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1304 S. Commercial St.
Harrisonville, Missouri, 64701
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MO: (816) 765-6000 KS: (913) 451-2437

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Summertime & Stinging Pests

Chelsea Clarke

How do you handle stinging pests during the summer?

 

This post begins with another story, so strap in. When I was younger, my father ran a local soccer league through the Optimist Club. One summer we went out to check on the newly installed sprinkler system at our new complex. I should preface this with the fact that I’ve never really enjoyed getting wet while wearing regular clothing: water rides at amusement parks are the bane of my existence. Who wants to spend an entire afternoon walking around Silver Dollar City with soggy, water-logged shorts? Juvenile delinquents and weirdos who are fond of chafing, probably. But I digress – this particular day, a bumblebee happened to be going on a walkabout across the complex. I had learned at a young age to show the proper deference to stinging pests, and I had learned the hard way. This was because my natural reflex was to flail wildly and make loud noises – neither being very tactical responses in the grand scheme of stinging pest strategy.

This time was no different. The sprinklers were on all across the full-size field and for some reason I can’t recall, my dad sent me to the other end of the field to check on something. It was at the far end of the field where I crossed paths with this bumble bee. Bees may not understand human language, but they do have a very clear understanding of fear. Their fear. And if you startle them by acting aggressively (or acting aggressively terrified, as in my case) they can be provoked into defensive behavior.

I employed my tried and true method of bumble bee deterrence and promptly took off screaming. Unfortunately, it took off screaming after me. My father watched me sprint the full length of the field, running serpentine between the sprinklers in an effort to ditch my buzzing tail. I remember hoping that the water from the sprinklers would stop the bee. In retrospect, I think it probably stopped chasing me shortly after it started, but I could swear I heard that low droning buzz right behind me every time I thought I was safe. Unfortunately, I ended up soaking wet and gasping for air as I tried to explain what had just happened to my father. So there I was: soaking wet in regular clothes, but with a deeper understanding of my own mortality. My father later told me that he had initially thought I was being chased by an axe murderer or something from the way I was screaming. At the time, I thought to myself that I would have preferred the axe murderer. This is my PSA for properly handling stinging pests and their treatment.

You can find more information on the identification and behavior of stinging pests on their page in our Pest Library.


How to avoid being stung by stinging insects:

  • Don’t smell like something in need of pollination. Many perfumes or colognes smell floral or musky and bees can detect and follow strong scents. It’s best to go au natural and leave the Chanel No. 5 indoors.
  • Don’t look like a flower. See above – bees like flowers, like, a lot. Ever wonder why a beekeeper’s suit is all white? It’s because bright colors will draw bees in the area to you. It also helps not to walk around outside while barefoot, to avoid accidentally stepping on a bee or an underground yellow jacket nest, (if not just for all the sharp, rusted objects on the ground ripe with tetanus.)
  • Be careful where and how you picnic. Sugary beverages will attract the undivided attention of bees and wasps. Fruits, pastries, and other sugary or sweet food also attracts these pests. When drinking or eating outside, always make sure a stinging pest hasn’t landed on the rim of your soda can or on that last bite of fruit salad. Because, if not, you are in for a world of hurt.
  • STAY STILL. Learn from my mistakes. Let me be your stinging pest Wushu Master. I no longer flail wildly or swat at a wasp or bee. Now when I see a bee or wasp, I stay completely motionless and will it away with my nonexistent telepathic powers. Most stinging pests are just trying to go about their business of pollinating the world and clumsily bumbling around in public places – and who are we to judge? If the pest isn’t behaving aggressively, the best response is to remain still until it decides to fly away and it is likely to return the favor by leaving you alone. Swatting at a wasp or hornet is likely to initiate more defensive behavior that will lead to stinging.

However, if the hive or nest is near areas of high human activity and the pests become unavoidable, it is best to have it moved as soon as possible to prevent having to dodge uncoordinated bumblebees, or worse.


