Ants are keen on disposing of their dead
I walk several miles around our neighborhood every day and frequently take long hikes in the desert. During the course of these walks, I see thousands and thousands of ants scurrying back and forth. My question is: Why do I never see even one dead ant? What happens to them?
What would you want with a dead ant?
Sorry, that was gratuitous snarkiness, wasn't it?
The fact of the matter is that ants are very tidy. They keep a clean house, and for the sake of public health they don't want any decaying corpses around anymore than you would.
When an ant dies, two days later its hill-mates pick up the corpse and take it to a sort of garbage dump. Sometimes it's a distant site from the colony or a special chamber far away from the rest of the tunnels.
Why two days? This is sort of morbidly funny. It's because it takes that long for the other ants to realize their buddy is dead.
Two days after an ant dies it begins to give off something called oleic acid, which signals to the other ants that it's time to call in the ant undertakers.
Edward O. Wilson, the famous Harvard biologist, found that if you coat a live ant with oleic acid the other ants will haul it off to the burial site no matter what the living ant has to say about it. That must be discouraging for the little guy.
Now this is kind of interesting: A new species of wasp recently discovered in China uses dead ants to protect its nest, probably because the oleic acid discourages intruders.
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Mix 10-15 drops of your favorite essential oil with 1-2 ounces of mild organic soap and water. Pour into a spray bottle. It’s great for misting your dog’s legs (and your own) anytime that you go out where fleas would be likely to be found.
Make your own flea collar by taking an average collar or a bandana and adding some drops of any essential oil mixed with 2 tablespoons of almond oil (use dilute solutions when applying to cats as they can be very sensitive to essential oils) allow the collar to dry and then place it on your pet. You should re-dose the collar when you no longer note the scent.
Some great flea, ticks and mosquitoes repelling essential oil options include cinnamon, rosemary, wormwood, clove peppermint and cedar wood, eucalyptus, citronella, rose, geranium and lemongrass.
When you are fertilizing your lawn, mistakes are easy to make. Read along, avoid these blunders and you’ll be thrilled with your lawn and get the most for your buck.
FAILURE TO TEST THE SOIL
If you have tried everything and your lawn is still no looking good, it may be a good idea to have the soil professionally tested. The results will provide important information that will help determine what type of fertilizer you should use and how often you should apply it.
The best time to test your soil is early spring just before your lawn comes out of dormancy. Don’t collect samples after fertilizing. This will skew the results. And don’t use do-it-yourself kits! They may be less expensive but they aren’t very accurate. Your county extension office, reputable garden center or local university can help you test your soil accurately.
TOO MUCH FERTILIZER
If you apply too much fertilizer, a good share of it will leach through the soil and make its way into our precious groundwater, lakes, streams and wetlands. Lawn grasses only need a certain amount of food. More isn’t always better.
This excess of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium actually makes the grass weak and more susceptible to disease. It will also create too much thatch, which will ultimately choke out your lawn.
FERTILIZING AT THE WRONG TIME
Fertilizing more than four times a year is overkill. In fact most homeowners could get by with two every year.
If you fertilize just once a year, apply it around Labor Day. That’s when your lawn is the hungriest and when it will respond best to the nutrients.
If you fertilize twice, apply the second application in mid to late spring and it can be combined with your crabgrass preventer.
Fertilizer can be a great tool to keep a lawn healthy, dense and great looking but it also create environmental concerns if not used responsible.
Never apply any type of fertilizer close to wetlands, rivers streams, lakes and ponds. Stay at least 8 feet away from water when applying fertilizer.
After you are done, sweep up and collect what remains on hard surfaces, such as your driveway, sidewalk or street. It fertilizer is left on these surfaces; rains will eventually wash it into water features and storm sewers.
In short, be a good environmental steward.
DO I REALLY NEED A MOLD INSPECTION?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency EPA, in most cases, if visible mold growth is present, sampling is unnecessary.
However mold testing can be useful in certain circumstances.
1- When mold is not present, but the smell of mold is present. A mold inspection can reveal whether there is elevated mold and where it is located.
2- There have been water issues and there is suspicion that mold may exist in the air and/or behind walls.
3- Post Mold removal testing to ensure that the previous mold issues has been resolved.
4- Health issues whose causes cannot be pinpoint but seems to be related to mold symptoms (Coughing, sneezing, headaches, hives etc.)
5- In real estate transactions for the protection of buyers and sellers.
6- Landlord/Tenant disputes as to whether there is a mold problem.
If you have determined that you need a mold inspection, your next question will probably be; why to pay hundreds of dollars when I can do it myself with an over the counter mold tests kit?
Mold is everywhere, yes, all homes have small amounts of mold, so when a home mold test tells you that you have mold, it is not helping to determine whether it is toxic mold, where the problem is located or how serious it is.
