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

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

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!!

No Ant Left Behind

No Ant Left Behind

We know that ants work together in colonies but a specific species of ants known as Megaponera Analis hunt termites together. These ferocious sub-Saharan ants march in columns that stretch up to 164 feet from their nests. That’s about “as long as Niagara Falls is tall,” explained Erik Frank, author of a study that found that these ant armies, raiding termite colonies as often as four times a day, fought intensely, losing legs and antennae. Frank noted that after the roughly 20-minute battle, that some of the ants had lost antennae or a leg or two and some were handicapped by termites stuck to them. These ants, who exhibited difficulty walking, were carried back to the nest to recover. Other more severely injured ants were left to die, according to the study.

Researchers discovered injured ants returned to battle

Along with a team of researchers, Frank, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, studied these wild colonies of M. Analis, publishing his findings in Science Advances. By marking the injured ants with acrylic paints, the team found that “in nearly all cases, they made a full recovery,” according to a 2017 NPR article. Learning to maneuver with fewer legs, along with the other ants helping to remove stuck termites, these injured ants recovered enough to return to the front line the next day.

Ants perform triage on injured comrades

In a 2018 study, Frank determined that back in the nest, the returning termites perform triage on their wounded comrades by licking their wounds, not in a metaphorical fashion but, in order to treat open wounds. This hour-long activity, according to the study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, “reduced mortality by 70 percent.”

Helping other unknown insects until this study

A Verge.com article highlighted the fact that some animals self-medicate, pointing out that some caterpillars will deliberately eat poisonous plants in order to “kill parasitic larvae growing inside them” and some parrots have been known to eat clay to get rid of toxins in their stomachs, much like dogs with upset stomachs will eat grass, in order to get rid of digestive discomfort.

Empathy not the driving force behind ant army’s actions

However, Frank said that insects treating other insects is, “completely unknown,” and that this study, “is the first example of this kind of behavior.” Now, before you go thinking how intelligent and empathetic M. Analis are, Frank said that these restorative activities have evolved over millions of years simply for the advancement of the colony. Working on the theory that helping your colleagues recover to return to hunting and killing your food source benefits the entire colony.

Not out of the goodness of their hearts

Frank said, to NPR, that it’s not too far-fetched to compare these ant rescue missions to those performed by human soldiers. “One big difference though,” Frank said, “is these ants are not doing it out of the goodness of their heart.” The researcher went on to explain that the ants aren’t acting out of empathy; they are responding to a chemical signal emitted by injured ants.

What happened to the ants that weren’t carried home?

Frank’s research team performed some experiments to discover what happened to the injured ants that didn’t get help from other ants return home. What they found was that the severely injured ants couldn’t march fast enough to keep up with the retreating army and fell behind, only to be eaten by spiders and other predators.

Ants ignore injured ants on the way to battle

University of Chicago neurologist, Peggy Mason weighed in on the possibility of empathy in the ant army study. “One reason why one might think that they’re not [empathetic]is that if they encounter that same injured ant on the way to the hunt, they ignore it,” she said. Evidently, injured ants only get rescued if they’re found after the battle.

It’s a numbers game

Mason explained it’s evident that helping injured ants benefited the colony, not just by maintaining an army. “The number of ants that are saved by this behavior,” she said, “equals the same number of ants born each day in that colony.” Returning soldiers make a “substantial contribution to the ant colony,” by rescuing the wounded ants. “That’s what drove this behavior to be selected for,” she said, “and to evolve into a stable behavior.” Mason reminded us that, “this is an army . . . And the more numerous you are, the more successful you are.”

At Hulett, we’ll do battle with the most persistent ants that try to get into your home. With 50 years of experience, our team is continuously trained and Hulett’s Healthy Home programs are designed to pest-proof your home and create a pest barrier around your property. For a free pest inspection and year-round protection from Florida’s ants by one of your leading local pest control companies, just call Hulett!

