Here are a few facts to help homeowners protect themselves from stinging insects over the next few months:
- Stinging insects send more than 500,000 people to the emergency room every year. They can swarm and sting en masse, which can be life threatening especially for anyone who has an allergic reaction.
- Unlike some stinging insect species, wasps are known for their unprovoked aggression. A single colony of wasps can contain more than 15,000 members, so an infestation should not be taken lightly.
- Common nesting sites include under eaves, on ceiling beams in attics, garages and sheds and under porches. Some stinging insects can build their nests in the ground, including yellowjackets and velvet ants (which are actually a species of wasps). Over-seeding the yard provides more coverage and discourages these pests from nesting around the property.
- Painting or staining untreated wood in fences, decks, swing sets and soffits will help keep stinging insects such as carpenter bees out. Carpenter bees create nests by drilling tunnels into soft wood, which can severely compromise the stability of a structure over time.
- Only female carpenter bees have stingers. Female carpenter bees will only sting if threatened, but reactions to these stings can range from mild irritation to life-threatening respiratory distress.
University of Florida researchers are still working on strategies for controlling crazy ants found so far in 20 Florida counties, but they’re offering some preliminary advice.
Your source for termite information
What is the difference between a termite and a flying ant?
There are 3 ways to tell termites and flying ants apart:
Termite wings are all equal in length and extend well past the abdomen. However, ants have wings which are unequal in length and generally end at the tip of the abdomen.
Antennae on termites are straight and beadlike, but on ants they are elbowed.
Ants have a pinched waist (abdomen), but termites have no constriction in the body and are more streamlined.
Whether you found a termite or a flying ant, you could have an infestation problem. Hulett Environmental Services offers specialty termite control treatments designed to control and eliminate these pests!
WASHINGTON, The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) today announced that it is dedicating the month of April to sharing information about the threat that invasive plant pests, diseases and harmful weeds pose to America’s fruits, vegetables, trees, and other plants—and how the public can help prevent their spread. APHIS works each day to promote U.S. agricultural health and safeguard the nation’s agriculture, fishing and forestry industries.
“Invasive pests hit close to home and threaten the things we value,” said Rebecca A. Blue, Deputy Under Secretary for USDA’s Marketing and Regulatory Programs. “We need the public’s help because these hungry pests can have a huge impact on the items we use in everyday life, from the fabric in our clothing, the food on our table, the lumber used to build our home and the flowers in our garden. During one of the most successful periods in history for U.S. agriculture, it is important that we step-up our efforts to educate Americans about USDA’s good work to protect our nation’s food, fiber, feed and fuel from invasive pests.”
Invasive pests are non-native species that feed on America’s agricultural crops, trees and other plants. These “hungry pests” have cost the United States billions of dollars and wreak havoc on the environment. USDA and U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection-working closely with state agriculture departments and industry-are dedicated to preventing the introduction and spread of invasive pests. The goal is to safeguard agriculture and natural resources from the entry, establishment and spread of animal and plant pests and noxious weeds.
But federal and state agencies can’t do it alone. It requires everyone’s help to stop the unintended introduction and spread of invasive pests. The number-one action someone can take is to leave hungry pests behind. USDA urges the public to visit www.HungryPests.com to learn more about invasive pests and what they can do to protect American agricultural resources by preventing the spread of these threats. Here are a few actions that people can take today:
- Buy Local, Burn Local. Invasive pests and larvae can hide and ride long distances in firewood. Don’t give them a free ride to start a new infestation-buy firewood where you burn it.
- Plant Carefully. Buy your plants from a reputable source and avoid using invasive plant species at all costs.
- Do Not Bring or Mail fresh fruits, vegetables, or plants into your state or another state unless agricultural inspectors have cleared them beforehand.
- Cooperate with any agricultural quarantine restrictions and allow authorized agricultural workers access to your property for pest or disease surveys.
- Keep It Clean. Wash outdoor gear and tires between fishing, hunting or camping trips. Clean lawn furniture and other outdoor items when moving from one home to another.
- Learn To Identify. If you see signs of an invasive pest or disease, write down or take a picture of what you see, and then report it at www.HungryPests.com.
