Flying Ant Day

The UK has seen a sharp rise in temperatures in recent weeks, which might be great for a BBQ or sitting outside, but this rise in temperature is the cause of swarms of flying ants descending on our shores.

The UK’s Entomological Society said the flying ants usually swoop on the UK in July/August but there is a high possibility that the pests could be earlier this year due to increased temperatures. Professor Adam Hart said, “It is definitely possible that due to the warm conditions the UK has been experiencing in recent weeks that we could see some flying ants earlier this year.” He explains the flying ants we see on ‘Flying Ant Day’ are different than the pests we see year-round.

At this time of year, within the colony, ants start rearing King and Queen off spring with the objective being that they will create new colonies. These Kings and Queens develop wings and fly off in search of a mate and to start their own colony. The swarm in their billions to confuse predators and to give the optimum chance of survival. Once they finished mating the male will die and the female will lay her eggs, start a new colony and become the Queen.

David Cross, head of the technical training academy at Rentokil Pest Control, said: “If temperatures remain high, we also expect this to really be a bumper year for flying ants, which could manifest itself at ‘Flying Ant Day’ – the ‘nuptial flight’ stage of ant reproduction where swarms of flying ants are prominent.”

By Lee J Silson

 

Entomopathogenic fungus. Insect Mind Control.

A rare sight indeed when death springs life. Ants can be observed leaving their colony, ascending the nearest plant, clamping down on a leaf in what biologists call a ‘death grip’ only to wait to die, days later growths extend from the body of the deceased, growths very much alive and well.

The cause of this process is a parasitic fungus, a member of the genus Ophiocordyceps.

This fungus forces an ant to find a leaf in a location suited to fungal growth, a matter of precision. In some cases, all infected ants were found on leaves roughly 25cm from the ground, where temperature, humidity and leaf orientation are perfect for the fungus. This fungus can coordinate an ant’s behaviour with astonishing precision all while digesting the ant from the inside.

This highly complex interaction is not yet fully understood, we know the fungus never invades the brain however it is speculated that it could be controlling ants using hormones.

In social insect societies strong defensive measures are common, during social interactions infections can be detected and displays of aggression towards the infected noted, even removal from the nest. However, in the case of the parasitic fungus infected ants appear to continue moving through the nest undetected until leaving to die

The big question here, is does the pathogen change how infected ants interact with others or alter the chemical cues they emit which allow nest mates to detect the infection?

This hypothesis has been investigated, after observing 1,240hrs of footage researchers found no attacks towards infected indivduals and no significant difference in food sharing between infected and uninfected individuals. The key difference was the infected ants spent more time outside the nest, possibly an early signal of fungal manipulation. The significant finding from this research is that the coevolved parasite doesn’t seem to directly affect social dynamics within the colony.

The parasitic fungus is the cloaked assassin, the ant its pawn in the game of life.

How do parasitic fungi relate to pest control?

Not only do parasitic fungi play a vital role in maintaining sustainable insect numbers in the wild, they also hold potential as part of an integrated pest management system. As the fungi is not harmful to mammals the spores can be formulated into sprays, the key hurdle for advanced application and development within the pest control sector is the specific conditions required in temperature, humidity and light exposure. Parastic fungi has been applied with limited success, however with further study we may indeed see this fungi as a feature in mainstream pest management.

 

What you need to know about Wasps.

Have you ever been stung by a wasp? If you have, it is more than likely that the culprit was a common wasp. This wasp is the most popular species throughout the UK. They build their nests mainly in wall cavities and lofts, as they are indoors with easy access to the outside.

Almost the entire nest will die in the winter, with only a handful of young queens surviving to restart the colony in the spring. The queens then lay their eggs in their nests, which will then develop into non-reproductive workers. These workers will eventually primarily take care of the nest, whilst the queens main purpose becomes laying eggs.

They can be identified by looking at their thoracic regions. They are approximately 2cm long with bright yellow and black bands along the body. They have a distinctive ‘waist’ between the thorax and abdomen. They also have two pairs of wings and a long antenna. The sting is located at the tip of the abdomen.

