Categories
Ants

What ants eat

Ants exist in all types and live everywhere. They eat a wide variety of foods which tells us how to manage their presence. Knowing what ants eat can help us to eradicate them, because, like any other insect, ants need to live near a source of food.

What makes ants different from other insects?

To understand their diet, you must know that ants are essentially social. That is, they have a gregarious character that forces them to live in giant colonies. This means that their food must be abundant and permanently accessible. Therefore, they live close to the things that feed them.

Another notable feature that relates them to us and to bees is that ants “harvest” their food in many of their species. They also possess the ability to store and distribute their food to keep their colonies in ideal conditions for their numbers. This is a very rare occurrence in nature, but in ants it represents one of the conditions that have allowed them to survive and spread in the way they have.

Qualifying ants and their diet

A first basic characteristic is that ants are omnivorous, i.e., they can feed on almost any available material. But they are highly specialised, i.e., each species feeds on a specific material. Some, such as the red fire ants, can eat almost anything, but others feed only on items such as fungi that they grow themselves. Let’s look at some alternatives on the ant menu.

Carnivores

No ants that feed on other insects and small animals that they hunt. Their main advantage is represented by their numbers, which are usually relatively superior to the prey they attack. This type of ant is usually aggressive, but only towards its preferred prey. They maintain a non-aggression pact with humans, depending on the occupation of their habitats. If we do not disturb them, they do not appreciate our presence.

Scavengers

These are ants that feed on dead animals, thus providing a critical natural service. Together with other animals of the same diet, such as vultures and hyenas, they take care of the smallest carcasses.

Farming ants

One of the most interesting phenomena in ant feeding is the harvesting of fungi. This type of ant collects cellulose-rich materials, especially leaves, and stores them. In the process, fungi are generated with the moisture in the ants’ habitats. These fungi represent the colony’s sustenance.

In this case, another phenomenon that characterises ants is the division of labour. When we observe a column of foragers, we only see a minimal part of the social process involved. Once they arrive at the colony, they pass the work to the storage ants, who place the material in specialised chambers where the fungus is generated. Other harvesters then process and generate food for another process, feeding aphids that in turn generate food for the entire group. These are quite sophisticated functions that draw attention to the organisation of the ants.

ants eat

Specialisation in the feeding process as the basis for the ants’ success

Beyond the fact that we want to control them, one of the ways to do so is precisely by understanding their feeding mechanisms. The sophistication we mentioned above also reaches other areas. Work is distributed, as well as hierarchies, perfectly aligned with the feeding process. There are well-defined tasks. The collectors are skilled at finding and selecting the materials that feed them. In turn, they generate mechanisms to identify the pathways for the rest of their companions to reach the source of nutrients.

In this case, they use a chemical identified as a pheromone. The extraordinary thing is that each colony has its variations of this chemical. In this way, they establish a path to follow, which also indicates to the soldier ants which areas to protect from other colonies or potential predators. Communication is essential to them and is the way they maintain a predetermined working order.

Feeding ants and our home

Once we understand that they eat almost anything, we can understand what binds them to our homes. At home, they find a remarkable variety of potential foods, not just our own, but other things like plants. Likewise, in the cupboard, they find flours and sugars that are preferential for many species, which is why we consider ants to be pests.

It is therefore essential to consider the feeding aspects to assess the defence mechanisms we can employ. The most common are chemical traps in which the food they prefer is mixed. But the essential thing is prevention. They will take up space, it is almost impossible to eliminate them. However, we can limit the things they affect, with airtight containers and cleaning up crumbs and waste.

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Ants

Do ants bite?

We’ve all seen a film where a swarm of insects slowly devour a character. However, it is a matter of size and quantity, as in the case of ants. Of course, they bite, in fact, it is an action that refers to their ability to feed and defend themselves. However, do ants really bite?

