Ants lay down invisible odor trails (pheromone secretions) when foraging for food, once a substantial food source has been located, worker ants will trace the pheromone trail back to the colony to alert more workers to the food. Ants will enter homes and buildings in search of food, water and sometimes shelter.
In their feeding habits ants tend to be predators or scavengers, depending on the species. Some predatory species are very specific (e.g. preying only on termites*) while others are general predators of insects and other small animals. Some species of ants feed on the honeydew of certain plants while several species of ants are omnivorous scavengers, consuming a very wide range of animal or plant products. It is these scavengers that have most successfully exploited people’s dwellings.
Ants are usually regarded as ‘nuisance’ pests in and around homes and buildings, however there are many reasons for their pest status:
- Diseases Transmission: Ants have been know to carry on their bodies or in their digestive tract, disease organisms causing dysentery, smallpox and a variety of pathogenic bacteria, including Salmonella.
- Bites & Stings: Some species of ants are very aggressive and can inflict a very painful bite or sting.
- Unsightly Excavations: Small mounds of dirt and nesting material, resulting from their excavations, may be considered unsightly along garden paths, on balconies, around doors, windows and skirting and architrave boards.
- Plant Damage: Where plants are grown, ants may attack and damage or consume seeds and seedlings.
These reasons alone justify the need for ant management in premises. The following good hygiene and housekeeping practices are likely to make your home/premises less suited to supporting an ant infestation and prolong the life of your treatment.
- Cracks and crevices around windows and doors, gaps and cracks around tiles, sinks and bench tops in kitchens and bathrooms and gaps around skirting and architraves should all be sealed and filled to limit the possibility of ant entry.
- Store attractive food items such as sugars, syrup, honey and other sweets in sealed containers that have been washed to remove residues from outer surfaces.
- Clean up after food preparation and handling should be immediate and thorough. Dishes and utensils should not be left unwashed overnight and all benches and sinks should be regularly washed down with disinfectant. Pets feeding bowls should not be left unwashed for long periods.
- Water availability should be reduced where possible. Unnecessary containers with water and accumulations of water from cleaning activities should be eliminated.
- Trim back shrubs and brushes that may be touching the building and make sure, on brick veneer homes, that the external brick weep-holes are clear and free from obstructions.
It is unrealistic and impractical to attempt to totally eliminate ants from an outdoor area. Where poor sanitation and hygiene practices exist, chemical treatments will be limited in their effectiveness.
*Having large numbers of ants in and around your home does not reduce the risk of termite infestation, it is recommended that regular termite inspections are carried out by a qualified and licensed inspector.
The female bed bug can lay up to 10 eggs per day (200-500 in a lifetime, typical lifetime 6-12 months), eggs are ‘glued’ into small cracks and crevices and on rough surfaces. At 22 Degrees Celsius, the average temperature of an air-conditioned room, eggs hatch within 7 days and nymphs (young bed bugs) can take as little as 4-5 days to reach adulthood.
Although bed bugs do not seem to carry or spread any serious disease, the bites from bed bugs at night can prove to be very irritating, even unbearable, often leaving the victim with unsightly welts on their skin. Bed bugs are largely dispersed by humans, in luggage, clothes, bed linen, furniture and so on. The exact reason for the recent increase in bed bug infestations is not fully understood, however the increase of low cost international travel has certainly aided their dispersal. Backpacker accommodation was one of the first in Australia to report problems but bed bugs are now seen in all standards of accommodation. Well-established infestations are often associated with poor housekeeping and low standards of hygiene, however when brought into even the cleanest premises they may find suitable hiding places and hosts, and thus commence infestation.
Enlarged bed bug and actual size.
Signs of a bed bug infestation
- Blood Spotting (small brown-like stains) on bed linen as well as walls and furniture.
- Skin welts (often small red dots) and irritation on the victim.
- Dead bed bugs and castes (skins) in cracks and crevices and on mattresses in sleeping quarters.
- Sweet musty smell (less noticeable except in extreme cases or up close.
Methods of prevention and risk reduction
- Thorough housekeeping and good hygiene practices will make conditions less favourable for infestation.
