodies and have segmented, elbowed antennae. Often mistaken for wood-damaging black carpenter ants or termites during mating season, when these winged Florida carpenter ants swarm in alarming numbers often alarming homeowners. Nesting in hard to locate places, in wall voids and expansion joints, as well as any place near water and food sources, Florida carpenter ant nests are difficult to find and DIY baits and repellents don’t really work effectively.

Florida carpenter ants prefer sweets and will nest in almost any place near food and water, so the best way to prevent these pesky bugs from entering your home is to clean up crumbs and spills after sweet snacks, store all sugary foods and other foods in secure containers or in the fridge. Eliminating clutter in your home and around your property can also help prevent Florida carpenter ants from finding your property attractive.  Don’t hesitate to call a pest control specialist, such as Hulett, to locate and deal with these hard to find nests.

Subterranean termites:  Asian and Formosan

Two invasive subterranean termites from Southeast Asia, Asian and Formosan termites, are much more aggressive than native subterranean termites and can damage structures at incredibly rapid rates. With populations running in the millions, Asian and Formosan termites have a lot of mouths to feed and all wood is fair game, including utility poles and live trees, as well as the wood in your home.

Termites can be difficult to detect because they usually enter your home where wood to ground contact allows them to tunnel into your home. Subterranean termites live in the soil around your home, constructing tunnels from their nests into structures, where they consume as much cellulose (wood) as possible.

Spotting these earthen tunnels running up walls, trees and other wooden structures indicates subterranean termite activity and should be addressed by a pest control professional. Armed with expert termite knowledge and over 30 years as a leading South Florida pest control company, Hulett’s technicians know where and how to administer termite fighting materials that get to the source of termite populations, the colony’s queen. Homeowners can protect against termite activity by ensuring that the wood around the home’s foundation doesn’t directly contact the soil, replacing damp wood and by getting on board with a termite protection program, such as Hulett’s Total Termite Protection program, to safeguard your home from termites, year-round.

Spiders: Wolf and Widows

While Carolina wolf spiders look menacing due to their size, reaching almost an inch in length, they tend to steer clear of human involvement. Carolina wolf spiders feast on other pest insects making them beneficial and the females are known to carry their young on their backs, very maternal.

Southern black widow spiders are considered the most venomous spider in the US with venom 15 times more poisonous than rattlesnake venom. The good news is that black widows only attack when disturbed from rock piles and old tree stumps.

The best way you can help prevent spider bites is to be aware of potential spider nesting areas and to have your property regularly swept for spiders by a pest control professional.

Roaches

In South Florida homes, it is common to find a roach from time to time but that does not mean that South Florida homeowners are rolling out the welcome mat for them. House-invading roach species vary in color from brown to black and tropical species can be green, orange and other colors. They typically grow to 1½ inches in length and as you may already know, have a strong preference for dark, warm and moist areas.

The best way to prevent roaches from entering your home is to exclude them by sealing all cracks in your foundation, repairing all water leaks, keeping your house clean of crumbs, spills and clutter, and your trash and recycling receptacles sanitized. However, regular pest control from professionals like those at Hulett should also be considered to keep roaches away from your home and family.

Some common roach species in South Florida are:

  • American Roach
  • Asian Roach
  • Australian Roach
  • Brown Banded Roach
  • Cuban Roach
  • Florida Woods Roach
  • German Roach
  • Oriental Roach
  • Smoky Brown Roach
  • Surinam Roach

Mosquitoes: Yellow Fever, Asian Tiger and Equine Encephalitis mosquitoes

Florida is home to 80 mosquito species, 33 of these species pose threats to humans and animals. In South Florida, the yellow fever mosquito and the Asian tiger mosquito are common vectors of yellow fever and the dengue virus. Culiseta melanura mosquitoes transmit Eastern equine encephalitis, along with Psorophora ciliate, a mosquito species closely associated with floodwater mosquitoes. The Zika virus, which made headlines in 2016 across South Florida, is carried by the same mosquito that carries yellow fever, Chikungunya, and dengue.

You can help prevent mosquitoes by eliminating standing water around your property including water that collects in toys, patio furniture, planters, etc. left outside. Removing clutter and debris from your property, cleaning your gutters regularly and correcting moisture prone areas can help reduce mosquito populations. Additionally, you may want to consider Hulett’s Mosquito Reduction Program and Mosquito Fogging Service for immediate and effective relief from mosquitoes on your property.

