Spring is finally here, but unfortunately so are the pests!
While doing your spring cleaning or staying indoors due to our recent rain, you may have noticed some insects and spiders have moved in with you. Many pests are emerging from their winter rest, and taking cover from the cool, wet weather.
If you've found tiny brown, white, and black patterned beetles on windowsills, curtains, or walls near entryways, they may be carpet beetles. Adult beetles are about 1/10 inch and feed on pollen and nectar from flowers like crape myrtle and spirea. They can be brought indoors on cut flowers or they may fly in from nearby plants outside. A few adult beetles inside your home are typically not a problem. However, be on the lookout for their larvae or signs of their damage. Carpet beetle larvae feed on natural fibers such as wool, silk, leather, fur, and pet hair. They can damage rugs and carpets, yarn, clothing, and leather book bindings. Larvae will not feed on synthetic fibers like polyester. You can reduce sources of food for larvae by cleaning up lint, hair, dead insects, or debris. Adults can be relocated to the outdoors, but larvae are more difficult to control. See Pest Notes: Carpet Beetles for management strategies.
Spiders often end up inside while looking for food and if the right conditions are present–dark, dusty, hidden areas–they may stay a while. Some people may not mind the occasional spider, as they feed on other pests like flies, moths, and beetles. It is uncommon for most California spiders to bite you, contrary to what many people think. This includes the brown recluse spider, which does not exist in California. To identify the various spiders you might come across, see the Pest Notes: Spiders.
There are many other household pests you might encounter now and throughout the year. Fortunately, UC IPM has tons of great information on what they are and how to control them! See Pests of homes, structures, people, and pets for more information, or watch UC IPM's webinar recording on Springtime Household Pests.
- Author: Elaine Lander
While you are outside gardening or inside doing your spring cleaning, you may have recently found small, round, speckled beetles you've never seen before. We've had several questions this past week about insects crawling around windowsills, found on screens, or noticed on outdoor plants, or fuzzy, oblong insects on carpets or rugs. What are they? While there are many insects starting to emerge from their winter rest, if you are finding small beetles like these, they could be carpet beetles!
Carpet beetles are pests of homes, warehouses, and museums. In California, there are 3 species that damage fabrics, carpets, and stored foods including the varied carpet beetle, Anthrenus verbasci. The beetles are round like lady beetles (“ladybugs”), but much smaller in size. Varied carpet beetles are about 1/10 inch long, with black, white, brown and dark yellow patterns.
Carpet beetles adults feed on pollen and nectar of flowers. They often fly into homes from flowers in the landscape or may be accidentally brought indoors on cut flowers. A few adult beetles inside your home are typically not a problem. However, if you find larvae, the fuzzy immature beetles on fabric, carpet, or other natural materials in your home, you may need to manage the infestation.
See our Pest Notes: Carpet Beetles for more identification, prevention, and management information.
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- Author: Elaine Lander
- Author: Karey Windbiel-Rojas
While we continue to spend more time than usual indoors, you may have noticed a few unexpected (and perhaps unwanted) co-occupants like ants, cockroaches, or mice. Luckily, UC IPM has a series of fact sheets called Pest Notes to help you identify and manage hundreds of different pests in and around the home, only a portion of which might come indoors.
Any room in the home can attract and harbor indoor pests including kitchens, pantries, bathrooms, closets, storage areas, or other living spaces. Prevent and reduce indoor pest problems by cleaning and decluttering indoor spaces. This removes access to food, water, and shelter for pests such as ants, carpet beetles, rodents, and pantry insects. Find out where the pests are entering your home and prevent them from getting in. Keep reading for tips that will help limit potential infestations.
Kitchen and Pantries
Living Spaces and Closets
Garages, basements, attics, and other storage spaces can also attract unwanted pests. When possible, seal cracks and openings in foundations and around doors, windows, pipes, wires, and vents to reduce access to these areas by rats, mice, or raccoons. Use snap traps to control rats and mice indoors. Organize belongings in airtight containers such as plastic bins to keep out carpet beetles, mice, and silverfish. Store bins off the floor and away from walls to reduce clutter in storage areas.
Houseplants may be attacked by pests that are typically found outdoors including scale insects, mites, mealybugs, whiteflies, or fungus gnats. However, indoor management of these pests can differ from methods recommended for outdoor plants. Houseplant leaves and stems can be washed with water to remove soft bodied insects and mites. Use sticky traps to reduce fungus gnat populations by trapping adult gnats and adjust your watering. Pesticides such as insecticidal soap or horticultural oil may help control some of these pests but be sure products are labeled for indoor use on the houseplant species and against the pest you have identified. See the recently published Pest Notes: Houseplant Problems for more information.
Found a spider? Before you squish it, remember that spiders are predators which are beneficial and help control other pests around the home. If you are comfortable, let the spider be or capture and release it outside. See this video on how to do it.
Another visitor you might spot is a house centipede, but these invertebrates are also beneficial and do not damage plants or household items.
Wherever you may find pests in the home, use integrated pest management (IPM) to solve your specific pest problem. The combination of science-based methods suggested above will help exclude and manage pests so you can reduce any undesired co-occupants.
You can find much more information about all the pests mentioned in this article in the UC IPM Pest Notes publications located in the Household Pests section online.
[Original article published in the Winter 2020 issue of the Retail Newsletter.]/h2>/h2>/h2>/h2>
- Author: Belinda J. Messenger-Sikes
- Author: Karey Windbiel-Rojas
Most people are practicing social distancing due to the current pandemic, so contracting head lice might not be a top concern right now.