- Reduce potential harbourages by sealing cracks and crevices and fixing loose wallpaper and skirting boards.
- Thorough inspection of imported items such as, furniture, beds, mattresses, picture frames, curtains etc.
- The use of in house bedding and linen in Hostels and Backpacker accommodation and the prohibited use of guests bedding and linen e.g. sleeping bags, mattresses, pillows etc.
Implementation of the above preventative measures can significantly reduce the risk of a bed bug infestation.
Cockroaches that infest in and around homes and buildings are widely regarded as pests. While their role in the transmission of diseases to humans is usually the main concern, there are many reasons for their pests status:
- Contamination: Cockroaches may contaminate food products, utensils and various areas with droppings, empty egg cases and skins, vomit marks and dead cockroaches.
- Odour: Where substantial cockroach infestation exists, an unpleasant odour may develop owing to secretions from their mouth and cuticle (skin).
- Allergic Reactions: Some people are allergic to cockroaches. Extracts of cockroaches can bring about positive skin reactions in sensitive people and may cause an asthma attack in asthmatics.
- Disease Transmission: Cockroaches often dwell in environments such as, sewers, grease traps and other sources of polluted water that may support the growth of disease causing organisms harmful to humans. The same cockroach may then contact various surfaces (including food) in kitchens and food processing or handling facilities. A variety of disease organisms may be carried and transmitted by cockroaches including Salmonella and other organisms causing gastroenteritis, dysentery, hepatitis, typhoid fever and more.
The health threat posed by cockroaches is considered to be very serious. It is likely that cockroaches are responsible for a great deal of human disease transmission, this reason alone justifies the need for cockroach management in premises. The following good hygiene and housekeeping practices are likely to make your home/premises less suited to supporting a cockroach infestation and prolong the life of chemical treatment.
- Clean up after food handling should be immediate and thorough. Dishes and utensils should not be left unwashed overnight. Pets feeding bowls should not be left unwashed for long periods.
- Water availability should be reduced where possible. Unnecessary containers with water and accumulations of water from cleaning activities should be eliminated. Leaky taps and plumbing should be checked.
- Foods should be stored in cockroach-proof containers and kept in the refrigerator or pantry. Rubbish and garbage should be kept in tightly sealed containers and disposed of regularly.
- Cracks and crevices that may harbour cockroaches should be filled in and sealed. Entry points (e.g. around plumbing) through floors and walls should be blocked off to lessen the possibility of re-infestation or harbourage.
- Regular clean up of ‘longer term’ build-up of waste foods (e.g. grease accumulation around stoves and vents or spilt food materials at backs of shelves) should be carried out. Vacuuming of shelves and cupboards will reduce the build-up of food particles in cracks and crevices.
Where poor sanitation and hygiene practices exist, chemical treatments will be limited in their effectiveness. A combination of chemical treatments and good house keeping practices will provide the best long-term protection against cockroach infestation.
Chemical treatments only control these life stages.
Lifecycle and habits. Fleas have well-developed hind legs which enable them to jump up to 500mm (1/2 a meter) they also have tiny claws on their legs that enable them to grapple onto host animals. Fleas undergo a complete metamorphous (like the caterpillar) whereby the adult flea resemble nothing of the nymph or larval stage. The adult flea usually lays between 4 – 8 eggs after every blood meal. In her lifetime she may lay several hundred. Most eggs are laid on the host animal; and as these usually fall off, they can be spread to virtually any area visited by the host animal. Eggs hatch in 2 – 14days. Larvae feed on any organic material in the form of crumbs, human skin scales and any other debris that can be found. The larvae usually feed for 10 – 15 days. When feeding is complete the larvae spins a silken cocoon where it pupates (transforms) into an adult flea. The pupal stage may take as little as 7 days however in adverse conditions this stage has been known to take as long as a year to complete. Pupae are stimulated to emerge from their cocoon by vibrations and warmth often associated with the movements of a potential host animal. Once hatched the adult fleas immediately feed on a blood meal from the unsuspecting host. The entire life cycle can take as little as 18days or up to a year.
