pests of the south!

bosewichte(7a/8b)April 22, 2013

Hello, southern gardeners! This is my first spring in the south and I've already been out in the yard quite a bit. And, as usual, I am completely covered with insect bites. I've got the usual mosquito bites, but I've also got lot of small round bites that aren't mosquito. They're clumped together and they itch like mosquito bites. Any idea what could have caused them? Also, what do you all use to prevent bites...and any ideas for dealing with the weeks-long itch after?

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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Are you sure that insects are the culprits and not plants? There's more out there that cause problems than poison ivy.

Have you become aquainted with our wonderful fire ants, yet?

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 10:21AM
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I didn't think of that but you may be right. I was wearing shorts and cleaning out leaves with my hands (wearing gloves) - but I brushed the leaves toward me and was kneeling in them while I cleaned. Could've been poison ivy. From now on, I'm wearing jeans!

No, I haven't seen fire ants, that I know of. I've just seen the little black ants that I'm used to from the midwest...assume fire ants I'll have to look it up!

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 10:55AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

I don't think you've gotten a mosquito bite yet. I haven't except on the coast of MS a few weeks ago. No wigglers in standing water yet.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 12:32PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Oh, don't know about fire ants. I STILL remember my first sting. They do not have that name because of their color, I'm afraid.

Fire ants are medium sized, reddish brown ants that live in very large colonies under the ground. They form rounded mounds on the top of the soil or mulch quite unlike the ant hills you might be familiar with.

If the mound is disturbed by accident (which is easy to do), the whole population erupts or boils out of the mound all at once, seeking to attack the culprit.

Fire ants use their rather large jaws to latch into their victim or prey and then attack with their stingers. A few seconds later, the effects of the venom kicks in....that's the fire. That part of their sting doesn't last all that long but then the itching sets in. Many people also develop a long lasting pustule afterwards.

Everyone reacts to a little differently to fire ants. That first encounter of mine resulted in a baseball sized swelling and fever. Each one after that bothered me less. Once I was told about applying a paste of meat tenderizer to a sting within a few moments, I have very little reaction at all. Just granulated Adolphs.

So, be careful where you put your feet. Be suspicious of any pile of dirt in the yard and be aware that they like to colonize under mulch. Be watchful of pets and children. And keep the meat tenderizer handy when you're outside. It works for other insect bites and stings, too.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 1:47PM
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It looks like I *do* have poison's not some strange new southern creature that bit me! :) I always thought that poison ivy had 5 leaves so I wasn't on my guard.

I'll keep an eye out for fire ants! I've seen some normal small mounds but not many.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2013 at 1:50PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Noooo PI has 3 - "leaves of 3, let it be." Other plants besides PI can cause a rash that looks/feels/acts like PI, p sumac and p oak, as well as some seemingly innocent plants like Euphorbias, Juniper, nightshade (Solanum,) grape ivy (possibly what was in your mind or advice about 5 leaves) and others. Different people may be sensitive to some, all, none...

    Bookmark   April 24, 2013 at 3:13PM
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zzackey(8b GA)

If you apply ammonia straight up not diluted to a fire ant bite right after you get bit. It will take the sting out and it won't puss up.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2013 at 6:24PM
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Sounds like chigger bites to me, but depending upon how far south you are, it might be a little early for those pest. Normal bite areas are ankles, shin, and anywhere with a waist band. Mean little critters - itch for a week. Best preventive, heavy dose of "Off". After bitten - itch cream.
Fire ants 'burn' more than itch and will make a small blister!

Welcome to the south - you have to take the good (weather) with the bad (insects).

    Bookmark   May 3, 2013 at 4:46PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

When we were driving back from New Orleans a few weeks ago, we stopped at the national seashore park in MS to see the alligator in the swamp and something bit me there. Wasn't mosquitoes, these bites lasted for about 10 days. Some kind of biting swamp gnats or something.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2013 at 7:48AM
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ApprenticeGardener(7b or 8)


I trust your encounter with (probably) poison ivy is past or at least under control. Poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac can all be found in the Southeast.

As to the critters, I have had success keeping most of them away with an insect repellant containing DEET. There are also "natural" repellants on the market.

Also, be aware that: A) some of the native plants you may come into contact with, either in nature or through planting them may set off allergic reactions, and B) deer tics are and can be a serious health risk. This latter is not meant to scare you, just to be a statement of fact.

All this is to say that you need to educate yourself about the peculiarities of gardening "hazards" in the Southeast. It's worth your time (and health) to do so, just as it was and has been mine in the 40+ years I've been down here.

Best Wishes--Carl
Atlanta, GA
A once and former Yankee from Western New York

    Bookmark   May 5, 2013 at 1:08PM
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Yes, welcome to the South!! lol..I too have been bitten by mosquito several weeks ago! I just dump on the spray! My hubby doesn't go anywhere with out his Thermacell. Works wonders! Highly recommend it! You can see it working. Ah the joys of southern living...there are hazards, but the long growing season makes it so worthwhile.. You must plant a Tea Olive..true southern fragrance. The stuff memories are made of. I have lots of them scattered throughout the yard and the wafting scent is just so..southern! I hope you have been treated to our gracious southern hospitality!

    Bookmark   May 5, 2013 at 4:13PM
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Wait until the chiggers come out.... I almost think I might prefer poison ivy.......

    Bookmark   May 11, 2013 at 10:51PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Rhizo, did you jinx me? Finding fire ants trying to move into the yard the past few weeks. Suspicious timing! LOL!

Holy crap how deep do these things go? I dumped 3 gallons of boiling water, slowly, steadily so it would go deeply, on one spot and an hour later, there were still some there. Repeated and that seems to be the end of them in that spot. The chase is on!

    Bookmark   May 12, 2013 at 8:43AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

The problem with these darned things is that their colonies extend horizontally as well as vertically. So, we need to worry about how FAR those things go, not just how deep. A fire ant colony may (probably does) have more than one exit and entrance to the outside, so if you see other mounds in the near vicinity, they are most likely all connected under ground. Nice, huh.

That's why Amdro, and other granular baits are so effective against fire ants. Those busy little gals very efficiently pass it out to all of the larvae and the queens.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2013 at 11:46AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Thanks! I'm doing both. It's so satisfying to see so many die instantly where it's safe to pour boiling water. Fighting 2 ways. (Also curious to see if this kills the grass - doubtful!!) You're right, what I think of as 2 spots may be the same big ol' nest, just front/back door. That's helpful to consider! (scratch, scratch...!)

    Bookmark   May 12, 2013 at 12:10PM
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If you get them around your ankles, it's chiggers and they stay in grassy areas. You can't see them and their itch seems to last a long time.

fireants yep, they are mean and will go out of their way to bite you. The only thing that has helped me get rid of fireants was to move the mound lol, or pour bleach on it.

depending on your area it might be sand fleas, also called no see ums, and others might call them something else. They leave tiny little bumps on me, and they are a small fly and they swarm kind of like gnats do.

You also could be dealing with fleas. If you're in the south odds are they are in the yard. Lived in 7 places now and this is my first yard that didn't have fleas in it.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2013 at 11:02PM
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