Pests in Alabama
Alabama is categorized as humid and tropical with warmer temperatures in the southern portion close to the Gulf of Mexico and cooler temperatures in the Appalachian Mountain area. Generally, the state has very hot summers, mild winters and large amounts of rain throughout the year. Some of the most important pests located there include mice and rats, mosquitoes, termites and stinging insects.
PEST ANTS OF ALABAMA
Entomologists within Alabama have recorded about 170 species of ants, but only about 57 species are considered to be common, important pests. Of these ants, they are categorized as:
- Ants that cause significant nuisances to homeowners
- Ants that cause structural damage to homes and businesses
- Ants that may cause health problems from their stings and bites.
For additional information, a link to Orkin’s Pest Library is provided for some of these important ants.
Read more about ants in Alabama.
MICE AND RATS
Domestic rodents pose problems for residents year round, although more seem to occur during the onset of cooler weather when rodents try to enter indoors in search of warmer places to spend the winter months. The most commonly encountered rodent indoors is the common house mouse, which is widely distributed throughout the state. Other rodents likely to be found are domestic rats known as the Norway rat and the roof rat. Hundreds of years ago, the roof rat was introduced into the United States by hitchhiking on ships coming from other countries where they were common. So, it is not surprising that roof rats are now often found in southern Alabama and around the port cities.
While Norway rats nest underground in a burrow, roof rats are very good climbers and prefer to live aboveground in attics, floor voids, walls or outside in trees and dense vines. Evidence of these rats and house mice include seeing live or dead individuals and locating their droppings, tracks, and odors, gnawing’s of paper, cardboard, food containers, wires and wood.
Control of these rodents involves four basic strategies. First, eliminate sources of food by properly storing items and discarding food waste such as garbage. It is prudent to never allow garbage to accumulate around the property. Second, reduce or eliminate places where rodents can nest. The removal of rubbish such as rock piles, woodpiles, thick vines, brush and other things that provide protective places for rodents to build nests is critical. Be sure to avoid storing necessary household items directly on the floor. Third, eliminate and cover entrance holes and cracks that allow rodents access inside the home. Mice and rats are able to elongate their bodies to get through very small openings. For example, a house mouse can squeeze through a hole about the size of a nickel, while a rat can go through a hole about the size of a quarter. Fourth, use rodent traps and employ a knowledgeable pest management professional to properly set out specially designed traps and registered rodenticide baits to directly reduce rodent pressures within the home and throughout the property.
Mosquitoes are generally active in the early morning hours, around dusk and into the night. While there are some differences in the duration of mosquito activity, they are most likely to cause problems in all but the colder months of the year. Mosquitoes are not only a nuisance, but also bite by consuming the host’s blood and causing red, itchy bumps. However, the possible transmission of diseases is the more serious problem created by their blood feeding activities. In fact, mosquitoes in Alabama are known to be capable of transmitting several diseases. For example, the potential for transmission or actual cases of mosquito borne diseases in the state include chikungunya, malaria, West Nile Virus and Zika virus. The potential of mosquito transmitted diseases is expected to increase in Alabama as worldwide travellers bring these mosquito borne diseases to parts of the state visited and residents returning home from areas where these diseases are endemic.
Mosquito management for Alabama property owners is an integrated program that includes removing water, the mosquito’s source of development from their immature (non-biting) stage to the adult (biting) stage. Without water, mosquitoes cannot complete their life cycle and increase their numbers. The most important component of a mosquito reduction program is source reduction. This can be accomplished by either removing areas of standing water or by using mosquito growth regulators and control products to kill mosquitoes.
Since mosquito management usually is a large, somewhat complex undertaking, homeowners should consider seeking the advice and services of a knowledgeable and experienced mosquito professional. The professionals at Orkin will conduct a comprehensive inspection of the property, collect and identify mosquitoes found on the property. Identification is very important since different types of mosquitoes have different behavioral characteristics. In other words, there is no such thing as a “one size fits all” when it comes to mosquito management. Once your inspection is complete, the Orkin Man will provide a pest management plan designed specifically to address the mosquito issues found on your property.
Termites are nature’s way of getting rid of dead and dying wood so these materials do not become a burden to the ecosystem. However, termites are just as happy to eat the wood products in our homes, as they are to eat the wood in a fallen tree in the forest. Their need to eat wood results in billions of dollars spent each year for termite control and repair of damaged wood in homes and buildings. Alabama is one of the states where termites are a major pest problem caused primarily by Eastern subterranean termites and Formosan termites. While termite activity is highest in the warmer months, termites can be active year-round in most areas of the state. When termites are suspected, the best course of action is to immediately contact the Orkin termite specialists and request an inspection of the structure.
In Alabama, Eastern subterranean termites are generally more widespread than Formosan termites. In fact, estimates suggest more than 20% of the homes in most urban areas of Alabama will be attacked by Eastern subterranean termites at one time or another. As their name suggests, these pests generally build their colonies underground where the moisture in the soil helps prevent termite workers, from dying by dehydration.
While it may take a relatively long time for Eastern subterranean termites to cause serious structural damage, the same is not true for Formosan subterranean termites. In fact, this termite is the most aggressive and destructive termite in the nation. Formosan termites build underground colonies that reach population sizes ranging into the millions of termites. This reproductive potential, coupled with their larger foraging and feeding areas, often result in the destruction of a home’s wood components in a matter of months. Also, Formosan termites are more likely to produce secondary colonies which are spin offs from the primary subterranean colony. These can occur almost anywhere throughout the home that is moist due to a plumbing leak or another source of moisture.
One of the most common stinging insects encountered by Alabama residents is the yellow jacket. These insects build their nests underground or in protected locations above ground. If they sense their nest is being threatened, they will “boil” out of the nest and begin stinging whatever person or pet they perceive as a danger to the colony. Yellow jackets are widely distributed and are likely to be seen in the early fall months at outdoor picnics and other places since they are attracted to food odors, especially the sugars found in soft drinks.
Another important stinging insect is the baldfaced hornet. While not as common as yellow jackets, they do possess a sting described by many as being more painful than the yellow jacket’s sting. While most sting victims experience intense temporary pain, the stings of both yellow jackets and baldfaced hornets can cause major health problems for individuals that are highly allergic to the venom delivered by their sting.
Another common stinging insect in Alabama is the red imported fire ant. These ants are thought to have arrived into the United States during the 1930s in a shipment of fire ant infested cargo that arrived at the port of Mobile. Since that time these ants have invaded most of the South and some of the Midwest. While fire ants usually live in the soil, they will go inside a home or other building seeking food, moisture and shelter. Outdoors, the usual locations of fire ants are open, sunny locations such as lawns, fields and pastures. The most obvious indication of fire ant colonies is above ground dirt mounds created by soil that the ants excavate to form their colony’s tunnels and nest cavities.
As their name suggests, fire ant bites and stings are very painful and produce a reddish bump and white pustules. Colonies may grow to number from 100,000 to nearly half of a million members, so when fire ant colonies are disturbed, the results can be large numbers of painful stings and bites. As with yellow jackets and hornets, people who are allergic to the ant’s venom are at risk of suffering serious medical problems.