Bugman: Removing silverfish from the home

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How can we get rid of silverfish in our home? They aren’t a serious pest, but a nuisance and I don’t want to use pesticides if I can avoid it.

A: Silverfish are small insects, up to ¾ inch long and silvery in color. They are covered in scales, which will be hard to see with the naked eye, and they have three appendages protruding from their abdomen.

They feed on fungus, sugar and starch products such as flour, glue and paste. They can feed on some synthetic fabrics and cellulose, which includes paper, books, photographs and cardboard boxes. They will also feed on dead insects.

Silverfish are attracted to moisture so you want to make sure you fix any plumbing leaks. You have to make sure no moisture is available for these insects. Try to keep items such as paper, books, and food products as far from the floor as possible.

You can trap them by putting some flour in a glass jar and wrapping it with duct tape so they can climb up the sides. They will get in the jar but will not be able to get out. Niban Bait, made from boric acid, is a good commercial bait for controlling silverfish.

Q: We have very tiny ants in our bathroom. Much smaller than any I have ever seen. How do we deal with them?

A: They are probably thief ants. Thief ants are very small ants that are related to fire ants, but resemble pharaoh ants. They are less than 1/16 of an inch long. The best way to tell them from pharaoh ants is to examine the antennae with a magnifying glass. The club on the end of the antennae has two segments in thief ants and three segments in pharaoh ants.

Thief ants get their name from because they enter the colonies of other ant species and steal their food.

These ants are found throughout the United States but are more common in the East and South. Outside they nest under debris on the ground, or under rocks, boards or logs. In a home, they will nest in wall voids and behind baseboards.

Baits do not work well for these ants as they don’t bring enough back to the colony for it to work. If you can find out where they are nesting, you can put some food-grade diatomaceous earth in the void. Cinnamon will repel them from areas you don’t want them.

You can also spray the ants with Greenbug for Indoors and use Greenbug for Outdoors in all the cracks and crevices around the outside of your home.

If they are pharaoh ants, they will be harder to control. Pharaoh ants are very small, yellowish ants that are monomorphic. They got their name because they were originally discovered and described in Egypt in 1758. They are found in many areas of the U.S.

They will nest in any small, dark voids such as old boxes, empty bags, stacked newspapers and even an unused salt shaker. Outdoors they will nest under objects on the ground, in potted plants, in stacked firewood or in piles of bricks. They are primarily nocturnal.

They have large colonies, often exceeding a quarter of a million ants and many queens. They do not swarm to reproduce as most ants do, but use a system called “budding.” This is where reproductives just crawl off and mate nearby.

Colonies of pharaoh ants usually contain many nests, and it is essential to control all of them or you will never get rid of them. Never use synthetic pesticides to try to control these ants as all you will do is cause them to split up, and you will make the problem worse.

Place baits – such as fruit juice and aspartame in soda straws. Cut the straws into one-inch segments and put the segments where you have seen the pharaoh ants foraging. You can even tape them to the underside of tables.

You can change the baits periodically by mixing peanut oil, sweet syrup, jelly or honey with 3 percent boric acid or food grade diatomaceous earth. You can also put strained liver baby food, honey or peanut butter mixed with 2 percent boric acid or brox in small cups.

Place the baits as close to the nests as possible. Treat any cracks and crevices around the outside of the home with Greenbug for Outdoors.

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