Flea control. Effective flea control often relies on the well-directed application of chemical insecticides backed up by good house keeping and cleaning procedures undertaken by the homeowner / occupier. Chemical formulations only successfully target the larval and adult stages of the flea. The pupal stage is not affected by chemical treatments instead the effective control of this stage relies on the adult flea emerging from the cocoon and coming in to contact with residual insecticides on floor and carpets.
Control and prevention procedures.
- Prior to chemical treatment all floors and carpets should be cleaned and vacuumed.
- Dogs and cats should undergo flea treatment on the same day as chemical control.
- Once chemical treatments are dry, usually 1-2 hrs, all areas and rooms should be re-occupied. (If areas are not occupied pupal stages will not have a chance to emerge)
- 1 week after treatment, normal housekeeping activities should be resumed.
This cockroach prefers, but does not rely upon, conditions that provide warmth, moisture and food, and is well adapted to infesting kitchens and food handling areas, both domestically and commercially. Cracks and crevices within such areas are ideal for adults and nymphs to hide during the day. If numbers of cockroaches are seen during the daylight or in non-food handling areas, it can be said that there is likely to be an enormous population of cockroaches supporting the infestation.
The German cockroach can enter buildings under doors and around service entry points (e.g. plumbing and electrical). They can also be introduced through human error, whereby egg cases and nymphs are transported to new locations in food packages, drink crates, cardboard boxes and the like. Their prolific breeding capacity allows them to build up large populations in a relatively short period of time.
Many human diseases can be carried, on the cuticle and in the gut and faeces of german cockroaches. Each cockroach may typically carry several million bacteria and disease organisms on and inside its body, ranging from salmonella, gastroenteritis, dysentery, hepatitis and many more.
The health threat posed by cockroach infestation is considered to be very serious. This reason alone, justifies the need for regular cockroach management in all premises.
Adults, nymphs and egg cases.
Signs of a cockroach infestation
- Actual cockroaches seen in premises.
- Faecal spotting and smear marks (brown spots and smear like stains) evident.
- Pungent odour of rot and mould may occur with large infestations.
- Egg cases and nymphs (young cockroaches) evident.
Methods of prevention and risk reduction
- Clean up after food handling and preparation should be immediate and thorough.
- Foods and foodstuffs should be stored in sealed, cockroach-proof containers.
- Cracks & crevices that may harbour cockroaches should be filled in and sealed.
- Water availability should be reduced where possible. Spills, leaking taps and excess water from cleaning activities should be eliminated.
- Regular clean up of ‘longer term’ build-up of waste foods (e.g. grease accumulations around stoves or split food materials) should be carried out.
- Waste and garbage should be kept in sealed bins and disposed of daily.
- In commercial kitchens it is unwise to rely on ‘spring cleaning’ or ‘once a year clean up programs’ to effectively lower the risk of cockroach infestation. It is recommended that regular (daily) cleaning practices be adopted.
A combination of the above preventative measures and professional pest management will provide the best long-term protection against infestation.
The house mouse can access buildings through holes and cracks as little as 7mm in diameter (size of a pencil) and often will do so in adverse weather conditions, in search of warmth, food and shelter. Mice are generally regarded as omnivorous in their feeding habits, feeding on a variety of foods including nuts, fruits, grains, meats, dry cereals and animal feed. Mice feed mostly around dusk and during the night, but if the area is relatively undisturbed, they may feed during the day as well. Even though they do not directly consume large amounts of food, damage due to gnawing, nibbling and contamination with urine and faeces can be very serious.
Some of the diseases transmitted to humans by the house mouse are, choriomeningitis, mild meningitis, weil’s disease, infectious jaundice, tapeworm and salmonella (food poisoning), just to name a few.
Mice in buildings pose a serious threat to human health. The disease threat alone justifies the need for the implementation of positive pest management procedures.
Adult house mouse with droppings
Signs of a mouse infestation
- Evidence of small pointed droppings (3-4mm).
- Damage to food and foodstuffs from feeding and gnawing.
- Damage to non-food items e.g. plastics, wiring and storage materials.
- Run marks on surfaces from continual contact of dirty greasy mouse fur.