Back to School Pests

Back to School Pests

With a new school year gearing up, Florida parents, students, and teachers have a lot on their plates. With so much going on, you probably don’t want to add pest issues to your agenda – such as fruit flies, ants, lice, and ticks. Where are these pests most likely to show up and how do you prevent marauding bands of pests traipsing through your Florida home and schools?

Fruit flies

These tiny flies get into homes and schools through doors opening and closing often throughout the day but most fruit flies come inside in, or on fruit. Your apple a day may be keeping a persistent fruit fly issue going strong. Seeming to materialize out of thin air, the reality is that when fruit flies eat rotting fruit in your home or at school, they lay eggs in the fruit, as well. The eggs hatch and fruit flies looking for fruit juice left on dirty mops and in dirty drains can be a problem. How do you get rid of fruit flies?

  • One home remedy suggests leaving a small amount of beer in the bottom of a glass and constructing a paper funnel coming out of the top. Fruit flies are drawn into the glass by the beer but cannot get back out.
  • Another DIY solution involves pouring apple cider vinegar in the bottom of a jar, adding just a few drops of dish soap, covering the jar lid with plastic wrap and poking some holes in the covering. The dish soap breaks the surface tension of the vinegar, so when fruit flies land in the vinegar, they sink.

Keeping fruit in the fridge or covering fruit, such as bananas and whole melons, will help prevent fruit flies from entering your home or school.

Ants

It seems like it’s always ant season in Florida. The good news is that most area ants pose no health threats to humans or pets, with the exception of fire ants who tend to build their mounds away from structures. On that note, homeowners and school groundskeepers should keep a sharp eye for signs of fire ant activity to avoid contact with these ants whose venom, Solenopsis, is powerful enough to cause a serious allergic reaction.

About those other nuisance ants that can drive you crazy, including crazy ants, Argentine ants, ghost ants and others – in the hectic atmosphere of school starting back, things could get a little sloppy in the cleanup department, and voila, there they are trailing across your kitchen floor after one morsel of cereal under the kitchen table. At home, take care to:

  • Clean up sticky spills, snack crumbs, and any food leftovers.
  • Place a rubber band around lids of containers such as cookie jars and sugar containers.
  • Wipe down counters and sweep/vacuum floors after snacks and meals.

Because some species of ants live in networks of nests near your home or school, the only effective way to eliminate these populations is by contacting a professional pest control company.

Lice

The bane of parents and school administrators everywhere, head lice show up on 6 to 12 million US preschool and elementary school kids’ heads annually. Spread by head-to-head contact, the head lice creepy crawly factor is right up there with bed bugs. Much easier to treat than bed bugs, head lice lay eggs on the hair strands of children near the scalp. These eggs, called nits, hatch and feed on your child’s scalp. While posing no serious health threat, kids can develop secondary infections from scratching head lice bites. The scariest thing about head lice is that these tiny bugs move fast from one person to another and can infect whole families and communities if not treated ASAP. Treatments include various shampoos and products that kill lice eggs, in addition to:

  • Checking everyone in close contact with the infected person.
  • Washing all hats, headbands, scarves, clothing, and bedding used or worn by an infected child and drying on high heat.
  • Dry cleaning all non-washable items or sealing them in plastic bags for two weeks.
  • Vacuuming floors that might contain hairs with live nits on them.

Ticks

While ticks do transmit many diseases, such as ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and other spotted fever illnesses, you can take precautions to keep them off your school kids, including making sure they wear bug repellent when outdoors, in addition to:

  • Wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and closed-toe shoes when hiking in tall grass or wooded areas.
  • Staying on designated paths.
  • Vigilantly checking for ticks after walks and hikes.
  • Ensuring your pets are protected from ticks with spot or ingestible treatments.

Prevention is always the best way to avoid dealing with household pests. At Hulett, our Healthy Home approach offers many programs to pest-proof your home or business. Locally owned and operated, Hulett’s environmentally responsible Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach safeguards your home from pest invasions. Schedule a free pest inspection today! Just call Hulett!

