Interesting Fire Ant Facts

We often get calls from folks who have recently moved to our area from out of state and have had their first encounter with fire ants. To put it mildly, they are horrified that such an insect exists and can’t understand why the rest of us are so seemingly so casual about them. We agree, fire ants are not to be trifled with and are pretty nasty. But Fire ants are also amazing creatures, so we thought we would share some interesting facts about them that you may not know.

Fire ants first came to the US in about 1918, arriving at the port in Mobile, Alabama. They arrived in soil used as ballast for the cargo ships. It took until the 1950’s for them to reach Texas and, since that time, they have spread all over the Southeast. The northern migration of fire ants is limited by cold winter temperatures that freeze the soil deeply enough to not allow the colonies to overwinter.

Fire ants spread by swarming: Unmated, winged reproductive male and female ants exit the mound in mass, fly into the air and mate while airborne. The newly mated fire ant queens fall back to the ground within a few miles of the mound from which they emerged. They shed their wings, eat them, and then attempt to start a new colony.

Fire ant resting on a leaf.The queen does this by laying a few eggs that eventually become small workers. These first workers then help care for their younger sisters and the colony begins to grow. Most of the ants in a fire ant colony are infertile, female workers. It takes several months for a colony to grow enough to build a mound large enough to be noticed in the average home lawn. Worker fire ants vary in size, but all are capable of stinging (fire ants first bite to grasp the skin, and then inject their stinger).

For every large mound in a lawn there are usually many younger colonies that are still too small to produce visible mounds. Small colonies develop into large colonies especially quickly if there are no bigger colonies nearby to compete with them. Once a young fire ant colony is well established and has a few thousand workers, it can quickly develop into a mature colony containing tens of thousands of ants. The mound is just like the tip of an iceberg and represents just a hint of what is going on under the soil.

Fire ant queens live a long time – as long as 7 years. They can lay up to 1,600 eggs per day. This translates to over 4 million eggs in her lifetime! The queen will never leave the nest once she develops into a breeding queen.

Three fire ants. Fire ants have a complete life cycle. The eggs hatch into legless larvae, which develop into pupae, and ultimately become adults. As you will see later, the larvae are essential to allow the colony to eat. Fire ants feed on a wide range of food, including insects, honeydew, plant nectar, seeds, fruit, and animal carcasses. They are especially interested in foods high in fat. Foraging workers exit the mound through underground tunnels that radiate away from the mound, exiting to the surface 5 to 25 feet away from the mound.

Adult fire ants are incapable of swallowing solid food and have to carry it back to the mound. Solid food is fed to the larger larvae, which chew and digest it, then regurgitate it in liquid form. This liquid food is then passed from the larvae back to the workers and shared with all ants in the colony. The queen will wait 48 hours before she eats the food, and if her workers die after ingesting it, she will not eat, thereby ensuring that the colony will not be lost.

 Fire ant colony.Fire ants are social insects that nest in the soil in large colonies that contain tens of thousands to more than 200,000 ants. During cold, wet weather fire ants tend to maintain their colonies high above ground—to keep brood out of water-logged soil and to take advantage of solar heating. During hot, dry weather fire ants tend to maintain their colonies below ground—to take advantage of cool, moist conditions.

Fire ant colonies can survive flooded conditions by “rafting,” and will establish a new mound wherever they happen to make landfall. This rafting is an amazing technique and it’s well worth a quick watch of this video from Nat Geo WILD to see it in action.

During times of flooding, it’s essential to keep an eye out for these rafts and stay well out of their way. When forced to relocate, worker fire ants will use their bodies to build a bridge across narrow expanses of water to allow safe transportation of their brood.

Fire ants have only one known predator; the Phorid Fly. The female phorid fly will seek out fire ants and lay her eggs in the ant’s thorax. When the egg moves into their larvae stage, they will push onto the ant’s head and kill it.

As with all insects, effective pest control requires a good understanding of the insect in question. While many homeowners utilize a poison they water in, to try and control and kill fire ants in their yard, Mosquito Joe prefers to use a bait that allows us to kill the queens. Our bait has a 72-hour delay which means we are able to circumvent the queen’s 48 hour wait time to feed, thereby killing the colony completely. Give us a call at 281-815-0228. to find out more!


