As the largest province in South Africa, Gauteng is home to the most diverse environmental area in the country hence the need for robust insect control.
The environmental diversity also means Gauteng is home to a huge variety of different insects, including dragonflies, grasshoppers, butterflies, moths, fireflies, beetles, and ladybugs.
Toronto, the largest city in the largest province, is also home to a number of less desirable insects, including ants, bed bugs, cluster flies, cockroaches, fleas, and wasps.
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The most prevalent pest in Johannesuburg and the surrounding Gauteng area is the ant. Roughly 100 species of ants are found in South Africa, with most building nests in soil; however, some colonize beneath concrete slabs, near foundations, under rocks, or in wood.
Ants, like all insects, are cold-blooded; huddling together in their colonies in the winter and waiting for warmer, sunnier weather. Ants are most often seen from April to June, when they are searching for food. Spring is also when winged ants are seen flying about during the mating season. In the hot summer months, ants are less active, and by autumn, when ants are no longer trying to feed the colony, activity drops off.
Often seen marching in a long, distinct line, ants are social insects that live in colonies or nests, consisting of three distinct labour divisions with specific social functions: queens, males, and workers.
Ant colonies can contain as many as 500,000 ants, and because most live for several years – queens can live as long as 15 – their populations have more continuity than other insects. Despite the large sizes, colonies can uproot and relocate quickly when threatened.
Food sources include the sweet fluids from plants or insects, fruits, vegetables, and almost anything consumed by human beings, and they will often enter homes in search of sweets, juices, or grains. Ants are also useful scavengers of insects and organic matter.
All ants have three body segments: the head, the thorax, and the abdomen. The thorax and abdomen are joined by a thin pedicel (slender attachment) on which either one or two nodes protrude. The number of nodes is a major feature when identifying the ant species involved in an infestation.
Before any effective ant control can be attempted, the correct species of ant must be determined.
Argentine ants are not native to South Africa, but to South America. They were introduced to Africa in the 1900s, most likely on coffee ships from Brazil and Argentina. Over the last 100-plus years, Argentine ants have adapted quite successfully to the varied African environments. They are common in urban areas and can nest in diverse types of habitats, as well as produce large numbers of offspring and survive on a wide variety of food.
Argentine ants form very large colonies that can be made up of several hundred thousand workers. Ten percent of each colony is made up of queens, with the remaining 90% being made up of workers. Each queen can lay thousands of eggs each season.
Unlike other species, the Argentine queen ant will also help in the grooming and feeding of her young. Reproductive Argentine ants – the males and females with wings – do not leave the colony to mate like other ant species, preferring to mate within the colony.
Queen Argentine ants are approximately four to six mm in length; workers, which are all female, average two to three mm. Argentine ants are light to dark brown in colour and do not have stingers, but will bite when provoked.
Argentine ants are not picky eaters, feasting on candy, meat, fruit, dairy products, waste, vegetable oils, sewage, dead animals, and other items that may carry germs.2
Carpenter ant swarms usually occur in the spring and are a sign that a colony is nesting somewhere inside the structure. They usually get into a house through holes, where trees branches contact the house or from wooden structures attached to the house like a porch or deck.
While large carpenter ant colonies can cause structural damage, it is not as serious as that from termites. The degree of any potential damage can only be determined by locating the nest area.
It can take a number of years for carpenter ants to establish a large colony, but they are able to do so in a number of different locations, both inside and outside. Carpenter ants construct two different types of nests: the parent colonies, when mature, contain an egg laying queen, brood, and 2,000 or more worker ants, while satellite colonies consist of a large number of worker ants, but no queens or young larvae. The life cycle of a carpenter ant, from egg to adult, is estimated at 60 days.
Carpenter ants prefer moist, decaying wood. They are most active at night when they feed on insects, fruit, garbage, and honeydew from aphids.
Another kind of ant relatively new to Canada is the fire ant. There are over 200 species of fire ants, which are visually similar to pharaoh ants, being about the same size and typically yellow.
The European fire ant is an invasive insect that aggressively defends its territory. Unlike other ants that disperse when attacked, fire ants sting en masse. And they are not selective; fire ants assault anything that poses a threat to the colony, including humans, pets, and livestock.
