The Odorous House Ant

A friend of mine has had a long running problem with tiny ants in her home.  She has tried cleaning and baits, two of the most effective methods of ant, and other household pest, management.  Though regular cleaning is probably the best way to prevent new infestations, it often needs to be boosted by other methods when trying to manage already established pests.  This of course, depends upon what you consider a pest…but I won’t get into that here.

As with any pest, properly identifying the pest is important.  For example, bed bugs, a genus of insect which has seen a resurgence over the last ten or so years, is quite similar to the bat bug.  The only way to really tell the difference between the two is to look under a microscope and check out their hair!  Bat bugs have slightly longer hair on their chinny-chin chins.  Why does that matter?  Because bat bugs and bed bugs require different chemical and mechanical treatments to thoroughly treat them; not to mention different legal implications…but that’s another post.

Ants are similar in terms of control methods.  The type of species you have will dictate how you treat them.  One of the most common ant pests of the indoors of human dwellings is the Odorous House Ant (Tapinoma sessile [Say]).  These are a native species of ant and are distributed throughout the vast majority of North America from Mexico into Canada.  Workers, the ones you will most likely see wandering around) are quite small, averaging about 2mm to 3mm (1/8th inch) in length.  If you want to positively ID them yourself, check for 12 antenna segments, 10+ teeth on their mandibles and most importantly, the petiole (the bit connecting the thorax to the abdomen) is quite distinctive and will not have a node, whereas most other ant species will.

Copyright © 2011 Eric Gofreed (BugGuide.net)
Notice that the smooth little "tube" from the thorax (part where the legs are) to the abdomen (big bit at the end). That bit is called the petiole and in this species, is "nodeless".

Or, you can just squish it in your fingers and see if it smells like a weird almond-coconut goo.

Okay, now that you can ID them (because I know you really wanted to know), next you need to deal with them.  These guys feed primarily on sweets and fats which is why you find them in kitchens for the most part.  As stated earlier, CLEANING is a must.  However, cleaning has to happen in the right places.  These ants leave trails, so if you clean the trails without killing the colony, the ants will just make new trails.  Determine which points are high traffic areas for the ants.  Place the bait right near those areas.  For the Odorous House Ant, make sure they are slow-acting.  After all, if they die before making it back to the queen, there will be no effect as she will just keep producing.  According to the University of Nebraska, the best baits are those with boric acid or hydramethylnon as their active ingredient.

It might also be advisable to hire a pest control professional to have do a preventative spray around the outside base of your home.  However, this will depend upon the severity of your pest problem and ability to treat on your own.  Contact your local extension office (typically out of universities, specifically Land Grant Universities) for best options.

Try to be careful about your choice of placement.  You don’t want to put a bait near your cat food for instance.  Please check out the following sites I used to compile this information.  They have some great recommendations for treating these and other ant species.  The UN-Lincoln page also has a neat way to determine where the best locations for bait placement should go.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
http://lancaster.unl.edu/pest/resources/antbait267.shtml

Washington State University Extension Bulletin 1550E
http://cru.cahe.wsu.edu/cepublications/eb1550e/eb1550e.pdf

For more information and images on the Odorous House Ant, check out BugGuide!
http://bugguide.net/node/view/87728

Fun with Google Auto-Fill: Cats Edition

Increasing your sample size and conducting multiple repetitions are the best methods to avoid high standard error and decrease your standard deviation.

In an effort to avoid studying (and inspired by Vlogbrother John Green…as well as the behavior of one of my cats this morning) I shall now ask Google, “Is my cat…?” and will answer these poor Googlers who have cat issues…

Let us begin….

  • Is my cat pregnant?

Well, was (presumably) she fixed?  Was she near a male cat?  Did you hear that oh so sweet screeching sound of cats going at it?  Then yes.  But maybe you should take her to a vet or just wait it out and see what happens.

  • Is my cat sick?

This is not a question an unemotional cybernetic entity can answer.  Please try an actual vet.

 

  • Is my cat overweight?

Yes.  If you have to ask, your cat is overweight.  Cats, like humans, get fat when overfed and they spend their days playing video-games and not moving their arse.

 

  • Is my cat trying to kill me?

Yes.

In case you are wondering why your cat is plotting to kill you.

  • Is my cat lonely?

Apparently not, since it’s trying to kill you.

 

  • Is my cat retarded?

