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Rounding up the unusual suspects: identifying and controlling phorid flies, springtails, amphipods, and sow bugs.

It's a fact of life that summer weather means summer pests. With warm temperatures and moist air, the usual suspects appear--mosquitos, fire ants, and wasps. But less infamous pests such as phorid flies, springtails, amphipods, and sow bugs also can come out in droves.

While many people may not recognize these pests by name, they assuredly will recognize them on sight, and a large number of any of these pests could inspire some not-so-positive comments from residents and visitors. Do any of the following sound familiar?

"Why are there so many gnats around here?" People often confuse phorid flies, also called humpbacked flies because of their curved backs, with gnats. Residents might see these yellowish flies around decaying organic matter, including plant material, flower vases, garbage disposals, and sewage pipes.

"What are all those bugs jumping around in the mulch?" Springtails' body structure allows them to jump approximately 15 times their length. Outside, residents will find springtails in the soil under vegetation or wood, while kitchens and bathrooms are common indoor hot spots for these pests.

"I keep seeing bugs in the courtyard that look like tiny shrimp. What are they?" Amphipods resemble miniature shrimp with their exoskeletons and multiple legs. Since they can jump quickly, entomologists also refer to amphipods as "scuds." They primarily inhabit damp, dark areas under vegetation.

"Why do we have those huge roly-polies in the flower bed?" Sow bugs are often mistaken for large pill bugs, or roly-polies, because they can roll into a loose ball when threatened. Sow bugs, however, are twice as large as pill bugs and have seven brown layers of overlapping "armor." These nocturnal pests usually inhabit moist areas under trash, mulch, or vegetation.

Should You Be Concerned?

Of the four pests, phorid flies pose the most significant health threat to residents. Since they frequent areas rife with disease-causing organisms, phorid flies could potentially carry germs that can threaten food safety. In healthcare environments, phorid flies also may find patients' open wounds a ripe breeding ground for their larvae.


Springtails, amphipods, and sow bugs also can create problems. These pests need moisture to survive, so they inhabit damp areas around the exterior of nursing homes. When outdoor conditions don't meet their needs, they will move inside the building. Once inside, these pests raise eyebrows among residents and visitors and send up a red flag during an unannounced visit from the health department.

Management and Prevention

The key to managing any pest is to target its habitats and deny it access to the structure. For phorid flies, this means removing breeding grounds. Outside, managers should get rid of infested soil. Indoors, the key is a vigilant sanitation program that includes frequent cleaning of resident rooms and food service areas combined with thorough waste management. Managers also should consider working with a professional to install light traps in food service areas, cafeterias, or other areas that attract phorid flies.

Since amphipods, springtails, and sow bugs all require moisture, the best way to prevent an infestation is to eliminate unnecessarily damp areas. Managers should beware of overwatering the lawn and flower beds and keeping wood piles or vegetation clippings near the building. Once moisture is no longer available outside, managers must stop pests from entering the building to find an alternate water source. Regular inspections of the exterior for cracks and crevices--especially around windows and utility penetrations--is one of the best ways to prevent pests from coming inside. Managers should seal any unnecessary cracks with weather-resistant sealant.

All windows and doors should shut securely and remain closed except when in use. Door sweeps also can prevent pests from ever crossing the threshold. Inside, the trusty vacuum is one of the best tools for physically eliminating insect infestations.

With proper preparation, nursing homes can ready themselves to combat all summer pests. Visitors will appreciate the effort spent to ensure the safety of their loved ones, and residents will look forward to enjoying the outdoors--without uninvited pest guests.

Frank Meek, BCE, is Technical Director for Orkin, Inc. As a board-certified entomologist, he is an acknowledged leader in the field of pest management. Orkin Commercial Services provides pest-management service to more than 250,000 commercial customers, making it one of the largest commercial pest-management providers in North America. For more information, call (800) 675-4699 or visit to schedule a free inspection. To send your comments to the author and editors, e-mail

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Title Annotation:featurearticle
Author:Meek, Frank
Publication:Nursing Homes
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2006
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