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West Palm Beach County: West Nile Virus Detected

West Palm Beach County: West Nile Virus Detected

According to Gary Detman at CBS 12, as of October 17th, West Nile Virus has been detected in the western part of Palm Beach County. Over 60 sub-species of mosquitoes that like to lay their eggs in stagnant water can carry West Nile Virus. Because mosquitoes thrive in Florida’s tropical climate, the Florida Health Department uses sentinel chickens as an early warning system for diseases. These chickens play an essential role in detecting mosquito-borne diseases in Florida. Blood samples are extracted weekly from flocks of sentinel chickens placed strategically around Florida counties and tested for the presence of antibodies to West Nile Virus, Eastern Equine encephalitis, and St. Louis encephalitis.

West Nile Virus

A flavivirus, this genus also includes dengue fever, tick-borne encephalitis virus, yellow fever virus, Zika virus, and several other viruses which may cause encephalitis. Named from the yellow fever virus, most of these viruses are transmitted from an infected arthropod, mosquito, or tick and so are classified as arboviruses. FloridaHealth.gov says that first identified in Uganda in 1937, West Nile Virus was introduced to the US by way of New York in 1999 and by 2001, it had reached Florida. Now considered endemic to the US mainland, West Nile Virus has been identified in all US states except Alaska and Hawaii.  Annual epidemics of West Nile Virus are not uncommon in some parts of the country during the summer.

Fortunately, West Nile Virus only affects 1 in 5 people

Most people infected with West Nile Virus, around 80%, show no symptoms; however, some do develop mild flu-like symptoms, with fever, nausea, headaches, and fatigue, along with body aches and pains. Less than 1% of people with West Nile Virus develop the most severe form of the disease, neuro invasive West Nile Virus that can involve meningitis and encephalitis, escalating into irreversible neurological damage, paralysis, coma, and death, according to FloridaHealth.gov. Because no vaccine has been developed to combat West Nile Virus, “We are constantly monitoring for mosquito-borne diseases like West Nile Virus,” said Health Department Director, Dr. Alina Alonso. She added, “With these continued confirmations from the state lab of the presence of West Nile Virus, it is a good reminder for all to take the necessary preventative measures.”

How can you reduce mosquito populations?

Here are some tips you may want to review for protecting yourself and your family from mosquitoes:

The necessary measures include applying insect repellent

With confirmed cases of West Nile Virus in Belle Glade, Pahokee, and Jupiter Farms in western Palm Beach County, health officials recommend that residents in South Florida apply insect repellent with DEET. Recently, DEET has been used extensively to protect against other mosquito and tick-borne illnesses, such as equine encephalitis and Lyme disease. While DEET has been protecting people from gnats, ticks, mites, and other bloodsucking arthropods since 1973, concerns about the adverse effects of DEET on the nervous system has driven some people to seek other mosquito repellents. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cites (EPA)-registered insect repellents that have been proven safe, “even for pregnant and breastfeeding women.” Surprising to some, these include DEET, as well as the following:

  • Picaridin
  • IR3535
  • Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE)
  • Para-methane-diol (PMD)
  • 2-undecanone

These insect repellents should be used according to the manufacturer’s directions. When using DEET, officials say, “less is more.”

Wear appropriate clothing

In order to minimize the use of DEET and other repellents, wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and closed toe shoes when hiking or walking in wooded areas.

Think about the time of day

Mosquitoes tend to show up early in the morning or at dusk to feed on unsuspecting hosts. Plan outdoor activities at other times when mosquitoes aren’t as active. Steering clear of the woods at dusk or dawn can help avoid mosquito bites.

Eliminate standing water

The best ways to discourage mosquitoes breeding in your backyard? Get rid of objects that can trap water. Store kids’ toys, extra planters, and empty plant containers in a shed or storage building. Drill holes in recycling containers to allow water to drain out. Removing clutter and debris in your yard can help eliminate areas where water can collect. Changing the water in pet bowls and birdbaths every other day can reduce the odds that mosquitoes will breed in your yard. Ensuring that downspouts are draining properly, away from your house, in addition to correcting any water-prone areas in your yard helps keep mosquitoes from moving in close to a food source – you, your family, and your pets.

Screens and doors

Repair or replace torn screens in doors and windows around your home. You can use mosquito-netting to keep mosquitoes out of strollers and baby carriages.

Contact a professional

In May, the CDC’s report indicated that vector-borne diseases are on the rise in the US due to global travel and a warming planet. If you suspect mosquitoes might be breeding in your backyard, contact a trusted pest control professional, such as Hulett Environmental Services to inspect your property.

Our technicians address potential mosquito breeding areas, treating them with a residual product, and applying a sticking agent to the places mosquitoes tend to rest during the day. Additionally, we treat all doorways and windows with a microencapsulated product that creates a mosquito barrier around your home. Take back your backyard from mosquitoes.

Contact us to schedule a free mosquito inspection. Just call Hulett!

Revealing the Truth Behind Four Pest Removal Myths

Four Pest Removal Myths

Since the beginning of households, household pests have been attracted to places where people eat, drink and stay warm. It’s simple. People + home = food, water, and shelter for bugs. Rodents have coexisted alongside humans so long that Norway rats no longer exist in the wild. Most pests can subsist on very little water and food; you probably won’t even notice the deficit until you find ants foraging in your kitchen or mouse droppings in your pantry. So, in the ongoing humans vs. pests battle, humans have come to believe some pretty silly things about pest control that are now ingrained in our collective consciousness as fact, when most of these methods are merely myths.

