Photo: CDC/ Dr. Dennis D. Juranek
Here is my selection of the worst home invaders from the world of insects. You want to keep these bugs out of your home – or get rid of them once they get in!
Bedbugs are small insects. They feed on blood and prefer humans over birds or other mammals. They are quite small and are mainly active at night. They tend to nest near their human host, rather than staying on the body or in the hair.
Signs and Symptoms of Bedbug Infestations
Look for visible signs that bedbugs have invaded bedding. These signs include: smears of blood; fecal spots; and moult casings.
Victims of bedbug bites may develop a red rash and sometimes experience intense itching; but some people do not show any symptoms. Others may become allergic and have more severe reactions.
Scratching the bites may lead to bacterial infection. There is no evidence that bedbugs pass disease from one person to another.
Treatments to Kill Bedbugs
Treat building and possessions, since people do not ‘harbor’ bedbugs. They prefer to sneak away and nest in or near beds.
Several treatments are possible. Hot steam cleaning of buildings and possessions will kill bedbugs. Place diatomaceous earth where the insects would walk – the rough material abrades the waxy shell, causing the bedbug to dry out. Wash clothing and bedding in very hot water for a long cycle. Some chemicals are available. Bedbugs will try to migrate away from one room or apartment to another, so it is important to get them all.
2) Carpenter Ants
Carpenter ants are also known as wood ants. They excavate wood in order to build their nests; unlike termites, they do not eat wood. They actually eat sweet foods, fat, grease and meat. They mainly work at night.
Signs of Carpenter Ants
You may find small piles of frass (bits of wood, soil, and insects) outside of nest exits, or in window sills. The excavated nest is smooth and does not have ‘mud’, which is a sign of termites. They prefer already-decaying wood but will work with healthy wood if other conditions are right. You might see these large ants marching in your home in the spring.
Preventing a Carpenter Ant Invasion
Use these steps to make it difficult for carpenter ants to invade your home:
- Keep tree limbs away from the roof.
- Keep wood piles away from the home and elevate the wood so it does not rest on the ground.
- Seal the home’s foundation (and windows and doors) with caulk.
- Seal vents with very fine mesh.
- Repair any leaky plumbing and ensure air conditioners do not drip onto the side of the house.
Treatment for Carpenter Ants
Four insecticide options are available to get rid of carpenter ants:
- Dust or spray the perimeter at ground level
- Dust or foam the interior wall voids
- Spot-treat specific infested wood, and adjacent wood
- Apply bait indoors and outdoors
Note that bait is a combination of food and very slow-acting insecticide. Never combine the two approaches, because the quick insecticide makes the bait useless. Bait is a rather finicky approach, but might result in the best outcomes.
3) Head Lice
Head lice (see top) colonize a person’s head, in the hair and skin. They drink human blood and can cause itching. A louse is about the size of a sesame seed.
Symptoms and Signs of Head Lice
Your scalp may itch, although it may take several weeks for the itching to develop. Bites may be visible if the hair is moved aside. Eggs or lice may be seen on close examination; you may need to use a magnifying glass. Use a louse comb to check, especially near ears and nape of neck.
Lice do not transmit any specific diseases. Scratching may introduce germs and cause infection. Only in rare cases will the bites cause swollen lymph nodes.
Transmission of Head Lice
Head-to-head contact is the most common way lice move from one person to another. Sharing hats or pillows is rarely a cause. Victims are usually children.
Treatment of Head Lice
Your doctor or pharmacist can recommend specific medicated shampoos or rinses, and these will have specific instructions. Generally, comb the shampoo through the hair and remove the eggs (‘nits’, hence ‘nit-picking’). This is not usually effective on first treatment, since eggs may be missed and survive. Therefore repeat in about 10 days. Only treat people with live lice, since the chemicals are somewhat harmful.
Termites invade the wooden structures of homes because they eat cellulose. Termites are hard to detect at an early stage because they stay inside the wood structures. An above-ground tunnel outside the home is easily seen. Damaged wood might be detected by feeling that it is soft.
Preventing a Termite Invasion
Concrete or steel foundations, and other barriers should prevent underground access. It’s best to keep 18 inches between the soil and wood. Chemical treatment of the base timber is possible prior to construction, but physical barriers are preferred. Chemical treatment of the soil is usually performed on older homes rather than for new buildings.
Killing Termite Invaders
Bait is the preferred method. A bait is a slow-acting poison which will eventually kill the whole colony. Dust toxins are also available but are not recommended for amateurs. Soil treatment is the least preferred, since it uses a large amount of insecticide which leaches fairly quickly into the environment. Pesticides may be injected into the basement wall and also into nearby fences, sheds or trees.