Again, apparently not since it is plotting to kill you.  However, one could argue that since you are aware of your imminent death by kitteh, perhaps your cat is a bit dim and slipped up…or maybe that’s what it wants you to think…

 

  • Is my cat in labor?

Is it a female?  Are there small moving creatures emanating from her rear?  Then yes.

 

  • Is my cat constipated?

Maybe; but at least it’s not having kittens…or is it?

 

I hope this has been insightful and helpful!  I hope to do this again soon.  Any suggestions for a question?

Daddy Long Legs

Someone just asked me: “I’ve heard that a daddy long leg spider isn’t actually a spider, which seems nuts. Is this true?”

The answer is quite simple…depending upon where you live.

Daddy Long Legs, if you live in the majority of the US, are part of Class Arachnida however Arachnida is not just full of spiders.  Arachnida also includes scorpions, mites, pseudoscorpions, and camel spiders.  Additionally, class Arachnida contains an Order known as Opiliones…also known as Harvestmen…often called “Daddy Long Legs.”  These are Arachnids (have chelicera and 8 legs) but do not meet the other characteristics which define spiders.  Spiders are part of the order Araneae.

I could easily write a huge thing about them, but one of my favorite YouTubers created an awesome little video which will clear up this whole thing.

Daddy Long Legs

8 Animal Misconceptions

Here is an “interesting” paper regarding the relationships between these different arthropods.  Phylogeny & Systematic Position of Opiliones

Note the football shaped body. This is perhaps the easiest way to distinguish between a Harvestmen (Order: Opiliones) and an actual spider (Order: Araneae).

Survey for Your Perusal

Survey Monkey Link

Feel free to click and answer at your leisure.  There are only a few questions so it shouldn’t take too long.  In an effort to further my understanding of these topics, I thought I would create a survey to see what my friends, acquaintances and readers might think.  I know I have learned a lot by asking myself these questions and looking further than just the label on the insecticide.

Once I have received enough replies for me to figure out what I should go into first, I shall begin!  In the mean time, I intend to do a series about Bees!  The bees have been in the news a lot lately and I would like to address some of the misconceptions about the science and “science” surrounding the recent announcements.

I can’t wait to get going.  This should be all sorts of fun.  I’m sure it won’t be controversial at all!  </sarcasm>

But, until then, please enjoy this video of a poor tortured kitteh.  No, it’s not mine.  I would not exploit my cats this way.

Busy Bee Kitty!!!

Brief History of Land Grant Institutions

So, in an effort to try and study some stuff, I wrote this little thing up to help me out.  Behold, the madness in my method.

Prior to the establishment of the first Morrill Act (1862), colleges were typically private institutions which catered to the rich and provided education in the Liberal Arts (Literature, History, Language Arts) as well as Mathematics and some sciences.  However, the teachings of these topics were not accessible to the average American.  The Morrill Act was meant to provide education of more practical and every-day applicability to the average citizen.

The second Morrill Act (1890) extended additional endowments for all of the land-grants.  However, states which had discriminatory policies regarding race would not receive any funding; unless there were separate institutions for black Americans.  The “1890-Land-Grants” were located in the then-segregated Southern states; the most famous of which is likely Tuskegee University home to George Washington Carver.  One hundred and four years later the “1994-Land-Grants” established twenty-nine Native American tribal colleges.

Both the 1862 and 1890 Morrill Acts set aside federal land for state use for the establishment of colleges and universities. The teaching of agriculture, military tactics and mechanic arts in addition to the classical topics was the focus of these first colleges.  These early colleges were often designated Agricultural & Mechanical Arts colleges (A & M’s).  The Ohio State University used to be the Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College.

In an effort to further our understanding and advancement of agricultural practices, the Hatch Act of 1887 established funding for agricultural experiment stations associated with each Land-Grant Institution.  However, it was not enough to formulate this information for use within the institutions themselves.  The Smith-Lever Act of 1914 established the Extension Service associated with the LGI’s in order to disseminate the information obtained to the community.

Currently the USDA plays a significant role in the administration of LGI funds and coordinating agricultural Land-Grant activities.  Land Grant Institutions still play a major part in the advancement of agricultural, engineering, ecological and other fields.

For a good summary of the history and how funding works, check out the Washington State University linked here: http://ext.wsu.edu/documents/landgrant.pdf