The science is not always behind our beliefs about pests

The way we understand pests relates to our often-misunderstood view of the world we live in. In Aristotle’s day, the philosopher hypothesized that through “spontaneous generation,” animals somehow merely manifested from certain forms of matter. For example, if you saw ants around a honey spill or mice in the barley bin, that’s where these pests came from. The most amazing thing about the theory of spontaneous generation? People believed it until 1859 when Louis Pasteur, the father of modern hygiene, isolated different substances turning Aristotle’s theory on its head.

Pest Removal Myths

Myth 1 – Out of sight, out of mind

If you had bugs or rodents, you’d see them, right? Not necessarily. Household pests tend to hide out. Rodents can squeeze through tiny holes in your foundation through vents and other entryways. Mice and rats can take up residence in your walls or attic, start families and attract feasting insects such as roaches and flies to your home. The occasional moth that you see near your pantry is actually the adult stage of eggs laid in your dry goods such as the flour.

Myth 2 – Put food away, pests will go too

Sounds good. Put away food, pests will go other places to find food. But here’s the thing – you can’t just hide food behind cupboard doors and hope pests don’t find it because they will, unless you take precautions to store flour, sugar, and other dry goods including pet foods in metal, glass, or hard plastic containers (which don’t offer a guarantee either). Rodents can chew through plastic and paper bags as well as boxes.

Myth 3 – Hot peppers get rid of pests

Humans not wanting to use chemicals to resolve pest issues often turn to natural alternatives to eliminate pests. Some people believe that capsaicin, the substance that gives chili peppers their heat works to deter pests from their original target but they will just move on to other food sources within your home. Insects perceive capsaicin as an actual heat source and just relocate to cooler areas.

Myth 4 – Ultrasonic devices questionable

On the same wavelength as red peppers, more humans are looking for non-chemical solutions to pest issues. For a while, ultrasonic devices flooded the pest control market. The effectiveness of these devices on pests is questionable. Unless you just want to drive your dog crazy, ultrasonic devices don’t work on pests the same way different frequencies might on your dog. While pests might detect ultrasonic frequencies, they simply don’t head for the hills in response to them, as advertised.

How Hulett can Help Keep Your Home Pest Free

Because South Florida is home to many household pests, including structural damaging termites, it is important for proactive homeowners to get on board with a professional pest control company in order to prevent and monitor pest-prone areas, year-round. Hulett’s Healthy Home programs act to create a pest barrier around your property to safeguard against intruders. With 50 years of experience across South Florida, our entomologist-trained technicians are experienced and ready to help you. Contact us to schedule a free pest inspection or schedule one online.

Take the myth out of pest control for your home. Just call Hulett!

Recent Discovery: Female Termites Who Don’t Need Males to Reproduce

Recent Discovery: Female Termites Who Don't Need Males to Reproduce

On September 24, 2018, media outlets reported the discovery of the first known naturally-occurring all female termite colonies in remote coastal areas of southern Japan. Published in the journal, BMC Biology, University of Sydney’s School of Life and Environmental Sciences biologist, Toshihisa Yashiro and his team reported that, while engaged in fieldwork in southern Japan, they happened upon several populations of Glyptotermes nakajimai termites that appeared to be “exclusively female.” Knowing that the only way these populations could sustain themselves would be through asexual reproduction, Yashiro and his team set out to prove their theory.

Hard to believe at first

Because termite populations generally consist of equal numbers of males and females, not unlike humans, animals, and other gender-equal societies, Yashiro explained, “Both males and females work equally to make the society function.” In most termite societies, females and males function as soldiers and workers and the males are important for reproduction. “Our paper is the first demonstration that termites can do away with males completely,” said Yashiro, “by the evolution of an asexual lineage, and get along fine just with females,” Newsweek reported.

A broad and thorough study showed geographic differences in termite populations

Proving their theory involved a study conducted over the course of one and a half years, where the team painstakingly examined thousands of tiny termites with barely distinguishable sexual characteristics from ten field sites across Japan’s mainland and a number of adjoining islands. The researchers discovered geographic differences in termite populations. On Japan’s largest and most populous island, Honshu, in addition to offshore islands, Amami-Oshima, Okinawa and Ogasawara, the equal gender percentages held fast but the researchers found that on the smaller two of Japan’s major islands, Shikoku and Kyushu, males were conspicuously absent.

Just to be sure the all-female colonies reproduced by asexual reproduction

Even though Yashiro’s team inspected “over 100 individuals from each of 74 separate colonies,” the defining evidence came from examining the pouches, called “spermathecae” where queens store sperm for their sole activity, reproduction. In the mixed-sex colonies these pouches contained a storehouse of semen, while in the all-female populations, these pouches were empty.

Unfertilized eggs in all-female colonies seal the deal

Delving deeper, researchers examined hundreds of eggs, finding that almost half of the eggs from mixed-sex populations were fertilized, while none of the eggs from the all-female colony had been inseminated. Still, the eggs from both colonies hatched at the same rate. Yashiro and his colleagues concluded that on Japan’s mainland, the southernmost regions appeared to only support thriving colonies of uncontacted virgin termites.

Why did exclusively female termite populations evolve?

If you’re asking why did these female-only populations evolve in the first place, you’re not alone. Yashiro’s project looked to sort this mystery out. Measuring the heads of the mixed-sex colonies and the all-female termite populations, the researchers found that the female-only members looked a great deal more alike than the mixed-sex termites, no surprise there. Because termites aren’t built to fight off intruders, with no special body armor to speak of, they often use their heads to plug the entrances to their nests. The more uniform the colony’s heads, the easier to defend themselves, Yashiro suspects. According to Smithsonianmag.com, “a variety of head sizes could actually be a burden rather than a boon, meaning the loss of males may have actually empowered these female fighters to survive an assault.”

