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Have you ever taken a challenging insect specimen to an entomologist, only to have him or her identify in seconds something you’ve labored over for an hour or more?
Training definitely plays a role in this — an entomologist has spent hundreds of hours in school practicing the identification of insect specimens. This practice builds knowledge of a handful of key traits that allows rapid identification, even when he or she isn’t familiar with a specimen.
These are called rapid identification traits. They won’t necessarily allow you to figure out the species to which a specimen belongs, but they can get you partway there by figuring out the group to which it belongs. In some cases, like the unusual insects that come in from outdoors, that’s enough. In other cases, it can hone in your search when you are using a reference such as the “NPMA Field Guide,” looking it up on the Internet or attempting to identify the pest based upon where it was found.
Sometimes all you have are a few body parts to inspect for identification. Rapid identification traits can help with this, too. You may not be able to come away with an exact identification, but you can put it into a group of insects, and sometimes that’s enough of an identification.
Line Down the Back. If you see a straight line down the back of an insect, that insect is probably a beetle. Beetles have elytra, or wing covers, that cover part of the thorax and often the entire abdomen. Unless the beetle is flying, the elytra will be flat against the back of the beetle, where they meet in a straight line.
We encounter many beetle pests in our industry: stored product pests, fabric and carcass pests, wood-destroying insects, mold and moisture pests and so on. There are a lot of beetles that aren’t pests, too; they are simply insects that live outdoors with little interest in coming inside.
“X” Marks the Spot. If you see an “X” pattern on an insect’s back, you are most likely dealing with a group of insects called Hemiptera. The X is formed by the way its wings fold together.
I don’t like using technical, scientific names unless I have to, and this is a time when the scientific name is useful to the PMP. The common name for the Hemiptera is “bug.” Some people prefer to say “true bug” to be clear that they are talking about a Hemipteran as opposed to any insect. But, is that really any more clear?
Many pests we deal with that have “bug” in their names belong to Hemiptera: box elder bugs, stink bugs and bed bugs. (Since the bed bug, thankfully, doesn’t have wings, it doesn’t have an X on its back.) Some pests we deal with that have “bug” in their names aren’t part of Hemiptera. You can tell if they aren’t, because the “bug” in their names will be part of another word in their names, such as ladybug (a beetle) or potatobug (a sowbug or type of cricket, depending upon where you live).
There are not many pests in Hemiptera with which we deal. If you have someone bring in a Hemipteran and it’s not one that you know, it’s likely one of the many species that live outdoors on plants. Most of these can be grouped together as plant bugs.
Here’s one more trait for Hemiptera: If you find one with which you aren’t familiar and it’s all black, it’s probably an assassin bug. Not all assassin bugs are black, but many of those that are brought to me are. Assassin bugs are normally just occasional invaders, although they will inflict a painful bite if disturbed.
Wasp Waist and Node. The classic wasp waist is a misleading name, making you think that it only applies to wasps, when it actually applies to wasps, hornets, bees and ants. If you find a specimen with a wasp waist, you know you have something in this group of insects, but saying “wasp, hornet, bee or ant” is a mouthful, so we’re going with another scientific name: Hymenoptera.
People often get confused trying to tell apart small wasps and ant swarmers — or winged ants. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to tell. Look at the wasp waist and see if you can find a node. Ant swarmers will have one or two nodes and wasps will not.
This also applies to specimens without wings. In some parts of the country, you can find velvet ants. If you look closely, you’ll see that they don’t have a node. Velvet ants are actually wingless wasps. Be careful if you find one — they pack a nasty sting!
The Two-Wingers. Counting wings on insects can help with identification. The vast majority of insects have four wings. Beetles don’t — but you rarely see their wings to count them, since they are hidden under the elytra.
The majority of two-winged insects that you find will be flies. Their scientific name even reflects this: Diptera. “Di” means two, like in dichotomy or two choices. “Ptera” means wings, like in pterodactyl, the winged dinosaur.