Don’t let South Florida’s common bugs be a constant problem. Contact Hulett to get started on our environmentally responsible programs designed to safeguard your love ones from unwanted visitors. Call us to schedule a free pest inspection today to start getting results with Hulett’s Healthy Home program that guarantees your satisfaction. Just call Hulett at (866) 611-BUGS!

Ant Spotlight: Florida Carpenter Ants

Ant Spotlight: Florida Carpenter Ants

The source of more South Florida homeowner complaints than any other of the sunshine state’s ant species, Florida carpenter ants, make more appearances inside structures than all of Florida’s ant species combined. One reason homeowners panic when they detect these large bi-colored ants seems to be a case of mistaken identity. It doesn’t help these arboreal ants’ reputation that they swarm in alarming numbers during mating season, between April and November and can be mistaken for termites. While winged ant reproductives, called alates and winged subterranean termite alates look similar, on closer inspection, slight but significant differences in termites and ants include:

Ant alates (Winged Ants)

  • Elbowed antennae
  • Larger fore wings than hind wings
  • A constricted waist

Termite alate: (Winged or Subterranean Termites) 

  • Beaded antennae
  • Two sets of equal length wings
  • A broad waist

The Florida Carpenter Ant vs the Black Carpenter Ant

Homeowners, fearing for the structural integrity of their homes, also mistake Florida carpenter ants for the destructive black carpenter ant that burrows through the structural wood in your home, causing almost as much damage as termites. Florida carpenter ants will nest in damp or decaying wood cavities inside structures but don’t carve out galleries in sound wood and damage your home.

Two species of Florida carpenter ants are common in South Florida homes

Camponatus floridanus, is widely distributed throughout Florida and neighboring states, while Camponatus tortuganus is limited to central and southern Florida. According to the University of Florida’s (UF) insect index, “the ratio of C. floridanus to C. totuganus is about 2:1 in South Florida.”

Largest ants in South Florida

Florida carpenter ants range in size, with workers measuring 1/4” to 3/8” in length and the largest, winged female alates measuring little over 3/4” in length. With ash brown to rusty-orange thoraxes and heads and black abdomens, Florida carpenter ants sport long, abundant golden hairs all over their bodies and 12 segmented, elbowed antennae.

Stinging vs. biting

Another reason homeowners contact pest control professionals more about Florida carpenter ants, has to do with the myth that these large ants sting and can cause allergic reactions. However, this is not the case. Florida carpenter ants do not possess stingers; however, these ants do have large mandibles and when threatened, will bite intruders. Their bites can break the skin and cause pain because they may inject a defensive chemical, called formic acid into the bite site. Although painful, the formic acid in carpenter ant bites is not venomous and poses no serious health threats to humans or pets.

Florida carpenter ants are attracted to sugary foods

Tending to forage at night, with peak foraging hours just before sunset and just before dawn, some Florida carpenter ants forage in loosely defined trails, as well as some wandering individual ants. In nature, Florida carpenter ants prefer floral nectars and honeydew produced by aphids, scale and mealy bugs. Carpenter ants also eat other living or dead insects. In your home, Florida carpenter ants can be found in your kitchen in search of sugary snacks.

Damp places to nest are best

Florida carpenter ants seek moisture and damp places to nest, like under your dishwasher or other places in your kitchen and bathrooms near water leaks. Preferring damp voids for nesting, Florida carpenter ants prefer locations close to sweet food sources, safe from predators, such as birds and lizards and out of the heat and other environmental extremes, such as flooding.

Indoors: In addition to moist wall voids, Florida carpenter ants nest under attic insulation and under eaves, as they are acrobatic in trailing across wires and cables attached to your home. These ants are prone to nest under damp windows and door frames, in bags and boxes, under appliances, in flat roofs and behind wooden panels. Sometimes, Florida carpenter ant nests have even been located in electrical boxes and computer printers.

Outdoors: While Florida carpenter ants will hollow out damp wood, dead tree trunks and other damaged wood, they do not attack sound wood.  They are also attracted to old leaf petioles in palms, under bark, tree roots, especially citrus trees, all kinds of debris, coconuts on the ground, old fences and decks, old shoes, in expansion joints, under rocks, exterior wood, patio ceilings and the list goes on.

