Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Innovative Mosquito Control Products

Cartoon "No Mosquito" sign

It’s officially summer, but most of us having been dealing with heat for quite some time already. And this means we’ve been dealing with mosquitoes for quite some time already as well. Luckily, there are more products than ever before that control these dangerous flying pests. They are, after all, they’re the most dangerous animal in the world (here’s more on that). Here at ARBICO we have a great selection of highly-effective mosquito control products. Many of them are of the tried-and-true variety (personal repellents, sprays, zappers), which most people are familiar with, while others are the result of years (even decades) of creative thinking and innovative research and development. 

 - Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti) – 

A cartoon mosquito just hanging aroundBti is the OG of biological mosquito control. In 1976, Dr. Yoel Margalith (aka Mr. Mosquito) discovered Bti in samples from dying mosquitoes found in a pond in the Negev Desert of Israel. With further study, he determined that this naturally-occurring soil bacterium is deadly to mosquitoes when ingested but has no negative impact on non-target species and the environment (more on his work here). Bti causes mosquito larvae to stop feeding within one hour, followed by paralysis and death. This biocontrol can be applied directly to water (including drinking water), which makes it especially useful in a variety of circumstances from horse throughs to large-scale municipal water treatment facilities. We offer several different varieties of Bti, at a price point accessible to most anyone. If you have areas of standing water (large or small) that are your main mosquito-breeding locations, this is a no-fuss, no-worry product with a proven history of effectiveness. An added bonus: it is also effective against black flies and fungus gnats.

A cartoon mosquito screaming in feaR

 - Bacillus sphaericus (Bs) – 

Bs is similar to Bti in that it contains spores that are toxic to mosquito larvae when ingested but is not harmful to other creatures or the environment. This is a selective larvicide and only works on certain types of mosquitoes; luckily these are some of the most common and deadly. It has several key differences from Bti: It is a selective larvicide; it cannot be used in drinking water; it works in highly organic aquatic environments (something Bti struggles with), and it persists where it is applied for longer periods of time than Bti. If you have a considerable area to treat and need that treatment to last as long as possible, this is an excellent choice for you. We have two exceptional Spheratax products that utilize this particular strain of Bacillus.

A cartoon mosquito that appears to be flying fast to get away.
 - No-Bait Traps – 

The Enoz® Trap-N-Kill A-G-O Mosquito Trap and Skeet-O-Trap™ are traps that use a mosquito’s natural behaviors to lure them in instead of baits. They are designed to mimic the dark places with stagnant water that mosquitoes favor as a place to lay their eggs. Instead of baits, they use grass or hay clippings in water to get that stagnant water effect. The Skeet-O-Trap does not capture the adults; it only works to keep the larvae from escaping. The Enoz trap will kill both adults and larvae. Both traps are designed to work year after year and are effective against multiple mosquito species.A cartoon mosquito lying dead

 - SKEETER Mosquito Control – 

SKEETER Mosquito Control is brand new in 2022 and is no less than ground-breaking. It combines botanical oils (garlic and soybean) with nematodes (Heterorhabditis megidis) to provide quick and long-lasting control of larvae, pupae, and any young adults who may still be hanging around. The oils suffocate and kill on contact and the nematodes search out the larvae, enter their bodies, and release a bacterium into their bloodstream. This kills the larvae within 48 hours and the nematodes use the dead and dying larvae as a food source, which extends the efficacy of SKEETER to 30 days. The use of oils combined with nematodes makes for an exciting, and definitely innovative, product.

A cartoon mosquito with a big red X in front of it - Spatial Repellents – 

We are all familiar with the type of repellents that we apply to ourselves or to an outside area, but this type of repellent is a bit different. Bradshaw’s 4 Ring Protection Spatial Repellents form a dome of protection around an area using DEET-free botanical oils. Simply hang a pouch near the area you want to protect and the pleasant-smelling vapor it emits will draw the mosquitoes to it and away from where you want to be. It not only lures the mosquito, but it also interferes with their receptors so that they stop seeking a blood meal. This is not just an easy-to-use and cost-effective mosquito control product; it also lasts for days – considerably longer than other products. A cartoon of a mosquito's grave - his image is on the headstone.