Insect bites

Generally, we have little to do with insects, at least not directly. However, it is possible that we have been bitten by spiders, fleas, or even bees. In the latter case, it is not really a bite, but a sting. Others, such as fleas, bite the skin to feed on our fluids and others simply defend themselves. This is the case with ants. Preparing for any of these cases is essential, let’s see how to do it.

The variety of ants and their bites

In the case of ant bites, this is related to the species and the situation in which they find themselves with us. Most of the existing varieties do not actually bite. However, some specialise in feeding on living tissue, either plant or animal. For this reason, nature has endowed them in a special way with cutting elements. This is the case of red or fire ants. They receive their name precisely because of the pain represented by their sting.

Why does the ant’s sting hurt?

In the case of the fire ant and many other species, there is a combination that makes an encounter with them painful. The first is that, when they feel threatened, they defend themselves by applying their mandibles to the foreign element, i.e., us. They also extend their bite as far as possible, successively biting the area in which they find themselves.

The other element that makes the sting painful is related to a poison they inject when biting, called piperidine. This causes swelling and a small infection in the most severe cases, which are the ones that make it a real nuisance.

Symptoms of ant bites

In this respect, if the little offender is not immediately present, there are some tell-tale signs. 

  • A small bump on the affected area.
  • This is deep reddish and no larger than 50 mm in size.
  • In the case of the fire ant, the swelling will remain the next day and is likely to become infected. In these cases, pus will be present in the affected area.
  • Normally, there are several stings in the same area, due to the gregarious nature of ants. In other words, if we come across them, generally, we do so in their habitat, and it is likely that there will be several stings.
  • There is the possibility of an allergic reaction to the ant’s bite, especially in the case of those that inoculate venom.
  • In this rare case, the affected area becomes swollen to a considerable extent. When stings are numerous, it can cause anaphylactic shock, making breathing difficult.

Treatment of ant bites

As we have indicated above, it is not a common occurrence that ant bites are serious.

When it is a local affectation

In these cases, the bites will be few, and the consequences will be of equal quality. The ideal is to apply cold water to the affected area in the form of compresses. An antihistamine cream can also be used, but this is nothing to worry about. Let’s say it’s mostly to prevent any further symptoms in the form of discomfort. Ideally, it is best not to scratch your skin to avoid unnecessary injuries or scrapes. It is understood that the first reaction is to scratch, but it is not the most advisable thing to do.

There will be cases in which the involvement is more intense, and the welts persist and become infected. In some cases, the application of steroids will be necessary. This is a treatment that can last up to a week, waiting for the inflammation to go down.

Any treatment must be suggested by a professional, do not medicate yourself nor take the information shown here as a professional medical advice.

When the bite is extensive or causes allergic reactions

As we indicated above, everything will depend on certain circumstances. One of these is if the number of insects is considerable. In these cases, more severe reactions to the bites may occur. In these cases, the chance of developing allergic reactions is possible and in severe cases the application of epinephrine is recommended. This is an action that should be carried out by doctor or specialised paramedical personnel. These are cases in which the patient knows that he/she has this type of reaction and should report it immediately.

Some preliminary care to avoid ant bites

In general, both biting and non-biting species tend to live in large communities. This means that you can identify their habitat easily. That would be the first necessary precaution.

On the other hand, if you walk outdoors, you are more likely to encounter colonies and recognise them immediately. The first clue is the presence of the ants themselves. The second is the churned earth around the colony, as well as a noticeable bulge in the ground. In these cases, the ideal thing to do is simply to move away.  

Another necessary precaution is to consider the use of insect repellents. Moreover, the use of protective clothing if it is essential to walk through places where ants normally live. Prevention is based on our ability to avoid them, plain and simple.

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Spiders

What attracts spiders in your home?

One of the most frequent chores in a house is cleaning the cobwebs from the most unsuspected corners of our home. Although we eliminate them, they keep appearing, this happens because we are dealing with the consequents, not with the real problem. Spiders keep coming to our homes and return to build their nests in the same places. In this article, we will attempt to answer a question that can be a nagging one: What attracts spiders to your home?

