Wasp Stings and Heart Attacks: Could There Be a Link?

Wasp It’s that time of year again, when bees and wasps can buzz around your head each time you venture out of doors. Most of the time we ignore those pesky buzzes, but if we happen to be stung it makes it more than just annoying. And for those who are allergic to stings, it catapults to life threatening.

Research indicates that each year more than 400,000 people seek medical assistance after being stung. Of those, an estimated 1000 are hospitalized and around 12 of them die from their stings. But now there is evidence that says the number of deaths could be much, much higher due to a mis-diagnosis of heart attacks that result from a sting.

And the fact that the average person never reports a sting, could mean this mis-diagnosis could be much more often than originally thought.

A Greek physician, Dr. Nicholas Kounis, has discovered an internal allergic reaction from a sting that has no other obvious symptoms, except a heart attack. This has been named the Kounis Syndrome.

Even more startling is the newest research that reveals this kind of heart attack may occur from 48 hours to 2 weeks after a person is stung. And the stings can be from things other than wasps too, like jelly fish or fire ants.

Unfortunately, the research on Kounis syndrome is in its infancy so treatment and other information is not readily found. Just identifying the syndrome is only one aspect of the research. Finding an effective treatment will take much more time, money and research.

For now, the only way to avoid a sting is to prevent it from happening. If you notice any infestation or swarming, call your pest control expert and let them deal with it. Usually, the same repellent that you use to keep the Zika-carrying mosquitos from biting will keep the stinging insects at bay also.

So, go ahead and enjoy the summer, but whatever you do, remember the insect repellent.

Worried About Zika? Bats to the Rescue?

The threat of the Zika virus, not to mention all the other diseases that mosquitos transmit, has become the topic for conversation this summer. Some rather unconventional efforts of mosquito removal have surfaced. One such method is the installation of bat houses to attract bats to urban yards.

There are pros and cons to this method. On the pro side, bats do eat mosquitos. In fact, one bat can consume more than 600 mosquitos an hour. And, contrary to public opinion, there are only 3 species of bats that feed on blood and those are all in Central and South America. Most bats are insectivores, which means they will eat more insects than your bug zapper ever thought about attracting.bats-300853_1280

As far as bats carrying disease, fewer than 10 people in the past 50 years have contracted rabies from a North American bat. Some people think they are swooping down to get caught in their hair when they fly at night, but the truth is, they are swooping down to catch the dreaded mosquitos.

On the con side, there are many fears about bats, some fueled by television, books and urban legends. Bats have been very misunderstood creatures, probably because they only come out at night, so they are fodder for stories of “things that go bump in the night”.

But they can also infest your house and require an exterminator to get them out. Some experts contend that bats only consume 1 percent of the mosquito population. And it can take years for bats to begin to inhabit the houses you put up.

dragonfly-274059_1280Besides bats, there are many other birds and insects that eat mosquitos, like purple martins and baby-purple-martin-631150_1280dragonflies. Instead of looking for a magic answer to the mosquito population, it is probably best to use the tried and true methods, like getting rid of standing water and wearing insect repellent when you are out of doors, especially at night.

Bats may be the answer to the mosquito problem in some areas and for some people, but basically, common sense is the best guide to solve any problem.

Mosquito Repellent Clothing – Is It Worth the Price?

Here we are, right smack in the middle of mosquito season and there is no end to the reports that mosquitos carrying the Zika virus are invading our shores. Since it is recommended that we wear insect repellant every time we go outside, some enterprising companies have come out with clothing that is supposed to repel mosquitos and other biting insects. But, does it work?

That is the question put to Consumer reports recently. They tested clothing from two different manufacturers making that claim. Both shirts-1184914_1280are selling shirts treated with permethrin, an EPA approved insecticide and come with the claim that their shirts will repel mosquitos and other insects for up to 70 washings.

These were tested on volunteers who put their arms into cages with 200 mosquitos. The permethrin treated clothing did stun or kill many of the mosquitos, but neither of these shirts were foolproof.

One of the shirts prevented bites when new, but when washed allowed 3 out of 4 of the testers to be bitten. The other shirt allowed all the volunteers to be bitten, even when new.

