Crazy Ants!

crazy ant3Crazy ants are so named because of their frantic movements and erratic behavior. While this species originated in Southeast Asia, it is known worldwide as an invasive species and environmental pest. Adult crazy ants are dark brown to black in color and measure approximately 2.2 to 3 mm in length. Crazy ants’ antennae have 12 segments without a club, and their antennae are elongated. Crazy ants’ legs are extremely long and give it a very distinct appearance. Crazy ants are highly versatile, living in both moist and dry habitats. They nest in rotten wood, soil, the cavities of trees and plants, trash and under rocks and buildings.

Crazy ants may be more difficult to control than other ant species because they dwell both indoors and outdoors. In addition, crazy ants forage long distances from their nests, making it difficult to identify their colonies.

crazy ant2 Ants of any species when numerous will naturally adapt foraging activity and randomly will get into the switch boxes, or transformers, etc. They are shocked when they come between live contacts, at which time the pheromone attraction is initiated. Crazy ants have been documented to cause sprinkler irrigation system control boards to malfunction in Florida. On a circuit board, short circuits may be caused when ants conduct electricity between different circuits. Another documented case involved these ants causing an air conditioner unit to malfunction in Austin (Travis County), Texas, resulting in replacement of the entire switching mechanism at a cost of $196.54

Crazy ants in Texas, Nylanderia fulva, the “tawny’ crazy ant, previously referred to as the rasberry crazy ant, Nylanderia (previouslyParatrechina) species near pubens, has caused serious problems with electrical utilities in the industrial parks near Houston (Harris County), Texas. These ants become abundant in localized areas or spots of infestation. Like other ants, large numbers of shocked ants cause short circuits and clog switching mechanisms in security systems, pumps, and other equipment.

Let’s have a look at how destructive these ants are in our day to day living.

crazy ant news







 crazy ant 4Apparently there are killer, crazy ants in Birmingham which are addicted to electricity, and can bite, sting, and spread salmonella.

This, according to the Birmingham Mail, is a new development in the West Midlands’ pest problems, and they hail from one of Britain’s worst enemies: Argentina.

The Mail reports:

They bite, they sting and they spread salmonenlla.

Pest control experts have now issued an alert over two extremely unwelcome species – “crazy” and “Argentinian” ants. They say multi-occupancy buildings, such as hotels and guest houses, are particularly at risk.

Crazy ants – given the name because of their jerky movement – are covered in red hair and get a real buzz from electricity, chewing through insulation for a light lunch.

The Argentinian variety is particularly vicious, attacking crops and animals. Almost black and 3mm long, they form large colonies in cracks in walls and between timbers.

The alert has been issued by Basis Prompt, a register of Birmingham and West Midlands pest control companies.

Expert David Cross told The Birmingham Mail the new arrivals are the latest additions to a growing list of fearsome tropical ants that have colonised our region.

Last year Scientific American wrote about how the Crazy Ants were winning the turf war against the cousins in the United States, claiming:

Crazy ants produce chemicals they then rub on themselves as an antidote to fire ant venom. And the acidic substance exuded from where a stinger would be located on other ant species also doubles as a chemical weapon they spray at foes, allowing the crazy ants to defeat competitors that would otherwise help keep them in check.

They are notoriously hard to kill, too. Reuters reports:

The researchers reported last year that in places where crazy ants arrive, creatures such as insects, spiders, centipedes and crustaceans decline, which could affect ecosystems by reducing food sources for other animals. The ants also nest in people’s houses and harm electrical equipment.

The New York Daily News writes:

The ants usually chew through wires in machines, electrocuting themselves in the process. But the dead ants emit a perfume which attracts even more aggressive ants to the machinery, leading to more damage.

crazy ants1MacKay (1988) described the way in which ants impact electrical equipment. However, some controversy continues as to why ants are attracted to electrical circuits and switching mechanisms. According to Dr. S. Bradleigh Vinson’s description of Dr. MacKay’s work funded by the Texas Department of Transportation (pers. com.), when switches are open, foraging ants tend to stop in the presence of the electric field. If the researcher turned off the electricity, the ants simply moved on. Once an ant is shocked by touching body parts between an open switching mechanism individually or among a group of ants touching each other, the ants displayed shocked reactions and often waved their abdomen (gaster) in the air (called gaster flagging) to release pheromones (volatile chemical communication chemicals) that, in turn, attract other worker ants (Vandermeer et al. 2002). Arriving ants that touch shocked ants also get shocked. Therefore many, many ants accumulate around a point such as the switching mechanism in a traffic switch box, causing it to malfunction. This explanation does not address initial attraction to the electrical site. Possibly the ants through random foraging find their way into open switches and get shocked.