Contact a professional

Finding the nests created by carpenter ants can be challenging and carpenter ant colonies can number several thousand and contain many satellite nests. Hulett suggests contacting a trusted pest control professional. The entomologist-trained technicians at Hulett will inspect your property and recommend environmentally responsible materials and treatments utilizing our Integrated Pest Management (IPM) system.

South Florida homes are subjected to numerous household pests that can damage your home, harm your loved ones and just be downright annoying. Hulett’s Healthy Home Program creates a barrier around your home to safeguard your property and loved ones year-round, from household pests. We guarantee you will be satisfied. Contact us to schedule a free pest inspection today. Just call Hulett at (866) 611-BUGS!

New Invasive Ant Identified in Fort Lauderdale: Little Yellow Ant

New Invasive Ant Identified in Fort Lauderdale: Little Yellow Ant

As a South Floridian homeowner, you probably know more about ants than you care to, as the tropical climate you enjoy supports over 200 ant species. While not all of these ant species are considered nuisance household pests, you have also probably encountered some of the usual suspects including white-footed ants, Florida carpenter ants, crazy ants, fire ants, ghost ants and other pesky foragers that enter your home in search of food.  Now, it seems, there is another contender on the horizon for the most annoying pest title.

According to the University of Florida’s (UF) press release, UF researchers are concerned about the discovery of a “new invasive ant species in south Florida.” A Madagascar native, the little yellow ant, Plagiolepis alluaudi, “is already invasive in several Caribbean Islands, including Barbados, St. Lucia and Nevis, among others,” said Thomas Chouvenc, UF/IFAS Assistant Professor of Entomology. Chouvenc said that in addition to the Caribbean, the little yellow ant has also been detected in Hawaii and Australia.

First US sighting of yellow ants occurred in a Ft. Lauderdale neighborhood

Discovered in early 2017 in the Riverland neighborhood of Fort Lauderdale, Chouvenc said this is the first sighting of the little yellow ant in the continental US, but that “over a period of six months, the big headed ants that were dominant in that area were apparently displaced by this tiny yellow ant, which was quite surprising.” Based at the UF/IFAS Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center in Fort Lauderdale, Chouvenc revealed that subsequent surveys indicated that yellow ants may have been establishing a presence for “several years without being detected.”

What does this mean to South Florida homeowners?

On the upside, the little yellow ant does not bite or sting; however, these ants are so small that they can reach extremely high population densities before being detected which can cause them to become difficult to control. Like many invasive species, little yellow ant populations can grow rapidly into super colonies “due to their intricate nesting system with multiple queens,” Chouvenc said, adding that because little yellow ants go undetected for such a long time, by the time that they are noticed, colonies containing upwards of three million members can spread out in a network of nests that are difficult to control.

Hurricane Irma may have contributed to the yellow ant’s infestation in the Riverland area

Researchers think that because Hurricane Irma’s winds and rain flung massive amounts of plant debris around as she wound through South Florida, little yellow ants from the Caribbean may have been dispersed to the Riverland area during and after the storm. Chouvenc said that because the little yellow ant is a tropical species, the hope is that this species will be contained to South Florida. However, Chouvenc indicated that “looking at the patterns of invasive ants in the southeast US over the past 50 years, it may be a small ant, but is still going to be a big problem.”

Researchers found that baits can knock out home infestations temporarily

In the Riverland neighborhood, researchers found little yellow ant nests in dead vegetation that included dead branches on living trees, as well as dead wood as small as twigs, lying on the surface of the soil. Eventually, researchers detected little yellow ant foragers inside a home and used baits to stop the infestation.  While baits worked to initially control the home infestation, within a week the home was reinfested with little yellow ants, as the bait only affected a small percentage of the foraging ants and had no effect on the established population outside the home. Chouvenc speculated that homeowners could regularly bait little yellow ants “with sweet bait liquids but in areas with high ant densities, recurrent infestations may be unavoidable,” saying that little yellow ants are probably another invasive ant species “that will cause homeowners problems down the road.”

