Don’t Let Ticks Ruin Your Summer

Ticks. So tiny, yet so feared. This is the peak of tick season and there are some things about ticks thatcayenne-tick-542169_1280 you may not know. Like the fact that ticks are not insects, they are arachnids. And when you really stop and look at a tick, it does closely resemble a spider. Huh. Who knew? Or cares?

So, maybe that fact is not that impressive, how about this one? Did you know that ticks require 24 to 48 hours of feeding time before they can successfully pass on diseases like Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever? Vigilance in checking your dogs and your kids after being outside can stop diseases from happening. Okay, so that’s a little better. Go on.

Ticks are tiny vampires, they only live to suck your blood. Or preferably, your dog’s blood. Ticks like the American dog tick and the brown dog tick are partial to canines, not that other ticks don’t like dogs, it’s just that some are more particular than others.

Ticks don’t jump or fly, they crawl up on grass or brush and wait until a suitable target comes breezing by and latch on. They can also drop out of wherever it is they are hiding and fall onto their target. They puppy-1207818_1280might not jump or fly, but they are acrobats.

Ticks pose a definite risk to our health and to our pet’s health, but that doesn’t mean you have to stay inside and not take advantage of the many fun things to do outdoors. Or keep your dogs in. Being alert to the way ticks hunt their victims and making sure you check the kids and the dogs, not to mention yourself, every time you go out means that we can enjoy the fun things to do outside. And, make sure to apply insect repellent. That will not only keep ticks away, it will also protect you from mosquito bearing diseases as well.

Don’t let the fear of ticks take away your adventurous side. Go – hike, swim, bike, or do whatever floats your boat. Even go float your boat and enjoy summer while it lasts.

Bed Bugs – Not Just For Sleeping Anymore

Bed bugs are everywhere these days, from the poshest of hotels to college dorms. And they do not stay in the bedroom, but can be found in every corner of your home. Scary. So, what do you do to make sure you are not harboring the offenders?

Some things are just common sense, like, inspect anything and everything that has been purchased second hand. And along with purchased second hand, never, ever, ever bring something into your home that has been sitting outside for a time, on the street or anywhere that bugs might have gotten to it. You chair-328033_1280might think it’s a “deal”, but after paying for an extermination, your “deal” won’t seem so great.

One other thing is to reduce clutter in your home. Those pesky little critters love to hide away, and one of the best places to do that is within a pile of clutter. Pack rat or not, no one wants to have an infested house.

Also, vacuum frequently, lest some bugs have hitchhiked on your clothing or shoes from an infected place to your home. If you do this, this may stop an infestation before it starts.

If you have to share laundry facilities be very careful about using a table for folding that others have used. It may be a good idea to put clothes directly from the dryer into a clean plastic bag for transport and do the folding at home. If the heat from the dryer is high enough, it will kill bed bugs, so if you do have an infestation, that might help to control it.sunday-1358907_1280

If you live in a multi family home, it would help to isolate your unit as much as possible. Install door sweeps on the bottom of doors and seal any cracks around light sockets and baseboards, or anywhere the critters might move from apartment to apartment.

And always remember, bed bugs are no match for your pest control expert who is only a phone call away.

Adults and the Zika Virus

In 1947, researchers isolated the Zika virus and classified it as an “innocuous” pathogen.
It was harmless, uninteresting and received no further study. Little did they know the harm that would come from their “innocuous” virus.

South and Central America have certainly felt the effects of the Zika virus, leaving an unknown number of babies with brain injuries and other problems. Brazil was one country that was hit hard by Zika and with the Olympics due to come to Rio de Janeiro in a couple of months, it could easily escalate the spread of the Zika virus. Fear of the Zika virus has caused some athletes to withdraw from the Olympics.

But don’t make the mistake of thinking that pregnant women are the only ones to worry about the Zika virus. There are other things that can be caused by the virus, like Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), which attacks the nervous system, causing the person’s own immune system to damage nerve cells. That can medic-563423_1280result in muscle weakness and paralysis.

Interestingly enough, in Tahiti there was an outbreak of GBS, with no explanation of why. Now, thinking that there may be a connection with the Zika virus, the officials in Tahiti have gone back and analyzed blood samples from 42 people who were victims of the disease. They found that all but 1 had Zika antibodies, which means they had been previously infected.

Still to be determined is whether Zika is responsible for a serious brain issue in adults. In Brazil scientists are studying 151 patients who had the symptoms of Zika, but also developed swelling of the brain and spinal cord which resulted in a syndrome very similar to multiple sclerosis.This syndrome is called acute disseminated encephalomyelitis or ADEM for short.

According to the World Health Organization, the Zika virus is “spreading explosively”. There is ongoing discussion as to whether a worldwide emergency should be declared.mosquito-1465062_1280

Since so much is still unknown about the Zika virus, the best thing we can do for now is to be protected by using a good insect repellant whenever we go out doors. Eventually they may come up with an immunization, but for now it is better to be safe than sorry.

Who knew a tiny little mosquito could cause so much trouble?

Water Bugs, Palmetto Bugs or Cockroaches

Water bugs, palmetto bugs, cockroaches – have you ever wondered what, if any, is the difference between them? To the average American, the answer is: not much.

water-bug-1292345_1280There are creatures known as water bugs, but these true water bugs are aquatic creatures, living in ponds and lakes, with legs that they use as paddles to skim across the water or use surface tension to stay afloat. There are over 500 species of water bugs worldwide. They are found at the edge of freshwater lakes and ponds, sometimes going underwater with the aid of an air bubble that they can carry with them and use when they wish to stay down longer. They can’t live underwater though, as they don’t have gills.

Another name for these aquatic insects is water boatmen. They eat algae and other minute aquatic organisms. Their eggs can be gathered from aquatic plants, dried and ground into flour to use as food in Mexico and other places in the world.

But true water bugs or boatmen have nothing in common with the bugs that we might find in our bathtub or shower. Those are just plain, common, everyday cockroaches. Your average cockroach likes damp areas and will gravitate toward them, so perhaps therein lies the confusion. That, and the fact that it just seems more civilized to say we saw a water bug in our shower than a cockroach.

Palmetto bugs are also cockroaches, just a different type of roach, namely Florida woods cockroach. Theybeast-740729_1280 are larger and have the disgusting ability, when alarmed, to actually spray an offensive, odiferous substance which has gained them some interesting nicknames, such as skunk roach and stink roach.

So, unless your home is found in the middle of a freshwater lake or pond, the bugs that you are seeing are most likely not water bugs, but in fact, cockroaches of one type or another.

Sorry to break it to you, but there you have it. A cockroach by any other name is still a cockroach.

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.