These shirts are not cheap, both cost more than $70, so if they don’t perform perfectly, it’s just another overpriced shirt. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have come up with a much cheaper solution.

Any repellent that works on your skin should work just as well on your clothing. So it stands to reason, if you spray any clothing with an insecticide containing at least 30 percent deet, allow it to dry before wearing, it should repel and prevent mosquitos from biting.can-309973_1280

Consumer Reports tried this in the course of their testing. An average shirt, sprayed and allowed to dry before it was put on, prevented mosquitos bites in all of the volunteers. So, the expensive, insecticide containing shirts were out-performed by a homemade version of the same shirt.

You don’t need to be wealthy or to go broke in an effort to keep from being bitten by mosquitos, you just need a little ingenuity, imagination and common sense, all of which are free.

The Case of the Africanized Honey Bees

Bees are important to life. Without bees to pollinate gardens, crops and flowers we would not have foodafrican-honeybee-927527_1280 to live. Which is why the sudden death and disappearance of honey bees all over the world has been so alarming. The mantra of “Save the Bees” has become popular in the last few years, as well as efforts to reverse whatever it is that has been killing them off. So, yes, bees are vital to human survival.

But in the attempt to improve on nature, sometimes things don’t go exactly as planned. Such as the breeding program that created the aggressive Africanized honey bee, a hybrid of regular Africa bees with European honey bees.

They were first introduced in Brazil in the 1950s with the hope this would increase honey production. But then, in 1957 some of these bees escaped captivity and have spread throughout South and Central America. By 1985, they were discovered in North America.

These bees, sometimes referred to as killer bees, are aggressive and react to disturbances ten times faster than European honey bees. They swarm quickly and will chase a person a quarter mile or more. Horses, dogs and other animals have been killed by these bees. But the killing doesn’t stop with animals, over 1000 humans have been killed by swarming African honey bees.

The latest human casualty from a swarming bee attack occurred in Arizona, at a state park outside of swarm-1409371_1280Mesa. This man was reportedly minding his own business, hiking a trail with a friend, when the bees decided that he would make a good target, swarmed him and stung him over 1000 times. It is not known if the man had an allergic reaction to the stings, or if it was the incredible number of times he was stung that led to his death.

Amazingly, Africanized bees outperform regular honey bees in every way. Their honey production is higher and they have better defense against whatever pathogens are killing regular honey bees. This has caused some breeders to try and come up with the best of both worlds, a kinder, gentler Africanized honey bee.

Which is all good, if things go exactly as planned, but when have things ever gone exactly to plan? Let’s hope these breeders have much success in creating a far less aggressive but more productive honey bee and not in creating the next Frankenstein.

Pocket Gophers and Moles – What’s the Difference?

gopher-52685_1280This time of year brings out the pests in droves. There are pests that bite and sting. Some buzz, some creep, some are just creepy. But according to a wildlife specialist from Kansas State University, the number one problem pests are moles. Moles can make a huge mess out of your lawn or garden. But pocket gophers, often referred to as just plain gophers, can cause the same time of tunneling damage, so how do you tell if you have moles or gophers? And why does it matter?

Although they are commonly mistaken for one another, they definitely are not interchangeable. Gophers are rodents, whereas moles mole-13298_1280are related to mice or voles, in the shrew family. Moles are insectivores and their diet consists of mainly earthworms, millipedes, centipedes, snails and slugs, but not vegetation. Gophers are strictly herbivores, making a meal of the vegetation in your lawn and garden.

The problem for humans is, both of these critters will tear up your lawn or garden with their incessant burrowing and tunneling, but for different reasons. Which makes them just that much harder to eradicate.

Also, you may never see the pest to tell whether it’s a gopher or mole. It would probably be advantageous to trap at least one, so you will know what you are dealing with.

It is possible to get rid of moles by contaminating their food source with red pepper or castor oil. A mixture including plenty of dish soap sprayed in or near their tunnel will also make them want to go elsewhere for a different food source.