- Visual sightings of the actual pest
Methods of prevention and risk reduction
- Implement high standards of hygiene, sanitation and housekeeping practices.
- Store all food and foodstuffs in rodent proof containers and limit the use of cardboard and cardboard boxes for storage.
- Keep all waste and garbage in sealed containers and dispose of daily.
- Carry out building alterations to prevent their entry (e.g. sealing cracks, crevices, holes and other potential entry points with durable, rodent resistant materials.
A combination of the above preventative measures and professional pest management will provide the best long-term protection against infestation.
The biting activity of adult midges is mainly limited to dawn and dusk and they will remain inactive through very windy weather, finding shelter amongst vegetation. Only the female midge feeds on blood and she does this to prepare for the production of the next generation. Both male and females feed on vegetable fluids and nectar.
Female midges may attack humans in large numbers, biting on any areas of exposed skin, and often on the face, scalp and hands. Some species will blood feed on a wide range of animal hosts including cats and dogs. Egg batches contain between 30 – 100 eggs and are laid mostly in calm pools of water, mud, damp soil or other vegetative materials.
Midge life cycle
Small eel like larvae hatch within a few days; their larval habitat must contain a proportion of organic material with high a high moisture content to provide optimum conditions for the larval stage to thrive and pupate. The whole life cycle takes between 3 – 10 weeks, dependant on the species and environmental conditions, particularly temperature, with warm humid conditions being the most ideal.
Within Australia, midges are not known to transmit any disease-causing pathogens to humans. However they are responsible for acute discomfort, irritation and severe local reactions. Itching may commence immediately after the bite, but often not for hours later. In some sensitive people, midges can produce persistent reactions that blister and weep from the site of each bite, and these reactions can sometimes last for several days’ even weeks after the bite.
Regular treatment by a professional, of grassy areas, vegetation, bushes and sandy soils, will provide the best protection against these invisible invaders.
Personal protection (wearing long sleeves / pants) will help reduce the exposure to midge bites but this is usually not practical in warmer weather. Repellent can also be applied to unprotected skin, however always check the label for effectiveness to repel Midges or Sandflies, and always follow all safety precautions to ensure personal safety.
Irritation associated with bites may be alleviated with an anaesthetic cream but severe reactions may require medical treatment with antihistamines.
As climatic conditions become less favorable during the onset of winter months, rodents tend to move indoors looking for both food and shelter, however in commercial premises rodents can be a problem all year round. They construct their nests utilizing soft materials, such as shredded paper or fabrics, close to where they scavenge for food and water. Rodents actively forage for food at night and are seldom seen during the day. Their diet includes food material of both animal and plant origin and they also require access to water, unlike the House Mouse that can obtains sufficient water from foods that it digests.
Before examining each of these rat species in close detail there are some general characteristics to be considered.
Contamination: As rats move in and around foodstuffs, they contaminate the food with droppings (of which often more than 50 per day are produced) urine (which tends to be sprinkled on surfaces over which they travel) and hairs.
Gnawing: The constant gnawing of rats can be the cause of serious damage to a range of materials. Rats have large front teeth called incisors that continually grow, and it is essential they gnaw at frequent intervals to ensure their teeth are kept short, to enable them to feed and fight.
Sense: The senses of rats are mostly very keen with the exception of sight. Their eyes are poorly developed giving them dull and blurry vision. They have an acute sense of taste and smell enabling then to detect strange elements in food which can lead to ‘bait shyness’ in baiting programs. They also have very keen touch and hearing senses. Rats are known to be Neophobic (fear of new objects) and this can cause them to shy away from traps and bait stations when they are first installed. Often taking a few days to ‘warm’ up to them.
Norway Rat (Rattus norvegicus)
The Norway Rat is the larger of the pest rats and has a thickset body, blunt snout, small close-set ears and a tail shorter than its body length. It normally lives 9 – 12 months and may have 5 –6 litters per year (each with 8 – 10 young). The young achieve sexual maturity at 3 – 4 months.