Again, according to EPA sampling for mold should be conducted by professionals who have specific experience in mold sampling protocols, sampling methods and interpreting results.
Home mold test kits don’t include a visual inspection conducted by a mold professional trained to detect issues related to mold that are not apparent to most people.
A professional Mold Inspector will conduct a 4 point inspection of the property which includes;
1- Environmental assessment.
2- Visual Inspection
3- Bulk/Surface Sampling
4- Air quality analysis.
The samples will be sent to a certified laboratory and you will be contacted within a couple of days with a detailed report listing the type and quantities of mold present per Industry Guidelines.
At Enviro-Safe we have certified mold inspectors to advise and guide you through the process; we offer competitive prices and next day appointments.
Those microscopic unsegmented roundworms live in practically every environment in the world but only a few nematodes can kill your plants.
There are good and bad nematodes. Some of the good ones eat bacteria and fungus and prey on some insects pests. The bad nematodes are plant and animal parasites.
When a plant is infected, you will see the plant wilting, turning yellow, smaller or thinner than other similar plants, or the plant just die.
3 Basic types of harmful nematodes:
Nematodes on the outside of the roots.
They eat the roots of your plants and you cannot tell they are there except by the plant getting sick or dying.
Root Knot nematodes.
These small worms get into the roots of plants and interfere with the proper functioning of the roots which either weakens or kills the plant. You can recognize them by digging up the roots and looking for hard little knots on them.
Nematodes in the stem or leaves.
Some get into your plant and stay in one place; others move around the plant causing damage as they go. It’s very hard to tell they are there even after the plant is dead.
Laboratory soil sample analysis is the only way to determine if a nematode infection is present and may be necessary to identify the most effective control measures.
Using a lot of organic matter in your plant beds will help prevent the nematodes from migrating to your plants but unfortunately, once there are nematodes in your soil the only solution is replace or solarize your soil.
The solarization process is as follows:
Clean all the plant matter and debris from the area.
Place two layers of clear plastic over the soil and place a divider such as a 1” plastic pipe between the layers.
Seal the edges of the plastic with soil.
Let the sun beat down on the plastic and soil for a couple of months.
This process will kill pretty much everything in the soil down to the depth of about one foot. Plants or turf can now be re-introduced to the area.
I know what you are thinking, don’t we have enough to stress about this time of the year? Have some eggnog, sit back in your easy chair, and admire that tree.
Now that you are comfortable, here is something that will answer all your questions.
Every Christmas tree can harbor insects, mites or spiders. Some of these may remain on the tree until winter and could become active after being expose to the warm temperatures inside the home but before you go reach for the kerosene you must know that because these pests are associated with field-grown conifers, none of these accidental introductions are a treat to your home, its contents, or occupants.
Prevention is the best and easiest plan. Mechanical tree shakers, available at some retail lots, are useful in removing some insect from the trees. Vigorously shaking the tree before bringing it into your home will serve the same purpose, and will also remove any loose needles.
Bird nests, although considered decorative by some people, may contain bird parasites such as mites and lice and they should be removed by hand. Any egg masses on the trees, including those of Praying Mantis and Gipsy moth, should also be removed.
Control of these temporary invaders should be limited to non-chemicals. Aerosol insect sprays are flammable and should NOT, under any circumstances, be sprayed on the Christmas tree.
Insects occurring on the tree should be left there until the tree is removed. Any that collect on ceilings or walls can be eliminated with a vacuum cleaner. It is important to remember that these “critters” are normally found outdoors, on live trees. Warm temperatures, low humidity and lack of appropriate food conditions typical of most homes will usually kill these invaders in a short time.
You can of course buy an artificial tree and sidestep such issues, but you can never entirely put out of your mind the knowledge that the classic bristle and wire fake tree was originally devised by a manufacturer of toilet bowl brushes.
Thus the eternal dilemma, you can take the antiseptic route and celebrate sterility. Or you can embrace biological reality with the knowledge that every so often you are going to think: my Gosh, this is gross!
Spiders are one of the most amazing and feared home invaders. There are more phobias about spiders than any other pest and understandably so. If you get bitten by the wrong spider and you have a bad reaction to the venom, you can end up in the hospital. And yes, there have been some deaths associated with spiders (though much less than you would think- six per decade in the US)
They can be found indoors any time during the year but their numbers usually peak during late summer and fall, just in time for Halloween.
Because of their beneficial nature and how very important they are to the environment, we should tolerate spiders whenever possible. When tolerance is not possible don’t expect perfection in spider control; they are biologically not very receptive to chemical agents and not very cooperative in picking up pesticides. So just spraying alone is not a great defense.
