Thursday, May 24, 2007

Sherri's Helpful Hints

Organic Pest Control

Fire Ants

Drench mounds with Liquid Fire Ant Control formula - orange oil, molasses, and compost tea mixture.

Treat the site with beneficial nematodes. These are living organisms and must be used before the date deadline on the package.

Go organic and use the entire basic program. The biodiversity of microbes, insects, and other animals is the best long term control.

Liquid Fire Ant Control - mix one part compost tea, 1 part molasses, and one part orange oil. Mix at 4-6 ounces of the concentrate per gallon of water for treating fire ant mounds.

Preventative maintenance - There are steps that can be taken to reduce the competitive edge of fire ants and as part of an overall organic program to control fire ants.

1. Increase biodiversity. Fire ants are more of a problem in new neighborhoods than in older neighborhoods, where there is a more stabilized ecosystem. When fire ants are forced to compete they become less of a problem. We must do our part to encourage nature.

2. Treating the lawn spring and fall with nematodes. Treat after sunset and follow-up with ½ inch of irrigation. Nematodes are live microscopic worms and need to be applied at the highest recommended rate and in a manor to ensure their survival.

Individual Mound Treatment

3. Treat individual mounds with 1-1/2 ounces of citrus and a few drops of soap as a wetting agent per gallon of water. Treat each mound with one gallon of diluted mixture.

Large area Treatment Program or Bad Infestations

4. When large areas have bad infestations of fire ants, the next step up from the nematodes and citrus drench is applying baits on the whole property at 1-1/2 lb. per acre and one teaspoon of bait per mound. The baits we recommend are the ones containing abamectin because it is derived from a soil microorganism. At low concentrations abamectin acts as an insect growth regulator and when used on individual mounds it is a stomach poison. Baiting should be done in the spring and fall during times of active ant foraging. Test the timing and the bait’s palpability by applying a small amount to individual mounds and watch for a quick uptake. For mounds along sidewalks, house foundations etc. bait is normally required to get effective control, because the ant colony is protected under the concrete.

5. The next step up from the abamectin baits is the chemical growth regulators. These products do not kill ants, they obstruct their life cycle. This process is slow and should be looked at as a low toxic method to decreasing fire ant populations on large properties over a period of several months. Extinguish is a product that has demonstrated good results. As with most baits it is best used in the spring and fall when ants are actively foraging.

Ants in the house

Treat ants in the house by cleaning all problem surfaces with vinegar and water, spray visible ants with orange oil at 2 ounces per gallon of water or 1 tablespoon per quart, and dust the worst areas with baking soda.

Baby talc--a very soft mineral, magnesium silicate. (Not baby powder with corn starch.) It smells good, is non-toxic, matches white window sills better, comes in a handy dispenser and best of all it works! In an ant invasion emergency, even the more expensive body talcs can be used if you don't have baby talc on hand.

Organic Control: Orange oil or other citrus products. Flea control requires a comprehensive program. Use banana stalks under decks. The most effective flea control device is the vacuum cleaner which will remove flea eggs, flea larvae and flea food. Put towels down where pets lay and wash those towels weekly. Use natural diatomaceous earth in dry weather and beneficial nematodes when moisture is present or can be applied. Pyrethrum products are no longer recommended..

Insight: FACTS - A female flea can lay over 1,000 eggs during her lifetime. A pair of fleas can produce 20,000 fleas in 3 months. Flea allergy is the most common skin disease of pets. Fleas can also transmit tapeworms. During the cocoon stage they are invulnerable to typical pesticides. The most common flea is called the cat flea. It attacks cats, dogs, rats, chickens, opossums, raccoons, squirrels and other warm blooded animals. Optimum conditions for egg hatching and flea development are 65 to 80 degrees and 70 percent humidity. When it is 95 degrees this summer and you have fleas, the problem may be in the house - not out in the yard.

The secret to controlling fleas is to control the eggs and larvae. They are far more numerous than adults. Adult fleas usually make up only about 2 percent of the total population. Larvae don't feed on animals as do the adults. Flea larvae feed on organic debris, primarily dry blood. That's why keeping the pets and the environment clean is so important.

1. Organic grounds maintenance. Allow biodiversity to reestablish to create competition. Insects and microbes compete with each other for territory and food. When toxic pesticides are used, the competition is reduced.