Wasps, Hornets & Yellow Jackets

We’ve all seen those honey comb-shaped wasp nests built in eaves and covered porches. Paper wasps, named for their paper-like nests made of fragments of wood, organic material, and saliva, are less aggressive than hornets and yellow jackets. Mud dauber wasps build their tube-like nests out of, you guessed it, mud. Wait to remove the nest until you are sure treatment has been effective in eliminating all wasps.

Hornets usually attach their tear-shaped nests to trees, bushes, or the side of buildings. These pests are much more difficult to remove than the relatively more docile wasp. Hornets can be very aggressive if their nest is disturbed. It is important to have a professional remove the fragile nest, because if it is accidentally broken open during removal, the disturbed wasps will scatter.

Yellow Jackets are a type of wasp that builds its nest underground in disused rodent burrows, beneath landscaping, or in the rock walls of a building. They are typically less active at night, which makes it easier to treat and remove their nest. These stinging pests are very similar to hornets in that they are very aggressive when irritated or disturbed and will attack people in the area.


Honey Bee Hives

This needs to be addressed as a matter of conservation, especially in the case of honey bees, which are becoming more and more endangered with each passing year. Before calling a pest control company to come out and deal with an active bee hive, call a local apiculture or beekeeping society. These beekeepers need to know that you definitely have honey bees and not another type of bee that may look similar before they make the trip out. Many times, apiarists will remove honey bee hives at no cost to you since honey bee conservation is becoming increasingly more important to those in the apiculture due to the many beneficial aspects of honey bees.

Africanized Honey Bees

Each year we see widespread news coverage of the impending doom that is the “Africanized killer honey bee” and how these bees are going to kill us all. This topic could benefit from some clarification that isn’t fear-based.

The African honey bee is a subspecies of honey bee indigenous to sub-Saharan Africa; however, it was recently introduced to the Americas and has slowly spread since. “Killer bees” are the result of hybridization between African and European honey bees. Statistics show that there are roughly 40 fatal bee attacks each year, but the difference between your typical honey bee and these “killer bees” is that the Africanized honey bee is far more aggressive. They are known to pursue sources of disturbance much more doggedly. When a European honey bee hive is disturbed, only roughly 10% of the colony attacks, but for the Africanized honey bee, when disturbed the entire colony will attack indiscriminately. These attacks become fatal when those being targeted are unable to escape and reach cover.

Africanized honey bees are typically found in the southwest where milder year-round temperatures allow them to survive through winter. The presence of Africanized honey bees has not been established in or around Missouri, so any honey bees you encounter this summer will probably be your typical European honey bees – which are still not to be trifled with. For treatment or removal, always call a professional.

Lawn & Garden Pests

Chelsea Clarke

 

How do I figure out what bugs are destroying my [insert plant/flower/tree here]?

 

I'm going to start with a story. The summer I turned eight we moved into the first home we actually owned since moving to Missouri two years before. It had a yard big enough to keep the dog we could finally get and enough bedrooms that I no longer had to share one with my younger sister, who was a fitful sleeper to say the least. It also had multiple trees in the front yard, including one that was absolutely perfect for climbing. There is a picture in existence somewhere of me and my friend Matt sitting up at the top of that tree completely barefoot.

Unfortunately, this beacon of childhood joy died all-too-quickly and had to be cut down because "it was an eyesore" at the edge of the intersection where our corner lot sits. Needless to say, I was heartbroken. Most of the damage was done long before we had actually moved in. The perpetrator of such an injustice was an aggressive infestation of boxelder bugs (also poor drainage, but that’s irrelevant here), and I have nursed a seething rage for them ever since. This blog entry will serve as my PSA for the safety of all good climbing trees everywhere.


Most people who have a home garden, whether floral or vegetable in nature, have put a lot of time, money, and effort into its development. Because of this, it is important to ensure it is protected from the damage of pests. Effective and environmentally-conscious pest management can be that insurance. There are insects that are beneficial to a garden and those that are detrimental. Identification is the first step to differentiating between the two. Those that are beneficial are best left to go about their business, but the pests hellbent on destroying your heirloom tomatoes (or your best climbing tree) should be dealt with swiftly. And Keller can do that for you. Here a just a few of the myriad insects that can be found in your garden, both the good and the bad.