Unfortunately, fire ants do not seem to mind cold weather and have spread from coast-to-coast. Since they prefer moist environments, infestations tend to be more severe in coastal areas; in Toronto, that means irrigated lawns and gardens also make perfect nesting grounds.
Not that you’d even notice a fire ant colony, as they often establish nests in soil, under rocks, and in decaying logs, as well as the root zones of vegetation. They can also enter buildings through holes or cracks in walls and foundations and spread easily.
A typical nest can have 1,000 workers and some nests have been found to possess hundreds of queens. Some of the larger fire ant colonies can support up to 250,000 workers. The total life cycle for a fire ant, from egg to adult, averages 30 days, with workers living up to 180 days and queens being able to live for two to six years.
Once established, the colonies spread naturally through “budding,” when one or more queens and a group of workers leave and establish a new satellite colony. Colonies can reach densities of up to four nests per square metre, making gardens, lawns, and parks unusable.
This invasive species has no natural predators in North America.
Odorous House Ant
Despite their name, odorous house ants prefer the outdoors and are particularly fond of warm, moist areas, commonly nesting in pastures, grass fields, forests, and soil, and under stones, logs, mulch, and debris. Here, they feed on both dead and living insects, with a fondness for aphids, scale honeydew, and nectar from plants. They can also be found nesting indoors in walls and between floors.
If only a few (wingless) workers are seen in the house, it usually means they have a nest outdoors and are only inside searching for food. If winged ants are found indoors, or if workers are seen in large numbers, it generally means they are nesting inside the house.
Odorous ants are very social and live in large colonies, with each queen ruling over up to 10,000 workers. Left on their own, colonies can grow to large super colonies, supporting several dozen queens.
Adding to their potential colony size is their friendly nature. Odorous ants are welcoming of ants from other colonies and even different species; providing food, water, and shelter.
Odorous house ants do not pose a health threat, but they can contaminate food by leaving waste behind.
Although these ants can live indoors, they get their name from making their nests in soil next to or under pavement, sidewalk slabs, patios, and driveways. Indoors, pavement ants nest under a building’s foundation and within hollow foundation walls. Pavement ant colonies average 3,000 to 4,000 members and have several egg-laying queens.
Queens are approximately six mm in length. Ant workers are about 2.5 – four mm long, vary in colour from dark brown to black, and carry a stinger in the last abdominal segment. Reproductive ants have wings and are twice the size of the workers. The female reproductive pavement ants also have spines that the males do not.
Winged reproductive ants can usually be seen in swarms during the spring, though they can emerge at any time indoors.
Interestingly, very little information is available on pavement ant colony biology; most data is gleaned from the observations of ant behaviour aboveground.
Due to the abundance of food sources, pharaoh ants are also found in multi-family buildings, hotels, condominiums, warehouses, and grocery stores. Pharaoh ants can also pose a serious health threat in hospitals and veterinary clinics, where they are attracted to the moisture in intravenous units, medical preparations, and open wounds.
Thanks to the cold Gauteng winters, pharaoh ants prefer to live indoors. They can cause damage by chewing the insulation of electric cables and cutting holes in rubber goods and fabrics during nest building. Despite their small size, pharaoh ants can also inflict a disproportionately painful sting.
Due to their size, pharaoh ants can spread within a structure, making it difficult to locate their nests. Typically founded by a single queen, colonies nearly always evolve and come to contain many queens.
Pharaoh ants live in massive colonies and contain as many as 200 egg-laying queens and dozens of satellite colonies. New colonies are created by “budding,” where a new colony forms from a portion of the original colony. Queen ants live for about a year and worker ants for between nine and 10 weeks.
Bed bugs are small, nocturnal pests that grow to four – five mm in length. They are reddish-brown, flattened, oval, and wingless. These pests feed on the blood of humans and other warm-blooded hosts, including birds, rodents, bats, and pets. Because they are nocturnal insects, they feed on their hosts while they sleep.
Adult bed bugs usually feed for 10 to 15 minutes, with nymphs becoming engorged within three minutes. Once finished, they crawl away and digest the meal; when hunger strikes again, the bed bug will search again for a host.