Wasp News: New Species Found in the Amazon Has Very Large Stinger

Wasp News: New Species Found in the Amazon Has Very Large Stinger

Move over Tarantula hawk wasps, you too jewel wasps, your status on the top 10 list of scary insects is being challenged. On July 6, United Press International (UPI) reported that a group of Finnish researchers have discovered several new Amazonian species, including a parasitoid wasp with a massive stinger. The species’ stingers are not only ridiculously long but wide, as well.

Wasp’s unusually large stinger creates a buzz and creepy references

News outlets went wild, calling this wasp the stuff of nightmares, terrifying, the scariest thing ever and other names that sound like they belong in horror movie trailers. However, your chances, when it comes to getting stung by one of these wasps are slim, unless you happen to be an unlucky spider in the Amazonian rainforest.

Also, even though the image of Calistoga crassicaudata published in the journal Zootaxa makes this wasp look ominous, the wasp measures only 9.8 mm or slightly over .6 inches in length, with a stinger half its body size. Bizarre-looking. It’s actually not the size of this wasp’s stinger that creeps reporters out, but the sinister side of nature associated with the new Clistopyga Crassicaudata’s stinger.

Parasitoid wasps redefine eating fresh, local and live food

As a member of a parasitoid genus of wasps, C. crassicaudata females use their massive stinger to prey on spiders. As it turns out, parasitoid wasps do this thing where they paralyze spiders with a laser-precision shot of venom to the brain, reducing their prey to zombie-like states. It gets worse. These wasps then lay their eggs in the spider so that their eggs can have a fresh meal when they hatch. Slowly, the baby wasps eat their way out of the unresponsive spiders, slowly killing them in the process.

Multi-tasking will never be the same

Known as ovipositors, parasitoid wasps use these multi-tasking stingers to deposit eggs into the body of their victims. According to Live Science, Sääksjärvi explained that parasitoid wasps’ stingers are considered longer than other wasps, in general, “but this species differs from the others, the researcher said, “as the ovipositor, is also very wide, kind of thickened apically and strong.”

Crowbar, felting needle, poison dart, ovipositor, etc.

Sääksjärvi went on to say that he thought it would be tricky to catch one of these wasps without getting stung but that parasitoid wasp stings don’t hurt as much as other wasps and bees. Then everyone breathed a sigh of relief when Sääksjärvi said, “The species with super long stingers typically can’t sting humans because their stinger is too flimsy.” Also, Sääksjärvi hypothesized that the Clistopyga genus might use their sizable stingers “as a kind of crowbar, to enter some holes in the tree surface, etc. in order to reach the spider hosts.” CNN summed up the multi-tool stinger theory saying, “So those giant stingers are poison darts, ovipositors, crochet needles, battering rams and bayonets all in one.”

Caught in their own traps

About the luckless spiders C. crassicaudata preys on, in a press release, Prof. Sääksjärvi revealed that “We do not know for sure which spider this wasp species prefers.” He did, however, say that the parasitoid wasp “could use its stinger as an intricate felting needle and handily close the spider’s web nest trapping the paralyzed inhabitant within.”

 The other six new Amazon finds, remember them?

Along with C.crassicaudata, the other new species discovered in between the Andes mountains and the Amazon lowland area include:

  • C. kalima, C. panchei and C. taironae – named in honor of the indigenous tribes of Colombia
  • C. nigriventri – named for its entirely black body
  • C. splendida – named for its multi-colored body
  • C. isayae – honors the wife of Francisco Díaz, one of the paper’s authors

Growing awareness of the hundreds of new Amazon wasps may help conservation efforts

With his research team representing Colombia, Spain, and Venezuela, Sääksjärvi noted that the new wasps discovered consist of a diverse group, as well.  “We keep finding new species, almost on a weekly basis,” Sääksjärvi said. Like a candy shop for entomologists, Sääksjärvi said he and his colleagues “only have time to describe part of them.”