What spiders require to build their nests

Essentially, they are solitary animals, they live in areas where they can have two things: food or security. This is one of the first factors to take into consideration. In these two elements there are conditions, among others:

  • Adverse outdoor climate. Spiders require stable and relatively warm conditions to live in.
  • The presence of nearby predators. This is another factor in their decisions to occupy a particular space. They will always prefer their home to be relatively inaccessible.
  • The need to reproduce is another factor to consider. They are extremely fragile beings that require very specific spaces for the care of their young. The more complicated the space to reach it, the better for them and their eggs.
  • The presence of others of their species. The reproductive period forces them to arrange their mating dates in areas where others are already present. This is despite their solitary nature, but if we consider a large area, the density of occupation will remain low.
  • The presence of food species. This is a fundamental condition. Spiders will be found where there is an abundance of other insects to feed on. They have evolved to specialise in very specific prey, so to find them, just look for the food, and you are sure to find their nests.
  • Spaces that are easy to leave when there are dangers. Spiders are predictable. They prefer spaces where escape is easy and quick, especially high places from which they can hang.
cobweb

Matching the spider’s needs with your home

This is where it gets interesting. Let’s take a closer look at the requirements we have outlined and compare them with human homes.

The right climate

Spiders prefer places where the temperature can be controlled. Nothing better for this than a house where the windows and doors are closed when it is cold. Likewise, when it is warm, they simply open them. This is the thermoregulation they need to survive, and we provide it.

Predators and prey

The balance required for feeding is found precisely in the home environment. Sufficiently hidden from those who eat them and close to those who feed. For example, small birds avoid contact with humans. This encourages spiders to multiply in your home.

Furthermore, in most homes, there are various insects, flies, ants, termites, which are the preferred prey of spiders. This is a factor that involves their location. For example, those that prefer to feed on flying insects will be located on the ceiling or in corners of the ceiling. Those that feed on crawling insects will be in the lower area, especially in dark corners.

Additional protection for breeding

Our houses are generally sheltered areas, with many inaccessible nooks and crannies, which we do not consider important. The reason is simple: they do not affect us in the least. Inaccessible corners for small creatures, dark but ventilated areas are all factors that spiders look for to live and reproduce.

Another aspect to consider is that when it is mating season, they look for other spiders of their species. This is possible when they have already colonised a space, and so your home becomes a permanent breeding ground for spiders.

Structures that facilitate habitat

In this case, it is about the way we build our homes. It is a question of sequential logic. The conditions that make a place habitable for us make it habitable for spiders. As a result, they become quite frequent companions in the home.

Preventing the presence of spiders in our home

There are several things to take into consideration. In this article, we have mainly referred to harmless spiders. Some more dangerous species tend to live away from humans. Others choose areas such as basements or attics where human presence is infrequent.

However, the species that normally occupy our homes are not dangerous. Perhaps what is important in this case is a question of aesthetics. Of course, if you don’t want a horror film type decoration, the ideal is to prevent them from colonising large areas. For this, constant cleaning is ideal. Likewise, preventing the presence of other insects that serve as food for them.

However, you should be aware that there are some insects that are effectively controlled by a limited number of spiders. This is especially important in the case of flies and the like. A pest control specialist is always an option.

Categories
Ants

Ants’ nest, everything you need to know

Ants are one of the most widespread insects on the planet. They have managed to evolve and survive various adverse conditions. Ants have existed on earth that much time, it would be better to say that we have occupied spaces where ants previously existed. In any case, the presence of their colonies from small inaccessible holes to small mounds in our gardens, is common. In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know about ant nests.

First, let’s characterise ants

They are essentially gregarious insects, which means that they live in large, specialised colonies. Specialisation refers to the activities that each of their components performs. Some protect, others harvest, others reproduce.

What ants require for their nests

As with all living species, the requirements are quite specific.