Flies also look like they have a little stick with a knob on the end coming out of their bodies on either side behind the wings. These are called halteres and they spin during flight like gyroscopes on a jet fighter.
Just as with the common name for the Hemipterans, you can tell if something is a fly based upon how its name is written. The house fly, deer fly and march fly all have their names written as two words. These are flies. The mayfly, dobsonfly and caddisfly are not.
Many flies are related to decay, filth or carcasses. Others, such as mosquitoes and black flies, are blood feeders. Yet others breed in marshy areas, like lake flies and midges. Flies are one of the largest groups of insects, with an equally large amount of diversity.
If you get a fly that you can’t identify, try to match it up with decay, blood-feeding or occasional invader flies. If those don’t pan out, then chances are you’ve run across one of the innumerable other types of flies.
Final Thoughts. It isn’t necessary to figure out the exact species of every insect specimen you encounter. If it is an individual sample and doesn’t appear to be a pest, rapid identification traits can allow you to give it a name, rather than just telling your client that it’s some type of “bug.” (And now you won’t look at that name the same, either, will you?)
Also, if you have a damaged specimen, rapid identification traits will let you hone further in on its identity, perhaps even allowing you to figure out what it is based upon the traits you see and where it was found.
The author is a Board Certified Entomologist and training and technical services manager at Batzner Services, New Berlin, Wis. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The “true bugs,” including box elder bugs, stink bugs, bed bugs, assassin bugs and a variety of plant bugs.
Wasps, hornets, bees and ants.
“Two wingers” or flies.
The wing covers on the back of a beetle, which meet in a straight line.
Two little sticks with knobs on the ends, found behind the single set of wings on flies.
A single or double bump (one node or two node) found in the wasp waist of ants, but not in other Hymenoptera.
Editor’s Note: This article was adapted from Techletter, a biweekly publication from Pinto & Associates, Mechanicsville, Md. To subscribe, visit www.techletter.com, or call 301/884-3020.
You know about occasional invaders — those outside perimeter pests like earwigs, pillbugs, millipedes and crickets — that occasionally find their way inside. There’s a subset of occasional invaders that can be called fall invaders. These are the pests that enter buildings in the fall as the weather cools, with the intent of finding a sheltered place to spend the winter.
Some of our most problematic overwintering fall invaders are the Asian lady beetle, brown marmorated stink bug, boxelder bug, elm leaf beetle, cluster fly and paper wasps.
These are also the pests that pest control companies get calls about in the spring when the intruders have suddenly reappeared indoors and are trying to sneak back outside. Unfortunately, the time to control those overwintering pests was the previous fall — it’s important for you and your customer to take steps this year before the pests begin to migrate indoors. So, we’re giving you plenty of advance warning. Now is the time to schedule those fall perimeter treatments and pest-proofing jobs.
Control Options. When fall invaders get inside, some of them will die fairly soon due to the drier indoor air. Others, though, will end up in the attic, behind baseboards, in wall voids, behind drapes (some of these pests can damage or stain fabrics)...almost anywhere. Because their hiding places are so scattered and so hidden, fall invaders are notoriously difficult to control once they are inside. In the spring, as the days get warmer (or sometimes on warm days during the winter), these pests become active again. They’ll leave their hiding places in large numbers, trying to find a way back outside. They’re often attracted to light coming from a window, or they may be seen crawling along baseboards or up walls.
An outside perimeter or barrier treatment is usually a pest control company’s first line of defense against fall invaders. The big selling point is that a perimeter treatment keeps the pests from getting inside in the first place so indoor control is not an issue. Plus, a perimeter treatment means no insecticide inside the home. Timing is critical. Treat too soon and the residual may be gone by the time the pests migrate. Too late, and they may have already begun their move inside. Schedule the treatment so that the residual lasts up to the first hard frost.