Also, researchers speculate that because little yellow ants are attracted to insects like aphids, mealybugs, and scale insects, all of which produce honeydew, this invasive species may potentially impact agriculture by harming crops and ornamental plants. UF/IFAS plans to publish more information about the little yellow ant as they learn more about its habits and potential impact on homeowners, the industry, and the environment.

Contact a licensed pest control professional

In the meantime, Hulett suggests that homeowners contact a licensed professional pest control company to tackle ant infestations, especially large ant populations that involve a network of nests. South Florida’s owned and operated Hulett Environmental Services utilizes an integrated pest management system that uses environmentally conscious methods and materials to manage pests in and around your home.

Under the direction of a Graduate Entomologist for over 35 years, Hulett technicians are trained and licensed in the most current and effective materials on the market. Using granular and gel baits, our professional staff addresses the source of your infestations: the nest, or nests, and the queens. Once the queens are gone, the colony collapses. Strategic bait placement and skill in locating nests are some of the ways Hulett can save homeowners a lot of money, time, and peace of mind.

Homeowners can do a number of things to prevent household pest infestations

Little yellow ants, like some other ant species, are attracted to sweet, sugary substances in your home. Making your home inaccessible to little yellow ants and other household pests begins with:

  • Excluding pests by sealing or caulking entryways, such as cracks and crevices in your foundation and around doors and windows
  • Regularly cleaning all surfaces where sugar and sweets are consumed in your kitchen and dining areas
  • Storing all dried goods in glass, metal or hard plastic containers with air-tight lids
  • Keeping pet bowls cleaned between feedings
  • Eliminating clutter and debris from the interior and exterior of your home- Get that Hurricane debris picked-up.

Hulett’s Healthy Home program helps prevent pests with regular treatments and monitoring

Keep little yellow ants and other household pests away from your loved ones and off your property. Hulett’s Healthy Home program involves pet and people-friendly pest prevention protocols that create a pest barrier around your property. We quickly deal with any current infestations and monitor pest prone areas for any sign of further pest activity. We are so confident you will be so satisfied with your Hulett Healthy program, we guarantee it! Protect your home and loved ones from little yellow ants and all household pest invasions.

Just call Hulett!

Do Spiders Get their Bad Reputation from Halloween?

Do Spiders Get their Bad Reputation from Halloween?Ever notice how spiders are everywhere in Halloween themes, from décor to candy and other All Hallows Eve festivities? Tons of wispy webs, strung up in doorways, sport eight-legged hairy, fanged fiends just waiting to ensnare victims in their wicked webs? From the itsy-bitsy spider to Little Miss Moffat sacrificing her breakfast due to a spider sighting, many humans possess an inordinate fear of these mostly harmless arachnids.

Halloween spreading fake news about spiders

Halloween doesn’t help dispel any of our fears about spiders. Some sources say that our fear of spiders is linked to spiders being associated, along with rats and cats, with witches, dating back to medieval times.  Then there’s Hollywood, with films ranging from Arachnicide, Arachnophobia, Eight-Legged Freaks, Earth vs Spider and so on . . . where some nuclear event or natural disaster creates giant, mutant monster spiders.

Guilt by association: Spiders just hang with the wrong crowd in Halloween depictions

Also by association, creepy, crawly spiders and cobwebs feature predominantly in mummy, vampire and ghoul themes that take place in abandoned, haunted houses, dark lairs, murderous crypts, terrifying vaults and other deep dark Halloween locales. True, some spiders do prefer dark, undisturbed places to build webs but then again, some prefer the middle of your garden as a perfect place to set up shop. This Halloween, Hulett takes a closer look at our eight-legged friends, debunking some myths and old wives’ tales about spiders. Knowledge is power.

Myth: Spiders are aggressive and ready to attack people

The truth is, most spiders are very laid back, just hanging around their webs, waiting for prey to come to them; that’s why they spin webs. However, some spiders, such as wolf spiders do not spin webs but do hunt down their prey and pounce on it. Fortunately, humans are not on their menus, like we are on bedbugs’, ticks’, mosquitoes’ and other arthropods’ bills of who need a blood meal to survive. Most humans in the US who do encounter spiders that bite them have either disturbed these spiders or threatened them in some way.

