Stirring up invaders: Monsoon brings insect pests, rodents
Moisture from the monsoon storms during this time of the year brings insect pests that can threaten homes and gardens, according to pest control experts.
The weather brings carpenter ants, grasshoppers, termite swarms, crickets, cockroaches, centipedes and rodents, as well as molds and mildews, which threaten flowers, they said.
"Most of the social insects are coming this time of the year because the increase in humidity offers a greater chance of survival for them," said Greg Flippen, who owns Yavapai Exterminating in Prescott Valley with his wife, Nancy. "That is why you see the winged ants and winged termites this time of the year, called the swarming insects. They put out the future kings and queens."
However, termite swarms do not do any damage, said Mick Fetty, president of Avant-Garde Pest Management Inc. in Prescott. "They do not eat wood," Fetty said. "They are the takers. They get it from the (termite) workers. Two termites will pair off, and they will immediately dig a tunnel in the ground."
He said a swarm "tells you that a colony is prolific." A colony consists of 250,000 to 2.5 million termites, and 12 to 15 colonies occupy each acre in Prescott.
The presence of a swarm also indicates that termites may have infested the walls of a home in advance of the monsoon, Fetty said.
Fetty said ants and crickets thrive this time of the year. "The ants are wandering around looking for a place to set up home," he said. "Our water table is high. The crickets are coming in for the same reason. They are going toward light at night."
Carpenter ants eat wood inside homes - "usually a wet piece of wood" - said Tom Savory, branch manager for S.O.S. Exterminating in Prescott Valley.
By contrast, crickets do not do any damage, Fetty said.
"They are more of a nuisance than anything," he said.
Cockroaches, rodents and grasshoppers are more than a nuisance.
Cockroaches can spread diseases "and get in your personal belongings," said Dave Coons, operations manager of Patriot Pest and Termite Control of Prescott. He said the moisture also brings out packrats and mice, which can damage homes and businesses by nibbling on wiring and chewing wood.
"They will chew the wiring on your vehicles," Coons said.
While cockroaches and rodents invade homes and businesses, grasshoppers attack landscaping, according to Savory.
"Grasshoppers can eat your bushes and your landscape," Savory said.
Other dangers in the garden come from molds and mildew increasing on plants, including roses, Flippen said. "You probably see a powdery mildew on roses," Flippen said.
Flippen and his competitors use insecticides and other treatments to kill the pests. He said that he applies fungicide on rose bushes and other flowering plants. He recommends re-applying the fungicide every two to four weeks, "whatever the label says."
Pesticides kill termites and grasshoppers, Savory said, adding that he uses bait on ants.
Ants and crickets also succumb to a natural pesticide that dries them out, Fetty said. Crickets and ants groom their bodies with their mouths. "If this material gets on their antenna, they groom themselves," he said. "They ingest the material, which is a desiccant, which dries them out."
Fetty said that he applies the desiccant inside walls of homes. He uses dust formulation to kill centipedes, which can deliver nasty bites.
Coons recommends using a professional pest management program to control a variety of insects and rodents throughout the year, not just during the monsoon season.
"That's the way you can keep things down all year round," he said. Most pesticide manufacturers use surfactants as an ingredient to prevent rain and water from diluting the strength of the toxins, Savory said.
Surfactants act like sticking agents, he said. "That allows the product to stick where we apply it, and does not wash off readily," Savory said.
Almost all pesticides now contain an organic base that simulates an organic molecule to increase the pesticide's longevity, Flippen said.
"You can expect a month's residual on most products used today," he said.