For those fall invaders that are plant feeders (elm leaf beetle, boxelder bug, stink bug), treating their host plants, or at least the trunks of trees, in late season can eliminate many potential migrators (be aware, though, that some states require a different license or certification category for this treatment).
Pestproofing. Along with a perimeter treatment, sealing openings that pests use to enter provides double protection against fall invaders. Pestproofing is usually the responsibility of the customer, but many companies offer this service as well.
Some pestproofing tips:
Perimeter Cleanup. When fall invaders are looking for a place to spend the winter, they are attracted to anything that provides shelter and moisture. When they find these conditions around a building’s perimeter, they are more likely to accumulate there and may eventually find their way inside.
To reduce the number of fall invaders around a foundation, your customer needs to keep the area dry and free of thick plants and shrubs and other pest hiding places. Getting your customer to take these steps first will make your perimeter treatment much easier:
The authors are well-known industry consultants and co-owners of Pinto & Associates.
They may not be the most destructive pests or the biggest threats to human health, but for many homeowners and property managers, centipedes, silverfish and springtails are the quintessential nightmarish creepy crawlers. For PMPs, dealing with these pests also can be a nightmare without adequate training and education. That’s why, at NPMA PestWorld 2012, George Williams, general manager and staff entomologist for Environmental Health Services, Boston, shared his insights into these pests and the unique techniques, challenges and opportunities in treating them.
Identification. First and foremost, proper identification is key. According to Williams, most jobs involving these pests are sold over the phone, which means customers have already made their own identification of the pest, which may or may not be accurate.
“Doing a proper inspection…is an area where a lot of companies minimize what they do as far as solving any pest problem. A lot of the information you need, you are going to find out as you are doing the application,” said Williams. For instance, customers often confuse springtails with fleas because of their similar size, tendency to appear in large numbers, and characteristic hopping and jumping.
Many home and property owners also confuse silverfish, often called “bristletails,” and firebrats, which can coexist in the same environment. To treat for these pests, however, it is important for a pest management professional to recognize that silverfish prefer humid environments whereas firebrats prefer dryer climates, and both pests will congregate in areas that meet their respective needs.
Due to their number of legs, centipedes are less often misidentified; however, PMPs also must be familiar with the other names, such as “hundred leggers,” that customers may use to identify them. Williams breaks down pest identification into two categories: behavior and biology.
Behavior. In terms of behavior, centipedes and springtails are both considered exterior pests most active in the spring and summer or warmer months, though they do exhibit some levels of activity in the winter months. Though these pests prefer exterior habitats, Williams notes that unfavorable changes in environmental conditions often can drive them indoors.
“For the most part, these pests don’t want to be inside…if they come inside, conditions [usually] are not going to be favorable enough for them to support the infestation and also thrive,” said Williams. Both inside and out, their ideal conditions are dark, damp, humid and covered (for protection). As a result, centipedes and springtails are often found hiding under stored heavy items in basements and crawlspaces or living in exterior leaf litter, mulch or woodpiles, or under fixed items like planters and decks.
Silverfish also prefer warm, humid conditions, but are often found in a wider variety of indoor locations such as basements, attics and bathrooms. These pests are normally active at night and will forage great distances for food until they find a source, at which point they will stay relatively close to the food area. Like centipedes and springtails, silverfish prefer protected areas, which means they often have complex harborage sites such as under cedar shingles, in poorly ventilated soffits and eaves, beneath attic insulation or under stationary stored items.
Biology. Biologically, the three pests are also very different.
Centipedes, as their nickname would suggest, are known for their numerous legs, though the number of legs can vary from 10 to 100 or more. This number also increases through the molting process, and, during later molts, the last pair of legs become more lasso-like to catch prey. The house centipede is found throughout the United States, but grows to different lengths depending on how favorable the conditions are. In warmer climates, for instance, the giant centipede species grows up to 8 inches in length. Some centipedes can live up to five or six years and, during warmer months, females can lay more than 30 eggs throughout the reproduction process. Williams notes that centipedes are generally harmless to humans; however, they can have a venomous bite that many people compare to a bee sting and can be dangerous to small children and those with allergies to bee stings (anaphylactic shock).