Weighing in, the scientific community is impressed and excited about the findings

Insect sociobiologist and behavioral ecologist at Northeastern University, Rebeca Rosengaus, who wasn’t involved in the study described Yashiro and his colleagues’ work as thorough and very comprehensive. “That is completely new and exciting,” Rosengaus said, noting that no former study had shown “a complete elimination of males.”

In the big picture

Most termites are monogamous, mating for life during a nuptial flight, where they settle down and raise colonies of their own, divided into caste systems, like bees. While termite colonies can have male and female soldiers, the entire working population in bee societies are female, with a few stingless males and a reproductive king.

Recently, some bees have been identified that hatch females from unfertilized eggs by doubling up on the mother’s chromosomes. This allows females to produce offspring from unfertilized eggs without the need for sperm. Now, it appears that termites can engage in similar, no sperm required, reproduction but unlike bee societies, termite colonies that eliminate males could completely turn the existing social structure on its head, evolving into new species of wood-eating machines.

Report indicates that males aren’t essential in animal societies

As Yashiro pointed out, “[It’s] dramatic that . . . males are not essential for the maintenance of animal societies in which they previously played an active social role.” Diversity may be the reason termite colonies haven’t “transitioned to chastity” at this point in their evolution. Termite populations with mixed male and female genes develop diversity in their colonies that facilitates the survival of colonies during extreme conditions and environmental changes. Further study will determine if all-female colonies can withstand microbial diseases and environmental disruptions in colonies.

Back in South Florida, termites, especially invasive Asian and Formosan termites present an urgent and immediate concern. For the integrity of your home or business, contact Hulett to schedule a free termite inspection and get proactive support with Hulett’s annual termite protection plans. Protect your sanity and your home from termites.

Just call Hulett!

How Moths Can Ruin Your First Sweater Weather Day

How Moths Can Ruin Your First Sweater Weather Day

With the fall season upon us, it may be time to break out your sweaters. You look forward to the change in the seasons but what’s this? Holes in your favorite sweaters? How could this be? Well, most likely clothes moths laid their eggs on your sweaters and other wool, fur and animal-based materials in your closet. When clothes moth eggs hatch, the natural fibers in your sweaters, especially wool, provide a bountiful food supply for clothes moth larvae.

It’s not just your clothes . . .

As it turns out, clothes moths possess the ability to digest keratin, a major protein present in products containing natural fibers. Clothes moths don’t stop there though, they’re also known to attack upholstered furnishings, pet food and, powdered milk. According to the University of Florida (UF)/Institute of Food and Agricultural Science (IFAS) website,

  • Animal products are fair game for clothes moths, including bristles, dried hair, and leather.
  • Larvae infest materials containing food spills, such as oils, dried meat, and cereal products.
  • Lint and paper are likable feed for larvae.
  • Larvae feed on combinations of natural and synthetic fibers butnot solely synthetic fibers.
  • In nature, larvae have been discovered infesting hair, pollen, dead insects and animal remains.

Adult clothes moths do not feed on fabrics but their larvae do

Like many other moths, according to Science ABC’s website, adult clothes moths do not eat at all! Aside from the fact they’re just too busy trying to grow their populations, adult clothes moths do not have mouthparts and unlike pantry moths and moths that love porchlights, adult clothes moths are not attracted to light. When exposed to light, adult males will fly and female will crawl towards the darkness. This is one way you can tell the difference between pantry moths and clothes moths. Moths flying out of your cabinets and heading for your indoor lamps give themselves away as pantry moths.

Two types of clothes moth adults

Generally, two types of clothes moths cause problems in your closets; both belong to the Tineidae family of small moths are considered important pest insects.

Webbing clothes moths: Yellowish-gold in color, adults range from ¼- to ½-inch in length. Webbing clothes moths’ heads appear gold or yellow, with broad lance-like wings, somewhat rounded at the tips, held like tents above their abdomens, when at rest.

Case-making clothes moths: Similar in size to webbing clothes moths, case-making moths’ front wings are browner than webbing moths with three dark spots on their front wings.

Destructive larvae

Both webbing clothes moths and case-making clothes moth larvae emerge as 1/16-inch white caterpillars with dark heads. Spinning webs as they alter your wardrobe, case-making clothes moth larvae produce silken tubes that they remain inside of as they grow, protecting them from predators and the environment. Webbing clothes moth casings, on the other hand, are attached to, and often located in protected hems and seams. Because webbing moth casings are attached to the sweater buffet, webbing moths feed in one area. By contrast, case-making moths are more mobile, hauling their casings around with them damaging your favorite fashions in a variety of areas.

Keep out! Pupating, duh!

When clothes moths are ready to grow out of their juvenile delinquent phases, they storm off to their rooms, lock their doors and create spindle-like cocoons, in order to pupate. After 10 to 12 days in warm weather and up to four weeks in the winter, adult clothes moths emerge ready to make more babies that will love to eat your sweaters.

With life cycles ranging from two months to two years, male clothes moths generally outlive females, continuing to mate throughout their lives. Depending on the temperature, female clothes moths can deposit 100 to 150 eggs at a time on products that their young will devour. These eggs aren’t affixed very firmly to products and can become easily dislodged. After five or so days, larvae possessing mouthparts for chewing and spinning silk, emerge and grow to about ⅓-inch before entering their pupation stages.

