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Identification of Horse Flies

Flying insects have tormented humans and animals for thousands of years, especially blood-feeders such as the female horse fly (Chrysops relictus). These winged villains of the invertebrate order Diptera (true flies) are relentless in their vicious pursuit; silently stalking, then fiercely striking and inflicting painful wounds with their razor-sharp teeth. Knowing how to identify horse flies and protecting yourself while in their habitat lessens your chances of becoming a meal for these flying terrors. 

Know Your Predator

 

Requiring blood to produce her eggs, the female horse fly is the culprit who bites and feeds on blood while her harmless mate is gathering nectar, oblivious to her rampage. Easily recognized when you know what you’re looking for, female horse flies have thick, dark brown to black bodies that measure up to an inch long, with broad heads featuring bulging, brilliant iridescent green eyes. Their wings are either dark or completely clear. Rather than suck blood through a tube like mosquitoes, horse flies slice through skin with their powerful mandibles, and lap up the blood.

 

Proceed With Caution

 

Ponds, marshes and streams are horse fly breeding grounds. Female adults are found in salt marshes, swamps, bogs, shoreline, woodlands and forests. They feed during the day and prefer hot, sunny, wind-free days. Although their strong wings can take them several miles, horse flies typically remain within a two-mile radius. They attack dark, moving objects and congregate on paths and roads to take breaks from the carnage. On windy or cooler days you’re less likely to have a showdown with a horse fly.

 

Outsmarting the Enemy

 

When you’re camping, hiking or just strolling through horse fly habitat, preparation is key. Protective clothing and fly masks constructed of no-see-um midge netting are a prerequisite. Also, wear lighter-colored clothing. Many different insect repellents may work, but look for those that specifically state on the label they protect against horse flies. The nontoxic deer fly trap patch worn on the back of a hat is another clever option; it attracts them, then captures them on a sticky pad. Fly masks are available for horses.

 

Don't Mess With My Relatives

 

Evil cousins, the horse fly and deer fly, are two of the 4,500 members of the family Tabanidae. A tad smaller than the horse fly, the deer fly has yellow and black on its body. Primarily distinguished from the horse fly by its patterned wings, the deer fly has the same predatory modus operandi, seeking out humans, as well as deer and other mammals to feast upon.

 

Once Bitten, Twice Shy

 

Deet-based repellents don’t always stop horse flies when they’re in attack mode. After experiencing what is known as the “ice pick bite” from a horse fly, most people will do anything to avoid a second encounter. The bite site is red, raised and intensely itchy and painful. The pain usually subsides after a couple of days, but seek medical attention if signs of infection are present, such as inflammation, increasing pain and the forming of pus. Some people are allergic to the anticoagulant the female injects at the bite site and develop severe lesions, high fever and even disability.

Flying Insects That Live Underground

Burrowing into the hard crust of the earth with surprisingly powerful mandibles, hundreds of species of flying insects make their homes underground, From the curious cicada and parasitic predators like digger wasps to innocuous solitary bees, chubby bumblebees and fiery-tempered yellow jackets, an integral part of all these insects' lives is spent in cold, dark subterranean nests. 

Alternative Titles

 

Introduction

Prolific pollinators, bumblebees are generally docile insects who live underground in burrows.

John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images

 

Burrowing into the hard crust of the earth with surprisingly powerful mandibles, hundreds of species of flying insects make their homes underground, From the curious cicada and parasitic predators like digger wasps to innocuous solitary bees, chubby bumblebees and fiery-tempered yellow jackets, an integral part of all these insects' lives is spent in cold, dark subterranean nests.

 

Swarmageddon

 

Considered symbols of rebirth by the ancient Chinese culture, cicadas have fascinated people for thousands of years. 3,000 known species of cicadas occur worldwide. Periodical cicadas include the large sub-species Magicicada septendecim, who live underground for 13 to 17 years, slowly growing from larvae to adults, then emerge to engage in an ear-splitting, musical mating ritual for four weeks, lay their eggs and die. People who live in the eastern half of the United States gear up for the invasion they call "Swarmageddon," a once-in-a-generation event when up to 30 billion of the the giant flies blanket trees, shrubs, houses and cars. Annual cicadas, such as dog day cicadas, have multi-stage life cycles but emerge every summer.

 

Don't Sweat the Solitary Bees

 

Little insects of infinite complexity, the Andrenidae family of solitary bees include more than 500 species in North America, such as mining bees. They are expert buzz-pollinators whose females burrow into the ground creating tunnel-like nests with smaller side tunnels ending in a single cell, which she stocks with pollen and nectar collected from flowers, then deposits an egg on top. When the larvae hatch, they consume the stored food, pupate, then become adult bees who overwinter in the burrow site. Among the members of the family Halictidae are metallic green bees (Agapostemon), orchid bees (Lasioglosum) and sweat bees (Halactus), who land on people on hot summer days to drink their sweat for the salt content. Small, shiny and mostly metallic green or blue, they are beneficial in the garden, and there's no need to worry about these expert little pollinators -- they're not aggressive..

