Hurray – summer is finally here! This is a glorious time of long hours of sun and warmth, walks and hikes, swimming, camping and barbecues. There’s something for everyone in the great outdoors.
But sometimes, don’t you just wish the mosquitoes, bees and other pests would get the memo about being on vacation and just leave you alone? Unfortunately, we all know there are downsides to communing with nature and enjoying our summer fun.
So, let’s go over some of the more common summer insects, why we should be concerned about them and what we can do to mitigate the problem. Remember —especially when it comes to summer insects — an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Bees, Hornets, Wasps and Yellowjackets
- The upside: They pollinate plants and flowers and help give us fruits and vegetables. They also eat other harmful pests such as grubs and flies.
- The downside: They dole out painful stings and give us anxiety about being stung. Unfortunately, millions of Americans are at risk for suffering severe allergic reactions.
Although typically a source of great anxiety for fear that they might sting you, in fact, bees and yellowjackets rarely do sting unless provoked. So, the number one rule is not to panic and swat at a bee when it comes for a visit. If it lands on your skin, just blow gently rather than smack at it. There are more aggressive species, particularly wasps that can sting in painful attacks if they feel threatened or you wander too close to their nest. While painful, most insect stings usually result in a limited local reaction, with pain and swelling. Unfortunately, about 3 percent of people have more widespread allergic reactions, with rash and hives. The most extreme cases of allergic reactions are called anaphylaxis and symptoms include tongue and throat swelling, wheezing, dizziness or even life threatening shortness of breath and drop in blood pressure. If these symptoms arise, call 911. If you are allergic to stinging insects you should know how to use an epinephrine kit and carry it with you at all times.
If stung and the stinger is still in place, first remove the stinger. Then clean the area with soap and cold water and apply ice. Benadryl and over-the-counter 1 percent hydrocortisone ointment may help calm the reaction. Consider taking a pain reliever as needed.
- The upside: Is there one?
- The downside: Mosquito bites are a common, insect-related reason parents seek medical help for their children. The local reactions and itchy lesions that are results of mosquito bites are no fun, but luckily, severe reactions are extremely uncommon.
Mosquitoes bite most intensely around dawn and dusk. If you must or want to be outside during those times, it’s best to be inside a screened-in porch or dressed in clothing that leaves very little exposed skin. Your best protection will be insect repellant, such as DEET or picaridin.
A mosquito bite typically results in a pink bump that itches. As tempting as it may be, don’t scratch it! Scratching only agitates the venom and increases your itching. In addition, over-scratching might cause breaks in the skin that can serve as a port of entry for bacterial superinfections. Although less common, some people can be more sensitive to mosquito bites and have more severe reactions, such as welts or hives. All bites should be washed with soap and cold water. Benadryl and over-the-counter 1 percent hydrocortisone cream may be indicated for intense itching and the larger reactions. If there are signs and symptoms of infection you may need to see your doctor for antibiotics.
Unfortunately, mosquitoes can leave more than a local reaction. Sometimes they may transmit infections like malaria, dengue, or West Nile Virus (WNV). Luckily, in the United States we rarely encounter malaria or dengue, but WNV has become widespread. The good news is that in most cases WNV is a mild and self-limited infection. Symptoms may be so light as to go unnoticed, or present as a “summer flu,” with mild body and headaches and low-grade fever. In rare and extreme cases WNV is a potentially life threatening infection. Symptoms include higher fever, head and body aches, confusion and worsening weakness and such symptoms should prompt you to seek medical attention.
- The upside: None.
- The downside: The serious illness that ticks can transmit, such as Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Babesia (“tick malaria”), amongst others.
Obviously, the best way to avoid ticks and their associated problems is to not pick them up in the first place, but that can be easier said than done. It’s a good idea to wear clothing that leaves less skin exposed that can act as a barrier to the ticks. So flip-flops, sandals, shorts and T-shirts are out when planning a hike to areas that are likely to have ticks. Wear boots and long socks, and remember to tuck your long pants into your socks when hiking. The best protection against ticks consists ofpermethrin-treated clothing and gear, combined with DEET applied to exposed skin.