 - Spinosad – 

Spinosad is nothing new in the world of pest control, but Natular® DT and Natular® G30 WSP bring it in a water-soluble form to control mosquito larvae. Natular DT is an effervescent tablet with an outer layer that dissolves quickly and begins killing immediately, but it also contains a layer that lasts 90 days for continued control. Natular G30 WSP comes in pouches with 10 grams of product in each. They last 30 days each in water but break down quickly in sun and soil. These are truly apply-and-forget forms of mosquito control.  

No matter which of these first-rate products fits your needs and wallet, you can be assured that it has the potential to keep summer-spoiling mosquitoes away.

Submitted by Pam

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Mosquito Deterrents

Cartoon mosquito looking at stop sign
There’s just no getting around the fact that mosquitoes are more than nuisances – they’re dangerous and formidable opponents. We carry many excellent mosquito control products, but there are additional things one can do to improve their chances in the war between humans and mosquitoes. 

If you’re going to be out and about and know that mosquitoes will be a problem, you can begin your defense plan as soon as you get out of the shower. There are oils and lotions that are very helpful in repelling mosquitoes but choose carefully because some may actually be inviting bites.
A group of smiling cartoon mosquitoes. Certain essential oils, including lemon eucalyptus peppermint, lavender, geranium and citronella oil, have time-proven efficacy as repellents so apply them to your body generously. A secondary benefit of using these oils is the delightful scent that will surround you.  
Catnip oil is another oil to try. According to this article, the oil is extracted from the catnip plant via steam distillation, and the process eliminates the chemicals that make catnip irresistible to cats. The catnip plant is known to have a scent mosquitoes dislike, so it only makes sense that the distilled oil would be even more repellent to them.
A smiling cartoon mosquito.
For the most part, flowery perfumes and body lotions should be avoided. However, there is one strong exception to this rule: Avon’s Skin So Soft. Over many, many years millions of people have found this body oil to be an exceptional mosquito repellent. In fact, this product has been used by U.S. Marines as a mosquito repellent for more than 50 years on and around their training facility on Parris Island South Carolina. In the low country down there, mosquitoes are voracious, so these tough marines douse themselves in this sweet-smelling stuff. After all, it’s better to smell girly than be eaten alive. 
A leering cartoon mosquito with a knife and fork.
You should be aware that the above types of oils do not have the long-lasting effect that many commercial mosquito repellents do. On average, they last about two hours.

After you have carefully considered what to put on your bare body, put a little extra thought into what you wear (after all, you’ll look good in anything). 
Mosquitoes are attracted to the CO2 that mammals produce, but they also use their vision to zero in on a target. According to this article, as they fly characteristically slow and low to the ground, they respond to dark objects on the horizon. Which means you should probably choose a pastel as opposed to your favorite Goth outfit.
This study takes the whole color thing one step further. It finds that mosquitoes like red, orange, black and cyan and snub green, purple, blue and white.
A cartoon mosquito quivering in fear.
Mosquitoes love the sweaty dirtiness of feet and there is very little as annoying as mosquito bites between your toes. For these reasons, skip the sandals and put some shoes on (even better, with socks).
While summer seems more bearable in cool and flowing clothing, if you are interested in doing everything you can to avoid mosquitoes than you need to don some tightly woven synthetic clothing (extra points for a high tech athletic wear made for sun protection). Mosquitoes may seem small, but their proboscises are rather large insect-wise and simply cannot fit through some of these fabrics. The downside is that  you’ll need to wear long sleeves and pants for optimal results, which may be a little too much coverage on a particularly hot day.
A group of cartoon mosquitoes looking scared and worried.