Springtails are quite small, certainly much smaller than centipedes, and even though they can molt more than 50 times a year, their size does not change much after their 15th molt. This pest is entirely dependent on moisture and will, therefore, move in search of moist conditions. Springtails congregate in large numbers, sometimes as many as 50,000 per cubic yard, and will exhibit the same pop and jump of fleas, but, unlike fleas and centipedes, springtails are not biting pests.
Silverfish are often a silver-gray color and can molt 50 times in a year. They reach sexual maturity in as short as a few months or in as long as two to three years. Female silverfish will lay between one and 20 eggs per day, though the eggs need temperatures between 72 and 90°F and high humidity to survive. Silverfish can live three to five years and can survive weeks without food or water and up to 300 days without food when water is available. While centipedes are often predacious insects, feeding on other bugs, silverfish prefer carbohydrate and protein items like paper products and fungi. Silverfish have the ability to digest cellulose. “They’re going to ingest it and digest it, in addition to causing damage to it,” said Williams.
Inspection. Understanding how and why each pest behaves as it does will help any professional perform a proper and thorough inspection. When customers arrange for a technician to inspect their property, Williams says the first thing the technician should do is discuss the process with the customer to manage expectations. “Doing that,” said Williams, “is going to make it easier on the tech and it’s going to minimize complaint calls going back to the office.”
Before inspecting the property, the technician also should question the customer about the pests, such as how long the problem has existed and where the majority of the visible activity has been occurring. “What they’re going to say usually is ‘everywhere,’” Williams said, so you have to probe further for more information. Technicians also should ask about any recent changes to the landscape or the house, such as any remodeling or construction within in the past five years.
Even if the customer is able to give a specific location of pest activity, Williams recommends that technicians perform a thorough inside and outside “walkabout” in order to gain context for where and why the infestation is occurring. “I have the habit of wanting to go around the outside first,” said Williams, “Reason being…if you know the outside, you can figure out what’s contributing to the inside problems.” Once inside, Williams also recommends moving items around — with customer permission — to force out any hiding pests and to check habitat conditions. Plastic bins, for instance, may keep items dry, but their bottoms can form a vapor seal that retains humidity and attracts pests.
Inspection focal areas should be those that are known harborage sites for these pests such as basements, attics, attached garages and anywhere else that the pest has been spotted. During the inspection, technicians should note all conducive conditions and findings in their notes. If conditions are ideal for infestation, these notes will help in any follow-up services and could be the difference between a single successful visit and multiple re-treatments that cause you to lose money.
For any inspection, Williams also recommends that all technicians be equipped with a rechargeable flashlight, backup flashlight and multi-use tool and be trained in how to properly use them during the inspection process.
Treatment. Before any treatment can occur, Williams warns that pest management professionals must understand local, state and federal regulations regarding certain treatment processes. For some states, if the pest is not listed on the product label, that product cannot be used to treat for that pest; however, in states that operate under the federal label, Williams says, “you don’t need the pest on the label as long as the site is on the label, so, that gives you a lot of flexibility.” For firms operating across multiple states, state-specific education on treatment regulations should be incorporated into any training regimen to ensure full compliance with all applicable laws.
Once the problem has been identified, technicians should then discuss the treatment process with the customer. First, the technician needs to ensure that the customer understands the expected outcomes of the treatment process. “Insecticide treatments are not a silver bullet. You’re not going to go in there with a magic wand and solve things,” said Williams.
Before beginning any treatment, the technician also needs to determine if the customer has performed any DIY treatments or used other professionals in the past. “There can be a situation where you make an application and that particular product that you’re using could not mix well or reside well with the product that they use,” warned Williams. Finally, once a treatment has been determined, the technician should realize the paperwork is a legal document, ensuring that all writing is legible and accurate.