In the case of imported ants, another aspect of their behavior also causes problems to electrical equipment. Colonies move into utility housing and import soil in which to nest. The result is moisture build-up and corrosion of the housings, a problem frequently associated with malfunctioning transformer units. In addition, ants can chew through coatings protecting wires resulting in possible short circuits. The soil removed from underneath slabs can cause the slab to tilt. When this occurs with a transformer box, the oil in the unit can leak out.

Because the crazy ants wander in aimless movements instead of a straight trail, it may be difficult to locate a trail to treat. Look under rocks, stumps, landscape timbers, firewood, and any rotting wood. Crazy Ants forage over long distances, so it is important to search diligently. Traditional methods like spraying insecticides, pesticides, etc are used to control them, but this method is hazardous and may cause long-lasting consequences to the application

C Tech Corporation offers a non-toxic and non-hazardous product, Termirepel™ to protect the electrical application and cables from these ravenous insects. It is an environmentally safe product that works by repelling the insects without causing any harm to the target or non-target species. Termirepel™ is available in concentrate and lacquer form. It can also be used as a liquid solution. Termirepel™ can be safely incorporated into the PVC insulation of wires and cables or coated on surfaces to keep crazy ants away from the application. Termirepel™ can also be incorporated in agricultural films and mulches for the protection of trees and bushes against these creatures.

Root Maggots: A deep-rooted cause for worry…

m1Root maggots are the immature stage, or larvae, of small flies that belong to the insect order Diptera i.e. flies and the family Anthomyiidae. Root maggots occur worldwide. They are short-lived insects. Maggots are not particularly large creatures; their maximum length being 1/4th of an inch. The maggots are – cream colored, elongate with the head end pointed. Root maggots thrive in organic matter.

Root maggots constitute the most serious annually recurring insect pest problem of vegetable production. They attack all varieties of crucifiers. When root maggot larvae feed on root crops such as turnip, rutabaga, and radish, they leave surface scars and feeding tunnels thus literally scarring the plant. Any feeding scars may render the product unacceptable for market thus causing severe losses. The root is severely damaged. Feeding tunnels make the plant vulnerable to infection by soft-rot bacteria and to secondary infestation by springtails and thrips. Feeding by root maggot larvae on the stem, leaf and flowering crucifers like cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts and kohlrabi results in a severe decline in the health of the plant. Young plants may be girdled and may die. Root systems in older plants may be extensively damaged and the taproot may be destroyed completely.

Root maggots attack different crops like cabbage, onion, canola, etc. They are named based on the crops that they target as canola root maggot, cabbage root maggot, onion root maggot, etc.

m2 The cabbage maggot, Delia radicum, is a sporadic pest of many Cole crops including cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, turnips, radishes, and other crops of the mustard family. Occasionally, they attack other vegetables such as beet and celery. When cabbage maggots emerge, they immediately start feeding on the roots of the host plant seedlings. Plants are more susceptible to cabbage maggots during a wet, cold spring with most of the damage limited to the early spring plantings. Injury from the second generation in late June or July is usually not severe because the maggots prefer cool, moist conditions and younger, tender plants. Maggots feed on the root hair and can create extensive, slimy tunnels on the root surface and throughout the roots. Larvae feed on roots and tunnel into the taproot, producing brown streaks on the root. The lower leaves of infested plants often turn yellow, with severe damage resulting in arrested plant growth. Feeding damage may also promote disease, causing further stress on the plant. Root maggots and root disease often show up together in the same field.

Severe root maggot damage can occur in fields with back to back canola plantations if crop rotation is not followed. Based on average canola prices, the yield losses quantified in the study were equivalent to $108-$140 per acre after only three years of continuous canola. In canola, severe maggot infestations can cause plant wilting, stunting and reduced flowering, decreased seed weight, and lower seed yields. If feeding tunnels are extensive and girdle the root, plant lodging and death can occur. Roots damaged by these maggots are more susceptible to invasion by root pathogens such as Fusarium than intact roots. Yield reductions in the range of 50 and 19 percent from root maggot damage for crops of Brassica rapa L. and B. napus L., respectively, have been reported. In a four-year survey conducted by a team of scientists, of nearly 3000 canola fields across Western Canada, the greatest degree of damage over the largest area was found in central, western and northwestern Alberta, although localized areas with severely damaged roots occurred along the northern edge of the entire Parkland eco region. Soil type can play a part in the degree of root maggot infestation of canola.

