Ask the Expert
Q We have found what appear to be ticks along the baseboard in the sunroom of a customer’s home. They don’t look like the ticks we typically find on pets and people. Any idea what they could be?
A After reviewing samples of the pests in question, the ticks you have found are not the ticks that are usually encountered by pest management professionals. The most common ticks found in and around homes, feeding on people and pets are in the family Ixodidae, commonly referred to as hard ticks. Hard ticks are primarily ectoparasites of mammals (though some also feed on reptiles too). Alternatively, the ticks you have found are in the family Argasidae, or soft ticks, which are mostly found on bird hosts, but can bite people too. Soft ticks have eight legs but have a less “armored” appearance due to a lack of scutum, or shield-like structure, on the dorsal (back) surface. Most notably, the mouthparts of soft ticks are not visible when viewed from above. With regard to control, the first step is to determine where they are coming from. The most likely hosts are birds (though wildlife like opossums in a crawlspace could also be to blame). Are there chickens close by? The ticks might have inadvertently found their way into the house on someone’s clothes. Perhaps birds were recently evicted from an attic or soffit space? If the sunroom is situated over a crawlspace or basement area, inspect those locations too. It’s unlikely that these ticks would be infesting a home without a host present, so continue to search for wildlife or other animals in the building.
Q My customer would like to know how long infested foods need to be frozen to eliminate stored product pests. What should I tell them?
A Temperatures below zero degrees Fahrenheit for four days should be sufficient to kill most stored product pests in stored food, however it’s not clear why your client is interested in this control strategy. In most cases, it’s best to simply dispose of infested products since freezing does not eliminate the insects or their waste from the food. It is understandable that some infested items may not be food and freezing could be good solution, especially when there is sentimental value attached to an item. No one wants to throw away the art project made from dried beans and noodles that a child made in kindergarten!
Q Since chitin is found in insect eggshells, are termite queens still able to lay eggs if the colony is feeding on a termite bait containing a chitin synthesis inhibitor?
A Termite baits employ insect growth regulators referred to as chitin synthesis inhibitors (CSI). These active ingredients interfere with an insect’s ability to produce chitin, an important structural component that makes up an insect’s exoskeleton. Since a new exoskeleton is formed each time a termite molts, CSIs do not allow worker termites to create the chitin they need to properly build a new exoskeleton and they don’t survive the molting process. (Worker termites continue to molt, even as adults). Since reproductive termites and soldiers are all adults and no longer molt, they are not directly impacted by CSIs, except that without workers to feed them, they will starve. Additionally, recent research has demonstrated that termite queens exposed to CSIs are not able to produce viable eggs since they have ingested termite baits when they were fed by workers. The combination of worker population collapse and lack of viable eggs results in colonies being effectively controlled in a relatively short period of time.