 

Fat and Fuzzy Buzz-Pollinators

 

You can easily spot bumblebees; their large, round, furry black-and-yellow-striped bodies are twice the size of honey bees'. They have little pollen baskets, called anthers, affixed to their back feet. Energetic and proficient pollinators, these rotund giants often nest underground in old rodent burrows, in the soil under sheds or in compost piles in colonies of about 100 individuals. Queen bumblebees spend the entire winter hibernating in the soil, then emerge in spring to nest in the ground and lay eggs. The larvae spin cocoons, where they morphinto adult bumblebees. Proficient buzz-pollinators, bumblebees and many solitary bees release or dislodge pollen held by their anthers to increase the efficiency of pollination.

 

The Dirt on Digger Wasps

Digger wasps burrow into the ground to make nests composed of cells to hold captive insects, upon which they lay their eggs. Then they fly away, not returning to their nests again until winter. Cicada wasps paralyze their prey with toxins and drag the cicadas into their prison cells, where the hapless cicadas are eaten alive by the larvae. Sharing the same unfortunate fate, a variety of spider species are spider wasp prey. Great golden digger wasp offspring dine on grasshoppers, crickets and katydids. But these parasitic predators do have some redeeming qualities. They are beneficial in the garden as prolific pollinators, they don’t defend their nests, and they are not aggressive to humans.

 

Watch Your Step

With the ability to sting multiple times, ground-nesting yellow jackets are an aggressive species who pose a real threat when they're nesting in your yard. Sometimes occupying old rodent holes or digging holes from scratch, colonies may grow to thousands of individuals. Beneficial insofar as they prey on insects and garden pests such as caterpillars that consume plants, later in the summer they require more sugar in their diet and begin to hang around garbage and picnics, becoming more of a hazard for people. Bright yellow with black stripes around the circumference of their slender bodies, yellow jackets look almost like honey bees, and like honey bees they will fiercely defend their nests.

 

Six-Legged Home-Wreckers

Termites are lower in the evolutionary scale than ants and bees, but their social structure is very similar. A queen lays eggs, workers attend the eggs and collect food, and soldiers defend the nest. Subterranean termites are the only termites who live underground, requiring contact with the moisture in soil to survive. Although most members of the colony are wingless, the primary female and the male reproductives, called "swarmers," have four wings that take them on brief flights in spring or fall, after which the wings are broken off and discarded; then they mate in an attempt to establish a new colony. Swarms of winged termites, darker than other termites, are usually the first visual indication that subterranean termites have moved in.

 

Flying Kings and Queens

Often mistaken for winged termites, flying or swarming ants are distinguished by thin waists, elbowed antennae and longer forewings than hind wings. Although the destructive, wood-boring carpenter ant has swarming members, most do not live underground but nest in wood. Among the most successful of insects, hundreds of species of ants establish colonies in almost any kind of soil throughout the world. Like termites, the kings and queens of the colonies have wings that they drop once they mate; queens who do not mate retain their wings. Among the myriad species of ground-nesting ants commonly found in North America are field ants, trap-jaw ants, harvester ants, fire ants, big-headed ants, little black ants, leaf-cutting ants, little fire ants, cornfield ants, Argentine ants and honey ants.

 

Handle With Care

About 30 percent to 40 percent of all insects are beetles. They're easily distinguished from other insects by their forewings, which are modified into horny sheaths, completely concealing the hind wings when the insects are at rest. Some species' wings are fused, but most adults fly. Several species are burrowers who live underground. A notable example is Derobrachus geminatus, the palo verde borer beetle, because the species' larvae develop underground and feed on the roots of palo verde trees and other plants. Dark brown, with spines on their thoraxes, long straight antennae and large mandibles, Derobrachus geminatus are active during the summer and swarm around outside lights at sunset. These large beetles squeak when picked up, and their powerful mandibles deliver painful bites.

What is the Difference Between a Roof Rat and a Norway Rat

Scratching, squeaking, squealing and squabbling, roof rats (Rattus rattus) boldly announce their presence in buildings they inhabit. Scurrying across rafters, nesting in attics and sneaking into kitchens for midnight snacks, these highly adaptable disease-carriers strike terror in the hearts of homeowners. Their equally unwelcome relatives, Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus), patrol basements and lower levels of buildings, sewers and subways. Thus, a difference between roof rats and Norway rats is habitat preference, in addition to variations in physical appearance and behavioral characteristics. 

Color Variations

Generally identified by color, three sub-species of roof rats are known: the black rat (Rattus rattus Linnaeus) is black with a gray belly; the Alexandrine rat (Rattus alexandrines Geoffroy) is brown with gray streaks, also known as agouti, with a gray belly; and the fruit rat (Rattus frugivorus Rafinesque) has an agouti back and white belly. In addition to their common names, they are variously called; Old English rats, house rats, gray-bellied rats, white-bellied rats and ship rats. 

Norway rats are primarily brown or reddish-gray with whitish-gray bellies. They are also known as brown rats, sewer rats, gray rats, wharf rats, common rats, street rats, water rats, house rats, Hanover rats, brown Norway rats, Norwegian rats and hood rats.