The onion maggot (Delia antiqua) is one of the most destructive insect pests of onions and related plants. Injured seedlings wilt and die. Larger bulbs may survive some injury but are often poor keepers. Once onion maggots infest an area, they seem to be a problem every year. White onion varieties are more susceptible to attack than other varieties. Stunted or wilting onion plants are the first signs of onion maggot damage. At this time, you may find the maggots in putrid, decomposing onion plants. Light infestations may not kill onions but may make them more susceptible to rots. Onions of all sizes may be attacked, especially in the fall, when cooler weather favors the maggot’s activity. Damaged onions are not marketable and will rot in storage causing other onions to rot.

Let us look at the following news article about root maggot damage.

Continuous canola can lead to root maggot damage

CONTINUAL DROP Study finds drop in yields significant after first year

Posted Oct. 5th, 2012

If your rotation is canola, snow, and canola again, you’re setting yourself up for a root maggot infestation.

Insects love it when you grow the same crop year after year, and root maggots and canola are no exception, University of Alberta entomologist Lloyd Dosdall told attendees at a recent Alberta Canola industry update seminar.

Dosdall was part of a research team that examined how canola rotation — or the lack of it — affects crop damage, yield and seed quality. The study examined 13 different treatments done across Western Canada at five different sites from 2008 to 2011.

Several sites were continuously cropped with canola, while others had a canola-wheat-canola rotation or only had canola in one of the three years. At the end of the season, researchers examined root damage to determine the severity of root maggot infestation.

“The damage to canola that was grown continuously was more severe than when canola was rotated,” said Dosdall.

Root maggot larvae overwinter in soil and the study found the damage they cause increased every year.

“We had the highest yields in the first year of continuous canola, and then they just dropped down significantly in the following two years,” he said.

Dosdall said the loss from continuous cropping ranged from a loss of $280 to $380 per hectare.

The above article suggests that crop rotation is one way of preventing root maggot infestation. But crop rotation is not always desirable or economical. In such circumstances, the crucifers don’t stand a chance. This is so because there are no insecticides available to treat root maggots; unbelievably so! This presents before us a huge problem. In these trying times, Termirepel™ a product by C Tech Corporation can provide us with the necessary relief. Termirepel™ can be broadly defined as a non-toxic and non-hazardous termite aversive. But it is also highly effective against a multitude of other insects and pests. Termirepel™ in the form of an atomized spray can be used as a new age insecticide but in this case explicitly non-hazardous and environment-friendly. Also, Termirepel™  is available in the form of a solid masterbatch which can be incorporated in drip irrigation pipes during polymer processing. The unique feature of this product is that it acts as a mechanism of repellence and does not kill the target species.

Pest insect: A threat to agriculture

insects2Pest insects can have adverse and damaging impacts on agricultural production and market access, the natural environment, and our lifestyle. Pest insects may cause problems by damaging crops and food production, parasitizing livestock, or being a nuisance and health hazard to humans. The dark cloud of pests looming over the agriculture sector is spreading and increasing at an alarming rate! Pests, considered as an age-old enemy of agriculture, continue to thwart the sector by destroying the crops. Though tiny, they are capable of large-scale destruction. They appear in large numbers, attack the vegetation and many times destroy the entire field and the agricultural produce. On average the pests are known to cause 10-16% agricultural produce loss. Toxic and hazardous pesticides of worth million dollars are used to curb this pest problem to little effect.

insects 1It has been reported that pests are spreading towards the North and South Poles at a rate of nearly 3 km a year! This poses a great threat to global food security. With the increasing population, the demand for the food supply is increasing rapidly. In the midst of such situation, the report that the pests are spreading across the globe is surely alarming. The threat posed by these vile pests could lead towards a chaotic situation endangering the global food security and causing loss of millions.

Let’s take a look at the below article




Insects feast on plants, endangering crops and costing billions

David Montalvo| @montalvo_d; Saturday, 9 May 2015 | 9:00 AM ET

insect3Behind the blossoming flowers and fields of fruit in the U.S. lurks a hungry threat that has crawled and eaten its way through much of the country. Sometimes, the menace infiltrates these places on the backs of unsuspecting hikers and travelers.

Almost always, the damage it wreaks comes at a high cost.

As summer approaches, swarms of invasive species—which the National wildlife federation refers to as “one of the leading threats to native wildlife”—are on a rampage. These organisms attack not just gardens, but also agriculture and the environment, costing the United States about $120 billion each year in damages, according to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), a division of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). 

“They are a serious threat to our economy,” says APHIS spokeswoman Abbey Powell. “Federal and state authorities are tirelessly working together to stop the spread of invasive pests.”