No one is able to control the whole outdoors, of course, but you should look at the outdoor space you can control – your backyard, patio, porch or balcony.
You probably already know that you should remove all standing water, but you may not be aware that mosquitoes only need a bottle-cap of water to lay their eggs in. It is also easy to overlook breeding spots like gutters, recycling bins, drains and saucers under plants. Instead of a quick once-over, give your outdoor space some careful
A cartoon mosquito screaming in fear.
consideration to root out standing water.
Reconsider the plants in your space to make sure you don’t have any that are welcoming to mosquitoes. If you do, remove them and add plants that repel skeeters. Nectar-producing flowers and water plants are attractive to mosquitoes (here’s more on that), while the plants that contain the aforementioned oils are excellent repellents (there are others too, check them out here). 
Keep all your grasses cut down and remove any yard debris. Mosquitoes love to hide out in the relative safety of such places; it protects them from the elements – particularly sun and wind.
A cartoon mosquito running in fear.
Speaking of wind, mosquitoes are poor flyers so put a fan in your outdoor space. If it is set high enough mosquitoes will not be able to fight the wind it produces in order to get to you
A short clip of two cartoon mosquitoes in love, until  one gets squished and the other drinks its blood. The proper outdoor lighting can also help with mosquito control. We are all familiar with the horde of insects beating against a porch or backdoor light, but a change of bulbs can element that behavior. Use incandescent or LED lighting, especially that which has a yellow glow, and you’ll see fewer mosquitoes and other flying insects.

Hopefully this has given you some ideas on how to lessen the effect of mosquitoes. All of these tips are valuable, but when used in conjunction with commercial mosquito control products you should see a marked improvement. If none of this works for you, you may just want to stay inside until the first frost kills the mosquitoes.

Submitted by Pam

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

What’s This Bug? The Lord Howe Island Stick Insect.

Closeup of a large black insect in a man's hand - the Lord Howe Island Stick Insect.

An aerial view of Lord Howe Island.
Lord Howe Island
This is the Lord Howe Island Stick Insect (Dryococelus australis), or LHISI, also known as Land Lobster, Walking Sausage, Tree Lobster and Lord Howe Island Phasmid (phasmids are insects that eat leaves and resemble sticks or leaves). It is considered to be the rarest insect in the world and is native to a small island off the coast of Australia . This is a big (up to 8 “ in length) and sturdy oblong-shaped insect with no wings. Females are considerably bigger than males and lay their eggs while hanging upside down from trees. Unlike most insects, the LHISI form mating pairs (this video shows all life stages and mating behavior). But these qualities and behaviors are not the most unusual things about them – that would be their whole back story.

The story of these insects would make an excellent movie – it has exotic locales, mad scientists, fortune hunters, explorers, bad guys and heroes and, in the end, the underdog wins. It’s also a master class in geographically isolated habitats and evolution therein and, inevitably,  the careless destruction of such environments. For these insects, though, it’s ultimately a story of triumph and rebirth that shows what can be done when caring and motivated people work to repair the damage done by their uncaring and unmotivated predecessors.

A map of Australia and Tasmania with Lord Howe Island marked in red.
The story really begins seven million years ago when Lord Howe Island was created by a volcanic eruption. Then it apparently sat there creating its own unique ecosystem until, in 1788, a British ship carrying convicts between penal colonies in modern-day Sydney and Tasmania stumbled across the island (it bears noting that they were clearly lost). Despite careful study, no evidence has been found that aboriginal or native Pacific Islanders had ever been there before these lost Brits, so the environment was pristine. 

In the years after its discovery by the British, it became a stopping point for whaling ships. The first permanent colony was formed in 1834, but the population was down to 11 people by 1849. When the Australian Gold Rush struck in 1851 the island again had a population surge as ships carrying would-be miners would put in port there. By the 1860’s, the rush was over and the only ones who were interested in this far, far off place were scientists. Charles Darwin had published his seminal study of evolution, On the Origin of Species, in 1859 and it sparked a rush of scientists seeking their own discoveries. 

"Red Jacket, Lightning and James Baines" painting of miner's ships by by Thomas Robertson
Ships carrying gold miners, 1850s
All this human activity created many ecological disasters on the island and the story of the LHISI perfectly illustrates the arch of destruction. This insect was first described by Xavier Montrouzier in 1855 (he was a few years ahead of the Darwin cult). At that time, the insects were all over the island and commonly used as fishing bait. And then came the rats. Unwanted passengers on ships all over the 
world throughout time, they have caused (and are continuing to) cause environmental devastation wherever they are. On Lord Howe Island , they
began being a presence in the late 1800s, but the real trouble started in 1918 when the SS Makambo went aground off the coast. Rats left that nearly-sinking ship and proceeded to enjoy the buffet of delicacies that Lord Howe had to offer. They wiped out many species of birds and fauna and raided the islander’s crops. And, of course, they gorged themselves on the delicious Walking Sausages. So much so that they were extinct on Lord Howe by 1920.