Stop the madness, mothproof your closets for next season

The most effective method of clothes moth control involves diligent housekeeping. Regularly vacuuming and sweeping closets and storage areas sounds tedious but it can make a huge difference when dealing with tiny pests. Periodically investigate ducts, attics, and areas where dust and bugs tend to accumulate. When storing clothes for an extended period of time, consider dry cleaning or laundering items before you store them in airtight containers. Periodically brush stored items and check for any signs of clothes moths.

Clothes moth control

To address current clothes moth infestations, South Florida homeowners can try freezing or heating clothes affected by moths, along with dry ice fumigation. While mothballs were once used, these little chemical bombs have fallen out of use, due to their suspected health risks, including nausea, headaches, respiratory issues, as well as accidental ingestion by children and pets. Cedar and cedar-lined closets can deter clothes moth larvae at an early stage but do not affect larger larvae and adult moths.

Take the worry out of eliminating clothes moths

Homeowners can purchase commercial products that can reduce clothes moth populations but these products can damage clothes and only work for a limited amount of time. Find the peace of mind you deserve by contacting a professional company to pest-proof your South Florida home.

Contact Hulett, your local family-owned and operated, environmentally responsible pest control company. Our integrated pest management system uses baiting systems and other high quality, odorless materials and pin-pointed, low dose chemical treatments when necessary, to eliminate and prevent pests in your home or business.

Hulett’s Healthy Home approach offers programs that work to create a pest barrier around your property, year-round. We guarantee you’ll be satisfied with our services, during sweater season and every season.

To schedule a free pest inspection, just call Hulett at (866) 611-BUGS.

DIY Bug Costumes for Halloween

DIY Bug Costumes for Halloween

It’s almost here, that one night a year when kids and adults alike dress up in silly, funny or scary costumes and wander the streets in search of candy and other more sinister types readily give kids enough candy to last a year. Yes, Halloween’s creeping up on us, begging the question, “What are you going to be for Halloween?” Here at Hulett, we’ve got some fun bug costume ideas for little ones and the big kid in all of us.

Do-it-yourself costumes

Of course, you can buy all manner of bug costumes online and at retail outlets but making your own can be a lot less expensive and way more fun and unique. All you need is a few everyday items, like a long sleeve black shirt, a few accents like an antennae headband and some easy to follow instructions. What are the most popular bug costumes this Halloween? If you guessed, spider, bumble bee, butterfly or ladybug, you’d be right, with spider costumes topping the list.

Check out the infographic below for all the supplies and easy to follow step-by-step instructions for each of the bug costumes.

DIY Bug Costumes for Halloween Infographic

For more involved DIY bug costumes, such as dragonfly and walking stick bug costumes, checkout DIY bug costumes on Pinterest. Bug costumes are big this Halloween at Hulett.

Go ahead and bug out this Halloween but for real South Florida household pest concerns and year-round protection from bugs, contact Hulett to schedule a free pest inspection at a time that works for your busy lifestyle.

Happy Halloween! We’re here for you! Just call Hulett!

Take Precautions Against Viruses Caused by Mosquito Bites

Take Precautions Against Viruses Caused by Mosquito Bites

On Sept 6, the University of Florida (UF) and the Institute of Food and Agricultural Science (IFAS) published an article on its blog that stressed the importance of Florida residents and visitors protecting themselves against biting mosquitoes. Due to unusually high levels of mosquito-borne viruses detected in sentinel test chickens, as well as in horses and humans so far this year, entomology professor Jonathan Day with UF/IFAS said, “Floridians need to be aware of mosquito-borne disease risk and protect themselves from mosquito bites, especially from dusk to dawn.” The professor went on to say, “People with outdoor evening activities should take precautions to avoid mosquito bites.” Day outlined these precautions, which included “wearing protective clothing and using insect repellants, preferably those that contain 5 percent to 20 percent DEET as the active ingredient from now through early December.”

Mosquitoes transmitting eastern equine encephalitis and West Nile virus

Infected mosquitoes transmitting the eastern equine encephalitis virus (Triple E) and West Nile Virus pose threats to humans and horses all over Florida. Day, a faculty member at the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory in Vero Beach, Florida said, “Both of these viruses can cause severe disease in humans and horses.”

Eastern equine encephalitis rare in humans

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that Triple E is rare in humans. With only a few cases reported annually, it is considered one of the most severe mosquito-transmitted diseases in the US. Most infected humans show no symptoms of the disease. In severe cases, a sudden onset of high fever, headaches chills and vomiting can indicate infection. As it progresses, victims may experience disorientation, progressing into seizures or coma.

Other mammals and birds contract Triple E but the disease mostly affects horses

Horses, pigs, rodents, white-tail deer and a variety of birds can contract this deadly disease that affects the central nervous system and can cause brain damage as well as death. Contracted through the bite of a female mosquito, the mortality is high among mammals, and is highest among horses, hovering around 90%. Symptoms of Triple E in horses starts with a fever that can reach 106 degrees Fahrenheit for up to two days. Additional symptoms begin to develop one to three weeks later due to the fever and brain lesions. These symptoms range from drowsiness to hyperactivity, difficulty breathing, the inability to swallow, paralysis and death. According to Day, 51 horses, mostly in north Florida, have “tested positive for eastern equine encephalitis, and most have died.”

Most West Nile Virus victims don’t develop symptoms

According to the CDC, 8 out of 10 people infected with West Nile virus don’t develop symptoms and 1 in 5 West Nile virus-infected humans develop a fever accompanied by “headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash.” Most people experiencing this type of West Nile virus make a full recovery; however, fatigue and weakness can linger for weeks or months.