 

The Good

Beneficial insects and other invertebrates are those whose presence positively affects a garden, orchard, or agricultural farm. They do this either by contributing to the quality of the soil by assisting in the breakdown of decaying organic matter or controlling existing populations of detrimental pests as their natural predators. These beneficial insects are sometimes used in pest management as a biological control on populations you wish to eradicate from an area. They are, however, considered nuisance pests when they happen to wander indoors.

Centipedes / Millipedes

Centipedes and millipedes tend to be a mixed blessing. When found indoors, they are an unwanted nuisance, but when found outside in a garden, they enrich the soil by breaking down decaying organic material. They control pest populations by feeding on unwanted and destructive insects plaguing gardens.

Asian Lady Beetles

Multicolored Asian lady beetles are another beneficial insect due to their natural control of aphids, which are found on our destructive pest list. They are often confused for your typical lady bugs (“lady beetles”).Their presence decreases the need for pesticide use in ornamental plant gardens, orchards, and agriculture. However, their introduction to new habitats has caused some overpopulation problems in parts of the United States. It is thought that natural checks and balances will eventually be reached in order to control their expanding population.

Aphid Midge

This midge feeds on the larvae of over 70 different species of aphid including those most destructive to ornamental, fruit, and vegetable plants. The aphid midge is commonly used as a biological control in Integrated Pest Management to manage large aphid populations.

Damsel Bugs

This winged insect is what is called a “generalist predator” because they feed on a wide variety of insects including garden pests like caterpillars and aphids. Unlike some other beneficial species of insects, damsel bugs aren’t sold commercially but reducing the usage of pesticide can help bolster an existing population.

Spined Soldier Beetle

These beetles look very similar to stink bugs, which are featured on our pest list, but can be differentiated by the spines located on their backs. Spined soldier beetles, like other soldier beetles are natural predators of hairless caterpillars and the larvae of the types of beetles who typically feed on garden plants.

Earthworms

This invertebrate is familiar to all gardens where they are known as “nature’s plow.” Their interconnected tunnels and burrows help loosen the soil which allows for air and water to help roots expand and grow as needed. Not only do worms act as an accurate barometer for any physical or chemical changes in your soil, their diet of organic matter leads to castings that serve as an excellent source of fertilizer.


 

The Bad

It's important to note here that some of the following insects can be beneficial (or at least only a nuisance) under the right circumstances, but under the wrong ones, they are bad news bears. Each one is detrimental in its own way and once you've identified which pest is wreaking havoc on your harvest, Keller can help treat in a way that minimizes risk to your garden.

Boxelder Bug

While these true bugs are not typically considered agricultural pests, in large aggregations boxelder bugs can quickly become a nuisance. In late April, boxelders emerge from winter break and return to their host trees to lay eggs in crevices in the bark. When feeding on a plant or tree, they may damage the foliage of still developing leaves and hosts that are severely infested may have a yellow tinge.

Stink Bugs

These true bugs are in the same Order as boxelder bugs, but feed on fruit and vegetables rather than trees like boxelders. Stink bugs prefer to attack beans, tomatoes, pears, and stone fruit, but will feed on a garden indiscriminately. Their presence is often detected when their damage becomes visible – discoloration and dimpling on ripened fruit and vegetables.

Aphids

Aphids are found across North America feeding on plants of all kinds. They attack ornamentals and flowers, fruit and vegetable plants, and a variety of trees. Individual species of these insects, also known as plant lice, are typically monophagus and specialize in one plant species, but several choose hosts indiscriminately. Aphids feed on the sap found in phloem tissue of plants which damages flowers, leaves, and buds and leaves destructive secretions on the plant.

Earwigs

Earwigs prefer soft fruit like raspberries, blackberries, and apricots rather than fruits like apples. Their damage can be identified by small holes that extend deep into the fruit. They may also feed on flowers like marigolds and dahlias, preventing proper pollination. Earwigs are nocturnal and can be seen in action with a flashlight in your garden at night.

