To guard against the early emergence of pests, Hulett Environmental Services offers the following tips for homeowners:
- Maintain a one-inch gap between soil and wood portions of a building.
- Keep mulch at least 15-inches from the foundation.
- Seal cracks and small openings along the bottom of the house.
- Eliminate sources of moisture or standing water.
- Keep tree branches and other plants trimmed back from the house.
- Keep indoor and outdoor trash containers clean and sealed.
- Screen windows and doors.
- If you suspect a problem, contact a qualified pest professional who can recommend the best course of treatment.
The inside scoop on occasional invaders
Occasional invaders are pests that find their way into your home once in a while. They are typically looking for food, warmth, or just lost their way and stumbled into your home. Traditionally they are not disease-spreading pests and will not cause any kind of structural damage to your property.
Ladybugs, boxelder bugs, spiders, and cluster flies are all examples of this type of pests.
The good news about occasional invaders is that once they are inside they don’t reproduce or feed, but are just a nuisance with their presence. Some of these pests, like the ladybug, are actually beneficial pests! Remind yourself of this as you scoop them up from your windowsills during the winter months. Ladybugs feed on a wide range of insects making them a pest that you want to have around – just not INSIDE your home!
The best strategy for dealing with occasional invaders is preventing them from penetrating your home. However, once they are already inside, depending on your tolerance level you can remove small amounts of nuisance pests simply by vacuuming them up. If there are too many pests inside or if you have a lower pest tolerance, a pest control professional will be able to assist you in controlling your infestation. Just remember, if you vacuum them up you should remove the bag when finished. Seal it in a plastic bag and dispose of it with your normal garbage.
There are many steps homeowners can take to reduce the likelihood of occasional invaders:
- Keep all kitchen areas clean (including floors) and free of useless clutter. Kitchen appliances should be kept free of spills and crumbs. Clean shelves regularly and store foods such as cereal, flour, and dog food in resealable containers.
- Periodically sweep and vacuum floor areas in the kitchen, under furniture, and around dining areas.
- Keep garbage areas clean. Garbage should be stored in sealed containers and disposed of regularly.
- Seal cracks, crevices, and other gaps around doors and windows. Doors and windows should always be kept closed or well screened.
- Check pipes and pipe areas around the house for leaks, cracks and gaps and seal and patch any problems if necessary. Leaky faucets should also be fixed.
- Keep basements, attics, and crawl spaces well ventilated and dry. If you have mold and mildew in your home or office crawlspace, it’s a symptom of an excess moisture problem.
- Inspect boxes, grocery bags and other packaging thoroughly. Insects have also been known to come in on potted plants and in luggage.
Most blood-sucking insects urinate while they feed so they can avoid filling up on fluid and get more nutrients out of their meal.
But some species of mosquito also do what is called preurination – they excrete drops of freshly ingested blood without extracting any of the nourishing blood cells.
The behavior has always confused scientists because “blood is a very precious resource,” said Claudio R. Lazzari, an entomologist at François Rabelais University in Tours, France. “The risk of taking it is very high.”
New research, conducted by Dr. Lazzari and colleagues and published in the journal Current Biology, shows that the preurine may serve to keep the cold-blooded mosquitoes from overheating while they take their blood meal, which can be as warm as 104 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the host animal.
Roughly one to two minutes after she starts feeding, an Anopheles stephensi mosquito will excrete urine and preurine through the anus, at the end of the abdomen. Sometimes a drop of the fluid will form and cling to the body before falling off; when this happens, some fluid evaporates like sweat and cools the mosquito’s abdomen by almost four degrees.
Mosquitoes also feed on nectar, but they tend not to preurinate when they eat lower-temperature, sugar-based meals.
The mosquito is not the only insect that uses ingested food to regulate its temperature. Aphids excrete honeydew to prevent their abdomens from getting too hot, and some bee species regurgitate a bit of nectar to keep their heads cool while they fly.
There are no ants native to Hawaii, so whenever a researcher sees an ant, it’s an invader. While scouting for the long-established Argentine ant along Waipoli Road in 2009, University of Hawaii entomologist Paul Krushelnycky discovered an extensive field of odorous house ants.
It was a surprise, because although these ants are native to much of North America, they hadn’t been found in Hawaii before. In a research paper published in Myrmecological News (online in September, scheduled for print early next year; www.myrmecologicalnews.
org), Krushelnycky and Grzesiek Buczkowski, an entomologist at Purdue University, wonder whether it may signal a new wave of ant expansion.