If the wasps nest is in sight, we would recommend using the Digrain Wasps and Hornets’ Nest Destroyer. This is a powerful aerosol product that will allow you to spray the nest but at a safe distance. If the nest isn’t in sight, but you are able to see where the wasps are going in and out, we would recommend using the Rentokil Wasp Nest Killer Powder. Apply this to the entrance of the nest, and the wasps will pick up the powder on their legs and wings which will rapidly destroy the nest. Both products contain the chemical permethrin, which is an effective wasps nest killer. It kills wasps on contact and destroys the nest once taken in.  You can purchase both of these items on our website www.pestcontrolsupermarket, or you can give us a call on 0114 2482407 and one of our friendly advisers will be pleased to take your order!

Is the plague hiding in plain sight?

While we understand the plague, we understand how it is transferred, how it works, what we do not fully understand is how plague recurs after lying dormant.

Findings published in the journal emerging infectious diseases, suggest that the bacteria that causes plague could be lying dormant in common soil and water sources. Which would explain why plague suddenly re-emerges without warning in countries such as Madagascar and the United States. In Madagascar last year a violent outbreak left 202 people dead.

David Markman from Colorado State University who led the study notes that the origins of sporadic outbreaks of plague in many different parts of the world are still not well understood. One of the reasons there are so many unanswered questions is that the plague is present in so many different environments, from the desert to the jungle, making it difficult to find a singular mechanism to unite the different locations to explain when, where and why we have outbreaks.

David Markman’s team theorise that It could be due to amoebae, bugs which could be the culprits protecting the plague pathogens in the soil. Testing five species of amoebae with plague bacteria to see their reaction using a genetically altered strain of plague which glows bright green, they observed the amoebae ingesting the plague, with the pathogens alive and replicating well inside the amoebae.

Their research does not mean that this process occurs naturally, but it is an important theory getting us one step closer.

 

 

 

A low-tech pesticide alternative to transform British farming and the future of our countryside.

Current crop protection strategies are heavily reliant upon chemical pesticide, however researchers are testing an alternative pest control measure to move the industry towards ecological beneficial and sustainable farming.

At a farm of oilseed rape near Buckingham this solution is already in practice, the crop field has been striped with rows of wildflowers. The wildflowers, it is hoped, hold the solution.

Wildflowers play host to a variety of natural predators to common crop pests, such as parasitic wasps which feed on aphids. The trouble with parasitic wasps is the adults reliance upon pollen and nectar as the principle food source. For a single crop planted across acres and acres there simply is not enough food for these predators to survive. Farmers have been planting wildflower boarders for their crops for many years, more for biodiversity than pest control; the issues of predator resilience and sustainability persist due to the range limitations of predatory insects, beetles for example will rarely pass more than 50 meters from their winter refuge, making large tracks of arable fields beyond their reach when harboured in wildflower borders.

Strips of wildflowers on the other hand allow the small predatory insects to easily travel from one strip to the next, giving them scope to cover the whole field with ease, targeting the whole crop and all the crop pests. Strips of wildflowers also encourage sustainable numbers of pest predators and ensure their continued survival. This is all made possible from advances in farming technology, such as precision agricultural systems based on GPS mapping, which allow in-field habitats to be implemented with ease and protected throughout the year.

A similar study to the Buckingham site was conducted in Switzerland on fields of winter wheat planted with strips of poppies and other flowers. The study found a 61% reduction in leaf damage, estimations note that the right mix of wildflowers could increase yields by 10%, making this approach economically self-sustaining and profitable.

While researchers at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology say this will not necessary lead to pesticide free farming, it will reduce the number of pesticide sprays required by maintaining pest populations at low levels, making modern farming a kinder touch to our environment.

With technological advance we can rethink our approach to farming, moving towards a more ecological approach with active enhancement of the underlying ecological processes that benefit crop production. All through the planting of flowers.