Mealybug

Colonies of the mealybug appear as white, sticky cotton-like clusters on ornamentals, and fruit plants and trees. Large infestations restrict the growth and quality of the host plants, also causing fruit and leaves to drop prematurely. Mealybugs leave a waxy, sticky substance on their hosts, and this leads to the growth of a sooty mold on affected plants.

Sowbugs / Pillbugs

These pests aren’t actually insects; they’re soil-dwelling crustaceans closely related to crayfish. It is important to note that sowbugs and pillbugs feed primarily on decaying organic matter, which can help decompose plant material and improve the soil in a garden. However, these crustaceans also feed on new roots, seedlings, and any plant matter lying on or near the surface of the soil, causing unwanted damage.

Crickets

Crickets are nocturnal so most of the effects of their activity in your yard or garden won’t be apparent until the next morning. Occasionally, these insects will migrate from dry, weedy areas to your garden and cause damage mostly to vegetable plants. Several rows of seedlings can be demolished in a matter of a few days, if the infestation is large enough.

Spittlebugs

Spittlebugs, named for the frothy, spit-like protective mass that covers feeding nymphs, can be found on any plant. Feeding by sucking out plant juices, infestations of spittlebugs can destroy plant tissue and restrict growth. They typically are not found on well-established woody plants and trees.

Grasshoppers

These insects tend to be found in gardens sporadically depending on the local population. They are general feeders that tend to eat indiscriminately, but they prefer young plants including lettuce, onions, beans, and carrots. Grasshoppers are capable of consuming entire plants when given enough time. If an infestation is numerous enough, periods of damage can last much longer than their usual period of activity, which is typically a few weeks in early summer.

Caterpillars

Depending on the species, caterpillars will target a variety of food sources. They chew damaging holes in leaves and flowers, feed on buds, seedlings, and young shoots, capable of entirely consuming any of these. Other types of caterpillar burrow into plants and hide while feeding on fruits, nuts, and tubers – most of the damage going unnoticed until the plants are harvested. Tree-dwelling caterpillars are known to bore into the wood, creating holes, damaging and weakening branches and restricting sapling or new shoot growth.

Integrated Pest Management

Chelsea Clarke

What is Integrated Pest Management?

 

Keller Pest Control follows the principles and methods of Integrated Pest Management, or IPM. This treatment methodology allows our technicians to solve pest problems in a way that minimizes risk to people, animals, and the environment. It can be adapted to manage pests of any and all kinds.

Prior to the popularization of IPM, most pest control was solved by saturating all affected areas with pesticide. If one bottle was good, then two bottles was even better. It’s safe to say that, more often than not, the pesticides being used were not green. This philosophy and its treatment methods compromise the safety of both the people and the ecosystem exposed the chemicals.

Integrated Pest Management focuses on techniques that allow for long-term prevention of unwanted or damage-causing pests by controlling the environment in which they exist. Instead of simply treating for the pests you see at the moment, IPM involves the examination of environmental factors that affect any unwanted pest, and with this, a trained technician can solve the problem by creating conditions that no longer allow the pest to thrive.


The IPM Process:

 

  • Identify the pest(s). Our technicians are well-trained and educated in pest biology and are capable of accurately identifying whatever unwanted pest is troubling you.

  • Assess the level of severity: how large is the infestation and how much damage has been incurred.

  • Determine the necessary steps to control pest and apply the appropriate treatment method. 

    • Biological controls such as introducing the pest’s natural enemies can help better manage population levels without the use of pesticides. This approach is more commonly used in agriculture and conservation.

    • Behavior controls such as physical barriers alter the pest’s ability to congregate, reproduce, and survive. These mechanical or physical controls can eliminate the pest directly or create an environment in which it can no longer thrive.

    • Chemical controls include the application of pesticides, but only when necessary and only with minimal effect on you, your pets, and the environment. Through IPM, only the most effective pesticides are used to ensure the preservation of air, soil, and water quality.

  • Monitor treatment for effective results and adjust methods as needed. Our technicians work continuously to ensure than any pest infestation is handled completely before the treatment is considered successful.