Sääksjärvi says that any scientific discovery that grabs the public’s attention provides an opportunity to shine a light on the “little known but extremely vulnerable habitats and ecosystems” that abound in the Amazon rainforest. “We hope,” Sääksjärvi said, “that these finding can be of use in the conservation of these areas.”

Wasps and bees- Know the Difference

While you don’t need to worry about wasps with giant stingers in Florida, it’s a wise homeowner who knows the difference between wasps and bees. Even wiser is the Florida homeowner that doesn’t take chances with DIY bee and wasp products but heads straight to a professional pest control company to defuse a potentially dangerous situation.  We need honeybees in order to pollinate plants and grow crops on a global level. When honeybees sting, they die and you’re down one more honey bee. Not to mention, many people have allergic reactions to the sting.

Wasps, on the other hand, can sting multiple times, as their stingers are straight, designed to prey on insects and arthropods. While most wasps aren’t aggressive, yellow jackets will attack with a vengeance when disturbed or threatened. Due to the fact that yellow jackets and other wasps can sting multiple times, increasing the chances of allergic reactions in sensitive people and pets, contact your local trusted pest professional to eliminate your wasp or bee issues. Contact Hulett to schedule a free wasp and bee inspection and to discuss expert treatment options. Just call Hulett!

Florida Ants Making a Grand Entrance This Summer

Florida Ants Making a Grand Entrance This Summer

Not exactly the event you might expect, with red carpets, camera, celebrities, and the like – ants are nonetheless making a grand entrance in Florida homes this summer. Parading across your kitchen floor, helping themselves to your sweets and greasy snacks, most ants don’t pose physical threats to humans and pets, but they can really do a number on your easy, breezy summer attitude. Because many different types of ants love Florida, and who can blame them, how do you know what kind of ants are driving you crazy and how do you get rid of these unwanted house guests for good? More importantly, how do you keep ants out of your home in the first place?

Most ants live outside your home in networks of nests in your yard or nearby, so spraying the ones you see only acts as a temporary solution. Ants are social insects that build colonies containing thousands of members. With at least one queen and king, plus reproductive ants and workers, every member of an ant colony is always busy. The queen reproduces while worker ants care for the young and provide food for the entire colony.

Some colonies can support multiple queens through budding and some are capable of moving to new locations when conditions deteriorate. For these reasons, ant colonies can be difficult to control or eliminate with commercial do-it-yourself products and lasting results require the services of a professional pest control company.

So what kind of ants do Florida homes deal with every summer?

Of the many ants living in Florida, some are more likely than others to enter your home. While most of these ants are of the nuisance variety, some can also bite, sting or cause structural damage. The nominees in the ants most likely to drive you crazy category are:

  • Ghost ants – Preferring sweets, ghost ants, also known as sugar ants, are almost undetectable by the naked eye, at less than 1/16-inches long, with dark heads and thoraxes and pale abdomen and legs.
  • Big-headed ants – Preferring protein-rich foods, these light brown to dark reddish-brown ants range in length from 1/16- to 1/18-inches. Big-headed ants often forage in trails just under the soil and get their names from the fact that their heads that seem disproportionately large for their bodies.
  • Crazy ants – Preferring honeydew secreted by aphids, crazy ants will settle for sweets in your kitchen. An invasive species, often black but ranging from red-brown to gray, crazy ants get their name from their erratic patterns of movement. Measuring from 1/12- to 1/8-inches in length, crazy ants sport noticeably longer antennae and legs than other Florida ants. Among their many talents, crazy ants can defend themselves and displace fire ants with the formic acid in their bites. The other crazy thing these ants do causes electrical issues in your home. When one crazy is electrocuted, it sends out attack signals to other crazy ants, who, following suit also get electrocuted and accumulate in electrical circuits.
  • Fire antsFire ants, usually found nesting outdoors in sunny areas of exposed soil, have a stinger and can deliver a painful sting. Ranging in size from 1/16-inch to 1/4-inch in length, they have a reddish-brown body and a darker abdomen. Although their preference is high protein foods, they will feed on both plants and animal matter.
  • Argentine ants – Another invasive species, Argentine ants prefer sweet foods but will eat almost anything. Light brown to medium brown and 1/10-inch in length, Argentine ants have developed the flexibility to relocate their nests on a daily basis and can be found traveling in large trails on structures and up trees.
  • White-footed ants – Often mistaken for crazy ants and Argentine ants, white-footed ants prefer honeydew and can cause agricultural damage by protecting aphids and other honeydew-secreting insects that feed on crops. Basically they are black with white feet, go figure, these 1/8-inch long ants are now major nuisance pests in Florida as well as many other parts of the globe. Building massive colonies, white-footed ants forage in wide trails up the sides of homes and other structures.
  • Acrobat ants – The clowns of the ant world, eating sweets as well as proteins, acrobat ants raise their heart-shaped abdomens over their thoraxes and heads when threatened. Ranging from light brown to dark brownish black, acrobat ants nest not only outdoors in soil, wood, and leaves but indoors in abandoned termite and carpenter ant galleries in wood.
  • Florida carpenter ants – Preferring sweet foods, Florida carpenter ants, unlike other destructive carpenter ants, do not burrow through the wood in your home but nest in insect-damaged or water-damaged wood. One of the largest Florida ants, at 3/4-inches in length, hard to miss Florida carpenter ants forage in loose trails and should be avoided as they pack a powerful punch, via the formic acid they inject when they bite.

That’s just the short list of ants that could be aiming for a grand entrance in your home this summer. For more information and about these and other ants, visit our bug database.

How do you deter ants from entering your home?

Make your home as uninviting as possible. In the summer, ants usually enter your home in search of food and/or water. The first thing to do is seal all cracks, crevices, and holes in your foundation and around entryways and windows. Ants can get in through very small spaces.

  • Repair all wood damaged by water; repair all leaky faucets and places where water collects.
  • Keep all snacks in air-tight containers or in the fridge.
  • Clean up all food scraps after snacks and meals.
  • Keep floors swept and vacuumed and keep all countertops wiped clean of crumbs and spills.

At Hulett, we can help bar ants, the most unwanted house guest, from making any grand entrances in your home this summer. Contact us to schedule a free inspection. Our entomologist-trained technicians can get to the bottom of your persistent ant issues. Family-owned and operated, Hulett’s technicians have been serving Florida homeowners for over 50 years. One of the top 25 pest control companies in the United States, Hulett is the professional company with the personal touch. Just call Hulett!

Mosquito-Borne Keystone Virus: Positive Test Results for a Teen in Florida

Mosquito-Borne Keystone Virus Found in Florida

In August 2016, a teen attending band camp in central Florida developed a rash and a fever after being bitten by a mosquito. Because this incident took place during the Zika outbreak in Florida, the teen was tested for Zika. Testing negative for the Zika virus, doctors were back at square one, trying to discover just what caused the boy’s illness.

Keystone is known to affect animals

Although researchers at the University of Florida (UF) were familiar with the Keystone virus as an animal pathogen in north central Florida, Dr. Glenn Morris, Emerging Pathogens Institute Director at UF said, “We couldn’t identify what was going on. Morris told NPR, “We screened this with all the standard approaches and it literally took a year and a half of dogged laboratory work to figure out what this virus was.” On June 9, researchers revealed the Keystone virus as the culprit for the teen’s condition in a report published in the journal, Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Keystone virus, discovered in 1964, is named for an area near Tampa in Hillsborough County. Known to infect raccoons, squirrels and whitetail deer in coastal areas from Texas to the Chesapeake Bay, researchers say this is the first time Keystone has been reported in a human.