Myth: All spider bites are venomous and dangerous

In North America, only two types of spiders pose significant physical threats to humans, the brown recluse spider and a variety of different hues of widow spiders, such as black, brown and red. Brown recluse bites can cause severe swelling and pain at the bite sight in addition to some other flu-like symptoms that may require immediate medical attention. Widow spiders can pack a powerful punch with their potent venom but rarely prove fatal, due to advances in antivenom therapy.

Myth: People swallow spiders in their sleep

Because spiders don’t usually hangout around sleeping humans, on purpose, at night or any other time, according to arachnologist, Catherine Scott, “The chances of having a spider on you are pretty low. Contrary to popular belief, spiders do not go into your bed at night to bite you or try to go into your mouth. That myth that you swallow spiders is totally false,” Scott says.

Myth: Killing spiders is bad luck

One myth that’s not that easy to quantify states that killing spiders, accidentally or otherwise, brings bad luck down on the head of the arachnid killer. This idea probably originated with different narratives concerning spiritual figures, such as David, who hid from King Saul in a cave, where a spider built a web across the entrance to deter soldiers from looking in the cave and a similar story involving Mohammed, where a tree sprouted in front of a cave entrance and a spider built a web to dissuade his enemies from searching for him inside the cave.

Then there’s the myth that states that burning a spider will cause witches to visit you. Mark Twain has a little fun with this myth in his quintessential novel, Huckleberry Finn. Huck unwittingly swipes a spider off his shoulder directly into the flame of a lit candle.Pretty soon a spider went crawling up my shoulder, and I flipped it off and it lit in the candle; and before I could budge it was all shriveled up. I didn’t need anybody to tell me that that was bad luck”.

Myth: Spiders are evil and bad

In many cultures, spiders are considered a mystical being due to their ability to spin webs. In Native American lore, female spiders play important roles as the co-creator of humankind and the bringer of light to the world. Spiders, on a more earthly, practical level help control mosquitoes, as well as ants and other insects that get snared in their webs. Some arachnids, such as scorpions, give birth to live young that they carry around on their backs until they can take care of themselves. If you can see tarantulas up close, which is difficult, as they’re shy and run away, they look kind of cuddly, like they are wearing velvet.

Just call Hulett!

In reality, most spiders are harmless and many are beneficial in controlling mosquitoes, flies and other potentially dangerous insects. However, if spiders are weaving webs into your South Florida home, most likely there’s a market for other household pests the spiders are interested in eating.

With Hulett’s Healthy Home Program, our entomologist-trained technicians seal cracks, crevices and holes that invite household pests into your home. Along with excluding pests and correcting pest prone areas and conditions, our Integrated Pest Management (IPM) system utilizes quality products and methods, to create a pest-free barrier around your property. We guarantee you’ll be satisfied with our environmentally responsible approach to safeguarding your home and family. Spiders or other pests bugging you? Contact us to schedule a convenient, free pest inspection today. Just call Hulett!

Mosquito Outbreak in South Florida Following Hurricane Irma

Mosquito Outbreak in South Florida Following Hurricane Irma

South Florida is recovering from one of the most powerful hurricanes in history, life is just beginning to return to normal. While most of the power has been restored and businesses have reopened, South Florida is busy trying to get ahead of a threat from one of her most persistent pests in the form of a potential mosquito outbreak.

Standing water from flooding and debris is causing concern

On the eve of October’s king tides and almost a month after Hurricane Irma thrashed South Florida, flood waters have receded but standing water is now causing concern in areas such as Bonita Springs, where wet soil and standing water make perfect breeding grounds for disease-causing mosquitoes. Piles of debris left in Irma’s wake also pose the potential for even more places for water to collect. Authorities are spraying many areas in order to keep mosquito numbers down.

With 90% of South Florida’s power knocked out, officials waited until power was restored to spray in some areas, to avoid mosquito fighting materials floating into homes where citizens opened windows to combat the heat. On September 27th, USA Today reported that mosquito trucks have been spraying in Broward County, “all week long in several Broward cities that have large debris piles following Irma.” The article goes on to say that Palm Beach County has been spraying the region for days, “especially in cities closest to the Everglades.”

