Monday, April 30, 2012

Crazy ants in Austin area

The invasive Caribbean crazy ant resembles a few
other ant species with its large colony sizes and "crazy"
 running behavior of individual ants. A positive
identification can best be done by the Texas
A&M Entomology lab in College Station.
The tiny crazy ant, known either as the Rasberry crazy ant or the Carribbean crazy ant, is now in the Austin area.  See the story from the Austin American Statesmen, for more information.  I won't say much about this except to note that this is thought to be a mostly tropical ant, and the general consensus is that it won't do as well where winters are cold and humidity is low.  Whether it will turn out to be a serious problem in relatively dry Austin, or whether it will establish as far north as Dallas is yet to be seen.

The Austin American Statesman article gives instructions for sending these to an entomologist in College Station for identification.  Also, you can check out the website at Texas A&M for more information on these little gals.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Multifamily housing and housekeeping

One of sources of pest control information that I link with at the bottom of this site is the IPM in Multifamily Housing Blog. Allison Taisey, author of the site, has been working with to help public housing authorities improve their IPM programs for five years.  I thought her message this month was especially good and wanted to share it with you all.  What follows is a selection from her post of 18 April:
"Good sanitation makes pest control work. Older generations knew this fact and were raised to take appropriate measures—namely, good housekeeping. But kids these days seem to have missed the memo.  
"As I did my spring cleaning this past weekend, I reflected on how I learned to clean and keep a neat house. My grandmother had a 6th sense for loose laundry—I always had to pick up before starting the next activity. My mom had a fly-fishing vest that she outfitted with cleaning products and tools before going to town on our house. And my dad used organizing as a way of procrastinating, something I certainly picked up—you can be sure to find my Tupperware drawer organized around tax time. 
"I learned by example and grew up with standards for housekeeping that were enforced by family members. In public housing, there may not be family members to teach the next generation. It’s up to property managers and housing inspectors to teach by example and enforce housekeeping standards. I encourage [them] to focus on the teaching at least as much as the enforcement. 
"One of the main lessons I learned while getting my teaching degree was to determine what my student knows about a topic before trying to teach him or her my take on it. The teacher must address misunderstandings, acknowledge correct thinking, and find gaps in understanding. In teaching residents to comply with housekeeping standards, I’ve found a lot of gaps. Three of the most common I run into are residents not knowing that:
  • They could use a vacuum cleaner in a home without carpet;
  • The stove top lifts up for easy cleaning; and
  • The stove and fridge should be pulled out and cleaned under at least once a year.
As Ally says, simple things that can have a major impact on housekeeping. If you work with housing authorities, or apartment complexes, these three lessons might be worth sharing in the form of a door hanger, or email newsletter, or leave-behind flier.  Also, check out this interesting and insightful page devoted to the question, “Why do residents not cooperate or maintain a clean and clutter-free home?”

Ally is sponsoring a webinar next Thursday, April 26 on “Managing Pests in Multifamily Housing.” The focus of the training will be on how one housing authority focused specially on residents with housekeeping problems.  If you have the time and are interested in participating, click here.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Catching the new drift on pyrethroids

For years agricultural pesticide applicators have been required to measure and record wind and weather at the time of spray applications. Wind matters in agricultural applications because of the potential for pesticide drift--the movement of pesticides from their intended target to undesirable sites such as other farm fields, homes, schools and natural areas. Weather matters because excessive rainfall can result in poor adhesion of sprays to plant or soil surfaces and pesticide-contaminated runoff--another form of drift.

In structural pest control, drift has always been an issue also, but on a much smaller scale.  For structural pest control indoor applicators, drift can occur in the form of splashback during both spot and crack and crevice liquid insecticide applications indoors. It can also occur with dust applications (I still remember my dismay, as a young and inexperienced applicator, when a compressor fan kicked on, blowing the pyrethrins dust I had just applied to a cockroach-infested motor back in my face). Outdoor applications can "drift" under windy conditions, or when rain washes residues from the application site to streams or lakes.  In fact, pesticide runoff is the reason that EPA has moved recently to change labeling requirements on new pyrethroid insecticide labels.

The new pyrethroid label standards by the US EPA are now out, and should be on every pest control service manager's required reading list. Unfortunately, they are not that easy to find, nor understand. I recently had the opportunity to sit in on the webinar update on these new standards by Jim Fredericks of the National Pest Management Association. NPMA has been working hard to keep up with these new standards and Jim did a nice job summarizing the new use directions you will be seeing shortly on all pyrethroid pesticide labels.

Digital handheld wind meters are relatively inexpensive,
accurate and can have powerful options such as wind
direction, temperature and relative humidity.
Two weather-related issues appear in these new requirements. First, for pre-construction termiticide applications only [see update in the May 1 comment below], the new labels will say,“Do not make on-grade applications when sustained wind speeds are above 10 mph (at application site) at nozzle end height.”  This means that anyone doing pre-construction termiticide treatments will have to have some method of measuring wind speed [as far as I can tell wind speed measurement is not required for general pest spray applications around residences and businesses].  There are at least three ways I know to estimate wind speed accurately:
  • Purchase and use a digital wind meter, like the one in the accompanying image.  Today's units range in price from $20 to $200, depending on features. They can include barometric pressure, relative humidity, temperature, altitude, etc.
  • Get a old-fashioned Dwyer handheld windmeter for about $25. This tough and dependable unit (doesn't need batteries) works on air pressure to elevate a small plastic ball, providing a simple wind speed measurement.
  • Go to an online website that provides windspeed data for your location, such as The problem is that the wind speed at your local airport may not be the same as at the account where your applications are made.
Second, the new labels will prohibit any pyrethroid spray, granular or dust applications made when it's raining. In areas where rain is frequent, or constant at certain times of year, this may be inconvenient (and who's to say when it's really raining?), but the intent is clear.  When it's raining, insecticides will not adhere well to surfaces and are prone to running off the target site into storm drains or streams.

Finally, anyone doing outdoor applications (especially termite pre-treatments) should consider adding spaces on your business' service forms for weather data, like wind speed and precipitation. If you're an honest applicator who goes by the book, this sort of information can only help you if called upon to defend an application.  An on-site reading taken from a handheld wind unit always trumps NOAA area weather data, and could save your rear in a legal case.