Posts Tagged 'ants'

Ants, Roses and Religious Freedom

I’m usually glad when I answer the business line on the weekend even though we’re officially closed. Customers often present questions that I’m happy to help unravel. Sometimes new inquiries make my day, like last Sunday. A young woman’s voice asked, “Are you open? I need aphid controls.” It soon became clear to me that she really needed ant controls. It became clear to her that she really wanted to come over and learn about it eye to eye. A bright curiosity in her voice drew the OK out of me.

She was actually calling for her boyfriend and his 16 young citrus trees and roses. They were at the local nursery weighing a decision to buy the spined soldier bug eggs (the ones that utlimately come in the mail) to control argentine ants that they were sure occupied their greater neighborhood. They got a tip to give us a call first.

What a delight! They absorbed new insights about insect ecology so fast! It was charming how he admitted being a perfectionist about his trees. He decided on both an AntPro and AntsNoMore bait stations, Gourmet Liquid Ant Bait AND the granular bait laced with insect growth regulator. My description of the triple jeopardy for ant mounds turned over with a shovel was all he needed to feel armed for battle. He had the confidence to conquer the millions of ants in his little orchard. Still, he said he was worried and made another joke about being a perfectionist. I pointed to the blurbs about Rhizoboost and Microbe Nutrients in our Catalog. Spraying the bacteria on the rose bushes can interfere with the rust he was worried about as well as stimulate the food web in the root zone. But for now, we decided to concentrate on the ant campaign.

As I finished getting payment information, I learned that they are Persian-American Moslems. She was fasting. I said, “That’s why your face is radiant.” They were curious about the photo of ‘Abdu’l-Baha on a high shelf above my desk. His clothing is turn of the last century Persian. Four eyes fixed on ‘Abdu’l-Baha. I said, “He is the son of the prophet founder of the Baha’i Faith.” They looked left and right, “There are Baha’is around here!!?” “I’m a Baha’i,” I said. Eyes wide, was I also fasting for Ramadan? I said that God is merciful, for Baha’is the fast is only 19 days. It ends at Naw Ruz. We agreed on how we love the fast, the feeling of lightness, the quality of prayer at the end of a day, more clear than prayer during the rest of the year.

I turned my monitor towards them, “Iran just sentenced seven Baha’i leaders to 20 years solely because they are Baha’is.” She said, “My mother told me about that! It’s terrible.” I just got this announcement. Amnesty International provides a mailing address where we can plea to the Iranian government. The youth said that unfortunately nothing like that would do any good. “You can’t change them. They are just crazy.” She said it with such assurance and finality I was riveted.

Through diligent and persistent attention they will nurture their trees and roses to optimum health. What explains being so full of optimism about trees and roses achieving perfection and so cynical about one’s people respecting religious freedom? I want to urge them to also take a stand for justice in Iran. Tweet freedom songs for the Baha’is during Ramadan.

-Jan Dietrick, Manager

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Ant Control Weather

When the temperature starts dropping it’s time to go on the offensive against ants. Ants are one of the biggest overlooked factors that lead to biological control failures. Many common species “farm” honeydew producing pests, including aphids and mealybugs. They eat and fight off predators, transport pests to new areas, and will even shelter aphids and mealybugs inside their ant mound. Cooler temperatures slow ants down, making them more vulnerable to attack by the vigilant farmer.

Formica ants on AntPro

Formica ants visiting AntPro bait station

One of the most effective control measures is baiting ants with low toxicity ant baits. We recommend using bait dispensers filled with liquid boric acid baits for sugar feeding ants. Dry granular borate ant baits can also be used. Boric acid won’t kill the foraging ants immediately, letting them bring the poison back to the mound where it can kill the queen. Don’t be alarmed if you don’t see results right away. Because of boric acid’s low toxicity, the same reason it is effective at killing whole mounds, it may take up to a month to see a reduction in ant numbers. Boric acid bait stations can also be used to prevent ant infestations. There are various strategies for bait station placement depending on the kind of ants and the amount and type of area needing protection. If the ants don’t accept the bait, try diluting it or adding more flavor. For example, ants in strawberry crops are more attracted to bait when strawberry juice is mixed in.