Finding syncs with May’s CDC report

This finding coincides with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) May 4th report in Vital Signs, that revealed new mosquito, tick, and flea-borne viruses have tripled between 2004 and 2016 and that nine new vector-borne viruses were discovered during this period. While Zika, dengue and West Nile top the list of mosquito-borne viruses in the US, in a CBS news article, CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, M.D. said, these mosquito, tick, and flea diseases have been “making a lot of people sick – And we don’t know what will threaten Americans next.”

Keystone transmitted by mosquito related to the Zika spreading mosquito

Thought to be primarily transmitted by the Aedes Atlanticus mosquito, cousin of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, associated with the Zika virus, Aedes Atlanticus belongs to the California-serogroup of viruses, “known to cause encephalitis in several species including humans, lead study author and UF research professor, Dr. John Lednicky, told NPR. Inflammation of the brain, as well as brain disease, has been reported in animals. The virus can cause a rash and mild fever in humans, as noted in the 16-year old’s case. Fortunately, the Florida teen showed no signs of encephalitis or brain swelling but researchers said that the virus grows well in mouse brains, so it’s a cause for concern for human brains.

Keystone virus in humans on researchers’ radar for several decades

While it took a year and a half to figure what made the Florida teen sick, researchers have suspected that humans have been infected with Keystone virus for nearly half of a century. In a 1972 study published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, researchers reported finding Keystone antibodies in one in five participants in a Tampa Bay area study.

University of Florida researcher says more vector-borne research in order

In a Tech Times article, Morris said he thinks that a lot of people in the Southeast could be carrying the Keystone virus. “Although the virus has never previously been found in humans, the infection may be fairly common in North Florida,” he said. “It’s one of these instances where if you don’t know to look for something, you don’t find it.” Now that a test for Keystone virus has been established, Morris said in a University of Florida statement that more research needs to be conducted into vector-borne diseases to discover ways to decrease risks of infection from these emerging pathogens. In addition to keeping an eye on emerging pathogens, like the Keystone virus in humans, South Florida health officials are closely watching the yellow fever outbreak in Brazil.

Yellow fever outbreak affecting more urban centers than usual

In the CDC’s May report in Vital Signs, the agency cited several theories for the increase of vector-borne diseases from 2004 to 2016. Along with rising global temps and increased travel on a global scale, increased awareness of vector-borne diseases, such as West Nile, Zika, Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and dengue fever has likely caused an increase in reporting symptoms in the US.

The yellow fever outbreak that began in 2017 has expanded into urban areas not usually at risk for yellow fever. Health officials worry that travelers, arriving at South Florida airports may bring the disease to the US. Although the World Health Organization (WHO) says an outbreak in the US is unlikely, travelers from Brazil infected with the virus could infect other humans, through a mosquito that contracts the virus.

Hulett recommends Florida residents and visitors practice vigilant prevention measures when it comes to mosquitoes and other insects known to carry infectious diseases. Remembering to wear insect repellent when outdoors and eliminate sources of standing water on your property are good starting points. If mosquitoes are ruining your backyard plans this summer, contact Hulett for a free mosquito inspection. Our people- and pet-friendly approaches to pest control and prevention keep your Hulett Healthy Home happy all year round. Get the most out of your summer fun, just call Hulett!

Which Pests Love Your Pets?

Which Pests Love Your Pets

With summer in full swing, it’s likely you’ll be spending more time romping, walking and hiking with your four-legged family members. The more time your fluffy ones spend outdoors, the more likely they are to run into summer’s troublemaker pests – fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes.

Some pests pose health threats to your pets

Mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas can cause a range of serious, even life-threatening, diseases when they bite your tail-wagging buddies. From minor skin conditions to heartbreaking illnesses, prevent these pest-borne diseases from affecting your furry best friends.

