Alone in Your Home? Think Again!

Most people equate a clean home with a pest free home. Makes sense that if you don’t see cobwebs and if the floors are so immaculate you could eat off them, there would be no pests in the home.img_0045

Well, think again. Researchers at North Carolina State University did a study on over 700 homes across the continental US and found that there are just as many pests in homes that are considered “clean” as there are in homes that, shall we say, lack the attention given to the cleaner homes.

The participants in the study collected dust from the top of a doorway found in their house or apartment. And the startling conclusion reached is: In the average US home, there are over 600 types of insects, spiders and centipedes living there.

Most of these pests are unseen, living behind the walls, maybe poking a head or leg through when humans are not about. But by being unseen, these pests allow humans to be in ignorant bliss, thinking they are alone. Ha!

img_0047In homes where there were cats, dogs or basements, there was a greater diversity of different types of pests. Likewise in rural areas. Not that there were more pests in these areas, but that there were different kinds.

The researchers feel that studying these organisms is a great way to understand how they might affect our life and health, since they apparently will be co-existing with us for the indefinite future.

So if you ever feel alone, just remember the hidden creatures in your home out number you, your friends, their friends and a large number of strangers. In fact, instead of feeling alone, you may well feel that your home is becoming a little crowded.

It really is amazing when you think about it. A whole ecosystem lies behind your walls. And we never have to see it.

Cooler Weather and Ripening Fruit – A Recipe to Attract Rats

It’s that time of year again. The weather is cooling off, and you can finally go outside without melting. But it is also the time of year to start thinking of roof rats and how they can find their way into your home.

Roof rats, also known as palm rats, citrus rats, black or gray rats, house rats and fruit rats, are one of the most prolific rodent pests that Floridians have to encounter. They are also the kind of rats that spread Bubonic plague around the world.

Most people never see these creepy pests until the citrus and other fruits ripen. Then they can completely ruin a fruit img_0044crop, destroying more than they eat. They attack the fruit by hollowing out the inside, leaving the carcass as their calling card. They will damage your garden in much the same way, eating plants, fruits and vegetables. They are not picky eaters.

Their real intent though, is to get inside your home. They use branches or utility wires to get to the roof, then they will chew on roof tiles or shingles, tear through insulation, gnaw on wires and do much damage, trying to find a way inside. And they can squeeze through very small holes to gain entry.

img_0043If they get into your kitchen, they will eat any food that they can reach. And leave droppings that are dark, banana shaped and about a half-inch long, along with their urine. Rat urine can cause leptospirosis, which can result in liver and kidney damage and the droppings can dry and then be inhaled and cause other problems. If they were to get close enough to scratch or bite, it can cause rat-bite fever and other diseases.

These rodents are nothing to scoff at. They can cause much damage to your home and endanger the health of your family. Calling your pest control expert to rat-proof your home can give you the peace of mind to know that your family is safe from the many issues caused by the roof rat.

Have Spiders Met Their Match?

Spiders have long been right up there with snakes as the most disliked of all creatures. Their beautiful, intricate and img_0041delicate webs notwithstanding, they are creepy. And crawly. Creepy and crawly make a lot of humans flee in fright.

But it seems that spiders have met their match, in Australia, anyway. Enter the giraffe-necked assassin bug.

The assassin bug is a very strange looking creature that resembles a praying mantis in some ways, like its skinny little arms. It also has an inch long spindly body with a long neck half the body length. It has a sharp snout that it rams into the spider, sucking the juices out. Ewwwww.

The way it kills requires it to get very close to the spider, so it has to go out onto the web, which is a death knell for most insects, but not this guy. Spiders are alerted to prey entering the web by the vibrations produced. So, researchers found a way to measure the vibrations that the assassin bug produces and found that it produces NO vibration. That is how it can sneak up on the spider, the unsuspecting spider doesn’t know its coming.