  • Security. We all require a roof, so to speak, a space that provides protection from the natural elements. Ants are not an exception. They protect themselves from the weather, predators, and the weakness of their young. In the first case, this refers to extreme temperatures, both hot and cold. This affects their metabolism because most varieties tend to prefer stable temperatures and dark environments.
  • Feeding. There is diversity in this case because they feed on a variety of natural elements. Starch, cellulose, some also live animal tissue in the form of other insects or carrion. Hence, their nests are usually close to their food sources.
  • Extent of their habitats. This is critical because ants can spread out significantly. Therefore, they require large spaces in which colonies grow exponentially. In many cases, it is possible to find colonies that extend over areas larger than those occupied by a considerable group of humans.
ant nest

Ant nests, how many types are there?

There is a complete classification, at least of those that are most common in our vicinity. Let’s look at the most common ones:

Opportunistic ants

Ants that adapt to any place. They are the most common because their requirements are small in quality, but large in quantity. They are usually found in areas where there are easy feeding possibilities. In human homes, they find perfect spaces to occupy without problems. In houses where there is an abundance of wood-related materials, these ants can adapt perfectly because their original habitat is trees.

Ground nests

This is the case for most ant species living in the wild. They are insects that prefer the darkness and humidity that shallow areas do not offer. They can be observed mainly in gardens and open areas. Furthermore, they move the soil and decompress it, which is an invaluable service for the nutrition of arable land. In this way, they facilitate the existence of other animal species that depend on the condition of the soil they occupy.

In some cases, as in red fire ants, they signal their positioning with mound-like structures. These are formed by the movement of soil and its accumulation outside. This implies that the size of the external structure indicates the size of the galleries that exist underground.

Simple nests

These are spaces occupied in a hidden way. We cannot see them easily because they are selected for their inaccessibility. They choose areas such as cracks in a structure and find a suitable solution for their occupation. They are not usually large colonies, unless they manage to modify the space and grow in numbers.

Nests in wood

In this case, they are ants specialised in cellulose, usually occupying spaces in dead plant matter. Tree bark, especially waste areas, are commonly inhabited by this type of ant. They do not form large colonies because their range is limited to the structure they occupy.

Ant nest control

Controlling ant nests that may appear in your home or garden is a complex task. It starts with considering the characteristics of each colony. In the case of the home, control is a little more difficult and involves the periodic cleaning of the occupied areas. It is not easy and, especially in wooden houses, it even represents a risk of structural loss. But controls can be applied through insecticides or some natural elements that work to repel them. Rosemary, for example, is a scent they find difficult to tolerate. Ant control must be carried out by specialist. We do not recommend applying any treatment without specialised knowledge.

In soil ants, the situation is simpler because it requires a little more direct management that does not affect your home. Removing the soil and applying an insecticide product would be the simplest of the steps. However, one thing to consider is their work in the soil. If it is not necessary to eliminate them, the ideal is simply to control them. Protect the plants with substances that scare them away.

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Spiders

Spider bites: All you need to know

Spiders play a vital role in nature, helping to preserve the ecological balance. Some people find spiders amazing animals and keep them as pets. In the wild, they can become pests when their populations get out of control.

Perhaps what aggravates the presence of spiders among us is that they often cause injuries that vary in severity according to the species. It is important that, if you have spiders around or as pets, you take the issue of bites seriously.

Pest control experts say that the secret to early action against spider bites is to learn about the most dangerous species and the symptoms of their attacks. If you want to know more about spider bites, read on.

Do spiders bite or sting?

Most of the arthropods that inhabit this planet bite or sting for feeding and subsistence, but this is not the case with spiders. These arachnids bite only to defend themselves and get out of any threatening situation.

Let us say, for example, that a spider attacks you the moment you touch it or unintentionally besiege it. Generally, many of the spiders you find walking around your house have teeth that are too small to penetrate human skin, so they will have a hard time biting you.