Ball's Pyramid in the foreground with Lord Howe Island in the background.
Ball's Pyramid with Lord Howe Island in the distance
In 2001, even though they’d been on the extinct list for 81 years, a group of Australian researchers decided to check out a nearby rock outcropping off Lord Howe’s coast called Ball’s Pyramid.  It’s the remnants of a volcano, known as a sea stack, sea spire or volcanic stack, and it’s the tallest in the world at over 1800 feet.  And, as described in this video, it looks like the lair of a super-villain. Over the years there had been a handful of climbers to the pyramid who’d found dead insects, so the scientists decided to venture out there and check it out to see there were any live LHISI. 
But they were limited to those areas that required no specialized climbing skills or gear, which greatly limited the search area but still encompassed most of its vegetation. They scrambled around in the day and found frass and eggs, but no adults. Thanks to the original scientists who’d carefully studied the LHISI on its home island, these modern insect hunters knew it was nocturnal, so they returned at night. Moving around carefully with only flashlights to light their way, they discovered a small colony of 24 adults feeding on and living under a single bush (Melaleuca howeana - found only on the pyramid and Lord Howe). How these insects made it across 14 miles of tempestuous ocean is still a mystery.

Scientist holding a Lord Howe Island Stick Insect at the Melbourne Zoo, Australia
At Melbourne Zoo
The scientists chose two breeding pairs to bring back to Australia and left the others undisturbed. One of the females became ill, but the incredible staff at Melbourne Zoo were able to nurse her back to health. As of 2019, 14,000 individuals have been bred from these two pairs (learn more here). Meanwhile, steps have been taken to protect the population on inhospitable Ball’s Pyramid (more details here), which is part of the Lord Howe Island Permanent Park Preserve. These islands, and the sea around them, have also been declared a UNESCIO World Heritage Site. In the grand scheme of things, the LHISI is already a win for conservationists but the ultimate goal is to return them to their true home on the island. Australia has spent many years and millions of dollars to eradicate the rats and once it’s determined that they are truly gone, the insects will be reintroduced. That will be a truly triumphant day for these rare insects and the people who care for them.

A koala in a tree saying, "Really?"

Take Care.

Submitted by Pam

Monday, May 2, 2022

The World of Biorational Controls

A drawing of hands holding a glass globe with flowers all over it.

It wasn’t that many years ago that organic and natural pesticides were virtually non-existent in the retail sphere, so home gardeners, hobby farmers and the like had to make difficult decisions about the products they used. Thankfully, that’s changed greatly and nowadays we have a world of biorational controls to choose from.

There’s no hard and fast definition of biorational controls; the term covers products that have a reduced risk to living things and have little to no impact on the environment. This characterization is especially important when discussing pest control, fungicides and herbicides – all of which have an over-representation of toxic products on the market. Biopesticides (biological pesticides) and biofungicides (biological fungicides), certain minerals, botanical extracts, herbicides and soaps all fall within the biorational parameters. 


Four insects covered in a white fungus - Beauvaria bassiana at work.
Beauvaria bassiana at work
This is arguably the category that’s seen the most innovation in the last 10 years or so. There are many types of biopesticides these days, including:

• Insecticides that use entomopathogenic fungi to kill specific groups of insects, like Beauvaria bassiana which infects a wide range of insects with deadly white muscardine disease and Isaria fumosorosea Apopka Strain 97 that kills mites and soft-bodied insects.

• Insecticides that use targeted strains of bacteria to kill specific insects, like Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti) that kills mosquito larvae, and Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki (Btk), which kills Lepidoptera caterpillars.

• Insecticides that come from plant-derived oils and their extracts like Neem Oil and
Chrysanthemum cinerarifolium daisies, the pyrethrin daisy
Pyrethrins. Neem comes from the Neem tree, a native to the Indian subcontinent; it will kill soft-bodied insects and is also useful as a deterrent or repellent. Pyrethrins come from the Chrysanthemum cinerarifolium, a daisy, and can be used to control both soft-bodied and hard-shelled insects.