There is another assassin bug, a cousin of the giraffe-necked guy, who uses just the opposite approach to catch the spiders. They actually break the web to cause vibrations, so the spider thinks he has caught some prey, then attack the spider when he comes to check it out. This requires a bit of calculation on the part of the assassin bug, so it can break the web with just the right amount of force.

img_0042But for all their calculations about whether they break the web or step lightly, the assassin bugs only get the spider 20 percent of the time. And about one in ten of them becomes a meal for the spider.

So, no spiders will be on the endangered species list because of the assassin bugs. Which is good news for spider lovers everywhere.

Sorry to all those with arachnophobia!

Beware the New World Screwworm!

Residents of Florida can use a break just about now. First the Zika virus and the danger to the public, especially pregnant women. Then Matthew, the worst hurricane in years to actually set waves on Florida soil. But will that break come as we wish it would? Not very likely.

It turns out there is a new menace that is set to move in and make life miserable. It is the maggot from the Cochliomyiaimg_0023 blowfly or commonly known as the New World Screwworm fly. The thing about these flies is where they lay their eggs. They like living hosts, any mammal will do and then the larvae feeds off the flesh of their host, creating deep, pocket-like lesions in the skin.

The screwworms have been the cause of death for many of the endangered Key Deer, particular on No Name Key and Big Pine Key. Agriculture officials are trying to get a handle on the infestation before it finds its way to other populations, human as well as animal. To illustrate how serious and scared officials are that this outbreak could get out of hand, they haveimg_0022
issued a state of emergency in Monroe county, which includes all of the Keys.

There have been screwworm outbreaks in the past. But, in 1959 officials developed a way to sterilize the male flies so that the resulting mating would produce no offspring. This system was used successfully and by 1966 the screwworm was completely eradicated from the US. Until now.

Who knows why it has chosen to rear it’s ugly head at this time. But it has. So, you must be vigilant about checking any pets for open sores or scrapes. The parasite can cause excessive itching, so watch for that too. If you see anything out of the ordinary, with either you or your pet, do not hesitate to the get to the vet or doctor.

Better safe than sorry with something as nasty as the New World Screwworm.

Cooler Weather Comes With An Invitation to Rats and Mice

Rats and mice. Whether they are friend or foe is entirely up to you, some people are perfectly happy, delighted even, to keep a rat in a cage and play with it like it was a cute little kitten. Personally, I would rather have the kitten, who would grow up into a cat and chase the rats and mice out of my personal space.

Truthfully, I am inclined to live and let live, but the one ground rule of that tenet is, the rats and mice must live outside.img_0012 It’s not easy though, when the weather turns cool, to keep the little buggers out where they belong. They can squeeze through places that you would think air would be too small to penetrate. And if there isn’t a place they can get through, they will chew away at whatever is prohibiting their ingress until it’s no longer an obstacle.

You’ve seen the cartoons with the mice and the typical arched mouse hole? That is not an exaggeration, the holes the mice chew look exactly like that, sometimes anyway. If it was not such an irritating development, it would be humorous. However, I really doubt they have little rocking chairs and fireplaces behind the cute little arched hole in the wall. I hope not, anyway.

Probably the main reason for wanting mice and rats to stay outside is the fact that they carry all sorts of disease. Bubonic plague, hantavirus, Typhus, are just 3 of some 30 diseases that mice can bring into your home. Their droppings are especially dangerous for children, they can dry and then be inhaled by the little one, causing all kinds of issues.

Rodents can also bring fleas and ticks into your home. It is possible for them to transmit illness from biting the mice img_0013and then a human.

It is never a good thing to try and share living space with rodents. And this time of year, they will try and get out of the cooler weather and inside your home. Give your pest control expert a call, they can help keep the critters out of your home, no matter how cool the weather is.

Hurricanes and Pests

img_0016Hurricane Matthew just moved through, bringing death and destruction all over Florida and the southern US Coast. Thankfully, it just skirted the Florida coast, a few miles to the west and things would have been much, much worse.