Roof Rat (Rattus rattus)
The Roof Rat is smaller than the Norway Rat and is of slighter build. It has a more pointed snout, large prominent ears and a tail longer than it body length. It normally lives 9 – 12 months and may have 4 – 5 litters per year (each with 6 – 8 young). The young achieve sexual maturity at 3 – 4 months.
Methods of prevention and control.
A single pair of mating rats can produce a rodent population of 400 –700 within a year; because of this it is very important that preventative and control measures are undertaken. The most permanent method of rodent control is proofing, this involves making alterations to a building so as to prevent their entry. Thorough inspection of the entire building is required to locate all possible entry points including, gaps around plumbing and under doors. These entry points should then be blocked and sealed using only durable materials such as, sheet metal, bricks and concrete. Materials such as plastics wood and softer metals (eg. lead) should be avoided as rats can gnaw through these. Another sound control method is, implementing good sanitation and hygiene practices. Eliminating rubbish and built up waste materials around buildings and by using tight fitting lids on external bins and refuse containers, can greatly reduce the risk of infestation. For trapping and baiting of current or future infestations, a professional pest controller should be sought.
There are many different species of spiders found in Australia. Below are some of the well-known and common species that are found in and around homes.
Length: 20 to 50mm. Appearance: Black with reddish hairs. Found: Eastern Australia, favours moist, dark situations where it spins a silk lined burrow. Bite: Very toxic and painful may cause death or illness. Other: There are 16 known species found in Australia. While the Sydney Funnel Web is Australia’s most deadly spider, there are 4 – 5 species that are known to be dangerous to humans. Since 1980, when the antivenin was developed, there have been no fatalities.
Length: 10 – 18mm. Appearance: Dark brown to black with red stripe down the back, less noticeable in males. Found: Australia wide, makes a loose web around windows, under eaves, in roof voids, under chairs and outdoor furniture. Bite: Females inflict a very painful and toxic bite that may cause death or illness. Males do not bite. Other: The female is much larger than the male and weight for weight is Australia’s most toxic spider. Since the development of the antivenin in 1956 there have been no recorded deaths.
Length: 15 – 20mm. Appearance: Grey to black with a dirty white mark on the tip of the abdomen. Found: Australia wide, found under bark on trees and may enter houses in summer months. Bite: Bite may cause headaches, nausea, chills, blisters and ulcers. Other: Whitetailed spiders usually only bite when provoked and are not normally aggressive to humans. Occasionally the bacteria on the fangs of the spider may cause infection or other specific allergic reactions.
Length: 15 – 50mm. Appearance: Grey to brown, may blend into environment. Found: Australia wide, lives under bark and in gardens, often enters the house and can be seen mostly at night. Bite: Non-toxic may be painful but are rare. Other: Huntsman’s are generally timid and are harmless to humans. They can be beneficial in and around the home as they feed on insects such as cockroaches.
St Andrews Cross
Length: 10 – 20mm. Appearance: Brown with yellow stripes on the abdomen. Found: Warmer coastal areas of Australia, build their large webs around gardens and over waterways and ponds. Bite: May bite but not toxic, harmless to humans. Other: Spins a large orb type web with four zigzags of silk that form a cross radiating out from the spiders central position.
Length: 5 – 10mm. Appearance: Grey with long fine legs. Found: Australia wide Bite: Tiny fangs with non-toxic venom means this spider is harmless to humans. Other: Perhaps the most common spider throughout Australia, they make tiny unsightly webs around window frame and cornice.
Spider Bite First Aid
Where possible try to catch the spider for positive identification.
Funnel Web: Apply a firm bandage over the bite and extend the bandage to the extremity of the limb and high up the limb. Keep movement of that part of the body to a minimum and, if possible, lower than the head and heart. Seek immediate medical assistance. Antivenin is available.
Redback: Do not bandage the bite site, use an icepack to ease the pain and swelling, and keep that part of the body still. Seek immediate medical assistance. Antivenin is available.
Whitetailed: Wash the bite with disinfectant (detol) and if painful apply an icepack or anesthetic cream. Keep the bite area still and seek medical assistance.
Other Spider Bites: Apply an icepack to the bite area and avoid excessive movement. If symptoms persist seek medical assistance.