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Leafcutter ants difficult to control

May 11, 2010 at 12:11 a.m.

Texas leafcutter ant

Don't forget: The estimated Victoria County Pecan Nut Casebearer spray dates were May 6-10. If you are concerned about casebearers damaging your pecan crop and haven't sprayed yet, a late spraying is better than none. For a list of products to spray, call the County Extension Office at 361-575-4581.

Pesticide License Training and Testing scheduled

The Victoria County Extension Office scheduled a Private Applicator License Training and Testing course to obtain a license to spray restricted and state limited use pesticides for Thursday, June 3, at the Extension Office, 442 Foster Field Drive, at the Victoria Regional Airport. The training begins at 8:30 a.m. and the testing is at 1:30 p.m. Study materials are available at the Extension Office for $40. Call 361-575-4581 to sign up.

Africanized bees

This is the honeybee swarming season. You may see a swarm of bees around your house. A swarm is a colony of bees that has just moved to a site within a day or two and is usually hanging onto a limb, house or other structure. They can be controlled with soapy water (2-3 cups liquid dishwashing soap to 1 gallon water) spraying with a low-pressure pump-up type 1-gallon sprayer. Many times, these swarms will leave on their own in a day or two. But if the swarm has established that site as a home and has honeycomb and brood present, it is no longer called a swarm but a colony and it may be defensive and should only be controlled by a professional pest control operator.

The best advice is to keep an eye out for bees and hire a commercial pest control operator if you find a colony. The city, county, fire department or any other entity will not come to control them. It is up to you to control them. Although people and other companies may control bees, these are the ones that I know will control or remove them: Oscar Perez (beekeeper), 361-571-4619; Craig Chang, 361-652-1644; A-Fact Pest Control, 361-575-8952; Crossroads Pest Control, 361-576-6429; and Bugmobiles Inc., 361-576-6401.

Africanized honeybees are defensive compared to the European bee. While I don't mean to incite fear, these are some of the facts. They will attack you by the thousands, even tens of thousands if they feel threatened by you. European bees will typically never bother you. Bees can fly at 20 miles per hour and the Africanized bee might chase you for one-quarter mile. Can you run that fast and that far? Ninety-nine percent of us can't, but running as fast as you can is your best option if you are attacked. Run for protection in a building, car or even into brush for shelter.

Don't swat at the bees. Keep your mouth closed, protect your face and run. It is better to have 50 bees with you in the car or house then have 4,000 stinging you outside with no protection. The normal healthy person can live through 800 stings but the young and the eldest will not. If it is any condolence, honeybees can only sting you one time. They die shortly thereafter.

If you are stung by only a few bees and you are not allergic and do not need medical attention, remove the stingers by scraping them from your skin with your fingernail or a credit card. Do not pinch and pull out the stingers by hand or tweezers as this will only squeeze more bee toxin into you. If you are stung around the neck and throat, seek medical attention immediately. While you might be breathing fine after the attack, the stung area likely will swell and may cut off your oxygen. If you are stung near the heart especially if you are older, seek medical attention. If you are allergic to bee stings, having medical epinephrine close by might save your life.

If you don't see bees at your home, bee proof it. Search around the home annually and seal all cracks and holes with caulk to prevent a future incident. Protect your pets and livestock by removing bees from their habitat. Remember, pets and livestock cannot run from attacking bees if they are tied up or penned. Bees have killed dogs and large livestock because they could not escape their pen.

Having said all this, I must tell you bees are important to our food supply. They add $14 billion to the economy in higher quality and quantity produce. They pollinate more than 130 crops, fruits, nuts and vegetables and without them, food sources and quality will be lessened greatly and prices will rise. The answer to prevention of a fatal accident is education. Spread the word to all, young and old. For more information, come by the Extension office or visit http://honeybee.tamu.edu.

Tis the swarming season

Besides honeybees, spring is also the swarming season for termites and ants. Although insects that swarm do so to establish a new colony, this creates some worry for homeowners.

In addition to termites, swarming leafcutter ants can also be a problem. While the leafcutter ant is typically the size of a red carpenter ant or smaller, several have been brought into the office that are bigger than an inch long and one-quarter inch wide. As the leafcutter ants swarm, the ant triples and quadruples in size when in the reproductive stage. They are somewhat frightening. The leafcutter ant usually prefers loose, sandy-loam soil so is not in all areas of the county. It also makes multiple steep mounds that are about 4- to 12-inches tall, with a single hole directly in the center of the volcano-looking mound. Control is very difficult. Acephate or Orthene provides the best control when used to treat bait that is desirable to the ants.

Joe Janak is a Victoria County extension agent.

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