2. Diet. Animal nutrition is an important part of a comprehensive flea control program. Feed your pets a balanced, nutritious diet of your own cooking or an organic pet food. Avoid processed foods, especially those that contain chemical preservatives. Ethoxyquin, for example, is a pesticide used as a preservative in many pet foods. BHT and BHA are other chemical preservatives to avoid. Vitamin C is a more acceptable preservative to look for.

You can give your dogs food supplements daily - garlic, diatomaceous earth (DE), food-grade kelp and essential fatty acid products. Garlic helps repel fleas and the DE is a natural wormer and aids in digestion. If the mixing sounds too complicated, just use natural food-grade diatomaceous earth daily. Use about a teaspoon for small dogs and cats and a tablespoon for large dogs. For livestock, about one to two percent of the food ration should be DE. It can also be fed free choice along with salt and mineral supplements.

3. Cleaning. Vacuum frequently, rake and sweep dog runs and sleeping areas regularly, pick up and thoroughly compost pet waste. Flea larvae must have organic matter. Keeping the pet areas clean helps to starve out fleas. Remove trash, lumber and other debris that can harbor fleas. It's best to establish a regular sleeping area for your pets and restrict their access to areas that can be cleaned easily and often. Carpeted areas are the hardest to keep clean.

4. Grooming. Bathe pets weekly or as needed but only with mild, non-toxic soaps. Herbal shampoos and neem shampoos are the most effective, but any low-phosphate, biodegradable soap will work. I also like products that use a coconut base. Shampoos containing citrus oil are also effective. Avoid all soaps containing harsh pesticides. Leave shampoo on pets for 5 minutes before rinsing. If not done too often, bathing pets helps greatly because soap kills fleas. Brushing regularly is even better because it cleans and stimulates the natural oils in pets' coats. These oils help to repel fleas and other pests. The regular use of a flea comb is another effective aid. Its small tines remove fleas which can be dipped in a bowl of soapy water between strokes to kill the fleas caught in the tines.

5. Exercise. Make sure the pets get plenty of natural exercise from running and playing or walk them around regularly. It's good for the animals and for you.

6. Pet treatment. Apply herbal powders of pennyroyal, lavender, eucalyptus, and/or rosemary. Pennyroyal is too strong to use on cats.

Diatomaceous earth, is an inexpensive and effective tool to use as a dry powder on the pet's fur. Don't use it regularly because it's very drying to their skin. Citrus oil products can also help control fleas. Chop orange, grapefruit or other citrus skins or cut them into small pieces, then place in a pan of water. Simmer 15 minutes. Cool thoroughly. Pour into the animal's fur and cover the skin thoroughly. Pay special attention to areas that are hard for the pet to reach. All other forms of citrus also work but oranges seem to work best. This treatment is effective for skin rashes caused by flea bites. Commercial citrus products are also available.

7. Indoor treatment. Treat infested carpets with diatomaceous earth or boric acid, but don't overdo it. For heavy infestations spray D-limonene (citrus) products on carpets and furniture. Baking soda dusted on carpets will also help. Dirty, infested carpets should be water extraction cleaned or completely removed from the house.

8. Outdoor treatment. Dust or spray diatomaceous earth and pyrethrum on infested areas. Light dusting is better than heavy globs. In liquid sprays, add 2-4 tablespoons of DE/pyrethrum to 1 gallon of water. Use about 90% DE and 10% pyrethrum. Use only as needed to avoid killing beneficial insects. Concentrate on dark, damp spots where fleas hang out. DE and pyrethrum are non-selective and like all dusty materials can cause problems if breathed heavily. Citrus oil, molasses, manure compost and garlic are even more effective and less toxic. Apply beneficial nematodes to the entire property and keep the treated areas moist so that the microscopic worms don't dry out and die. There are several brand names of beneficial nematodes. These beneficial animals also control roaches, termites and grubworms. See Nematode for more information.

Nifty Trick: Before you go to bed, take a shallow container and fill with water; place a drop of dishwater soap in the water (do not let it suds up) and put the container in the middle of the room. Place a lamp or other light where it will shine on the water in the container. When you get up the next morning, you will notice a lot of fleas in the water. They are attracted to the light and will jump in the container. The soap makes it impossible for the fleas to float and swim to the sides of the container to jump out, therefore, they sink and drown. Always flush the water, as fleas can revive when out of the water.

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