Over the past century, tropical ants, including fire ants, have swept the world, but temperate zone ants have not been as adventurous.
The mysterious colony of odorous house ants in remote Waipoli raises more questions than it answers.
And while odorous house ants do not bite people or chomp on buildings, they could pose an additional threat to native insects by outcompeting them.
Krushelnycky said he is concerned because invaders have already made huge inroads at lower elevations, and the odorous house ant (Tapinoma sessile), which lives as far north as Canada, might find a home in the higher elevations of Haleakala National Park, where tropical ants find it too cold.
Odorous house ants have already found a happy home in Kula. In North America, they are inconspicuous, living in small colonies in leaf litter, but when they move to the city, or to warm Maui, they learn different habits.
The Waipoli infestation covers a huge area, about half a mile across at least, and it may be a supercolony. DNA testing will be needed to confirm that, but ant fights suggest it.
In the wild, odorous house ant colonies are small, with a single queen. In warm buildings at Purdue University in Indiana, Buczkowski said, they have formed supercolonies with 25,000 queens and 5 million workers.
By putting workers from different nests in a glass vial, Krushelnycky and Buczkowski observed whether they made antagonistic movements or got along quietly.
Ordinarily, ants from two nests would not get along. In Kula, the ants were peaceable, although less so the farther apart any two nests were, suggesting that all are closely related.
That does not mean the ants are gathered densely together. The nests are widely dispersed, and the ants share their territory with seven other species, including the Argentine ant and the big-headed ant.
This raises questions for the entomologists, because past work has found odorous house ants to be outcompeted by Argentine and big-headed ants. They seem to be holding their own in Kula, though.
Cas Vanderwoude, who devised a novel bait that allowed eradication of a colony of little fire ants in Waihee before they could irrevocably establish themselves, wrote in an email: “It’s really hard to predict what a new species will do once it arrives in a different environment. . . . Certainly Paul’s research on Argentine ants in midelevation parts of Maui show there could be cause for concern” with odorous ants as well.
“The issue here is that we have a very narrow window of opportunity to eradicate something once it is discovered. Without certainty about potential impacts, it is difficult to present an economic case for funding.”
Funding is scarce now, anyhow, and nobody knows how long the odorous ants have been at Waipoli, according to the researchers.
Because they already cover such a big area, Krushelnycky said he is doubtful they could be eliminated.
The little fire ant colony that was destroyed was in a much smaller area.
There is a difference of opinion about what odor odorous house ants emit.
They come from a family notable for the smelly defensive chemicals they make. Some think their smell is like coconut, although Krushelnycky said that, at best, it smells like rotting coconut to him.
Buczkowski described it to a Purdue journalist as reminiscent of pina colada.
Vanderwoude, who works in the Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit at the University of Hawaii-Hilo and with the state Department of Agriculture, participated in the Waipoli surveys, but he said he doesn’t know why Tapinoma smells as it does.
Many ants have distinctive smells (and tastes; Vanderwoude sometimes tastes ants). “There is another species in Australia that smells like mint-chocolate!” Vanderwoude wrote. But, “some ant species taste vile, so choose carefully!”
* Harry Eagar can be reached at email@example.com.
Hulett Environmental Services recommends the following steps to pest proof your home this winter:
- Seal up any cracks and holes on the outside of your home including areas where utilities and pipes enter your home. Frequent vacuuming can help to eliminate tiny pests that other pests feed on.
- Make sure vents are screened and gaps around windows and doors are sealed.
- Keep tree branches and shrubbery well trimmed and away from the house.
- Inspect boxes, grocery bags and other packaging thoroughly to curb hitchhiking insects.
- Keep basements, attics, and crawl spaces well ventilated and dry.
- Store garbage in sealed containers and dispose of it regularly.
- Store fire wood at least 20 feet away from the house and five inches off of the ground.
- Repair fascia and soffits and rotted roof shingles; some insects are drawn to deteriorating wood.
- Replace weather-stripping and repair loose mortar around the basement foundation and windows.
- Hulett Environmental is your best resource to ensure these steps are completed properly.
DUKE (US) — A new wirelessly powered telemetry system is lightweight and powerful enough to study the neurological activity of dragonflies as they capture prey on the wing.
Past studies of insect behavior have been limited by the fact that remote data collection, or telemetry, systems were too heavy to allow the insects to act naturally, as they would in the wild. The new system uses no batteries; its power is beamed wirelessly to the flying dragonfly.
Duke University electrical engineer Matt Reynolds, working with Reid Harrison at Intan Technologies, developed the chip for scientists at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), who are trying to better understand the complex flight control system of dragonflies.