Biofungicides also use a variety of beneficial microorganisms to control plant pathogens like powdery mildew and botrytis. They work in multiple ways, but generally speaking they overpower the pathogens and out-compete them for resources. The ingredients in some common biofungicides include:

An illustration of rod-shaped microbes - Bacillus subtilis
Bacillus subtilis
• Bacillus amyloliquefaciens strain D747, a naturally occurring soil bacteria

• Bacillus subtilis – a bacteria found in the soil and the gastrointestinal tract of certain animals

 Trichoderma – This is a group of soil-dwelling fungi of which certain strains have been developed for maximum efficacy in the plant world. 

Bottles full of thyme oil with thyme leaves all around.
 Inorganic compounds like potassium bicarbonate, the active ingredient in Milstop 

 Botanical oils like the Thyme Oil in Thymox Control Organic.

These are deeply researched and complex products that are, nevertheless, easy to use and readily available to any size grower. I strongly encourage you to dig deeper into these categories; there are many products than I have pointed out and there is much more information on each product page. 

A woman wearing a hat inspecting a plant in a field of crops.
Biopesticides and biofungicides are excellent choices for IPM program and because they often only affect targeted pests, using them reduces the effects to non-target organisms. These products also cut down the danger of residual pollution and eliminate the problem of pesticide/fungicide resistance. They are also cost-effective overall as they reduce the need, and thus the cost, of conventional products.


Complex rice terraces on a mountaintop in southern China.
Rice Terraces in Southern China
Mineral-based biorational controls are often products that have been around for a long time but are getting new respect as the interest in safe and natural solutions grow. For example, the use of kaolin clay for pest control dates back over 2,000 years. It works as a crop protectant and will also repel pests, cause irritation and confusion, and create an obstacle for feeding and egg-laying. The popularity of the kaolin clay product we carry, Surround WP, shows that modern consumers still see the value in this biorational mineral. Diatomaceous Earth (DE) has been used in China for 4,000 years. DE comes from the fossilized shells of microorganisms known as diatoms that has been crushed into a fine dust. It has innumerable microscopic sharp edges that cling to insects as they pass through it and mortally wound them by cutting up their exoskeletons. It will also absorb the waxy cuticle around the insect, which causes it to dehydrate and die in as little as 48 hours.
Leaves and petals spilling from a black bottles.

Botanical Extracts

Talk about a product line that has exploded in the last few decades! Using botanical oils for pest control is another case of an ancient-but-still-excellent method. Mineral biorationals  may have changed very little over millennia,  but oils have enjoyed a renaissance as newer, more target-specific and user-friendly formulas have been developed. Botanicals can now be found in pesticides, fungicides, bactericides and repellents. For more information on some of the most commonly used botanical extracts, check out my blog on the subject here. Happily, the use of botanicals is becoming main-stream; they’re easy on the environment in general and their use falls well within the principles of IPM.

A white picket fence with pink flowers in front of it and a sign that says, "Experimental Dandelion Farm. Do not disturb weeds".

We have come a long way from spraying highly-toxic herbicides like DDT all over everything. Nowadays most people understand the need to keep weed control products, not just weeds, in check.  Biorational herbicides use a wide variety of ingredients to great effect. We carry herbicides that use corn gluten meal, botanical oils, iron, barrier controls, d-limonene (citrus oil), ammonium nonanoate (BioSafe Weed & Grass Killer) and citric acid. Biorational herbicides will not produce the quick knockdown of weeds that the toxic sprays can, but they are still highly effective for the patient and conscientious consumer.

A woman holding a white plastic sprayer and aiming it at plants.


Biorational insecticidal soaps are another product line that reflect the modernization and upgrade of an old school DIY form of pest control. Insecticidal soaps these days are potassium salts of fatty acids and are used to control soft-bodied insects and some path pathogens. One of our customer-favorite soaps is M-Pede, which, in addition to its insecticidal properties, is labeled as a curative control for powdery mildew.

Two children running happily through a garden.
As far as our pest control products go here at ARBICO, we have very few that cannot be classified as  biorational (traps come to mind). There are still some hard-to-kill pests that we struggle to find biorational controls for, but we are committed to finding as many as we possibly can and presenting them to you as soon as we do.

