Insect biology

Insects, for the most part, are social and live in colonies with hundreds- sometimes thousands- of members. Ants are the most notable; however, roaches and even insects (such as earwigs) live amongst each other because the environment provides food and shelter that is beneficial to that species.

Insects have what is called an exoskeleton. Exoskeleton basically means the insects’ skeleton is on the outside. This serves many purposes but can pose some issues when it comes to control. The exoskeleton is hard and serves as a protective barrier for the insect. Successful treatment means making sure the treatment allows the insect to come in contact with as much material as possible; this does not mean “more is better” as will be further explained.

Most insects breed by creating nests or colonies and laying eggs. The number if eggs depend on the insect. In the case of roaches, the number of young varies between the different types of species of roach. With ants, such as the argentine, their population per nest can run in the thousands and they can have multiple nests in a small area.

Insect Control Programs

The most important part of any control program is identifying the pests you want to control. This will allow for the development of a program that will address each insect. Insect control programs are, and should be, designed to service a variety of insect pests such as (but not limited to) ants, spiders, earwigs, sow bugs, pill bugs, centipedes, roaches and more.

While all of these insects differ in many ways, biologically they all live in and around each other which allows for programs to address each in a single environment. Control programs that address control of insect on the exterior are fairly similar. The greatest difference comes when control on the interior is needed. These programs greatly differ from one another because it is on the inside that pests’ colony size, breeding, and food sources change.

Interior control of all insect pests can be greatly reduced, possibly eliminated, if a thorough control service is provided on the exterior. Controlling the insects not only means reducing their population, it also includes taking away their food sources – which in turn reduces the population size or it forces the insects to search elsewhere for a viable food supply to sustain the colony.

How General Insect Pest Control has changed?

Years ago, treatment of pests consisted primarily of spraying a material down to kill off the pests and provide a “barrier” in which the pests would not or could not penetrate. This worked well at times, but was very susceptible to outside influences which would greatly reduce the efficacy of a program. Once the barrier was broken, the insects had an opportunity to gain access to structures and invade homes, food cabinets and other areas.

During the summer, insecticides sprayed would provide excellent control but only for a short time. The constant high heat would begin to break down the material and, along with daily watering, would soon provide insects a means to get into a home or building. Sometimes if insects had already entered a structure, treating and then creating a barrier only “trapped” the insects in and would cause a tremendous surge in activity because the colony requires a constant source of food.

Today, many things have changed. The materials used by pest control professionals have gone through a complete metamorphosis. The materials we have and use are less toxic but more successful in controlling insects. Why and how is that possible?

Insecticides today target the very thing that makes the insect population so successful: socialization. Today we have put into use materials that work like baits and are spread through the colonies by the insects themselves. Ant and termite control have seen huge benefits from developing materials that kill the insects slower, which allows them to take the material back to the colony where it is contracted by other members.

This has been hugely beneficial because many times insects, such as ants, can be seen but the nest or colony difficult to find. Without controlling the colony, there is not control of the insect. Allowing the insects to come in contact with this material and then bring it back to the colony has changed pest control forever.

General pests are considered pests that crawl along the ground and do not fly. They are also common to most areas through out California. Examples of general insect pests covered under this agreement are ants, spiders, roaches, earwigs, centipedes, sow bugs and pill bugs, unless specifically mentioned. Insects such as fleas or ticks are not considered general pests since their treatment methods are specific to them. Those types of insects must be addressed by the use of different products and treatment methods to gain control of their population and therefore not included under general pests.

Insect Control Methods

There are a variety of insect control methods, including sprays, granules, and baits. Each works very differently but is a vital part of any successful insect control program.

Sprays are used to provide barrier treatment for insects. It is one of the most effective ways to gain control of an insect pest infestation. Sprays have changed the most over the years, going from an instant kill and preventative barrier to a slower kill, allowing insects to get the spray on them and take it back where they spread it through out the colony. This is why more is not necessarily better, a higher concentration of spray may work too fast not allowing the pests to get back to the colony and work in the way it was designed.

Sprays work well in almost all types of weather and in almost any circumstance. There are some challenging areas in a community that sprays may not work as well as other products, but when used with other materials, sprays are one of the best means of control we have today.

Baits have come along way as well over the past few years. They have grown from mainly just targeting ants to the ability to target crickets and roaches as well as a few other landscape pests. Baits allow for insects to feed on it and take the bait back to the colony. This provides greater control of the targeted insect pest.

Yes this may sound a lot like how the sprays work; sprays have been developed to work more like baits over the years because of the effectiveness of eliminating the colony. Baits are most effective, though, in areas of dense vegetation where sprays cannot always penetrate.

Baits are used in areas such as planter beds, where the plant material is thick or often consists of ice plant, ivy or mulch. These plants or conditions allow for insects to move below the surface and breed laying eggs, gathering food and living without almost ever having to come in contact with the surface area where sprays would more than likely be. Baits can penetrate these areas and bring the food source to the insect which provides wonderful control.

The one thing about the use of bait is that pest identification is key! Unlike sprays where it will control a wide variety of insects’ regardless, bait is more pest specific. If you are baiting for roaches you want to bait near where they live since roaches do not move far from their food source. In the case of ants, it is exactly the opposite, you want to bait away from the nest taking advantage of the ants natural instincts to gather and forage for food.

Granules are another form of pesticide that works a little like baits and sprays. You could say that granules are sprays in a bait form. However, insects do not take granules back to their nest. Granules, once placed down, begin to break down when they come in contact with moisture and this provides the control.

This form of pesticide is highly effective in areas of high moisture, where sprays would become too diluted or baits would get too wet and go bad. Granules can be used in a variety of ways: on turf, in planters with a high level of moisture, or in dense plant cover. With the advancement of sprays and baits we are seeing less and less use for granules. Granules still can and do play a vital part in any control program; but, as the development of new forms of bait and sprays comes along, there is a time when this form of pesticide may no longer be a viable means of control.

Because of the wide variety of pests and treatments available for insect control, please give us a call and we can discuss with you your particular situation and what method or control program will work best for your particular situation.