Often it would be wise to get rid of any damaged wood. This is a large and tricky job if the damage is extensive. On the other hand, you do not want to rest your home on load-bearing timbers that have been hollowed-out by termites.
Wasps are social insects that may nest near, or in, homes. They eat many leftover foods: fruits, fruit drinks, pop, and meat. They also prey on flies, caterpillars and aphids. They are active during the day, and return to the nest in the afternoon.
Keeping Wasps Away
Unless you have had a problem with wasps in the past, you probably do not need to take pre-emptive measures. To discourage wasps from nesting in or near a home, apply an insecticide spray several times a year. It is important to use one that is safe for people and pets, but repels insects.
Eliminating a Wasps’ Nest
Locate the nest during the day, but wait until dusk to apply any insecticides. One good way is to ‘puff’ the insecticide dust into the nest’s entranceway – six to a dozen puffs will start the process, but may lead to swift retribution. It is best to go back several evenings in a row.
Poisoning wasps in voids (in a home) follows a similar procedure, and may take several applications. The exact chemicals and applicators may be different between a visible nest and a colony in a void.
This is my top-five list of insect home invaders. Do you have others to recommend?
WPTV.com (West Palm Beach, FL): Woman Contracts West Nile Virus In Palm Beach County, Health Department Issues Advisory
PALM BEACH COUNTY, FL – The Palm Beach County Health Department said a mosquito borne disease advisory issued in October will remain in effect today after it was confirmed that a woman contracted West Nile Virus in the county.
It has been five years since a resident was diagnosed with West Nile Virus in Palm Beach County — and it is the seventh case reported since 2000, health officials said.
PBC Health Department Director Alina Alonso said the department will continue monitoring for all mosquito borne diseases.
“Today’s West Nile Virus confirmation in a resident serves as a reminder for people to avoid mosquito bites as they do transmit disease,” said Alonso.
Officials said the woman became ill with the virus and was diagnosed by her medical provider.
The health department said West Nile Virus symptoms are generally mild and include a stiff neck or headache that lasts a few days. More severe cases include fever, dizziness, weakness and confusion.
A mosquito borne disease advisory from October was issued after two cases of Dengue Fever were reported in the county. Dengue is another disease carried by mosquitoes that is monitored along with St. Louis Encephalitis and Eastern Equine Encephalitis, the health department said.
These diseases are not transmitted person to person and are only acquired through the bite of a mosquito.
The PBC Health Department is encouraging everyone to drain any standing water from around their home or business, as mosquitoes can leave their eggs in the smallest water reservoirs. They are also advising people to cover their windows with screens in good condition, use air conditioning when possible and cover themselves with light weight, long sleeve clothing and pants.
Insect repellents containing DEET or picaridin are also effective in preventing the mosquito from biting, the department said.
The Health Department continues to monitor the mosquito population, Tim O’Connor explained, “We are also coming into the winter, so that should diminish slightly, but again, because of the high amounts of rain and the standing water that we’ve had around, those eggs are now hatching out, so there is a better likelihood that people could get a mosquito-borne disease.”
Mosquito control efforts and programs are continuing throughout the county following these alerts.
Anyone experiencing symptoms should see their medical provider or visit the nearest hospital or clinic.
Further information can be obtained by visiting the Department of Health Website at www.doh.state.fl.us , or the Palm Beach County Health Department site at www.pbchd.com or the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hxIKkBpF7g
NEW NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH SCIENCES STUDY REINFORCES CONNECTION BETWEEN COCKROACHES & ASTHMA
Additional Pest Control Industry Research Shows
Lack of Consumer Knowledge About Cockroaches & Asthma
A national study on factors that affect asthma in inner-city children shows that cockroach allergens appear to worsen asthma symptoms more than other known triggers. This study, funded by National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), is the first large-scale study to rank asthma triggers according to severity.
Additionally, a 2005 research study, sponsored by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), shows a disparity in homeowner knowledge about this link. Only 10% of homeowners nationwide feel that cockroaches are a threat to their family’s health.
Fortunately for homeowners, there is a solution for this asthma trigger. Professional pest control services are proven to reduce cockroach populations, which in turn, reduces the number of allergens that trigger children’s asthma attacks.
This sentiment was echoed by NIEHS Director Kenneth Olden, Ph.D in recently published articles where he cites “proven exterminating techniques” as a key component in reducing allergen populations. “While that is true,” comments It is vital that these proven techniques are completed by a professional pest control company with the training and certifications necessary to treat the infestations.
For further information, visit bugbustersusa.com and www.pestworld.org.