  • Serious cases of West Nile virus can occur in all age groups but people over 60 seem to be at greater risk, as well as people with compromised health conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, hypertension and people with recent organ transplants.
  • Recovery may take weeks or months, and some damage to the central nervous system may be irreversible.
  • Because severe West Nile virus illnesses affect the central nervous system, 1 out of 10 victims die.

Currently, the CDC says, no vaccine or specific antiviral treatment to prevent West Nile virus exists and treatment is limited to “over-the-counter pain relievers to reduce fever and relieve symptoms.” In severe cases, victims should seek professional healthcare to receive intravenous fluids and pain medications under the care of a nurse. Consult a healthcare provider if you suspect that you or your loved ones have been infected with West Nile virus.

Monitoring with sentinel chickens

UF/IFAS entomologists along with many other public health and mosquito control programs test sentinel chickens to monitor for mosquito-borne diseases. Sentinel chickens play a major role in disease and detection in Florida. Currently, seven sentinel flocks in Charlotte County, near Ft. Myers, are placed around the county at strategic locations. Once a week, a small sample of blood is extracted from these sentinel chickens and prepped, separating the serum out in a centrifuge. These samples are then sent to the Department of Health Virology Lab in Tampa where they are tested for the presence of antibodies to West Nile virus, Eastern equine encephalitis and St. Louis encephalitis. When a chicken tests positive, mosquito control sprays the area where the chicken was located. Chickens that test positive are retired from the program and replaced by “sterile” chickens from the home flock. Not posing any threat to humans or animals, as they can’t pass on the virus, the retired chickens, known as “dead-end hosts” are donated to local farms and 4-H groups.

Day said that, as of “August 25, 139 sentinel chickens in 12 counties tested positive for the EEEV antibody,” and that most of the sentinel chickens are located in North Florida, from Orange to Nassau counties. At the same time, monitoring for West Nile virus, 165 sentinel chickens in 15 Florida counties tested positive. These antibody-positive sentinel chickens were located in a wide range that includes Walton County in the Florida panhandle to Charlotte County on Florida’s Gulf coast.

Cases of eastern equine encephalitis and West Nile virus in humans in several counties

UF/IFAS entomologists reported that three cases of eastern equine encephalitis in humans were discovered in three counties: Taylor, Columbia, and Volusia. Additionally, one case of West Nile virus was found in a Levy County horse and seven cases of humans contracting West Nile virus have been reported in Bay, Nassau, Duval, and Manatee counties.

Hulett would like to emphasize the importance of South Florida residents and visitors heeding the UF/IFAS recommendations and practice vigilance when outdoors through early December. Also, keep an eye on water prone areas on your property and eliminate stagnant water that may collect in plant containers, kids’ toys and poorly functioning downspouts to avoid creating breeding grounds for mosquitoes on your property.

If you can’t enjoy your yard due to mosquito activity, contact Hulett to schedule a free mosquito inspection. Don’t let mosquitoes ruin your backyard fun! Just call Hulett!

 

And Though She be Little, She is Fierce . . . We’re Talking Ants Here

fascinating facts about ants

Ants can test the patience of most people with their persistent foraging, gathering and trailing up walls in Florida homes. However, even though we’re frustrated by common nuisance ants from the time we were children, a fascination for the industrious ant has inundated popular culture. Many cartoons depict ants in the throes of various non-stop activities, from carrying off an entire picnic, including the picnickers, to teaching lessons to a happy-go-lucky grasshopper in Disney’s 1934, Silly Symphony, to the adventures the Ant-man and the Wasp in Marvel’s summer 2018 film. From ant farms to Atom Ant to Adam Ant, we’re quite possibly obsessed with ant imagery and narratives because, well, let’s face it, ants are just interesting little pests.

Take, for example, these fascinating facts about ants:

Ants appeared on Earth when dinosaurs roamed the planet

According to archaeological data, humans showed up on Earth some two million years ago, evolved from their Australopithecine ancestors into Homo sapiens. Scientists estimate that ants showed up in the mid-Cretaceous period, some 110-130 million years ago. This means that ants survived dinosaurs, the Ice Age and a number of drastic changes on Earth, even the evolution of humans.

Ants are ubiquitous; they’re global

With the exception of Antarctica, the Arctic and a few isolated islands, ants can be found in all other parts of the globe. In fact, Argentine ants, common to South Florida, California, Japan and the Mediterranean have established supercolonies on six continents, in at least 15 countries in the last century. An aggressive invasive species, Argentine ants disrupt ecosystems by displacing other ant species that provided the food source for some native animals.

Ants outnumber humans one million to one

Currently, an estimated seven billion humans inhabit the Earth. That’s a lot of people but not when you consider that, according to current data, ten quadrillion ants share the planet with us.

“Ants are arguably the greatest success story in the history of terrestrial metazoa,” says entomologist, Ted Schultz, in a PNAS article.  “On average, ants monopolize 15–20% of the terrestrial animal biomass, and in tropical regions where ants are especially abundant, they monopolize 25% or more.”

Ants can lift way more than they weigh

Ridiculously strong, ants can not only lift but can carry 10 to 50 times their own body weights, depending on the species. In an award-winning photo, the BBC shows an Asian weaver ant lifting 100 times its own weight. Reportedly, according to researchers at Arizona State University, ants’ incredible strength is due to their small size. Yes, ASU researchers found that “Because ants are so small, their muscles have a greater cross-sectional area (they are thicker) relative to their body size than in larger animals. This means they can produce more force pound-for-pound (or in the case of an ant, milligram-for-milligram).”

