Agri Leader

Summer heat may drive insects indoors

Central Florida's Agri-LeaderCentral Florida residents typically spend more time outdoors during the summer months, which means we may be exposed to insects making their homes in the lawn or garden. Hot summer temperatures may also drive insects indoors, seeking food and shelter from the heat. Ants are one of the most difficult pests to control, both indoors and out. While most species of ants are merely a nuisance, there are some that can deliver a painful sting or damage the structure of your home. The Florida carpenter ant is a common central Florida pest. These ants are often found living under rotting tree stumps, beneath rocks and around trees, especially palms. Carpenter ants prefer nesting sites that are safe from predators, easy to access and have an abundance of food and moisture. This means that your home may be just the spot they are looking for. Some places they may be found nesting are underneath attic insulation, beneath dishwashers and behind wood paneling. Heavy infestations of carpenter ants can be especially problematic, because they often cause serious damage to the structure of the home when they tunnel through wood to make their nests.
Indoors, ants will eat most any food in your kitchen, which means they can contaminate your food and make you sick. Fire ants are also a problem during the summer in our area. These ants are aggressive and can deliver a painful sting to both humans and animals when threatened. When the weather is cool, fire ants prefer to make their nests in outdoor areas exposed to the sun, but may move indoors when the weather gets hot. It is important to prevent ant infestations to avoid damage to your home, as well as eliminate potential health risks. There are some things you can do this summer to keep ants outdoors where they belong. First, be sure to eliminate any areas of standing moisture in your yard and garden. Get rid of anything that collects rain water such as flower pots, buckets and old tires. Since ants often nest underneath wood, keep firewood well away from your home. Tree branches can provide ants with an easy entrance point, so keep branches trimmed. Ants often feed on plant pests such as aphids and whiteflies. Using an insecticide on your plants and shrubs will eliminate this source of food. Take the time to look around the outside of your home. Inspect around your window sills, door jambs and faucets for any cracks that ants can use to come inside. Be sure to use caulk to seal any cracks and crevices to keep them out. You must also be sure to reduce any areas of food and moisture inside your home. Keep pet food dishes clean and clean up any spilled food and dispose of garbage on a regular basis. Be sure to keep all food in containers with tight fitting lids and clean your counters to reduce infestations. While there are many home remedies that are believed to reduce ant infestations, most do not work effectively. The University of Florida, IFAS Extension recommends homeowners avoid using soap solutions, gasoline and bleach solutions to eliminate ants. Instead, rely on EPA approved chemical products to keep them under control. Granular baits are often applied directly to ant mounds or spread over larger areas. Dusts contain active ingredients such as pyrethroids and are available for ant control. These products typically work best when spread over an undisturbed mound. If you want to use an organic ant control product, choose one containing the active ingredient spinosad. When using any chemical control product, always follow the directions on the label for best results and maximum safety. Heavy infestations of ants may require treatment from a professional exterminator. This is especially important if you have fire ants in or around your home. These ants are extremely aggressive and can sting quickly causing itching, burning and fluid-filled lesions on the skin. On rare occasions, a severe allergic reaction can occur after fire ant bites. Wearing shoes and protective clothing when outdoors will help reduce bites. Educate your children about the dangers of fire ants and teach them to avoid the mounds if possible. Making an effort to keep ants at bay will prevent damage to your home and will ensure you have an enjoyable summer.