Interesting Facts About Mosquitoes

We thought it would be fun to gather a group of interesting facts about mosquitoes, that you may not know, into one list. There is far more to the mosquito than meets the eye, and each year Mosquito biting.we continue to learn more and observe more about their behavior. So here are 29 facts you may not know:

  • There are over 3,000 species of mosquitoes in the world. Only about 200 bites.
  • Texas has the highest number of mosquito species at 85, while West Virginia has the fewest at 26.
  • Male mosquitoes do not bite. It is only the female one that sucks your blood and gets the protein from it. This protein helps the mosquitoes to develop their eggs.
  • Mosquitoes feed mainly on plant nectar.
  • Mosquitoes cannot regulate their body temperature, so they will shade from the sun during the day.
  • A female mosquito can drink 3 times her body weight in blood.
  • Mosquitoes prefer the blood of horses or birds or cattle to humans.
  • Mosquitoes have been around since the Jurassic period. They have been on Earth for over 210 million years!
  • Mosquitoes are the deadliest animal on the planet, far more so than sharks.
  • Mosquitoes can spread several life-threatening diseases including West Nile, Dengue, and Malaria.
  • Many mosquitoes don’t die from a freeze. Instead, they hibernate and reawaken once temperatures climb over 50 degrees.
  • A mosquito egg can lay dormant for up to 10 years, and hatch once water touches it.
  • All mosquitoes need water to breed.
  • A mosquito spends the first 7-10 days of its life in water.
  • Mosquitoes live up to 6 months (the majority live 2-3 weeks).
  • When mosquitoes hatch out of the pupae they first breed before the female searches for a blood meal. She then lays her eggs and only then will settle to feed from nectar.
  • The female mosquito lays her eggs in stagnant water, 300 at a time. Only a teaspoon will do.
  • Mosquitoes beat their wings 500-600 times per minute. When mating they will synchronize their wings.
  • Mosquitoes only fly 1.5 miles per hour.
  • Mosquitoes mostly keep to 6-8 feet above ground. They can fly up to 25’ high but they are not strong fliers and cannot manage the breeze well.
  • Mosquitoes generally fly 2-3 miles at best (some saltmarsh mosquitoes can fly 100 miles, however).
  • Mosquitoes use several methods to locate a blood meal. They first detect CO2 plumes, which they can do from 75’ away.
  • Once a mosquito gets closer it turns to smell to home in on a victim. Sweat, beer, and a host of other odors can make us more attractive.
  • Movement also attracts mosquitoes.
  • When they are close mosquitoes turn to heat sensing to find us to bite.
  • Mosquito traps don’t work well as they do not emit heat. They attract mosquitoes into your yard but, if you are outside, they will find you first.
  • Bug zappers don’t kill mosquitoes. The light attracts them in, but they won’t fly into it. The same is true for outside lights you turn on at night.
  • When the female bites she inserts her proboscis into our skin. Her saliva helps the multiple tubes inside this to slide through our skin. It also has a mild pain-killing property, to help her go undetected, and has anti-coagulant properties.
  • The bumps and itch that result from a bite are the result of a common allergy to saliva. Some lucky people don’t have a reaction.

We make outside fun again by keeping mosquitoes and other outdoor pests away! Give us a call today at 281-815-0228 for a free quote!


Outdoor Lighting and Mosquitoes

Did you know that October is notoriously voted the favorite month of the year? With fall weather cooling us down (ever so slightly here in Texas), people tend to spend more time outdoors enjoying the month with pumpkins, coffee, and Halloween festivities. It also means moving our celebrations and family gatherings from inside to outside, decorating our patios, and having our meals under string lights. However, with increased outdoor lighting comes an increase in mosquitoes – but why?