There are poisonous and non-poisonous spiders, and those that are, use these substances to kill their victims. However, the venom of many spiders is weak enough to have no effect on humans, causing damage like that of any insect.

Which spiders are common in the UK because of their bite?

There are many species of spider in the UK, but not many of them tend to bite. The spiders that do have this instinct are the cellar spider, the cochineal spider, and the false widow.

The bites of these spiders are characteristically very painful and cause some swelling that may last for a few hours. In the case of spider venoms that require medical attention, they have different toxin compositions.

It may surprise you, but in most parts of the world you will only find two spider bites that seriously affect health, namely those of the window and recluse spider. Despite the damage caused by the venom, it is not necessarily fatal.

Recluse or black widow spider venom is seldom fatal. However, there are spiders that are considered dangerous because their venom contains neurotoxins and has been shown to be lethal, such as the Australian funnel-web spider and the Brazilian wandering spider.

spider bite 2

What do spider bites look like?

Spider bites are not very different from insect bites in general. In fact, you probably do not even realise you have been bitten by a spider, even if you have the symptoms.

If you happen to see the spider that bit you, this is an unequivocal way of confirming that it was this animal that gave you this injury and not another insect. Otherwise, it is impossible to prove which bug caused the bite.

The rosettes of the bites are reddish, raised, itchy and swollen. This is the basic picture, provided you have not been bitten by a venomous spider, for which it is important to know how to interpret the physical signs.

Here is a list of some symptoms to look out for if you suspect you have been bitten by a spider:

  • Swelling
  • Skin damage
  • Itching
  • A red, lumpy mark
  • Muscle aches
  • Cramps
  • Headache
  • Mild to moderate sweating
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Nausea and vomiting

Who is most at risk from spider bites?

Anyone can encounter spiders and be bitten. However, certain people are at greater risk because their activities or workplaces bring them into contact with areas inhabited by spiders. Here are some of the people most at risk:

  • Workers who work outdoors (bricklayers, gardeners, and agricultural workers).
  • Children playing near piles of rocks and leaves.
  • People who walk long distances.
  • Doormen.
  • Operators of light and heavy machinery.

How to deal with spider bites?

In case you have been the victim of a spider bite, poisonous or not, follow the steps below:

  • Put an ice pack on the bite for about 10 minutes.
  • Elevate the site of the bite to reduce the swelling.
  • If you feel itchy, take an antihistamine, or apply an ointment based on iron and zinc oxides.
  • Clean the bite with soap and water, which helps to cool and prevent infection.
  • If an infection occurs and worsens, buy an antibiotic cream, and apply it to the area of the injury.
  • If you have been attacked by any of these spiders (black widow, tarantula, brown recluse, hobo spider or Brazilian wandering spider) go immediately to a medical centre for assistance.

Tips for preventing spider bites

While it is true that spider bites cannot be completely avoided, you can always prevent any uncomfortable situations with spiders. Here are some tips we recommend you follow:

  • Read up on the different types of spiders that live in your region, whether they are dangerous or not, and what their living habits are.
  • In case you want to clean or tidy up your garage, shed, basement, cellar, storage room or any other place that may harbour spiders, wear long-sleeved clothing, boots, gloves, and a hat first.
  • Douse your clothing with insect repellent.
  • If you have piles of rocks, leaves, or wood near your home, be sure to remove, store or dispose of them outside the vicinity of your home.
  • Don’t store things under your bed or other furniture.
  • Regularly broom or vacuum every nook and cranny and clean up any spider webs.
  • If you keep tarantulas as pets, always wear gloves, as well as eye and mouth protection when cleaning their terrarium.
Categories
Silverfish

How to protect your home from an infestation of silverfish?

Silverfish are small, wingless insects found everywhere in the world. Their scientific name is Lepisma saccharina, and they are not fish. The common name is due to their silvery colour and the way their bodies move from side to side as they walk.