Female bed bugs lay from one to 12 eggs per day; the eggs are deposited on rough surfaces or in cracks and crevices. Newly hatched nymphs are translucent and become browner as they moult and reach maturity. Immediately after hatching, nymphs begin to feed; that said, nymphs and adults can live for several months without food. An adult bed bug can live up to 18 months; with three or more generations occurring each year.
Bed bugs do not spread any disease and their bite is painless, but the skin can become irritated, inflamed, and itchy (though the thought of nocturnal pests feasting on your blood is bad enough).
A bed bug infestation can be recognized by blood stains from crushed bugs or by rusty, dark spots of excrement on sheets and mattresses, bedding, clothes, and walls.
It can be very difficult to eliminate bed bugs with the use of pesticides in Toronto and the GTA due to their high resistance to most insecticides. If you discover bed bugs in your home, call a licensed team of professional like City & Country Pest Control.
City & Country’s bed bug services include at least two visits that consist of an inspection, followed by spraying and dusting of target areas.
Cluster flies get their name because they enter a home or building in the fall and gather together in clusters, usually in the attic or upper regions of buildings, before and during hibernation.
Cluster flies look like common houseflies, but are larger and much slower. They are dark grey in appearance, with checkered black and silvery-black abdomens. Their wings overlap over the abdomen when at rest. The annoyance of cluster flies usually begins mid-August and may continue until April of the next year.
They are attracted to light, becoming active in early spring or on warm, sunny days in the winter, banging into lights and windows in a confused attempt to go back outside. They often drop to the floor on their backs and spin noisily about until exhausted. Aside from being a buzzing nuisance, a large number of dead cluster flies can provide a steady diet for mice and other pests.
Unlike other flies, cluster flies do not breed, lay eggs, or feed indoors. Adult cluster flies leave their protected overwintering sites in the spring and lay eggs in the soil, where the hatching larvae become parasites in earthworms; they then pupate and emerge as adults, ready to be a nuisance.
The cluster fly gestation period can last three to five weeks. They can also produce more than four generations of cluster flies per season.
During the onset of autumn, adult cluster flies look for protected sites where they can spend the winter, including:
- Hedges and attics
- Under the bark of dead and dying trees
- Crevices and voids in sheds, garages, barns, and houses
- Between walls and other man-made structures.
In the spring they awaken, ready to start the cycle anew.
Few pests cause terror like cockroaches. One of the oldest groups of insects, cockroaches have not just survived, but thrived; adapting easily to changes in the environment. The swift-moving, flat, oval-shaped insects scavenge in kitchens, bathrooms, cellars, and moist, warm places.
While they prefer organic food sources such as starches, sweets, grease, and meat products, they also have no issue adding beer, cheese, glue, hair, leather, and flakes of dried skin or decaying organic matter to their diet.
Of the 3,500 species of cockroaches in the world, only 10 inhabit South Africa; three are indigenous, while seven have been introduced through commerce and immigration. Because cockroaches are nocturnal, you probably won’t see them, and if you do, it could mean it was forced out because of overcrowding.
Like most pests, cockroaches reproduce quickly; after mating, a female produces between 20 – 50 eggs. Nymphs grow slowly, can moult as often as 13 times, and mature in three to 12 months. Adult cockroaches live for several years.
As many as four species of wood cockroach live outdoors, in leaf litter and debris, in Ontario and western Quebec. The most common cockroaches are the five-cm-long American cockroach, the two-to-five-cm Oriental cockroach, the brown-banded cockroach, and the two-cm German cockroach, which is the most common urban species.
The American cockroach has three life stages: the egg, nymph, and adult. The life cycle from egg to adult averages about 600 days; the adult life span may be another 400 days. Environmental factors such as temperature and humidity can increase or decrease the developmental time of the American cockroach.
Adults can live up to one year and an adult female will produce an average of 150 young in her lifetime.12
Both adults and nymphs can be distinguished by the two brownish, broad bands across the body at the base of the abdomen and at mid-abdomen.
While they can live anywhere, brown-banded cockroaches prefer warm, dry locations, such as refrigerator motor housings, the upper walls of cabinets, and inside pantries, closets, dressers, and furniture in general.
They can also be found behind picture frames, beneath tables and chairs, and inside clocks, radios, light switch plates, doorframes, and dressers.