However, many families with young children have at least one encounter with head lice at some time or another. Finding effective ways to manage these pests can be difficult, but it is possible. And remember, anyone can get head lice.
In the newly updated Pest Notes: Head Lice, authors Victoria Leonard and Dawn Gouge bring their public health and pest management expertise to the topic of head lice management, providing easy, safe, and effective ways to control a head lice infestation.
The authors state that while normal shampooing, hair-conditioning, brushing, and hair-drying will kill many lice, care givers should take action as soon as live lice are discovered. Treat the infested person's hair, then comb with a metal lice comb and clean the person's bedding and other belongings.
Choosing a treatment can be challenging since many common insecticidal shampoos no longer work well due to resistance. Regardless of the product chosen, always follow the label directions for safe use and reapplication. For detailed instructions on combing for head lice removal and discussion of prescription and non-prescription head lice treatments, consult the Head Lice publication.
Eventually, we will all return back to normal so we hope this information prepares you ahead of time dealing with head lice.
- Author: Siavash Taravati
- Posted by: Elaine Lander
Western drywood termites (Incisitermes minor, Figure 1) are an important pest of structural wood in California, causing millions of dollars in damage annually. These termites are very cryptic, hidden in their galleries within wood members (pieces of wood), and only emerge during swarming. As a result, wood damage usually goes unnoticed for a long time.
Control options are generally categorized as either whole-structure treatment (heat treatment and fumigation) or local treatments (insecticide injection into the wood, high-power microwaves, electrocution, and other techniques).
Despite the high efficacy of fumigation, there has been increasing interest by property owners to use local treatments for eradicating drywood termites. This may be due to the high cost and inconvenience of fumigation. To learn more about decision-making associated with fumigation, visit this webpage. Local treatment of drywood termites can be ineffective because of the difficulty in locating active infestation sites within structures.
To address this issue, practitioners and researchers have considered different detection methods using traditional and modern technologies such as borescopes, moisture meters, and heat sensors as well as devices using X-rays, acoustic emission, and low-energy microwaves. Here we provide a review and some technical details on how to operate a specific device using microwave technology for detecting termite movement in structures.
Although such output can be informative, interpreting the results might not always be easy and may also require considerable expertise. First, the output's line graph may represent detection of non-termite objects or the user themselves (body movement or hand shaking while holding the device). Second, the signal intensity varies depending on the depth of termite activity, so Gain settings may need to be adjusted for higher or lower sensitivity. Third, the relationship between termite density (number of termites per unit of area) and signal strength is not easily understood by users (Figure 3). Fourth, termites may not be present or active during inspection and this may lead to a false negative conclusion (concluding “no termites” when they are present) when inspecting an infestation. To address these issues, field and lab research experiments were conducted in California to evaluate the efficacy of the Termatrac device and to help termite inspectors accurately interpret the output signal.
- hand-held with radar surface flush against the inspection surface
- mounted on a tripod with radar surface flush against the inspection surface
- resting on a horizontal surface with radar surface flush against the inspection surface
- with radar at 45° angle to the inspection surface using the back flap or a tripod
Field studies revealed that hand-held uses produce less accurate results than tripod/flap supported uses due to user hand shaking. Also, the device's output showed more noise (Noise is referred to a detected signal in the output that is not coming from drywood termites) from the user's body movement when used at 45° to the inspection surface as compared to flush against the inspection surface.
For optimal readings, Termatrac users should keep the following in mind. Users need to stand still when reading the output or the device will pick up their body movement and produce a false positive signal. This is especially true at high sensitivities.
Users also need to ensure that there are no moving objects (vehicles, plants swaying with the wind, airborne debris such as leaves and dusts, children, or animals (such as pets and birds) on the other side of the inspection surface (a wall for instance) which may create false positive signals. Also, water passing through pipes behind inspection surfaces may produce a strong signal. However, heavy machinery around the experiment sites did not produce any detectable noise despite being very loud.
The device should not be used to inspect unstable surfaces or non-fixed objects (e.g. yard fence) since these situations will increase the chance of false positive signals and inaccurate detection of termites.
To save time and increase accuracy when inspecting standard interior walls, users should first try to locate studs using a stud finder and then use Termatrac on those areas only. Users may also choose to focus on wooden window frames and windowsills since these have been observed to be one of the most commonly drywood termite detected spots in homes.
Lab studies showed that higher densities of termites may not necessarily produce stronger signal (Figure 3). At the highest sensitivity setting, Termatrac T3i was able to detect a single drywood termite behind 5 cm (2 inch) of wood and 1.3 cm (0.5 inch) of drywall (total thickness of test “wall”: 6.3 cm / 2.5 inch).
Drywood termites move within their galleries continually and therefore may not be present in all gallery regions at all times. Furthermore, termite activity may change throughout the day depending on temperature and other factors (Figure 5). As a result, if you suspect an active infestation in a wall but are not getting a detectable Termatrac signal, it is worth moving on to other areas and then returning in a few minutes to re-inspect the suspect location.
To conclude, Termatrac can be very useful in some termite detection. Like other termite detection devices, Termatrac has limitations and requires training and experience before a user can efficiently and accurately detect termites. With this said, an experienced Termatrac user can obtain valuable information about termite presence and activity when the infested wood members are in accessible locations.
1Mention of a product does not constitute an endorsement.
[Originally published in the Winter 2020 issue of the Green Bulletin.]