One good point about spiders is that they are basically loners. They aren’t social insects that live in big groups. As predators, they like to operate on their own and not share his food. So you are often just as effective whacking a spider with a shoe, a newspaper or whatever weapon of choice as you would be to spray for them.
To reduce the number of spiders in and around your home, start with non-chemical methods to prevent spiders from entering from the outside.
1- Remove debris such as bricks or firewood away from your home.
2- Keep grassy areas near building cut short.
3- Trim back shrubs and other plants that directly contact your home.
4- Knock webs and any egg sacs down with a broom or a hard spray of water.
5- Caulk or seal obvious cracks around the foundation, doors and windows.
6- Repair any screens that fit poorly or are damaged.
7- Change outside lights to reduce insect prey that can encourage spiders. Yellow lights are less attractive to insects than mercury or sodium vapor lights.
Regular housecleaning is very important in the control of spiders indoors. Large persistent spider population indoors indicates the presence of a significant insect population that serves as their food.
To supplement your sanitation efforts an insecticide treatment can be performed, concentrating especially in, cracks, crevices, voids and other places where spiders may hide. Fogging or bombing is not effective.
HEAD LICE SEASON
Once again the most wonderful time of the year is here, back to school!
And with the close contact among children and their belongings head lice will be back too.
Head lice are tiny wingless, parasitic insects that live and feed on blood from your scalp. Ugh!
Common signs and symptoms of head lice may include:
-Itchy red bumps on your scalp, neck and shoulders. Some people, particularly if this is their first infestation, don’t experience itching.
-Adult lice on scalp. The most common spots are behind your ears and along the back of your neck.
-Lice eggs (nits) on hair shafts. They resemble tiny pussy willow buds. They can be mistaken for dandruff but they can’t be easily brushed out of hair.
Getting head lice isn’t a sign of bad personal hygiene or an unclean living environment. This itchy infestation, also called pediculosis capitis, most commonly spreads through close personal contact and by sharing personal belongings as hats, scarves, brushes and combs or headphones.
Head lice may sometimes be contracted by contact with contaminated towels, clothing, blankets, pillows or upholstered furniture.
The safest way to treat head lice is physically remove the lice from wet hair using a fine-toothed or nit comb. Repeat every three to four days for at least two weeks.
There is also over the counter products and shampoos. These work best if you follow the directions very closely. In some geographical locations, lice have grown resistance to the ingredients.
In Case of a severe infestation your doctor can prescribe medications but most of them are not indicated for children and can have serious side effects.
You may want to wash bedding, stuffed animals, clothing and hats with hot soapy water and dry them at high heat. Soak brushes and combs in very hot water for five to ten minutes.
Place unwashable items in an airtight bag for tree to four days. This will kill lice, and newly hatched lice will die because they have no nutrition.
Give the floor and furniture a good vacuuming.
You can ask your child not to share hats, brushes and other personal belongings at school. But it’s no realistic to expect that you and your child can eliminate all the types of contact that may result in the spread of lice.
The best approach is simply check your child scalp often and to take thorough steps to get rid of the lice and their eggs so that you don’t have more lice to deal with.
If your home has been invaded by legions of many legged small creatures in the past several weeks, you are not alone.
What you found are indeed millipedes (it’s Latin for thousand feet).They live outdoors and are considered beneficial for the ecosystem. They feed on decaying vegetation and, in subtropical and tropical forest, where earthworms are not plentiful; millipedes take their place as the dominant soil-forming decomposers.
Indoors they can be a nuisance but they don’t do any damage, won’t breed and will die within a day since its too dry inside. They carcasses take on a brittle, crunchy texture and emit an especially foul odor (for that reason it’s not a good idea to vacuum them).
To keep them out of the house, make sure that your weather- stripping around the doors and windows is in good shape. Seal all cracks and crevices in the walls. They appear to be attracted to porch lights, so turn off lights when not in use.
Millipedes favorite hangout is mulch, make sure that mulch is no more than 3 or 4 inches deep and is at least 2-3 feet away from the foundation of the house. Cap off sprinkler heads that spray water near the foundation of the house since they prefer high-moisture places.
Pesticide applications will help only to contain them but the problem will only be solved when the wet season is over. Our “green” advice: Be patience or get a pet chicken, they love them!
NATURAL FLY REPELENT
Flies do not like the smell of citrus oil, cloves or some other herbs like basil or mint. So when you eat outside slice a lemon and arrange the slices on a plate. Then, insert whole cloves into the lemons.
Don't be stingy with the cloves! If there's lots of food or company, make multiple plates full of lemons and cloves and place them strategically around the barbecue area and on the table or let them float in decorative containers full of water. They’ll look beautiful and smell delicious.