It is important to be able to accurately identify the brown-banded cockroach in order to control further infestation, as control strategies used for other cockroaches will not be as effective.
Brown-banded cockroach eggs are laid in capsules, which the female carries for about 30 hours before she fastens it onto walls, ceilings, and protected and hidden areas. During her adult life, a female produces about 14 egg capsules, each containing an average of 13 eggs. A female adult has a lifespan of 13 to 45 weeks and produces about 600 nymphs per year.
German cockroaches are between 13 and 16 mm in length and are light brown to tan in colour, with two dark parallel bands running from behind their head to their wings. Because the German cockroach is smaller than most other cockroaches, it can hide much easier.
Unlike their older peers, German cockroaches produce a larger number of eggs per capsule and undergo the shortest time from hatching until sexual maturity, resulting in a rapid population growth.
Females produce a light brown, purse-shaped egg capsule that is less than one-fourth of an inch long and contains two rows of eggs. Each capsule contains up to 48 eggs and adults usually produce from four to eight egg capsules during their lifetime. At room temperature, one capsule is produced about every six weeks.
In one year, over 10,000 descendants can be produced, assuming two generations per year.
Unlike the brown-banded cockroach, the Oriental cockroach, or water bug, prefers dark, damp, cool places. The Oriental cockroach is particularly dirty because it often travels through sewer pipes and lives on filth and other kinds of decaying organic matter. Oriental cockroaches can live for a month without food – without water, they die within two weeks.
Oriental cockroaches are generally found outdoors in abandoned cisterns and water valve pits, beneath leaves, in bark mulch, around shrubs, and near trash. During warm weather, they may migrate indoors during warm spells in search of humidity. Once inside, they can be found under sinks, washing machines, and in damp basements.
Female Oriental cockroaches produce an average of eight capsules, each containing 16 eggs that hatch in about 60 days. The lifespan of an adult female is five to 26 weeks with approximately 200 offspring, while males have a lifespan of approximately 112 to 160 days.
The smokybrown cockroach is rather large; shiny black/brown in colour, adults can grow to 25 to 35 mm in length, although females are slightly larger than males. Both male and female smokybrown cockroaches have functional wings that cover the abdomen and are longer than their bodies. The smoky-brown is a keen flyer that is attracted to light.
This species of cockroaches, like their peers, are scavengers, eating rotting vegetation, food scraps in kitchens and drains, cat and dog food, and animal feces.
Smokybrown cockroaches like warm, humid conditions, and feel right at home in the Gauteng. Because it loses moisture though the outer layer of its skin, the smokybrown needs access to water every two to three days. They are found outside in wooded areas that provide shade and moisture, and can also be seen in protected areas around homes, like tree holes and mulch, and in buildings and attics. Stacks of lumber and firewood, sewer access openings and trash piles can also contribute to infestations.
Once smokybrown cockroaches have found suitable accommodations, they quickly settle in and infest the location. The female lays a dark brown/black egg capsule every 10 – 15 days that contains about 20 eggs. The capsules hatch after an average of 45 days and females mature in about 300 days. Each female can make around seven capsules.
While there are a number of different types of fleas (cat, dog, Oriental), the cat flea is the most common flea in the Gauteng. Dog fleas and cat fleas are different species, but are at home on either animal.
Fleas prefer to feed on hairy animals such as dogs, cats, rabbits, squirrels, rats, mice, and other domesticated or wild animals. They also carry human diseases such as typhus and tularemia, though occasions where they use people as a food source are rare.
Adult fleas measure about 1.5 mm long; because they’re so small, it’s difficult to see the characteristics necessary to identify them. Still, the reddish-brown, wingless insects are laterally compressed and look like they are walking on edge. While fleas are wingless, their powerful hind legs make them excellent jumpers, leaping up to 20 cm vertically and about 40 cm horizontally.
The optimal conditions for fleas to breed are temperatures of 19 – 20 °C and a humidity of about 70%. That said, fleas breed year-round, they just slowing down during the colder winter months.
Unlike other fleas, adult cat fleas remain on the host for feeding, mating, and egg laying. However, the eggs eventually fall off the animal onto carpeting and other concealed, protected areas. Females lay about 20 to 50 eggs per day and can lay more than 5,000 over the course of their lifespan.
