About Jim

Thousands of house flies invade home

This house was invaded by house flies, apparently intending to overwinter. We estimated this approximately 3000 square foot house had an average of at least 5 flies per square foot, giving a minimum total of 15,000 house flies.

The owner had passed away about two months prior (at a hospital, not here), and the house has been unoccupied. One of two roof-mounted swamp coolers was not sealed, and served as the point of entry. This house is on a large cattle ranch in the Chinese Camp area. The flies started coming in with the advent of cold weather in late October 2018. Ryan McQuoid of Foothill-Sierra Pest Control, Sonora California, did the service.

Service tech Ryan McQuoid and I did the video and treatment. October 30, 2018, Chinese Camp, Tuolumne County, California.


The tiny subterranean termite collected in Dorrington

Garry Brouns collected these tiny subterranean termite alates from a house on Chumash Drive, Dorrington. This is our first report of what we think might be an undescribed high altitude subterranean termite. (CM 42313).

The  body length is 1/8 inch.

The house, in the area these termites were found, had an oak floor, with damage to the subfloor.

9-22-2021 collection date.




Masses of bedbud shed skins serve as bedbug habitat

Ryder Richards and I did a bedbug treatment, using Aprehend, for a small group of apartments in Calaveras County. One resident, a senior gentleman, slept on a cot. When we lifted the cot to treat, Ryder saw an accumulation of fluffy material adhering to the underside of the fabric. He realized it was probably a huge mass of bedbug shed skins. We’d not seen anything like this before.

In addition to the material on the underside of the fabric, when we turned the cot upright, a lot more of this material fell out from within the space created where the fabric wrapped around the metal tube framing.

We collected samples, and in the samples were live bedbugs. We froze the sample for a couple of days, and then did a microscopic investigation. Yes, this was nothing but bedbug material: shed skins of all stages of bedbugs, feces, dead bedbugs, and eggs.

The bedbugs had accumulated enough skins and feces to create a habitat that allowed them both harborage and a place to lay eggs. Essentially, their shed skins created a new habitat for them.



Closeup of bedbug living midden. The mass of the material is shed bedbug skins.

Pile of shed bedbug skins, feces, dead bedbugs, and eggs that fell out of the space where the fabric wrapped around the metal tubing. Live bedbugs resided in this mass also.

The floor under the cot.

The midden material poured out of fabric voids when the cot was tipped on its side.

Shed bedbug skins forming a habitat for bedbugs to live in.

Holding the bedbug shed skin structure.







Ryles’ PML frass sample

Ryles Richards brought in a sample of a very tiny, mostly pelleted material from a home in Groveland. A small pile of this material has been accumulating slowly at one spot in the house, next to a baseboard. The pellets are extremely small. In the photos that have a ruler, for size estimation, that is the millimeter scale, so the pellets are approximately 1/10 of a millimeter wide.

Examination of the material shows that some have a hair-like structure sticking out of them. We have included a number of pictures of the round pellets that have a hair-like structure.

There is an occasional, more typical-looking, probable fecal pellet.

I presume this is frass from some kind of beetle living in that one spot. But what?










Ficus stem bumps

John Duarte brought in this specimen of a twig and leaves of a (presumed) ficus. The homeowners were thinking that the spots on the stem were a scale insect. I don’t think so. In looking at it, and thinking it over, I wondered if the spots were just a natural part of the plant. If so, then what advantage would these darkish bumps provide the tree? And examination revealed that some spots had cracked open, or had a rotted out center, suggesting this may not be the case.

The photos show the leaves, which look fine, and there is along sequence of pictures, starting at a leaf and working down to older stem wood. The fresh growth has no bumps, and when the first bumps appear, they are small. Only further down the stem do the bumps turn dark and show evidence of decay.

I wonder, then, if these dark bumps are a fungal or bacterial infection. Other than their presence, the plant looks perfectly fine. It reminds me of the Eutypella bumps on buckeye.




Another collection of the unknown tiny, dark subterranean termites, from Groveland

Ryles Richards brought in a sample, 2 September 2021, of tiny, dark subterranean termites, from Groveland.

We’re told that this species may be undescribed. We are reaching out, again, for assistance with the ID. These termites would likely require chemical analysis for better ID. We have only collected them from Groveland and Tuolumne City.

The specimens were from inside the house, in the bathroom, near the toilet and the bathtub.

It’s possible that these are not actually subterranean termites. At the Tuolumne City collection site, the customer thought they were coming from a ceiling beam. More to come, I hope.

Links to previous posts on this species:


Service Tech Andrew Springer passed along a photo of some insects a customer in Valley Springs reported finding.

Dr. Lynn Kimsey of the UC David Bohart Museum of Entomology said they were winged webspinners (Embiidina) probably in the genus Oligotoma. They may be an exotic species that’s been spreading across northern California.

They are said to be mostly harmless, but often get confused with termites. They have an enlarged front tarsus, which contains the silk glands they use to spin their silken tubes under things.  The customer observed that the webspinners come out at night, are lousy fliers, and are attracted to lights.

This species is an invasive, and found in California.

The webspinners in the photo would be males, as they are winged, while females are not.

Toyon trees

Toyon is a common brush in our part of the Sierra Nevada foothills. A common BRUSH. This location, above Sonora, had a high density of toyon as trees. That is unusual.




Floating wasps

These wasps would land directly on the water, drink, and take off. That was unusual to see. Dr. Lynn Kimsey thinks they are one of our native Polistes paper wasps.

22 June 2021