To treat for these pests, Williams uses a variety of products, depending on the location and degree of the infestation. In indoor places such as voids, he recommends dust formulations (organic dust for sensitive areas). Nuvan Prostrips can be used in unoccupied areas (occupied by people less than four hours per day) to offer long-term control. Boric acid is a mold-retardant residual that works in damper environments, whereas Williams prefers Tri-Die aerosol on pipe runs “because it adheres very easily to the surface that you apply it to [which means] aside from it controlling the activity, it can actually repel pests away from the area.”
In unoccupied areas or where there are organic materials such as wooden shingles, when possible, aggressive treatments, such as removing insulation and treating underneath, are preferable. To treat cracks and crevices in upper floors, Williams says he uses Arilon, a water-dispersible granule, because it is a low-impact active ingredient with a favorable environmental profile. When treating upper floors, however, Williams cautions against only spraying baseboards because while that may supress pests in the living area, it will not actually treat the infestation. Around the exterior, Williams uses various residual formulations to treat the foundations of the property, especially entry points (such as windows and doors), and applies the product 3 feet out from the building, depending on the product’s label restrictions. Williams also recommends using granular insecticides in concentrated areas outside of the liquid treatment zone. When treating mulch areas or other piles, the piles should be moved or disturbed, and then treated thoroughly.
In addition to insecticide treatments, Williams has found that treatment for these pests is also possible through various Integrated Pest Management (IPM) solutions, many of which have the potential for upselling additional products or services. In living areas, such as kitchens and bathrooms, one of the simplest IPM measures is vacuuming or otherwise keeping floors and other access areas free of food sources.
One of the most profitable IPM solutions is selling exclusion services, such as installing door sweeps and offering structural pest proofing and sealing. These services can even be sold in advance and honored during slower seasons. Other potential IPM opportunities include selling dehumidifiers and offering services such as gutter cleaning or lawn care. These IPM solutions will minimize some conducive conditions and may even eliminate or reduce the need for other treatments.
As with all services, investing in the proper tools is necessary for effective treatment. For instance, Williams recommends investing in a Technicide Duster or B&G Versaduster for the interior and a gas-powered backpack mister or power sprayer for the exterior. He also suggests that a company develop a comprehensive website, uses formulated emails, and designs fact sheets and pest vulnerability reports so that all materials and services meet a standardized level of quality and accuracy.
Final Thoughts. Silverfish, centipedes and springtails are all common pests that can create many challenges but also many opportunities for increased profit and growth. Using knowledge of these insects’ biology, proper inspection techniques and targeted treatment solutions, trained technicians can work with customers to manage expectations and deliver effective solutions. In the end, says Williams, it all comes down to training and common sense: “Think of your environment. Think of what’s going on. Read the label. Know the pest. And make a proper application.”
The author is a PCT contributing writer and can be contacted at email@example.com.
Of all the arthropods living in the United States, only a tiny percentage would be considered true structural pests; most live freely in soil, waterways, forests, meadows, fields, lawns and ornamental shrubs. Outside the true structural pests, some species invade buildings on an occasional basis, and a significant number of species may do so on rare occasions.
The pest control industry has used the term occasional invader for as long as I can remember. To learn more, I went into my library of original entomology and pest control books to determine the derivation of this term in the pest control industry.
Arnold Mallis, in the first edition of the Handbook of Pest Control published in 1945, does not use the term occasional invader, instead devoting separate chapters to pests historically categorized as occasional invaders, such as silverfish, springtails, crickets and earwigs, and completes his book with a chapter titled, Miscellaneous Pests.
Published originally in 1962 by Dr. Lee Truman, the Scientific Guide to Pest Control Operations has a chapter dedicated to Occasional Invaders and Miscellaneous Pests. As defined by Truman, “…‘occasional invaders’ includes those pests which occur in buildings at some stage of their life cycle but which do not usually complete the entire life cycle within the building.” Truman included such pests as crickets, earwigs, silverfish, springtails, isopods, clover mites, box elder bugs, lady beetles, etc., in this chapter.