Adult fleas cannot breed or survive for extended periods of time without feeding on blood, with the dog flea surviving for 60 days without feeding. After feeding, adults can go another 230 days without needing another meal.
At the mere sight, spiders often invoke feelings of fear or dread. However, spiders are beneficial. They help keep other pests in check, like aphids, caterpillars, and other insects. Typically, spiders are nocturnal creatures and prefer to flee a confrontational scene. Unlike other common pests, spiders don’t transmit diseases to humans. If provoked, they rarely bite humans, but if they do, the venom of some species is toxic. These eight-legged arthropods typically spin webs in your home and alarm humans simply with their presence.
Appearance and identification
Spiders vary in appearance, yet identifying them is fairly simple as they share several common characteristics.
– All spiders have four pairs of legs, which are segmented and usually appear thin.
– Insects, on the other hand, are comprised of three distinct body segments. Spiders with two main divisions – the front portion called the cephalothorax, which is a fusion of the head and thorax and includes the spider’s eyes, mouth, fangs, poison glands, and stomach, – and the bulbous rear portion, the abdomen, includes vital organs essential to silk-spinning and the creature’s reproductive functions.
– Spiders found in South Africa are mostly 3 to 8 mm in length, with males being smaller than females.
Spiders can be found in just about any habitat and thrive outdoors as well as indoors. Arachnids generally prefer dark, moist environments and tend to avoid contact with other organisms. Out in natural environments, spiders make their homes in caves, tree hollows and shrubs. You can also find them under rocks, and in soil. In the city, spiders adapt easily and take the opportunity to make themselves comfortable in homes, office buildings, and sheds, which provide excellent shelter for the pests. Spiders tend to build webs in basements and the corners of rooms.
Spiders help control the insect population as they are predatory animals that feed on the living creatures they capture. Some larger spiders also eat small vertebrates, such as lizards, frogs, and even birds. Generally, most spiders are predators that will eat just about any prey they catch. However, some species are specialist feeders that only target one kind of prey where they live.
Lifecycle / Reproduction
Most spiders are solitary, although males and females will attract and mate, usually in the spring and summer months. After mating, female spiders lay eggs in egg sacs spun from their silk. The sacs usually contain thousands of tiny eggs. Females may hide the pouches or carry them until the eggs hatch which usually takes a few weeks. As the newborn spiders emerge from the egg sac, the mother will either feed them on food supplies she has or they leave to find food on their own. Spiders may disperse by simply crawling or by ballooning, where a length of silk is released and allowing the wind to spread the young to new territories. As spiders are exoskeletal, young arachnids must shed their skeleton several times until they reach adulthood. Most spiders only live for about one year, yet some species may live as long as 15 years.
Main Types of Spiders Found in Johannesburg
South African households commonly find Wolf Spiders, Cellar Spiders, House Spiders, and Fishing Spiders in basements, garages, gardens, and similar locations.
Wolf Spiders will hunt for their prey instead of waiting to trap them in their webs. These dark brown spiders can be as large as 3 cm (just over 1 inch) in length and found on the ground in grasslands, woodland floors, beaches and gardens. Wolf Spiders mostly prey on insects and are most likely to enter homes and buildings in the fall as they look for warm places for shelter.
Fishing Spiders are dark brown spiders and look similar to Wolf Spiders yet with a different eye pattern. Adult Fishing Spiders reach up to 7.5 cm (3 inches) in width and can be found near cottages and waterfronts, or around rocks near the shoreline, where they forage for their prey. Unlike Wolf Spiders, which carry their egg sac behind their body, fishing spiders carry their egg sac under their head and front thorax (upper body).
Long-legged Cellar Spiders build their webs in the corners of cellars or cool and damp basements. These are the infamously and incorrectly named ‘Daddy Longlegs’ or ‘Skull Spider.’ Their legs are typically five to six times longer than the length of their bodies. Female spider leg span can be as much as seven centimetres, as males tend to be smaller.Cellar Spiders are often confused with another spider-like relative commonly known as the ‘Harvestman’ or ‘Daddy Longlegs.’ The Harvestman doesn’t have two distinct body parts as true spiders do, nor do they produce silk. However, with their four pairs of long thin legs, they are often confused with spiders.