Physical disruption of ant nests provides more immediate results. Using a shovel or piece of rebar to break up the ground around the entrance to the colony forces ants that would be foraging to rebuild. If food supplies are low, the ants inside may eat their young. This allows beneficial insects to get to work without interference. Unfortunately, this is only a temporary solution and mounds will need to be repeatedly disturbed to distract the ants from tending to their honeydew source.

Other control measures you can use are nematodes, orange oil drenches, and sticky barriers. Read our Ant Bulletin and our founder Everett J. Dietrick’s paper Argentine Ants Must Be Suppressed for more information on ant control. This fall we’re also offering discounts on ant control supplies.

On an ant control side note, in a field study where they used only sticky barriers for ant control in an organic citrus grove, researchers found more aphids in the trees without ants! Their conclusion was that, as a side effect of excluding ants, they were also protecting the aphids from earwigs. After analyzing the populations of other aphid predators in their grove, they determined that earwigs are one of the main natural controls of aphids in the springtime. Populations of some of the other predators grew in response to growing aphid populations, but not fast enough to control them without the help from the earwigs.

Discussing the study at Rincon-Vitova, we thought of other predators we see a lot in orchards and gardens that would be blocked by sticky barriers – wolf spiders and ground beetles. Releasing aphid predators to back up the naturally occurring ones might have helped the aphid problem in the study grove. Or maybe another method of reducing ant interference without stopping crawling predators from finding the aphids, such as baiting, would have worked better in their case. Aphids can also be blasted off plants with a strong jet of water, which might be a good strategy if you are using sticky barriers. This study is a reminder of how complex these ecological systems are, and that we have to be alert to the unexpected effects our pest control efforts.

(The study mentioned, “Effects of the concurrent exclusion of ants and earwigs on aphid abundance in an organic citrus grove,” was written by Josep Piñol, Xavier Espadaler, Núria Cañellas and Nicolás Pérez and published in the August 2009 issue of BioControl (vol. 54, no. 4, pp. 515-527).)

-Alia Tsang, Bug Farm intern

AntPro Professional

Ant colonies often aid and protect pests like aphids, whitefly, thrips, and psyllids, because these insects leave behind a consumable nutritive substance called honeydew. Sometimes these invasive or pest-ants can be controlled through mechanical disruption of their trails or nests, with physical barriers, or with sticky resin products like Tanglefoot® or Stikem™. However, excessive and problematic ant populations in horticultural or institutional areas may require the additional use of ant baits and traps. That’s where Ken Kupfer, inventor of Ant Pro®, comes in.

An expert in Ant Control, Ken Kupfer brought an informative presentation and update to the RVI staff recently. Ken covered a wealth of information about ant control, ant behaviors, varying ant species, and current ant control success-stories and dilemmas within the industry of agriculture.

Updating the staff on farmers, growers, institutions, and households worldwide that are currently relying upon the documented, reliably successful, long-term ant control provided by AntPro, Ken displayed the AntPro model: a durable polypropylene liquid ant bait gravity dispenser with a screw-on platform specially designed to hold up to 20 oz of liquid ant bait, while preventing evaporation, flooding, dilution or tampering and protecting non-target insects

Ken presented pictures, maps and success stories from California vineyards to international hotels, where the use of the AntPro has reduced the need for toxic chemical control.

The RVI staff listened intently and followed-up on Ken with questions. We wanted to understand the product to be able to serve customers better.  Ken’s statistics were fascinating; for instance, did you know that there are over 200 ant types in California or that only eight percent of the ants from a typical colony do the foraging work (that means we’re not even seeing 90% of an invading colony!).

