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Fire Ants

The fire ant (red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta Buren), is an invasive insect whose sting can cause serious problems.  Where imported fire ants are common, most homeowners recognize them by the mounds they build or the stings they inflict.  However, there are also other characteristics to look for.  Their aggressive nature compared to other ant species is one such trait. If a mound is disturbed, usually hundreds of fire ant workers will swarm out and run up vertical surfaces to sting.  These ants are social insects and unlike many insect pests, they are very organized.  Fire ants are aggressive and will defensively attack anything that disturbs them.  Fire ants can sting repeatedly.  Symptoms of a fire ant sting include burning, itching and a white, fluid-filled pustule that forms a day or two afterward.


Colonies consist of the brood and several types (castes) of adults.  The whitish objects often found at the top of … Read Full Post »

Bed Bugs

Bed bugs feed on blood, principally that of humans, by piercing the skin with their elongated beaks. Although they inflict misery on their victims, it has never been proven that bed bugs carry disease-causing pathogens in the United States.  Bed bugs are spread chiefly by the clothing and baggage of travelers, secondhand beds, bedding, furniture and laundry.


A mature bed bug is a dark brown, wingless insect.  Its size and color depend on the amount of blood that the body contains.  An unfed bed bug is between 1/4 and 3/8 inch long.  The upper surface of the body has a flimsy, crinkly appearance.  When engorged with blood, the body becomes elongated and swollen, and the color changes from brown to dull red.  Bed bug eggs are white and about 1/32 inch long.  Newly hatched bugs are translucent and nearly colorless, but similar in shape to the adults.  As they grow, they molt … Read Full Post »

Rover Ants

For many years now, people in Central Texas have been complaining about difficulty controlling an ant they describe as ‘little black ants’. The primary problem has been that the ants in question may initially respond well to treatment but re-infest quickly.


Some people began to suspect that these might not really be little black ants.  These ants are easy to mistake for little black ants with the naked eye (they are about the same size and dark in color), but when viewed through a microscope they are distinctly different.


This is an exotic species that was first reported in the US in the 1970s, as Brachymyrmex musculus, and much of the USliterature refers to it as B. musculus. It is thought to have originated in Argentina, where it was known as B. patagonicus and, because this was the original name, this is now what it is being called here.  Although these rover ants have only ‘been here’ for 30 years or so, … Read Full Post »

Circuit Breakers

Circuit breakers are a vital part of home safety. If installed properly, breakers perform a vital function in protecting your home or commercial facilities electrical system.

All circuits are controlled and protected by the circuit breakers.  If there is an overload, short or ground in the circuit, the breaker will detect the fault and open (kill) the circuit.  The purpose is twofold: prevent fire; prevent electrical shock.  


One of the most common situations occurs when the electricity goes out in a certain area of the home but the breaker doesn’t seem to have opened the circuit. A breaker switch can sometimes open a circuit without its mechanical handle flipping off. You should first try to manually switch the breaker off and then back on. It’s also possible the current was interrupted somewhere other than the breaker due to faulty wiring. In this case, an electrician will probably need to … Read Full Post »

Identifying & Preventing Oak Wilt Disease

In Texas, we have a green luxury that most of us take for granted. Whether in our front yards, neighborhoods, or local park, oak trees are considered to be majestic and beautiful trees that provide a lot of shade and greenery to our otherwise dull scenes. Especially in central Texas, besides the beauty of rolling hills, we have great oak trees to complement the entire scenery.

However, oak wilt is threatening that beautiful scenery quite rapidly. Oak wilt, also known as “sudden oak death,” is one of the most threatening tree diseases in Texas and continues to kill off live oak and red oak trees – including shumard oaks, Spanish oaks and blackjack oaks – spreading from one to the next. This disease is caused by a fungus called Ceratocystis fagacearum which takes over a tree’s water conducting system, thus causing the tree to die quickly. Oak wilt kills off a … Read Full Post »