Submitted by Pam

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Earth Day 2022

Drawing of the globe, with the words (clockwise from lower left)"" Make Every Earth Day Save Our Planet April 22".l,
It's that time again - Earth Day. This year it's on Friday, April 22, 2022. In years past,  ARBICO has chosen to mark Earth Day by selecting a worthy local non-profit to support. Traditionally, they have been agencies that are working to protect the environment and/or offer help to people in our community. This year, however, we are doing something different. In light of what’s happening in Ukraine, we would like to turn the spotlight on people that are doing exceptional work in unbelievably awful conditions there. Specifically, those that are struggling to help to Ukraine's animals. After all, what better way to honor our Earth than to care for the living creatures that call it home?

A family of a grandmother, mother and 2 children huddled together holding their cat
Some of the most striking images of Ukrainian refugees have been those of people with their pets (see some of them here). In our modern world of non-stop images and soundbites, it can be easy to become desensitized to the cruelty of war but when you see someone fleeing with a beloved pet the scene suddenly becomes relatable. We can see ourselves and our pets in them and the abstract of war begins to look like something familiar. What this invasion has shown us is that war can happen to a modern 21st democracy much like our own.

Close-up of a dog with a piece of debris impaled through its face.
The plight of animals in a war zone is not just heart-breaking and deeply sad, the violence puts aid workers in constant risk. Thankfully, there are many brave souls who are not deterred and are going over and above to save animals in ways big and small. We encourage everyone to support the International Fund for Animals in their work in Ukraine. They have been working on the ground in Ukraine since the Russian invasion of 2014 and currently have a  Disaster Response Team on the Ukrainian-Polish border. They aid refugees and their pets, source supplies for animal shelters, facilitate animal rescues from zoos and wildlife parks when possible, and so much more. One entity the Disaster Response Team  granted money and supplies to is the Ukrainian Bat Rehabilitation Center at the Ukrainian Independent Ecology in Kharkiv. For 20 years the dedicated researchers there have been studying the local bat population; but during this war-
A big-eyed dog wearing a blue muzzle at the train station in Lyviv, Ukraine
torn spring, as the shelling increased around them, the conservationists were forced to leave their hibernating bats behind in bat-boxes. Amazingly, when the team was able to make it back to check on them, the furry little mammals had remained largely untouched by the war around them. Here’s their account of war-time bat conservation and the happy but harrowing ending to this chapter. For more links to what more emergencies that IFAW is responding to, check out the links on this page.

Alexandra Levitska, who operates 3 farm animal sanctuaries, surrounded by cows.
The bravery and commitment to animals that rescuers and caregivers have shown is astounding. Here is a video of a volunteer rescuing kangaroos and tapirs. This video is a plea from a small shelter. 

Although we are looking outside our community this year, we want to reinforce our admiration and gratitude to those agencies we have donated to on past Earth Days. Their work and the needs they address are as important now as they’ve ever been: Center for Biological Diversity, Desert Survivors, Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona and the Sonoran Institute.

Submitted by Pam

Monday, April 11, 2022

Fly Control with Fly Parasites

Close-up of the face of a housefly.
My mother used to say that nothing was certain but death and taxes. I’d like to amend that statement to include Arizona summer heat and summertime flies for everyone. We are all acutely aware of how annoying, disgusting  and relentless flies are and  keeping them away is never 100% effective. However, by introducing fly parasites into your world, you can make a powerful dent in their population. Here at ARBICO we pioneered the use of these invaluable insects some 40-plus years ago when the whole idea of using insects to kill insects sounded like science fiction to most people. Fast forward to 2022 and we are still raising and selling  Fly Eliminators® and  have greatly expanded our inventory of "good bugs" to include predators for the most common garden pests.

A female preparing to pierce a dark brown pupa. In the upper left hand corner with a line marked 1.5 cm that has a line under it. This is to show scale.
Fly parasites are non-stinging, gnat-sized wasps that use fly pupae as both a convenient sheltering place for their eggs as well as a food source for the eggs as they grow. Parasitoid wasps (aka parasitic wasps) are common in the insect world, but these particular ones are host-specific to flies. There are several species of fly parasites that are native to North America, but they are not usually present in large enough numbers to affect the fly population (which reproduces quicker and in larger numbers). The Fly Eliminators® we sell here at ARBICO are a proprietary mix of several species of these wasps, because diversity is beneficial in all parts of our world.