Mosquitoes are attracted to many aspects of fall weather – less direct sunlight, cooler days, and even cooler nights. While many other pests are attracted to light, mosquitoes rely on it to help them find a blood source once they have spotted your CO2 plumes from a distance. As a result, mosquito issues may increase around porch lights and bright areas around homes. Their bites usually occur in the evening and at night when many mosquito species are active. The increase in landscape and fairy lights in your yard can not only draw more bugs into your yard, but help mosquitoes find you. This goes for patio and porch lights too! While many people like to keep these lights on through the night, they act as neon signs for mosquitoes, midges, gnats, june bugs, and other unwelcome insects. You can save yourself a lot of trouble and bugs by turning these lights off when you aren’t outside.

outdoor tablesSo, what can you do instead to help prevent sharing your yard with mosquitoes and other bugs? As far as lighting, security/motion detection lights are the way to go. Having lights that do not remain on for extended periods of time reduces the chance of attracting insects to string lights and regular patio/porch lights. Of course, you can’t have dinner or family gatherings under the on-again-off-again glow of a security light. Instead, simply limit the amount of time you have these string, patio, and landscaping lights on before spending time outdoors.

outdoor lighting

As we increase the time we spend outdoors we often find an increase in the use of mosquito traps. These typically include glowing electric lamps, citronella candles, and torches. Many of these do not help and some will make matters worse. Much like outdoor or patio lights, these sources of light draw pests toward them. From a distance, mosquitoes rely on their sense of smell, specifically hunting down CO2 plumes that we or other animals emit. Once closer, they can use visual cues to assess a blood source. While they are still seeking a source of CO2, light aids their poor visibility and makes for an easier search. From very close proximity, typically within 1-3 feet, mosquitoes then rely on thermal sensory input to locate heat and moisture sources. This prevents them from wasting time on objects such as rocks, vegetation, and mosquito repellent products. This means that mosquito traps do a great job of leading pests to you rather than truly repelling them; you can learn more about the true effectiveness of mosquito repellent products here! Instead, get more bang for your buck by investing in mosquito control services and simply limiting light and water sources in your yard.

A new option Mosquito Joe offers is the Thermacell LIV system, which you turn on when you are outside remotely with your phone. This device emits a pesticide in the form of an odor which keeps mosquitoes and biting midges out of your patio area. You can combine this with a barrier service (which removes 95% of the mosquitoes in your yard) for complete protection in the evenings. Give us a call/text for a free quote so you can enjoy your lights and the weather without the worry at 281-815-0228.


Mosquito-Free Gardening: Do’s & Don’ts

September marks the official start of Fall, which means that the Texas weather will be shifting from hot and humid to…. well, warm and humid! Despite the heat, September is a favored growing season and makes a great time for avid gardeners to get outside and do what they love. However, if mosquitoes use your garden as their happy home, being outside can be rather miserable. To help you out here are some gardening ‘dos and don’ts’ that can help prevent or eliminate your mosquito issues.

house outdoorsOne of the most common causes of mosquito issues in your garden is mulch (or pine bark, pine needles, and other similar materials used on garden beds). These ground covers and the wet, shaded soil beneath can contain millions of mosquito eggs due to the moisture they hold. When you lay a new bag of mulch out, you also lay out the thousands of mosquito eggs contained with it, and you will experience a huge surge in your mosquito issues! However, leaving mulch bags out in the yard can have an even worse effect- the sealed, dark damp environment is an ideal home for mosquitoes. If you are going to keep mulch in bags for some time, move them out of the weather to help reduce the issues. Customers with Mosquito Joe will notify us when they add new mulch in the yard so we can be sure to treat these areas well to eliminate these mosquitoes. For those who do not have routine mosquito services, make sure you lay your mulch (or soil) out as soon as you can and don’t overwater.

wheel barrel

On the subject of mulch, the lining used for mulch beds can make a big difference in your mosquito population. Be sure to lay the landscape cloth completely flat so it does not hold pockets of water beneath it. We also recommend using a landscaping cloth material over a tarp, as these won’t allow any water to pass through and will just collect it after weather, creating a never-ending issue in your yard. We’ve seen some real head-scratchers over the years so be sure you know what is being laid under your beds if you opt to have that work done for you.

