It’s summer, which means it’s time for those backyard cookouts and poolside parties. In South Florida, where the differences between summer and any other season can be subtle, you can tell it’s summer because school is out, family outings are on the rise and there is heightened pest activity.
Yes, while it’s true that a lot of summer insects don’t die off in Florida’s mild winters, insect activity increases during spring and summer, with pest mating and reproductive cycles in full swing. An estimated 12,500 species of insects live in the Sunshine State. Some are native but some are invasive species, accidentally transported here in shipping containers or by other means. At Hulett Environmental Services, we want you to get the most out of your summer. Below is a guide to recognizing some of South Florida’s most noticeable and notorious seasonal pests.
South Florida hosts many species of mosquitos, including the yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti. In the news currently, as a carrier of the Zika virus, yellow fever mosquitos, originally from Africa are also vectors of Chikungunya, Dengue and other diseases. Small to medium-sized mosquitos, adult yellow fever mosquitos have dark bodies, measuring 4 – 7 mm in length with banded or striped legs.
With mating activity happening in the early spring, around March or April, yellow fever mosquitos are day-biters and will bite indoors. Due to the introduction of Asian tiger mosquitos, to South Florida, by way of Texas in 1985, the yellow fever mosquito population in Florida has declined dramatically, “but still thrives in urban areas of South Florida,” according to the University of Florida’s Featured Creature site.
South Florida homeowners can reduce mosquitos in their backyards by eliminating standing water, such as unused gardening containers, kid’s toys and other water-collecting objects. Untreated swimming pools, drainage ditches and poor drainage areas make excellent breeding grounds for mosquitos. Hulett’s Healthy Home approach addresses mosquito prone areas before the summer starts with our environmentally responsible people and pet friendly Integrated Pest Management system.
Due to South Florida’s warm climate, different types of termites swarm throughout the year. Flying ants are also commonly found swarming in Florida year-round. The differences between flying ants and termite alates are:
- Flying ants and termites both have sets of wings but termite wings are twice as long as the termites’ bodies.
- Ants have pinched waists, elbowed antennae and long legs, whereas termite alates sport straight antennae, broad waists and short legs.
Large swarms of winged termites could be drywood termites. Swarming outdoors can indicate a termite colony near your home; however, swarming indoors may indicate an infestation in your home. Discarded pairs of wings near windows can point to termite activity.
Tell-tale signs of a drywood termite infestation include piles of “frass,” distinctive, six-sided fecal pellets that resemble sawdust, in addition to paper thin, hollow sounding wood, warped or buckling wood and loose ceramic tiles.
Subterranean termite activity can become obvious if you spot earthen tunnels running from the ground up the walls of your home, nearby trees and utility poles. Subterranean termite activity should be addressed right away as these termites can damage structures in less than two months. All termite activity should be handled by a trusted professional pest control company. Hulett’s Healthy Home Termite Control programs can ward off these destructive invaders as well as other types of termites.
South Florida has 32 ant species, some, such as crazy ants, are active year-round, wreaking havoc on electrical circuitry and just being general nuisances with their erratic behavior. In the spring and summer in South Florida, ghost ants and fire ants show increased activity.
- Ghost ants love sweets and will come into your home in the summer, in search of sugary foods. Tiny, measuring 1.3 to 1.5 mm in length, ghost ants’ coloring goes from dark brown heads and thoraxes to milky white abdomens and legs. When you see one or two ghost ants on your kitchen counter, slurping up popsicle drippings, know that soon the word will get around the colony, inundating your kitchen with tiny ghost ants!
More of a nuisance than a threat, ghost ant colonies on your property can be a constant battle for South Florida homeowners. Don’t spend your summer fighting ants. Hulett’s Integrated Pest Management approach uses baits and gels to eliminate colonies, not just the ants you can see.
- Fire ants, with their signature mounds, can fortunately be easy to avoid. Reddish brown in color, fire ants can pack a powerful sting, when threatened. Generally keeping their distance from humans, fire ants can be problematic for homeowners with small children and pets, so hiring a professional pest control company, such as Hulett is recommended.
Wasps and Bees
While most bees and wasps are beneficial as pest control for crops and exponentially important to global food production as pollinators, they’re not the most welcome guests at outdoor events or poolside in the summer months. In South Florida, it’s always bee and wasp season, it’s just that people may encounter them more in the summer months. While most bees and wasps will only attack, if threatened, the guys you need to worry about in the greater Miami-Dade area, the Keys and the Everglades this summer include yellow jackets and Africanized honeybees.
- Yellow jackets, ½ inch to 1 inch long, shiny, black and yellow striped wasps, swarm when disturbed and can sting multiple times, as many South Florida homeowners have discovered when running over their nests with lawn mowers or when watering planters where these aggressive pests can build their nests.
- Africanized honeybees look just like European and native American honeybees. It’s their attitude that’s the problem. Some apiologists have theorized that all feral honeybee colonies in the US are now Africanized, as more animals and people have been stung by wild honeybees that previously peacefully co-existed alongside farmers and livestock. Africanized bee suspects should be handled by professionals, like Hulett, as these bee swarms will chase people and animals and sting with more force than other honeybees.
Ticks and fleas
With warmer, year-round temps, ticks and fleas are predicted to be more of a problem this summer. Already, veterinarians are reporting an increase in tick related diseases, such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease.
- Lone Star ticks, the most common ticks in South Florida, are vectors of Rocky Mountain spotted fever and can be identified by a white spot on the female’s back.
- Black-legged ticks are the most common carriers of Lyme disease in South Florida.
Pet owners should check themselves and their pets for ticks, after walking in wooded areas or tall grass. Ticks can be hard to spot, as they are no larger than a ¼ inch. Female ticks, engorged with blood can measure about ½ inch.
Fleas, a nuisance to pets and pet owners, can be controlled by various over-the- counter and prescription medications, available at pet care locations throughout South Florida. Along with vacuuming pet bedding and carpeting regularly, Hulett can help prevent fleas and ticks, on your home’s interior and exterior with pet-friendly materials formulated with the same ingredients your vet recommends for your pets.
Proactive homeowners can get the most out of their backyards this summer! Hulett’s Healthy Home approach helps create a barrier around your property to safeguard your family, pets and guests from South Florida’s wide variety of household and yard pests. Get the most out of your summer! Just CALL HULETT!