Gophers on the other hand can be put off by noise or animals like cats and dogs. A well placed pile of dog doo-doo in the tunnel can alarm the gopher to canine presence and they will high-tail it out of there. Same with what the cat leaves. One article suggested playing loud music near the tunnel but that isn’t really a neighbor-friendly tactic.

Of course, there is always poison, if that is the road you wish to take, but the possibility exists that animals other than the intended victim will find it.

The easiest way to deal with either of them is to call your pest control expert. Leave it to the professionals and enjoy your pest-free lawn and garden.

Fire Ant Zombies

Now that spring has sprung and summer is soon upon us, outside activities are in full force. But whether you are a golfer, gardener, or enjoy some other outdoor activity, the one thing we all need to be aware of is fire ants.

ant-564617_1280Fire ants are arguably one of the worst of all invasive species. Their sting is extremely painful, although not lethal, unless the victim has an allergy to the venom. They have been known to kill small animals. And, possibly the strangest fire ant trait of all is their ability to escape a flood by forming a raft of bodies that will float. There is a very cool You Tube video of a researcher trying to push a “raft” of fire ants under the water which can be found at:

There are predators however, that can turn fire ants into zombies. Several species of phorid flies from the area of South America that gave us the fire ants to begin with, have kept fire ants under control in that area. So enterprising researchers in Texas have begun to import those flies in the hope that they will control fire ants in their area as well.

These flies lay their eggs on the heads of the ants. When the eggs hatch into maggots inside the head, common-fly-447307_1280they begin to eat away at the brain of the fire ant. The ant doesn’t die immediately, but wanders aimlessly, zombie-like while the brain is being destroyed, then after about a month their head falls off. What a way to go.

The hope is, since these flies keep the fire ants under control in the areas of origination in South America,  it is possible that they will also do the job wherever fire ants can be found. At least, that is the hope.

It will take a lot of flies to make a dent in the fire ant population, but you have to start somewhere. And this is an organic method, no pesticides or insecticides needed, you can’t ask for more than that.

The Gulf Coast and Zika – Not a Pretty Picture

We are all Zika-weary by now. We have heard nothing but Zika, Zika, Zika for months now. But a new study says that we won’t be getting any relief from hearing about the newest, and by all accounts, worst, mosquito borne illness any time soon.

The virus is Public Enemy #1 when it comes to pregnant women, as it is suspected of causing microcephaly, a condition which the infant’s brain does not grow correctly in the womb. It is also linked to mosquito-542159_1280paralysis and other serious issues.

This new study indicates that the Gulf Coast could be Ground Zero for the Zika virus. That is over 60 million people. The climate of high humidity, very warm temperatures and already an abundant population of mosquitos create the perfect environment for the spread of Zika.

And this comes at a time when federal funding to help states and localities prepare for disasters, which includes infectious disease outbreaks, has fallen 30 percent in the past 14 years, according to a report from The Trust For America’s Health. During an outbreak, public health labs would be inundated with request for tests on pregnant women for every mosquito bite. They would soon be overwhelmed, which would lead to delays and increased anxiety of the mothers-to-be, waiting for test results.

mosquito-871913_1280Larger cities have more resources available to fight the kind of fight needed for such a public health risk. But smaller communities may be left without much help.

Whatever happens at the government level, individuals can always be the first line of defense. Make sure the yard is free of places where water can accumulate and become a breeding ground for mosquitos. Always wearing some sort of bug repellent when going outside is another thing. Just using good, common sense and being aware can go a long way to keeping your family safe.

Ticks and Lyme Disease

There are many reasons to be outside in the spring. It is warming up, but not too warm, yet. The flowers are blooming, the world seems to be putting on a fresh new face and it makes us just want to be outside to enjoy it. But we need to use good sense to avoid being bitten by mosquitos and ticks that might pass on disease.

Of course we have all heard about the Zika virus that is spread by mosquitos and what it can do to unborn children. That in itself is reason enough to wear insect repellant at all times, but ticks are another hazard we don’t want to overlook.

Probably the most well known of the diseases spread by ticks is Lyme disease. One startling statistic is tick-482613_1280that of all the reported cases of Lyme disease from 1999-2008, 30 percent were acquired in Florida.