The manner in which you plant or pot your plants can contribute to issues in your yard as well. When planting in mulch beds, avoid digging holes too deeply into the soil as this will result in standing water each time you water. Conversely, don’t plant too high as that might cause a moat around your plant. For plants in pots, keep an eye on your plant pot saucers, and be sure to regularly dump out any water that collects in them. Whether in a bed or in a pot it is really important to avoid overwatering your plants!

Speaking of plants, please don’t be fooled by the gimmicky advertising on some that declare they are a “mosquito repellant.” You will be disappointed if you plant some of these in the hopes of warding off issues. To learn more about “mosquito repellant” plants and the truth behind them, check out our past blog post – ‘Do Mosquito Repellant Plants Really Work?


When working in the garden, keep an eye out for other objects that may hold water you don’t often think about- fountains, bird baths, wheelbarrows, tarps, gutters, drains, or gardening equipment can be the secret to your mosquito problems. Remember that 1 teaspoon of water will result in 300 mosquitoes every couple of days. The innocent water at the bottom of a watering can become a huge issue for you when you are outside. Keep an eye on your drainage system to make sure it is draining well and not holding water. It only takes a few leaves or some displaced mulch to cause a problem.

If you want to enjoy your gardening work without being bitten, consider giving Mosquito Joe a call at 281-815-0228. We treat flower beds with an all-natural product, garlic extract, and will never treat your veggie garden unless the situation warrants it (and we speak with you first). We tailor our services this way to minimize our impact on pollinators and beneficial


Eco-Friendly Mosquito Control – Putting Our Environment First!

We often receive phone calls from people who are searching for mosquito service but have serious concerns about environmental health and safety. Many believe that the pesticides used can be harmful to beneficial insects and our environment. This can be true if used irresponsibly. Here at Mosquito Joe of of NW Houston we want to assure our customers that this is not how we treat them – we work hard to put our environment first and proudly claim the title of a member of the Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program (PESP)!

What is PESP? The Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program (PESP) is a partnership with the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) to promote and emphasize environmentally conscious pest control services. This includes an emphasis on ‘Integrated Pest Management,’ or IPM, which involves knowledge of pests and their environment, coupled with choosing the lowest risk products or methods to provide a treatment solution! Mosquito Joe’s participation in the PESP focuses on implementing this new, structured IPM program to explore low-risk and environmentally conscious processes and products in our field operations.

mosquito joe technicianFor our customers, this means that Mosquito Joe cares about the health and welfare of our customers and the environment. Our partnership with PESP demonstrates our commitment to providing low-risk outdoor pest control. We make continued efforts to focus on environmental health and safety, are big advocates for bees and other pollinators, and work to be mindful of all different types of flora in your yard! In fact, Mosquito Joe officially holds a ‘silver’ tiered membership status with PESP and is the only backyard mosquito control company that has acquired Silver Tiered accreditation at this time. Our goal is to protect you, your family, pets, and your community from vector-borne diseases while making your outside fun again.

For local residents that have shied away from mosquito services out of concern for the environment, we hear and share those concerns! Mosquito Joe goes the extra mile to ensure that we do everything we can to provide you with the most environmentally conscious pest control service on the market. While we always utilize the IPM program and its measures during all of our services, customers interested in natural pest management options can opt for our ‘Botanical’ and ‘all-natural’ services. Our Botanical service uses a natural compound of essential oils and soap to kill the mosquitoes in your yard, while our all-natural uses strictly concentrated garlic to repel (but not kill) them. No matter which service you choose, our technicians will always treat your flowering plants only with our organic product in an effort to reduce our impact on bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.

bees on lavendar

For environmentally-conscious residents looking to balance good health with environmental protection, Mosquito Joe is the way to go! Pest control has developed a bad reputation over the years for using harsh chemicals and negatively impacting the environment. While we can’t speak for our competitors, environmental responsibility is at the forefront of our minds, developing an individual plan for each yard to maximize results while minimizing impact. As the only backyard mosquito control company that has acquired Silver Tiered accreditation of the Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program, you can rest knowing we go above and beyond to provide the most effective, environmentally responsible service available. For more information on these services, you can check out our FAQs below, or give us a call at 281-815-0228!