West Nile and Eastern equine encephalitis more likely than Zika to present problems

Although the outbreak of the Zika virus in Miami in 2016 led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to issue unprecedented domestic travel warnings, Duke-NUS Medical School’s mosquito-borne disease expert, Duane Gubler, said, in a September 28, 2017 Vox article, “If there’s increased transmission of mosquito-borne diseases [after the hurricanes], it’ll be from West Nile and Eastern equine encephalitis.” Gubler said that massive floods, such as the recent floods caused by Irma wash away mosquito breeding grounds, “as well as the insects that transmit diseases like Zika and West Nile.”

Gubler explained that West Nile and Eastern equine encephalitis are endemic to the US, unlike Zika and chikungunya and other mosquito-borne diseases that need to be imported by travelers. Gubler said that even though mosquito breeding grounds are washed away in storms, mosquitoes can rapidly re-infest areas with favorable breeding areas, such as standing water and wet soil.

Gayle Love, a spokesperson from the Miami-Dade Department of Solid Waste Management, the department that oversees mosquito control, said the county would resume its regular truck-spraying schedule the evening of Tuesday, October 3rd, according to the USA Today article, targeting areas affected by the 2016 Zika outbreak.

No aerial spraying since Irma

Love went on to say no aerial spraying has happened since Irma, but that “the county has resumed their usual procedures,” monitoring areas to determine where and when spraying should be administered, inspecting mosquito traps and deploying inspectors who follow up on citizen complaints to identify areas affected by large mosquito swarms. Love said, “We stand ready should those numbers go up.” Inspectors will have to completely re-assess the Florida Keys because so many mosquito breeding grounds were destroyed during Irma and new breeding grounds are now being established.

What you can do if mosquitoes are ruining your backyard fun

As South Florida continues to get back up to speed after the fury of Hurricane Irma, homeowners may encounter more mosquitoes in their backyards. Hulett Environmental Services suggests that South Florida homeowners contact a professional pest control company to inspect their properties for mosquito breeding grounds and treat for mosquitoes around your home.

Just call Hulett for a free mosquito inspection

Contact us to schedule a free inspection of your property to identify areas where mosquitoes are likely to hide or breed. Environmentally responsible, our skilled technicians will treat mosquito-prone areas with a residual product and apply a sticking agent to resting areas mosquito retreat to in the daytime. In order to keep mosquitoes from entering your home, we use a micro-encapsulated product, applied at all potential mosquito entry points, around doorways and windows to create a protective barrier between your home and your loved ones and these annoying insects.

Planning a cookout, pool party or even a wedding reception in your backyard?

We offer an additional, effective tool, geared towards large events: Hulett’s Fogging Services. With our ULV, or Ultra Low Volume, foggers that deflect and fight adult mosquitoes outdoors, your family and guests will be able to enjoy your event to its fullest.

How you can help prevent mosquito issues

  • Eliminate standing water around your property. Any object that collects water provides a potential breeding ground for mosquitoes. This includes kids’ toys, extra flower pots and gardening containers, birdbaths, your dog’s water bowl, patio furniture and even bottle caps.
  • Eliminate leftover construction materials and any debris from around your property.
  • Clean your gutters regularly and make sure drain spouts drain away from your house.

Contact a professional pest control company when biting mosquitoes are ruining your porch or backyard fun. Call Hulett for a free mosquito inspection today! Just call Hulett!

Ant Spotlight: Ghost Ants

Ant Spotlight: Ghost AntsNot really as spooky as they sound, ghost ants, Apinoma Melanocephalum, are an invasive species thought to originate in Asia or Africa. According to the University of Florida’s (UF) Entomology and Nematology Department, one of the most prevalent and persistent ant species, “ghost ants are associated with a complex of ant species, known as tramp ants.” It is an invasive species with widespread global distribution in tropical and subtropical regions.

Ghost ants introduced to South Florida most likely by boat in shipping containers

Introduced to the US in shipping containers and potted plants, ghost ants were well established in South and Central Florida as well as Hawaii by the early 1990s. They made their way to Texas by 1995 in a shipment of potted tropical plants from South Florida. Since then, ghost ant populations have been found in most southeastern states, as well as Arizona and California. Traditionally, ghost ants have only been found in northern climates in heated greenhouses and in one instance in an apartment block in Winnipeg on the Assiniboine River. However, with global temperatures rising, scientists predict that ghost ants and other invasive tropical species will likely spread north.