The House Spider varies in colour from dirty white to nearly black, with visible markings on its body. Its front legs are almost triple the length of its body. It prefers to construct webs in dark corners, under furniture, and anywhere it can catch insects.
Stored Product Pests
Are you afraid of the pantry cupboard? If you live in the Gauteng, you might have reason to be. Several species of insects or other organisms, often referred to as “stored product pests” can be found living in pantry cupboards, closets – anywhere that people store dried products.
Nothing is safe: stored product pests can infest dried fruit, spices, flour, cereal and grain products, dog food, nuts, candy, chocolate, pasta, cake mix, as well as bird seed, pet food, and even some types of holiday decorations.
To eliminate stored product infestations, it is essential that you are able to identify the pest and then find and destroy or treat the infested materials. Four of the most widespread stored product pests in the GTA are the flour beetle, drugstore beetle, sawtoothed grain beetle, and the Indian meal moth.
Two of the most common flour beetles are the confused flour beetle and the red flour beetle. These small, reddish-brown beetles are usually less than one-eighth of an inch long and have chewing mouthparts, but do not bite or sting. They also have a long lifespan and have been known to live for more than three years. The confused flour beetle is more common in colder climates than the red flour beetle.
The red flour beetle may choose to fly, especially before a storm, but the confused flour beetle does not. The eggs, larvae, and pupae from both species are very similar. The microscopic eggs are white; while the latter stage slender larvae are creamy yellow to light brown.
Adult drugstore beetles are reddish-brown in colour and about three millimetres (mm) long, with an oval body shape. The larvae are C-shaped, creamy white grubs, with a dark head capsule. There is little that a drugstore beetle will not eat. It got its name because it has no problem hunkering down on prescription drugs. Because of this beetle’s varied diet, it can be difficult to get rid of an infestation.
The adult sawtoothed grain beetle got its name because of the six saw-like projections on each side of the thorax. It is brown in colour with a body that is about three mm long. The female lays about 400 eggs either in milled grain products (cereals, bread, and macaroni) or in a crevice of a grain kernel. Development from egg to adult can take as little as three to four weeks.
The Indian meal moth is the most common stored product pest in the Gauteng. Its body is 16 to 20 mm long; one top (head end) third of the wings are whitish- gray, while the other two-thirds have a reddish brown lustre. The Indian meal moth only lives for one or two weeks and is active mostly during the night. The larvae are pinkish-white and web together the materials (grain products) in which they develop.
Wasps are excellent papermakers and build their nests in a variety of places, often choosing sunny spots. Each spring, the queen gathers wood fibre and chews it into a papery pulp, out of which she starts to build the nest for brooding purposes. All wasps have the ability to chew, but only the female possesses a stinger.
Yellow jackets, the most commonly encountered wasp in Gauteng, are easily identifiable by their yellow-striped abdomen, lack of body hair, and thinner, elongated bodies. Yellow jackets make enclosed nests and can be found in the ground; beneath logs; in trees, eaves, and attics; under siding; and in gaps in brick or in building walls.
The queen lays all the eggs; though most eggs develop into sterile workers. A queen will lay an average of 100 eggs per day, which hatch and develop throughout the summer. Yellow jacket nests generally last for only one season before dying off in late autumn, usually after the second hard frost. That said, newly hatched queens survive the winter hiding under loose bark or in crevices, and lay eggs in the spring to start a new colony.
Similar to yellow jackets, hornets are smooth-looking, with black bodies and yellow marks on their head and abdomen. Equally as aggressive as yellow jackets, hornets will protect their territory. Unlike bees, wasps can sting people multiple times.
Hornets are social insects. They live in colonies that may contain between 100-400 members at their peak. Hornets are famous for their large, grey-coloured, enclosed paper nests, often tucked under eaves of decking that is more than three feet off the ground. The nests are also very distinct looking, shaped like footballs or inverted teardrops.
Wasps become a real problem in late summer, when their nests are bigger and they need to supply large amounts of food for the colony. They will also aggressively defend their nests. Adult yellow jackets are very fond of pop and other sugary foods; this is why they invade garbage cans, decks, patios, and picnics.