- Speak Up. Declare all agricultural items to customs officials when returning from international travel. Call USDA to find out what’s allowed:
(301) 851-2046 for questions about plants
(301) 851-3300 for questions about animals
At www.HungryPests.com, a website available in both English and Spanish, visitors can access the interactive Pest Tracker to see what pests are threatening in a selected state, and to learn how to report suspected invasive pests. The public can also engage on the invasive pests issue via Facebook and Twitter. HungryPests.com is optimized for mobile devices. Public service announcements in both English and Spanish will air on television and radio throughout April and at peak times for domestic travel this summer. APHIS has also been actively collaborating with a number of state partners who will conduct targeted stakeholder engagement on invasive pest issues with state-specific outreach materials.
Added Blue: “The USDA and its partners are fighting invasive pests on three fronts: abroad, at the border, and across the homeland. We’re also developing new tools, improving our systems, and working hard to educate the public on how they can join the fight and help stop the spread of invasive pests.”
There has been success in the fight against invasive pests. The Asian longhorned beetle, detected in Illinois in 1998, was declared eradicated from Illinois in 2008 with the help of local, state and federal partners and Illinois residents. The beetle was also declared eradicated from Hudson County, NJ; and Islip, NY. Extensive efforts by USDA and its partners in California reduced European grapevine moth populations in 2011 by 99.9 percent. That pest was first detected in California in 2009.
With Agriculture Secretary Vilsack’s leadership, APHIS works tirelessly to create and sustain opportunities for America’s farmers, ranchers and producers. Each day, APHIS promotes U.S. agricultural health, regulates genetically engineered organisms, administers the Animal Welfare Act, and carries out wildlife damage management activities, all to safeguard the nation’s agriculture, fishing and forestry industries. In the event that a pest or disease of concern is detected, APHIS implements emergency protocols and partners with affected states and other countries to quickly manage or eradicate the outbreak. To promote the health of U.S. agriculture in the international trade arena, APHIS develops and advances science-based standards with trading partners to ensure America’s agricultural exports, valued at more than $137 billion annually, are protected from unjustified restrictions.
Ants Top List of Concern for Homeowners
Homeowner Advice on Keeping Ants Away
As of 2006 there are 9,000 to 10,000 known ant species and researchers believe that there may be more than 20,000 species worldwide. With this fact in mind it is no surprise that 25% of homeowners listed ants as their main pest concern according to research conducted in 2005 by the National Pest Management Association. This same study revealed that more than half of all homeowners have had problems with ants – making them the most prevalent pest nationwide.
Ants are social insects and form highly organized colonies with up to millions of members each having a role. Spotting one ant unfortunately signifies that the troops are somewhere close by.
Homeowners should particularly watch out for fire and carpenter ants. Fire ants, found mainly in the south, are vicious and can sting repeatedly if disturbed. Carpenter ants attack wood that is or has been wet or damaged by mold and can build tunnels through dry, undamaged wood causing costly property damage.
Hulett Environmental Services offers the following tips for minimizing invasion by ants:
- Keep wood and debris away from exterior siding
- Keep kitchen clean: seal containers, wipe counters frequently, empty the garbage religiously, and avoid leaving pet food dishes out for long periods of time.
- Eliminate sources of moisture or standing water.
- Keep tree branches and other plants cut back from the house.
- Seal up cracks and small openings along bottom of the house.
- Store sugar, syrup, honey, baked goods, and other sweets in closed containers that have been washed to remove residues from their exterior surfaces.
For more information on other ant species and preventative tips visit
www.pestworld.org and www.bugs.com
By SUSAN DONALDSON JAMES
The brown recluse spider got some bad press again this week.
Nikki Perez, a fashion merchandising student at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, described how she lost part of an ear and nearly her eye sight to the venomous arachnid.
“It was terrifying,” she told the British Daily Mail newspaper. “It was spreading all over my head.”
Perez, 21, was stung at the Amarillo airport and was later hospitalized for five days in September. Her head swelled to twice its normal size and she needed a skin graft to rebuild the ear that had rotted from necrosis.
The Daily Mail sounded an alarm about a University of Kansas study by graduate student Erin Saupe, saying the “deadly” spider was “spreading … to a town near you.”
The study was published last year in the online journal PlosOne
The spider’s habitat is limited to the Southeast and Midwest, stretching from Kansas east to the Appalachian states.