But as it happened, skirting the coast was bad enough. Amidst the chain saws and rakes put to use in cleaning the debris, sometimes we forget that hurricanes bring pests. And one of the worst, lurking in the flood waters, are the fire ants.

Fire ants float. That is a proven fact. When they are threatened with water they link their legs and mouths together and within just a few minutes, they have formed a “raft” of sorts with their bodies. The ants bodies are actually able to trap air so that the ants on the bottom of the raft are never actually submerged long enough to drown. The worker ants move the queen and the larvae to the center of the “raft” allowing them to remain high and dry. The raft can float for weeks like this, until they can find dry land to allow them to start up their colony again.

And then we have the mosquitos. It has been a battle to keep mosquitos, possibly carrying the dreaded Zika virus, from using any standing water as a breeding place. That was before the entire state was standing water. So, now comes the hard part, trying to get rid of as much standing water as possible before the mosquitos find it. Which may not be img_0018humanly possible, so probably the best thing to do moving forward, is to wear insect repellent whenever you are going outdoors.

Other pests too may try to invade your home, taking refuge after the storm. Being displaced from their former homes, yours may be the one they target for their next nesting place. But we know what to do, all the do-it-yourself measures to take. Of course, for any that might be above our comfort level, the local pest control experts will be more than happy to help.

The Zika Coffin is Naled Shut For Some Floridians

It looks like there is finally good news for some Floridians about the Zika fear that has gripped them this summer. Aggressive spraying of the pesticide Naled in the Wynwood arts district of Miami has caused the area to be declared free of Zika-carrying mosquitos. Even the warning for pregnant women to stay out of Wynwood has been rescinded.

All that is very good news, but elsewhere in Florida the risk still exists, like in Miami Beach. The problem with Miami img_0010Beach is the tall buildings and the ocean breezes, which makes aerial spraying very tricky. And the officials feel that aerial spraying is the only way to be sure to and get to all the areas that require attention.

It has been a season-long endeavor in the Miami area. Officials have tried everything within their reach to lessen the risk of the virus. They have taught residents aggressive mosquito control measures that they can take part in, like removing certain tropical plants that can be breeding places for mosquitos. But so far the efforts have not seen as much success as they hoped.

So, they feel the need to spray in spite of the public outcry against it. No doubt the reticence people feel comes from what happened in South Carolina when aerial spraying was done and ended up killing millions and millions of honey bees. After all the efforts to save the bees and find the source of colony collapse disorder, it was undone in minutes by aerial spraying of Naled.

The spraying in areas of Miami has not had the same effect on bees, or at least there hasn’t been a wholesale slaughter like in South Carolina. And officials say that they are spraying the insecticide at levels that are safe for humans. They img_0009feel the threat from the Zika virus is worse than any effect from the pesticide.

Of course, no one knows for sure what the future holds. Will the effects of aerial spraying be worse than the damage the virus caused? Since the officials are determined to spray, we can only hope the answer is a firm NO.

The Zika Threat Continues

Summer is almost over for the rest of the country, or officially over for some of it, but the threat of the mosquito borne Zika virus has not abated. And the controversy over the methods being used to kill the mosquitos has ramped up. With good reason.

image      A few weeks ago, officials in South Carolina decided to aerial spray the pesticide Naled, which is thought to be the best chemical to kill the type of mosquito that carries Zika. However, the spraying ended up killing millions and millions of honey bees. Whole bee farms were wiped out. So, in spite of the claims that there is nothing to worry about, people are worried. If this pesticide can wipe out honey bees with one spraying, what is it doing to our bodies? Our children’s bodies?

But to balance the equation, we have to ask, “How much harm is the Zika virus causing?”. Apparently, 4 out of 5 individuals have no reaction at all. But if you are that one person, you might have very mild symptoms, a mild fever, slight rash, red eyes and a little joint pain, that lasts for less than a week. Or, in some people it can cause a potentially fatal case of Guillain-Barré syndrome, a condition where the immune system attacks the nerves.