 

Size and Physical Characteristics

Slender and graceful-looking, roof rats have 7-1/2-inch- to 10-inch-long tails, equal to or a little longer than the length of their combined heads and bodies. Large,floppy ears and pointed muzzles easily distinguish them from Norway rats. Generally moving in whip-like motions, their tails are the same color, top and underside. Their hind feet are about 1.3-inches-long, and overall they range from 13¾ inches to 17¾-inches, and weigh 8 to 12 ounces. Female roof rats have 10 teats, 

Norway rats have heavy, thick bodies, blunt muzzles and small, close-set ears. Their 6-inch to 8-1/2-inch tails are dark on top with lighter undersides. Conspicuously shorter than their combined head and body, their tails are carried with comparatively less movement than roof rats'. Their hind feet are about 1.7 inches long; overall they range from 12¾ inches to 18 inches, and weigh from 10 to 17 ounces. Female Norway rats have 12 teats.

 

Range and Habitat

Both species were unintentionally introduced to North America and throughout the world in the 1700s by European seafarers traveling on rat-infested ships. Roof rats live in trees or vine-covered fences, landscaped residential and industrial areas, parks with ponds or reservoirs, riverbanks and streams. More widely distributed than roof rats, Norway rats burrow into the ground along streams and rivers, under buildings and in garbage dumps. A common pest on farms, they inhabit barns, granaries, livestock buildings, chicken houses, silos and kennels.

 

Behavioral Characteristics

Roof rats are expert climbers and gain access to buildings by climbing onto roofs from trees or overhead utility lines. Faster and more agile than Norway rats, they use their tails for balance on electrical wires, much like squirrels. Norway rats are excellent swimmers who readily dive through water seals in toilets, emerging in toilet bowls. Although they can climb, they’re not nearly as adept as roof rats, and prefer traveling over flat surfaces. They enter buildings at the foundation or below the ground level.

 

Food Habits and Preferences

Omnivorous, roof rats and Norway rats eat a wide variety of foods, but each species has its own preferences. Outdoors-living rats of both species seek food outside if it’s available. Otherwise, they may enter homes and other buildings at night, returning to their burrows after feeding. Others nest and spend their whole lives inside, partaking of a wide range of foods. Roof rats prefer seeds, fresh vegetables and fruit, vegetative parts of native and ornamental plants, wheat and corn. Norway rats prefer a diet rich in carbohydrates and proteins: livestock feed, fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, sugar, flower bulbs, corn flour, wheat, beans, bread, even injured rats may be eaten.

What Attracts Stinkbugs to the Indoors

Millions of brown marmorated stinkbugs, or BMSB, invade American homes every year. You probably wonder why these relentless critters are almost magically drawn to the indoors -- it’s a purely natural attraction. Their passion to get inside your home is triggered by the fall equinox -- an intriguing astronomical event that also compels other insects, such as cluster flies and Asian lady beetles, to seek shelter. Once entrenched, they hibernate and spend the winter. Read more...
 

Living in Harmony With Raccoons

RaccoonWe love raccoons! Sure, they are considered nuisances in the urban landscape by many but these intelligent creatures deserve respect. Although we offer wildlife consultation and humane trapping and relocation services at our discretion, depending upon the circumstances, we also recommend that homeowners let nature take its course in the spring when there are most likely young in attics or crawl spaces. The family will move along and you can save yourself some money as well. We also can extricate raccoons when they've inadvertently fallen into a chimney and cannot manage to get out.

Over the years, one of our staff, a wildlife rehabber, has raised orphaned baby raccoons and rehabilitated them back into the wild. Our personal experiences with these 'varmints' has informed our positive opinions about them and we always do our best to ensure the young and adults are able to thrive in the areas in which they are relocated -- we do not remove them from their territory. We encourage people to embrace the idea of living in harmony with raccoons. When wildlife set up house inside your house or cottage, we offer consultation and recommendations based on wildlife rehab organizations' guidelines to encourage the raccoons to move out. We make a site visit and assess what we can do to intervene and help our customers, while always ensuring the safety and well-being of the raccoons.

2015 Spring Special

We are celebrating 31 years in the pest control business this May, and simultaneously, 40 years in the pest control industry, so we would like to make the occasion extra special by offering a $25.00 discount to New Customers in Brock Township, Georgina, Orillia and City of Kawartha Lakes for three of our most requested services, as follows:

 

  1. EXTERIOR SPIDER CONTROL
  2. CARPENTER ANTS
  3. CLUSTER FLIES

To take advantage of our special, book your service by telephone at 705-426-1903 or 1-877-882-4403 on or before June 15th, or complete the Email Inquiry form on this pageTo redeem this limited time special offer, simply give us this coupon code when you call or include it in your email: WEBDISCOUNT04

Our New Website

Thanks for visiting! We are in the midst of building our new website and hope to have all the great content and photos of our former website. Due to a glitch with the server and a loss of files, we are beginning again from scratch. We can promise you that this website will be even more informative and interesting than our last one.