But Saupe of the university’s Geology and Biodiversity Institute used computer modeling to predict how it’s habitat might move north to states such as Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and even New York.
Spiders are, after all, one of the top 10 phobias.
But Rick Vetter, the nation’s foremost expert on the brown recluse spider — loxosceles reclusa — said such media reports use “scare tactics,” and 90 percent of the time a bite causes nothing more than a red mark on the skin.
“These are distorted reports … hyperbolic media crap,” said Vetter, a research associate in the department of entomology at the University of California-Riverside.
A Kansas home, for instance, was infested with 2,055 brown recluse spiders for a period of 17 years and “not one” in the family of four was bitten, according to one of his studies, published in the Journal of Medical Entomology.
He said gnarly photos of Perez’s injuries looked authentic and he had known a 9-year-old who had lost an ear from necrosis. But such cases are rare.
The spider’s venom — sphingomyelinase D — induces red blood cell destruction. Symptoms can include pain at the site of the bite, itching, muscle and joint pain, as well as vomiting and fever.
“My crusade is to stop stupidity in the medical community,” Vetter said.
When doctors blame a skin lesion on the brown recluse, they might overlook other more serious conditions such as methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), diabetes or even lymphoma.
In a 2005 article he co-wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine, Vetter cited 40 other conditions that can cause necrosis often misdiagnosed as a spider bite.
Vetter was so tired of doctors blaming the much-maligned spider, he started the Brown Recluse Challenge. Of 1,800 specimens sent to him, only 350 turned out to be the real deal. And all were from the Midwest.
A brown recluse bite can be life-threatening in 10 percent of the cases, but Vetter estimates there are only one or two deaths a year, typically in small children.
Brown Recluse Spiders Could Head North
Vetter worked with Saupe on her master’s project, in which she tracked the spiders’ predicted migration through “ecological niche modeling.”
She used two models to predict the spider’s range in 2020, 2050 and 2080, given the effects of global warming, concluding they might move north but those left behind would die off.
Kansas is a “hotbed” for these spiders, said Saupe, who has predicted that they might become extinct by 2080 after the climate in their natural habitats becomes to warm and their mobility is restricted.
Most are reclusive, as their name suggests, and go nowhere near humans. Those that are threatened can sting, but often with just a “dry bite” that does not emit venom, Saupe said.
It is dormant part of the year, which means bites usually occur from April until October. They tend to come out at night and hide under bedding and clothes, in dark places.
Still, the spiders can be lethal.
ABCNews.com reported in 2010 on Victoria Franklin of Marietta, Ga., who had surgery to remove a necrotic breast after a brown recluse bite.
Franklin, 51, still has kidney and other medical problems related to the bite.
“I have no medical insurance at all,” she told ABCNews.com in an email. “Medication is also expensive. I have nine different medications that I have to take every day, sometime twice a day.”
Saupe’s study co-author, Paul Selden, said the species was “the commonest spider in my house” in Lawrence, where the paleontologist and arachnologist teaches at the University of Kansas Paleontological Institute.
“They are in the bathroom under my sink in the cupboard,” said Selden, a professor of invertebrate paleontology, or fossil spiders. “The problem is you leave a towel on the floor and it will scurry under there. In the morning, you pick up the towel and it may be on it.”
But Saupe, 27, said, “I love spiders. …Think about their ability to construct complex webs and catch food. It’s pretty amazing.”
While scientists are relatively blase about the dangers of the brown recluse, those who have been bit are not.
Jill Hardesty, now 47, encountered one when she was 6 and living in an old house in rural Missouri.
“It got me,” said Hardesty, an editor at the University of Kansas Paleontological Institute and still has the scar.
At first, her parents thought a red, quarter-sized lesion on her thigh was a boil, but when red lines began to crawl up her leg, they knew it was more serious.
“I remember getting injections into the site and I still ended up losing quite a bit of flesh,” she said. “I still have a divot on my thigh.
“I have always been creeped out by spiders,” Hardesty added. “I still shake out my clothes and my husband shakes his shoes out. I tell the kids [19 and 16] to check the bed before they crawl in if it’s been dormant for a week or so.
“We are pretty vigilant.”