  • Allergies caused by fleas: Overall, the most common skin allergies in dogs are caused by flea bites. Allergic reactions often caused by flea saliva can result in hot spots, hair loss and excessive itching that can result in superficial wounds. Consult your vet to prescribe allergy medications for pets experiencing allergic reactions. Topical skin products are also available along with oatmeal and aloe vera shampoo. Supplementing your pet’s food with products containing Omega 3 fatty acids can help improve skin health and alleviate dry skin conditions.
  • Heartworms: Mosquitoes carry the virus that transmits heartworms to dogs. Often deadly, heartworm infections are expensive and difficult to treat. Heartworms can grow up to a foot in your dog’s lungs and heart and compromise heart and lung functions. Heartworm medications are available in monthly pills or in a more costly injection form. It’s important to have your dog checked for heartworms regularly.
  • Lyme disease: Deer ticks, also known as black-legged ticks, are known to carry Lyme disease transmitted to humans and dogs. Lyme disease symptoms include fatigue, fever, and If left untreated, Lyme disease can spread to joints, the heart, and the central nervous system.
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever: Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) is transmitted by Rocky Mountain wood ticks, American dog ticks, and brown dog ticks. RMSF can mimic other conditions. Typically, in dogs, symptoms include lack of appetite, fever, joint pain, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, swelling in the face and legs, and depression. Your vet can perform blood tests to detect Rocky Mountain spotted fever in dogs. Flea, tick, and mosquito prevention products can help protect your pet from Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and other tick-borne diseases, such as Ehrlichiosis.
  • Ehrlichiosis: Actually, dogs can suffer from two types of Ehrlichiosis, canine monocytic ehrlichiosis (CME), caused by brown dog tick bites and canine granulocytic ehrlichiosis (CGE) transmitted through Lone Star tick Both forms cause similar symptoms, such as fever, lethargy, poor appetite, and neurological disorders, with swollen lymph nodes, abdominal bruising and chronic eye inflammation in CME cases, while lameness, diarrhea, and vomiting are common in CGE.
  • Tick paralysis: A neurotoxin found in the saliva of female ticks can cause this frightening and debilitating disease. A loss of muscle tone and overall weakness characterize this disease that can sometimes only affect the hind legs in dogs but can also affect front legs and the muscles associated with respiration.
  • Tapeworms: Typically transmitted to dogs by ingesting fleas when they chew at fleas and flea bites, tapeworms can negatively affect your dog’s digestive system. Evidence of tapeworms can be seen in your dog’s stool when some of these segments break off. Pets will exhibit weight loss and symptoms of a mild illness. Dewormers are available from pet stores and your vet’s office.

Flea, tick, and mosquito prevention products

With many tick, flea, and mosquito prevention products on the market, you should have no problem finding one that’s right for your pet. From flea collars and topical treatments to ingestible pills and tablets, most vets suggest using these products year-round, not just in the summer.

Inspect your surroundings

Take a close look at your yard for tall grass, piles of debris, and areas where water collects. These conditions all attract ticks, fleas, and mosquitoes. Keep your lawn cut short and eliminate all clutter in your yard. Store anything that can collect water indoors, such as gardening equipment, dog bowls, and kids’ toys. Change the water in birdbaths every couple of days to prevent creating a mosquito breeding area and make sure the water in fountains and ponds is circulating. Keep a tight lid on trash receptacles to discourage rodents that carry ticks and fleas. Clean up all pet poop from your yard to avoid roaches and fly issues.

Inspect your pets

Brush pets’ coats when returning from outdoor activities. Check your pet’s skin for red itchy patches and ticks. Regularly bathe pets with flea and tick shampoos but don’t overdo it as some dogs and cats can suffer from dry skin conditions as a result. Long-hair breeds benefit from shortcuts that make pests and skin issues easier to detect and your pet will thank you for the cool, breezy summer cut. Regularly clean your pet’s bedding, toys, and collars and be sure to clean outdoor bedding and check resting areas for signs of pests.

At Hulett, a pet-friendly environment is an essential component of the Hulett Healthy Home approach. Our pest control program delivers the highest level of pest protection while keeping your family and pets’ health our priority. With our custom prescription treatments, we take charge of any existing pest control issues and prevent future pest activity. Contact us to schedule a free in-home evaluation. Prevent and protect your pets from pests all year long. Just call Hulett!

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