Michael Marshall, reporter
If you like to avoid cockroaches, it may be rather difficult to stay clear of Saltoblatella montistabularis, a species that can jump. Malcolm Burrows of the University of Cambridge, UK and his team are investigating how far the roaches can leap and found that they can jump a distance of 35 centimetres, or about 48 times their own body length.
Lab studies revealed that the cockroaches experience accelerations of up to 23 g. “If you place one is in a glass vial and it jumps, you can hear a ting noise as it hits the top of the container,” says Mike Picker, a member of the team. They have evolved enormous hind legs much like those of grasshoppers, allowing them to jump in a similar fashion and rely on hopping as their main form of locomotion.
The species was first spotted on Table mountain in South Africa in 2006. It was formally described for the first time last year.
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PEST PROFILE: Subterranean termites
Subterranean termites live in underground colonies or in moist secluded areas above ground that can contain up to 2 million members. They build distinctive “mud tubes” to gain access to food sources and to protect themselves from open air. Termite colonies are organized into castes depending on tasks — workers, soldiers and reproductive’s. The characteristics of a subterranean termite are dependent on the termite’s role in the colony. Cream-colored Worker subterranean termites are 1/8 to 3/8′s of an inch in length. Soldier subterranean termites are of a similar body length, but are distinguished by their powerful mandibles. Solider termites have cream-colored bodies and brown heads. Reproductive subterranean termites are approximately one inch long.
Subterranean termites live underground and build tunnels, referred to as mud tubes, to reach food sources. Like other termite species, they feed on products containing cellulose. Subterranean termites swarm in the spring — groups of reproductive termites go off to start new colonies.
Subterranean termites need contact with the soil to survive and live underground. They can build tunnels through cracks in concrete.
Subterranean termites are by far the most destructive species. They can collapse a building entirely, meaning possible financial ruin for a homeowner. The hard, saw-toothed jaws of termites work like shears and are able to bite off extremely small fragments of wood, one piece at a time.
Avoid water accumulation near your home’s foundation. Divert water away with properly functioning downspouts, gutters and splash blocks. Reduce humidity in crawl spaces with proper ventilation. Never bury wood scraps or waste lumber in the yard. Most importantly, eliminate wood contact with the soil. Maintain a one-inch gap between the soil and wood portions of the building. Also, always receive a regular termite inspection from a trained and licensed company.
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Entomologist Mark Moffett found this carrot-eating giant weta in a tree on New Zealand’s Little Barrier Island. The cricketlike critter weighs 2.5 ounces (71 grams) and has a length of 7 inches (17.8 centimeters).
Is this the world’s biggest bug? As with all superlatives, it depends on your definition. But the sight of a New Zealand giant weta chomping down on a carrot surely has to give you the creeps, even if it’s rivaled by other giant creepy crawlies.
This particular species of the cricketlike creature — known as a giant weta or wetapunga to the Maori, and as Deinacrida heteracantha to scientists — is found only in protected areas such as New Zealand’s Little Barrier Island. That’s where Mark (“Doctor Bugs”) Moffett, an entomologist and explorer at the Smithsonian Institution, found the specimen after two nights of searching.
“The giant weta is the largest insect in the world, and this is the biggest one ever found,” Britain’s Daily Mail quoted Moffett as saying. “She weighs the equivalent to three mice. … She enjoyed the carrot so much she seemed to ignore the fact she was resting on our hands and carried on munching away. She would have finished the carrot very quickly, but this is an extremely endangered species, and we didn’t want to risk indigestion.”
The carrot-crunching cricket went viral today, and now questions are starting to emerge about the “biggest bug” label. The information accompanying the picture lists the insect’s weight at 2.5 ounces (71 grams) and its length at 7 inches (17.8 centimeters). The New Zealand-based news site Stuff.co.nz checked that with Landcare Research entomologist Thomas Buckley. “From the picture, it’s a female, but it just looks like an average-sized one of that species,” Buckley said.
Even the biggest giant weta has its rivals in the insect world. By some accounts, goliath beetles can reach a weight of 100 grams (3.5 ounces) during their larval stage and achieve a wingspan of nearly 10 inches (25 centimeters). The White Witch moth, meanwhile, has a wingspan of up to 12 inches (31 centimeters), which is wider than the wings of a sparrow.
But if you confine yourself strictly to adult insects, and define “big” in terms of weight, Moffett appears to have a good case. He told me in an email that the giant weta he found counts as the “largest one weighed, as far as I have seen recorded anywhere.”
Now, if your definition of a “bug” takes in more than insects — say, the giant crustaceans known as isopods, which are super-sized versions of rolypoly bugs — then you’re talking about bugs of truly horrific proportions. Do you have tales of monster bugs to share? Add them as comments below.