They gather their information by attaching tiny electrodes to individual cells in the dragonfly’s nerve cord and recording the electrical activity of the dragonfly’s neurons and muscles. Because existing systems are so heavy, experiments to date have been carried out with immobilized dragonflies.
“Our system provides enough power to the chip attached to a flying dragonfly that it can transmit in real time the electrical signals from many dragonfly neurons,” Reynolds says. The researchers expect this system will enable studying behavior of small animals remotely for the first time.
Reynolds, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering, presented his work last week at the annual Biomedical Circuits and Systems Conference, held by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) in San Diego.
Tons of data
The wireless power transmitter works within a flight arena used for the experiments. It can send enough power to the chip to enable it to send back reams of data at over five megabits per second, which is comparable to a typical home Internet connection.
This is important, the scientists say, because they plan to sync the neuronal data gathered from the chip with high-speed video taken while the insect is in flight and preying on fruit flies.
“Capturing this kind of data in the past has been exceedingly challenging,” says Anthony Leonardo, a neuroscientist who studies the neural basis of insect behavior at HHMI’s Janelia Farm Research Campus in Virginia. “In past studies of insect neurons, the animal is alert, but restrained, and observing scenarios on a projection screen. A huge goal for a lot of researchers has been to get data from live animals who are acting naturally.”
Weighs less than a stamp
The average weight of the dragonfly species involved in these studies is about 400 milligrams, and Leonardo estimates that an individual dragonfly can carry about one-third of its weight without negatively impacting its ability to fly and hunt.
Currently, most multi-channel wireless telemetry systems weigh between 75 and 150 times more than a dragonfly, not counting the weight of the battery, which rules them out for most insect studies, he says. A battery-powered version of the insect telemetry system, previously developed by Harrison and Leonardo, weighs 130 milligrams—liftable by a foraging dragonfly but with difficulty.
The chip that Reynolds and his team developed is just 38 milligrams, or less than half the weight of a typical postage stamp. That makes it one-fifth the weight of earlier telemetry systems, but with 15 times greater bandwidth, Reynolds says.
The researchers expect to begin flight experiments with dragonflies over the next few months. The testing will take place in a specially designed flight arena at HHMI’s Janelia Farm complex equipped with nature scenes on the walls, a pond and plenty of fruit flies for the dragonflies to eat.
The chip, with two hair-thin antennae, will be attached to the belly of the insect so it does not interfere with the wings. Being carried like a backup parachute on the underside of the animal also gives it uninterrupted radio contact with the power transmitter on the ground.
The project is supported in part by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
More news from Duke University: http://today.duke.edu/
By Adrian Hunsberger firstname.lastname@example.org
Q. My plants are getting covered in white fluffy stuff and a black mold. Even my car is turning sticky. What can I do?
A: You sent me a sample of the gumbo limbo spiraling whitefly (the new name is the rugose spiraling whitefly). This pest has been in the Miami area for a few years and now infests much of southeast Florida. It is not a serious pest to most plants but it does create a mess.
You can treat infested plants yourself or hire a landscape pest control company. Use a soil applied systemic insecticide and always follow the label directions. This type of insecticide is available at garden centers, retail nurseries and agricultural supply companies. Many products last up to a year, so don’t apply them more often. They take a few weeks to work but they are long-lasting.
To learn more about whiteflies and other South Florida pests, visit this website: http://miami-dade.ifas.ufl.edu/ If you have questions, you can call your local University of Florida Extension office (Broward County 954-357-5270, Miami-Dade County 305-248-3311 x 228 or x 222, Monroe 305-292-4501, Palm Beach 561-233-1700).
“Don’t let the bedbugs bite” used to be just a cute expression to say before saying goodnight. Today, it’s an actual warning. Bedbugs are back and they continue to attack a variety of businesses, from clothing retailers to hotels to movie theaters. According to a new study by the National Pest Management Association, 95 percent of pest-control companies nationwide have had run-ins with bedbug infestations in the past year.
While bedbugs get all the attention, plenty of other interesting, rather ominous insects are out there wreaking havoc on consumers and costing companies millions. So if you feel like being unnerved by bedbugs isn’t enough and you’re wondering what other creepy, crawling critters your business should be scared of, check out this list.
What they threaten: California’s $1.3 billion citrus industry.
Modus operandi: The Asian citrus psyllid isn’t such a bad bug on its own, but it can carry the devious and deadly Huanglongbing (HLB) bacteria, which kills all varieties of citrus trees. And what’s truly sneaky is that it’s often not evident for years that a citrus tree has been infected, so if the owner of the trees isn’t aware of what’s going on, the psyllids continue to eat away at the tree, allowing HLB to continue to spread.