Although not dangerous to humans, silverfish can be destructive when they become a pest. Learning how to prevent and get rid of silverfish is something every homeowner should know.

Unfortunately, silverfish infestations can be difficult to detect at first, as they are quite shy and nocturnal insects. But once they find a favourable spot, they reproduce quickly and can destroy your favourite items in just a few days.

Photo albums or clothes that ended up in a box in the basement become a meal for a multitude of silverfish. Read on to learn how to protect your home from a silverfish infestation.

Preventing a silverfish infestation

The best way to avoid a silverfish infestation is prevention. The general recommendation is to avoid conditions that favour their emergence and reproduction. In short, avoid leaving the things they like and need to live within their reach.

Silverfish are looking for food, a place to hide and moisture. If they do not find these things in your home, they will not thrive and will never become a problem.

Tips for preventing silverfish

Here are some tips to prevent silverfish from becoming a problem in your home:

  • Store all dry pantry foods in closed containers, especially those containing starch or sugars. This will keep them free of moisture and away from silverfish.
  • Dust or vacuum your home frequently. Dust particles can serve as food for silverfish.
  • Store clothes in a dry place. Clothes that will not be worn for a long time should be kept in a closed container and protected from moisture.
  • Do not leave leftover food. Crumbs from a dinner party can provide a complete meal for these insects.
  • Cover cracks and holes in walls and floors to keep silverfish (and other insects) out, preventing them from hiding and laying eggs.
  • Avoid excess moisture. If you live in a humid climate, or with a very wet season, get a dehumidifier. Reducing the relative humidity of the air to less than 60% prevents many types of insects (and mites) from thriving in your home.
  • Ventilate rooms that can accumulate moisture. This includes the bathroom or kitchen, so open windows and turn on the ventilation frequently to remove moisture.
  • Get rid of brush, wood, and leaf piles around your home.
silverfish infestation

How to detect a silverfish infestation?

Silverfish can live in almost any environment, but they prefer the warm and moist areas. Despite their shy nature, when there are enough of them, it is easy to spot one or more of the following signs.

Seeing live silverfish

Silverfish are small, nocturnal insects, so you may not see them often, but that does not mean they are not around. Seeing a single silverfish does not guarantee an infestation, but it should be enough for closer inspection.

Seeing their droppings in places where they concentrate

Silverfish droppings resemble small black peppercorns and are found in areas they frequent such as kitchens, bathrooms, basements, and storage areas. Without careful examination, they can easily go unnoticed.

Molting skin

Silverfish shed their skin several times throughout their life cycle. These outer shells are delicate, but with proper examination, they can be another important clue to a possible infestation.

Yellow spots

You may see yellow stains on books, papers and cardboard boxes indicating that silverfish have been there.

The damage they cause

Silverfish love to eat sugars, starches, papers, clothes, stickers, and even wallpaper. If you notice holes in these items, it is possible that you are dealing with a silverfish infestation.

Getting rid of a silverfish infestation

Traditional poisons are not very effective on silverfish, and at best kill the adults, leaving the eggs behind. In addition, it is possible that the outside of the house is a reservoir that can repopulate your home in a few weeks.

If you are a property owner who wishes to eliminate silverfish, you will need to remove it simultaneously from the house and the surrounding area. You will find that getting rid of the problem will be a mix of pest elimination and lifestyle changes.

Professional pest control is the most effective way to eliminate silverfish. The pest control person can do many things to eliminate the silverfish problem.

Pyrethrin is a common pesticide that many pest control people use to kill silverfish. Pyrethrin comes in liquid form and can be used to kill adult silverfish, but not their eggs.

The pest control technician can also use products such as diatomaceous earth, which helps dehydrate the adults when passed over.

Most importantly, the pest control person should be able to identify entry points and possible places where silverfish hang out.

A good pest controller will also give you recommendations on lifestyle changes, and small renovations, that you can make to prevent your home from being overrun by a silverfish infestation in the future.