The scariest thing about ghost ants

According to a UF/IFAS (Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences) study in South Florida, ghost ants now run a close second to fire ants as major nuisance pests. Unlike fire ants, ghost ants don’t bite, sting or pose health threats to humans, but their tenacity and persistence have been known to cause mental and emotional distress to South Florida homeowners.

Ghost ants infesting quarantine greenhouses have proven impossible to eliminate because of restrictions on using toxicants in these greenhouses. Ghost ants defending honeydew producing plant pests, such as aphids, against introduced biological control organisms present a problem for growers.

Ghost ants in a Gainesville, Florida lab preyed on small beetle larvae and have been shown to be a significant predator of the two spotted mite in greenhouses. Aside from these minor benefits of ghost ants, they are one of the most prevalent nuisance pests in South Florida homes that you can’t see.

Pale ants with secretive habits are a little spooky

Ghost ants get their name from the fact that they are extremely small, 1.3-1.5 mm, or .05-.19 inches. These tiny ants also sport pale legs and gasters or abdomens, with black thoraxes and heads, making them difficult to see. Ghost ants tend to trail behind carpet and along exterior foundations, building nests indoors behind wall voids, in spaces between cabinetry, around baseboards and between books on shelves. Outdoors, ghost ants prefer to build nests in moist soil, under rocks and in dead trees or other yard debris. Disturbed soil in potted plants makes an excellent nest for ghost ants as ghost ants are readily adaptable to many environments, as long as it’s warm and moist.

No big surprise here, ghost ants like sugar

Preferring honeydew and honeydew-excreting insects, ghost ants will eat dried insects and also substitute their organic diet for your store-bought sugar and fruits. Baked goods, breads, spills in your pantry or just straight up sugar, ghost ants don’t discriminate. Hmm… could this be the reason worker ghost ants, when disturbed, run around rapidly and erratically? Under normal circumstances, trailing ghost ants move in slow, deliberate lines. On closer inspection, researchers found that some of the workers were carrying larvae and pupae. Looks like someone’s moving in.

Multiple queens can produce many offspring in a network of nests

Like most invasive ant species, ghost ants can build a network of nests underground but due to ghost ants’ small size, these nests don’t exhibit the stability to become mega-populations, like invasive termite species. Still, with multiple queens in a network of sub-colonies, eliminating ghost ants can be challenging to attempt without professional assistance.

Hulett Environmental Services Healthy Home Guarantee

At Hulett, we believe that exclusion is the best way to prevent all household pest infestations, including ghost ants. Along with some basic DIY pest prevention techniques, regular treatments by Hulett’s entomologist–trained technicians, we create a barrier around your property that keeps pests out of your home. Using environmentally responsible materials and treatments whenever possible, Hulett’s Integrated Pest Management (IPM) system, utilizes the most current technology and methods in household pest control in the industry today. Unlike other companies that merely use smelly sprays to eliminate ghost ant infestations, Hulett’s programs have been developed from 45 years of experience. As a South Florida family-owned and operated business, Hulett provides responsible results that protect your home and family from Florida’s extensive array of household pests.

Hulett treats the source of your ghost ant infestation

Hulett goes to the source of your ghost ant infestation. With odorless baits and liquid treatments, Hulett strategically targets ghost ant nests that may consist of multiple queens. When ghost ants track liquid materials or bring baits back to their nests, other ants will become contaminated until, eventually, the queens are killed, causing the colony to collapse.

A few DIY things you can do to prevent ghost ants from haunting your home

Make your home unattractive to ghost ants and other household pests, you can:

  • Regularly clean up crumbs, spills and table scraps from food prep and dining areas.
  • Store sugar, syrup and honey in metal, glass or hard plastic containers.
  • Keep sweet treats such as candy, cookies and other baked goods in secure containers or in the fridge.
  • Repair or replace leaky pipes and faucets.
  • Trim branches away from your home, cutting off routes of entry.
  • Maintain secure and sanitized outdoor trash receptacles.
  • Remove left-over construction materials and other debris from your yard.
  • Keep grass cut short.
  • Remove plants that attract aphids, whiteflies and other honeydew-loving insects.

