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.

The Attack of the Whiteflies

It’s the end of summer, at least that’s what the calendar says. Labor day, the official end of the vacation season is less than a week away. Home gardeners everywhere are collecting the last of the produce before the first frost.

Winter used to mean the end of produce until the spring, but that was before Florida started to feed the world in winter. Now fresh lettuce and tomatoes are no farther than a trip to the grocery store.

But, there is a pest that may put a dent in that business, if not destroy it altogether. It is a whitefly, a known and much dreaded pest, but made worse by becoming resistant to the insecticides that have kept it at bay for many years.tomatoes-1320421_1280

Florida leads the whole country in the production of fresh tomatoes. It is the state’s biggest cash crop, so the appearance of an insecticide resistant whitefly is truly terrifying to growers.

These tiny little pests can be responsible for carrying more than 100 different diseases. Diseases that can weaken plants and make their fruit and vegetables become inedible.

It had only been found indoors, usually in nurseries, before this spring when it was found in homeowners’ yards and retail outdoor nurseries.

It’s not just tomatoes either, although they are the biggest crop that could be targeted. It can attack watermelon, beans, squash and many other vegetables and ornamental plants.

Since there is no current way to kill these white flies, inspectors from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services are working to develop management practices that would keep crops safe. They are in the process of tracing the flies back to the nurseries that shipped them to the blt-637530_1280retail stores. If they can successfully do that, then they will be able to work on management practices.

Let’s hope they are successful, not just for the growers but for everyone in the northern states who loves a good BLT in January.

Beware of the Flying Cockroach!

There are many things to worry about in today’s world, but I’m about to give you one more, another creepy crawly thing, actually worse than a cockroach. I know what you are thinking, what could possibly be worse than a cockroach? Well, I will tell you…..a flying cockroach! Seriously. Now I’ve gone and given you something new to worry about, along with the bogeyman, the economy and the Zombie hands-984032_1280Apocolypse.

Most cockroaches can fly, but people don’t realize that they can fly, mainly because cockroaches can only fly when they get warm enough. So, in areas of the north, it may not get warm enough for them to ever take off. But in places like Florida, when the mid-August temperatures climb right up there in the danger zone, the stinking, nastiest bug in the history of bugs becomes airborne. AHHHHH!

The reason they fly, or move at all, is to find food. In areas where food is plentiful they don’t have far to go, so they are more likely to hoof it, rather than spread their wings. After all, flying does require much more energy. But in the hot summer, if food is not within walking distance, they can easily spread their wings and fly. Makes me shudder to think of it.

They also might be flying to find a mate or escape a predator. Or a boot. In the hot weather, it doesn’t take much. And they aren’t very graceful fliers, you won’t see them gliding in a breeze like a butterfly. butterfly-108616_1280More like a tiny rhinoceros with wings. But not endangered.

The ones who do take to flight are the larger cockroaches. The smaller German cockroaches have wings, but can’t get up in the air, thankfully. But then, those are the worse kind to have, so if you see many of those, you have bigger issues to worry about.

So, add flying cockroaches to your list of things to worry about. Actually in the large scheme of things, when there are new things added to the worry list every day, flying cockroaches might turn out to be one of the better ones.

Mosquito Borne Illness is Nothing New

You can’t listen to a news cast these days without hearing something about the Zika virus. And since Florida has such lovely weather for the proliferation of mosquitos, it is very likely that the aforementioned news cast will mention Florida. As of August 10, 2016, there are 6 locally acquired cases in the state. That statistic will surely rise as the summer progresses.

mosquito-1421757_1280But Zika is not the only mosquito borne illness that we need to be aware of. There are others with symptoms that can be much worse, depending on age and severity of the illness. Most of them are not fatal, but can still cause severe illness, probably making you wish you had died.

One of the newer viruses is chikungunya. This one is characterized by a sudden fever 2 to 4 days after exposure, that will last from 2 to 7 days. It is also accompanied by severe join pain that can last weeks, or in some cases, years. The older you are, the more severe the complaints.

Dengue Virus, which is responsible for Dengue Fever is another bad one. This virus will make you think you have the flu, joint pain, headache, fever, muscle aches and a measle-like rash. It can result in hemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus is a particular nasty one. Within 10 days of being bitten by an infected mosquito, symptoms of fever, muscle pain and severe headache will appear and worsen over time. It is possible that things like vomiting, seizures and neurological issues may set in, which could culminate in coma or in the case of a third of infected people, death.

We also have West Nile Virus which in 2012 killed 286 people around the country. The percentage of infection is low, but if you happen to be one of the unfortunate ones, it can lead to meningitis, encephalitis, causing permanent damage or death.graffitti-1435214_1280

Let’s face it, even with all the statistics, the likelihood that you would contract one of these illnesses is fairly low. However, insect repellant is readily available and very easy to be applied. So, why would you want to take a chance? Better safe than sorry.

Pokemon Players and Mosquito Control

What does Pokemon have in common with Zika virus? Workers in Texas have found the answer: Quite a lot, actually.

Pokemon Go is a relatively new phenomena. It is a reality game, released in July 2016, and the object of the game is to use an electronic device to capture a virtual creature, Pokemon, who appears on the player’s screen as if it were in the exact same location as the player.pokemon-1557682_1280

In the short time since its release, more than 100 million people worldwide have downloaded the game and begun to play. That number is no doubt increasing every day as the game gains popularity.

Which has been the source of great concern for officials the world over. The game has been a contributing cause to a rising number of accidents and public nuisance reports. Not to mention trespassing and noise related complaints.

One of the stangest complaints comes from the city workers in North Texas who are trying, in vain, to spray to get rid of disease carrying mosquitos. It is taking longer for them to do their job because they have to wait for Pokemon players to clear the area, get out of the road and basically, let them get on with their jobs. They do their best to rid the area of mosquitos, but the crowds are making it harder and harder.

And it doesn’t seem to matter what time of day it is, there are just as many players out at 4 in thepokemon-1543556_1280 morning as 4 in the afternoon. People go out to look for Pokemon after they get off from work. There have not been any reports as to surveys done to determine how Pokemon affects productivity after the workers have been out all night searching for a creature that only exists on their smart phones, but it’s not rocket science to think that it would be a negative effect. Seriously.

But an even more negative effect would be contracting an illness like West Nile Virus or the dreaded Zika. Which might be enough to make some players put their phones down…….for just a minute anyway. Pokemon, it seems, is here to stay.