A picture showing the lifecycle of the fly parasite, beginning with the adult fly in the 7 o'clock position.
The world of parasitoid wasps is a ruthless and gruesome one that most people are never aware of, even though it’s happening all around us. This is because the wasps are mostly tiny insects and much of the activity is out of sight underground or out of sight within pupae. In addition, many parasitoid wasps are nocturnal. Fly parasites fall into all these categories. The females venture out under the cover of darkness and fly about a foot off the ground in search of fly pupae. Once they find the pupae, the wasp tears a hole in it and deposits as many as 10 eggs inside. She will keep moving through the fly larvae until all her eggs are gone. She can eliminate up to 100 fly pupae in her very short lifetime. As her eggs develop they will feed on the immature fly. This will eventually kill the fly, but not until the developing parasite has gleaned as much nutrition as it needs from the fly. So, they feed on it while it’s still alive in there – ruthless and gruesome.
Adult parasite emerging from brown pupa

Dark brown pupae showing the holes that parasites made upon emerging.Fly parasites hatch out of their pupae in 17-21 days, depending on temperature and other environmental factors. Flies, on the other hand, can lay five to six batches of eggs in a month (more on their lifespan here). Due to this disparity, in order to gain control of the fly situation you will need to regularly introduce the parasites to the area where flies are breeding – and in larger numbers than would normally be there. That way, there will always be a wasp ready to parasitize the next batch of fly eggs. That being said, the reproductive power of flies is such that parasites can control flies, but can’t eradicate them completely.

It’s important to remember that fly parasites are only effective against larval flies. For adult flies, you will need another source of fly control. It's also important to take measures to control or eliminate fly-friendly habitats like manure and wet areas. Check out our 4-Step Fly Control page for more information.

Close-up of the face of a horse with flies buzzing around it
Will they sting me or my animals? Or swarm?

In short, absolutely not. They are too small to do harm to anything but fly pupae. Plus, and this is a big one, they do not have stingers. Although the females have an ovipositor that could conceivably be mistaken for one. These are solitary insects; they mate, lay eggs and die. That’s it. They do not form social communities like colonies or nests that need to be protected or moved (the usual reasons for swarming).

Will they get rid of all the flies? 

A chart showing 22 different species of flies

Fly parasites are only interested in filth-breeding flies – other flies will not be affected by these wasps. Simply put, filth flies breed and feed in manure, rotting organic matter and other sweet or smelly or sweet and smelly areas. House flies are filth flies, as are stable flies. However, the female stable flies are also blood feeders (they need it to produce viable eggs). Stable flies may be controlled by fly parasites, but it isn’t very effective for them. So, a good rule of thumb is that if flies are biting you or your animals (and drawing blood), the parasites are not a good control choice. Here's a blog I wrote last year on this subject.

Would I need specific equipment to use these beneficial insects?

Brown fly pupa with white sawdust .
Nope – fly parasites are sold commercially while they are still cocooned in the fly pupae. They are about the size of a grain of rice an usually mixed with sawdust. All you need to do is go out to where your problem flies are, kick up a little dirt, sprinkle some pupae in and cover them over lightly with dirt. You don’t want to bury them, just cover them enough so birds won’t easily find them (these cocoons are quite the treat for both wild and domestic birds).If you don’t want to touch the cocoons, you can sprinkle them directly out of the package. An even distribution will cover more ground but is not strictly necessary.

Is it safe to use these around livestock and pets?

Close-up of a cow's face with flies buzzing all around it.
As I mentioned before, these insects do not bite or sting and are only interested in fly pupa. They will not harm domestic animals. We get calls fairly often about dogs getting ahold of a bag and eating them; although we encourage you to keep them away from pets, a dog can eat a bagful with no serious effects .

We have several pages on our site about how to purchase and use Fly Eliminators. I encourage you to peruse them at your leisure for more information. Or call one of our specialists at 800-827-2847; they have a wealth of information to share.

A small skeleton tapping a fly on its head. Take Care

Submitted by Pam

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Innovative Mosquito Control Products

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