Keep in mind that most ticks need to feed for hours before they can successfully transmit infections. So, it is very important that after hikes you do a full body check (including in the hair) to look for ticks. If removed promptly, the risk of infection decreases significantly.
If you do find a tick on your body or that of a family member or pet, it’s important to carefully remove the tick right away. Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick as this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. Avoid squashing the tick because spreading tick blood in the bite wound might increase the risk of infection. Once the tick is removed, clean the area with soap and water and perhaps an antiseptic. If you develop a rash, headaches, pains or fever, call your doctor immediately.
The lowdown on bug repellant
The good news is bug repellants really do work in deterring mosquitoes, ticks, biting flies, chiggers and other insects. The bad news is that they are ineffective against spiders and stinging insects, such as yellowjackets, wasps, bees or hornets.
The gold standard of insect repellant is DEET. It has been in use for more than 50 years and is recommended for use in persons above 2 months of age. The alternative repellant of choice is picaridin is also effective against mosquitoes, ticks, and sand flies.
FAIRFAX, Va., Jun 18, 2012 (BUSINESS WIRE) — Summer has barely begun but it’s likely many people have already encountered one of the season’s most ubiquitous pests — the mosquito. As is the case with many other insects, mosquitoes have made an early emergence after a mild winter and rainy spring. The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) warns that this might be one of the worst seasons yet, so break out the repellant.
“Mosquito season is highly dependent on rain events, and states are monitoring rainfall and pest management companies are applying treatments accordingly,” noted Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for NPMA. “This summer, mosquito numbers have the potential to grow significantly and it’s important for people to take precautions to avoid exposure.”
Although mosquitoes are known to carry a variety of diseases, West Nile virus (WNV) is of most concern in the United States.
“In most cases West Nile Virus is a mild infection with symptoms so slight they can go unnoticed, or feel like a summer flu. In extreme cases, it can be a potentially life threatening infection with higher fever, head and body aches, worsening weakness, confusion and even coma. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention,” advised Dr. Jorge Parada, medical spokesperson for the NPMA.
The NPMA offers the following tips to avoid becoming a mosquito meal:
– Eliminate areas of standing water around the home such as flowerpots, birdbaths, baby pools, grill covers and other objects where water collects. Mosquitoes need only about 1/2 inch of water to breed.
– Screen all windows and doors. Repair even the smallest tear or hole.
– Minimize outside activity between dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.
– If you must spend time outdoors during peak mosquito times, wear long pants and sleeves and use an insect repellant containing DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon-eucalyptus.
– If you are concerned about mosquito activity on your property, contact a pest management company or your local mosquito abatement district.
The NPMA, a non-profit organization with more than 7,000 members, was established in 1933 to support the pest management industry’s commitment to the protection of public health, food and property.
SOURCE: National Pest Management Association
The National Pest Management Association Offers Tips to Protect Dogs and Cats from Pests
Fairfax, VA (May 23, 2012) – As the weather warms everyone is spending more time outdoors, including dogs and cats. Just like us, pets are at risk for attracting ticks and fleas when outside, which can pose serious health risks. The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) reminds pet owners to take precautions to protect their pets from pests when outside this season.
“The NPMA predicted an especially heavy tick season, making it all the more important that pet owners understand the dangers posed by pests and learn how to prevent them,” says Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for the NPMA.
Ticks are one of the most common pet pests. Blacklegged deer ticks can spread Lyme disease to pets, which causes fever, decreased appetite, painful joints, limping and lethargy. In serious cases, kidney disease can also occur.
American dog ticks, which are larger than deer ticks, can spread Rock Mountain Spotted Fever and cause tick paralysis, which occurs when a female tick attaches near a pet’s spinal cord. Tick paralysis can lead to muscle weakness, loss of coordination and in some cases, death from respiratory failure as chest muscles become paralyzed.
Fleas are another common pet pest. They cause itchy, red bumps that lead to excessive scratching, anemia, dermatitis and tapeworms. Fleas can also infest a pet owner’s home when they fall off a pet onto bedding, carpets or furniture and reproduce.
The NPMA recommends these tips to protect your pet from pests:
- Check pets frequently for ticks and fleas. Be aware of excessive scratching and licking.