I did not know then to ask Dr. Truman the origin of the term when I worked with him for two years fresh out of Purdue University. Possibly “occasional invaders” was first used in an NPCA (National Pest Control Association) publication, but I cannot find it in my limited publication collection. (I would be interested in its origin if anyone might know.)
When Urban Entomology was published in 1975, Dr. Walter Ebeling did not include any mention of occasional invaders, but instead followed Mallis’ lead with a chapter dedicated to Miscellaneous Pests. Many of Truman’s “occasional invaders” were featured in that chapter while he assigned others, such as springtails and millipedes, to a chapter titled Pests in Excessively Damp Locations.
It was not until the 7th Edition of the Handbook of Pest Control, edited by Keith Story in 1990, that the chapter Miscellaneous Pests was retitled Occasional Invaders. This edition, however, still maintained separate chapters for silverfish, earwigs, crickets, etc.
When I assumed the duty as editorial director for the 8th Edition of the Handbook of Pest Control, I kept all chapters as they appeared in the 7th Edition. But when it was time to plan the 9th Edition revision, I made the decision that all the pests historically considered to be “occasional invaders” should be united into a single chapter of that title. I took the responsibility for completing this task, incorporating the silverfish, springtails, crickets and earwigs chapters into the Occasional Invaders chapter. I also moved individual pests that fit the occasional invader model, such as box elder bugs, aphids and leafhoppers, from the Bed Bugs and Other Bugs chapter. I divided the chapter into two sections in order to separate those insects that seek out buildings to spend the winter into the section, “Overwintering Pests.”
In the 10 years since the 9th Edition was published, I’ve come to realize that the category of occasional invaders is in further need of clarification and redefinition as it has become a “catch-all” for every pest that doesn’t neatly fit into one of the other pest-type categories. This amalgamation of pests thus created some confusion in some customers’ minds in regards to their pest coverages. Commercial customers, for example, whose contracts with pest management companies include “occasional invaders,” might request free additional services for pests like hackberry psyllids or thrips that are ornamental pests but, on rare occasions, may enter buildings. Such pests fit the current definition of occasional invader but are typically outside the bounds of standard service agreement coverage by pest management providers.
For these reasons, I propose this group of pests be subdivided. I also think it’s time to introduce a new term: incidental invaders.
Occasional Invaders. This grouping includes those pests that are occasional but fairly regular pests that invade structures. These pests may be able to complete all or part of their life cycle within a building, such as silverfish, house crickets or camel crickets, or just appear on a frequent enough basis inside to qualify as “occasional.” Members include silverfish and firebrats, springtails, ground beetles, black vine and strawberry root weevils, centipedes, millipedes, sowbugs and pillbugs, amphipods, crickets, earwigs, clover mites and certain psocids.
Overwintering Pests. This group is easy to define and contains a limited, but growing, club whose members find the voids of structures to be ideal sites to wait out the cold days of winter. Included are lady beetles, elm leaf beetles, box elder bugs, cluster flies, stink bugs, kudzu bugs, paper wasp queens and the Western conifer seed bug.
Incidental Invaders. Previous publications labeled this category as “miscellaneous pests,” but I feel that incidental invader is a more apt description for the uncommon or rare pest invasions pest professionals encounter in both residential and commercial situations. An incidental invader is one where external conditions conspire to create a situation where an insect or other arthropod appears on or inside a building, thus prompting a customer to bring it to our attention. Such insects are not true pests, rather their appearance is sudden, unexpected and generally a one-time occurrence.