Of greatest concern to the government are a group of non-native ants, beetles, moths and flies, and one giant slug. APHIS has identified 18 of these pests that it believes pose the greatest threats to America’s crops, plants and trees, and which inflict damage on a range of businesses, from farmers and citrus growers to the lumber industry.

insect4Oranges wither on the vine, costing billions

The adult Asian citrus psyllid is no bigger than a common gnat and feeds with the posterior of its body raised.

One of America’s most popular food staples is at war against an insect smaller than an apple seed that is spreading an incurable disease. And they are losing.

Over the last few years, the nation’s orange industry has taken a more than $4 billion hit as dead trees and useless crops recently sent orange harvests to their lowest in two decades.

“It’s like a patient that keeps getting sicker and sicker and sicker, until it dies,” says Michael Rogers, interim director of the Citrus Research and Education Center at the University of Florida.

The disease is called huanglongbing, also known as citrus greening. Producing oranges too bitter for juice and too misshapen and discolored for fresh fruit, the bacteria leaves farmers little choice but to destroy every one of their sick trees.

The crawling culprit facilitating its spread is the Asian citrus psyllid, a plant juice sucking bug that with a gust of wind can easily become airborne and carry the fatal bacteria that destroys oranges, limes, lemons, and grapefruits.

“If we don’t protect our citrus,” warns the USDA’s Save Our Citrus campaign, “that cup of juice you drink with your breakfast, the beautiful lemon tree in your yard and the curry you use to add zest to your cooking might not be there in the future.”

In Florida, disease-carrying bugs have ravaged citrus crops, triggering dire predictions about the coming extinction of orange juice. Indeed, “the majority of the citrus trees [in Florida] have the disease,” according to Rogers.

The state’s orange production has been steadily declining since the bacteria was first identified there in 2004, according to USDA data, along with the number of acres bearing the fruit.

Rather than invest time and money in grove regrowth, some citrus farmers are deciding to sell out to real estate developers, Rogers explains. Yet for those who try and stand their ground against the expanding threat, they are arming themselves with a variety of tools to try and control the psyllid population, including spraying, tenting and steam treatments, the USDA says.

Another possible solution being explored, but one that has been met with some controversy: genetically modifying oranges to make them more resilient to pests and diseases. While GMOs could be more of a long-term solution, says Rogers, a more short-term one is naturally cross-breeding oranges to create “new varieties” that can “better tolerate the disease.”

However, it would be at least four years before their effectiveness could be measured, when the new citrus trees finally yield, he acknowledged.

Insects are not only threatening produce but attacking forests and trees around the country.

Forest resources in the North Atlantic states are under siege. The Asian longhorn beetle is menacing “recreation and forest resources valued at billions of dollars” and has the potential to destroy “millions of acres of America’s treasured hardwoods,” according to the APHIS.

These are among the invasive pests currently under federal quarantine, which is designed to restrict their movement to greener pastures. Some states are following the federal quarantine.

In Hawaii, a rhinoceros-looking black beetle is attacking coconut-bearing palm trees. The beetle was detected less than two years ago, but the Plant Industry Division of the state’s Department of Agriculture is already calling it a “serious invasive pest.” It is forcing officials there to deploy thousands of traps to capture them, and even asking residents to check their mulch before discarding it.

Another bug in Hawaii also found in California is the light brown apple moth. It is a particularly hungry critter known to damage scores of crops such as avocados, grapes and raspberries, and thousands of plants and trees that include roses and eucalyptus. “It could expand its preferences as it is exposed to new plants and crops,” the USDA-APHIS warns.

Citizens can help in small ways, officials say, offering tips on how to prevent bugs from spreading. One effort is providing hikers, gardeners and international travelers with advice to keep invasive pests at bay—like not moving firewood, not bringing plants or produce across state lines, declaring agriculture items at customs, and washing the soil off tires and outdoor gear before and after trips.

“Most importantly,” says APHIS’ Powell, these “are pests that people can do something about by taking a few simple steps.”

A sure and effective way of combating these insects was devised by C Tech Corporation in the form of their product Termirepel™.

Termirepel™ is a non-toxic, non-hazardous, environment-friendly insect and pest aversive. It is 100% effective against a host of insects and pests like webworms, beetles, etc. Termirepel™ is available in liquid concentrate form which can be diluted further and made into sprays that can replace conventional harmful insecticides. The spray can then be just sprayed on the trees or plants affected.

Termirepel™ is also available in the form of lacquer which can be applied to the trees and the surrounding areas. Termirepel™ is unique in its aspect that it works by the mechanism of repellence and not by killing. Thus, target as well as non-targeted beneficial species are not harmed but are merely kept away from the application.