Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Gnats Driving You Crazy?

You are not the only one!  I have no idea why, but it sure seems like San Antonians are being plagued by gnats.  Most of the issues people are dealing with are fruit flies. Fruit flies are smaller than house flies, and have red eyes.  They appear tan in color and are no larger than an 1/8 of an inch long.  In the photo of small flies above, the fruit fly is on the far right.

Fruit flies are attracted to ripened or decaying fruit and vegetables, but they are also known to breed in drains, dirty mops or rags, recycling bins, trash cans, soil, and other areas of moisture and decaying or fermenting food.

In order to manage fruit flies, you truly have to find the source.  Once you have eliminated the source, its important to keep fruit and veggies either in the refrigerator or a brown bag for a couple weeks or you will attract them back into the home.

If you're still seeing flies, check the drains.  An easy trick is to put tape over half the drain overnight.  If flies are stuck to it, you know they are breeding in the organic matter that lines the drains.  There are drain cleaners that will eliminate that "gunk" using enzymes.  Bleach, boiling water, and other products will only kill the larvae in the drain now; it does not keep the adults from laying more eggs.

If you have potted plants, they may breeding in the soil.  Check by digging, or placing the plant in a small space overnight.  Its easier to re-pot the plant, but at the minimum, don't over water and allow the soil to dry out.

I'm noticing a correlation between the new green compost bins the city has provided us.  Its wonderful that we are composting and reducing our trash, but we are also keeping our rotten food longer in the home, which is attracting and allowing fruit flies to breed.  If this is your issue, remove the food regularly, if not immediately.

Again, finding the main source is the key.  Recently, we had a MAJOR issue in our office.  I'm a little embarrassed to admit, I was the cause!  I had placed an apple in an insect cage and allowed it to rot and ferment.  Removing those rotten apples almost immediately (within a weekend) got rid of the problem!  It may not be as easy as that, but searching for "ground zero" will make your problem less of a problem.

*Photo credit - Dr. Bart Drees, Texas A&M University

Monday, January 30, 2017

HELP! Fleas!

Seems like this year, fleas have been especially difficult for some pet owners this year... and even later into the winter than we usually see.

We had a good wet spring, summer, and fall, which probably helped their populations do better than during our normally droughty years.

There is not real silver bullet for flea control, but there are some tricks that will help!

1 - Treat inside, outside, and the pet at the same time!  Otherwise you are just chasing the fleas around.

2 - Visit your vet for a good flea control medication.  Generally, the over the counter and topical medications don't work as well as the newer oral flea medications.

3 - Vacuum inside like crazy!  Studies have show that vacuumind and immediately dumping the canister will reduce fleas as much as 80% or more.  That is a substantial reduction!  Vacuum pet bedding, carpet, and ANYWHERE the pet rests, sleeps, or spends time.

4 - If you have fleas but no pet, use an Insect Growth Regulator like methoprene or pyriprofyfen.  This keeps the eggs or larvae from becoming adults and reducing the population.  You may not be able to control the stray animals or neighbors, but this will help reduce the flea populations over time.

5 - Treat today and again in 10-14 days.  The first treatment doesn't often kill the eggs or pupae.  10-14 days is enough time to allow those eggs to hatch to larvae and pupae to adults and your second treatment will help really get them under control. Otherwise, all seems well for about a month and then they explode again.

As always, be sure to READ AND FOLLOW THE LABEL.  Don't use products meant for outdoors in your home.  Don't ever use off label.  You can probably recall a terrible accident where a family died due to improper use of pesticides for fleas.  Even things that seem harmless, like diatomaceous earth, should not be used inside if the label does not specifically state that it can be used indoors.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Odd Bee Activity

Have you noticed more bee activity lately?  You aren't alone and it isn't necessarily an odd occurrence.  We have had warm temperatures, after all, and wonderful sunny days.

Honeybees can forage year round if the temperatures and weather is nice enough for them.  Consider how much rain we've received.  Wildflowers and other plants are confused and starting to bloom in odd spots, which gets the bees excited.  Even if you don't have anything blooming, the bees may be more active around your home searching for anything sweet from trashcans, pet food, or standing water.

Even if bees have enough honey stored up for the winter, if the day is nice enough to forage, they'll take off!  They also use water to help maintain the temperatures in their hive, so finding bees around standing water isn't unusual this time of year, either.

Honeybees are most aggressive when they are protecting their home, so as long as you avoid the home, they'll probably leave you alone.  If they do bother you, consider putting some sugar water far away from where you'll be spending time to draw them away.