By far the worst thing that the Zika virus can cause, is the damage to the brain of unborn children. A pregnant woman who contracts Zika early in her pregnancy is at risk for having a child with microcephaly, a condition that causes the brain to be abnormally small, with all the accompanying brain damage. Scary.image

So, is it right to blanket south Florida in Naled to try to combat the Zika virus? No one has a definitive answer to that, only time will tell. Officials are doing what they think is the best thing to try and protect the population at this time.

But there is one thing for certain, the controversy is not over. It will no doubt continue until the last mosquito dies. Which means, it could be ongoing for a very long time.

Freezing the Bed Bugs

The war on bed bugs continues. And with every new treatment it seems the pesky little critters find a way around it. Bed bugs were thought to be almost entirely gone from the landscape, until the world became a smaller place. With people being able to fly around the world in less than 24 hours, one of the drawbacks has been bed bugs hitchhiking their way across the world, some of those being resistant to all known chemicals.

And it seems that many of those bugs have set up housekeeping in Montreal, Canada. No one knows why, but Montreal has experienced and incredible increase in bed bugs within the last two decades. Officials say that in the year 2000 they were treating one to two cases of bed bug infestation a year. Now it has increased from 50 to 100 infestations a DAY!

The why part of the puzzle can wait, right now the emphasis has to be on treatment and hopefully, eradication.

One of the still-effective treatments involves heat. Heating the infected room to 113 degrees Fahrenheit (45 degrees Celsius) and keeping the temperature at that level for a minimum of 60 minutes is enough to kill the bed bugs and their eggs. It is, for the most part, effective, but the heat may not penetrate the depth of a person’s belongings, allowing some bugs to escape death. And, heat treatments can be very expensive.image

Now the head of sanitation for Montreal’s public housing authority is trying something different: cold.

There is a specially designed freezer room where residents can place their items. The freezer room is kept at -22 Celsius, which equates to 7.6 degrees Fahrenheit, and will take 4 days to kill all the bedbugs and their eggs. The good thing is, the cold will penetrate boxes and plastic bags that are holding the infected belongings, hopefully killing all the bugs and eggs.image

And, on the plus side, Montreal is a cold place in the winter, perhaps they just need to turn off the heat, open all the doors, and let the cold do it’s job. When you are the bed bug capital, you will try anything.

Dead Mosquitos Shouldn’t Mean Dead Bees

It seemed, earlier this year, that we were finally getting a handle on what was killing the honey bees. Hives were restored and things were looking up. Then the  Zika virus came along.

In the wake of hurricane Hermine that went through Florida and up the east coast last week, worry that standing water might host mosquito larva caused municipalities to intensify their efforts to rid themselves of mosquitos with whatever means they could.airplane-465619_1280

In Dorchester County, South Carolina they chose to spray. And they sprayed a pesticide called Naled that is one of the best to kill mosquitos. But the problem is, it also killed honey bees. In massive numbers.

It started on Sunday morning, the South Carolina honey bees began to die at the entrance of their hives. In one farm in Summerville 46 hives died, the number of dead bees amounted to approximately 2 and a half million. A total destruction of the entire business. One lady walked through the farm and said it was “like visiting a cemetery”. How sad.

The war on mosquitos had a devastating “friendly fire” effect.

There have been several cases of Zika virus in South Carolina, but as far as the health department knows none have been acquired from a local mosquito bite. Still, in Dorchester County, South Carolina, they decided to spray just to make sure it doesn’t happen.

Unfortunately, no one informed the beekeepers of the plan to spray. There are steps they could have taken to protect their hives if they had known what the county was up to. As it happened, no one told them and the result was the loss of many, many honey bees. Forget colony collapse disorder, spraying for mosquitos is far more devastating.

flower-1608283_1280Hopefully, the beekeepers can re-establish their hives and keep their businesses intact, in spite of this horrible loss. After all, bees are a major source of pollination, which all flowering plants, including vegetables must have to produce the food on our tables.

And I, for one, like to eat.