With Hulett’s convenient, regular preventative treatment programs, we guard your home against ghost ants and other household pests in Southeast and Southwest Florida. Contact us to schedule a free inspection today! Just call Hulett!

Ant Spotlight: Fire Ants

Ant Spotlight: Fire AntsAs South Florida homeowners can attest, red fire ants are capable of turning outdoor athletic events, picnics and yard work activities into unpleasant, painful scenarios. There’s really no mistaking, “what just happened?” when people and animals accidentally disturb fire ant nests.

When threatened, red fire ants in South Florida do not play. With their powerful jaws, they attach to their intruders and release venom through their stingers. A strong burning sensation lasting for several hours is followed by white pustules forming at the bite sites, giving way to extreme itching that can result in secondary infections. Fire ants attack in numbers and can sting their victim multiple times, which can result in severe allergic reactions that require immediate medical attention.

Where do red fire ants come from?

With around 300 fire ant species, making life uncomfortable to miserable for someone, somewhere in the world, probably the most notorious ants in South Florida, red invasive fire ants, a.k.a. RIFA. They originally arrived in the US in the 1930s, most likely as accidental stowaways on a South American cargo ship that docked in Mobile, Alabama. Native to Brazil’s Amazon forests, aggressive, red fire ants soon spread throughout the southern states and parts of the southwest. Red fire ants look very similar to our native Florida fire ant.

Fire ant appearance and behavior

With red to brown abdomens and thoraxes and copper heads, fire ant workers range in size from 1/16” to 1/4” long, with a stinger attached to the gaster. Worker mandibles have four distinct teeth and segmented antennae that end in a two-segmented club.

Sometimes more than one queen

Enormous fire ant colonies usually only contain one queen but some fire ant populations do have multiple queens, sometimes up to a dozen. It seems that for whatever reason, unrelated queens and daughters are allowed to move in and set up shop in another queen’s territory. Invasive fire ant workers can forage up to one hundred feet in search of food and will recruit other colony members to help bring a large store of food back to their nests.

Not picky eaters, fire ants’ diverse appetites enhance their resilient factor

Omnivores, fire ants prefer proteins, such and insects and meats but will also eat fruits, sugars, syrups and other carbohydrates, as well as grease, lard, seed oils and other fatty foods. Workers will forage for food more than one hundred feet from their nests. Foraging by day, as well as by night, when a large food source is found, these ants recruit other workers to help take the food back to the colony.

Fire ant habitats

Like our native tropical fire ants, the more aggressive and invasive RIFAs build large nests in the ground, near moist areas, generally in grassy, sunny areas. Ballparks and open-air stadiums, playgrounds and any open lawn areas in community parks or in your backyard make ideal RIFA nesting areas. Marked by distinctive dirt mounds in open areas that might be easy to avoid, red fire ants also build not-so-visible nests:

  • Under patio tiles, cracks in pavement and in small crevices in buildings
  • Around landscaping shrubs and trees
  • In rotting logs and around tree stumps
  • In utility housing or boxes and inside electrical equipment, causing short circuiting to occur

Fire Ant Control

Large fire ant colonies not only create threats to humans, as well as to pets and livestock, they harvest seeds that cause considerable damage to crops and wreak havoc on landscaped yards, as well. Many products and methods have been used to eliminate fire ants from South Florida properties. These treatments may reduce populations for a while but unless these treatments affect the colony’s queen, the colony infests other areas nearby.

In South America, red fire ants have natural predators, plus parasites and viruses that keep fire ant populations in check and currently, scientists are exploring the idea of introducing these agents in the US. Recently, scientists discovered that crazy ants, from the same part of the world as red fire ants secrete a substance that neutralizes fire ant venom. Crazy ants are, in fact, displacing some fire ant colonies in South Florida. While biological solutions sound like a good idea, the cure could be worse than the disease, with crazy ant infestations causing more danger and damage than fire ants.

What’s the most reliable thing to do when you notice a fire ant mound in your yard? Just call Hulett! Our trained team will utilize a pest management system that is custom to your home, possibly including granular bait products with additional applications, as needed. With Hulett, not only will your fire ant problem get taken care of but we also offer a money back guarantee should you continue to have a fire ant problem.

If you’ve got fire ants, just call Hulett! Get your pest problem taken care of today! Same day service available.

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