Ants don’t have lungs

Because ants can’t accommodate a respiratory system as complex as humans in their small bodies, ants rely on spiracles, a series of holes on the sides of their bodies to transport and distribute oxygen to most cells in their bodies. Movement helps oxygen circulate through the spiracles or tubes and helps release carbon dioxide as well. This revelation sheds new light on possibly why ants adhere strictly to their superior work ethic and beg the question; if ants stop moving, do they slowly expire?

Ants are listening but their ears aren’t like ours

While ants and other insects don’t sport ears on their heads like humans, canines, felines, and rodents, most insects rely on tympanal organs that act like eardrums. A discovermagazine.com article revealed that “Grasshoppers, crickets and locusts all have knee-ears that, at just a fraction of a millimeter long, are among the tiniest ears in the animal kingdom.” Ants use their knee-ears to interpret vibrations in their environment, as a directional tool, when foraging for food and to detect an alarm signal, when threatened.

Ants talk using chemical communication

Using pheromones to communicate, ants can send messages that alert other ants to vital information. Releasing hormones with specific messages such as where food is located or where danger lurks, ants receive messages by smelling released pheromones with their antennae and rapidly set to coordinate a response. However, a dark side to pheromone communications exists in crazy ants. Attracted to electrical circuitry, crazy ants often get electrocuted, sending out a battle signal to other crazy ants that charge to the rescue only to meet the same end as their fellow soldiers. Accumulations of crazy ant carcasses can short out electrical circuits.

Ants have two stomachs

Ants don’t carry everything by lifting, they use their extra stomachs to haul food. Through a process known as trophallaxis, some worker ants store liquid food in their “social stomachs,” that they share with other ants that stay in the nest and tend the queen and the young.

More interesting ant facts

Ants can swim by doing the ant-paddle. Ants and humans are the only creatures who farm; we farm plants, mammals, birds, and fish, while some ants farm aphids, protecting them from predators, as they enjoy the honeydew aphids secrete.

However interesting ants can be, you don’t want them taking over your South Florida piece of paradise. Contact Hulett to schedule a free ant inspection or schedule one here.

 When your interest in ants gets too close for comfort, just call Hulett! 

Hide and Go Seek, Cockroach Style

Hide and Go Seek, Cockroach Style

While spiders can terrify some people, cockroaches illicit a more basic survival response in humans – like scream, shutter, conquer and destroy. However, as most Florida homeowners know, it’s just not that easy to get rid of these persistent, disease-spreading pests. Why?

Well, for starters . . .

  • Resilient, cockroaches have existed on this planet for some 280 million years
  • 5,000 different cockroach species are known to exist
  • Cockroaches can run up to three miles per hour
  • Cockroaches can survive without food or water for months
  • Adaptability, cockroaches can survive higher and lower temps than most other insects
  • Versatile, cockroaches can adapt to inhospitable environments

Once established in a home, cockroaches can prove difficult to eradicate

The first logical step in eliminating cockroaches from your home focuses on the places cockroaches are most likely to call your home their home. Ever wonder where these cockroaches come from when they suddenly appear in your house? Check these places.

Kitchens

In particular, kitchen appliances, such as your microwave, your fridge, and your oven, along with toasters, coffee makers and other countertop appliances as they can attract cockroaches. And why not? What’s not to like? Warmth, moisture and a great place to grab a bite of leftover food debris make your kitchen appliances highly sought after in roach real estate preferences. However, other places in your kitchen will work just as well.

Cabinets

With the ability to flatten themselves and slide through the tiniest crevices, cockroaches can find spilled food and crumbs in your kitchen cabinets, no problem. Dark, undisturbed cupboards, such as a dried-good pantry offer cockroach retreats from the hustle and bustle of the more active areas of your kitchen. After all, food and moisture aren’t that far away anywhere in kitchens. How about the sink? Food scraps left on dishes and lingering in sinks make excellent finds, along with a water source, as well. You and your family snacking anywhere can be a plus for cockroaches.

Electronics

Even your laptop, desktop computer or your gaming console can provide cozy places for cockroaches to nest. Snacking at your laptop attracts cockroaches who can crawl between the keys to find the treats you leave for them. You may as well hang a sign that says, “Free food and lodging, just ahead.” Currently, a new trend involves dead roaches infesting gaming consoles. Apparently, some video game repair shops are charging a “roach fee” when repairing consoles that malfunction due to fried, dead cockroaches in the system. If that’s not bad enough, fried cockroaches can mean a pricey power supply replacement for your gaming console.

Home Furnishings

Sofas, couches and other upholstered furniture you tend to sit on when playing games, streaming movies and snacking, make ideal places for cockroaches to set up housekeeping and multiply. With plenty of food between the cushions near warm, dark crevices, cockroaches can lay eggs and concentrate on multiplying. Other crevices and cracks in your home’s walls can also provide nesting and egg-laying spaces for cockroaches.

Pipes and plumbing

Situated in dark, out-of-the-way places such as under sinks and in basements, pipes and faucets are cockroach gold. Cracks and leaks around your plumbing leading outdoors? Bingo! Superb roach habitat and hideout near water and warmth.

 Ceilings

Because they can, given their ability to hang upside down on ceilings and scurry off when approached by humans, cockroaches can often be found chilling on ceilings in dark areas of your home. Cracks and crevices in your foundation can offer cockroaches plenty of escape routes when the lights come on and they can just drop and head towards the exits.

Debris and clutter

Those stacks of boxes you’re saving for holiday gift wrapping or that pile of magazines you need to sort through encourages cockroaches. You got clutter? Cockroaches are all over it. Since most of the places you collect and store things are dark and usually warm, well, there you go.

