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  • Writer's pictureChelle Hartzer

Moms make pest management hard (AKA: Happy Mother's Day!)

It was my mom’s birthday yesterday and of course it was Mother’s Day here in the US this past weekend. It was perfect because she lives in New England and we rarely get to celebrate her birthday in person, but this year, my parents happened to be at my house. It was great. It got me thinking about all the things moms do for us to try to help us out.

They protect us.

Many social species of insects are protected within a colony. A single female, or sometimes a mated pair, starts a new colony, in a protected area, and starts laying eggs and rearing the young. This could be a new fire ant colony that pops up along a driveway or a new termite colony in an old tree stump near a building. This is great for the insects that are safely in their home and growing rapidly. Not so great for pest management because most of the colony is protected and often hard to find. It’s estimated that in a healthy ant colony, only about 10% of the colony is every outside the main colony foraging. Everyone else is still at home with mom. Getting treatments to eliminate the whole colony can be tough.

Bonus – while German cockroaches aren’t truly social, they will live in groups and the young stay nearby to the adults in secluded, hard to reach areas.

They feed us

Paper wasp larvae
I did feel a little bad destroying this...

I found out there was a little paper wasp colony that was being started underneath my patio table. I knew this because I could see the wasp numerous times during the day and often saw her duck under the table. By the time I got to it, there were about eight little cells, each with a hungry wasp larvae in it looking for mom to feed it. In this case, the female could have been eliminated and that new colony would starve. If I hadn’t realized it was there, in a few weeks, I would be dealing with a lot more wasps. This is typically when most people start seeing issues (lots of wasps!) and calling for help.

Bonus – I also have a carpenter bee that managed to find an unsealed part of my deck. I watch her carry pollen to her nest to stockpile for her young.

They help us grow (with our sisters)

For social insects, once the colony gets past the start-up stage, there is enough investment from the new employees to keep it going; mom can focus on producing eggs. With all that help around the house, the house has to get bigger. Termites and ants can go years without being noticed and form massive colonies. From a pest management standpoint, that’s a lot to deal with, especially since if you miss a few, the colony will continue and regrow. In some cases, colonies can even split. So when a treatment is put down, it will force two sides apart, but each will survive and thrive.

Bonus – In some colonies, the “sisters” can be pretty defensive! Think of fire ants biting and stinging, honey bees defending their hive, and tropical termites spraying acid at their attackers!

Mom’s have given us so much, and when you look at the moms of our pest species, they are doing everything they can to ensure the survival of their kids. The kids aren’t making their famous triple layer chocolate mousse cake for their mom, but they are helping around the house. This makes them tough to manage and takes a deep understanding of their behavior and biology to do that successfully. But don’t blame the insects, it’s not their fault, their moms raised them right!

Need more info on how to successfully manage social insects? Give us a shout here!

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