- Avoid walking dogs in tall grass, where fleas and ticks often hide.
- Bathe pets after walks or playtime with other animals.
- Frequently wash pet bedding, collars and plush toys.
- Wash bed linens and vacuum carpets, floors and furniture frequently.
- If you suspect a pest problem, contact a licensed pest professional immediately.
Recent storms have brought much needed rain to Central Florida. But along with greener lawns and springtime blooms come the unwelcome mass of mosquitoes.
Mosquito control authorities in Orange and Volusia counties are breaking out their arsenal of trucks and helicopters rigged with spraying equipment to keep the insects at bay.
But Jim McNelly, director of the Volusia County Mosquito Control Division, said it’s up to residents to make sure their homes aren’t turned into breeding grounds.
The tiny bloodsuckers are a mainstay in soggier climates but it may be surprising to know just how little water is needed for mosquito populations to thrive. They can lay eggs and grow in water collected in objects as small as bottle caps left behind in the rain.
Volusia mosquito control is responsible for nearly 350,000 acres of land – most of it taken up by the salt marshes east of Interstate 95. But this season, authorities in both Volusia and Orange counties are placing extra emphasis on “container species” that can grow in residents’ backyards.
McNelly said those “containers” could be anything from tree holes to bird baths, dog dishes and kid’s toys.
“And those mosquitoes are active during the day,” McNelly said. “They are out an about when you’re out and about.”
“There has been a resurgence of Yellow Fever Mosquitoes in Central Florida,” McNelly said. “Though we’ve seen no connection (to the disease) here, we’re vigilant.”
Although Dengue Fever has not been a major issue in the past, Dain Weister, spokesman for the Orange County Health Department said it’s important for residents to remember the two cases of West Nile Virushere in 2010. One of the infected died.
And although there were no cases reported in Orange in 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that there were 24 cases across Florida last year. Only eight states had more cases, the CDC reported.
“That’s why it’s so important for all of us to remember to protect ourselves,” Weister said. “Not only can you get sick but in some cases you can die from it.”
Both McNelly and Columbus Holland, supervisor of operations with Orange County Mosquito Control say those who are worried about the environmental affects of the nightly bug spraying can be at ease.
Minnows and bacteria that eat mosquito larvae before they take flight are used in the salt marshes in Volusia and once the bugs grow wings, the sprayers are loaded with Spinosad, a chemical that won the Designing Greener Chemicals Award in 2010.
Orange County uses a chemical called Permethrin, which Holland said is no more dangerous than household insecticide.
“It’s the same as a can of Raid,” he said. “Everything we use can be bought at Publix.”
McNelly added that the widespread spraying makes life in Florida more bearable this time of year.
“There’s a reason Mosquito Lagoon is called Mosquito Lagoon,” he said. Without the counties’ intervention, he said, the mosquito problem would be “almost intolerable.”
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MyFOXOrlando.com: Experts Warn of Mosquito Population Explosion
ORANGE COUNTY, FL – Perhaps the biggest obstacle to enjoying the outdoors in Florida in the summer is dealing with all the mosquitoes, and this year, several southern states are issuing warnings about the annoying insects.
The mild winter has many experts fearing a big bug outbreak. Some believe it could be the worst year on record for mosquitoes. Experts say if you live anywhere along Florida’s coastline, you had better break out your bug spray.
Dr. Thomas Breaud monitors and studies mosquitoes for Orange County and says populations are not out of hand so far, thanks in part to our recent drought.
“A lot of times people will say we had a mild winter — this is ‘X’ therefore we’re going to have ‘Y’ and that’s not always the case. What I can tell you is a mild winter certainly didn’t help us.”
With the ever present threat of encephalitis and West Nile virus, Dr. Breaud said we should always be on guard against mosquitoes carrying disease.
“It just takes the right conditions for them to spill out of the bird populations, because they’re bird diseases. If the conditions are right, they can get into us. They can get into horses, and they can cause death!”
Numbers from Orange County show some mosquito species are down this year while others are up, but experts say mosquitoes breed quickly. It could be a totally different story this time next week.