Ken was certainly a pro—an AntPro—and an informative and welcome visitor to RVI.  More about AntPro

Organic Methods Could Help Rescue Honeybees

Effects of pesticides on Apis mellifera, the European honeybee, is at the top of the agenda of the new California Apiary Board appointed by the Secretary of Food and Agriculture. With the spread of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), this is an extremely urgent matter to investigate. The nutritional health of the bees is also an obvious factor that might relate to CCD. This season being so dry (witness the extensive wildfires), there isn’t as much forage for the bees. Fewer summer wildflowers (and less pollen) decrease winter food reserves, which may contribute to bee die off. Corn and soybean pollen offer little nutrition for bees.

However, arthropod pests also decimate bees, probably more so when they are weakened by pesticide exposure and poor nutrition. Bee pests include varroa mites, tracheal/external mites, small hive beetles, wax moths, ants, and also other bees, wasps, bee lice, dragonflies, spiders, predatory bugs, cockroaches, earwigs and termites. As a hobby-beekeeper with an avid interest in biological pest control, I would like to recommend that the new Board look closer at the non-toxic biological controls that may protect bees from insect and mite pests. Here are some examples:

Varroa mites have been reduced with insect eating fungi (entomopathogenic). Tests by USDA with a particular strain of Metarhizium anisopliae, showed good reduction of the varroa mite with no apparent harm to the bees. Follow up studies were done with another strain that was not effective. The price for treating a hive looks like $1-$2 per hive which seems competitive for organic. Currently there is no commercial supply in US. There are producers in India that can ship to US. Production is simple on cooked rice. This fungus is used in huge quantities in North Africa to control the desert locust, and is called green muscle after the green fuzzy spores sprouting from the dead insects.

Conidiobolus coronatus is a gossamer, phantom fungus, quite unlike anything you have ever seen before. It eats a lot of soft-bodied insects but not bees (hymenoptera). It seems to be good at reducing varroa mite, hive beetle, wax moth and termite. This product is only developmental, not sold as a control. However, it is sold as an inoculant for the hive. Powdered sugar helps. A screened bottom board with a sticky plastic sheet traps mites for monitoring.

Tracheal Mite can be controlled with menthol or a combination of thymol, eucalyptus and menthol. Some trials with smoke from eucalyptus or citrus leaves showed promise for this strategy. Grease patties and powdered sugar work well. Some predator mite may be found that would live in the hive and feed on the pest mites – Hypoaspis was tried without good results.

The small hive beetle Athina tumida, North America’s newest bee keeping pest, was first discovered in Florida in the spring of 1998. The above fungi are possibilities for the larvae in the hive. The larvae drop to the soil to pupate where you can treat with insect eating nematodes, such as Heterorhabditis bacteriophora (Hb). This nematode is commonly used to control white grubs in lawns. A suspension of the nematodes is sprayed on the ground around the hive and watered in.

Wax moth larvae eat the comb in weak hives or stored frames. Trichogramma, a minute parasitic wasp lays its eggs in moth eggs and the wasp larva eats the moth egg. Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), a bacteria that makes caterpillars sick, can be sprayed on comb before it is stored, though it is not currently registered for this use. Light traps can reduce the adult moths in storerooms.

Ants can be excluded (along with roaches, earwigs and termites) with water or oil traps on the legs of the hives. A bait of boric acid, sugar and water, placed in plastic bait stations around the hive, will be taken back to the colony where it will knock down the colony. AntPro is the best of the bait dispensers.

Roaches and earwigs are attracted to yeasty baits like beer into mechanical traps. Slug Saloon with powdered beer bait traps earwigs and sow bugs as well as slugs. To make a roach trap, coat the inside neck of a pint jar with petroleum jelly and bait with a small piece of white bread moistened with beer.

I would like to see organic protocols for beekeeping be a top priority, which is a big challenge with invading pests. Of course a well-designed hive, good forage, and supplemental feeding gives the bees a chance to take care of themselves. When pests and diseases show up, beekeepers need access to knowledge about natural, integrated treatments that don’t stress the bees. The appointment of the new bee board shows the importance for California agricultural of honeybees for pollinating, especially almonds. Do you have other angles on bee problems, tips, suggestions, or questions? I look forward to hearing from everyone interested in organic beekeeping.



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