How to Prevent Cockroaches

A few things South Florida homeowners can do to prevent cockroaches include making your home less attractive to cockroaches and other pests by:

  • Keeping all food preparation and dining areas wiped down and crumb-free.
  • Vacuuming and sweeping all dining and snacking areas, including upholstered furniture.
  • Storing food in airtight containers or in the fridge.
  • Removing all food scraps and cleaning dishes immediately after meals and snacks.
  • Repairing all leaky pipes and correcting water prone areas.
  • Eliminating clutter in your home and on your property.
  • Eliminating any standing water on your property.
  • Sealing all cracks, crevices, and holes in your foundation, windows, air conditioning pipes and around entryways or anywhere they can gain access to your home.

Cockroaches can spread bacteria causing salmonella and other intestinal issues in addition to causing allergic reactions in sensitive people, as well as initiating asthma attacks in children. At Hulett, our Healthy Home programs are geared to prevent cockroaches and other household pests from entering your home. Utilizing Integrated Pest Management (IPM), we use the highest quality materials and techniques to provide environmentally responsible pest management for your home to safeguard your loved ones.

Contact us to schedule a free pest inspection or schedule one here. Before you find yourself playing hide and go seek with cockroaches, just call Hulett!

Lyme Disease from Ticks Shows Dramatic Growth in all 50 States

Lyme Disease from Ticks Shows Dramatic Growth in all 50 States

Earlier this May, the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) study, published in Vital Signs revealed that reports of vector-borne diseases, such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and West Nile had tripled from 2004 to 2016. Now, in August, a Quest Diagnostics report shows a dramatic increase in Lyme disease from 2015 to 2016 in a seven-year study. Not only did the report note an increase in Lyme disease in the Northeast, where it has always been prevalent but it also revealed that Lyme disease had been diagnosed in all 50 states. Florida and California showed the largest absolute increases in Lyme disease in the study.

  • In the northeast, Pennsylvania reported 10,001 Lyme disease cases, while New England states reported 11,549 cases, in 2017. Looking back at 2015, these numbers represent a 49.6% increase in Lyme disease occurrences in a two-year time period for the New England states and a 78% increase for Pennsylvania.
  • From a base of six million de-identified lab results, California Lyme disease cases rose 194.5% from 2015 to 2017 to 483 cases. In Florida, Lyme disease cases jumped to 501, a 77% jump from 2015.
  • Georgia, Arizona, Ohio, Texas, Tennessee, and Virginia saw significant increases in Lyme disease cases, as well.

Lyme disease bigger risk to American people than ever before

Quest Diagnostics’ Health Trends™ research program head, Harvey W. Kaufman, MD said, “Lyme disease is a bigger risk to more people in the United States than ever before.” The Quest Diagnostics’ senior medical director went on to say that, Quest’s data shows that “positive results for Lyme are both increasing in number and occurring in geographic areas not historically associated with the disease.” Kaufman theorized that these significant increases in rates and locations lean towards reinforcing other research suggesting that “changing climate conditions that allow ticks to live longer and in more regions” may factor into risks of decreased Lyme disease cases.

Lyme disease transmitted by deer ticks and black-legged ticks

Lyme disease, caused by the bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi is transmitted by blacklegged and deer ticks. The disease can affect a number of the body’s systems, including the central nervous system, the cardiovascular system, as well as the muscular system. Often misdiagnosed, Lyme disease symptoms mimic other diseases, such as the flu and fatigue-related syndromes. Often, a fever, headache, and fatigue are accompanied by a bulls-eye rash, called an erythema migraine that appears near the bite site, but not always.

Lab testing helps to diagnose Lyme disease and avoid misdiagnosis

The Quest Foundation believes that lab testing can be helpful for diagnosing Lyme disease if performed properly with validated methods. A round of antibiotics can ward off the disease if diagnosed soon after a victim is bitten by a diseased tick.

The real issue with Lyme disease lies in the fact that when Lyme disease is misdiagnosed by health care professionals or disregarded by individuals, the disease can cause swelling and pain in joints and affect the heart muscle, causing chest pains, lightheadedness, shortness of breath and heart palpitations. Inflammation caused by the disease can interfere with the transmission of electrical signals from one chamber of the heart to the other, known as heart block.

If left untreated, Lyme disease can cause Lyme carditis, in addition to infections of the inner and outer heart membranes, muscle, vessels, or valves. Cognitive decline can also occur, affecting the processing of thoughts and memory retention. The inability to concentrate, along with extreme fatigue can be debilitating, especially if victims don’t realize that they are suffering from Lyme disease.

Focus on prevention of tick-related diseases emphasized

The Quest Foundation reinforces the advice of the CDC and other health organizations on the importance of vigilance in preventing tick bites. Before taking long walks in wooded areas or in tall, grassy areas, it is important to dress appropriately.

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Wear closed-toe shoes or boots with your pant legs tucked into your boots.
  • Apply insect repellent before going out.
  • Stay on marked trails.
  • Walk on gravel or mulch trails whenever possible because ticks don’t like to walk over rocks or sharp wood chips.
  • Check your pets for ticks when they return from walks or extended periods outside.
  • Check yourself for ticks when returning from walks, hikes or gardening.

At Hulett, we want to help keep ticks and fleas away from you and your loved ones. Contact us for a free pest inspection and to learn about how our Hulett Healthy Home programs can keep pests from entering your South Florida home.

Your satisfaction is guaranteed; just call Hulett!