The symptoms of Lyme disease vary and usually they appear in stages. If you are bitten by a tick you will see a small red bump, which in itself does not indicate Lyme disease. However, if, within a month, you start to have a circular rash which is sometimes clear in the center and resembles a bull’s eye pattern, accompanied by fever, chills, fatigue, body and head aches see your doctor immediately. Even if the symptoms disappear, don’t assume you are free, Lyme disease symptoms can come and go.

Untreated Lyme disease can go from making a person just feel rotten to much worse things, like meningitis or Bell’s palsy. It can affect your muscles and limbs, causing impaired movement.

Lyme disease can be successfully treated by a 2 to 3 week antibiotic treatment. However, if left untreated for some time it may require intravenous antibiotic treatment to rid the body of the disease.

So, get out there and enjoy spring, before the intense heat hits again, but just make sure to wear plenty offlorida-50189_1280 insect repellent. And, if you do happen to be bitten by a Lyme disease carrying tick, don’t let symptoms linger without being treated, it will only get worse.

Zika Virus – Are GMO Mosquitos the Answer?

The Zika virus scare has taken people everywhere by surprise. For most of the population, being bitten by a mosquito carrying the Zika virus would not be a big deal. Some show no symptoms at all. Those who are affected might experience a fever, rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, headache and a general malaise. These conditions, usually mild, may last for a couple of days or up to a week.

However, for some it may be worse. In Brazil there has been a rise in Guillain-Barré syndrome, seemingly connected with the Zika virus, but the study is not complete on the exact causes.

Far worse than that though, is the possible connection of the Zika virus with babies born with microcephaly, a medical condition in which the brain develops abnormally resulting in a smaller than normal head, usually resulting in intellectual disability and other related disorders.

Up to now the only preventative measure has been to encourage mosquito repellant and protective clothing whenever out of doors. But now Oxitec, a British firm, has genetically modified the type of mosquito that carries lab-385348_1280not only Zika but also dengue fever and chikunguny so that the offspring of these mosquitos will not live.

This is still in the developmental stages, but the early results are promising. In testing on Grand Cayman Island they were able to reduce the mosquito population by 80%. In 2011 another test was done in Brazil which reduced the mosquitos by 80-95%. Very encouraging results.

This year the government in Brazil, where most of the birth defects have occurred, has allowed the company to use this method to try and combat the Zika virus in one town in Brazil.

But is it too little too late? The damage has already been done to countless families throughout the Central and South America. And who knows where it will spread next?

And what will be the after effects of redesigning nature? We can only hope that there is nothing found down the road that will make the decision of the governments involved look short-sighted.mother-434355_1280

But for right now the focus is to reduce the number of babies born with microcephaly and any solution to that problem will be welcomed.

The Case of the Grass Killing Chinch Bug

grass-340458_1280April, the time of year when everything is green. In your world, if everything is green but your lawn, you may have a chinch bug problem.

While chinch bugs are not poisonous or harmful to humans or animals, they can destroy your lawn of St. Augustine grass in no time at all. They suck the sap out of the roots and stems of the grass. The first signs of infestation will be a change in the grass from green to yellow and then it will turn reddish brown. This usually happens in irregular patches. The blades of grass will curl up and die, with the bugs sucking the juices out.

They thrive in sunny areas and areas afflicted with drought, where the grass is already stressed. They just kill it off for good.

Chinch bug’s eggs can hatch in as little as one week during the summer. It takes about four to six weeks for the nymphs to mature. Chinch bug adults are about one-fifth of an inch long and are black with white patches on their wings. Chinch bug nymphs range in color from pink to red with a white stripe across their middle. Being so tiny, they are hard to see. You can get on your hands and knees and inspect your lawn, but you may still have trouble seeing them. One way to make sure if you have chinch bugs or not is to make a tube of a can by cutting both ends off. Then push the tube into the ground and pour water into it. If there are chinch bugs in your lawn they will start floating to the surface.

tree-970850_1280In order to get rid of chinch bugs, treatment needs to begin as soon as any infestation is expected. A call to your pest control expert is the way to go. And the sooner the better to save your green lawn from ending up nothing but brown.