Light-Attracted Pests. Think, for example, of all the insects that may be attracted to bright lights on buildings. Entomologists use lighting to attract and collect insects they may not ever find or see during the daytime. Many new species of insects have been discovered when attracted to such lights. For this reason, any home or building could become a victim of an incidental invasion by one or more light-attracted insects inside. Some such insects are often typical (but seasonal) offenders in this regard, such as aquatic insects (e.g., mayflies, caddisflies and certain midge flies) and blister beetles and leafhoppers. Other light-attracted insects, however, are rare, for example, the two cases involving burrower bugs I have been consulted on in the past — one affecting a circuit board manufacturer in Nevada and the other a nuclear power plant in the Southeast.
Any insect attracted to a light, therefore, can become a pest but it is really only incidental due to its behavior bringing it into proximity to the structure. Over my career, I have received requests to identify all kinds of light-attracted insects from odd species of ground beetles to rove beetles, click beetles, stag beetles, longhorned beetles, tumbling flower beetles, sap beetles, miscellaneous wood-boring beetles, dobsonflies, adult ant lions, fishflies, all kinds of moths, many types of hemipterans (such as seed and plant bugs) and others. All of these pests were one-time occurrences related to lighting. Treatments are rarely needed for such situations. Changing the lighting and addressing exclusion issues are typically the better course of action, although each individual case requires its own plan for resolution.
Pests From Animal Nests. Another subgroup within this category are those insects associated with animal nests. Their presence inside a building is incidental to the fact that their host has taken up residence inside. Bird mites are the most common of such pests, but bird lice, bat bugs and swallow bugs are seen in structures with some regularity. Less commonly seen are bat ticks and bird ticks, and I have encountered, on a couple of occasions, bird keds (wingless species of flies found in some nests of birds). Cases of these pests will involve removal/exclusion of the host, removal of nesting materials and possibly some limited treatments.
Ornamental Pests. Under the right conditions, certain ornamental pests may be attracted to and end up inside a building. Common examples include hackberry nipple gall psyllids, thrips, certain beetles (e.g., Asiatic oak weevil, tulip tree weevil), and some winged species of psocids (book lice). Certain caterpillars also can become an issue, including larvae of gypsy moths and Eastern tent caterpillars found crawling by the dozens or hundreds on the outsides of homes. The appropriate host plant needs to be close enough to the infested building and conditions suitable for creating a large enough population that insects moving off the infested plants find and enter the building in varying numbers. The infestation is incidental because conditions need to be just right to create the situation where the invasion occurs. Typically, it is a one-time occurrence even though the host plant(s) are present in the years before and after a case where they have caused a pest issue.
Firewood Pests. One last group to include as incidental invaders are firewood pests. Dead wood is a harborage to a wide variety of arthropods and firewood piles make an excellent food source or harborage to many insects, spiders, centipedes and others, especially over the winter. The most common firewood pests are types of longhorned and buprestid beetles that have pupated inside the wood and emerge inside in numbers ranging from a few to dozens. When firewood is carried inside and stored for longer than a day or two, overwintering arthropods awake and may be found crawling or flying about, thus prompting a customer call for help. I have consulted on calls ranging from scorpions to yellowjacket queens to carpenter ants and odd species of spiders that are associated with firewood. Customers always should be advised to bring inside no more wood than they can burn in a single day.
I believe these pest categories will bring some clarification to the industry. This should help pest service professionals better understand how to explain the nature of a pest infestation to a customer. Occasional invaders are common enough to warrant regular attention to keep them out of buildings as they are often associated with structures. Overwintering pests is an easily understood term by customers as one that prefers buildings in which to harbor from the cold. Last, the new term of incidental invader clearly defines pests that are present only due to circumstance or a specific factor such as lighting, animal nests, ornamental plants or firewood.
The pest control industry is evolving in many ways and how we categorize certain pests should evolve with it. In the future, pest professionals may be asked to be more specific in defining infestations in order to “justify” treatments being performed. Such proposals as this are but a small part of that process.
The author is a board certified entomologist and president of Stoy Pest Consulting, Lakeland, Tenn. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.