New Mosquito Virus: UF Researchers Closely Monitoring Mayaro Virus

New Mosquito Virus: UF Researchers Closely Monitoring Mayaro Virus

If mosquitoes had read the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) May report, they would have been proud of the dramatic increase in the reporting of vector-borne diseases from 2004 to 2016. Unfortunately for us humans, new mosquito viruses that may threaten the continental US appear to be in the news quite frequently. The most recent CDC report, by Director Robert R. Redfield, M.D. provided this upsetting remark, “Zika, West Nile, Lyme, and Chikungunya – a growing list of diseases caused by the bite of an infected mosquito, tick, or flea – have confronted the US in recent years, making a lot of people sick. And we don’t know what will threaten Americans next.” Not comforting news.

University of Florida researchers concerned about a new virus

The latest mosquito virus to concern University of Florida (UF) researchers, according to a Pest Control Technology article, is responsible for an outbreak in Venezuela and is “spreading to other parts of the Americas.” Closely monitoring the Mayaro virus, Barry Alto, Associate Professor of Entomology at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS), in Gainesville, is heading up a study which will hopefully figure out whether or not mosquitoes, common in Florida, could transmit the Mayaro virus to humans. Alto noted, that in 2016, a child in Haiti had contracted the disease.

Study finds mosquitoes in South Florida could carry new virus

Alto and his research team found in a new study, published in the journal, Medical and Veterinary Entomology, that yellow fever mosquitoes and Asian tiger mosquitoes, both abundant in South Florida, are capable of carrying the Mayaro virus. Alto elaborated, saying because the Mayaro virus is spreading in the Western Hemisphere, there is reason for concern, as in the past decade, “Florida has experienced outbreaks of other mosquito-borne viruses, including Zika, chikungunya, and dengue.”

Mosquito virus outbreaks in other parts of the world are locally transmitted to Florida

The CDC’s report also went on to say that historically, before these mosquito viruses are locally transmitted in Florida, they have caused outbreaks in other parts of the world, particularly in the southern part of North America and South America. Notably, the Zika virus struck Brazil during the 2016 Summer Olympics and currently, an outbreak of yellow fever in Brazil is showing up in urban centers, for the first time. A faculty member of the UF/IFAS Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory in Vero Beach, Alto said that increases in mosquito-borne viruses in the Americas, especially those transmitted by mosquitoes that live in Florida, increases the risk of imported and local mosquito-borne viral transmission in the US.

“We should probably be moderately concerned that this virus could show up in Florida,” Alto said, “Florida’s wet, warm climate and presence of yellow fever and Asian tiger mosquitoes, coupled with a lot of human travel, makes the state susceptible to transmission of mosquito-borne viruses.”

Globalization is part of the reason for the rise in mosquito viruses in the US

A CBS News article reported that in the Center for Disease Control’s report in Vital Signs, “The number of illnesses caused by mosquito, tick, and flea bites have tripled in the United States over the last 13 years,” with over 640,000 cases reported and the actual number of illnesses, “likely much higher.” While the reason for increasing vector-borne illnesses is “complex and varied,” according to the CDC, one of the report’s authors, Lyle Peterson, “especially when it comes to mosquitoes, increasing globalization plays an important role in spreading mosquito viruses.” He also noted, “expanding global travel and trade, all of these diseases are basically a plane flight away.”

Peterson went on to point out that during the 2016 Zika outbreak that began in Brazil, spread to South America and then to North America, travelers bit by infected mosquitoes unknowingly brought the virus home. Also, a 2017 report, entitled, The Lancet Countdown: Tracking Progress on Health and Climate Change, warned that in addition to continued globalization, “seasonal patterns and warming [temps] may also speed up mosquito biting rates, accelerate the mosquito life cycle, and decrease the time needed for an infected mosquito to transmit West Nile Virus.”

Researchers tested mosquitoes’ saliva to determine infectiousness

In the recent UF study, Alto and his colleagues, Indian River College students, Keenan Wiggins and Bradley Eastmond, tested the saliva of yellow fever and Asian tiger mosquitoes to determine infectiousness for Mayaro virus. Infectiousness refers to the state in which mosquitoes can transmit the Mayaro virus, as a result of biting animals and humans. The research team revealed that both species proved “highly susceptible to infection and that the virus readily spread throughout the mosquitoes’ bodies.” However, Alto said, “far fewer mosquitoes became infected,” when they were exposed to the virus.

Like Chikungunya virus, Mayaro virus is an alphavirus, belonging to the Togaviridae family of enveloped RNA viruses. Initially discovered by Charles Anderson in the 1950s, Mayaro virus was isolated from humans with febrile illnesses in Trinidad and later characterized as an alphavirus by Jordi Casals and L. Whitman. Outbreaks were later also reported in Bolivia and Brazil. According to a Baylor University study, Mayaro causes symptoms similar to chikungunya. Mayaro symptoms include fever lasting three to five days, chills, headache, rash and severe joint pain, which may persist for months.

In light of the CDC’s report, Hulett advises South Florida residents to take precaution when working or playing outdoors. You can help deter emerging mosquito viruses from affecting your summer fun by:

  • Repairing or replacing all torn window and door screens.
  • Eliminating standing water on your property and correct places where water can collect.
  • Making sure gutters are clean and downspouts face away from your foundation.
  • Keep your lawn cut short and your property free of clutter.
  • Wear mosquito repellent when spending time outdoors.

If mosquitoes are making you rethink your outdoor plans for this summer, contact Hulett for a free mosquito inspection. Take back your summer from the mosquitoes and protect your family from mosquito-borne illnesses. Just call Hulett!!

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