Fun fact: “The adult psyllid tilts its rear end up in the air when it feeds — a unique posture among citrus pests,” Grafton-Cardwell says.
Modus operandi: This metallic-green, beautiful-but-devastating insect is attempting to destroy 7.5 billion ash trees in the United States. They were first discovered in Michigan in 2002. How they got here is anyone’s guess, but most international insects travel to America for a better life as stowaways in luggage or on humans traveling on planes, or they burrow in cargo on ships or in packages sent through the mail. The emerald ash borer is now found in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Maryland. Pennsylvania’s trees, meanwhile, are the source for the Major League Baseball bats manufactured by the famed company Louisville Slugger, and the state has been girding itself for the emerald ash borer’s arrival but has so far kept them at bay.
Fun fact: Minnesota is introducing stingless wasps into the state to combat the emerald ash borer.
What they threaten: California’s $320 million avocado industry, where 90 percent of the nation’s avocados are grown, as well as the peach and apricot industries.
Modus operandi: They like to feed on avocados, which causes the plant’s leaves to fall prematurely. As the leaves fall too soon, the bark becomes sunburned, the fruit doesn’t grow properly and the avocado trees in general get stressed out.
Fun fact: The average persea mite only lives 15 to 40 days. The warmer the weather, the shorter the life. Sixty-seven degrees Fahrenheit seems to be the sweet spot.
Modus operandi: Crazy rasberry ants are named for exterminator Tom Rasberry, who first identified the critters in Houston in 2002. These ants bite humans and are oddly attracted to electrical equipment — they enjoy nesting in it and chewing it up. In fact, the NASA Johnson Space Center in Clear Lake City, Texas, had some crazy rasberry ant sightings and brought in Rasberry to exterminate them.
Modus operandi: Basically, this is the Asian version of the ladybug, and mostly, they’re harmless. But during the winter, they fly into buildings and crawl into windows, walls and attics. Before dying, they’ll often release an annoying stench and a yellow fluid that stains. But if you’re a fruit grower, you’ll be much more than annoyed. This is war. After all, these Asian lady beetles like to munch on peaches, apples and grapes, among other fruit, and as wine growers have found, if even just a small number of these beetles are accidentally processed along with the grapes, it can taint the wine’s flavor.
Fun fact:The Asian lady beetle’s stench, which you’ll discover if you try squashing them, Harrison says, “is their way of discouraging things from eating them.”Varroa Destructor
What businesses they threaten: The beekeeping industry — a $12 billion industry in the United States alone.
Modus operandi: The varroa destructor is a blood-sucking parasite, attacking both adults and kids. The juvenile honeybees born under the influence of a varroa destructor often are deformed, missing legs or wings. It’s a very bad situation for the bees and not a great one for the honeybee industry, and considering how we depend on bees to pollinate flowers and crops, it’s a bad situation for the world at large.
Fun fact:The varroa destructor was first discovered in Southeast Asia in 1904. They first turned up in the United States in 1987.
Brown Marmorated Stink Bug
What they threaten: Farmers, and they could embarrass some business owners in their own stores.
Modus operandi: Although the United States has plenty of stink bugs, this one first showed up in Pennsylvania in 1998. Since then, they’ve been attacking farmers’ crops, including apples, figs, peaches, citrus and mulberries. On the plus side, “Often, they just do cosmetic damage rather than actually destroying the fruit,” says Ron Harrison. Of course, try telling a potential customer the apple he’s eying isn’t as disgusting as it looks. As for getting into a place of business, they won’t — unless you have cracks around your windows or doors, or if they can find a way through the utility pipes or by invading your siding.
Fun fact: Once stink bugs move into your storefront, they will come year after year. They return because they can smell the odor they left behind. It’s kind of like leaving out a sign to other stink bugs that your establishment is a fun vacationspot.Coffee Borer Beetle
What they threaten: Hawaii’s coffee growers, an estimated $60 million industry.
Modus operandi: These insects, which are well-known in Central America and South America, were recently discovered in Hawaii by a University of Hawaii graduate student. The bug bores into the coffee cherry and lays its eggs. As soon as the larvae, the juvenile coffee borers, arrive on the scene, they instantly feeding on the coffee bean. Borers typically ruin about 20 percent of a crop and do an estimated $500 million in damage every year.
Fun fact: The coffee cherry borer is a small beetle, about the size of a sesame seed.